Remember the last question of last week's Republican presidential candidates' debate?
"We want to ask them an interesting closing question from Chase Norton on Facebook, who wants to know this of the candidates: "I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first."
The question was both inappropriate and bizarre.
Even still, Donald Trump didn't answer it.
Let's talk about the Donald and God.
Donald Trump has told Frank Luntz: “I am a religious person. People are so shocked when they find this out—I’m Protestant. I’m Presbyterian. I go to church. I love God and I love my church."
Why are people so shocked when they find this out about Donald Trump?
Could it be because he lacks at least five religious virtues?
- Anavah. "Humility." It's the quality that Moses had. It's also the quality that any number of Israelite kings lacked, which didn't help matters much. When biblical prophets assailed kings, both Jewish and non-Jewish, it was usually because of their overweening pride and arrogance. "Arrogance comes before a fall," says Proverbs.
- Kavod. That's Hebrew for "honor" and "respect." Donald Trump reverses Rodney Dangerfield's plaintive "I don't get no respect." Donald "don't give no respect" -- to anyone, other than a bloated sense of respect for himself.
Donald's "diss list" grows daily. It started with his questioning of John McCain's heroism during his captivity in Viet Nam. And then, he lashed out against Fox News' Megyn Kelly and told CNN in an interview: "There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever."
Getting gynecological (though Trump denies that this was the reference)? C'mon.
- Ahavat ha-ger. "Loving the stranger." The only quotes from the Hebrew Bible that many religious conservatives seem to know are those from Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 -- about homosexuality. Too bad they skipped Leviticus 19, which talks about taking care of the stranger. That commandment is repeated thirty-six times in the Torah (i.e., eighteen times more than explicit mentions of homosexuality).
That means, Mr. Trump, (and anyone else), if we are talking about a biblically based morality, then we are talking about taking care of the most vulnerable people in society.
In the context of this political conversation, we are talking about immigrants. Because God said so.
- Shemirat ha-lashon. "Watch the way you speak." An old Jewish adage says that the tongue is so dangerous that even though it is surrounded by walls of flesh, it is guarded by a gate of teeth. Trump has elevated verbal violence into an art form. We are talking about being presidential material, and being presidential material means, at the very least, having some kind of character. And, Jewishly speaking, character is revealed through the way you speak to, and of, other people.
Of course, for many people, this is Donald Trump's most endearing quality -- "he says what he thinks." To quote one of his fans: “He’s speaking for the majority of Americans, and I’m certainly excited about the energy—positive or negative—that he’s bringing to this race.”
Honesty is a good virtue. But we should be judging the content of his honesty, not his honesty itself. Not to make gratuitous comparisons, but there have been many people in history who said just what they meant, and we lived to regret not only their candor, but the content of that candor.
- Teshuva. "Repentance." Also known as the thing that Donald Trump thinks he never has to do. Ecclesiastes 7: 20 says: "There is no one on earth so righteous that he does not sin." Well, we apparently just met that person.
Frank Luntz asked Trump whether he has ever sought forgiveness for his sins.
“That’s a tough question. If I make a mistake, yeah, I think it’s great. But I try not to make mistakes,” Trump replied. “Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness, if you are not making mistakes?”
Donald Trump says that he is a religious person. We have no choice but to take him at his word. Only God really knows what's going on inside someone's soul.
But it is the hallmark of the religious person to believe that he or she is not at the center. Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: we are the spokes of the wheel, not its hub.
The ability to repent is nothing less than the ability to say: I'm not God.
All of those virtues are general, biblical religious virtues. But let's just talk about the Jews, for a moment.
Donald Trump has numerous Jewish connections. Why wouldn't he? His roots are in Jamaica Estates, in Queens. His father, Fred Trump, was a major real estate developer. I once found a Jamaica Jewish Center dinner dance journal -- from 1943! -- in our basement. It contained a full page ad from Fred Trump, "in honor of my friends at the Jamaica Jewish Center."
Not only that: Donald's daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism and has become Orthodox.
Which means that a potential Donald vs. Hillary race could mean "the war of the machetanim" (Jewish inlaws).
Nu, Ivanka: maybe you could teach your father a little bit of what you, by now, surely know?