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Mar 23, 2011

The Japanese and The Egyptians

And speaking of Japan, people have been coming up with all sorts of reasons why the tragedy happened to them. I have heard a number of suggestions, and there are probably even more floating around that I have not heard. And no, not all the suggestions are from Jews or suggestions of Jewish reasons, but some were. The thing is that all the talk I heard was from regular people making suggestions, and not from community leaders or clergy.

That has changed now. On Purim, the Rachmastrivke Rebbe, a great and well respected leader of a powerful chassidus in Yerushalayim, held court with his tish. At his Purim Tish, the rebbe spoke about many things, including Japan.

Bechadrei has video of the event, but I don't understand the yiddishe, so I only read the report. The Rachmastrivke Rebbe said that God is striking the Japanese repeatedly, but they are like Pharoah and the Egyptians who received multiple blows and plagues but could not seems to understand why they were getting hit and that it was connected to their holding the Jews as slaves and how they treated the Jews.

The Japanese, the Rebbe said, are holding the yeshiva boys in jail, despite their having done no wrong. They think these yeshiva boys know what drugs are, but from where would a hassidic yeshiva boy know anything about drugs? Only the non-Jews know what drugs are. Instead of admitting their mistake, they continue to hold them, and for that they are getting punished.

The rebbe then said a bracha, wishing for their release in the near future. He closed off with a call for Hashem to send Mashiach, saying we are ready for his arrival, and a promise to the throngs of followers that by next year the price of an apartment would be 5000NIS and there would no longer be a housing crisis. I am assuming he was referring to rental prices, that the price of a rental apartment would be no higher than 5000 NIS per month, rather than that being the price for purchases.

Until now I did not feel the need to comment on the suggestion, as people talk and say stupid things, while leaders are usually more careful. Now that this reason is out and about by a serious community leader, it is time to comment.

These boys might have been naive, and they were clearly taken advantage of by someone they thought they could trust, but that does not make them innocent. They were caught carrying drugs, with or without knowledge does not really make much of a difference to that fact. Had they done the same in any country around the world they would have been put in jail, just the same as what happened in Japan. Perhaps the Japanese prison conditions are harsher than many other countries, as the askanim are claiming, but that doesnt really change anything about what they did and the Japanese perspective of law enforcement.

The Japanese did not go catch a couple random boys off the street and imprison them on false charges. They caught 3 boys smuggling drugs into the country, albeit naively, and arrested them. I don't believe it is right to blame their incarceration as the cause for God's wrath.


  1. It's like internet. The more the community claims and insists on innocence + naivete, the more they are endangering their members in the future.

    They would be much better off describing in detail what happened and why they are being held accountable rather than calling it complete innocence.

  2. >Only the non-Jews know what drugs are.

    I guess Benzion Miller is a non-Jew. Or how about the Dinover Rebbe, who was convicted (jailed?) for smuggling more than 250,000 valium pills in the 70s?

  3. like it or not , you need intent to commit a crime, these boys did not have that intent! thats not a tough concept to grasp , thats the law !!

  4. is that the law in Japan? I dont even think that is the law in the US. It might help get a lighter sentence, but I dont think you it is not called a crime

  5. >like it or not , you need intent to commit a crime

    Firstly, no one has proven that these allegedly infantile teenagers who were able to manage a flight to Japan by themselves (not sure I could have done that when I was 17) had no intent.

    Secondly, their defense is that they thought they were smuggling antiques, not drugs.

    Thirdly, who says crimes require intent? Murder without intent is called manslaughter. If you got lazy and forgot to pay your taxes, or hired an incompetent accountant you're still going to wind up with consequences.

    Maybe you're going to say there was no edus and hasraah?

  6. Sorry Chaim, they said that they intended to smuggle antiques. That is to say that they intended to break the law, just no the one they were really breaking.

    So saying that they had no intent is bogus.

  7. so why didn't they look at the goods - like all of us do so we can say we packed our bags ourselves etc. ??


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