Schmutz is not Torah Law

When I was a lad in Borough Park eons ago, it struck me as odd that some of the siddurim in the shul where I davened included a tefila for the health of the Czar. He certainly was no friend of the Jews and so I wondered why we were praying for his health. Not many years later, after the State of Israel was established, King Abdullah of Jordan visited the United States and a group of yeshiva students, me not included, went to Rav Moshe Feinstein to ask whether while they were picketing him, they were also required to make the blessing recited upon seeing a Gentile king, “Who has given of his Glory to human beings.” In all candor, I do not recall Rav Moshe’s response.

These were essentially abstract situations, not directly affecting our lives. In the years since, elections have come and gone and although there often was disagreement within our community over which party or candidate deserved support, there was little emotion on either side of the issue, the general view being that each person was entitled to make his or her choice.

Donald J. Trump has now been president for nineteen days. Prior to the election, his mode of operation was to denigrate people, whether they were crippled or had been prisoners of war or just plain political adversaries. Schmutz was his forte. In word, thought and deed he was enveloped in what clearly is antithetical to the norms that guide our religious life. After the election, there was a continuation of a style that dishonored the office that he would soon occupy. Yet, there was the hope, in retrospect probably naïve, that when he became president there would be a change.

There hasn’t been a change. Schmutz continues to be his modus operandi. He has done nothing to unite the country and just about everything that he could to further divide the country. It is as if vulgarity is as much part of him as is the skin that encases his body.

This reality is America’s problem. We have to hope and pray that the processes of checks and balances and other instrumentalities of this great democracy will somehow offset the damage that is being done.

There is a more parochial arena of damage that especially concerns me. It is the support, indeed the enthusiastic support, that he is receiving from Orthodox Jews. There are Torah leaders who have proclaimed that Daas Torah mandates support of Mr. Trump. Doubtlessly because I am not a Torah scholar, it escapes me how our religion might mandate approval of a person whose behavior includes sexual abuse, lying, cheating and so much else that should be repugnant to us.

And so although I have attempted to be obedient to Torah authority for two-thirds of a century, I write here that there is no Torah law that sanctions Donald Trump’s behavior and there certainly is no Torah law that mandates our approval of his behavior.

Marvin Schick

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29 Responses

  1. DF says:

    Is there a reason R. Schick is provided here with a forum to regularly air his hatred of the President? We get it – he thinks the President’s a menuval (in contrast to all previous presidents, who were as pure as the driven snow.) All I have read from his last two offerings is his inability to grasp why we, the broader community, are such benighted fools that we cannot grasp what is so obvious to him, Rabbi Schick.

    I appreciate his past service to Klal work, but that does not give R. Schick the right to passive-aggressively insult the very same Klal from whence he sprung. Unlike Jonathan Rosenblum’s always insightful pieces on specific Obama policies, R. Shick does nothing more than repeat the same legacy-media talking points that were so thoroughly rejected last November. It’s obvious he doesn’t get it and at this point never will. In all honestly, by allowing R. Shick to print such painfully clichéd tripe, you are doing considerable harm to his legacy to the orthodox community.

    • dr.bill says:

      it appears your comment ” We get it – he thinks the President’s a menuval (in contrast to all previous presidents, who were as pure as the driven snow.)” reflects the black and white attitude of some on this blog’s site.  Trump is a menuval; one can argue tocho ki’baro unlike others others who were not.  Nonetheless dr. schick is correct, his baro lowers the level of dignity his office ought inspire.  others were hardly pure, but they did their best to uphold a modicum of dignity.

      • Rafael Qunoaface says:

        I think it can be argued that with past presidents, their upholding of a modicum of dignity would have been out of the window given the exposure of behaviour on the internet and social media. For example, JFK was a serial adulterer and carried on illicit relationships with many women. He was lucky that he lived at a time when this behaviour was not well known, leaks were relatively unknown and the media hid his behaviour. If he was elected last month, the coverage of his personal behaviour would make Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer look like child’s play.

  2. Moshe says:

    Mr. Schick, let it go. Stop already. It’s over. The election is come and gone. Lots of bad things have been said on both sides. If you believe all or any of those things, I would call you extremely naive. Most of what was said was just media hype over nothing. Sexual abuse? Really? Nobody ever said that. You may be referring to some comments he made that won’t be repeated. But that’s far from sexual abuse. Lying and cheating? About what? Something you heard on CNN? And you believe everything you see on CNN? Besides, all politicians lie, this is nothing new.

