Friday, August 04, 2006

Sinas Chinum

Regarding individual Jews, there are good and bad. Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld ZTL used to say, "Don't judge Judaism by its practitioners." Sometimes, unfortunately, that even applies to rabbis. The Kotzker Rebbe ZTL said that in the period of Ikvesa D'Meshichah, there will be Chasidic Rebbes who are heretics. The Minchas Elozor writes that there are rabbis and rebbes who are plain phonies.

This does not, chas v'sholom, mean that there is not a very ample supply of real Tzadikim available. The problem is, you have to know what the proper method is to find them. The Bnei Yisachar writes that before Moshiach comes, Klall Yisroel will definitely have Gedolim, but they will not use them. The Ohr HaChaim writes that even if you have a Tzadik, if he is appointed to a position of leadership by a constituency with the wrong motives, then the Tzadik himself will become corrupt (he says this is what happened to the meraglim).

This is our choice. If we choose our Gedolim based on political reasons or based on whose picture is in the "frum" papers or the Gedolim cards more, or who makes nicer speeches or whatever, we will be disappointed when we find out that we did not choose properly.

There are plenty of real Tzadikim and Gedolim out there, you just have to know who they are.

When talking about Klall Yisroel as a whole, regardless of the problems we may have, we are certainly much much better than any other community in existence. To leave the frum community because of its problems and go to another community instead is merely out of the frying pan and into the fire. Better to find your niche among the vast number of honest ehrlicher Yidden and not pay attention to those who create problems, even if they are in official positions.

Beyond that, you should not judge even individuals without hearing two sides to the story. Before you make a statement about any Jew you have to hear both sides of the story. Either that, or you must have a psak from a Bais Din who did hear both sides. Until then, it is merely loshon horah, which, you are allowed to watch out for in case it is true, but you may not believe it. Even if you heard it from someone "reliable."

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The Halachos of "mesirah" are in the Shulchan Aruch (298). In general, the Halachah allows you to call the police on someone who poses a danger to others. The definition of "danger to others" is dealt with Halachicly. If I knew that my children were in danger because of someone I would call the police ASAP.

However, this person also has a right to defend himself in a Din Torah, and put forth his claim that he is not a danger. I am always allowed to keep my children away, but if according to the evidence presented, I cannot PROVE that he is a danger to the satisfaction of the Bais Din, and the Bais Din rules that he is "not proven guilty" then nobody may cause him harm through the police of any other agency.

If I was a principal I would not do anything before investigating carefully. This is a judgment call, and either way, innocent lives can be ruined. I know many cases of adults falsely accused of things -- by kids or other adults -- just as I do of adults getting away with hurting kids.

I remember when I was a kid in camp some other kid accused on of the head counselors of molesting him. We kids all knew it was a lie, designed as revenge for not getting a job he wanted. Even though we knew it wasn't true, this man suffered so terribly, that even now -- years later -- his suffering is not 100% over. The thing that saved this man and his family from total ruination was that the menahel of his school (he was a Rebbi during the winter) decided, after his own investigation, that he was innocent, and, despite public pressure and a tarnished reputation for the school, he would not fire him.

To this day, though, there are still people that believe this man to be a child molester.

Remember Father Ritter? A priest who worked for Covenant House, a youth organization, who was accused of molesting kids there. The outcry was so great, so public, that they basically ran him out of town, and he ended up living in India. Well, I know a frum Jew who used to work there. He told me that he knows for a fact that the priest was innocent, and the charges were trumped up.

So right now I cannot tell you what I would do, but I do know that I would not do it unless I was as certain as can be that it was the right decision.

And I would say many kapitlach Tehillim beforehand for Hashem to help me make the right decision, and for the sake of the innocent people that will get hurt - especially families -- no matter what I choose.

People should not be tried in the newspapers. Guilt and innocence is not determined without hearing both sides of the story.

