A Peek Behind the Ivanka and Jared Curtain

Shelves in my local library are filled with fictional books set in Amish communities. Considering that there are only about 250,000 Amish in North America, they are way over represented in current literature. I confess to enjoying many of these books. I am obviously not the only one to feel that way. Why are so many of us fascinated by foreign cultures?

Partially because we enjoy peering into the lives of people who live among us but who follow intriguingly different paths.

I am far more cautious about non-fiction. Once, while traveling through Utah, I noticed a book written by a woman who grew up in the Latter Day Saint community but was no longer a part of it. Before purchasing it, I checked with the store owner that it was a loving and respectful depiction rather than a vengeful attack. It was. Every community has its warts, but there is a difference between acknowledging those and distorting the truth in a mission to magnify the negatives of a lifestyle that is a blessing to many.

Books abound about the Orthodox Jewish community. Since I know this community rather well, I am more critical about these books. Actually Orthodox Jews comprise a broadly defined group consisting of dozens of sub-communities, all of which enjoy their own small theological and behavioral distinctions. Sometimes I spot foolish inaccuracies by authors whose research was inadequate; other times the author has a hostile agenda.   Many of these books do not accurately depict my life but nonetheless are authentic expressions of the author’s community, with its own unique blessings and challenges.

This brings me to Ivanka and Jared (Trump) Kushner. They are conspicuously visible while openly identifying as Orthodox Jews. The few times that they have traveled with the President by car or plane on the Sabbath has made national news in a way that I find misleading and confusing. Within the larger Jewish community, their actions spark loud controversy. Since many of my readers are interested in Jewish life, I thought you might enjoy getting a bit of an inside look as to what is  actually taking place.

First, the confusing terminology:  I’m reading in the press is that the couple got a ‘dispensation’ to travel by car or plane, an activity that is forbidden on Shabbat. That language makes me smile.  I grew up a block from a convent, a Catholic Church, and a Catholic school. To my understanding, dispensation is a Catholic term. There is no such thing in Judaism.

There is also no pope in Judaism. There is no single ultimate Jewish authority who has the universally accepted final word.  Broadly speaking, Orthodox Jews voluntarily choose to align with a specific stream of Orthodoxy, each of which has its own leaders. On broad issues these leading rabbis often make decisive statements.  On most questions individual rabbis have tremendous autonomy and people have the choice whether or not to follow their views.   Jews whose spiritual roots are in one Orthodox community would not rely on a ruling by a rabbi from another branch and vice-versa.

Ideally we each accept one leader as our own rabbi and when questions arise, this is the figure to whom we turn and whose guidance we accept. The relationship is by necessity a personal one as many questions can only be answered on a personal level – one can never apply an answer given to one specific person to any other person. For example, while there is no question that pork is not kosher, questions arise all the time about more nuanced kosher questions. Many factors are taken into account when answering these questions including how much of a financial loss is entailed if the item isn’t kosher, quantities of ingredients involved and the chemical composition of the utensils used in cooking. The more unique and personal the question is, the more individually nuanced is the answer.  I have watched my husband and father-in-law spend innumerable anguished hours trying to find the correct conclusion to a difficult question that was posed to them.

Ivanka and Jared, like all Jews, have the option to choose the rabbi they want to follow. Once they ask him a question, they not only may listen to him but they should listen to him. They have the responsibility of asking someone whose authority they verify and trust and he has the responsibility of doing all the necessary research, consulting with those more learned than he, and reaching a conclusion on whatever question he was asked. Another rabbi may indeed have come to a different conclusion. God is the final judge. It is in His hands to react in this world or the next one. There is no room for human backseat driving by those who don’t know all the facts.

Sabbath observance is a basic tenet of the Torah. It is the 4th Commandment and a huge deal. However, there are sometimes competing obligations. For example, our son was born on the Sabbath. We drove to the hospital because from the moment I went into labor I was in a special category.  Since the chances of having a baby on Shabbat are pretty high, my husband and I had, in advance, asked our rabbi all sorts of questions including things such as whether we should be driven by a non-Jew and how to handle documents the hospital would require us to sign. The Israeli military deals with questions of Shabbat all the time as do many Jewish medical professionals.

