Friday, September 12, 2008

Poetic Justice?

There are some people who do the much to for Klal Yisroel. They are Baalei Battim - lay people who have come to be known as Askanim. These are people who are involved in matters that affect their community and are often self appointed. As has been pointed out - an Askan (singular form of the plural- Askanim) can - and often does - much good.

This is to be expected about those who work for the public welfare. Those who are members of the Agudah Public Affairs committees are such people. For the most part these knowledgeable and dedicated people spend many precious hours that benefit all of us. Agudah of Illinois has for example gotten free busing for all religious schools by virtue of their hard work. And there are tons of examples of such activity by many such Askanim.

Unfofrtunately there are Asakanim who have done much damage. Perhaps the singular ‘standout’ greatest damage done to the cohesiveness of Klal Yisroel is what an Askan by the name of Rabbi Leib Pinter has done. According to Rabbi Natan Slifkin, it was this man who probably initiated and led the the campaign to ban his books as heresy.

That destroyed Rabbi Slifkin’s reputation in the Charedi world and has led to the biggest Hashkafic split between Centrist and Charedi Hashkafos in my lifetime. It has caused great anguish to Rabbi Slifkin personally and to his family. And it has generated some of the most vitriolic anger ever expressed by those who have been labeled as herteics - or near heretics, or ‘nebech’ heretics - – because of that event.

The Bizayon HaTorah that has resulted from that one event is immeasurable. Gedolim formerly held in high esteem by the vast majority of religious Jews of all stripes have been ridiculed and denigrated way beyond any sense of right and wrong. Many Orthodox Jews have begun questioning their very faith because of it. And some have crossed the line into skepticsm about their faith. Of course some of these people may have been going in that direction anyway. But not all and this certainly spurred the process for those who were.

I can think of no greater and more widespread purely spiritual damage done to Klal Yisroel by any group of Askanim than the damage done by this group.

I don’t know the ways of the Lord. I cannot in good conscience ever say that one event in Judaism was the casue of another. Even events like the holocaust. Only God knows what His Divine plan is. So I don't know if this is any sort of Divine retribution or message by God. I don’t know what it means. But the apparent instigator of this group of Askanim will be going to prison for stealing $44 million from the Fannie Mae mortgage finance company.

I guess some Askanim are not who they appear to be. This fellow had a book published by Artscroll which contains an approbation from Rav Matisyahu Salomon. So he is - or was - pretty highly regarded in those circles.

Despite this outrageous Chilul HaShem - I feel sorry for this guy and his family. But that does not lessen the Chilul HaShem that has resulted. My only question is which Chilul HaShem was greater, this 44 million dollar fraud or the successful campaign against Rabbi Slifkin?

Is it Divine justice? I don’t know. But is it poetic Justice? Maybe….