In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) it is written “Pray for the welfare of the government, for without it, man would swallow his fellow man alive.” Indeed, in nearly every synagogue across the country on Shabbat we pray for the welfare not only of the State of Israel, but for the American Government as well. Caring about the welfare of our country is an integral part of Jewish Tradition.
Is it important in Judaism to choose American leaders that subscribe to Jewish values? Not necessarily. However, I would like to point out that the Founding Fathers of this great nation we live in were very religious people, and much of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the Constitution, were founded on these great Judeo-Christian values that we all share. Indeed, many of the greatest leaders of this country shared these values; namely integrity, honesty, tolerance, discipline, dedication, kindness, unity, and humility. So while not required, it certainly helps to possess these remarkable attributes.
Before I get to discuss the current Republican Nominee, I wanted to mention the single most reason I have been hearing time and time again from many of America’s Jews, especially in the Orthodox community on why we should vote for Donald Trump. This reason is that he “likes Jews” and appears to be very pro-Israel. I want to remind everyone at this point that Napoleon Bonaparte was known to have a strong affinity toward Jews, and probably would have been pro-Israel, had the Jewish State been in existence then. But he was also a pathological narcissist, whose insatiable appetite for money and power (sound familiar?) brought all of France, and much of Europe for that matter, into ruin. And Vladimir Putin is also known to “like Jews.” But he is still Vladimir Putin. “Liking Jews” or being pro-Israel are certainly qualities we can appreciate. However, they are not enough alone to vote for a candidate. We must choose a leader who is the best, most responsible, and safest for this great country we live in.
So now let us turn to the character of the current Republican Nominee. It is taught in the Talmud that the very first question we will all be asked at the end of our lives, when we reach the next world is “Were we ethical in our business practices?” This is one of the greatest litmus test of one’s character, for there are many challenges in it. Donald Trump’s entire business career, pretty much from beginning till now, reeks of greed, narcissism, bullying, and deceit. To date, there have been over 3,500 lawsuits that Mr. Trump has been involved with. That’s 3,500! People have sued him for getting “stiffed” out of most or all of their pay. He filed for multiple bankruptcies, leaving his workers stranded while he flew away in his private jet.
And then there are the two most well known examples of his deceit; namely the Trump University Scam and his refusal to disclose his tax returns. The Torah teaches us “Do not place a stumbling block in front of a blind person.” The commentators explain that this includes purposely deceiving people that are either a bit naive or uninformed with fraudulent business practices. Trump University salespeople were encouraged to target the elderly and the uneducated when selling the “university.” To date over 5,000 former students are suing him in several class action lawsuits. The other scandal is also very telling. He has refused to show in tax returns to the American People, when every single Nominee for the last 40+ years has done this. If he is “the Real Deal” as he keeps saying, what does he have to hide? As the VP candidate Tim Kaine put it, “is there anyone out there who believes Donald Trump has paid his fair share of taxes?”
Now let us examine his behavior throughout his campaign. One again, he goes against every single Jewish value out there. Moshe (Moses), the greatest leader we have ever had, was also called “the humblest of all people.” The current nominee couldn’t be any further, putting his name on everything he owns and declaring many times that “he alone” can fix America’s problems. We are also taught in the Torah “distance oneself from falsehood.” And yet, in his speeches he has lied 3 times more than any other candidate according to fact-checking websites, and yes, even more than Hillary Clinton! Political campaigns can get nasty, but is there no limit to how nasty one is allowed to get? The Talmud compares embarrassing someone publicly to in a sense “murdering that person.” What about calling another candidate ugly? What about insulting a candidate’s wife? What about accusing your candidate’s father of being involved in assassinating JFK, something that was a total fabrication from a Tabloid? Is there no limit, no low that a person running for the most powerful office in the world can go?
The laws just a short list of only some Trump’s disturbing character flaws. His complete ignorance and inexperience in politics, yet his refusal to admit as such. His refusal to ever admit he is wrong, or apologize. The list goes on and on. I am not an advocate for Hillary Clinton, and am well aware of her flaws as well. But to vote for Donald Trump? It is not the American way. And it is not the Jewish way either.