I wonder when the Ten Commandments, the cornerstone of Judeo- Christian belief, became irrelevant to so many people who regard themselves as “the faithful.”
The Tablets, which were written in stone, can be seen right up front in every synagogue. The first five commandments of the Decalogue deal with personal interaction, primarily with God. Observance of these are private matters. It’s the next five commandments that instruct us how we should deal with each other. Ignoring these basic ethical standards is inimical to a just society and a matter of concern.
In the synagogue, when I look at the Tablets with the do’s on the right side and must not’s on the other they look to me like two hemispheres of the brain. Separate but connected. If one professes to be committed to the first five, shouldn’t there be a connection to the others?
This issue was raised last week when I read the Opinion essay in The Jewish Week by Fred Ehrman, (“Trump ‘The Competitor’ Needs To Adapt To Unify America.”) From what I read, Mr. Ehrman appears to be an observant man. I don’t know him or how he practices numbers one through five but that is not my concern. I do know, however, in this context he appears to have insufficient regard for the importance of the last four (following the prohibition against murder), a perfectly reasonable list: you shall not commit adultery, steal, bear false witness and covet. He appears not to understand that Donald Trump, who he so admires for his business prowess, his competitive nature, and his empty promises of radical change violates them all.
There are numerous examples of these transgressions, which I need not elaborate on here.
I find it shocking, especially among people we expect to have high ethical standards, including clergy both Jewish and Christian, that they are comfortable in continuing to praise and support Donald Trump. From the outset his obnoxious behavior has been transparent. His outrageous tweets should be no surprise. What can be said of a man who promotes violence, who inferred in a campaign speech that perhaps “the Second Amendment folks” could deal with Hillary Clinton?
Is Donald Trump’s character a model for our children or a profile of our close friends? If not, how can ethical people continue to defend him?
Unfortunately, these contradictions are not new.
There were clergy, Jewish and Christian, who supported slavery; doctors who swore the oath to heal have engaged in vile experiments; philanthropists who make their money by selling products that kill people. How do we explain this? How can we accept this?
It’s a question that has interested me for much of my adult life.
Some possible (not definitive) answers: greed and fear, as in the case of slavery; admiration of celebrities (O.J. Simpson); the idea that if you are very rich you must be powerful and very smart (Trump). In the face of these beliefs, good character seems to be unimportant. Trump cleverly understood this about his supporters when he boasted at a campaign rally: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
It’s those followers and those others who continue to explain away his excesses who frighten me more than Trump himself.
It’s time to recognize with whom we are dealing.
Gary Rosenblatt, in his column last week, speaks of this being a time of the year when we ask for forgiveness. Many of us have prepared lists. Not Donald Trump. During the campaign
he said very clearly he had never done anything wrong and therefore need not seek forgiveness. In his mind he is guilty of no misdeeds. He’s a man who knows no shame.
It’s time we stopped trying to recast Donald Trump in the image of a normal human being and deal with that knowledge accordingly. Let’s follow our own fundamental teachings and stop equivocating. We need to make clear what we stand for and these are very dangerous times.
Edith Everett is a local philanthropist and member of The Jewish Week board.