Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Defending the Rubashkins

There are some people who feel the need to defend the indefensible. They seem to feel that if a religious Jew has been accused of various crimes, that they must be defended and given the benefit of the doubt even if they are found guilty as charged. This is especially true when those accused are ‘close to home’.

The issue at hand here is justifying the mistreatment of workers at Agriprocessors – taking advantage of their status as illegal aliens because they are not Jews.

There have been many who have tried to defend Agriprocessors for this reason, but no one has been more aggressive in their defense than the members of the same club: Lubavitch. The owners - you see - are Lubavitchers.

This has been a real education for me. For quite some time now, I have been saying that one of the primary tools Lubavitch uses in their Kiruv efforts is the principle of ‘the ends justifying the means’. I have shown examples of this attitude in the past. They will mislead people about their actual beliefs if it serves a Kiruv purpose. But in recent days one Lubavitcher has outdone himself. The manner in which he justifies Agriprocessors crossed the line from defending a ‘club member’ to causing broad Chilul HaShem.

One might argue that this one individual does not represent the whole. I agree. But I keep encountering anecdotes that show the same pattern of behavior. He has done what other Lubavitchers have done time and again in defending the indefensible. This time it is because the accusations involve a Lubavitcher. They call it Chilul Lubavitch. And they will use any means necessary to defend bad behavior – twisting and distorting even Torah law just to make Lubavitch look right and everyone else look wrong.

His defense of the mistreatment of their non Jewish workers by the Rubashkins (who own Agriprocessors) consisted of the idea that non Jews are lesser human beings – and can be exploited - treated less fairly than Jews in similar circumstances. And he cited many examples of where Halacha demonstrates that this is the case

In doing so he painted an extremely negative picture about what we Jews 'really believe'. He flatly states that the Rubashkins are not guilty of any Halacha violations since they are entitled by Halacha do almost anything they wished to non Jews, as long as they don't get caught. All the things they have been accused of are perfectly permissible, Halachicly. US law is meaningless in deciding how we should act. Only Halacha dictates what is required of us, not US law. That makes what the Rubashkins did - OK. This is his version of Judasim.

I wouldn’t bring up his distorted views it were simply a debate between us – two people arguing privately in an e-mail. But I happen to know that this is a very articulate fellow who shared his views with a great many people. Including non Orthodox Jews who repeat what they heard from this ‘knowledgeable bearded Jew’ to their friends - Jew and non Jew alike. Who knows how many people have been infected by his rhetoric. It could easily be in the thousands. I must therefore make a public protest.

One could easily conclude from his rhetoric that the infamous anti-Semitic book ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ is right! …that we do have a conspiracy to subjugate ‘the Goyim’ as our slaves and rule the world! He even mentions that blood libels. Our claim that blood is forbidden to consume is only partially true. Blood that gets mixed into a batch of kosher food is rendered inconsequential and permitted if in small enough quantities. Who said Jews don’t use blood to bake Matzah?!

At the very least expressing this attitude qualifies for the Ramban's Naval B'Reshus HaTorah - an individual who does disgusting things that are not expressly forbidden in the Torah. But is forbidden. We are commanded: Kedoshim Tihiyu - You should be holy.

Instead of speaking about how every human being is created in the image of God and to be treated with equal justice, he speaks of non Jews as lesser human beings unworthy of violating Shabbos in order to save their lives.

I have mentioned this in the past. The Yerushalmi in Bava Metzia records the story of Shimon Ben Shetach who was struggling to make a living. He was upset that his Talmidim used the letter of the law to try and keep the valuable ‘find’ of a non Jew that would have greatly benefited their Rebbe -and not return it to its rightful owner. Shimon Ben Shetach made them return it immediately. "Do you think I am a barbarian' he asked? He was more interested in hearing ‘blessed is the God of the Jews’, than making a living!

But not to this fellow. He would have said, why bother?! Let it go to Shimon Ben Shetach. He deserves it more than they do and will put it to better use.

Refusing to grant the same degree of justice to non Jews as to Jews violates the precept of Kavod Habrios, the dignity of man - and human rights!

Chazal say it was Moshe Rabbenu who taught us how one should act toward non Jews. When he ran away from Egypt he came upon a well where he saw an injustice being done between gentiles. A group of shepherds tried to drive away Yisro's daughters so they could water their flock first.

Moshe Rabbenu could have easily taken the easy way out, and not gotten involved. After all - getting involved in the disputes of others is how he got into trouble in the first place. But he chose to act so that justice could be restored. Our sages tell us that this incident teaches that when ever it is in our power we must act to pursue justice, whether it be for Jew or a non Jew. This emulates the ways of God. Mistreating non Jewish workers does not.

Since he is a Lubavitcher - his zeal in defending Agriprocessors can be understood. But his arguments are such a Chilul HaShem - it boggles the mind how an intelligent God fearing Jew can be so foolish and so wrong about the behavior the Torah expects of us.