Friday, August 26, 2016

The Bilitzer Rebbe

Photo from TOI for illustrative purposes only
Everybody has to make a living. Of you are a Charedi Jew that living needs to be substantial if your family is the typically large one so common in the Chareid world. Unfortunately As I have lamented many times, there is much poverty in those circles because of the lifestyle they choose. They are willing to sacrife much for the privelge of full time Torah study. In this they are generally supported by their wives who go out to work to help support that lifestyle. But in far too many cases that income just is not enough. How to remedy this situation has been the subject of many posts here.

But there are some among them that do not need my advice. They are very resourceful.  And might even have the blessing of their rabbinic leaders for unorthodox ways of doing so. At least tactily if not overtly.

Case in point. An article in the Times of Israel reports that several Charedi men were involved in a very successful business enterprise. Had they not been caught, they could have provided a wonderful living for the very large families they no doubt have. HaLevai (if only) all Jews make the kind of money these very enterprising Charedi Jews made. 

Unfortunately for them, they no longer have this option available as a means of income. That’s because as I said they were caught. What exactly were they doing that was so bad? What was so bad about the way they were making money? Here is the rest of the story: 
Israeli customs officials recently arrested two ultra-Orthodox men at Ben Gurion Airport in possession of 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds) of cocaine stashed in a suitcase.
Several other men are suspected of involvement in attempt to smuggle the illegal substance, Channel 2 reported Friday.
A suspect’s lawyer told Channel 2 that his client was arrested two weeks ago and said he was given the suitcase in Amsterdam to bring to Israel without knowledge of its contents.
Police were investigating the possibility of a larger drug smuggling ring attempting to bring hundreds of pounds of cocaine into the country.
The bust was the latest in a series of arrests of alleged drug smugglers attempting to sneak illegal substances into the country. In July officers seized five kilograms (11 pounds) of ecstasy found in liquid form in a man’s suitcase.
The drug, said to be worth NIS 2 million ($524,000), was concealed inside wine bottles and absorbed within the walls of a suitcase.
Three ultra-Orthodox Israeli men were also nabbed in July for allegedly operating an international drug trafficking operation after authorities found thousands of ecstasy pills on their person at the airport.
According to a Walla news report, their traditional ultra-Orthodox apparel didn’t raise suspicions among airport and customs authorities.
One suspect, a 25-year-old man from Netanya, was nabbed upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport in possession of six kilograms — 13,000 pills — of ecstasy in his suitcase and another kilo of “raw drug material of great worth,” according to the ultra-Orthodox news site B’hadrei Haredim. The other two suspects, a 22-year-old man from Beitar Illit and a 26-year-old from Jerusalem, were rounded up shortly afterward.
Nebech. I really feel bad for these guys. They were just trying to feed their families. They had no idea they were doing anything wrong. Why would they? What’s wrong with drugs? Besides, they weren’t selling it to anyone important. Just people in the outside world. Who cares about them? They all hate us anyway.

I will never forget the reaction my father had to exactly this kind of situation. There was a young Chasidic father in Bnei Brak back in the 80s that was caught doing the same thing. My father was incredulous. He could not believe that someone so Frum… someone that wears a Shtreimel on Shabbos and Bekeshe all week long would do such a thing. 

When he mentioned this to the Bilitzer Rebbe, who had a Shteibel nearby my father’s home (where my father Davened during the weekdays)  the Rebbe responded to him with something along the following lines: "Nu. Reb Shimon, Nebech." "You have to understand." "He has a large family to feed."

My father came home after that conversation and  ‘had a cow’. He was more upset at the apologetic of the Bilitzer Rebbe, than he was at the Charedi drug dealer. 

That - in my view - is in part why such problems keep happening. Not that all Charedim are drug dealers. Chas V'Sholom. Of course they aren't. The vast majority are fine upstanding honest Jews who might feel the same way my father did about these things. But when you have a rabbinic leader saying the kinds of things the Bilitzer Rebbe did - it leaves the impression that it is not so bad for a Frum Jew to sell drugs if  he does it to support his family. That contributes to the possibility of things like this happening again.

It is now 2016, about 30 years after this happened. And virtually the same thing happened again. (And it was not the only time since then that it happened.) I doubt that the elderly Chasidic Rebbe that had this reaction is alive anymore. But I have to wonder if that attitude still exists among some rabbinic leaders of the Bilitzer Rebbe’s inclination. If not in public, than in private. 

I suspect that it might. We may not hear them say it anymore. They may pay lip service condemnation to it. But it would not surprise me that if they then went to herculean efforts to get these drug dealers out of trouble… and spare their families the grief of living without a husband and father.

What about the terrible consequences of the drugs they distributed? Well, you can’t have everything.