Dec 22, 2009

Regular people fail such tests

The Spinka Rebbe was sentenced yesterday to 2 years of jail time fir crimes of fraud and tax evasion.

This begs the question how frum people can do such things. Don't we strive to be better? Don't we presume to be better?

The truth is that frum people are just people too. We are human and we all have desires and inclinations.. We each have our own tests, which we sometimes pass and sometimes fail (hopefully we pass more often than we fail). We all have frailties and influences.

This can easily explain satisfactorily when a religious guy gets thrown in jail for a crime. But a Rebbe? or a guy like Tropper who is at (or at least near) the top? Isnt he already supposed to have been beyond all that and be at the supreme level of honesty and straightness? Obviously they would have their tests too, but to fail the same tests that regular people fail? It doesn't make sense.
Unless it doesn't take much to be a Rebbe anymore, or to be a religious leader. If all it takes is to be a regular person with a longer beard, than they too can fail the same tests as us regular people.


  1. The Rebbes have always been "regular people", just a bit more (or a lot more in most cases) learned. Jews don't believe in infallibility.


  2. was it on this blog or another? don't know but a few weeks ago, there was a link to a short piece by rav aviner quoting something from rav kook about hasidut. in short, rav kook felt that one should learn hasidot without becoming a hasid. one objection that he had was that he didn't feel that someone could automatically, by inheritance, have a high level of yirat shamayim.

  3. another possibility of why he did it: these gedolim are so dependent on their askanim that they basically are puppets. or in other words - the gedolim aren't really gedolim because someone else is pulling their strings

  4. The problem isn't Judaism.

    The Tenach presents the sins of our greatest leaders in black-and-white, so even our kids can understand they did something wrong. Adam, Chava, Cain, the Avot, Brother + Yosef, Moshe, David, etc.etc.. Every kid in gan knows these huge men did wrong things.

    Our problem is not the human failings of every human - which Judaism is incredibly up-front about.

    Our problem is the last 40 years of Artscroll + Aguda culture, which has confused talmidei chachamim for Xian Saints and Popes.

    Anyone who dares to write/suggest that gedolim are fallible and human, such as Making of a Godol by Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, and (our local godol) Rav Slifkin's extraordinary works, are excommunicated.

    In true Catholic tradition.

    Time to put a cherem on Artscroll and call the Aguda leaders to full account for their self-defeating policy of painting talmidei chachamim as saints, and then covering up their (inevitable) human sins by strong-arm mafia tactics.

  5. interesting analysis anon, thanks

  6. There has been an explosion of Rebbes. Today every Rebbe has multiple sons and each one in turn becomes a Rebbe. I can't imagine the next generation. Almost every Chasidus has multiple Rebbes. For example today there are multiple Spinka Rebbes.
    Grand Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Weisz - Spinka Rebbe of Boro Park - son of Rabbi Jacob Joseph
    Grand Rabbi Israel Chaim Weisz - Spinka Rebbe of Bnei Brak - son of Rabbi Jacob Joseph
    Grand Rabbi Meir Eleazer Weisz - Spinka Rebbe of Boro Park - son of Rabbi Jacob Joseph

    Not every son is cut out to be a Rebbe but in today's world they all become one.

  7. imho the question that begs to be answered is the ethical/moral level of orthodox jews when compared to other subgroups.
    Joel Rich

  8. what do you mean Joel? are Ortho Jews more ethical/moral than others? Is your question only today that we are hearing of many scandals, or in general, say even 200 years ago?

    Also, perhaps we are hearing more scandals today because media has gotten so pervasive. Everyonme can go into a forum or a blog and spread something they know, when it used to not be the case. Word spreads much faster today than it ever did before. Also, the rabbinic "stranglehold" on the followers has weakened - meaning, it used to be people didnt air their dirty laundry in public - something happened in the community and they ket it as quiet as they could. Today everything is mostly an open book, or at least a million times more open than it used to be.
    Maybe they were just as scandalous back then, but people just didnt talk about these scandals.

  9. The first question is whether these violators thought the laws should be upheld al pi halacha.

    The second question is whether they properly considered the potential chilul Hashem of getting caught.

    The third question is why they were so busy for gashmius anyway. (And if their communities are starving and literally need these millions of dollars not even for weddings but for basic necessities, what's wrong with that picture?)

  10. B.S.

    In the chareidi/lakewood realm of reality, they absolutley believe in infallibility, even if they don't verbalize. It just comes out every time they speak of gedolim.

    example: In a shiur the other night, my lakewood grounded Rov brought ina psak from R' Yaakov K. Using the wording of the psak, my Rov then proceeded to darshan that because RYK didn't mention a specific possible heter, it must be he didn't hold of it. i argued that one cannot prove from a void. Maybe, he felt it need not apply or didn't know. Well, that set off an explosion. My Rov got red and started yelling, that CHV"SH RYK didn't know of a heter and of course he would have mentioned it. i calmly replied, then Lshitascha, he should have openly said, I do not hold of the heter. Why ignore it. My rov just ranted for a few more minutes about the gadlus of RYK and I dropped the issue.

    Whoever says that people do not believe that the "gedolim" (already subjective) are infallible is a liar or just a fool. If we can start paskening shailos based on the fact that they "had to of known ", then we are heading for worse trouble than you realize!

  11. My question is in general. Does the data support our claim to living a more ethical/moral life?
    Joel Rich

  12. The question is a general one - does the data support our claim to living a more ethical/moral life?
    Joel Rich

  13. The greater the man, the greater the Yeitzar Hara.
    This is obviously to keep free will intact.
    Staying at the top is much harder than getting to the top.

  14. To further Yaak's point:
    There are many possibilities for how such actions could be committed by "great" people.

    A greater person may have an area in which s/he is weak. There are always exceptions to a person's general behavior. A person can develop bad habits in a certain area and while the rest of his behaviour is exemplary, s/he never improves that aspect.

    We have this concept of the "bechira point" that has entered popular culture, but I think it's only true in general and there are always exceptions.

    Of course, this isn't an excuse, but just how it likely came to be.

  15. well sometimes it seems like the weak point of many gedolim nowadays is picking the wrong types as their handlers (or letting whoever volunteers be their handlers)


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