Jared and Ivanka’s situation is unusual.  The president of the United States whose actions could have enormous impact, depends upon them.  It appears that they asked a certain rabbi for guidance and were told that the competing obligations in their case indicated that they should prioritize the need to drive or fly above Orthodox Shabbat observance.  They would probably also have been advised on how to do what they had to do in ways that minimized the extent of Sabbath violation.  There is no assurance that another rabbi would have responded in the same way but since only their rabbi was in possession of all the facts, anyone else’s view is largely irrelevant.  In following their rabbi’s guidance, they have acted in accordance with Orthodox Jewish tradition.  Furthermore, it is nobody else’s business.

Except that it is. Since Sinai, Jews have made huge sacrifices to observe Shabbat.  During the first part of the 20th century, Jews were routinely fired from their jobs for not showing up on Saturday. The accepted work week for those with limited English, no connections and poor or uncredentialed skills was Monday through Saturday.  For Sabbath observant Jews, losing job after job sometimes meant watching their children not have enough to eat. Sadly, they sometimes were even fired by secular Jewish employers and pressured to lower their standards by relatives struggling to survive.

Even today, observing Shabbat often comes with professional and financial sacrifice. Yes, God is the final arbiter of success and amazingly frequently people overtly see the ‘payback,’ but in our human terms there is a cost. Exceptionally faithful Jews struggled mightily to observe Shabbat to the best of their ability in Nazi concentration camps and in the Soviet Gulag. Stories of Shabbat loyalty under punitively oppressive circumstances have been passed down from one generation to the next for many centuries.

For this reason, the Kushners’ behavior has evoked an emotional reaction from some Jews. Much of this has come from Jews who ignore Shabbat and who hate President Trump and everything about him.  No attention ought to be paid to these individuals.  There are others who are Shabbat observant but who care more about hating the president than about Torah values.  Their criticisms of the Kushners should also be ignored. Finally, there are those who try mightily to observe the Shabbat and holy days and who have endured excruciatingly difficult conversations with and/or repercussions from bosses, clients, teachers and non-religious family members who object to their religious commitment.  These Jews feel that Jared and Ivanka betrayed them by not using their unusual public platform to demonstrate the inviolability  of Shabbat. They worry that they too will be directed to seek a “dispensation” just like the Kushners.

Knowing many people who have experienced emotionally intense encounters with family, friends and business associates over the Sabbath, I empathize with this concern.  Perhaps sharing the above information might help. What do you think?

74 thoughts on “A Peek Behind the Ivanka and Jared Curtain”

  1. I have found the best answer to “If they can, why can’t you” to be “since this is not the White House and you aren’t the president of the country I don’t get a ‘dispensation”. Yes I realize that we don’t do that whole dispensation thing but sometimes it just is a waste of time to try to explain.

  2. It is a hard decision to face, that of how each of us strives at observing the Sabbath. In my LDS faith we try to both uphold the Sabbath and not judge others who have to make hard choices. At the same time, we understand that by obeying the observance of the Sabbath, we are relying more fully upon God’s guidance in our lives.
    These presidential advisers might want to rely more fully on God for their work. The best way to counsel the President may be by being as in tune with God by means of the purest obedience they can maintain. However, sometimes God also has specific individuals practice certain actions that appear to contradict the standard understanding we have of faith and commandments.
    I once had a job that changed as the store managers changed their priorities. They announced in a meeting that we would have hours on Sunday. We were all expected to work those hours. Back then I essentially went along. I talked to them about my concerns about my Sabbath observance. Their response was that they were giving up their church worship as well. Not a satisfactory response, but I was at a loss for words myself. I worked some Sundays and felt the effects. I didn’t know well enough how to make these decisions or how to seek counselling on it. But soon after this started my husband and I found an opportunity to move, and even though I might still have found ways to get to work, I really had no reason to try. I told them that we were moving and between the Sunday hours and the move, I was quitting. They were sad to see me go, but I was glad to get out of there. The place never felt the same after we started Sunday hours. And, in fact, it was a sign that they were struggling over all. The store which had been in business for many decades closed within a couple years of that new policy. I don’t think their efforts to open for those extra Sunday sales helped them at all in the way they were hoping it would.
    I understand that I can’t judge others while at the same time wondering how their choices will affect the expectations put upon me- I have experienced this in other issues surrounding living one’s faith as well. I think I have become more steadfast in my faith as I learn from the after effects of my mistakes as well as from my successes. I am also grateful that my work now has flexible hours and I can easily choose not to work on the Sabbath as long as I understand I lose money. But what I gain! Life transcends our mortal cares, if we let it.
    Thank you for another well reasoned and deeply felt musing. I don’t get to read them as often as I’d like, but they do me so much good. I need to make the effort to keep such things in my life, so I am looking around my life to see what (especially online) items are eating up my focus in wasteful ways. You and your posts are so worth it!

