He who answers a word before he understands-it is foolishness for him and an embarrassment- Mishlei (Proverbs) Chapter 18: Verse 13
A Reform Rabbi from Florida by the name Jeffrey Salkin (of Temple Solel in Hollywood) is organizing a boycott of Donald Trump’s speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday, and it’s not because of Trump’s statement about being neutral in Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.
But, for many of the rabbis who will be attending AIPAC, Trump’s appearance poses political, moral, and even spiritual quandaries.
It is quite simple. Trump’s hateful rhetoric is abhorrent to a great many rabbis, for a variety of reasons. In particular, the Reform movement has eloquently spoken out on Trump.
(…) We have been urging rabbis to simply not attend the Trump speech — to let our absence be felt and noted.
Yes, AIPAC must be hospitable to Trump, but that does not mean that AIPAC participants are hospitable to the candidate’s ideas and candidacy.
While I understand the boycotting Rabbis distaste of Mr. Trump (just look at the hateful comments I get from Trump fans) and plan to vote against him in the New York State primary, the boycotters are not being fair to Donald Trump, nor are they observing Jewish law which demands people listen to all sides before making a judgment.
According to the Washington Post, “Those who have signed on so far primarily represent the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism.” For those unfamiliar with the differences between Jewish movements, both the Reform and Conservative (where I worship) movements are very progressive. Sometimes putting their political beliefs in front of the needs of the Jewish people. Or as I said when the leadership of the Conservative movement met with Barack Obama in the summer of 2012 and gave him an implied endorsement, they worship the golden calf of big government. Sometimes when hearing a liberal skewed sermon from the pulpit makes me feel very unwelcome at my own Shul.
Not Being Fair To Trump:
Why are they holding Donald Trump to a different standard than President Obama or Hillary Clinton? During his seven plus years as president, Barack Obama has shown himself to be anti-Israel and even worse, anti-Semitic. For example during the push for the Iran deal the president had a phone call with “Jewish Leaders.” In the 20-minute phone call Obama said over and over that opponents of the Iran deal come from the same “array of forces that got us into the Iraq war,” he said a “bunch of billionaires who happily finance super PACs” are “putting the squeeze on members of Congress.”
The message was clear to the Jewish participants, William Daroff Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of the Washington office of the very liberal, Jewish Federations of North America tweeted during the meeting “Jews are leading effort to kill #Irandeal. ‘Same people opposing the deal led us into Iraq war,’” and followed with “Canard: Jews got us into Iraq War.”
When Lee Rosenberg of AIPAC questioned the president’s statement comparing people who object to the Iran deal to those who supported the invasion of Iraq he pointed out that many anti-Semites falsely claim the Jews pushed Bush into invading Iraq. Obama explained that Netanyahu supported the Iraq invasion (true). But Bibi wasn’t the premier at the time he was a private citizen. The prime minister Ariel Sharon strongly urged Bush not to invade Iraq, arguing correctly that if Saddam were removed, “Iran, a far more dangerous player, will be rid of its principal enemy and free to pursue its ambitions of regional hegemony.”
If one looks at Hillary Clinton’s public history one finds a lifetime of anti-Israel positions. But wait some might say, Hillary was a big supporter of Israel when she was in the U.S. Senate. Indeed, she was. With the possible exception of the time from her first campaign New York’s Senate seat in 2000 to her resignation from the Senate to become Secretary of State in January 2009– except for the time she needed New York’s Jewish voting bloc, Hillary Clinton has never been pro-Israel. And when she held the position of Secretary of State, she helped Barack Obama craft his anti-Israel positions.
While these Rabbis are walking out on Donald Trump, there was never a boycott of the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, Barack Obama, nor is there a plan to boycott Hillary Clinton despite her anti-Israel activism. Ms. Clinton is on the schedule to address AIPAC also.
Not Following Jewish Teachings:
There is an old Yiddish expression, “It’s ‘shanda fur die goy.” It means making the Jews look stupid in front of the Gentiles. And in this case by not following Jewish teachings and not listening to Trump these Rabbis are embarrassing the Jewish people.
The first word of one of the holy Jewish prayers is Sh’ma, it means listen. Listening to people before judging them is an important Jewish teaching. Because of their political leanings one could reasonably suspect that these Rabbis have only seen the snippets of Trump speeches broadcast or printed by the mainstream media. If they haven looked at his entire speech, or all his speeches they aren’t listening. By boycotting him at AIPAC they are judging him by not giving him the opportunity to explain himself.
The verse from Proverbs posted above, “He who answers a word before he understands-it is foolishness for him and an embarrassment,” is trying to teach us to listen and understand someone before making a judgment. Pirkei Avot 2:5 reads, “Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” As long as you have not reached his place, i.e. have a clear picture of his complete situation, and look at the broader picture you must give him the benefit of the doubt. Pirkei Avot is a book of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis written during the first two centuries CE.
Just like King Solomon (who wrote Proverbs), the ancient Rabbis taught us to understand someone before they judge that person.
In the book of D’varim (Deuteronomy) Chapter 1, Verse 16 Moses instructs the Jewish people in a similar way to Solomon and the ancient Rabbis, Judges have to hear all sides before they judge:
And I charged your judges at that time, saying: ‘Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
There again in that verse is the Hebrew word שָׁמֹעַ: sh’ma, which means listen. We must listen before judge
The first two examples above were written by man, King Solomon and the ancient Rabbis. On the other hand Jews believe that the entire Torah was written by God. Therefore that verse in D’varim means the omnipotent one, who created the heaven and the earth, who teaches us right from wrong and gives each one of us the free will to decide our path wants us to listen before we judge.
I’m not suggesting that the Rabbis should support Trump (I don’t) or even vote Republican, what I am suggesting is that great human minds as well the word of God tells them they should sit and listen to Donald Trump, the same way they sat and listened to the anti-Semitic Barack Obama when he spoke to AIPAC, and like the will sit and listen to the anti-Israel Hillary Clinton when she addresses the very same AIPAC conference.
With the election less than eight months away they shouldn’t be divisive rather they should listen to all sides, listen to their hearts and pray. Perhaps with the prayer below:
Lord who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers, Whose kingdom is a kingdom spanning the entire universe and all eternities; Who places a road in the sea and a path in the mighty waters – may you bless the President, the Vice President, and all the constituted officers of government of this land. May they execute their responsibilities with intelligence, honor, compassion and love for the constitution wonderfully crafted by our founding fathers. May you grant the people of the United States the wisdom to select a leader who is wise and fair, and who will never make a decision without considering your teachings. May you always bless these United States and provide our leaders with the comprehension of your role in making this republic the land of the free and the home of the brave.