Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'm disgusted

This post has nothing to do with nusach, shul, singing avinu avinu, using silly Boradway melodies for kedusha or gonging. I'm writing this post not as the NF but as a simple Jew who has had enough of hearing how our religious "leaders" have once again been exposed as at best, morally deficient and at worst, frauds and charlatans.

Many of you may read blogs such as failed messiah, unorthodox jew and daas torah which document on a seemingly daily basis the expose of another misuse of power on the part of someone with the title "rabbi". No particular migzar (group) seems to be immune --- The Spinka Rebbe is in Jail for money laundering, there is last summer's raid on the Syrian community,  "Mekubalim" are exposed as frauds now and again after promising to exorcise dibbuks or make sure your wish comes true --- of course if the check you have written is large enough....of course we have the Leib Tropper affair. There is the Washington Post story raising serious questions about the sofer claiming to sell "Holocaust" Torahs.  Earlier this week you may have read about the "prominent NY chazzan" stealing tzedakka money from his mother in law (the Holocaust survivor). (I'm intentionally leaving out the links here ---- you can google any one of these items and get a plethora of hits.)  (Please note that many of the stories above are alleged and some reflect situations where inidividuals plead guilty.)

However one recent news item has trully shaken my faith and trust in our religious leadership:
The Mordechai Elon affair. For years the Dati L'eumi community has looked to Rav Elon as one of our religious and educational leaders. I am generally not one to judge another person's behavior. When the story first broke, I immeadetly assumed that there had been some misunderstanding --- years ago Rav Aviner --- another leader was accused of sexual impropriety but his name was eventually cleared. But when Rav Aharon Lichtenstein goes on the reconrd stating exactly what had happened (and that he has recieved threatening messages), it's hard to be dan lkaf zechut. I have no idea is Rav Elon did anything wrong. But it is enough that there are claims against him and that Rav Lichtenstein (among others) is condemning him to shake my faith and trust in our leadership.
---  And if we cannot trust the Mordechai Elons of our community, what rabbanim can we trust?

Currently, my belief in the "Aseh l'cha Rav" system is 99% dead. All I see are rabbanim who mis-use psak or their leadership positions to gain power and control or wealth. With that in mind, I don't know who can be trusted anymore. How can I tell which rav is a liar?, which one is a theif?, which one is having an affair? and which one knows less halacha than me but bought his semicha online? If it weren't a practical impossibility, I would stop using hechsherim --- How is it that a rav that will lie and steal and shtup little boys is suddenly reliable to tell me that the chicken I'm buying at the supermarket is ok?

Praying for better times with more trustworthy leadership,

A simple Jew


ADDeRabbi said...

Paradoxically, the highly responsible manner in which RAL and the Takana forum handled the affair has gone a long way to restoring my faith that there can be a sober, non-charismatic, courageous, and relevant rabbinic leadership.

This week, more than ever before, I am proud to say that Rav Lichtenstein IS my Rav, IS the leader of the community that I affiliate with, and CAN be trusted completely and totally.

It is implicit from your post that you feel the same as me - you implicitly trust RAL. Perhaps I'm not as shaken as you because I never put my trust in Elon or any other individual charismatic leader in the first place.

Michael Sedley said...

I Agree with ADDeRabbi,

This is a terrible affair, but is seems to be that many people in positions of responsibility (politic, religious, entertainment, financial) are up against urges stronger than they can control.

This is not the first time that a significant leader in the Dati Luimi community was accused of inappropriate behaviour, which is why the Takana forum was set up, and it seems to be that in this particular case the system is working.
Rav Motti was removed from a setting where he could do harm, and they kept a close watch on him, eventually going public.

This is in sharp contrast with previous scandals where rabbis or roshei yeshiva were allowed to stay in their position for years or decades after the first accusations were brought to the relevant governing body.

Isaac said...

The "aseh l'cha rav system" no longer works?
I didn't realize it ever worked to begin with. When we think about the provenance of that dictum it suddenly themes pretty self-serving: rabbis telling us to have rabbis.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

Ethan I said...

I agree with the comments regarding the Takana forum. Not only RAL, but R. Yuval Cherlow, Rabbanit Henken, the rosh yeshiva of Ariel and several others are on the board. It's sobering and reassuring to see that there's a balance. Not only are there painful examples of corruption and inappropriate actions but also those of responsibility and courage. We really need to recognize both if we want to have an honest assessment of the community.