  3. I think it depends on which tree you eat from. Simply illustrated:

    Those who judge the actions of Ivanka and Jared are plucking from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And the judgement returns on them. I myself find when I assume a position of judgement there is a shrinking of my spirit within me.

    If the Kushners must travel on the Sabbath then there must be a good reason (their own). Wishing them a safe journey would be eating from The Tree of Life. There is joy in this.

    My apologies for any misuse of Genesis to make my point.

    Best regards!


    P.S. Smiling: “This brings me to Ivanka and Jared Trump.”

    1. Oops. Thanks for pointing out that I called the Kushners, Trumps. It’s a bit like the movie Funny Girl where someone calls Omar Sharif, Mr. Brice. As to your other point, I don’t know if they did the right thing or not, but it’s not my judgment call. And we are meant to give the benefit of the doubt as a general rule rather than rushing to criticize.

  4. Celesta Franklin

    Dear Impacting and Sincere Mrs. Lapin,

    Do not have the time to express a real comment here, but in a nutshell I truly appreciate the fact that you hold up the standard of (among many other things, of course) people seeking advice from, being accountable to, and adhering to the guidance of the spiritual leader that they feel God has set over their life. Today people want to throw authority/father figures to the side, especially when it comes to leaders of the faith. This is CONTRA- every pattern and principle that God has established! As the Pastor above expressed his appreciation for your insights, I do too! I know this doesn’t even acknowledge the main point of what you have written, but this “side-issue” (which is not really a side issue at all) is a massively important one to address, and an IMPERATIVE that should re-established in everyone’s life as they pursue obedience to and relationship with God. Thank you! You are a breath of conservative and God-honoring air in this liberal, mocking smog that fills the general public these days. Oh, and I love that fact you put in about Jerusalem being the center of ancient maps – I will have to find and purchase some. Is it true that those who live towards the west of Jerusalem generally read & write from left to right, and those who live towards the east of Jerusalem generally read & write from right to left? (Because in truth, all things on earth should and do gravitate towards Jerusalem the center of the earth). Thanks!

    1. Celesta, you are right that it is more difficult today for us to accept leadership. I appreciate your highlighting that point. Thank you for writing!

  5. I listened to your husbands story about himself, about morse code. I shared that with others. The thought I think is to seek advise from those who know, I would think the old testament or Torah. I love hearing your husbands lessons. I also Love to read yours. I won’t quote anything because I’ll probably get it wrong.
    I did learn 35% of morse code though, I hope that gives Daniel a little laugh. One thing I notice is that if you look at most calendars Saturday is the last day of the week and Sunday is the beginning. I am a Catholic and found that musing.
    Enjoy all you and your Husband do.

    1. Good point about the calendars. Ancient maps used to have Jerusalem as the center of the map. Certain ideas stick around for a very long time.

  6. Kirsten Van Ooyen

    Dear Mrs. Lapin,
    How prescient that I am reading this musing at a great crossroads in our life. My husband is a law enforcement officer and has been able to hold positions that have allowed our continued observance of Shabbat and Holy Days. However, now he is being tapped for promotion and this will require shift work. He is gifted in his role and feels that he will do so much good for so many at a time when law enforcement morale is at an all time low but we just feel paralyzed to move forward. Shabbat is an enormous part of G-d’s reputation which we are privileged to uphold in all we do. That being said, this is a topic of extreme importance and difficulty and should not be considered with a narrow and petty world view.

