Friday, August 07, 2009

Rabbinic Leadership – Then and Now

The janitor in an Orthodox-owned factory recently asked his boss, "If you really are the Chosen People, why are you all so corrupt?"

"Don't judge Judaism by the Jews." But the Torah is judged, for better or worse, by the behavior of Torah Jews.

A non-religious Jew once asked him, "Rabbi, how do you explain all these religious Jews who lie, steal, and cheat on their income taxes."

Reb Mottel replied, "I have the same question about all those religious Jews who eat on Yom Kippur, drive on Shabbos, and don't keep kosher." The man looked perplexed. "Those aren't religious," he said. "Well, neither are those you mentioned," Reb Mottel replied.

An Orthodox prison chaplain relates how he once brought a prisoner a set of the Four Species for Sukkos. The prisoner, however, rejected the esrog, telling the chaplain, "I'm makpid (strict) on a pitom." The chaplain could not resist asking, "About a pitom you are strict, and about defrauding widows you are lenient?"

How many would feel comfortable having Rabbi Shimon Schwab, zt"l, examine our books, if he were still alive? A rabbi once called Rabbi Schwab and began his question, "A frum Jew who runs a cash business . . ." He had gotten no further when Rabbi Schwab shouted, "WHAT!"

Thinking that Rabbi Schwab was hard of hearing, the rabbi began again, "A frum Jew who runs a cash business . . ." Again, Rabbi Schwab shouted, "WHAT!" After the third try, Rabbi Schwab explained that running a cash business – i.e.., evading taxes – cannot be reconciled with being a frum Jew.

I did not write these words. They are excerpts from an article written by Jonathan Rosenblum. My hat is off to him. He has written a column I could have written – I wish I had written. His views on this subject are identical to mine. I have in fact expressed these views in my own way. But Jonathan is a far better writer than I am. More importantly he is Charedi – writing on a website that I believe is associated with Agudah.

Not only is this proof positive that mainstream Charedim are not only upset at what is going on in the world but are writing about it. And they are quoting Gedolim of an earlier generation to back them up.

There was no: ‘It’s Mutar to cheat on your taxes if you don’t get caught’ or similar statements as there is today. Unfortunately there is more than one Posek being quoted as saying these kinds of things. One - I personally witnessed!

Can anyone imagine what Rav Motel would say about such ‘Poskim’?! There is only condemnation - even angry condemnation - of these kinds of activities and the people who do them. I have never heard any Gadol or Posek of that generation say or do anything that is not a Kiddush HaShem. That does not mean that they didn’t err. They were human. But they were as close to walking, talking, living, breathing Sifrei Torah as is humanly possible. And they had the character to match!

Oy Meh Hayah Lanu!