We all read about it: “Orthodox rabbi’s anti-Trump prayer causes a stir“. Yes, R. Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, the Arizona-based Open Orthodox activist, who also presents himself as the Social Justice Rav, has declared that he will not recite or answer Amen to the Prayer for the Government once Donald Trump becomes President of the United States.
Many people are (quite understandably, in my opinion) upset about this, as recitation of the Prayer for the Government is based on ancient Torah sources, and Jews have always prided themselves on loyalty and support of the government, even when not everyone agreed with its policies. Although I personally feel that Barack Obama was a force of real damage for the interests of the United States and the State of Israel, and for Jewish interests in general, I – as all Jews whom I know – nonetheless faithfully answered Amen to the Prayer for the Government during President Obama’s tenure, with the hope that the words of the prayer, which beseech God to guide the President to do good, would be fulfilled.
Some people feel that R. Yanklowitz’ refusal to recite or answer Amen to the Prayer for the Government, and his composition of an alternative prayer that focuses in part on the negatives of the new President, as R. Yanklowitz sees things, are a stain on the Orthodox rabbinate. Others have assumed that R. Yanklowitz’ position is representative of an alternative approach in Orthodox rabbinical thought.
Friends: Nothing could be further from the truth. R. Yanklowitz’ views represent him and only him. He does not lead a congregation, he does not belong to mainstream Orthodoxy, his ordination does not qualify him for membership in the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) – the primary Orthodox rabbinical organization in the US and Canada – and he is at the extreme fringe of a small group that is not representative of Orthodox Judaism or of the rabbinate. R. Yanklowitz’ opinion is his alone.
I personally am optimistic about Donald Trump’s presidency, and I suspect that those who consider themselves as strong opponents of Donald Trump will be in for a pleasant surprise. I fully respect their right to dissent and reject, but let’s give things a chance and approach the matter with an open mind.