    Thank you for shining light on this complex topic.

    1. Kirsten, first of all thank you to you and your husband for your service. I do encourage you to talk to your faith leader about this decision. Blessings.

  7. Thank you for a very interesting perspective Susan. We know there are nominal Christians and Jews. Some children born into a staunch Christian family are “christened” as infants and brought up in the faith and it is assumed by everyone that they will be Christians, not necessarily so. There is a point in which that person makes a decision to either honor their parent’s decision and remain steadfast or decide to depart from it. The decision to honor God being a personal and individual choice that has to be consciously made by one who has at least reached the age of reason and consent. I think this is true in Jewish families as well, and though a person comes from Hebrew lineage, he/she may decide that Judaism in all forms is not for them. This takes us back to the basic nature of man who seems to have an inherent dislike for rules. But when there are rules they can either rigorously adhered to religiously or they can be accepted as guidelines to follow under normal circumstances. I have a mezuzah nailed to the doorjamb at the front door of my house, we stand by the verses in Jewish prayer Shema Yisrael which is inscribed in the klaft, and yet we are not a Jewish family. However those verses are meaningful even to us as Christians because we consciously accept the spirit of it’s intent. And Jesus spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. Then he took him and healed him, and let him go. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?”

    1. Mark, in this case it isn’t so much nominal Jews as there being different approaches that are all valid. So one rabbi might lean more to one approach and another might emphasize something else. There is a line at which rulings cross a line that can’t be ignored, but I have no reason to think that the Kushners are not speaking with someone whose beliefs are legitimate.

  8. Loved your explanation of the intricacies on this issue and well as all the very thoughtful replies. Others have pointed out some of the Biblical examples of people the Lord called out to fulfill a role important for the ultimate safety of the Jewish people. I would add, when David and his men were on the run from King Saul, the high priest in Shiloh gave them the “showbread” from the Lord’s alter even though that was strictly forbidden. I believe it has been argued that it was permitted because David, like the priests had been anointed as the Lord had chosen him to be the future king. Also, Nehemiah was a servant to the king of Persia and served at the king’s will, so he would not always have been able to keep Shabbat. However, there is one other thing that sets all the people mentioned in the various comments apart. They loved God. They did not lightly forego obedience to His Commandments. I do not know Jared and Ivanka Kurshner and I have no way to know their hearts. But having observed them, they do not appear to take lightly the inability to keep Shabbat when they serve the President. That being so, my prayer for them is that the Lord would bless their endeavors on behalf of the nation and increase their ability to find ways to show the depth of their love, commitment, and desire to be obedient to the Lord and His Commandments so that God’s name might receive glory through their service.

    1. Joyce, you are raising a very interesting point and there is a lot of discussion particularly about the Macabees and what is Sabbath desecration and what isn’t. For example, in my going to the hospital on Shabbat, I think it is universally agreed that a woman in labor must do so, or if having a home birth there are still Sabbath laws that will be secondary to her health and that of the baby. But, other times one rabbi will rule one way and another will rule another way and as long as both are coming from a legitimate place, they will respect each other’s rulings.

  9. I have heard Rabbi say the word “commandments” are more closely translated “statement”or “principles”.

    1. Marci, that is specifically speaking of what is known as the Ten Commandments. The Hebrew more accurately translates as statements. However, there are many commandments throughout the Torah and many of them refer to the Sabbath.

  10. I can appreciate that the Jewish community looks to the Kushners to be a light and an example to the rest of us. After all, back in the day, Sandy Koufax refused to play in a World Series game that fell on Yom Kippur, and he was “just” a baseball player.

    However, the Kushners are also painfully aware – as are the rest of us – at the hostility aimed at the POTUS and by extension, toward the rest of the family. As there is a strong undercurrent of anti-Jewish sentiment percolating already among America’s leftists, Mr. Kushner may feel the need to tread lightly in order to keep those sentiments under wraps. I can imagine the outcry about “wasting taxpayer money” from those who readily excused the Obama’s lavish travel arrangements during their vacations if the Kushners opted to fly on a separate plane on Sunday night or Monday in order to observe the Sabbath. I choose to give them the benefit of a doubt at this point.

