Tuesday, July 28, 2009

His name is Dwek!

A word about Solomon Dwek – the so called co-operating witness. He is the Charedi fellow who wore an FBI wire and tricked rabbis into thinking he was a criminal - and needed some criminally tainted money to be laundered. And they supposedly happily complied.

I have no love lost for people who become government informants to save their own skins. But was he guilty of Mesirah – the severe sin of informing against a fellow Jew to a non Jewish government?

There are many people saying that he is. But I tend to doubt it

Consider the Gemarah in Bava Metzia. It tells of about the Tanna R’ Elazar Ben Shimon. He was employed by the secular government to not only inform but to capture and turn in fellow Jews guilty of crimes against the government. And he did so zealously. One of his captures ended up with the death penalty. He was rebuked by his fellow rabbis and later regretted it. There is a lengthy discussion there about the Teshuva he did to make up for it.

I could be wrong but I do not recall what he did being called Mesirah in the Gemarah. I would think that in no way could R’ Elazar ever be convinced by a secular authority to capture a fellow Jew and hand him over to the government if by doing that he would be violating the laws of Mesirah. If I understand correctly avoiding Mesirah requires one to choose his own death rather than violating it. It is therefore hard to imagine R’ Elazar doing it.

Consider also the Halacha as stated by Rabbi Hershel Schachter:

If, however, one is guilty of a crime, and according to the law of the land deserves a prison sentence, or will be put to death, even though according to Jewish law his punishment would not be as severe, this is not mesirah (see Ritva to Bava Metsia 83b; Dvar Avraham vol. I pg. 8). One would still not be allowed to hand this individual over to the civil authorities because this is the equivalent of returning aveidas akum, which is usually not allowed. In an instance of avoiding a chilul Hashem, just like we would be obligated to return the aveidas akum, so too we would be obligated to hand over this individual (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 388:12).

I would certainly think that helping the government stop long term criminal activity does not qualify as Mesirah. An argument can even be made that if one were doing this for altruistic reasons it might even be a Kiddush HaShem.

That said I doubt that Mr. Dwek did any of this for altruistic reasons. He apparently did it to save himself after being caught in his own crime. A Kiddush HaShem it is not. But Mesirah? I don’t think so.

What is troubling to me is the fact that there is an entire mindset among some Jews – mostly Charedim that focus only on this. The condemnations are all about Dwek and little if anything is being said about these criminal rabbis.

In my view these are two separate issues. Talking about Mr. Dwek is a distraction. In my view - what these rabbis supposedly did is such a Chilul HaShem that Mr. Dwek’s co-operation with the authorities is a minor issue by comparison.

Those who continue to complain about him and say nothing about these criminal rabbis once again shows just how pervasive is the idea that what these rabbis did wasn’t all that bad. What WAS too bad is that they were caught.

I hope at the Agudah meeting tonight that Mr. Dwek’s name is not even mentioned. Because I am sure that some people in attendance will hear only that and ignore any Mussar about the criminal acts of these rabbis - which are the source of the Chilul HaShem.

And I certainly hope there is no apologetics! There has to be clear and unequivocal condemnation of what happened. No Limud Zechus. There should be nothing said tonight that could possibly weaken that message.

If the way things are done in this community don’t change then this WILL happen again.