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Rabbi’s Update 6/9/2023

Dear Friends:

Yesterday evening, news broke that former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Federal grand jury in Miami. He will appear in court for arraignment on Tuesday afternoon. The indictment has not been unsealed as of this writing and we do not know for sure what the charges against the former President are.

The presumption of innocence applies to every person accused of a crime in the United States and this of course applies to Donald Trump. The prosecutors have the obligation to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and if they cannot do so, he will and should be acquitted.

What does the Jewish tradition have to say about this situation? One of the most well-known verses in the Torah is Deut. 16:11 -- “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” What does it mean when the Torah repeats the word justice? Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes: “to assure justice, the judges must not distort judgment, which might favor one side or another; must not favor persons—the rich and powerful often get favorable treatment; and must not take bribes. In Leviticus, the Torah states: “You shall do no injustice in your judgment. You shall not lift up (i.e. treat as superior) the person of the poor, nor shall you give [extra] importance to the person who is mighty. Rather judge your neighbors righteously” (Leviticus 19:15). This means that the rich, powerful, and well-connected should not get preferential treatment. Even in countries where all are equal before the law, the rich and powerful get better outcomes—whether it is because of better lawyers, more access, or higher status. In Exodus, the Torah warns against this phenomenon, and asks for a special effort to assure we “do not pervert the judgment of the poor in his cause” (Exodus 23:6).

The Torah makes it clear that the ruler is not above the law. There are restrictions that limit the power of the ruler. In Deuteronomy 17 we are told that the king may not have many wives, many horses, or too much silver and gold, so that his heart will not grow haughty and lead him to deviate from God’s laws. While the President of the United States is not a king, the Jewish tradition is quite clear that the limitations which the Torah places on the power of the king apply to elected rulers as well.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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