Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Honesty and the Jewish Community VIII: Quotable Interjection

(continued as part of this series)

"Anonymous" recently made the following comment on a post:
IMO as long as he is supporting frum families it makes no difference if it is stolen money.
It doesn't appear that there is a logical reply to someone who thinks in such a twisted fashion and truly believes this, but it brought to mind the following observation of a Gemara made recently by R' Yitzchak Adlerstein at Cross-Currents:
The latter version tells us that serious sin is no bar to emunah. Chonyo could try to kill his brother for his aggrandizement, but this would not get in the way of his seeing himself as remaining within the basic faith. People rationalize all sorts of things, including the worst transgressions.

The former version, however, shows us that an upstanding member of the community whose safety is jeopardized by someone close and trusted, and who is then let down by a community that does not protect him, will easily run headlong out of the fold, and take up the embrace of an alien ideology. He has had enough of the one he used to be comfortable in. If he can be treated so savagely by people he trusts, and if the community at large is powerless to save him, he will walk out.
In light of what numerous friends of ours (and we) have gone through the past years, it seemed an apropos pair of thoughts - particularly when combined.

There appears to be a general feeling among a thankfully small but unfortunately not insignificant portion of the Orthodox community which feels that various indiscretions and transgressions, no matter the size or impact, somehow do not take away from one's faith (or even enhance, as seen above). Worse in a fashion, however, is the shrugging of shoulders and sometimes outright support to the transgressors, even at the expense of those upstanding members of the community whose safety were jeopardized by these formerly close and trusted individuals.

Some of the primary thrusts of this series are to demonstrate just how dangerous this attitude is for those people who are jeopardized and how important it is that as a community we stamp out not only corruption, but support for corrupt individuals. It was unexpected to find that there are some who do not grasp the basic concepts of right and wrong, but as it is futile to convince those who are capable of rationalizing anything, this series will not attempt to do so. Those who believe evil is justified will continue to justify such acts to themselves and one another, and the only way to deal with such people is to isolate and expose them - at least, the ones who aren't placed in prison first.


  1. Nice article, thanks for the information.

  2. In a way, this discussion reminds me of another hot-button issue in the Orthodox world: homosexuality. Leaving aside the other major points at issue, the thing that might be hardest to grapple with is how to handle someone who is otherwise frum, but openly admits/embraces a specific sin. Let me be clear: this is not to cast judgment on anyone. We all have our struggles. I think what separates homosexuality in this regard is that there is a struggle for acceptance. One of the things that's changed recently, for better and worse, is that people now don't necessarily see being frum and being gay as mutually exclusive. My sense is there are a lot more people coming out and staying otherwise frum than there were even a few years ago.

    What's the connection to this? The concept of "as long as... it makes no difference" can be applied to that argument. We as a community can struggle with how to handle an openly gay couple living an otherwise frum life, but at the end of the day, their sin should have no bearing on anything else. But when it comes to money, and taking illegally or immorally from one place and giving, even charity, to another, is nothing but a mitzva haba'ah ba'aveira. People ask if they'd be comfortable if their kid had a classmate with gay parents. Personally I'd be more concerned if my kid had a classmate whose father was a known crook and was giving money to the school. (Caveat: not an indefinite punishment - I mean when it's "known" that the money being used was achieved through illegal/unethical means, and no restitution was made for the crimes.)

    I don't have a problem when religious leaders or institutions take money from people that have certain actions on their resume that might call their character into judgment. No, giving money to charity won't make people forget the past action, but they are separate and distinct from each other. Religious people or institutions who take money from people while knowing that the money is seriously problematic - they should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. Ezzie well said!! It seems to me that the defenders of these scam artists are somehow complicit and probably profited from the various scams.

  4. Any Jew who takes exception, and on principle yet (i.e., not as a temporary concession to his yetzer hara or weakness), to a Torah prohibition applicable now to him can't be called Orthodox.

  5. Anon1 - I think that actually was reasonably apropos, though openly living with another person would be a trickier situation (i.e. similar to an open flaunting of other things).

    Anon2 - They often are. Some directly benefit from inside tips and the like, others play a (minor) role in the scam itself.

  6. people don't stop to think that not"stealing"- in any form is one of the 10 commandments!

  7. And what of the Rabbis of their communities? Have they shame or honor? Aren't they somehow complicit in these scams as well? By taking their "Tzedakah" even after finding out that the money is tainted? These "rabbis" should be shunned as well as far as I am concerned.