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There are, unfortunately, many educated Rabbis who are in violation of these clear rules, and yet, when you confront them, and ask them their reasoning, at the very best they give you the shakiest, most unacceptable excuses for what they do, which include painfully warped halachic reasoning, which they themselves would be the first to identify as mistaken if the issue was anything other than their own lifestyle (people have a tendency not to see their own errors, even if they can see the same errors in others).

But this is no different than what you surely have learned from Chazal and our seforim in just about any parsha of the Torah, and any chapter in Tanach. All throughout Jewish history - from Adam who ate from the aitz hadaas, to esav (according to some meforshim), to the brothers who sold Yosef, to dasan and aviram (according to some meforshim) to korach, to zimri ben salu, to the meraglim, all the way down to yeravam ben nevat, to yochanan kohen gadol, to elisha ben avuyah, all the way to shabse tzvi, and on, you have learned about learned and holy people - much, much more learned and holier than your rabbis - much more! - who have committed terrible sins and sometimes even fell to the level of reshayim.

In every one of those cases there are reasons given by our meforshim, but in every one of those cases the aveirah started, as the posuk states by Adam, "taavah hi l'enayim". Jealousy, or honor, or pride, or money, or any kind of yetze horah has been known to bring down the best.

And so, if a rabbi says something or establishes a school or a shul or a congregation in ways that are against the Torah, it is nothing new. That’s what the yetzer horah makes people do.

The holy Kedushas Yom Tov once said about a certain sect of naive and simplistic chasidim: "If their Rebbe would tell someone to take a certain knife shecht a pig and eat it, they would say that the pig is really the ram of Avrohom avinu; the knife, his maacheles; and the eating is eating a korbon of akeidas yitzchok. The proper perspective however, is that the pig remains a pig, the knife remains a knife, the ceremony remains the eating of trief, and the only thing that changes in your perception is the Rebbe - he becomes a shaigetz."

We have to apply the lessons that we learn from the Torah. And one of those lessons we all learn is that these things happen all the time. So if you do see it happening, it should not cause any confusion or doubt.

That having been said, we also know from chazal that "Im barur lecha kachoscha she'hi asura tomar" - that you should not take a position on something unless and until you are certain that you are right. Just as easy to make believe everybody who is Torah-educated does has a basis, it is equally easy to dismiss things we do not understand as wrong, and the people who do them, as bad.

Therefore we apply one more chazal: lo am haaretz chasid - someone who knows nothing cannot be pious. It’s not good enough to say I won’t educate myself and I’ll just follow what the rabbis says - you have to educate yourself in order to know which rabbis to follow.

. . . and which not to.

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First, the reality is that the "child molesters" among the "rabbis" are few and far between, although with all the publicity it gets you'd think it was a requirement for Smicha, c"v. Compare it to the press coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict taking place now. We all know that the media can emphasize what it wants and make things look so out of sync with what they really are.

For instance, many of these accusations come out to be falsely leveled. The fact that some newspaper received emails allegedly listing numerous rabbis who are child molesters does not mean it is true, even though they publicized the fact that they received such a list. For every instance of rabbinic wrongdoing I am aware of, I also know of an equal and opposite instance where a rabbi was falsely accused of the same type of wrongdoing. But usually, the accusations are publicized much more than the determination of innocence.

Also, because of the so-called "awareness" campaign of social problems currently taking place within the Orthodox community, there is a tremendous amount of publicity touting the dangers of child molesters - which is all true, of course! - but it gives the false impression that the problem is a lot more pervasive than it actually is. I am not saying there are no instances, but rather that the pervasiveness of a problem is not necessarily proportionate to the amount of people taking about it.

That's the first thing.

The second thing is that getting smicha does not cure any psychological problems a person may possess. Instead of looking at it like a rabbi who became a child molester, look at it like a child molester who went to yeshiva and became a rabbi. How in the world can anyone prevent that? If in the class studying to become rabbis there's a closet pervert, if some power-hungry, messed-up-in-the-head guy goes to yeshiva, does well, and gets smicha, how would anyone know?