    1. Jean, I think we should try to give all people the benefit of the doubt without being naive. I’m afraid there is no one “Jewish community,” and I personally don’t look at the Kushners to be a light and example as much as hoping they honor rather than dishonor God’s name.

    1. I appreciate that, Lori. I hesitated for quite a while before and during its writing. It is so easy to say something in a way that can be misunderstood.

  11. People often don’t read their Bible. They admire the Jewish religion and at times pick and choose what they will follow. This also happens in the Christian religions. Unfortunately, in the public eye everything is amplified. The bottom line is that you can tell a tree by its fruits (or lack thereof). Actions speak louder than words. God bless you for keeping many of us on track. The Sabbath is more than special–it is sacred..

    1. Ruth, it is hard being in the public eye. Especially today when everyone has a microphone and the ability to put out information.

  12. I feel the reason why the Kushners have this dispensation is – they have a critical job in helping President Trump run the country. Only Trump knows this, nevertheless I feel that Jared and Ivanka have a huge contribution to the President’s agenda. Furthermore, Trump needs ALL the help he can get to fend off the constant assault of the media and the DNC! So perhaps the Kushners travelling is a pikuei nefesh situation (saving lives).

    If I violate Shabbat by going to the office, I am not going to save the planet – so I have to make the sacrifice.
    However if Jared and Ivanka are cut off from the President on Shabbat, it could endanger America when their expert advice is needed – like it was probably in Saudi Arabia and Europe on those huge speeches!!!!
    I am no expert in this area – im just posting my 2 cents.

    1. Your guess is as good as anyone’s Robert. My point is that these decisions aren’t made by holding a vote or asking a committee. If they chose to get rabbinic counsel then that rabbi gets to gather whatever information he needs and make a decision. No one else is involved unless he turns to someone for advice.

  13. Mrs. Lapin, Thank you is such a small reply for the Applicable – ability to apply a TRUTH- Wisdom for daily life. Sad that more “Protestants” don’t have a Rabbi & a Rabbi’s Prov 31 Wife to supplement their Spirits, mind and emotions. Thank You for the ‘support’ in respecting “Leadership” that you Both uncompromisingly instruct and live. All My Respect, Ryan Jamie Lee

    1. Well, thank you so much, Ryan. I’m afraid most Jews don’t have a rabbi in the full sense of the word either.

  14. Thank you for all you and Rabbi do. I appreciate it more than I could ever give words to. Interestingly, Statement #4 has been a discussion at my monday night bible study that some have been wrestling with. We found Hosea 6:6. God is merciful.

  15. Becky Woodworth

    Really enjoyed your column. I am a follower of Jesus that has been blessed with many Jewish friends over the years. We all have something to learn from each other. BTW – My father’s extended family is all LDS. This is the best book I ever read on hardcore fundamentalist LDS: https://www.amazon.com/Daughter-Saints-Growing-Up-Polygamy/dp/0393325776 My mother’s extended family was largely Quaker and I confess to loving that old favorite, Friendly Persuasion. Blessings to you, and please keep sharing your thoughts!

    1. I will look up that book, Becky. Though I have trouble with the phrase ‘hardcore fundamentalist.’ As the saying goes, a heretic is someone who believes or does less than you and a fanatic is someone who believes or does a little more. Also, sometimes the phrase is used to describe a group that is an offshoot of a mainstream group as if suggesting that they are the ‘real thing’ when really they are not representative.

  16. Thank you for the good elplanation . Christians likewise are supposed to observe a day of rest . The New Testamenr has a couple of stores and the Torah has ar least one (David ate the show bread, ). Where circumstances dictacted a different action from strict observance .

