President Trump and Hakaras haTov

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by Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

The world is a better place because of Winston Churchill. He inspired the free world to fight against the evil of Hitler, yemach sh’mo. However, we, the world, demonstrated little appreciation for his crucial role in saving it. His own people put him out of office on July 5, 1945, less than two months after World War II ended on May 9, 1945. We had no hakaras ha’tov. We moved on without so much as a mumble of a thank-you.

Almost seven decades later, a new leader emerged who inspired hundreds of thousands, and yes, millions, toward a dream that they had thought was lost — the restoration of a Sunni Muslim caliphate. That leader used genocide, ethnic cleansings, and YouTube-publicized beheadings to achieve his aims. The name of his caliphate was ISIS, or ISIL, or Daeesh.

In 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump promised he would defeat ISIS. By and large, as president, he pretty much did. In doing so, he saved more Muslims than any world leader in history. President Trump saved more Yazidi lives than any world leader in history. He stopped more slavery in overcoming ISIS than any leader of the modern world. His policies on Israel brought more peace treaties to the Mideast than any American president has ever achieved.ISIS eventually took over some 40 percent of Iraq, including its oil fields. It also had over one-third of Syria. And it captured the minds and souls of many radicalized Muslims throughout the United States and England. People rushed to join ISIS.

However, many have rejected him as we rejected Churchill back in July of 1945. True, President Trump does not have Churchill’s eloquence. He also made mistakes. But he was Israel’s friend, faithful and just to it.

The peace that President Trump presided upon is one where much of the Arab world sees eye to eye with Israel. He brought manufacturing home to the United States and he oversaw the lowest U.S. unemployment rate in half a century. We elected him once, not without cause. What withholds us now from expressing our hakaras ha’tov for all that he did?

The Central Obligation of Hakaras Ha’Tov

Hakaras ha’tov is central to Torah. Rav Michel Birnbaum, zt’l, the great mashgiach of MTJ, wrote in his Sichos Mussar (page 58) that our emunah is inextricably bound with the middah of hakaras ha’tov to Hashem. Rav Birnbaum writes that hakaras ha’tov is both to Hashem and to our fellow man.

To One’s Spouse. Rabbi Akiva in Kesuvos 63a tells his students those famous words, “Sheli v’shelachem, shelah — All my Torah, and all of your Torah, is hers!” referring to his wife. In this statement, Rabbi Akiva is telling everyone of the hakaras ha’tov that one must express to one’s wife. [This is something that must be reiterated and emphasized nowadays — doing so can save many a marriage.]

Past Failures. The Alter of Slabodka explains that Adam haRishon’s first aveirah was that, when confronted by Hashem about eating from the tree of knowledge, he laid blame on his wife and expressed a lack of appreciation. Hashem provided mankind with an “eizer kenegdo, a gift and helpmate by his side (one with greater binah)” and instead of saying thank you, Adam laid blame on her.

The Torah tells us, “V’lo haya mayim la’eidah, Klal Yisrael had no water (Bamidbar 20:2).” Why did we have no water? The Kli Yakar explains that we did not eulogize Miriam properly when she passed away and it was on account of our lack of hakaras ha’tov. To Miriam, in whose merit we had the Be’er Miriam, we should have expressed our appreciation better.

in his battle with Og, Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned that the debt of gratitude the nation of Israel owed Og for telling our forefather Avraham about Sarah’s kidnapping (see Rashi in Parashas Chukas 21:33–34) was significant. It was so significant that it could have changed the tide of the war.

Although it is a matter of tzniyus and good character not to show off wealth, there is a fascinating Rashi in Devarim 2:6 that we should purchase from the descendants of Eisav and not hide that which Hashem has given us, because hiding the good Hashem has done for us can be a manifestation of ingratitude.

We may not loathe the original Mitzrim (Devarim 23:8) because they were a source of shelter for us, which comes from the obligation of hakaras ha’tov. We must express this gratitude even though it was quite clear that they did so for their own designs and purposes.

Rashi explains that the entire parashah of Bikkurim (Devarim 26:3) is so that we develop to express hakaras ha’tov, genuine appreciation, and not be a kafui tov, an ingrate.

Conclusion

The world failed to express gratitude to Churchill for being the conduit of salvation from the evil that was Nazi Germany. We have failed to adequately thank President Trump for all that he has done for the world as well. Worse still, we have allowed the media to claim that he did not really do what he did. Denying the president his remarkable achievements is an expression of kafui tov, ingratitude. It is something that we should correct as soon as possible.

Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected]


9 COMMENTS

  1. How do you suggest we should show our Hakaras Hatov to Trump? Send him a thank you letter, or perhaps a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates? Elections are not held as an opportunity to show Hakaras Hatov, and Hakaras Hatov does not obligate us to vote for someone whom we feel may not be the best candidate. The people of Britain certainly appreciated Churchill’s wartime leadership, but felt that after the war a different kind of leadership was needed. They had every right to vote for whom they saw as the best candidate, Hakaras Hatov notwithstanding. Same for the citizens of the U.S. in 2020. Nobody should be guilt-tripped into voting for someone who they do not feel is the best candidate.

  2. What a simplistic reading of history! I’m afraid this piece betrays a total lack of knowledge of who Churchill was and what he did during his life and career. Churchill didn’t win WWII, millions of ordinary people who fought and lost their lives did. He may have inspired, but he also made terrible mistakes that cost multitudes of lives, both during his disastrous stint as the first lord of Admiralty and during WWII. Leaders are people, and people are complicated. But just because they do something right doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them to account for their wrongs. Our country and the world are a much less safe place thanks to Donald Trump. That is a fact and a profound failure of leadership.

  3. 242,000 American lives lost and counting. Relatives, friends, neighbors, strangers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, kids. Not a word of sympathy, only lies and and obfuscations. Thanks Donald! We all know where the buck stops.

  4. The reason Mr. Churchill was voted out of office in July 1945, was his policy of allowing 100,000 DPs all Jews immediate entrance to Palestine as it was called then. The labor government under PM Atlee and FM Bevin had long proclaimed their policy of unbridled immigration of Jews to Palestine. The Jews of England trusting the Labor party voted overwhelming for Atlee and Bevin.

    Immediately, the Labor party did an about face and reneged on their open policy to Palestine—and war erupted in the Middle East.

    Some 75 years later, Pres. Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, declared the West Bank a part of Israel, halted US aid to Hamas, declared the Golan Heights as an integral part of of Israel’s defense against Syria, etc., etc,.

    Yet, as Mark Levine, an AM radio commentator stated almost 60 % of Jews in Florida voted for HARRIS & Biden who favor all the opposites of Trump’s Israel policy and I suspect throughout the US as well.

    Vladimir Jabotinsky, an ardent Zionist, said when it comes to politics Jews are simpletons !!! It would be
    more correct to say left wing, liberal Jews are SIMPLETONS !!

    May HaShem protect those in Askelon, Sederot and surrounding towns from the terrorists acts as monies from the US courtesy Biden/Harris enhance Hamas’s evil !!!!

    A goy,
    Gerry Mullen

  5. A very well written article. Donald Trump is the greatest President that this country ever had.
    And one of the greatest friends of the Jews. A man who moved the embassy to Jerusalem.
    Broke the back of the Iranian Regime. He is better in Gods eyes then the 70% of the Jewish cowards that voted for Biden and Harris. May Hashem give Donald Trump good health and many years of blessings.
    Stupid country elected Obama to a second term and didn’t give this Legendary President another 4 years.
    Biden, is the end of this great country. May we see the redemption Amen.

  6. Chruchill is certainly lauded by the British public as a heroic figure, the likes of which there is no match among leaders today. Despite his mistakes, he is rightfully credited with rousing the British people, and leaders worldwide, into combatting the Nazi threat. In a recent BBC TV survey (insofar as one rates these things), the British public selected Chruchill – above scientists, inventors, industrialists, explorers, aristocrats, kings and queens – as the most important British person who ever lived. Without him, Britain would have fallen to the Nazis, and become part of the German Reich, and the free world would have fallen. We would all be speaking German today (and I, from the comfort of a British living room, would not be sitting here writing this comment). As for Hakoras Hatov, the new postwar government was elected to serve a very different type of purpose – namely rebuilding, mercifully, a democratic postwar society – and new leaders with new talents were appointed accordingly. That was no disrespect to Churchill at all – in fact it honorerd and materialized his legacy.
    The Trump administration, on the other hand, currently poses a threat to national security and attempts to dismantle the very mechanics of democracy in its rejection, among other things, of the smooth transiton of power, while simultaneously, it yields to the thorough infiltration of the country at all levels by a foreign power in the name of the Coronavirus, to which there has been no co-ordinated federal resopnse whatsoever.
    As is often remarked, if the so-called ‘leaders’ of today had been in charge in WW2, one can only imagine where that would have left us Yidden – and the rest of the world. Thank G-d for small and large mercies.