    You’re implication at the (confusing) beginning of your article was that this election has more direct effect on our lives than previous ones. Not so. Our lives will continue as before. We lived through Clinton, Bush and Obama and life pretty much goes on as regular. You’ve been convinced by all the media hype that this is such a huge deal in our lives. Let’s face it, you were brainwashed by the media. It’s time to move on and accept.

    But my main question is, what do attempt to gain by deriding the president? How is that going to help us yidden here in galus where are subservient to the government? Whether you agree or disagree with him or his style, we can accomplish so much more by working within the parameters of respect for the government. Nothing ever gets accomplished with derision or cynicism.

    Like if or not, he is our president now. He occupies the office of the President of the United States, the greatest country in the world, and for that, he deserves our respect.


  3. Robert says:

    I, too, find Trump’s behavior and words beneath the office of President. But we, as Jews, must not be hypocrites. I’m heard plenty of foul language from frum Jews in the US and even black-hatted yeshiva bochurs in Yerushalyim. I’ve observed charedi men and women engaged in immoral behavior.  Many years ago, a frum Jew working as fall-down artist at a Jewish cemetery in NY even tried to shake me down for money after pretending that I hit him with my car while I was leaving a family member’s funeral; when I questioned his veracity and (non-)apparent injuries, he sheepishly backed down.

    As for “…how our religion might mandate approval of a person whose behavior includes sexual abuse, lying, cheating and so much else that should be repugnant to us”), perhaps Jews’ righteous indignation over Trump may be misplaced to some degree, and better directed inwards. Trump is not a Jew; so I doubt that he can be held to the standards of Torah or the Chofetz Chaim.  Perhaps he is more akin to a golem, or a tool we reluctantly use for our own defense.

    And keep in mind, Trump was elected by slim margins in a few congressional districts with too few frum jews to make a difference in those polling places. Trump might be a vulgarian, but for the next four years, he’s *our* vulgarian whether we like it or not. We should respect his office, even if we don’t want to respect him. And perhaps his Jewish family members can be a good influence on him.

  4. Rafael Qunoaface says:

    For the safety of Jews, the State of Israel (see the Iran deal, among others), I would rather have the menuval Trump in office than Hillary, and certainly more than Bernie (10000 died in Gaza and I lived on a communist kibbutz) Sanders. Also, from reports Obama called Netanyahu on Airforce 1 and told him that if he wants a levaya like Peres, he better start making progress. Is that not disgusting behaviour? Or leaving Netanyahu to sit outside in the White House like Obama went out? Or releasing $225 million last minute to PA, to assist the PA  in paying matyrs wages, among other things? How about the left’s childish behaviour after the election and after Trump’s inauguration? Please.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    WADR, this what Joseph Epstein in today’s WSJ called Trump trauma.  Let’s talk about the positives:

    1) Trump , just like FDR who suspended naturalization proceedings for Germans, Japanese and Italians, and Congress which passed the Alien Registration Act of 1940 which required all noncitizen adults residents to register and Carter who voided visas issued to Iranians , has acted to prevent the US from being  inunduated by “refugees” who have never shown in any country to where they fled that they wish to become Germans, Frenchmen or Brits but rather to perpetuate terror , has acted in response to Islamoterrorism, which consistently was viewed as something we must live with by Obama & Co.

    2) Secretary of Education DeBos was nominated and confirmed because of her willingness to stand up to the monopoly known as public education where political correct criteria dictate curriculums, , produce far too many functional illiterates , aggresively fight all other educational alternatives as if they were and are the Red menace, and the lack of due process for males who are the victims of casual encounters gone bad which are now viewed somehow in a gross misclassification as “rape.”

    3) Sessions is no bigot-he may oppose afffirmative action-but then who would want to be protected by anyone who became a police officer, firemen, doctor or anyone else for whom the standards were lowered because of their gender or race? In any event, Justice Hugo Black, one of the most liberal SC justices, was confirmed  despite being a member of the KKK.

    4) EPA has been regulating without regard to the cost of its regulations on American businesses and consumers.

    5) All of the nominees for national security related posts recognize that our military needs to be rebuild to fight terror , the growing threat posed by China and the fact that unregulated immigration from Mexico is associated with the drug trade,

    6) Judge Gorsuch is an excellent choice to fill the shoes of Scalia , a judge who respects the free exercise of religion , the meaning of Lo Tirzach to preclude physician assisted suicide and a coalition builder on his court. Viewing Gorsuch as out of the mainstream has merit if you define your mainstream as uber liberal precincts of  NY and California which the Democrats stand a grave risk of becoming if they allow their agenda to be solely that of stonewalling the President at each and every turn.

