Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rabbis Who Destroy Lives

The extent of incompetency in the Charedi rabbinate - whether in America or in Israel - seems to be at epidemic proportion. To wit - a couple of years ago I posted a letter from a victim of abuse which in my view puts this into stark relief. A young man from a Charedi family whose father was in Chinuch was sexually abused by a member of his community. Time passed and he eventually went ‘Off the Derech’ because of the way sex abuse was treated in those days (ala the book Hush).

Long story short after a going off the Derech his father finally agreed to see a respected Charedi Rav to try and get some justice for his son. After the victim told this Rav what happened to him he basically got spat upon. The Rav told him that since he was no longer religious, he no longer had any Ne’emanus. His testimony about being abused cannot therefore be believed and the abuser was to be considered an innocent man.

Although there has been some improvement in how these things are handled in the Charedi establishment, there are plenty of enclaves of incompetence along the lines of the rabbi in the above story. In those cases there are Charedi rabbis who are looked up to for advice on serious matters and yet give advice without the slightest bit of training. And in the process they abuse innocent people by ‘Paskening’ incorrectly.

Over 20 years ago I heard Rabbi Moshe Tendler making the same point. He was a scholar in residence at an HTC weekend. At the Melave Malke he spoke about his father-in law, Rav Moshe Feinstein’s method of Psak versus that of many lesser but still respected Poskim. Rav Moshe never Paskined without investigating the matter in question with experts in the field.

By contrast many lesser Poskim just shot from the hip. They knew Halacha. But they had virtually no expertise in the field in which they were Paskening. They simply assumed they knew ...and Paskined accordingly. They therefore often made grievous errors based on their ignorance and their arrogance. They did not bother to do the research on the subject that would have given them the knowledge necessary to Paskin correctly. This is arrogance of the highest order.

Now 20 years later in this week’s Ami Magazine Rav Hershel Shachter makes a similar observation. This time it is about rabbis on rabbinical courts – Battei Din. To put it mildly – he had nothing good to say about them.

One case in point mentioned by Rav Schachter is the following. In their infinite stupidity on matters pertaining to family dysfunction they will almost always side with a husband in cases of divorce as soon as he mentions the words ‘Shalom Bayis’ – family peace. When he says those magic words followed by ‘I don’t want the divorce, she does’ …game over. The wife is seen as a Moredes – a rebellious wife who only seeks to break up the family.

After all - they foolishly reason - divorce is never a good option. The person seeking the divorce is seen as the obstacle and blamed for breaking up the family. So they will try and convince the woman to stop seeking the divorce and reconcile with her husband. It almost doesn’t matter what her reasons are. She is asked to forgive and forget. Even in cases of mental or physical abuse. Even when there has been sex abuse of children.

Instead of their seeing the situation as one of Pikuach Nefesh for both the wife and the children these ignorant and arrogant ‘Dayanim’ think such a marriage can be saved.

In my view these rabbis are not only incompetent, they are Reshaim. And yet with their Charedi gestalt (e.g. Kapotes, beards and Peyos) and reputations as Poskim they have the stature and the power to destroy families - especially children.

They wield tremendous power and enjoy the respect of their community. After all they do know Halacha. They do know how to Paskin when a pot is Treif and explain how to Kasher it. They give Shiurim.

Yes, they are men of respect and stature. But they are also ignoramuses whose know-it-all arrogance causes great pain and suffering. They will Paskin poorly yet think they have done great things.

I have no answer to this problem other than to spread the word about them. After reading the interview of Rav Shachter in Ami Magazine and the horrible state of rabbinical courts I felt the need to add my own Amen to it. These corrupt courts and their incompetant rabbis ought to cease operation. All pressure must be brought to bear on them. Because if they don’t, innocent Jewish lives will continue to be destroyed.

Modified: 10/25/11