Friday, March 20, 2009

Of Jewish Ethics and Frum Drug Couriers

A few weeks ago Ben Zion Miller, a Satmar Chasid, (pictured at left) was indicted on drug smuggling charges. He is one of those who were behind the terrible situation that resulted in 3 very youngYeshiva students being held in detention by Japanese officials.

The three Yeshiva students were convinced by Mr. Miller and his cohorts to carry three suitcases to Japan. They were packed with illegal drugs in false bottoms. Each was paid $1500.00 and provided with tickets for the flight. They were caught and arrested. If I understand correctly they are still awaiting trial.

The situation is tragic on several levels. They were wrong for what they did. But as far as I can tell the punishment will not fit the crime. Japan does not have a sense of humor about international drug smuggling. That said - all efforts should be made to have them returned to Israel and face justice there. But one cannot overlook the implications of this incident.

The young boys claim that they did not know they were carrying drugs. I will grant them that. But they must have known they were doing something wrong. They probably thought these fellows were just trying to get something past Japanese customs. But why did they feel free to do even that?

I believe the answer lies in bad over-all Chinuch in certain parts of the Torah world. Improper attitudes about the secular world are being transmitted by certain Types of Rebbeim in certain types of Yeshivos. Young people are indoctrinated with a belief that they do not have to honor non Jewish laws – as long as Halacha is not against it and they do not get caught.... because then it would be a Chilul HaShem

So smuggling some harmless items past Japan’s customs officials? Pffft! What an easy way to make some money!

I cannot emphasize enough the fact that there is something terribly wrong with a system that does not educate it’s youth that smuggling anything in a civilized society of just laws is absolutely wrong.

Lest anyone say that this is not the fault of their education and that these youths are the exception that proves the rule - I beg to differ. How many times have I heard some people claim that one can cheat on their taxes or the like as long as they don’t get caught. They will cite chapter and verse to show why it is permitted to do so in Halacha!

There is an undercurrent of disdain and contempt for the secular world that permeates the halls of certain Yeshivos. This attitude is taught either directly or indirectly by certain types of Rebbeim. And the young students pick it up very quickly – thinking that it is so cool that the Torah allows them to cheat like that.

The result is that three young Yeshiva students who are probably more or less fine Bachurim did something stupid for what they saw as a quick buck!

I wonder though if this event will even prove to be a lesson to those who insist on providing Torah based excuses for such behavior. I tend to doubt it. The excuses will still be forthcoming - fast and furious as before. And these young people will not even have learned the very hard lesson they should have. Oh… I don’t think they will be smuggling anything again any time soon. Not because they think it’s wrong. But because they don’t ever want to go through anything like that again.

If it were up to me, I would make certain that this attitude is never again taught in any Jewish school. Rebbeim caught indoctrinating their students with this attitude in any way should be barred from teaching. And I would make Rav Ahron Soloveitchik’s chapters on relationships between Jews and non Jews in Logic of the Heart Logic of the Mind mandatory reading in every Yeshiva!