I’ll be the first to admit it: I no longer support Donald. The same guy who loved those ridiculous Tweets and showed unabashed support for Israel has taken a turn. (Don’t worry, I’m a Floridian who loves DeSantis.) This was a very complicated decision for me. Let me explain.
Not too long ago, approximately 75% of Jews elected a man who was not a friend of Israel. He showed his true colors – remember his treatment of Netanyahu, not to mention the law he stealthily passed against Israel on his last days. Still, even after Obama’s preacher, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, spewed his anti-white, anti-Jewish vitriol, U.S. Jews overwhelmingly supported Obama. Twice.
On the other side of the fence came Donald Trump. Amazingly, this obnoxious, rude egomaniac took a strong stance in favor of Israel. In fact, his record speaks for itself, and so for that alone, I became a supporter. He repeatedly backed Israel throughout his presidency and even succeeded in moving the embassy, getting major money for Israel, and freeing Pollard along the way. Not to mention the fact that a sourdough challah didn’t cost $20, as the economy was moving along in a healthy way. Baruch Hashem, it seemed Jews had finally found a president who actually liked them. And his daughter was raising a nice Jewish family, no less.
But then the vitriol and attitude became darker, coupled with aberrant behavior, disgusting comments about practically anyone, not to mention the repeated firings of just about anyone who worked for him. When he started insulting John McCain, a bona fide war hero, I began to feel genuine shame. This guy served his country with honor, sat in the Hanoi Hilton as a prisoner of war after being shot down. Show the man some respect. Still, I chose to ignore the signs that Trump might not be the leader I thought he was.
Last week, this all came to a head when Trump had dinner with Kanye “I like Nazis” West, along with white nationalist and Jew-hater Nick Fuentes. I had to stop and look in the mirror. How could a man, who clearly does not hate Jews, do this? Aside from having Jewish grandchildren, Trump was recently honored with a standing ovation for his unyielding support at the ZOA dinner. In fact, at his State of the Union Address in 2019, he said, “We must never ignore the vile poison of antisemitism, or those who spread its venomous creed.”
So where exactly do I stand?
As always, the only way to get clarity in all things is to look at the Torah, as well as our history as a people. When Trump became president, I came across different articles comparing Trump to Achashveirosh. Next came the comparisons of his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner to Mordechai and Esther.
At the time, I smiled but still appreciated the observation, jotting it down to coincidence. The way I saw it, for some reason, Trump, like Achashveirosh, was pareve. He could go with meat or dairy. He could dine with a roomful of Jews and don a kippah, but just as easily share a steak with Nazi-lovers who would love nothing more than to gas every living Jew. As long as Trump was pro-semitic, I was willing to ignore all of the other stuff.
I came to understand that Trump is susceptible to circumstances. He aligns himself with a Nazi-lover with many followers because he’s desperate and thinks it will help his position, all while his own daughter and son-in-law have recently pulled back from his camp as well.
Does that mean I regret voting for him? Absolutely not. I voted for Bill Clinton the first time and I don’t regret that either. But that doesn’t mean I would vote for either of them today. Certainly, if Trump sincerely apologized to Jews for that meeting, and started behaving himself, it would be a good start. But I have no illusions about him, or most politicians for that matter. One year, everyone praised Senator Cory Booker for a pro-Israel stance at AIPAC, only to be disillusioned by his change in position toward Israel the following year.
But there is an even deeper takeaway that I learned regarding Trump’s about-face. Perhaps my failure was my reliance on any person in the first place, revealing a tiny fracture in my bitachon. We are soon going to be reading the story of Yosef. When he was imprisoned, he asked the cupbearer to remember him, hoping he would mention him to the king. The Torah clearly tells us: “Yet the cupbearer did not remember Yosef; he forgot him.” First of all, isn’t it enough to say he didn’t remember Yosef? Why would the pasuk add the words “he forgot him?” Additionally, Chazal tells us that this misplaced faith earned Yosef an additional two years in prison, for a crime he didn’t even commit. Why?
The Torah adds “he forgot him” to show that it was Hashem who made the cupbearer forget. Why? To teach Yosef (and us) that it is only G-d that we should rely on. Not some civil servant or even a clever politician with hidden agendas. Yosef HaTzaddik had a direct connection with Hashem, so for him to bypass G-d, and rely on an Egyptian servant no less, wasn’t an acceptable option.
Soon after, in Parshas Shemos, it says “And a new king arose, who knew not of Yosef.” How can that be, after all Yosef had done for Egypt? Rashi quotes the Gemara: Rav said it was a new King while Shmuel holds it was the same king with “new policies.” Either way, Egypt turned its back on the Israelites in a heartbeat.
Trump’s misstep had many messages for me. First, it’s okay to change your mind about someone, and admit it. Second, Trump can flip on a dime, depending on circumstances. Third, just as the cupbearer forgot Joseph, and “a new king arose who knew not of Yosef,” we must remember that it is Hashem alone whom we are to fully and wholeheartedly rely upon.