Finally, becoming religious has nothing to do with "trusting" a rabbi. It has to do with the truth of a religion.
It's an important lesson to learn.

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In any reasonable social system where a person is innocent until proven guilty, the guilty will sometimes go off scott free because their guilt could not be proven. That is bad, but it’s much better than the only other option, which is that a person is guilty until proven innocent, in which case you can kiss society good bye.

The solution in such cases is to put effort into obtaining evidence, such as a taped conversation or some other type of after-the-fact evidence. It can often be done, but when it cannot, there is nothing else to do, because how is anyone supposed to know who is telling the truth?

But don’t worry - no criminal in this world gets off free. There is a just G-d in heaven, and if He did not allow sufficient evidence to convict a guilty party in court or Bais Din, that means He has other plans for this fellow. It probably would have been easier on him had he been found guilty! I don’t know where or when his punishment will come - but one thing is certain: He's not getting away with it. Oh, no.

We have to have Bitachon that that is true. There is a Hashem in the world, and, as it says in Pirkei Avos "al tisya'esh min haperonus" - "Do not give up hope for punishment".

One more thing. It’s not only women that are victims - for every woman who is nebach hurt by someone, there is someone falsely accused of the same crime. I know a few Rebbeim in Yeshivos whose careers were destroyed, whose children had a miserable time finding a shiduch, and whose lives were turned inside out, because they were falsely accused by someone of being molesters or rapists or whatever. And I am talking even after their name was "cleared" in court or Din Torah. Even after, in one case that I remember from when I was a teenager, the accuser admitted to his friends that he did it as revenge for being refused a job in camp.

There is no question we have to do whatever is possible - and then some - to protect innocent girls and women - and boys - from these things. But the solution does not lie in believing everyone's story without any proof.

The solution is to follow the guidelines of the Torah, regarding due process of the law, as well as speaking Loshon Horah on those who the Halachah prohibits speaking against. Hashem runs the world, and if we help Him (kavyochol) by fulfilling His directives, He will then help us deal. If we take things into our own hands, or break the Laws, Hashem says "OK, you don’t want Me involved, do it on your own."

I'd rather have it the first way.

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I don’t know of anybody who professes sinah for another Jew because he davens another nusach.

As for the Kipah song, the song is, in quite an immature manner, implying that the ideological differences between Zionist/Modern Orthodox, and traditional orthodox are due to the type of yarlmuka people wear. I actually think it's sinas chinam to accuse Jews of having something against others because of what kind of Yarlmuka they wear. The fact that certain ideological factions within Judaism dress different ways merely makes it easier when it is true - and tempting when it is not - to identify an individual who dresses a certain way as possessing certain ideals. You can say is that someone wearing a knitted yarlmuka may still be against zionism or modern orthodoxy, and therefore you should not be quick to attribute an ideal to someone dressing like those who in general profess the ideal, although most of the time they will be right. More to the point, that just because someone has a certain ideal does not give you the right to have sinah towards them. If someone is Modern orthodox or Zionist, they probably were brought up that way or taught that way, or influenced that way, or for whatever reason unaware that the Torah is against their ideals, and therefore you cannot judge them, and cannot harbor sinah toward them.

The idea of loving another Jew does not mean you must accept as legitimate everything he does or says or believes. In fact, it is a weakness if the only way you can love another Jew is to make believe that his hashkofos are legitimate. Loving another Jew means to love him regardless of the fact that his actions or ideals are illegitimate (of course, within the boundaries and only to the extent that the Torah allows you to allows / requires you to love him).

But in any case, nobody that I have ever met harbors sinah to someone because of the style Yarlmuka he wears. Rightfully or wrongfully, it is the ideals that are attributed to that person that is the cause of the criticism - and that, too is not sinah.

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If a Jew knows of another Jew in pain or in need of something, you’re supposed to feel that pain or need as if it were your own. You know how great Tzadikim are able to nullify bad decrees from heaven?

