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March 27, 2015 / 7 Nisan, 5775
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Telling It like It Is

The defacto infallibility of "gedolim" alienates “both those who were brought up frum and especially for those who were not.”
gedolim

(The) overinflated claim of near perfection and infallibility of the Gedolim I believe is not only incorrect it a major cause for the alienation of many Jews; both those who were brought up frum and especially for those who were not.

Many people on the right will dispute this statement. They will say it’s not true and explain that it isn’t that they believe that the Gedolim are infallible. Of course they aren’t. Infallibilty of a human being is not a Jewish concept. Of course they are human and can make mistakes.

But…! (wait for it…) Since they are the greatest people of the generation, they are the ones to be most believed. They have the most credibility. Why would they listen to anyone of lesser stature who might contradict their words?

The problem with that is of course that they end up being infallible in practical application – if not in theory. The result – among many other things – is that this defacto infallibility alienates “both those who were brought up frum and especially for those who were not.”

When I have made statements like the one in the opening paragraph I have been accused of going against Daas Torah and bashing Gedolim. Something that puts me outside the pale of Orthodoxy – at least as the right wing defines it. How dare I have the Chutzpah to disagree with a Gadol? Do I know more than him? If for example he believes the right thing to do is report sex abuse to a rabbinic committee for approval instead of to the police, how dare I ignore them and report it to the police?!

How often have we heard when a prominent person, perhaps even a rebbe or a rabbi is accused of the ‘unspeakable’ we suddenly hear a chorus of supporters coming forward to claim, “I know this man well. He is a Talmid Chochom and a Frum Yid, there is no way he engaged in the horrific acts you are accusing him of committing.

The victim is the ‘evil one’ as often they have left the path of Torah (can you blame them?) and now they are conveniently placed in the box of ‘evil’.

However, as time goes on, the allegations become fact and the suspicions become reality. And the perpetrator was indeed a respected (man)…

There is a wonderful young man in Ramat Bet Shemesh who has been ostracized by the Charedi rabbis there. “He didn’t listen to them!” They told him not report a suspected molester to the police – but he did. He has now been deemed a Rasha by those Rabbanim – and thus the majority of Charedim there. They believe in the rabbis. They – after all – represent Daas Torah. They have said that this young man was wrong for reporting the suspected abuser to the police against their will.

I asked one of the Charedim in that community why they believe these rabbis over the protestations of this young man who was only trying to do the right thing? The answer was that they know these rabbis to be of impeccable integrity and they would never do anything like this if it weren’t warranted. Who should they believe?! …these rabbis of impeccable reputation that have dedicated their lives to the welfare of their people at great personal sacrifice? … or someone who does not listen to the rabbis and reports a fellow Jew to the police – thus ruining his life?

This is a danger of seeing human beings no matter how honest and how sincere – no matter how committed they are to doing the right thing – as infallible! Is it not possible that these rabbis made a mistake? I think it is very possible and happens all the time for reasons stated by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisneman.

I did not make the above quoted statements. It was Rabbi Eisenman. This is a man of integrity and great courage who is unafraid to tell it like it is in public. These quotes are taken form an essay he wrote (published last Friday on his website) on his weekly ‘Short Vort’ – which is usually a short Dvar Torah relating to the week’s Torah portion. It is a masterpiece of Emes. His insights are incredible. He pulls no punches in telling the truth.  I hate to use this cliché – but t is a must read!

I do not recall any Charedi Rav ever saying anything like this in public. His honesty and insight is matched by few people.

I don’t know Rabbi Eisenman. I have never met him. But he is one of my heroes. His views are much the same as my own. As I read this piece over Shabbos, I felt like I was reading my own words. I hope Rabbi Eisenman doesn’t mind if I say that we are kindred spirits.

What makes this essay significant is what kind of person said it. Rabbi Eisenman is not Modern Orthrodox. He is Charedi. He has been published many times in Charedi magazines like Mishpacha and Ami.  One cannot accuse him of bashing Charedim. What he ‘bashes’ is the unhealthy way in which the Charedi world has evolved with respect to viewing their Gedolim. And he tells us the dangers inherent in this newly evolved ‘product’.

This is not the first time I have been impressed with Rabbi Eisenman. He has a sensitivity to those outside of his own community that is rare among men. Not long ago he wrote a brilliant essay strongly disagreeing with a commonly used phrase about non religious Jews. The phrase is ‘Not yet Frum Jews’. He found it to be terribly condescending and arrogant!

And then there was another incident where he rose to the occasion. It happened at the ‘Interent Asifa’ a couple of years ago. Rabbi Eisenman attended it. Outside the stadium where this event took place stood a group of sex abuse victims and their advocates. They were protesting outside the Assifa complaining that their very serious issues were being being given very short shrift. For the most part they were ignored by the attendees and the prominent Rabbanim that spoke at the event. But they were not ignored by Rabbi Eisenman. He went up to them and stood by them for a while – recognizing the justice of their cause. So I add him to my list of Charedi heroes. Which among others includes Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz. These are the men who should be leading Charedi Jewry. They’ve got it right.

How often have we heard when a prominent person, perhaps even a rebbe or a rabbi is accused of the ‘unspeakable’ we suddenly hear a chorus of supporters coming forward to claim, “I know this man well. He is a Talmid Chochom and a Frum Yid, there is no way he engaged in the horrific acts you are accusing him of committing.

The victim is the ‘evil one’ as often they have left the path of Torah (can you blame them?) and now they are conveniently placed in the box of ‘evil’.

However, as time goes on, the allegations become fact and the suspicions become reality. And the perpetrator was indeed a respected (man)…

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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One Response to “Telling It like It Is”

  1. Stuart Rosenthal says:

    I generally don't have an issue with going to the Rabbis first but the question is what are they (Rabbis) doing to solve the problem? Are they demanding the alleged perpetrator complete a course of therapy? Do they have a professional they can turn to for advice? Will they go to the police if all else fails? If they do not have the wherewithal or desiret to fix the problem, the victim should go to the authorities

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Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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