Monday, March 29, 2010

Justice Tempered with Mercy

Although I wasn’t going to post anything today outside of wishing everyone a happy Pesach - I am compelled to do so. There is a move by various organizations to sign petitions on belhalf of Shalom Rubashkin.

Most people who read this - and many other Jewish blogs - know who Mr. Rubashkin is. He is the former CEO of Agriprocessors who was indicted for numerous violations of the law - and accused of some pretty heinous stuff taking place at his kosher meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. Or at least turning a blind eye to some of it! I am not here to rehash old stories. Suffice it to say that I believe that he was responsible for a major Chilul HaShem - even if only some of those accusations were true.

My goal at the time I first wrote about it was to remove him from that business. That happened. But so did a lot more. He has been tried and convicted for bank fraud. Even though many people are crying foul - I am not going to second guess the verdict. However - there seems to be little doubt that this relatively high profile case was zealously pursued by the prosecution. Perhaps even over zealously!

Not having been at the trial and not familiar with the law… Not knowing all the evidence against him and not being a legal expert – I am not going to second guess the verdict. He has not yet been sentenced.

There does seem to be a fairly wide consensus by those more familiar with the details of the case that the sentencing recommendations are very harsh – much harsher than what is usually meted out in such cases. By far! Mr. Rubashkin faces a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison – as I understand it - for a financial crime which broke banking laws but did no direct damage to anyone.

I am not excusing him. He broke the law and was convicted of the crime and should pay a price. But I must admit that the potential sentence he faces seems very excessive.

I know that there are many more pressing issues facing Klal Yisroel. But if Mr. Rubashkin has to pay a penalty of this magnitude – it will in my view be a miscarriage of justice. I do not believe he should lose 20 years of freedom for what he did.

Although there are greater injustices in Klal Yisroel now that need action – and although there is a tremendous lack of any progress on them – this injustice should not be ignored because of it. Ignoring a lesser injustice does not in any way help those with greater injustices. To the extent that any of us can help anyone at any time - we should help Mr. Rubashkin. I have signed the petition being circulated on the internet.

Here is the link. Not all petitions being circulated on his behalf are worthy and 0ne ought to be careful what they sign. Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein has done his homework and recommends this one. I trust his judgment.

I would urge everyone to sign it. No matter how you feel about Mr. Rubashkin, I truly believe mercy is warranted here. Do not let anger at what he did blind anyone to doing the right thing. The Jewish people are Rachamin Bnei Rachamim - a very merciful people. It is in our blood. Let us not close our hearts at this season of freedom to someone who made a mistake and in my view has already paid a very high price for it. Can anyone imagine what is going through his mind now?

I would however strongly caution against some of the truly offensive hyperbole on the part of some of the signers. They increase the Chilul Hashem many times over. I am literally appalled and almost skipped doing this post because of it. But my personal indignation and protest against this Chilul HaShem should not come at the expense of another. So even though I am reluctant to do it – it must be done. Justice and mercy demand it.