  6. Micah Segelman says:

    Thank you for writing this. I really fear that without making this message very clear Orthodox Jews as well as parts of the pro-Israel community will be tainted by being perceived as on board the Trump train. This could haunt us for a long time. And the article only mentioned a few of the objections we should have.

    By the way, if it’s true that “There are Torah leaders who have proclaimed that Daas Torah mandates support of Mr. Trump” this may simply mean we have to respect him as the President and work with him to the extent possible. But it doesn’t necessarily contradict anything you’ve written.

    • Reb Yid says:


      I absolutely agree with you that beyond the very short term Israel will feel the pushback very strongly once Trump and the Republicans are no longer in power.  Bibi, of course, is mostly to blame for this, but it surely doesn’t help that most of Israeli society seems to prefer the current POTUS to its predecessor.  Israel is pretty much alone in this regard–it is simply asking for trouble.

  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    It has been said since the election of Obama in 2008 that the wave of the future in the US is the political Left and that what was once the white majority, which largely supports the Republicans is in terminal decline. Thus, the future is believed to lie with groups like the Hispanics, the Muslims, the blacks, the homosexuals and other groups that strongly identify with the Democrats. Given this view, and given that Orthodox Jews primarily live in areas where groups that vote solidly Democratic, many Orthodox Jews feel that they should be seen to be in synch with the views of these Democratic constituencies. Since these groups have demonized Trump to the extent that mainline media outlets like the New York Times have up to a dozen headlines bashing Trump and the Republicans every day, it is not surprising that some Orthodox spokesmen would want to be seen to be on the “politically correct” side in order to protect the particular interests of the Orthodox community.
    It is a good idea to keep a perspective on theses things. The fact that the media largely covered up numerous gaffes and offensive statements and policies by Obama and his people (e.g. “the conservatives clinging to their guns and religion”, Obama’s close relationship with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, and his describing Jewish victims of Islamic terror in Paris as “random folks caught in a deli”) should lead one to a more balanced  perspective.

  8. Raymond says:

    Before I read any of the above responses so that my thoughts are my own, I will now respond to what Marvin Schick said above.

    I do not think it is possible for me to disagree more with what Marvin Schick said above than I already do.   First of all, it is absurd to make the claim that Donald is dividing this nation.  He is not.  The one who should be taking all the blame for that, is Barak Obama, who, during his initial Presidential campaign, claimed to be a uniter, but when he actually became our President, was the most divisive President this country has had since Abraham Lincoln, and at least in the case of President Lincoln, he did everything to encourage unity among Americans, while Barak Obama did the very opposite of that, railing against Republicans at every turn for the last eight years, blaming them for all of America’s problems, and not even trying to find common ground with Republicans the way that Bill Clinton did a generation ago.  In fact, if anything, it is really Donald who can be said to be a uniter, in that he actually drew many supporters of Bernie Sanders and Barak Obama, into supporting Donald this time around.  As much as I like Ted Cruz, no way would he have attracted the kind of blue collar voters that Donald drew in.

    Furthermore, while it cannot be denied Donald can be quite crude in his manner of speaking, I am not sure that that is inherently such a terrible thing.  One of this country’s greatest Presidents, Harry Truman, was at least as plain speaking as Donald is, if not moreso.  True, that Barak Obama was a very refined, polished speaker, but the actual content of his words were meaningless and empty, of no positive value whatsoever.  Perhaps that is part of Donald’s appeal.  Perhaps America voted Donald into office in part because Donald at least has something of substance to say, and without all of the phoniness and emptiness that marked the Obama Presidency.

    And finally, there is something missing from what Marvin Schick said…something far more important than any of the above, and that is Israel.  For the last eight years, we Jews have had to endure a President that was openly hostile to Israel, who hated Benjamin Netanyahu really because Obama resented how pro-Israel that Israel’s own prime minister is.  Obama would have much rather had some Leftist in office in Israel, to make it that much easier to bring Israel down to its knees.  Contrast all that with Donald, who is so strongly pro-Israel, that at least so far, it can justifiably said that he is the most pro-Israel President that America has had since we Jews took back control of our Jewish land back in 1948.  I would take a crudely spoken, pro-Israel President over a slick, hostile-to-Israel President any day.  I suspect that this is precisely why Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly support him as well.  They and him are to be applauded, and may Donald go from strength to strength, Amen.

  9. ben dov says:

    We are losing our moral credibility.  That’s a very serious matter.

    As a Republican and opponent of the political Left, I have no quarrel with anyone who voted for Trump to stop Hillary Clinton.  I do have a problem with Orthodox Jews who supported Trump with enthusiasm or without major reservations.  Trump is ethically problematic in so many ways that he ought to make us very uncomfortable.  We do not have to buy into leftist talking points to admit that much of Trump’s speech and behavior is an affront to Torah values.  Not admitting this leads to an understandable public perception that Trump fits well with the values of Orthodox Judaism.

