Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Was Rubashkin’s Real Crime – Getting Caught?

7000 people attended a gathering in a show of support to Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin last night. He was painted as a near saint. It was called a night of Achdus. That implies Jews from all over the Orthodox spectrum participated.

I tend to doubt that. There are too many of us that do not feel he is such a Tzadik and would not attend a gathering where accolades were heaped upon him by speaker after speaker. Unless of course we are not considered by them to be part of the Klal. But then again - that wouldn’t really surprise me.

What’s worse is that this movement is being called Pidyon Shevuyim. I do not understand how a man who was justly convicted of financial crimes by a jury of his peers can be considered a captive that must be redeemed. Even if the sentencing was excessive and unfair I don’t see how one can call him a captive of an unjust government worthy of redemption. Especially if one reads the detailed explanation of Judge Reade. It hardly describes the near sainthood ascribed to him by the speakers last night.

Most people already know that I fully support the effort to appeal his sentence. But what I do not support is the kind of gathering they had last night in Lakewood. What does that gain for anyone? I think it does more harm than good because it glosses over his crime and paints Mr. Rubashkin as a near saint!

I realize that Mr. Rubashkin is not an evil man. He was just a poorly trained one in matters of honesty in dealing with the government. He was in fact quite generous to fellow Jews and has apparently gone all out for Jews in need. There is much testimony to that fact and it was alluded to at this gathering.

Be that as it may I continue to insist that he is neither a Tzadik nor a Rasha. What was said at this gathering must be countered with some sobering truth. A fellow Jew is in trouble by virtue of his own making. He needs our help and we ought to give it to him.

But the message last night was more than about just helping a fellow Jew in trouble. There was a subliminal message as well: Sholom Rubashkin is a man to emulate. Yes he made mistakes but he is nevertheless a role model for us of Jewish behavior.

I realize that they were speaking about his legendary kindness toward fellow Jews. I’m sure the intent was to paint him in the most sympathetic light they could and raise lots of money for his appeal. But by painting such a favorable picture of him while leaving out the cold hard facts about his crimes they are perpetuating the idea that what he did wasn’t so bad. One should not be painted in such glowing terms when one was convicted of such a high profile financial crime.

Stealing from a bank via a loan with fraudulent collateral is not the mark of a Tzadik. If someone is a great Roish HaYeshiva who has taught much Torah to many generations and then commits adultery with another man’s wife does he remain a hero to be emulated? It shouldn’t matter whether a crime is financial or carnal. Painting either as a Tzadik has terrible repercussions - albeit for different Aveiros.

Mr. Rubashkin committed a crime, and Lakewood ought to realize that fact and not gloss it over as though it doesn’t matter. An passing reference to that crime while heaping praise on him does not help. The lesson learned here may easily end up being that Rubashkin’s real crime was getting caught!

Why is it so difficult for these people to realize that?