What Netanyahu Should Have Learned From Trump According To Mishpacha’s Moshe Grylak

“I rubbed my eyes; perhaps I was dozing.” Thus begins one of the first paragraphs in a very strange op-ed (February 15) by Mishpacha’s editor-in-chief Rabbi Moshe Grylak. With those words, the author expresses his surprise that Donald Trump, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in DC a few weeks ago, was “talking like a mashgiach ruchani…teaching us about emunah.” He contrasts the President’s credo with what Bibi Netanyahu’s reaction would be in his then meeting-to-be at the White House. The President declared his preference for spiritual success over material success, declared that “we are all united by our faith in our Creator,” and predicted that “America will thrive as long as we have faith in each other and faith in G-d.” Bibi, on the other hand, “won’t have the slightest idea what the President was talking about when he said all those eloquent words about faith…The two will be on completely different wavelengths.”

At this point it is my turn to rub my eyes, and wonder whether California’s legalization of marijuana has somehow gotten some of the product to seep into my water supply. Let me confess to being a great fan not only of Mishpacha, but of Rabbi Grylak in particular. We have publicly differed before, but I know him to be a talmid chacham, a person of immense integrity, and a darn good journalist, capable of responding to the needs of the day with eloquent jeremiads or soothing solicitudes. Everyone has a bad day, but this was a train wreck! Could he really have written the words I saw in front of me?

Unlike Rabbi Grylak, I was actually sitting in the audience when the President spoke of faith. No one in my field of vision rubbed their eyes. They understood that the President (or his speech writer) had accurately gauged his crowd, and delivered what they wanted to hear. Everyone knew that he had never represented himself during the campaign as particularly religious. He could not name his favorite verse in the Bible. He did not really have a denomination to call his own. This did not mean that he was disingenuous, however. He would not have been the first person to own up to a belief in G-d, but still choose to call his own shots in making life’s decisions. Belief and independence in behavior are unfortunately not mutually exclusive.

Rabbi Grylak’s incredulity was misplaced. And his put-down of Bibi is much worse. It is simply incomprehensible. How does one attempt to belittle the Prime Minister on the basis of prediction about what Bibi would or would not understand at a meeting that had not taken place?

The prediction, in fact, was baseless. The Prime Minister has spoken of G-d, of His promise to His people, of emunah. I have heard him myself. He, too, does not represent himself to be religiously observant – which does not preclude him from saying/feeling/believing all those things. Like the President, he has at least one child who is fully observant (charedi, in Bibi’s case), and more with leanings in that direction. Just where do they differ?

The notion that the President might have some spiritual message that Bibi has not heard is ludicrous. Rabbi Grylak attributes the President’s spirituality to his good fortune in having a mother who used to read the Bible to him in his childhood, while Mr. Netanyahu did not have “a mother who taught him Tanach. Passages of Tanach interwoven with messages of belief in the Creator, the G-d of Israel, don’t have much of a part in his childhood memories.” I am in the dark as to how Rabbi Grylak knows what Bibi’s mother taught him, although I cannot preclude his having special information. I do know that Bibi’s father Benzion was a preeminent Jewish historian in his day, and certainly knew about these concepts – although avowedly secular. Bibi’s mother was both a devoted wife who laboriously prepared her husband’s manuscripts on a typewriter (and knew the content of his works) and a mother who paid the ultimate sacrifice for her people when Yoni died at Entebbe. I suspect that Bibi did hear quite a bit about Jewish beliefs growing up, both from the ubiquitous frum neighbors, and from his mother. He also knew, of course, that he was descended from a line of Milikovsky rabbonim.

What Rabbi Grylak really means, of course, is that whatever was conveyed to young Binyamin Netanyahu was insufficient to guarantee that he live the life of a charedi Jew. Poor Bibi never had a chance, having been raised by secular Zionists. This was really just another hit piece, firming up the rejection we should all be feeling for the accursed State of the enemies of Torah.

I’m still rubbing my eyes, however. If Bibi is just another victim of the diabolical designs of the evil Zionists, then why the animus directed towards him? Nebach…he’s just another nebach! Might this hatchet-job on the Prime Minister be a diversion from the sad truth – that there is no formula of chinuch that guarantees that a child will be observant? There are, however, factors that make it more likely that children from frum homes will not stay frum. Legions of dropouts from observance should be making it clear to us that many young people see the flaws in the system, and not only the many admirable qualities of our lifestyle. They see the forced poverty, the fights among leaders, the cover-ups of abuse, the suppression of individuality, the ugly protests that halt traffic in cities, the beating of charedi soldiers rather than showering them with hakoras hatov.

Indeed, even had Bibi been blessed with Donald Trump’s mother, there could have been many exit ramps on the way to observance, many of them manufactured by ourselves in the frum community. But it is easier and more self-satisfying to point a finger at the other.

Rabbi Grylak is one of the people best suited to creating the consciousness in our community to remedy our problems, and allow the natural luster of Torah to shine through. Perhaps he really was dozing, and produced a nightmare. When he wakes up, he will find his stride again, and get back to his usually fine work of representing the beauty of Torah.

You may also like...

