The Torah — and Trump’s Embrace of a Dictator

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By Pini Dunner

Last week we witnessed momentous and unprecedented scenes in Singapore — as the president of the United States sat down with the leader of North Korea, in the first step of a process that could ultimately lead to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Unfortunately, this aspiration is far from a foregone conclusion, despite the friendly handshakes, back-patting, and the positive soundbites emerging from both sides during and after the summit.

North Korea remains an entrenched part of the “axis of evil,” a repressive state controlled by an evil dictatorship that proactively engages in violence against its own citizens — who have an average life expectancy that is more than ten years lower than their South Korean neighbors.

At the head of this wicked dictatorship is Kim Jong-un, President Trump’s co-star at this week’s meeting, which makes the president’s effusive references to the North Korean leader — as “very open,” “very honorable,” “very smart,” “very worthy,” “very talented,” and as someone who “wants to do the right thing” — rather difficult to stomach.

On Fox News, Trump went even further.

When the interviewer pointed out that the North Korean leader had “done some really bad things,” Trump’s response was, “yeah, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things,” implying that America regularly engages with leaders of the kind the diplomatic community refer to as “bad actors.” As an example, he cited when the United States signed an agreement with the Iranian regime in 2015; the Islamic Republic of Iran is in close competition with North Korea for “the world’s most repressive regime” top spot.

But two wrongs never make a right, particularly as Trump was so scathing in his criticism of the Obama administration for having signed the Iran accord in the first place.

Ironically, Trump abandoned the Iran deal only a few weeks ago, making good on one of his most controversial campaign promises. In light of this week’s events and Trump’s gushing praise for the North Korean dictator, it does now appear rather churlish to have criticized Obama for cozying up to a rogue state.

The media has had a field day.

Even Republicans feel betrayed by Trump’s nonchalant approach to a man who has between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners languishing in his prisons.

One prominent Republican, former Florida congressman David Jolly, felt compelled to tweet, “for the record of history, never before has a US President spoken this way of a dictator accused of crimes against his own people.”

The usually reserved rhetoric of The Economist took a sharp turn towards sarcasm, in a line that says it all: “to the extent history is playing any part in all this, it is in its tendency to repeat itself.”

Summarizing the concerns of everyone who has an interest in the success of the Korean disarmament initiative, the article pointed out there was “no evidence Mr. Kim sees denuclearization as meaning that he should dismantle the nuclear arsenal he, his father and his grandfather put so much effort into creating and the industrial complex which supports it.”

In other words, despite the extraordinary spectacle of a US president meeting with a vicious unreconstructed dictator, and the ubiquitous telegenic moments, the goals of each party could not be more different, and the gap between them seems unbridgeable.

To be fair, there was a very candid moment at the summit press conference, when Trump appeared to admit that he was in well over his head and might need to bluster his way out of a disaster when the goodwill factor had worn off, and nothing positive had materialized.

I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.” This offhand remark holds the key to the president’s tactics, and his expectations.

When dealing with adversaries, one should try to make them feel good, even if showing them deference diminishes one’s dignity, and saying nice things sounds hollow and unreal. Nothing will be lost if a positive outcome is achieved. If not, who can blame someone for trying to use an ill-deserved charm offensive for the greater good? After all, our greatest prophet Moses did just that, in the midst of the greatest threat to his forty-year leadership.

During the ill-fated Korach rebellion, Moses made extraordinary efforts to pacify the insurgents, even his perennial nemeses, Dathan and Abiram: “Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab; but they said, ‘We will not come!’” (Num. 16:12). Instead of having them arrested and carted off in irons for their role in the insurrection, Moses invited them for a private audience to air their grievances — an extraordinary display of humility for a man of his stature.

Rashi adds a further layer to this gesture. Quoting the Talmud (Sanhedrin 110a), he declares this verse as the Biblical source for using conciliatory language in the pursuit of a peaceful resolution. At first glance, however, nothing conciliatory was said by Moses in this verse. As a matter of fact, Moses is not quoted at all.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Opatow (1748-1825) elucidates this anomaly by pointing to the gratuitous reference to Dathan and Abiram as the “children of Eliab,” a fact already mentioned earlier (Num. 16:1). In mentioning their father, Moses wanted to elevate them by identifying and associating them with their family heritage. The reference to them as “children of Eliab” would make them feel good, and everyone would treat them with respect, even though they did not deserve it.

Dathan and Abiram’s response was negative, but the precedent was set. If one has the slightest chance of avoiding catastrophe by saying something nice to people like Dathan and Abiram, it is certainly worth a try.

Hopefully, Kim Jong-un will prove to be more cooperative than his Biblical predecessors, and the threat from him and his regime can be mitigated for good.



  1. This report clearly shows that sadly there are still sheeple believing fake news propaganda gullibly.

  2. pini dunner! are you kidding me????”this offhand remark holds the key to presidents’ aspirations”????pompeo and his staff has been negotiating for months! the guy joined olympics,stopped firing rockets,came to dmz to meet S korean leader,{who by the way suggested trump for nobel peace prize)! released 3 prisoners with no strings attached,is releasing 7,500 remains of pow’s and mia’s since 1952!!! what does trump have to do to convince you that he’s got a mehalach of how to lead our country and the world???