  17. Judy from Lancaster

    I was brought up Catholic, and am not a staunch Catholic, but was taught to to keep holy the Lords day-which meant I was OBLIGATED go to church on Sundays-usless I was sick or taking care of someone who was sick( or below a certain age or above a certain age. I have also been taught keeping the Lords day honey this is more for my benefit than Gods, because we need God, not because God need us. I am a nurse and I work every other weekend, and so I miss going to church on those weekends., which the Catholic church condones. I also do not go to church on some other Sundays because of some other reasons which are sometimes social reasons-which the Catholic church does not condone. Since I believe that the Lord wants US to slow down and take a day off to honor and commune with him, I designate a day during the week to go to church and to relax and not do work and focus on God and spirituality. ,which the Catholic church does not condone. I do not abuse this and do go to church most Sundays when I am not working including most Sundays when I go on vacation. Why must the Lords day be a Saturday or Sunday. Is it just for tradition. As an Orthodox Jew you have more knowledge understanding the 10 commandments (and many other commandments) than I do. I worry that sometimes I/we get caught up in the nit-picky of somethings, and loose site the original purpose things were put in place in the first place -Do we not not see the forest from the trees so to speak.

    Judy from Lancaster

    1. Judy, this is an area where Judaism and Christianity differ. While we too worry about losing the forest for the trees, we have tons of trees to take into account. Shabbat observance is chock full of commandments and directions. It is very plausible to argue that without such strong directives, Jews would have died out long ago. So, yes, while there is a danger of missing the essence of the day by focusing too much on the specific do’s and don’t’s we care deeply about the specifics. Everything wraps together to make Shabbat central to our lives.

  18. I think their situation is entirely different because they are representing an important role for the country. They have a public responsibility and a unique role. They are closer to the President (like a senior adviser to the King) For me, I see it as Kiddush Hashem even if they break Shabbat because they will be going to a country were Jews are not very much welcome (Middle East). For me, they will be doing good for the country and the entire gentile and Jewish community. It’s really a difficult issue however, I believe the IDF are also allowed to break Shabbat for the protection of Israel. So I guess, in the case of Jared and Ivanka, it’s important they make it there because they are like “protector” of the president who is considered the ruler of the land and who is holding the highest position in the US. It’s also a very rare case that a Jew will be given such honorable treatment from a country that has long been hostile to the Jewish people. So for me, it is an opportunity to do good and perhaps with their presence, the views about the Jewish people from the countries they visited will turn around and change. So I believe they are also indirectly helping the situation of Jews on those places especially Middle East.

  19. Very thoughtful, Susan.
    Another dramatic example (NOT AN EXACT PARALLEL) is Esther having to choose to sacrifice her moral code to visit the King. You have noted how important the young couple is to the President – I have seen other criticisms where people just aren’t letting it sink in how important their role is.

    1. I admit to my own nervousness about their influence but can only pray it will be for the good.

  20. Dear Susan, Judaism has fascinated me deeply during the past decade. In studying Judaism I came across the books and other information that you and Rabbi have written. I am fortunate to have studied this information so please be assured of my support and sincere desire to see your efforts bear much fruit. Nevertheless, I am reminded of the incredible importance of Sabbath observance and find it hard to believe that given the considerable power and resources of the United States it is not possible to accommodate the Sabbath travel and lodging requirements of the Kushners who are senior advisors to the President. The US Air Force has been called upon to fly Senator Pelosi on dubious private excursions (at vast expense) so why not make every effort to accommodate the unique requirements of these Senior Presidential advisors? Surely a schedule could be developed that will satisfy their Halachic observances and which could still avail the President of their guidance. I cannot imagine that the Tzadik Joseph, son of Jacob, would have altered Sabbath observances in his position as Viceroy of Egypt. Would he have signed a document on the Sabbath to honor Pharaoh or not davened Mincha because of an important staff meeting? The sages equated violating the Sabbath with violating all the mitzvot of the Torah (shemot rabbah 5:5). The mitzvot must not be compromised, to wit: Daniel kept kosher in the exile of Babylon. Mordechai refused to bow to Haman. The Jews kept their names and their style of dress while enslaved in Egypt thus protecting the last remnants of their Jewish identity. The Maccabbees refused to worship Greek idols. Certain courageous Jews donned Tefillin in the extermination camps. As an outsider (and admirer) it seems to me that Jews are empowered by the King of the Universe to keep the mitzvot any and everywhere no matter who the apparent temporal power is at that moment. Halacha permits that a Jew can infract a mitzvah in order to preserve life, with the exception of Murder, Adultery and Idol Worship for which sins it is better to die than to commit. However, in the presence of a quorum (minyan) not even a minor mitzvah can be infracted – even upon penalty of death. Why then can the Kushners who are visible not to only 10 men but to millions not set an example for observing the Sabbath? And for that matter, why does Jared not wear a kippah and Ivanka not wear a wig for Tzniut in keeping with the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch? Jews have been murdered, exiled, impoverished and harassed in every conceivable manner to induce them to abandon the mitzvot. I for one would love to see the Kushners don their kippah and sheitel (their keterim) and boldly live a Jewish life without compromise or apology. Flying, Driving and even Skiing can wait for the other 6 days of the week (unless its Yom Tov)!

