I write my opinion essays as lessons for my students to augment what I teach them in class. I find essays, blogs and social media act as diverse platforms for me to reach my students outside the classroom. I teach politics and Torah. In my political classes, I teach Israel Political Advocacy. In my classes, I neither support nor endorse candidates and I don’t tell anyone — especially my own students — my own political views. In my Torah classes, I will discuss a wide range of topics including the most in-depth analysis of the Talmud, Jewish philosophy and Jewish law. If asked, I will discuss contemporary events and try to explain them in the view of the Torah, but it isn’t a focus of mine. Rather than discuss concrete issues, I prefer to teach the conceptual and guide my students in applying the abstract to the contemporary event.
I avoid writing or teaching about specific people and aim my lessons to discuss issues. I don’t feel worthy of passing judgment on other people. I write about the love of Israel and the Jewish people, issues that affect the US-Israel relationship, and Torah ideas that I find interesting. Today, I must break from my normative practice and discuss a very concrete issue that centers around one person, his attitude and his actions — Donald Trump. In this essay, I am not writing politically, I am not suggesting who should or shouldn’t be president. If my words influence your decision, that is your choice, it is neither my topic nor intention. I am writing as a person, a father, a son, a husband, a rabbi and a teacher.
There is a danger is writing publicly about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. If you criticize them, their opponents feel you haven’t written enough, and those who support them feel you’ve accused them unjustly. If you praise a candidate, their supporters feel you haven’t praised them sufficiently and their opponents feel you’ve misunderstood them. The mood is radioactive and I’ve found it best to stay away. Trump’s recently released comments about abusing women, although not inconsistent with his previous comments, crossed the line from abhorrent to criminal. His actions in no way make President or Secretary Clinton’s abhorrent actions any less revolting. Yet, her actions, in contrast to his, were not conducted with the malicious intent to hurt others, nor did she boast about them.
In this essay, I am expressing my disgust in the hope that my thoughts on Trump’s actions and attitude will teach my students and son two valuable lessons. The first lesson is about respect towards the opposite gender and a second about healthy sexuality and intimacy. In listening to my students’ discussions around Trump’s words about violating women, I find them focusing on the effect it will have on the election. They have missed a much bigger issue. I hope to address it here.
I remember my shock and disgust at hearing from my wife about how just about every woman in the world has been groped and involuntarily touched. This sexual abuse occurs on buses, on the street, in elevators, and anywhere else that a man might be alone with a woman. I was appalled that for their own sexual gratification, men would violate the respect due to women and abuse their bodies. To cross that line required such maliciousness it was hard for me to fathom, let alone believe that it regularly happened.
Respecting women means treating women as people and not objects. It includes talking to and not down to women, it means viewing women as equals and holding their opinions on level with another man’s opinion. A man can demean another by man by viewing him solely as an object that he can gain from, as a client, future employer, or opportunity. He has crossed the line from treating the man as a person and views them as an object. We must treat people as people.
Healthy intimacy requires a sexual relationship that is an outgrowth of love and not purely lust. When a man or woman engages in sexual activity solely as an outlet for their desire they’ve begun an unhealthy relationship with their sexuality.
In many of Trump’s comments he treats women as objects and sex as a desire to be fulfilled. This attitude is abhorrent, but not criminal. “Locker room banter” centers around sexual conquests and is immoral, but unfortunately common. Trump’s recent comments far surpass this accepted (!) degradation of women and boasts of assaulting women. How can anyone accept assaulting another human being? How can we possibly not be nauseated by a man boasting about regularly committing a crime? How is there no police investigation?
My message to my students and my son is twofold. First: Treat all people as people. Respect others as you would want to be respected. Second; Don’t allow your sexual drive to direct you, always ensure you are managing it in a healthy manner. A sexual relationship is meant to be an expression of love between two spouses who love each other. NEVER touch anyone that doesn’t want to be touched. Ingrain these lessons so deeply in who you are that anyone you know would never violate them. Following Jewish custom I’d have liked to end off this message with a word of hope, but my absolute disgust prevents me from doing so.