Sunday, January 10, 2016

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When the Rabbi Falls Down

imageThe “hot” (horrible) Jewish story of the day is “The Devastating Story of Washington’s Peeping-Tom Rabbi - When a politically connected rabbi was arrested, the news stunned Washington. It turns out his betrayal was worse than we knew.

The story is as bad as it sounds.  In brief, a successful well connected rabbi in a vibrant orthodox congregation in Washington DC took advantage of his position to place hidden spy cameras in the women’s mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) changing rooms.  Being involved in conversions, he placed or activated such devices when potential converts who were young and female were using the facility (after sending them to try it out).

Horrible invasion of these women’s privacy, and horrible taking advantage of his position and influence. 

This is what we call a Chilul Hashem, a desecration of the Divine Name.  What does that mean?

When someone who is an authority figure within the religious Jewish community violates religious or moral strictures, at the time when he or she is acting as a representaive of Torah, Hashem (G-d), and Judaism (whether conciously acting as such a representative or not), he or she has besmirched G-d, the Torah, and Judaism.

It’s not a surprise that some of the peopel affected turn around and refuse to participate in the mitzvah that requries use of the mikvah (ritual bath) any more.  Or even turn their back on observant Judaism.

L’havdil, let’s give a secular example.  When President Bill Clinton was accused of inappropriate relations with young women (interns or staffers), the issue was not that he was accused of rape – he was not.  Nor even that he used his position of power to coerce them, the women did not make any such accusation.  Rather it was simply that the President of the United States was caught violating the basic family moral fabric of society. 

On reading this article, a commentor wrote (via our Mystical Paths Facebook page), “makes me feel lucky to find people who care, and live what they preach.”

Well, we try.  BUT, everyone has a yetzer hara, an evil inclination.  AND we even learn that the further one advances in holiness, the STRONGER the temptations towards the opposite.  So while we expect a lot of our religious leadership, we must keep in mind that they are human too, and have tempations as well.  The Shulchan Aruch (code of Jewish law) says one may not be alone with the opposite gender (to whom one is not married or first-level related).  It does not say “except for the rabbi”.  The Shulchan Aruch says if one gives a loan one must either have two witnesses or a written contract.  It does not say “except for the rabbi or except for a yeshiva”.

We want our communities to be holy, and we hope and pray that the boundries of Torah reduce many negatives of society.  But we’re human, the evil inclination exists, boundries don’t eliminate every possible negative.

DO NOT suspend common sense because of Torah.  After all, common sense is called the 5th section of the Shulchan Aruch (the code of Jewish law only has 4 sections).    Nor assume absolute innocence or holiness because of a black hat or yalmuka.  While rare, there are problems and problematic people.

That this happened is horrible. 

That this happened in the name of Judaism is a nightmare. 

But don’t let it stain your view of Judaism from a single individual who fell.  On the other hand, if your common sense says something doesn’t seem right…listen.  Check with others, check with other authorities (or other religious authorities).  Don’t ignore common sense.

May those affected by this incident have a complete recovery.

2 comments:

Gary said...

Thank you, clear and concise analysis of the situation.

Mark said...

Clinton WAS accused of rape or assault by numerous women - I think about 14 in all - some of whom were quite believable. It's just that the left-wing media chose not to give it much coverage.

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