President Trump attended an Orthodox Jewish fundraising event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday evening. Four hundred Orthodox Jews participated in the event, contributing an estimated $100,000 each for the honor of paying a personal tribute to the Commander-in-Chief.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson recited the blessing said upon seeing a non-Jewish ruler.
ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם שחלק מכבודו לבשר ודם
Blessed art Thou, O L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, that you have shared part of your love and glory and compassion with a human being who maintains the honor of every innocent person and every Jew forever.”
Though it is doubtful that the president understood the full import of the blessing, Trump appeared to be impressed at the ritual focused on his honor.
The crowd responded with an enthusiastic “Amen” and chants of “Four more years.”
The Talmud states that it is a mitzvah (Torah commandment) for a Jew to go out of his way to see rulers and kings, whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish but there is a dispute among Halachic (Torah law) authorities as to whether this blessing should be recited with the complete name of God in these times upon seeing a ruler who is not a king.
It is significant that when the rabbi recited the blessing upon seeing Donald Trump, he said the complete and explicit name of God in Hebrew.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana, a prominent spiritual leader in Jerusalem, did not agree with Rabbi Jacobson’s decision to use the name of God in this instance.
“Every rabbi can make his own ruling and Chabad has their own methods and rulings. But what is for sure is that Halacha is not influenced by political considerations,” Rabbi Kahana explained to Breaking Israel News. “It is like science and should be the result of careful consideration of the facts and the current situation.”
“The blessing is intended to be recited upon seeing a king and there are significant differences between a president and a king. As we are witnessing right now, a president can be impeached as the result of political whims. A king cannot be impeached. “
“This is learned out from the real king, Hashem (God, literally ‘the name’), which is the source of the king’s authority. Hashem’s authority is not derived from other men. He cannot be impeached and we don’t vote for God.”
Nonetheless, Rabbi Kahana emphasized that Trump deserves a great deal of respect for his service as president.
“People should be judged by their actions. And he is certainly done several important things. This is the opposite of Obama who was praised even though he did a disservice to the office.”
Rabbi Yeshayahu Hollander suggested that the blessing should have been recited with the name of God.
“Though it is true that Trump is not technically a king but he is the most powerful ruler of the world,” Rabbi Hollander told Breaking Israel News. “In that sense, Trump is more of a king than other kings.”
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion and a descendant of King David, agreed, noting that Trump is explicitly not a king and therefore not suited to be the focus of the blessing. He related a story in which a man came to Israel claiming to be a king of Africa. He was interviewed by rabbis who asked if he could command someone to be killed without a court. The man answered in the affirmative so the rabbis recited the blessing upon seeing a king. It later became clear the mad was a fraud.
“Trump is not a king in that respect but he is certainly the president of a powerful nation and in that respect he deserves respect,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News.
Rabbi Berger noted that the blessing of Trump as a king was timely indeed. He cited Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the medieval commentator known by the acronym Rashi, explains that this mitzvah is incumbent on Jews who will see the coming of the Messiah. Rabbi Chaim Palag’i, a 20th-century Halachic authority, explained Rashi by noting that by reciting the blessing over a flesh-and-blood king, we will appreciate how much more honor will be given to the king in the days of the Messiah.
“The Messiah will come to fix the mess that has been made of governments around the world, in almost every nation. America and Israel are both having crises in leadership,” Rabbi Berger said. “We are seeing that democracy simply does not work. The Bible does not talk about democracy. If the U.S. had a king, there would not be any spurious impeachment process or pointless investigations. Democracy allows people who hate the country, who hate God, and even hate half of the people, to run the country. This breakdown of government is intended to turn people to the real king.”
“If Israel had a king, there would not be any election reruns,” Rabbi Berger said. “Since David was the king, he went out and dealt with the Philistines in a true and decisive manner. Because Israel does not have a king, it is 70 years and we are still getting attacked by the same Philistines.”
“We need the real king and all this conflict over how to run the country will end with the emergence of the true king,” Rabbi Berger said.