Because if someone lets say comes to the Tzadik because maybe they have no children r"l. Maybe even, there was a Gezeirah on that person in Shamayim that they shouldn’t have children. The Tzadik has so much love for that Jew that he feels their pain as if it were his. Now, there's an "innocent" Tzadik, on whom there is no Gezriah to be hurt, who is hurting as if he r"l had no kids. And there would be no way to alleviate the pain of the Tzadik unless Hashem nullifies the Gezeirah on the childless woman.

So the Gezeirah is voided, for the sake of the Tzadik.

There was once a story where someone came to the Satmar Rebbe ZTL, asking him for money to help with his daughter's wedding, and his wife's medical expenses. And he lost his job recently, he said. When it rains it pours.

The Satmar Rebbe gave him a sum of thousands of dollars, and told him if he needs more he should come back.

A little while after he left, the Satmar Rebbe's Gabai came running in with news. "Rebbe!" He said. "We found out that man you gave all that money to, he's a faker! He doesn’t need any of that money. He ripped you off!"

"He was faking?" The Satmar Rebbe said. Boruch Hashem. I'm so glad to hear he doesn’t really have those Tzoros."

Not everyone is on the level of these great Tzadikim, and certainly not me - I'm just a regular Moderator guy - but we are all supposed to at least care about people who are suffering, feel their pain, and do whatever's in your power to help them. That’s part of the Mitzvah of V'Ahavta L'Reachah Komocha, which every Jew in the world, great Tzadik or not, is obligated to fulfill.

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I'm going to publish a bio-sketch on Moshe Rabbeinu. Here it is:

His parents, who were slaves, abandoned him shortly after birth, leaving him floating down the Nile river to certain death.

The abandoned baby was saved by the daughter of a terribly evil and immoral dictator. It was in that decadent, evil home that Moses was spent the young, impressionable years of his life.

Despite the low, anything-goes standards of immorality in his foster home, which included wanton murder, idolatry, slavery, and other crimes against humanity, Moses found himself forced to leave the country to escape an all but sure death sentence, which would have been brought down upon him by his own foster family, for killing an unarmed Egyptian. The killing, it is reported by reliable sources, was committed via supernatural means. Egypt, especially the home where Moses was raised, was known for evil, black magic.

Moses spent the next part of his life as a roaming nomad in the desert, a fugitive from justice. When confronted by G-d with the instructions to head straight back to Egypt to help his enslaved and tortured brethren, he initially refused, and only after G-d's insistence did He acquiesce to G-d’s instructions.

Moses did indeed become a leader of his slave-nation. He eventually led a revolt against the man whose daughter saved him from certain death after his own slave-mother abandoned him to the Nile river, the man who took him as an infant and opened his own home to him, adopting him as a foster son.

Eventually Moses succeeded in destroying the government that saved his life. Millions of Egyptian civilians died or suffered in the process. Even though Moses was saved from drowning by the daughter of Paroh, Moses drowned all of Paroh’s men in the Red Sea.

Later, Moses' own people tried to dislodge him from his seat of power. Several times they even tried to stone him. Once, two hundred fifty Torah scholars - head members of the Sanhedrin - joined a rebellion against Moses which was orchestrated by an exceptional individual, endowed with Ruach HaKodesh, by the name of Korach, who was disturbed at the nepotism demonstrated by Moses when, instead of holding elections for the position of Kohen Godol, appointed his own brother to the position.

All the rebels, including Korach, were killed at Moses’ command.

Besides nepotism, Moses was accused by his people of adultery and of stealing from the Sanctuary treasury. None of the allegations could be proven.

At the end of his life, Moses was prohibited, by word of G-d Himself, from going into Eretz Yisroel, even though the entire generation was allowed to enter.

There is not a single lie in that entire narration.

But the entire narration is a lie.

Using false words is not the only way to lie. If the message delivered is untrue, then the teller is a liar.

This is good to know, by the way, when you read historical accounts of anything in the world. As they say - "figures don't lie but liars can figure."

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