    1. Michael, you’re illustrating how controversial this is. The bottom line for me is that I’m not in a position to judge and I don’t think any of us are.

  21. Thank you, Susan, for posting this article. You handled the breadth and depth of the issue well.

    As a Christian pastor, I found numerous parallels to my own situation when you wisely described the interaction between a rabbi and those in his congregation. Different rabbis may not come to the same conclusion, but congregants should trust their rabbi as he seeks biblical wisdom for life’s situations.


    1. Pastor David, thanks for pointing out that the individual relationship matters in Christianity as well. We must pick our religious leader wisely. Once we do so, we should trust them unless something egregious tells us we made a wrong choice.

  22. Thank you so much for providing a wonderful explanation. I haven’t run across any comments on the Kushners, but I enjoyed learning more about your religion. I also appreciate your respect for other’s religions. I think it is very important for us to learn about each other so that we can better support and empathize with each other.

  23. WOW. Thanks for your penetrating insight into the essence of the Jewish tradition, which also reveals the fault lines within a loosely bound ‘ethnic’ community. It strikes me that the description ‘special dispensation’ may have actually been used in a sardonic ‘tongue-in-cheek’ sense, but still a humorous application may foster misunderstanding and woe, so it is good and appropriate that you wrote this clarification.

    But I have experienced the confusing convolutions of a restrictive work ethic. Once I had the option to hire an adherent, formerly a man of the cloth, of a less common splinter Protestant denomination. He swore upon his soul that both Saturday and Sunday were holy days in his book, and he was commanded and obliged to work upon neither (!). This smacked of malingering in an industry where the Almighty Feds call the shots, and we work under duress when we must, even nights and weekends, so he did not get the job. Still, there must be ‘special dispensations:’ if the Indians attack the fort on the Sabbath, one as a defender should load the guns and return fire.

    [TANGENTIAL NOTE to the Rabbi: Dear Rabbi, I loved that TCT show wherein you reveal studies how cities need the constant support of men in order to survive, and a metropolis unmaintained will last characteristically not more than 500 years. Well, recently I found an apt description of that very phenomenon in Ford Madox Ford’s The Soul of London, wherein is proposed that the grand metropolis unsupported by gargantuan human effort will be under steady assault by the River Thames and before you know it, will recede into the marshes.]

  24. This was such a beautiful, respectful way to handle such a delicate subject. One that clearly stirs up all sorts of emotions in different people with differing levels of conviction, or agendas.
    I hope that more of us can follow your example of regarding others with dignity and honor, even if we may not entirely agree at times.

  25. I didn’t know much about this situation. I heard some rumblings, but given the current political climate, I tried to take it with a grain of salt. One of the things I always try to remember is that things may not always be what they appear, especially when I’m an outsider looking in through the perspective of someone else who may or may not have been there. There are times when we have to make difficult choices when faced with competing obligations. I appreciate your piece on this.
    It provides a little more background on a circumstance that requires some nuance to understand.

    1. Chad, your point of not rushing to judgment and understanding that things can be more complex than they seem is one that fits most circumstances. The world would be a nice place if we all did that.

