Elior Chen is a name that will live in infamy for the next little while. As detailed recently in the news, he is a man who has taken a deep and spiritual part of Yiddishkeit and perverted it beyond recognition, all while posing as a pious Jew. After a time on the run, he has come back to Israel to face trial for his crimes.
And now another unthinkable event as happened. As detailed here and here, the leading rabbonim of the Chareidi community have come out in support of his innocence. Inconceivable!
Or is it?
I am not going to suggest that the Chareidi "gedolim" who signed onto to document did so because they think that what Chen, may he rot in jail forever if found guilty, did was all right. We can all safely assume that they believe the crime of child abuse deserves to be punished and that someone posing as a frum Jew who creates such a chilul HaShem should receive no protection from their community.
I am go to say this: I don't think they know what Chen did.
Think about it for a moment. How do we get our news in this day and age? The television, the radio, the newspapers, the internet, we ar all surrounding by an unending deluge of information. If a news story of any importance breaks anywhere on the planet, we can find out about it from at least a dozen different angles along with dozens of editorials telling us what we should think about it.
What if we couldn't access that information? What if we were completely cut off from the information stream?
Because that's what the Chareidi "gedolim" are. They don't watch the televsion or listen to the radio, they don't read newspapers and chalilah that they should go anywhere near a computer that has internet access. Western Europe could have a massive earthquake and fall into the Atlantic and if no one told them, they would never find out it happened unless someone told them.
And that is the weak link in all of this. Like Rav Sliffkin and Lipa Schmeltzer before this, just to name two examples off the top, they are completely reliant on their askanim, a group of men who have their own agendae. The history is there for all to see. None of the "gedolim" who put Rav Sliffkin in cherem had read a word of his book. They were convinced that he was guilty of heresy by others who patently misrepresented his position at that time. Lipa Schmeltzer's big concert in New York was banned by "gedolim" who had been told that there would be mixed dancing and other forms of peritzus. Apparently daas Torah gives you the ability to decide the halacha unilaterally but doesn't help you figure out that the guy sitting in front of you is slandering someone else for his own personal ends.
Now it's happened again but, because Chen is "one of ours" it has gone the other way.
People who are astounded by this proclamation are feeling that way because they have access to multiple sources of information on what this menuval has been accussed of. But the "gedolim" don't have that kind of access. They rely on their askanim and maybe testimony from the family. As the article in Ynet noted, the family is convinced of his innocence.
Now, let's say the askanim came to the "gedolim" with limited information like : "There's this guy, Elior Chen, and he's a big marbitz Torah, mamash, and the police arrested him for no reason or worse, because of a bunch of lies. Can you support helping him?" Now this announcement makes more sense. A Chareidi guy wrongly accused by the accursed chilonim, who wouldn't want to sign on to that?
Or worse, what if the askanim simply bypassed these "gedolim", drafted the pronouncement and simply signatured-stamped it because, after all, they just know that these gedolim would approve? Would we be able to tell the difference? With the rife amount of "pronouncements" coming out of the Chareidi community in the name of this authority or another that turn out to have been written and signed by various askanim, is it so absurd to think that this proclamation is just another forgery?
No decent person can read about Chen's crimes and not feel absolute revulsion for how he twisted the Torah and for how much suffering he caused innocent children. If he is found guilty, there can be no punishment that properly makes him know what pain he caused others to feel.
You know it and I know it, but it's plain the Chareidi leadership has no idea what's really going on here.