  10. Henry Silberman says:

    Dr. Schick is an astute scholar  of constitutional law and has worked in the field of politics and public service for as long as I can remember.  I think he is pointing out that Donald Trump i a disgraceful personality and that supporting him is in no way a religious obligation.

  11. Charles Gregor says:

    I raised three children during the Clinton Administration and dreaded having to answer questions about cigars and blue dresses.  I certainly hope Dr. Schick put Torah values ahead of his Democratic sympathies at that time, and called for Clinton’s resignation, impeachment and removal from office.

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Funny, I can’t recall any anguished columns here by this author against the socially destructive national policies under Democratic rule, or their likely continuation and amplification had Hillary Clinton won.    Focusing now with laser-like precision on bad Trump manners (to the exclusion of his policies which we ought to support, on balance), he has nothing to say about bad + dangerous rioting in the streets egged on and paid for by Soros, Obama, et al.   Or about the total negation or abolition of truth as an ideal in the liberal media.   FDR and Truman, not to mention Scoop Jackson, are long gone; look candidly at their party today.

  13. Reb Yid says:

    Let’s even leave aside the content of the current President’s decisions, actions and thoughts which are bad enough.

    Let’s focus on what the author of the post is talking about–simply the “how” all of this comes across to us.  Would we accept such communications from our camp counselors or heads of camp?  Our teachers or principals?  Our bosses or coworkers?  We would all have their heads the very next day and they’d be out the door.  And they’d all be taken to court as well–and we’d win every time.

    This is bully behavior at its worst.

  14. Tal Benschar says:

    I did not vote for Trump precisely because he is a crude buffoon who, IMO, brings no honor to the country or the office of President.  Of course, I live in a very blue state, so my vote did not matter anyway.
     But the short answer to Mr. Schick’s piece is that Trump did not run for the office of Chief Rabbi, he ran for President of the U.S.  There have been many menuvalim and mushchasim of all kinds in that office.  Since WWII, I can think of two who carried on affairs while in the White House, and two others who swore like a truck driver.  (There was one who was an anti-semite, and yet, ironically enough, was instrumental in saving the State of Israel from annihilation.  Go figure.)  The holder of that office should not be a model of behavior for us Jews, period.
     For many people, the deciding factor is the policies he will implement, not his personal behavior.  And on that score, Trump is much preferred to most Orthodox Jews.
     (I once heard something similar from someone in Israel about elections there.  When Shimon Peres was running against Netanyahu, someone pointed out that Peres kept a kosher home, kept Shabbos at the official residence, and was completely faithful to his wife, while Netanyahu was, shall we say, sorely lacking in all those departments.  Yet all of the gedolim preferred Netanyahu because of his policies.)

  15. Yossi says:

    I don’t know why people are taking issue with what he wrote. Of course we have to be thankful for our country and pray for our president.

    What he is commentif ok is that so much of the frum and yeshivish community are so excited about this guy that they cheer every bit of his bigotry. I can’t tell you how many conversation with kollel guys and roshei kollel I’ve had where they’ve said Obama is a “rasha merusha”, and they’re not “nispoel” from Trumps vulgarity, appearing on Howard Stern 30 times, etc because he’s “just like every single goy, just more vocal”.

    Huh? Our president is shattering everything good and decent about the office of the Presidency. And whether you wanted Hilary or not, and whether you supported Trump or not, you have to be able to recognize that.

  16. Charles Hall says:

    Well said. Trump is a poster child for everything the Torah objects to in one’s personal and business life. Our Rabbinic tradition teaches that character is of critical importance for positions of communal responsibility.


    I sincerely hope that he changes and becomes successful — for the sake of our country. And I pray for him just as I prayed for his predecessors.

  17. caren says:

    There are numerous anti- trump groups available to join & demonstrate with. Find them & work your way up!

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Many if not all of which are funded and subsidized by George Soros who despises the notions of national borders and the existence of the State of Israel with equal passion and who makes no apologies in how he survived the Holocaust at the expense of his fellow Jews

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    It should also be noted that the Supreme Court has previously upheld bans on Haitian and Cuban would be immigrants under 8 USC 1182(f) the same statute passed by Congress and invoked albeit clumsily by Trump. Those who invoke the memories of FDR and the St Louis are ignoring the massive difference-no-one seeking to immigrate from Pearl Harbor from Nazi Germany ever engaged in any conduct or had aspirations to engage in conduct such as what happened on 9-11 or in Orlando Ft Hood or as San Bernardino. I have no qualms about profiling any sector of the populace engaged in violent criminal or terrorist conduct. As justice Robert Jackson stated the bill of rights is not a suicide pact.

