Liberal rabbis and Donald Trump

Are liberal Jews – and their rabbis – committing a sin in the way they address President Donald J. Trump?

That question was provoked by a recent "analysis" in Haaretz titled "Is Trump Really a Moron or Just Racist and Obnoxious?"

It also came to mind when Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist rabbis refused to join a High Holidays call, sending best wishes to the president for a good and productive new year.

"The rabbinical groups of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements said in a joint statement that Trump's recent remarks 'are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred' that they've decided they will not help to organize the conference call this year," reported the Jewish Forward.

The sin is called "loshon horo," or "evil tongue."  It derives from that portion of the Torah when God brought manna from the heavens to feed the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness.  It arises when Moses's sister, Miriam, approaches his brother, Aaron, with gossip about their leader.

G-d considers this loshen hora (evil talk about another) and strikes Miriam with tzora-as (a divine punishment requiring purification).  The great Talmudic commentator Rashi says that if this is called loshen hora, where Miriam hadn't intended to shame Moses, "how much more so is it when one intends to shame his fellow man"?

Calling the president names, as opposed to criticizing his policies, seems to fly in the face of the nearly ubiquitous Prayer for Our Leaders, which reads as follows:

Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country, for its government, for its leader and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights of Your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.

It's been widely reported that the vast majority of Reform and Conservative rabbis in America vote Democratic and had favored the election of Hillary Clinton.

Typical of High Holiday sermons from the liberal rabbinate was one given on Rosh Hashana by Joshua Davidson, senior rabbi at New York's Temple Emanuel.  He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his words were on "trying to lift ourselves above the dishonesty, the incivility, the indecency which ... has become the societal norm."

Of course, he could have been referring to behaviors such as participating in a "Waitress Sandwich" (Ted Kennedy), taking oral sex from a White House intern (Bill Clinton), or allowing a gay prostitution ring to be operated from his apartment (Barney Frank.) 

Or he could have been referring to the sale of State Department decisions, the description of Beau Bergdahl as a "valiant soldier," or the long-term abuse of women by Harvey Weinstein. 

But he wasn't.  All indications are that he was speaking in evil tongue about the president.