  3. Nebach. You clearly are part of the left/media/democrat party axis of evil. Whatever Trump does he’s doing something wrong. He smiles – what’s he so happy about? He frowns – what’s he so angry about. He doesn’t burn nazi flags? He’s clearly a nazi sympathizer. It’s pathetic beyond words that someone who learned how to think (if you learn Torah) doesn’t read through this sheker/evil/viciousness that the media spews 24/7. Just for a dose of common sense. (You don’t get too much of that on “mainstream media”.) The world is facing a problem called North Korea. It’s creating a nuclear arsenal and is a rogue nation with a lunatic leader. The world can either bury its head in the sand till it’s too late (i.e. Iran) or engage. Sanctions didn’t work. Trump should be commended, lauded, praised and encouraged for being bold and assertive in looking after the US’s interest and the world’s. Instead the self hating, treasonous, fifth column – the democrat party/media/liberals (anti police, black lives matter, occupy wall street, pro abortion, pro lgbt, pro arab, etc. – basically all the anti G-D lobbies) blasts Trump for not doing enough, for doing too much, for whatever it is. How can a person with even the slightest bit of some Torah values join this despicable G-d hating world view? It has nothing to do with Trump. It’s a battle of good vs. evil. Why don’t you open your eyes and realize that? All this anti Trump nonsense is about the morality of this country. It’s about the makeup of the supreme court. It’s about going to a Chase ATM and seeing about the Lgbt pride month. It’s about teaching the sickest things in the schools to our children like the leftist reshaim are doing in England. For G-d’s sake, wake up!!!!!!!!! Why are you dancing a “mah yafis” dance for some evil liberals, who want to be okeir any bit of decency. They can’t stand the words one nation under G-d in the pledge of allegiance. Open your eyes!!!!

    • Classic Trumpet move. If somebody criticised Trump, go on an anti-left rant. Yes, the left is bad. So therefore you can never critizice Trump for doing foolish things?

      Of course, what is most obviously wrong with your statements is that Trump is not in any way an example of morality, nor someone who will really fight back against the craziness of the left (this is a man who refused to define marriage as a man and woman, who has always been pro-choice until he decided to run as a republican). If we would have had a true Conservative like Cruz or Mike Lee, you can guarantee we wouldn’t have these problems.

    • Although post #1 said it in a few words, your user name fits well with your post as you couldn’t have said it better.
      In the future, please divide lengthy paragraphs into small paragraphs to make it more reader friendly.

    • Exactly. The left / Dems have Haman’s characteristic, who said “vechol ze eno shove li” – All this that I have (wealth, power, prestige) is worth nothing to me when I see that Trump is sitting in the gate of the White House!

  4. Any Orthodox Jew who does not vote for Trump in 2020 is a traitor to his people. We can forgive those few Orthodox Jews who voted against Trump in 2016, because they were brainwashed by the democratic lackeys. Now when we see what Trump has day be for us Orthodox Jews, he is the best president since George Washington.
    He freed Rubashkin
    He increased aid to Israel by 200 million dollars.
    He cut 65 million dollars and for the PLO terrorists gang
    He appointer a conservative Supreme Court which will allow yeshivas to continue existing in America and no t be forced to come each evolution and same gender propaganda as is being forced upon European Yeshivas.
    He appointed a head coach f the education department who supports vouchers in private schools.
    He dumped the Iran deal which could of eventually wiped out six million Israeli jews in nine minutes.
    He allowed a mass continuation of new housing in Israel as frum families lived in dangerous parking lots and garabage storage rooms.
    Any Jew who does not vote Trump is a rodef and has not share with the Jewish people.

  5. Is Trump perfect? Not remotely so. However, in comparison with the contemporary world political establishment, Trump is a breath of fresh air, and one of the few brave individuals holding out against the islamonazi-toeiva liberal-fascist alliance. Anyone who is trying to hand political power from Trump to the militant atheist-islamonazi establishment, is a rasha, a shoite and a rodeif. No amount of sophistry can mask it. A vote against Trump is a vote for banning bris mila, a vote for mandatory toeiva propaganda to children, and a vote for islamonazi terrorism.

    • Who is trying to hand power to the left? The article is merely saying that Trump doesn’t have the moral clarity that we look for in a leader (aka, Trump isn’t perfect, as you yourself admit). In fact, he sounds quite like a typical Leftist on his inability to condemn an evil man like Kim Jung-on. If it’s a question of Trump or Hillary, sure Trump is better. But a question of Trump or a real conservative, Trump doesn’t come close. Unfortunately we don’t have another option because real conservatism isn’t popular, it means accepting that there is a right and wrong, accepting the concept of morality, which seems to be too hard for America these days.

      • Dear Hello, is it so hard to comprehend that goyim almost never have “moral clarity” – otherwise they would have become bnei Noach, or do you demand “moral clarity” only when it fits your liberal or RINO agenda? You certainly realize that the ideological conservatives are not anywhere near the top of the contemporary political pyramid, hence a vote against Trump is a vote for the liberal-fascist militant-toeivniks islamonazi-loving DemocRats and their pet RINO’s, don’t you? Assisting contemporary DemocRats and those that tacitly let DemocRats rule(i.e. RINO’s) is a treason against the Jewish people.

    • If you disagree with what someone else is saying, you can:
      a) State that you disagree.
      b) Explain why you disagree
      c) Call the person you disagree with names and/or insult them

      Just out of curiosity, which of the above non-exclusive options do you think is the best way to make your case?


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