  26. Curious which are your favorite Amish books? Also name of LDS book.

    Thanks for thoughtful explanation.


    1. You sent me to my shelves, Eric. I haven’t read the LDS book in years but it is “A Daughter of Zion” by Rodello Hunter. I don’t have any fictional Amish books I love but I find them pleasant and interesting. Beverly Lewis is one author that comes to mind.

  27. Thank you Susan for your thoughtful insight. You are correct on the term dispensation, myself raised Catholic am quite familiar with the term and its uses and abuses. There are those times when men are called to do mighty things on this earth and in this case to serve the President of the United States. It is an unusual circumstance and if Jared and Ivanka do everything in their power to limit their activity schedules on Shabbat and make it known publicly, well you are right it is between them and their rabbi and the Lord.

    1. I appreciate your telling me that my understanding of dispensation being a Catholic term was correct. I can’t say if the Kushners and their rabbi made the right or wrong decision, or even if they followed their rabbi’s ruling or chose to not follow it. I know that I have enough trouble trying to do the correct thing myself and I also know that what they do or don’t do isn’t a guideline for me or anyone else.

      1. I really appreciate your wisdom and looking at interesting and difficult topics.

    1. Life is full of judgments we have to make on earth without knowing for sure what God would prefer us to do. That is part of the human conundrum.

  28. I think they have an incredible opportunity to demonstrate their faith to the nation. It’s easy for me to say that, though I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to live a “normal” life in such a public way.

  29. Thank you, Susan – I thought you explained this issue very well, and it helped me to understand how I would respond to something like this!


    1. Thank you, Robin. I found it quite complex to write and it took quite a bit of editing from my husband to say what I wanted to say.

      1. Iron sharpened iron. I didn’t know Jewish tradition had so many different groups. However, when it comes to the Ivanka and Jared I would imagine after much prayer and guidance that decision had to be left to them. Although I recognize how others may have high hopes for them being light bears of their faith I don’t this bringing so much spotlight on the Jewish religion would have been good for them.

        There are a lot of anti-Jewish people out here and I believe they would have isolated this issue and made Judaism the focus and then connected it with radical Islam as people who aren’t reasonable. They might believe they could be more effective if they didn’t highlight their faith and its distinctions while being on the world stage. At times it seems that the whole world is at odd with the Jewish people why give them more fodder?

        I’m will give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they made this sacrifice because the President asked them too. Since you’re Jewish I will appeal to the old Testament and refer back to when the children of Israel was taken captive in Babylon. Daniel and the other three were given high positions because God gave them favor with the King and great knowledge. Were they able to obey the Sabbath? Didn’t God know when he gave them those positions they would have to serve the King at his pleasure? Of course, he did because God is omniscient.

        Therefore, I have to assume that when God placed them in those high positions it was so that through them the Jewish people would find favor with the King too and enjoy his protection. As you know they were tested but it was on the Greatest Commandment and they passed with flying colors. In many ways, Jared is serving a pagan King too.

        He isn’t serving in the parliament in Israel he’s in the United States. Just like Ester, when her cousin told her, how do you know God didn’t place you in this position for such a time as this? We don’t know why God placed Jared in this position, all I know is that Trump wants him there and God has placed him there, therefore, what else is there to say except, pray for him that God will be glorified in his service.

        When I don’t understand the plans of God I return to my favorite verses. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.

        1. Trusting in God is the bottom line, Marie, and doing the best we can in each circumstance that meets us.

      2. Thank you Susan. I was unaware of the criticism Jared and Ivanka faced. I found your explanation of the problem for an ortodox Jew in the workplace and your explanation of the way each individual needs to resolve this moral dilemma regarding Sabbath very helpful.

        1. Mark, it’s a workplace issue and it is not uncommon on college or professional school campuses to have a lot of difficulty when a test is scheduled on a holiday. Most professors are understanding, but not all.

    2. While mine is not a reply, I want to agree and thank Susan for her explanation. It helps!

    1. Well, yes and no. We do all answer to God but we also all affect each other. It’s sometimes hard to know where to draw the line between what we should and shouldn’t see as impacting us.

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