Rabbi Shalom Arush, shlita, is the rabbi of yeshiva Chut shel Chessed in Jerusalem, and known as the Breslev Tzadik of Meah Shearim. He has a sizable following and institutional base in Israel, and is represented by Rabbi Lazer Brody who travels worldwide sharing some of R. Arush’s teachings and fundraising for his Torah institutions.
He’s recently come under fire for announcing he will no longer meet or directly council women (or directly give women blessings), that questions or request for blessings for the rabbi should be brought by their husbands (or, assumedly if unmarried, by their fathers’), or sent in writing to the rabbi.
Almost immediately after making this statement the wolves and trolls attacked. Here’s a few:
-- If these men can't control themselves then make sure the door is open - which should be anyway - and there is someone sitting in the next room. What's next? Demanding that Jewish women wear burkas????
-- control thyselves. Rabbis can always walk away or say NO.
-- It sounds as if women should have their own planet and nobody should be trusted in front of them because their have been some sick people who could not control themselves. And of course it must also make alot of sense to you that it is the women's problem that some men can't control themselves.
-- Men of any type can learn self control,so damn ridiculous. I've consulted with many rabbi's and NEVER had any hint of lust from ANY of them!!!!! Surely no mensch would EVER rape a woman! Disgusting to give any excuse for this vile behavior.
-- If these learned men can't control their urges around women why don't they live in enclosed communities similar to monks where they can avoid women at all cost.
The first and important question to be asked is what drove this change in position? Rabbi Arush, shlita, did not EVER meet privately with women, so what’s driving this change from public / open door / and group meetings to complete avoidance?
The answer is seeing too many rabbis, rabbis of some renown, failing in this area. And while in percentage terms it may be merely a handful among thousands or tens of thousands of rabbis, clearly:
.. There is inherent risk in this type of pastoral counseling, where vulnerable people are coming in vulnerable situations for advice / assistance / blessings. This can lead to misdirected emotions toward the person providing help, similar to people falling in love with their doctor or nurse.
.. There is also an inherent power balance problem, and advice can have unintentional emotional impact.
.. Everyone has challenges with desires. Under normal conditions, people keep their desires in check. But what if you were presented with THOUSANDS of opportunities, some telling you how much they love and need you? Are we expecting super-human perfection from our rabbis?
.. In a day of cell phones, Youtube, extreme feminism, and aggressive lawyers, even the slightest incident can be misinterpreted and reputation destroying (and edited down to make it appear that way). And some incidents can indeed be set ups and attempts to take a rabbi down.
So in a month and year where a number of rabbis have had such negative claims brought against them, Rabbi Arush (shlita)’s reaction is VERY REASONABLE.