We are headed into Shabbat Hagadol (the “Great Shabbat”), the Sabbath that always precedes Pesach. It is called “Great” because of the second to last verse in the Haftarah portion Malachi (3:23) where it is written: “Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the ‘great’ and awe-inspiring day of God.”
On this eve before Pesach, I know I am not alone in my increasing distress and anxiety about President Trump’s and his administration’s utter lack of respect for our democratic institutions, our intelligence agencies, the judicial branch, the fifth estate, the social safety net, the nation’s health care, public education, science, and climate change.
And now there’s more about which to worry in the wake of Trump’s knee-jerk military response yesterday to Assad’s nerve gas attack without informing Congress in advance or seeking its counsel while continuing to refuse to welcome desperate Syrian refugees into America or to provide humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Syrian population.
I keep waiting to hear what Trump’s foreign policy is other than a transactional exercise in which “winning” is the end game. There doesn’t seem to be anything cogent, strategic or visionary about it. His utter disrespect for diplomacy and the nurturing of international alliances, his maddening disregard for facts, his self-centered manipulation of the news cycle to distract the country from the congressional investigation of his campaign’s collusion with Russia, and his massive and obsessive blaming everyone else for everything while never taking responsibility for anything, worries and sickens me about where this country is going, what is happening to our democracy, and what moral standing America will be able to claim when Trump’s term is over or he ends up impeached.
The irony on this Shabbat Hagadol is that Trump has no idea what ‘greatness’ really means. His dominant message has nothing to do with the exceptionalism of America. Rather, it’s about how much better he is than all his predecessors and political adversaries.
Many worry how Trump will handle his first significant crisis. I have comforted myself with the knowledge that he appointed some substantial, seasoned, reasoned, and knowledgeable people to lead the nation’s security and defense establishments. I have taken comfort in the strength of our democratic institutions as well as in many of our political leaders who are as deeply worried as are the rest of us. And I take comfort in the fact that most voters did not vote for Trump so I can’t be in the minority about my worries and concerns. I want to believe, as well, that millions of Trump voters have awoken to how badly they chose on election day, which must be true given his historically low approval ratings.
What makes this holiday of Pesach “great” is its moral and religious vision, the universalism of its message, and its acknowledgment of how inspired leadership and the actions of morally based communities can actually change history for the better.
Shabbat shalom and Hag Pesach Sameach