Why didn't U.S. President Trump outright win the recent election? Rabbi Mendel Kessin probes the “Inner Meaning of the 2020 U.S. Election Results” in his most recent shiur (see video below). Drawing on the Torah worldview (hashkafa), he places this election in the context of the great events that are occurring in our world — both revealed and unseen.
Rabbi Kessin, a leading expert on the Ramchal, begins with Esav (Esau), viewed by the tradition as representing Western culture in the modern world. Esau has two aspects: the tov she’b’Esav (good aspects of Esav) and the ra she’b’Esav (evil aspect of Esav). In the prophecy given to his then-pregnant mother, Rivka is told, “...rav ya’avod tzair (the elder (Esau) will ‘serve’ the younger (Jacob)) [Gen. 25:23].” But the wording of “serve” in the Torah text can be read either as ya’avod (he shall serve) or as ya’aved (he shall oppress). Esau can either assist Jacob, i.e., the Jews, directly in his ‘good’ aspect, or can be the cause of his suffering, his ‘bad’ aspect.
Trump is the foremost figure in the world representing Esau; according to the rabbi, he represents the ‘good’ aspects of Esav. Trump has fulfilled his “job” by: assisting the Jews in restoring the Land of Israel to the Jewish people; defending the Jewish people; restoring a strong and forthright America which attracts those who seek its favor and compels them toward a similar benevolence toward Israel.
G-d’s plan when He created the physical universe was to ensure that this olam ha’shofel (lower world) would not remain physical — but would be elevated to a spiritual level. When Adam and Eve were driven from gan Eden (the Garden of Eden), the job of mankind became removing toxic impurity from the world, furthering the spiritual elevation. That job has been taken on primarily by the Jews.
The task is two-fold: first, to magnify the flow of Divine energy (shefa), allowing greater spiritual energy to enter this world, through a process known as hispashtut hakedusha (spreading the holiness); and secondly, to remove “blockages” to this flow which can divert the shefa toward impure endeavors, leaving less to sustain goodness.
The Jews accomplish these tasks by observing mitzvot (commandments), through repentance, or through suffering. [This principle holds for all human beings, but primarily for Jews.] Once all blockages have been removed and the holiness, that’s been diverted to the side of evil, is restored to the side of good, the Messiah (mashiach) can come.
The rabbi explains that the adversary and impediment to the process is known in the tradition as the Satan. G-d conceals any benefits He wishes to give to humans, from the Satanic prosecutor so as to shield them while they do the work of redeeming the world. In compliance with the “timetable” for Redemption — which mandates that all of the events of this world must occur before this existence ends in the Hebrew year 6000 [2240 in the Gregorian calendar] — G-d can confer benefits in the present because He knows the Jews will earn them in the future.
Because of the trait of self-interest which He granted to the Satanic adversary, G-d can bribe the Satan to distract and fool him, even as the Jews work to destroy and annihilate him. As each Jew acts to return holiness to the side of kedusha, he or she cuts off the Divine flow to the Satan. As the events of history have moved forward, Satan’s job has changed from simply ensuring that justice is meted out to individuals, to his concern now for his own survival. Now — so near to the end — the Satan is more prone to distraction and bribery because he is consumed with his own survival.
How is Satan being bribed today? The rabbi explains, using an insight from the gemara in Sanhedrin: “Let the Messiah come — but after my death, so that I will not see him [San. 98b: 3].” Why would the Sages of the Talmud (chazal) say this? Because they knew that when Redemption comes, it will be preceded by me’at ohr (a diminishment of the Light of spirituality) and tigboret ha’ra (the proliferation of evil). This time of darkness and evil is abhorrent to righteous individuals.
So, why would G-d allow such darkness? Because justice must be satisfied, 'paying off' the bill, incurred by incorrect behavior, through increased suffering. The Talmudic quote says, “Let the Messiah come…,” which tells us that the Messiah himself will aggravate the Darkness. The plan to bring mashiach is presented to the Satan within the disguise of increasing evil, accompanied by a loss of faith, trust, and hope. As sin ensues, the Satan is fooled into believing he will survive. This is why the Messiah initially brings evil.
Because Trump’s presidency has prompted conflict, opposition, and heightened corruption in the U.S. and in the world, the Satan is distracted and misled from the great leap in the messianic process which is occurring during this time. Rabbi Kessin notes that Trump made a “mistake” in threatening to “drain the swamp” — although it helped him get elected and awakened people to the corruption of his enemies.
But it impelled his opponents to attack and destroy him. Halacha (Jewish law) teaches that one must never corner an enemy so that he has no escape. To do so prompts desperation and energizes him and, as the rabbi describes, “Adrenaline will kick in. Let him think he can escape and oppose you, so that he won’t have the resolve of one whose destruction is imminent and inescapable.” Because Trump’s opponents have been backed into a corner, they have displayed a “psychotic fear” of Trump and his supporters.
According to the rabbi, G-d has assured Satan that Trump’s success will be palliated by perceptions of him being “unpresidential” and “flawed.” Despite Trump’s excellent performance, such prejudice — though unwarranted — is part of the bribery. Along with the anti-Trump sentiment, the coronavirus pandemic has mitigated Trump’s achievements. It also drove his opponent, Biden, “into the basement” where he could escape scrutiny of the crimes and inadequacies which should have disqualified him from the presidency. Likewise, it enabled Biden to blame Trump for the pandemic.
These actions are part of G-d’s plan to allow evil to attain its full measure, thereby acting as a kapparah (atonement) for the world. The current availability of the vaccine, just at the time that Biden is purported to have won the election, suggests that the pandemic is no longer necessary to hamper the process begun with Trump.
In this shiur, Rabbi Kessin hypothesizes three possibilities for the future. Trump could “pull off” a miracle and prevail as president for another four years, enabling the repentance of Esau to continue. Or the Senate could retain a Republican majority, which would mitigate the damage the Democrats might otherwise cause. This would be an act of G-d’s rachmanut (compassion) to prevent harm to America.
A last prospect — one the rabbi deems unlikely — is a win for the Democratic Party in both houses of Congress, as well as the Presidency. Because this could mean an increase and acceptance of policies promoting abortion on demand, sexual orientation choice and non body-based gender identity — all in contradiction to Torah values — the time frame for evil to fulfill its complete measure will be hastened. The rabbi teaches that even if this third prospect occurs, G-d can justify an advancement in the arrival of the Messiah as a ‘trade-off’ for the flourishing of evil which benefits the Satan.
[Click here to read the author's complete summary of this fascinating shiur.]
Anyone seeking further clarification and explanation of current events and the messianic process is invited to visit Rabbi Kessin’s website, torahthinking.com, for the complete “21st Century” series of video lectures along with 300 shiurim which deal extensively with the hashkafa of the Ramchal. His videos can also be found at https://www.torahanytime.com and on Torah Thinking on YouTube. He can be followed on Facebook at Rabbi Mendel Kessin.
The author has written extensively on Rabbi Kessin’s work; click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.