Opinion |

Neither Rabbi Marvin Hier, nor Any Rabbi, Should Bless Donald Trump at His Inauguration

It is not an honor for Rabbi Hier or for Judaism to be associated with Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric or his inauguration. It is a disgrace.

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President-elect Donald Trump speaking to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 28, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump speaking to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 28, 2016.Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Rabbi Marvin Hier should not give a blessing to this President at the Inauguration next week.

I appreciate Rabbi Hier’s work at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles (a community where I too was a rabbi for 13 years). He has done a great deal to advance the cause of racial/religious tolerance and to fight anti-Semitism. Rabbi Hier also previously served in my current community of Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is still spoken of in high regard. But Rabbi Heir is wrong on this issue and his lack of rabbinic judgement reflects poorly on all rabbis.

A rabbi is a symbolic exemplar. When we appear or speak publicly we represent more than ourselves, we represent Judaism. Not just "the Jewish people" but also the moral/ethical code of the Jewish tradition.

The Talmud instructs us, "It is not the place that honors the person, but the person that honors the place." (Ta'anit 21b). It is not an honor for Rabbi Hier or the Jewish religion to be associated with Mr. Trump's campaign rhetoric, it is a shanda, a disgrace.

When asked what blessing he will bestow Rabbi Hier stated that he will offer readings, recite an original prayer and give Mr. Trump and incoming Vice President Mike Pence each a personal blessing. Not a blessing for the nation, but upon the man.

At present Mr. Trump's venomous insults continue unabated by his new station, and are inseparable from the high office he is about to occupy. Thus to bless Mr. Trump in this most public of way is to bless all that he has said and stands for.

Rabbi Hier's participation as a Rabbi gives a Jewish hechsher, a kosher certification to the swearing in of a man whose social conduct, rhetoric and fomenting of hate and division are directly at odds with Jewish tradition (and the work of Museum of Tolerance that Rabbi Hier leads).

I firmly believe that it would be hillul hashem (a desecration of G-d's name) to give a rabbinic imprimatur to this man at this time.

Further I do not accept the false equivalency that Mr. Trump's strong statements in support of Israel, or his Jewish family members, shield him from culpability for the most deplorable of statements he has made about women, Muslims, Hispanics, the media and immigrants. If anything, those associations call out the hypocrisy of his most derisive actions.

I strongly oppose Rabbi Hier allowing our rich and cherished history to be associated with this man. Leaders of the Jewish people, like Rabbi Heir, have stood for justice since the times of Abraham, they called out Pharaoh and spoke truth to power in the days of Haman.

Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and now Rabbi Hier is to stand next to Mr. Trump and give him the blessing of that honored tradition? It's Marat Ayin – it doesn't pass the smell test and it doesn't look right.

As a rabbi, and an inheritor of that same prophetic tradition, Rabbi Heir would be far wiser to use his station and rabbinic voice to withhold his blessing, until such time as the President has earned it through his words and his deeds, not merely by his high office.

Such an act would be a powerful statement of rabbinic leadership, and what it means to be a symbolic exemplar. Like Moses who kept up the pressure till Pharoah softened his heart, such a moral statement would teach the world and the President a bit of Torah.

I would even be pleased if Mr Trump governs consistently with the high values of our tradition. I believe through honest reflection and teshuvah (repentance) people can change. I do pray for him: I pray that he may yet lead in a manner worthy of blessing.

But thus far, by all but the most partisan, one cannot honestly conclude that his words or his deeds should be stamped: KOSHER, RABBI APPROVED.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz is the Senior Rabbi of Temple Sholom in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @rabbidanmosk.

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