22 Responses

  1. dr.bill says:

    very well reasoned and written.  I am not a fan of Bibi (or the Donald.)  however, given your last post, it is ironic that Bibi’s father wrote an incisive work on Abavrenal, at least one of his children is traditional and his brother died al kiddush haShem.  frankly, if i had to deal with what passes for orthodox that he has to contend with, i think acher would have another follower.

    • mycroft says:

      Re Bibis father and the Abarbanel, I have his bio the basic work on him. Could have been discussed in Rabbi Adlersteins other post. There is no doubt a lot of bright people around Bobi, his son was one of the top contestants in the Chidon Hatanch, his wife’s family had a lot of successful participants. We are discussing Bibi and Trump, neither are classically traditional in their religious actions. Trumps uncle was a professor atMIT what does that have to with DJT.

  2. Alex says:

    Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein. Thank you once again for being a voice of sanity in a frum world I feel ever more hashkafically distant from – whether “right” or “left.”

    I miss Klal Perspectives and hope it returns.

    • We remain fully engaged at Klal Perspectives. We suffered some setbacks with acute resistance to two topics we thought would not be a problem. It is not for lack of will that the next issue has been delayed, but for dilly-dallying by reluctant writers. BEH, we will be back!

      • Bob Miller says:

        Could the topics causing the greatest resistance also be those most in need of open discussion?  I realize that efforts like this walk a fine line.  Have you yet observed any Jewish societal effects of the discussions that were aired already?

      • If you mean topics that were previously not treated publicly and than later exposed to sunshine – not necessarily by KP – then yes! We have made firm progress in uncovering abuse, understanding how serious its effects are, demonstrating the inability of rabbonim other than those with special training to deal with it, and – most importantly – to bringing child safety education to schools. None of this would have happened IMHO were it not for those who broke the taboos and forcibly inserted the issue into the public sphere.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        “We suffered some setbacks with acute resistance to two topics we thought would not be a problem.”

        I don’t understand how anyone can have “acute resistance” to talking about any topic of previous issues, no matter how sensitive, as doing so seems to be like sticking one’s head in the sand. It’s true that there are degrees of discussing such issues, but that is a matter of editing(I  still have an original, published version of one Klal Perspectives  article that later went through a  revision of a single potentially controversial sentence, a collectors item, I suppose).

      • The acute resistance, as we read it, was a result of our choice of topics. In one case (where we faced the most resistance), we asked people in effect to imagine the future, and make certain predictions. We approached people accomplished in their fields. Apparently, however, they were far more comfortable speaking about their areas of expertise than in venturing beyond the immediate.

      • lacosta says:

        i can understand their discomfort. having to imagine issues like —  haredi economics in israel and chu’l, the role of haredim in governance in israel when they are 30-40% of the population [ and having to make al-derech-hatevah decisions ], the continued rise of sociopathologies like OTD and increase divorce rates [even in shana rishona] , the accelearated demise of non-O judaism and the declining fraction of halachically jewish members of those movements, etc etc      … i can see why they would rather deal with the now than the later….

  3. DF says:

    Practically religious (in the sense of believing in God and in some vague form of destiny/ hashgacha) and religiously practicing are very different things. This should be obvious, I think. Just anecdotally, it seems there are more people that fit within this category than are either religiously observant of avowedly atheist.

  4. Dr. Moshe Leibler says:

    My wife loves Mishpacha and particularly Rabbi Grylak. I have met him, and he is an impressive person. My wife had pretty much the same criticism of the article, and deep disappointment. We agree with every word in this article

  5. Bob Miller says:

    We are in golus, of course, as a people.  But wouldn’t it be good even now if we really, emotionally cared that the Prime Minister is not religious?   We’re so jaded, so detached, so inured to golus…  We could have worse governing Israel but we could have a lot better if we became a lot better.  Our yardstick is not what the President says or does but what we should say and do.

  6. Yehudah says:

    “Might this hatchet-job on the Prime Minister be a diversion from the sad truth…” Well, it might be, and it might not be. But it does seem a little far-fetched that Rabbi Grylak’s motivation for writing this op-ed was solely to distract from the problems in today’s chareidi world. However, I fail to understand why the author of this article found it necessary or even relevant to include a long list of his grievances against chareidi society. Perhaps that too was a diversion from a different sad truth? Or just using any opportunity, any pulpit available, to engage in the all-too-familiar chareidi-bashing?

    • Ben says:

      Or just using any opportunity, any pulpit available, to engage in the all-too-familiar chareidi-bashing?

      Erm, are you familiar with R Adlerstein’s perspectives or his place in the Jewish world? Becuase if you think he’s a chareidi basher you’d better do a little further reading. This website is a good place to start.

  7. MR says:


    Learning in Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim during the ’91 Gulf War, it bothered us American bochurim how President GHWB would always conclude his statements with a reminder to pray for our men and women in uniform, while PM Shamir or any Israeli politician made no mention of Hashem or tefilla. Both Rav Shlomo Wolbe and Rav Refael Shmulevitz zichronam livracha offered the same perspective: When Bush speaks about prayer and religion it doesn’t demand anything from him, while Shamir understands the minute he talks about Hashem, he will have to answer to himself why he doesn’t think of Hashem when it comes to kashrus, Shabbos and all other mitzvos. So he and other secular Israelis just avoid the whole topic.

