Is It Halachically Permissible to Vote for a Menuval?
President Donald Trump has been a steadfast supporter of the State of Israel. His recent brokering of historic peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Gulf states is to be supported. Pursuing peace is not just a supreme Torah value; it is the Torah’s essence. It is for this very reason, however, that overlooking Trump’s own personal behavior, demeanor and isolating Israel over all other issues would ultimately be a betrayal of Torah values.
As committed Zionists and lovers of Israel, we too are tempted at times to look past the president’s indiscretions; however, we must remember the primary idea that a commandment which stems from a prohibition is ultimately sacrilegious. We cannot perform one mitzvah while transgressing another. What good is having Jerusalem as the capital if in doing so, we violate nearly everything a Jew stands for?
How can we as Orthodox Jews overlook halacha’s foremost value of upholding human dignity? How do we honor the Torah’s charge of distancing ourselves from falsehood if we support a man who habitually spreads lies? What do we do regarding Chazal’s language around comparing public shaming to spilling blood when the president mocks and shames anyone who disagrees with him?
The president’s racist language should be alarming for any Jew who takes shmiras halashon seriously. The president’s shady business dealings should astound any business person who fears the treachery of gneyva. The Gemera teaches that the first question Hashem asks when we die is did you have honest business dealings?
The president’s inhumane immigration policies directly violate the Torah’s charge of ahavas hager and onaas hager. His basic way of comporting himself is in direct contradiction to upholding kavod habriyos.
Every Friday night, our families gather around the Shabbos table and sing Eyshes Chayil, a tribute to the woman of the house. How can we honestly sing these words and show kibud em to our mothers and grandmothers and respect our wives, sisters, and daughters, when we simply ignore the president’s vile language and actions around assaulting women? When did sexual assault become mutar?
As we begin our Torah reading cycle again, it is imperative to return to the teaching of the Netziv, Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin. The Netziv teaches that the whole point of Sefer Breshis is to teach us to be human beings. This is why it is called Sefer Hayashar: to teach us how to be yesharim. It is only in Sefer Shmos we receive the Torah. This is to teach us derekh eretz kadma latorah — basic human decency and mentshlikhkayt is before the Torah itself.
How can we uphold the Torah’s charge of loving our fellow Jews and ignore the president’s dismissal of white terrorists who have murdered Jews? His refusal to condemn forcefully white supremacists is akin to praising them. As the Gemara teaches us, shtika khodaah — silence is admission. As the white supremacists of Charlottesville shouted “Jews will not replace us,” the president seemed to think there were fine people on both sides of the issue. Just because he has a Jewish daughter and grandchildren doesn’t mean he has not given credence to antisemitic groups.
Finally, let us turn to the president’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Over 220,000 Americans have died; many of those deaths could have been prevented by simply advocating for people to wear masks. His own reckless behavior has caused the virus to keep spreading, as he hosted rallies that defied state laws around COVID-19. The Gemara forbids someone to own an unstable ladder out of fear that someone could use it and get hurt. Imagine for a moment what Chazal would think of someone not wearing a mask when common scientific consensus tells us it is what we must do to curtail the virus. Is pikuach nefesh no longer a mitzvah?
In summation, President Trump’s middos are an affront to everything the Torah stands for. While we know it is possible to be a menuval birshus haTorah, we should not rush as eagerly as we have been in the frum community to support this president. If anything, we should steer as far away from him as possible. This is not about being liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. This is about preserving the Torah’s values of life, truth, and respect.
Rabbis Avram Mlotek and Jonathan Leener are both alumni of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.