Chanukah, Heroism, and President Trump

My Talmud study partner is the rabbi of a small Orthodox congregation in Upper Manhattan, and our Sunday morning study session often starts with my study partner giving me a recap of his Saturday morning sermon. This week, as soon as I got the recap, I knew that I had to share it publicly.

In the Jewish tradition, a portion of the Five Books of Moses/the Torah is read aloud as part of the Sabbath morning service. This past week’s Torah portion featured the story of Joseph and his brothers, and included the narrative of Judah and Tamar. Despite Judah’s initial actions with Joseph and Tamar, Judah later redeemed himself by confessing to having been involved with Tamar and by stepping up to the plate to save his brother Benjamin. Judah acted boldly and heroically, putting himself out and doing what was right, rather than doing that which was easy.

My study partner compared Judah’s actions to those of the Maccabees (the heroes of the story of Chanukah) and to those of President Trump. The Maccabees, who were devoutly faithful Jewish fighters, waged war upon the mighty Seleucid occupiers of the Land of Israel, who were stifling religion and were preaching secularism and hedonism. The tiny Maccabean militia miraculously triumphed over the massive Seleucid army, liberating the Land of Israel and its inhabitants from anti-religious Hellenist influence. This event was marked by the famous miracle of the oil that burned for eight days, and the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been defiled by the Seleucids, was thereupon purified and was rededicated to the service of God.

The Maccabees knew that they were right; they had conviction and did not care what anyone else thought. And they were willing to act and take great risk to stand up for what was proper.

My study partner brought this lesson forward 2200 years and focused on President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. To deny this reality was a politically correct fiction, yet it was so convenient and even pretty much required for all U.S. Presidents, due to pressure from European, Islamic, and leftist American interests -- not to mention occasionally antagonistic and/or timid State Department leadership. But the President broke ranks and stood up to the international community and to domestic plastic politicians, declaring the capital status of Jerusalem in no uncertain terms. What a great parallel to the story of Judah and of the Maccabees.

My study partner was congratulated extremely warmly by his congregants upon returning to his seat after that sermon.

As traditional/Orthodox Jews, my coreligionists are used to going against the grain and being a counterforce to secularism and the latest fads. That is what Abraham was all about. Correspondingly, it’s no wonder that President Trump’s support among Orthodox Jews is so strong. It is perhaps the strongest support for the President by any religious group, with the possible exception of evangelicals.

Leftist efforts to comprehensively reform and unhinge society did not emerge in a vacuum. These efforts reflect a rejection of Biblical/traditional values, marked most recently by the plague of Postmodernism and an appeal against any real values whatsoever. Right and wrong become relative terms, everything goes, and the worst forms of perversion and upheaval prevail.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who was the mentor of my own rabbis, stated in a 1972 lecture in Boston:

“What America needs most now is an education with norms, an education where the idea of giving up and stepping backwards, restraining (i.e. humility), is prominent. Now it becomes an American tradition that if you teach some norms, religious norms, Jewish or Christian norms, so you get no support from the government...

“Sometimes when you listen to that, you begin to think it’s not Washington, it’s not New York -- it’s Moscow. In certain respects they become very close, I must say. Their fear of religion, or the awe in which they stand before the Constitutional separation of state and religion, is reminiscent -- this awe is so absurd -- that it is reminiscent of Moscow. There is no wonder you have crime in the streets…”       

Chanukah is God’s reminder to stand strong for values – holy, eternal and true values – and to defy the majority in taking a moral stand. This is the message that was proclaimed in Jerusalem 2200 years ago and that now, through President Trump, has again been affirmed in Washington, Jerusalem, and throughout the world.           

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought. He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News, Yated Ne'eman, and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

My Talmud study partner is the rabbi of a small Orthodox congregation in Upper Manhattan, and our Sunday morning study session often starts with my study partner giving me a recap of his Saturday morning sermon. This week, as soon as I got the recap, I knew that I had to share it publicly.

In the Jewish tradition, a portion of the Five Books of Moses/the Torah is read aloud as part of the Sabbath morning service. This past week’s Torah portion featured the story of Joseph and his brothers, and included the narrative of Judah and Tamar. Despite Judah’s initial actions with Joseph and Tamar, Judah later redeemed himself by confessing to having been involved with Tamar and by stepping up to the plate to save his brother Benjamin. Judah acted boldly and heroically, putting himself out and doing what was right, rather than doing that which was easy.

My study partner compared Judah’s actions to those of the Maccabees (the heroes of the story of Chanukah) and to those of President Trump. The Maccabees, who were devoutly faithful Jewish fighters, waged war upon the mighty Seleucid occupiers of the Land of Israel, who were stifling religion and were preaching secularism and hedonism. The tiny Maccabean militia miraculously triumphed over the massive Seleucid army, liberating the Land of Israel and its inhabitants from anti-religious Hellenist influence. This event was marked by the famous miracle of the oil that burned for eight days, and the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been defiled by the Seleucids, was thereupon purified and was rededicated to the service of God.

The Maccabees knew that they were right; they had conviction and did not care what anyone else thought. And they were willing to act and take great risk to stand up for what was proper.

My study partner brought this lesson forward 2200 years and focused on President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. To deny this reality was a politically correct fiction, yet it was so convenient and even pretty much required for all U.S. Presidents, due to pressure from European, Islamic, and leftist American interests -- not to mention occasionally antagonistic and/or timid State Department leadership. But the President broke ranks and stood up to the international community and to domestic plastic politicians, declaring the capital status of Jerusalem in no uncertain terms. What a great parallel to the story of Judah and of the Maccabees.

My study partner was congratulated extremely warmly by his congregants upon returning to his seat after that sermon.

As traditional/Orthodox Jews, my coreligionists are used to going against the grain and being a counterforce to secularism and the latest fads. That is what Abraham was all about. Correspondingly, it’s no wonder that President Trump’s support among Orthodox Jews is so strong. It is perhaps the strongest support for the President by any religious group, with the possible exception of evangelicals.

Leftist efforts to comprehensively reform and unhinge society did not emerge in a vacuum. These efforts reflect a rejection of Biblical/traditional values, marked most recently by the plague of Postmodernism and an appeal against any real values whatsoever. Right and wrong become relative terms, everything goes, and the worst forms of perversion and upheaval prevail.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who was the mentor of my own rabbis, stated in a 1972 lecture in Boston:

“What America needs most now is an education with norms, an education where the idea of giving up and stepping backwards, restraining (i.e. humility), is prominent. Now it becomes an American tradition that if you teach some norms, religious norms, Jewish or Christian norms, so you get no support from the government...

“Sometimes when you listen to that, you begin to think it’s not Washington, it’s not New York -- it’s Moscow. In certain respects they become very close, I must say. Their fear of religion, or the awe in which they stand before the Constitutional separation of state and religion, is reminiscent -- this awe is so absurd -- that it is reminiscent of Moscow. There is no wonder you have crime in the streets…”       

Chanukah is God’s reminder to stand strong for values – holy, eternal and true values – and to defy the majority in taking a moral stand. This is the message that was proclaimed in Jerusalem 2200 years ago and that now, through President Trump, has again been affirmed in Washington, Jerusalem, and throughout the world.           

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought. He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News, Yated Ne'eman, and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.