It’s just incredible. Even from Donald Trump, from whom we’ve learned to expect the unexpected, we didn’t expect this. From our perches in Jerusalem or New York, we’ve followed this man’s movements since he first entered the presidential race, and we know he’s not simple to fathom. We’ve looked on for the past few weeks as he launched a rather unorthodox administration, and all these observations have taught us to be ready for anything, because there’s no telling what tomorrow will bring. So at this point, nothing Donald Trump says should be surprising.
And yet, he still managed to surprise me. Donald Trump talking like a mashgiach ruchani? Donald Trump teaching us about emunah?
I rubbed my eyes; perhaps I was dozing and hadn’t read the words correctly. Surely Donald Trump couldn’t possibly have said the following words at the National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington two weeks ago:
“The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success but by our spiritual success. I tell you that from somebody that has had material success and knows tremendous numbers of people with great material success, the most material success. Many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people.
“And I know a lot of people without that… but they have great faith. They don’t have money, at least, not nearly to the extent. And they’re happy. Those, to me, are the successful people, I have to tell you.”
Trump went on to say, “We are all united by our faith in our Creator and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in His eyes. We are not just flesh and bone and blood, we are human beings with souls. Our republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but that freedom is a gift from G-d. It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said, ‘The G-d who gave us life, gave us liberty.’ …And America will thrive, as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in G-d… As long as we have G-d, we are never, ever alone. G-d will always give us solace and strength, and comfort.”
The president concluded with these words: “For us here in Washington, we must never, ever stop asking G-d for the wisdom to serve the public, according to His will. Because that’s what we are, and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want — one beautiful nation, under G-d.”
Trump also mentioned the Bible on which he swore his oath of office, the same Bible his mother used to read to him in his childhood. It was an amazing speech, but in fact not unusual for an American politician of conservative leanings. The Bible is the basis of this stream of American culture, and from that foundation stems their special regard for the Jews dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. But Trump? Who could have anticipated such statements from him?
How embarrassing to picture the scene scheduled to take place this Wednesday: Israeli prime minister Netanyahu will meet with President Trump — the statesman who recently surprised us with a public declaration of his faith in the Borei Olam and the people of the Bible. He will look at the prime minister as the representative of the people of the Bible, the Chosen People of G-d. And the prime minister of Israel, appearing in his first visit to the United States under its new administration, won’t have the slightest idea what the president was talking about when he said all those eloquent words about faith. Such cognitive dissonance! As far as their view of Am Yisrael and its place in the world is concerned, the two will be on completely different wavelengths.
Perhaps someone ought to whisper a suggestion in Donald Trump’s ear. Maybe he could say a few words about emunah to our prime minister? Of course it’s very important to talk about Iran and the bad deal the US made under Obama. And certainly the concept of a two-state solution to Israel’s Palestinian problem will be an essential topic — although both sides know the discussion is futile, but still, it’s a way of filling time, or to be more precise, of dragging things out, of making opportunities for further meetings, further discussions, and further declarations that will lead nowhere, because there is no solution to this conflict. (I’ll just drop a quiet hint here that most likely, Trump will demand of Netanyahu to refrain from building new settlements in Judea and Samaria, because… because… of all the familiar excuses.)
Surely they will also have an important discussion about how to eliminate ISIS, which is already a threatening presence in the Sinai Desert and is pushing toward Israel’s southern border. And of course, there’s the matter of security aid, which Trump wants Israel to pay for, at least in part, along with various other items on the agenda, such as putting down Barack Obama. But in addition to all those political talking points, how nice it would be if the president would bring up the most important topic of all — emunah! Belief in HaKadosh Baruch Hu, belief in the Torah of Israel, belief in Eretz Yisrael.
Believe me, Mr. President, our prime minister really needs to brush up on this subject, and it would mean so much to us as a nation. You see, he didn’t have the good fortune you had, to 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. So please do us the favor of speaking with him a little bit about faith. If you can succeed in instilling even a little bit of emunah in his heart, that would be the greatest gift you could give him on the occasion of this first visit.
And our whole nation will thank you.