In “He Won the Election So Give the Guy a Chance” I pleaded that we should try to start the new administration on a note of good will and cooperation rather than confrontation. Many expressed anger at my suggestion. The most gentle of the critiques call my idealism, “Naïve.”
The gist of the criticism is, “Trump’s past actions and statements are so egregious and his appointments so frightening that it is beyond belief to think he will ever change and govern with the goal of compassion, equity and justice.”
I get that.
I was a vocal opponent of Donald Trump for eleven months leading up to the election. My anti-Trump web page essays were read by thousands more people than have read any of the other 383 essays that appear there.
But the fact is that none of the outrage so many of us expressed changes the reality that he is now President of the United States.
I believe it is in our selfish best interest to engage rather than estrange the new president.
To paraphrase him: “We have nothing to lose,” because all the protests and marches that we can organize will not remove him from office.
But there is another reason for my “naïve” position. I am a passionate believer in the lessons of our Torah.
For me the truth of Torah has nothing to do with, “Did this really happen?” For me the truth of Torah lies in the ability of its stories to influence how we live and how we think.
One of the Torah’s most important “truths” is that people can change! Here are three examples:
- Jacob was the worst sort of miscreant. He exploited the fact that his own brother was tired and hungry to extort the birthright from him
- Even worse, he stood shamelessly before his blind father and proclaimed not once but three times that he was Esau in order to steal the blessing Isaac wished to give his first born.
Despite these disgraceful episodes, Jacob grows and becomes worthy enough in God’s eyes Yisrael-Israel, the one who gives his name to our people.
- He tattled on his brothers.
- He lauded over them the fact that he was his father’s favorite.
- He eagerly told his brothers of his grandiose dreams that he would rule over them.
But Joseph grew and changed. He finds it in his heart to forgive his brothers for selling him as a slave and leads Egypt through a horrible period of famine.
Judah callously convinced his brothers to throw Joseph in a pit and then sell their hapless brother as a slave. But Judah learns well the lesson taught him by his daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38). Judah, like Jacob and Joseph, grows to eschew venal self-interest and demonstrate inspiring leadership.
Benjamin, Jacob’s favorite son since the loss of Joseph, was caught—although he didn’t do it—stealing the Egyptian overlord’s (Joseph) special divining cup and sentenced to slavery. But Judah, in perhaps the most eloquent address in all of literature, offers to remain a slave to spare his father from suffering the loss of his beloved Benjamin.
I am a passionate believer in the “truth” of Torah that people can change.
If people who did things as horrible as Jacob, Joseph and Judah could change, then I am holding out my “naïve” hope for Donald Trump.
That is the most important reason I am giving him 100 days to prove himself worthy of the office he now holds. I am hoping, and I am praying.
And the clock is ticking.