In business, the most important factor for an employee is the character of the boss. The same is true in politics. The most important factor in deciding who to vote for is the character of that person. Character is more important than policy, more important than taxes, and more important than Israel. The reason is that a president of the United States with good character will make good policy, deal well with government finances, and support Israel.
In an “open letter” recently written by renowned rabbis and others in Israel and elsewhere, one of whom is Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Jacob, they argue that “serious moral issues – truth, loyalty, contrition, vengeance, tolerance – are at the heart of much of today’s [U.S.] political discourse.” Regarding Israel, they say that indicting either political party as anti-Israel is inaccurate, nor should it “become a justification to blindly support politicians in every other matter.” Their conclusion is that Jews should be guided only by Torah perspectives “in the voting booth no less than our homes.”
So, what is good character? Jews and Christians, among others, have concluded that the only moral code that applies to humanity is the moral code given by God. If you don’t follow God’s ways, you will be a slave to your passions, the mores of society, or controlled by fashionable cultures. The Jewish view is that such a moral code comes directly from the Torah.
If you agree that your own life should be guided based on Torah values, then surely it applies to the leader who governs with the greatest authority, the president. So what are the attributes that God wants us to have, and especially for people in power? Some of the attributes that our president should emulate are: be truthful, support justice with mercy, have compassion, be slow to anger, and be abundant in kindness. It is the proper way to live and the proper way to govern. The Talmud also tells us that God wants us to be responsible for each other, so the president should help others to practice Torah values too.
For the past 10 years, I have aggressively studied Jewish ethics. I have just now produced a draft of a book on character improvement that summarizes what the sages have been saying for thousands of years. Based on rabbinical sources, such as Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers), Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, and others, here are 10 good qualities that any person should strive for, and the evil qualities that should be avoided. They should apply for choosing the president of the United States.
1. Strives to provide for the people continual happiness and joy in life. This includes a feeling of well-being and a positive attitude about life.
2. Have clarity of vision and a passion for work. This includes having a strategy for the coronavirus and for other policies.
3. Exhibits self-control. Be slow to anger.
4. Thinks ahead. Avoid making rash decisions and be deliberate in judgment.
5. Explains the decision. Say little and do much. Have humility about your accomplishments.
6. Helps others, especially people who are suffering.
7. Shows gratitude, even in the smallest way.
8. Learns from others and seek advice from experts on the coronavirus, the economy, business and government policy.
9. Treats everyone with kindness. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
10. Honors others and avoid directly honoring yourself.
1. Avoids positive criticism, knows everything, does not accept advice.
2. Insults others publicly.
3. Seeks honor, power and prestige. Insists on loyalty from staff.
4. Constantly driven by money and miserly.
5. Abuses power, acts as an autocrat above the law.
6. Avoids telling the truth, constantly lies.
7. Lacks humility about accomplishments. Exaggerates them.
8. Constantly angry, lacks patience, interrupts, inflexible, speaks sharply and curses. Makes people miserable.
9. Encourages divisiveness instead of promoting peace.
10. Is arrogant and conceited. Finds flaws in everyone. Expects people to gratify his ego. If you believe that the most important factor for the president of the United States is his character, then please consider the above attributes, good and evil, in making your voting decisions. If you do that, the choice will be obvious.
Allen Lipis is a regular columnist for the Atlanta Jewish Times who often writes about business and character development.
- Rabbi Emanuel Feldman
- Congregation Beth Jacob
- Pirkei Avos
- Rabbi Abraham Twerski
- Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
- Rabbi Noah Weinberg
- Allen Lipis
- President of the United States
- Jewish Ethics
- Ethics of the Fathers
- Government policy
- Closing Thoughts