Sunday, June 20, 2010

Donald Trumps Moses when It Comes to Fatherhood

A Day of Surprises

Today I had the privilege of hearing a sermon from Rabbi Michelle Goldsmith who was guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham. I made a special trip to hear her, because I had been surprised last year to hear that the Conservative Jewish congregation in town, Temple Beth-El, had a female rabbi. I knew that within Reform Judaism women were being ordained but did not realize that it was happening in Conservative Judaism as well. Almost as surprising to me was the bright teal yarmulke she was wearing, but the day was full of surprises as I heard the rabbi make her case on Father’s Day that Donald Trump did a better job as father than did Moses.

Rabbi Goldsmith seemed happy to give a Father’s Day sermon, saying she had never had that opportunity before (since Shabbat is on Friday evening and Saturday). She explained that she wanted to find a good Father’s Day passage from the Torah, but most of those leaders and patriarchs had troubled relations with their kids. She read a passage from Numbers 20 which made a big deal of how Moses ensured that the priestly dynasty passed from his brother Aaron to Aaron’s son Eleazar. “There was Aaron’s dynasty, but what about Moses’ dynasty?” she queried.

The rabbi then shared some rabbinic tradition with us. In scripture there is that passage where Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, is trying to bring Moses' children out to see him. Rabbinic tradition has it that Moses went to great lengths to protect his children from dangers, trials and tribulations of leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. When it came time to pass leadership on to the next generation, Moses, according to tradition, consulted the Almighty. Which of his sons should take over political leadership? God’s answer to Moses was “Only he who tends the fig tree shall enjoy its fruit.” In other words, Moses had worked so hard at protecting his children from hardship that they had no experience to lead. The political reins were then handed over to Joshua instead.

Now enters Donald Trump. The rabbi told of a Barbara Walters Special she had seen a few years back on nepotism. Barbara Walters was interviewing powerful people and their children, examining how the children benefited from their parents’ positions of influence. In the Trump segment, it became clear that the Trump children, in addition to benefiting from their dad’s position, had actually worked hard in the business themselves, even beginning on construction sites. Their training as well as family position put them in good stead to guide the Trump empire for the next generation. At one point in the interview, one of Donald Trump’s sons said something like, “My father is my role model. I want to follow in his footsteps.”

So there your have it – my big surprise of the day – The Donald trumps Moses according to rabbinic tradition. Who knew? Rabbi Goldsmith added that it is our natural impulse as parents to protect our children from hardship. We want to shield them from difficulties in life. The truth is that we learn and grow from the difficulties and failures that will come if we are truly living. Protecting our children form every hurt denies them the opportunity to draw upon their own inner resources. They will be less likely to grow and far less prepared for life.

I had no plans for a Father’s Day blog entry, and certainly would not have been able to share any gleanings from the life of Donald Trump had it not been for a Conservative Jewish lady rabbi in a teal yarmulke.


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