Photo Credit: Rabbi Kivi Bernhard
President Donald Trump and Rabbi Kivi Bernhard at the luncheon.

As a proud Jew and business keynote speaker who has had the honor of ascending some of the world’s most prestigious Fortune 500 platforms across the globe, I must admit that nothing has “trumped” the opportunity I recently had to serve as the opening speaker and emcee for a luncheon in honor of President Trump attended by hundreds of Orthodox Jewish businessmen (a brainchild of Mr. Louis Scheiner, a friend and associate).

The challenge of delivering a concise message in six minutes was enormous. There was so much to address, so much to highlight – the rise of anti-Jewish sentiment, BDS, campus propaganda, global terrorism… where to start? How to ensure that I not squander this critical and lifetime opportunity? My remarks had to cover all these critical issues and yet none of them at all!


And then there was the critical “thing” about President Trump I had to grapple with. I was given the responsibility to be the mouthpiece for Klal Yisrael on a momentous occasion of Jewish gratitude for the unmatched good the White House has indisputably done for the Jewish nation. At the same time, I knew that many of the refinements of character that a Torah Jew hopes to attain are not particularly evident in President Trump. Can we Jews gather to acknowledge the enormous positive actions of a man we don’t wish to personally emulate?

It occurred to me that a similar question lies at the basis of the divide this country is experiencing right now. Republicans ignore Trump’s character and focus on his accomplishments, while Democrats refuse to acknowledge these accomplishments because they are born of a man who is perceived as being highly imperfect in character.

So could I stand up and thank the leader of the free world – who has certainly achieved tremendous things for our country, our beloved homeland Israel, and the Jewish people the world over – while simultaneously knowing in my heart that he isn’t someone I would want to marry my daughter?

The answer I ultimately came to was yes – and I could do so loudly, proudly, and with tremendous joy. For human beings – all human beings – are flawed. In fact, Trump’s position before us mirrors our position before G-d. Don’t all of us navigate a relationship with a transcendent Creator who turns a blind eye to our imperfections and often damaging personalities while acknowledging our positive deeds?

The tension in following the dictates of the Torah while knowing our own imperfections is part of the life G-d wants us to lead. It’s part of the precise and surgical design of Hashem – a design we can therefore rejoice and find hope in. It’s a design that helps develop the human being and shape him into all he can be. It’s a design that allows us to follow the divine will even when it doesn’t perfectly reflect our character.

As business operators, professionals, teachers, and parents, do we not perfectly exemplify this dichotomy? Do our clients, customers, colleagues, and children not see the glaring duality in our personas? How can we square this circle? We cannot. It is not in our ability as human beings to be perfect, and it is a tension G-d made and managed from our very creation. Love it, embrace it, and be tolerant of it in yourself – and more importantly in others.

Some of you just read that and asked if this built-in dichotomy excuses our negative character traits and prevents us from having to work on them? I will leave that for you to answer in the same way you do when your children pose the same question.

And so the clarity came to me. My privileged six minutes of opportunity to create a legacy moment for Klal Yisrael had to be about the source of it all, Hashem Elokim, not the players chosen to carry it out. It had to transcend, not only red and blue, but what truly drives red and blue. It had to rise above the tension in our own human condition, which allows us to do good things while also sometimes exhibiting not such great character.

Finally, it had to be in line with the tremendous gratitude and appreciation we have for a man who is doing perfectly good things for the Jewish nation – with an imperfect character. Like all of us!


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Kivi Bernhard is an international lecturer and the author of "Leopardology: The Hunt for Profit in a Tough Global Economy."