Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Friday, 3 April 2009

Violence Starts At The Top

Rav Yitzchok Adlerstein's latest piece at Cross-Currents is an interesting take on the epidemic of violence in Chareidi society. Basing himself on Rav Yakov Horowitz' earlier piece, he tries to tear a strip out of the thugs that are currently giving his community such a bad name. The straw that broke the camel's back was a recent attack by a self-appointed "modesty patrol":
On Sunday, Elhanan Buzaglo was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the vicious beating of a woman, nine months ago in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood. Buzaglo, a member of a charedi mishmar hazniyut, a self-appointed chastity squad, pled guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Prosecutor's Office.
Buzaglo, who broke into the 31-year-old divorcé’s apartment along with four other men, was convicted of receiving $2,000 from the mishmar hazniyut for his role in the attack, which was intended to intimidate her into leaving the predominantly charedi neighborhood. Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts … and deter him and others like him." Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant to be convicted in this barbaric attack. According to newspaper reports last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers – the modesty patrol members – to evade indictments.

Despite attempts to ignore or evade the issue, incidents like this as well as prior assaults on defenceless women as well as the willingness of crusaders in the blogsphere to push the matter have brought it to the front and centre. Rav Adlerstein starts off well enough in his piece but his condemnations quickly become selective:
Rabbi Horowitz did the right thing in publicly distancing the Torah community from violence in pursuit of purported Torah values. He called upon haredi MKs to see to it that the authorities fully prosecute such abominable behavior. I’m not sure why he stopped at MKs, rather than demand that all leaders, whether in the government or not, unequivocally condemn such actions, and to marginalize both those who participate in religious terrorism and those who support the terrorists. We should be equally demanding, refusing to contribute to institutions whose leaders are respected in the communities affected, but whose proclamations critical of zealotry have been lukewarm.
All laudable steps but why no mention of the heiliger G word? After all, all these modesty patrols are doing is enforcing the latest chumros of the week as promulgated by the "Gedolei Yisrael" and those who are concerned with "the purity of the camp". They're not inventing the standards they're enforcing so why no request for the Chareidi leadership, the one that is supposedly so infallible and whose words are supposedly to be followed to the letter, to stand up and say that anybody who participates in such a group as a modesty patrol is to be considered a thug, non-Chareidi and out of the community?
In truth, Rav Adlerstein does try to hint in that direction with an less than completely vague statement:
It is not enough for the rest of us to tell ourselves and our children that we would never act that way or speak that way. We have to find ways to proclaim that having a beard, a Shas, and a following does not preclude being a fool.
However, it's one thing to make the statement. Would he actually have the courage to name prominent rabbonim who call for violence, or who refuse to condemn it? Or would his anonymous fool wind up being a low level rebbe somewhere who is otherwise languishing in obscurity?
The vast majority of our community fully supports vigorous, effective and halachically responsible methods of dealing with abuse. There are those in our midst who still impede progress, obfuscate the truth, and cover up for those who deserve no sanction. Those who misunderstand and misapply laws of mesirah ( which actually state that those who “vex and pain the public” - which is clearly the case in regard to abusers – may be handed over to secular authorities. Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 388:12), or who sanction violence, do not deserve a place or a voice among us. It is time we stop coddling them, or simply shaking our heads in disbelief. It is not enough.
Similarly here. There are enough prominent rabbonim who either continue to deliberately misinterpret the rules on mesirah or acknowledge their limitations but then push up those limitations so as to turn everything back into mesirah to make Rav Adlerstein's statement about the majority of his community utter nonsense. If there is one things the poor hurt souls who have been victims of Chareidi abuse can tell us it's that the majority of the community fully supports sweeping all its problems under the rug, denying they exist and attacking those outsiders who challenge that statement.
In the end, Rav Adlerstein fails to make his case. He appeals to the common people in his community to show intolerance towards this unacceptable behaviour, but fails to mention that in his community the common people are not permitted to think for themselves on any important issues but must rather defer to their "gedolim". And those gedolim have yet to do anything other than issue vague, non-binding statements.
I'm betting there will be at least two attempts to burn down restaurants in Eretz Yisrael that serve chometz over Pesach. Any takers?


Honestly Frum said...

It's happening in America as well. A noted Kanoi in Brooklyn publicly said that a certain store should be burnt down for having female mannequins in the window. He said that it was a "great mitzvah". These people are sick and practicing a different religion and learning a different torah than the one that Moses received on Mt. Sinai. This is the same guy who publicly embarrassed Lipa a few months ago at a wedding. These people need to be shut down. But whole they have spokes people like Shafran behind them it's going to be the same old with our religion getting a bad rap at every turn. These people are all sick.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Garnel said it all. How can you expect people to apply their own common sense when they are continuously being told not to apply their common sense? IOW how can you tell someone to think in one case while also telling them never to think? Obviously the force of the halachic system is based on the force of Torah scholarship but it must be recognized that Torah was not intented to be given to blank pages. It was given to people with a history and a psychological profile. In certain ways the very goal of Torah is to improve this psychological system. In certain ways, thought, this profile was also intended to be used in relationship with the Torah to understand its full meaning. Simply, you have to use your mind to figure out what the Torah really is saying. Is it also possible to use your mind to mis-read the Torah? Yes, but because your mind can be used incorrectly does not mean that the only proper thing to do is never use it. You actually have to learn to use it correctly.

Rabbi Ben Hecht