  19. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Steve Brizel:  ” Those who invoke the memories of FDR and the St Louis are ignoring the massive difference”  Unfortunately, one argument used by the State Department to keep Jewish refugees out of the US during WWII was that we couldn’t tell who was a genuine refugee and who was a German spy.  And so Jews were kept out.

    To Bob Miller:  “Funny, I can’t recall any anguished columns here by this author against the socially destructive national policies under Democratic rule.”  Maybe it’s because we on the left don’t consider them to have been socially destructive.  What I do remember in 1992 is that when Bill Clinton was running against Bush 41, the most anti-Israel president since Eisenhower, rabbonim were telling us that we still had to vote for Bush, since Bill Clinton’s moral deficiencies invalidated him to be President. And yes, I know, Marvin Schick didn’t point out Clinton’s deficiencies, either.


    • Bob Miller says:

      I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 because of Bush 41’s anti-Israel policies, knowing that Clinton was a moral disaster.  But the boost I and others gave Clinton didn’t help Israel at all anyway; we just had a new clique, with new Jewish sycophants to execute policy, who shared the same harmful objective.  And I recall no groundswell of rabbinic support for Bush 41.

  20. Reb Yid says:

    Where oh where are all of the “circle the wagon” Jews who cry out against any real or perceived slight to Jews and particularly to Orthodox Jews?

    This past week Trump has had multiple opportunities to both acknowledge and condemn rising levels of anti-Semitism in this country.  Neither happened, but that’s only the beginning of the debacle.  In one case, he was given a chance to do so on a silver platter, everything all teed up and ready to go by a compliant Orthodox reporter from AMI magazine.  This reporter went out of his way to stress that he was a friendly reporter and that his community harbored no resentments against the POTUS.

    The result?  This reporter was interrupted nastily and badgered by the POTUS, who then went on one of his typical narcissitic and misdirection bits by spewing about his electoral college victory and his 21st century version of “some of my best friends are Jewish”.  Perhaps the saddest part of all was seeing this reporter developing Stockholm Syndrome and incredibly twisting himself into a pretzel, trying in vain to construct an apologetic that could somehow justify Trump’s “response” (or, more to the point, lack thereof).

    Where are all of the usual suspects on this board who are quick to point out any slights against Orthodox folks?  Against anti-Semitism?  Where is the Wiesenthal Center–isn’t this what they’re supposed to be condemning?

    One shudders to think how quickly, and with how much vitriol, the usual suspects would be out in full force had BHO or HRC as President said and done (or more to the point, not done) all of these things during the past week.


    • Yaakov Menken says:

      That’s silly, and needlessly offensive to the reporter. It is quite obvious that President Trump has been dogged by foolish accusations of “anti-Semitism” despite his strong relationship with his Jewish son-in-law and unprecedented outreach to the Orthodox community. The reporter equally obviously knew this, and in his comment was telling Trump that he was known to be a good grandfather to his Jewish grandchildren. Clearly Trump did not hear him.

      The reason is equally obvious: someone foolishly didn’t give “Jake Turx” of Ami a microphone. Trump then cut him off, thinking he was hearing a duplicate of the previous day’s question (at the Netanyahu press conference) that repeated the “guilt by association” charge.

      If you are willing to denounce BHO as a junior-grade imbecile for referring to our 57 states, we can blame Trump for not hearing a reporter’s actual question. Until then, it is you who are operating by a double-standard. [No, I don’t think BHO is an idiot for his slip of the tongue, either. But I do know the dark and vulgar subtext behind calling Judea “Palestinian land.”]

      • Reb Yid says:

        You are falling into the same exact trap as Trump.  NO-ONE suggested that Trump himself was anti-Semitic at any of these news conferences.  The AMI reporter went out of his way to make that point crystal clear, without any ambiguity.

        Trump then decides to make the question about himself, rather than about the stated question (asked several times over the past week)–what about the anti-Semitism in this country?  You are President.  Acknowledge it, as it was stated in the question, and then what as President are you going to do about it?

        He failed on multiple occasions to do this.

      • Yaakov Menken says:

        And yet people have repeatedly suggested he is anti-Semitic, just not at news conferences, and at news conferences they have suggested he failed to condemn it, though this too is clearly false.

        And as the reporter himself said, Trump couldn’t hear him. Plain and simple. You just prefer to hold Trump to a double-standard.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Did you see today’s statement by President Trump after the events in a a st Louis beis olam and the the threats to JCCs?

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