Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Ritual Uber Alles - Part 2 - The Max Factor

Menachem "Max" Stark was a Satmar chasid.  He was also a slumlord and involved with disreputable types and bad loans.  These associations cost him his life a little over a month ago after he was found murdered.  So nasty was his business life that, according to the New York press, it was hard for the police to narrow down the list of possible suspects to a reasonable number.
What made people sit up and pay attention, however, was the way in which The New York Post presented the story.  Under the headlines and the question "Who didn't want him dead?" was a picture of Stark dressed in full Satmar regalia.  This caused some to scream "Anti-semitism" but really it posed a far more difficult problem.
Not knowing Stark I'm conjecturing but I think that the picture of him dressed as a chasid, a pious Jew, is exactly how he would want to be portrayed.  It's probably how he saw himself.
One could ask how a man reputed to be guilty of all sorts of financial and landlord-related offences could come to think that way.  How is it that one could be so reputedly vile when it came to one's business dealings but still portray oneself as a pious individual?
If you point out that a person with no conscience would have no problem doing such a thing you'd be right so I'll take it to the next level.  The funeral Stark was given, complete with the local Satmar rebbe (remember there's a couple of 'em) crying over his coffin and at the shiva was worthy of a hero, not a scumbag who'd pushed another scumbag too far and paid for it. 
Yes Italian mafiosos get state funerals with the local clerics eulogizing them as heroes and champions of the community.  But the Satmar rebbe with his self-righteous indignation over any perceived violation of "Toyrah" he sees?  Here's a man who thinks the existence of the state of Israel is an abomination.  If you're a Zionist you're scum to him but if you're a thief and oppressor of the poor you're fine?  Isn't Judaism supposed to be different than that?
Now when it comes to mafiosos the reason for the high honours at burial is obvious: fear.  Who wants to be caught disrespecting a man with a mob at his beck and call?  What priest is going to stand up and say "No way I'm gonna do his funeral!  The man was a murderer and a thief"?
With Stark such considerations were not relevant.  Yes he was entitled to a kever Yisrael like any other Jew but why the high kovod?
I would suggest it's because, from the Satmar perspective Menachem Stark was, in fact, a completely righteous man.  He wore the right clothes and headgear.  He swayed the right way during prayer.  I don't doubt that his Yiddish was acceptable and that every time he saw an Israeli flag he spit on the ground in disgust.  He did his "learning", ate only the most mehadrin foods and all his meat was Satmar-style shechita
That he threw out most of Choshen Mishpat in his business dealings was simply not part of the equation.
As I noted in the previous post we have, after 1942 years of golus, compartmentalized Judaism into the parts we still do, which is mostly ritual, and the parts we don't, which is pretty much everything else.  Yes, the Shulchan Aruch has four sections but there's a Mishnah Berurah only on Orach Chaim which gives people the impression it's the only part that matters other than some areas of Yoreh Deah one can't avoid like kashrus and taharas hamishpacha.  The rest is a closed book to most Orthodox folk, especially Choshen Mishpat where the laws of financial crimes are encoded.
Menachem Stark ignored Choshen Mishpat, something only the greatest of scholars learn.  The average person has no idea what's in that volume and in this case ignorance is bliss.  If you have no clue you're sinning you can't see yourself as not righteous, can you?
So once again we see the same pattern: Stark was ritually correct.  His actual sins didn't count because of that.  For his friends and the Satmar rebbe he was a better Jew than a Dati Leumi guy who is completely honestly in business because the Dati Leumi ritual is despised by Satmar. 
It is a twisted mindset where how you dress and what poltical/religious views you espouse define your piety.


Anonymous said...

Choshen Mishpat and Even Haezer are as much a part of ritual as Orach Chaim and Yoreh Daah. It's a lot easier for some people to control their urges to eat ham than illicit sex and shady business dealings. I would suggest that had he not been a Satmar you might have been more kind. Defending the Post is beyond the pale

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

I would suggest that if he had appeared in the picture dressed in normal business attire there wouldn't have been an issue in the first place. The hulabaloo was over an identifiable Jew in the picture.
And no, CM and EH are not part of ritual. They are part of the civil and criminal law. Thinking they're ritual just proves my point about the problem.

Anonymous said...

A headline about anyone whose body is not cold saying who didn't want this man dead is obscene . I don't fathom what you are saying do you believe that not stealing is less of a religious obligation than not eating Chazer

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

You are misunderstanding me on both counts.
I never said the headline was acceptable. I said it wasn't anti-Semitic. Of course it was in poor taste and obscene. That's how tabloids sell papers!
Further, I'm not talking about religious obligations, I'm talking about ritual. Going up for an aliyah is a ritual. No stealing is a societal obligation, not a ritual. Do you understand?

FrumGeek said...

Gosh, you seem to hate Satmar people more than they hate Israel. I actually was friends with a Satmar chossid in bais medrash, and while he hated the state, he loved all Jews, yes, even Zionists. I don't think he'd have spoken of a dead yid, bad person in life or not, with the venom you have. I'm honestly shocked you can talk this way. I dont have a horse in this race, but you shouldn't speak with such hatred, even if you beleive they hate your country. There aren't very many of us, and please don't sink to the level you believe they're at.

RAM said...

Whatsamatter, you can't wait for the actual facts of the case to emerge in the legal system? What would you lose by being patient?

Mr. Cohen said...

Choshen Mishpat fans should go to:

Anonymous said...

Goyyim don't need Hoshen Mishpat to act ethically in business. Ignorance is no excuse.