When my father lived in Bnei Brak, he used to Daven at a nearby Shteeble that was run by someone known as the Bilitzer Rebbe. He was quite a Talmid Chacham and at the same time a very friendly fellow who enjoyed my father’s company and they confided in each other with many things. During my father’s 18 years living in Bnei Brak he became aware one time of a Chasid who was charged with being an illegal drug dealer.
My father could not believe that a Chasidishe fellow like this could ever do anything like that. When he mentioned this to the Bilitzer Rebbe, his response to my father was something like: Look, Reb Shimon, You have to understand, this fellow has a large family with many children to feed. You have to be Dan L’Kaf Zechus!
My father came home after that conversation and immediately had a cow. He was livid with anger at the Bilitzer Rebbe for having this attitude. He told me this story during one of my many visits to Bnei Brak and his anger was clear. How could anyone stick up for someone who sells illegal drugs to young kids – even of they are not Jewish?! What manner of man does that? And what manner of man tries to excuse it in any way?! My father lost all respect for the Bilitzer Rebbe after that.
I believe that that the Bilitzer Rebbe’s attitude causes us more harm than does even that Chasidic drug dealer. Expressing sympathy is almost tantamount to expressing approval. It increases the chances that others will do the same should their economic personal circumstances be pressing enough. If they are desperate to support their families they might turn to crime and should they get caught everyone would be sympathetic and understand their predicament.
Selling drugs to people outside of Bnei Brak becomes a solution even if there is no one who would actually permit it outright. If they get caught – what he did was understandable and easily forgiven. The attitude of the community becomes - as long as our own kids don’t get hurt who cares. He needs the money. Caveat emptor! Poor man… he has 11 children to support.
Unfortunately this problem did not go away. My father passed away almost 20 years ago. And it is still happening. And our way of dealing with it seems to be similar to that of the Bilitzer Rebbe. And by ‘our’ I mean all of us – including secular Israel.
What is the result of this kind of sympathy? Chazal has an expression that can be paraphrased as follows: Being kind to the cruel will result in being cruel to the kind. That’s what happened today in a story reported on Matzav.
31 year old Benzion Miller, the drug lord (pictured) tricked some naive young Chasidic boys into smuggling illegal drugs (Ecstasy) for him into Japan. He was caught and sent to prison for 3 years. But he is being released by an Israeli parole board – for good behavior - after serving 8 only months. But the boys he tricked boys are paying a far heavier price for their naiveté.
I am not going to go into their level of guilt or innocence. Whatever crime they are or are not guilty of, I am fairly convinced they did not know they were smuggling drugs. But they were all nonetheless found guilty of it and given prison sentences. The latest two were given a six year prison term with credit for time served (about 2 years).
What a miscarriage of Justice! How a lying drug dealer who cares so little about his own people can be shown any leniency while his victims pay such a heavy price is beyond me. Good behavior? With punishments like this he’ll be out in the street in no time doing the same thing – tricking naïve Chasidic children into smuggling drugs for him. Only this time he will make sure not to get caught.
I guess the Israeli parole board and the Bilitzer Rebbe have the same philosophy here. Miller must have a big family to feed.