    And perhaps, that’s the difference between American and Israeli politicians when it comes to religious pronouncements.

    • DF says:

      “[the Israeli politician] understands the minute he talks about Hashem, he will have to answer to himself why he doesn’t think of Hashem when it comes to kashrus, Shabbos and all other mitzvos.

      Not really. Its a peculiar conceit of some in our orthodox community to think that we make the non-orthodox “feel guilty” when they see us. That might be a comforting thought to us, but in reality, they don’t feel any more guilty seeing us than an MO Jew feels guilty upon seeing a Chassid. No, the real answer to your question is that many Israeli politicians do, in fact, invoke God and/or Torah, all the time. Not someone like Rabin, and I don’t know about Shamir, but Begin did regularly, and I’ve hard Netanyahu many times cite Pesukim and various traditional prayers. He just doesn’t do it with the same flavor you’re used to hearing it in.

      As an example, here’s a quick good vort I heard from Bibi: The verse says ה’ עוז לעמו יתן ה’ יברך את עמו בשלום. Notice that עוז (strength) is placed before שלום (Peace.) Why? The lesson is that the only way to have peace is by being strong – strong enough to dissuade your enemies from attacking you. In other words, building up the military and powerfully responding to aggression is the best way to bring about and keep the peace.

  8. Raymond says:

    I guess I have a completely different view of the role of the government than do many religious Jews.  To me, the role of the government is that of the golem, namely to protect our Jewish lives from the physical harm of our enemies.  If such government leaders also happen to know some Torah and even lead a religious Jewish life to some extent, well of course that is even better, and yet primarily their job is the physical one that I mentioned.  Anyway, from what I heard, Benjamin Netanyahu does attend a Torah classes on a regular basis, and encourages all other Jews to do the same.  He may not rival Rav Soloveitchik in his level of Torah learning, but then again, last time I checked, Rav Soloveitchik (or whichever other Rabbi one wishes to insert here) did not run the Mossad.  Each Jew at least has the potential of playing their special role in preserving our Jewish people, each in their own individual way.

    • mycroft says:

      Interesting-Rav Soloveitchik used to say that he had no special expertise in non halachik matters. Thus, if the military/diplomatic experts felt that giving up thekotel would save one life he would be in favor of it.

  9. Leah Yordis says:

    I doubt that Ivanka Trump, or even Jared Kushner, who received a modern Orthodox education, knows as much Tanach as Bibi’s son does…Avner Netanyahu won third place in the International Bible Contest! That means he knows the verses in the Torah far better than the vast majority of Charedi kids – has anyone ever watched the contest? It’s VERY hard and competitive. The idea that President Trump is a man of faith made me laugh. His life and lifestyle, while not devoid of good deeds, is certainly far removed from what most of us consider traditional values. Netanyahu has devoted his life to serving the State of Israel and the Jewish people. I don’t see why we should bash him — he wasn’t raised religious and he isn’t hostile towards religious people.

  10. Just as it is di rigeur for leftists to mention their hatred of Trump in any and all conversations, even those completely divorced from politics, in order to reassure others that they are good lefitsts, Rav Grylak is of the Chareidi crowd that feels that you have to say something disdainful about Israel or Israelis in order to reassure your listeners that you are a good Chareidi.

    Side note: Bibi’s daughter is Dati Leumi, not Chareidi.

    • lacosta says:

      Editor Frankfurter of Ami magazine serves to make Editor Grylak look like a mild centrist—   but for non-haredim it’s important to know what they think of you when they are not there asking for something from you…

  11. NT says:

    Every time I see Bibi speaking from his office, over his left shoulder there is the familiar sight of a large set of Shas. He might have no idea how to read it, but the fact that he has one there should mean a lot. It is possible to be a proud Jew without being observant. There are also Jews who believe in G-d and the G-d of the Jews without being observant. Unfortunately, too many FFB’s don’t have enough exposure to secular-ish Jews to understand these nuances and have a realistic understanding of these people’s backgrounds. They aren’t able to isolate the secular Jew’s lack of background and knowledge from a lack of goodwill.

    I can’t help wondering about R’ Grylak’s background. Does he have a Reform aunt who asked him to pray for her? Does he have cousins whose children aren’t halachically Jewish but attend non-denominational Jewish schools? I do, and I found his article to be pretty offensive. He seems to assume every Jew who isn’t 100% frum is completely secular. I wonder, how many secular Jews does he speak with on a regular basis?

    I spent half an hour yesterday talking to a not-frum neighbor who grew up in Kansas with a very strong Jewish identity, who uses his Jewish first and last name, and was picked on and bullied growing up because of it. He was complaining about frum neighbors whom he feels are his people, but don’t reciprocate his overtures and act passively hostile. I tried explaining that they just can’t see past his haircut and clothes to the friendly, hardworking, and successful guy I know him to be, but unfortunately perceptions of the “other” have hardened on both sides.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This