Torah For Today! This week: President Trump and nepotism

Torah For Today! This week: President Trump and nepotism

Rabbi Garry Wayland looks at a topical issue and delves into the Torah for an Orthodox Jewish response

Ivanka Trump embracing her father, President Donald
Ivanka Trump embracing her father, President Donald

Following accusations of nepotism against Donald Trump after he gave a high-profile role to his daughter, Ivanka, at the recent G20 summit, what does the Torah say about favouring loved ones?

The most fundamental desire of a parent is to provide for a child: sustenance, shelter, an education. However, we are hardwired to care beyond our immediate ken – and so look to nurture and care from afar once our children become adults.

Many parents – and grandparents – see their purview going beyond providing the keys to unlocking the future, but actually facilitating and providing that future.

In Judaism, we do find a strong notion of bequeathing livelihoods – the biblical system of ancestral fields means parents cannot sell land in perpetuity, and it will eventually return to their descendants.

Halachic sources indicate a child has the right to inherit a parent’s position: we see that biblically, when the monarchy passes to a son, such as Solomon from David, as does the job of High Priest – Aaron’s son, Elazar, is his successor – provided the child is qualified to take on the leadership.

However, we find a powerful source that implies one should not keep it in the family: Moses. Despite being the prophet, leader and teacher par excellence, we find barely a mention of his sons in the Torah.

Joshua, his faithful servant, became leader in his stead. The Chasam Sofer, one of the most important rabbinic authorities in the past 200 years, distinguishes between positions of authority – which are hereditary – and of religious leadership – which, like the role of Moses, was not.

One can suggest this distinction is, to a great extent, moot today: the nature of democracy is that authority is inherently conditional upon the will of the populous: temporary, and based solely on merit.

This applies in companies with boards of directors, and in charities with trustees.

Our children, therefore, do not have the automatic right to follow in our footsteps, but we are blessed with the opportunities to raise them with the skills and personal capacities to choose the path that suits them best.

Rabbi Garry Wayland is a teacher and educator for US Living and Learning

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