I have often wondered how President Trump retains the support of so many orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, most of whom are well-versed in the ethics and laws of the Talmud. I am also curious how President Trump retains the support of the Republican Jewish Coalition based on well-known Jewish ethics of speech (Thanks to my colleague Rabbi Leigh Lerner who shared the following passage on the Reform Rabbi list serve RAVKAV).
In the Babylonian Talmud (6th century CE) it is written in Baba Metzia 58b:
“Abaye said to Rav Dimi: In the West, i.e., Eretz Yisrael, with regard to what mitzvah [commandment] are they particularly vigilant [to avoid committing]? Rav Dimi responded: They are vigilant in refraining from humiliating others, as Rabbi Ḥanina says: Everyone descends to Gehenna [i.e. hell] except for three. … the ones who descend to Gehenna ultimately re-ascend, except for three who descend and do not ascend, and these are they: One who engages in intercourse with a married person, as this transgression is a serious offense against both God and a person; and one who humiliates another in public; and one who calls another a derogatory name. The Gemara [500 CE – the rabbinic interpretation of the Mishnah – 200 CE] asks with regard to one who calls another a derogatory name: That is identical to one who shames him/her; why are they listed separately? The Gemara answers: Although the victim grew accustomed to being called that name in place of his/her name, and he/she is no longer humiliated by being called that name, since the intent was to insult him/her, the perpetrator’s punishment is [nevertheless] severe…. one who humiliates another in public has no share in the World-to-Come. Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: It is more comfortable for a person to cast him/herself into a fiery furnace, than to humiliate another in public to avoid being cast into the furnace.”
Consider all the nasty and demeaning epithets that President Trump has called his political competitors over the years — Crooked Hillary; Sleepy Joe Biden; Little Michael Bloomberg; Alfred E. Neuman – Pete Buttigieg; Slimeball James Comey; Lyin’ Ted Cruz; Sneaky Dianne Feinstein; Jeff Flakey; Al Frankenstein; Fat Jerry Nadler; Cheatin’ Obama; Nervous Nancy Pelosi; Mike Pounce; Little Marco Rubio; Crazy Bernie Sanders; Shifty [and corrupt] Adam Schiff, among others.
Granted, the President is neither Jewish nor a pastor nor the Pope, but ethical behavior in all western religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) demands that we treat every human being with dignity and infinite worth because we are created b’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God. Destroying the dignity of another and publicly humiliating any human being personally is forbidden in Judaism.
It’s time that the Republican Jewish Coalition and all religious Jews apply our fundamental Jewish ethics in the evaluation of our leaders and of ourselves in our own behavior towards others.