Friday, August 20, 2010

What a Disgrace!

The man has no shame apparently. According to a news report Rabbi Marc Sheneir has been caught cheating on his fourth wife. Apparently there is photo evidence of him kissing and embracing another woman in the New York Daily News.

It’s hard to understand how a man who dedicates his life to God and serving the community can succumb so easily to temptation. But apparently he has. I do not judge him. I have no idea what his personal circumstances’ are. But one does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that this is a man of weak character in a job that demands a strong character.

Rabbis are often put into circumstances that present temptation. That requires men of strong character to fight it off. The Gemarah tells us ‘Ain Apitorpus L’Arayos’. No one is immune to temptations of the flesh. Rabbis no less than anyone else. The difference is that as a rabbi you have a responsibility to the community to do whatever it takes to avoid temptations. And Rabbis get plenty of opportunity. That's why laws of Yichud are so important.

They are seen as attractive by their very nature. Men in positions of power often are sought out for attention by female admirers. Power is a very strong aphrodisiac. This makes rabbis particularly vulnerable to temptation. Most rabbis gird themselves for encounters that may lead to an affair. But unfortunately there are some who don’t. They are weak and when opportunity arises – as it frequently does, they succumb all too easily.

It doesn’t matter what segment of Orthodoxy they come from. Apparently Rabbi Sheneir is from the left wing of modern Orthodoxy. But stories abound of all manner of indiscretion from rabbis of all manner of Hashkafos.

I recall one instance where a very prominent rabbi was accused of hitting on a female client he was counseling while he was alone with her in his office. I don’t know if that case was ever resolved. And how many times have I heard stories about a certain Rosh HaYeshiva that actually committed adultery (of the Yehoreg v’Al Yaavor kind)! And then there are the numerous stories of sex abuse by rabbis in positions of power as pulpit rabbis or as teachers.

Rabbi Shcneir is not a sex abuser. But he is not suitable to be a communal rabbi either. He is apparently a man of weak character.

He has been divorced many times according to the article. I would just insert the following caveat. I do not judge a person by how many times he or she was divorced. There could be legitimate reasons in each case. But there is absolutely no excuse for cheating on your wife with another woman. It hurts your wife and children; parents and extended family. In the end it hurts and embarrasses every Torah Jew. It is a Chilul HaShem!

What a shame. This fellow could have been a real role model for tolerance among people of differing religions including Islam. If I remember correctly that was one of his goals and he has apparently worked very hard in trying to achieve it.

What he has instead achieved is embarrassing himself his family and his people- making a mockery of Judaism rather than honoring it!

At this point the least he can do is resign from his Shul and never take another pulpit. What Orthodoxy needs now more than ever is strong leaders. Not weak ones.