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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Rabbis are only able to release themselves from culpability if they took all the means necessary to protect and warn the people of any potential danger."


by Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, New Jersey

“Is Silence Always Golden?”

I am very hesitant to write what I am about to say.

There is no doubt that some will feel that ‘sweeping the dirt under the rug’ is the best policy.

And there are those who will question my decision to write by claiming, “Why discuss uncomfortable issues? Those who are in positions of ‘authority’ are dealing with the issue; so why bring up an issue which others are already dealing with?”

Perhaps the two above mentioned responses have validity; indeed, there is no obligation to publicize that which is no longer a danger to my readership.

However, perhaps that above sentence is not true?

Perhaps there is still a danger?

Perhaps the scourge of abuse has not been eradicated just yet from our midst?

Unfortunately, based on private information which reliable individuals have confided with me, I realize that the below mentioned ‘incident’ is neither a singular aberrant nor is it an anomalistic oddity.

I am also not claiming nor insinuating that ‘the incident’ is endemic nor rampant in our community, and most certainly it is not of pandemic levels.

Yet, it also cannot be truthfully classified as completely aberrant behavior and therefore I feel compelled, indeed, even obligated in my position as a rabbinic leader to speak out.

This past week a man who occupied a position of respect, power, authority and influence (“Mashgiach Ruchani” -spiritual counselor) in a Yeshiva for post high school boys was arrested in Israel on charges of violating the female members of his extended family.

The accused, according to documents released has already confessed to the illicit actions to the internationally respected Beis Din of Rav Karelitz in Bnei Brak. The Beis Din upon learning of the hideous and serious nature of the actions, correctly and promptly turned the case over to law enforcement agencies who in turn arrested and incarcerated the accused perpetrator of these unspeakable atrocities.
What then is there to write?

Why the need to publicize that which others have spoken about and why the need to inform others if they don’t know about it? Is not the accused criminal already behind bars? Will not the justice system of the State of Israel deal with the issue? Why the need to speak more?

This is a good question which I grappled and wrestled with for a long time before writing the following words.

The reason I write is the following:

According to the clear and highly specific indictment, which includes explicit and exact details supplied by the victims-some of whom are now married women with children- the accused was able to achieve his hideous and repugnant goals by convincing the unsuspecting and innocent victims that his actions constituted neither Aveira nor Issur; quite the opposite. By misquoting various ‘clips’ from our Sages in the Talmud and by even utilizing an edited and cryptic recording from Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, the accused was able to dupe his less educated and highly vulnerable female relatives into submission and turn them into confused religiously conflicted and highly traumatized victims by “convincing” them that his actions were Mitzvohs and actually permitted according to Halacha.

Specifically because of the accused’s position of rabbinic authority he was able to confound and confuse the women with assurances of rabbinic dispensation in order to manipulate and control his gullible and naïve female minions into submitting to these horrific, heinous, hideous and vicious acts of soul-scarring abuse. These acts were perpetrated from the time his relatives were as young as six and continued until they were married women and mothers.

Such was the wicked power of this nefarious, vile, manipulative and destructive “Mashgiach”.

Why do I write these things?

Who is benefiting from my dissemination and publication of these acts?

Is not the accused already in jail?

Am I hanging out ‘our dirty laundry in the street’?

Many of my readers have no idea what incident I am even referring to as the case occurred in Israel.

Why then do I write?

Do I have a need to be sensational and a muckraker?

I am sure many will critique me for this column; why do I need the pain and aggravation?

The reason is simple.

The Torah tells us "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see [this crime]." (Devarim 21:7)
We learn from here that the rabbinic leaders have an obligation not to ‘close their eyes’ to the deviancies’ of the people.

Rabbis are only able to release themselves from culpability if they took all the means necessary to protect and warn the people of any potential danger.

And therefore I write.

I don’t write for personal honor as I know I will be criticized.

I don’t write to smear anyone as I don’t know anyone involved in this incident.

However, I do write for I feel I have one thing to add; one point to contribute which may, just may help one person avoid the pain, humiliation and scarring of being victimized.

And therefore I write.

If there is one contribution I can add, one small morsel of advice which I feel we learn from the above mentioned tragedy it is the following:

Friends, teach your children from an early age that:

  “No one, absolutely no one…. Whatever the circumstances (unless of course a doctor with a parent or nurse present) has the right to touch you in any way shape or form.”

 “If anyone does touch you, no matter how innocuous the touch may be, tell your parents immediately.”

We must inculcate in our children (perhaps especially our daughters) the Torah true FACT that no one, absolutely NO ONE has the right or the permission to touch them in ANY WAY.

Even if that person is a respected Torah figure and even if that figure is a relative and even if that figure quotes Torah sources, we must tell our children with the same passion and zeal that we tell them “Shema Yisroel” that, “NO ONE has a right to touch you or even discuss with you things you are uncomfortable discussing.”

This incident, as horrific as it is, must be viewed as an opportunity from Hashem Yisborach which we must utilize to the fullest to prevent such an episode from ever repeating itself.

We must not sweep this incident under the rug; quite the opposite, we must shout if from the roof tops and we must view it for what it is: a G-d given clarion call for all of us to insure through the proper education of our children that this never happen again!

I am not saying anything novel or creative; everything I say was said already stated by Chazal generations ago.

The Gemara in Chulin (91a) informs us that the “man” who came to fight and wrestle with Yakov appeared to him dressed as a Talmid Chochom!

The Gemara is clearly teaching that no one is above reproach.

Of course we must teach our children to be respectful of their elders and teachers and we do not want to foment a mentality in which ‘everyone is secretly a vile individual’.

However, we also can no longer have the luxury of not informing our children that there are dangers out there and although we hope they are few and far between, nevertheless, precautions are always needed.

“Honor people and suspect people”; this is the advice given by our sages (based on the Medrash in Kallah Rabbasi 9).

We must follow the ways of sages and on one hand we must respect and honor all; simultaneously, we have an obligation to provide our children with the tools and the knowledge they need to protect themselves in an ever evolving and complicated world.

Please forgive me if I offended anyone with my candidness and please note: I myself would have wished I never would have had to pen these lines…. However, I also feel not to have written them would be shirking my responsibility as a Rav.

I pray my words have the desired impact.
“If Not Now, Then When?”-

Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

3 comments:

LVF said...

Thank you Rabbi Eisenman, exceptionally well written.

Kol Hakavod

rap said...

what is the resolve besides "don't let anyone touch you"
this is a good eitsa, but it falls short in the real world.

once a person is confronted and subjected to abuse, facing a skilled predator,
a relative etc. this advice won't help.

we are headed for another exile. its Parashas Bechukosai in Israel this week.
The Nekam Bris is upon all of the Klal. VeHalachti imuchem BeHamas Keiri.

Shabbat Shalom.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Eisenman,
Thank you for your words... You are a spark of light in this ever dark world... and it is getting darker all the time. Hashem Yeracheim! I don't know how to send my son to cheder every day. I feel guilty and afraid... what does Hshem want from me?? I live in Jerusalem... there are many many stories of things going on... I don't know what or who to believe... It is terrifying... No one is saying anything openly... they are interested in talking to you ONCE it happens... can you imagine??

leah R