Sunday, December 31, 2017

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

When I was becoming frum, my not religious grandmother, a"h, would say every time she turned on the light on Shabbos or ate not kosher food: "G-d will forgive me". She was in her eighties, and there was no point in arguing with her. I remember stewing inside: how do you know that G-d will forgive you this? How do you know that he does not care about you eating not kosher or not keeping Shabbos?

But now I wonder whether my old grandmother understood something deeper. After all, her sins were not of the leaders of my city's community. She was not reluctant to speak out about a convicted con artist who was scamming multiple people for years. She was not covering up child molesters. She was not guilty of selectively warning some congregants but not the others when a dangerous individual moved onto a block. Those were not her sins.

Torah warns us to make a railing around our rooftop, lest a person falls off the roof. Torah does not tell us to wait till somebody falls off and gets hurt and then make a railing. We are told to be proactive, to avoid innocent people getting hurt so the blood is not on our hands. So why do rabbis think that we need people to get hurt, get hurt badly, and keep on getting hurt before somebody decides that it is time to do something? Why are they so careful about the laws of Lashon Hara but not so careful about guarding the physical well-being of those who rely upon them? Why is it up to the congregants to ask: is this person dangerous? Do I have to avoid him/her?

I am very upset. I cannot be the clearinghouse for the rumors circulating here because these rumors have substance. However, why do I have to call rabbis to substantiate the rumors? Why do I have to direct others to call the rabbis? Why cannot the rabbis get up and lead by saying: this person did such and such, stay away from that person. Why does it take a mother in the community, an oddball to be speaking the truth, get attacked, get questioned?

I do not know how those rabbis sleep at night. I do not know how they go about daily life while the congregants keep inviting these neighbors over because they are trying to be open and welcoming. Those out of the loop do business with them because why would you suspect someone who goes to your school, your shul? Why would you suspect a fellow Jew when you are encouraged to love him/her? And why do rabbis love their congregants less than the congregants love their neighbors?

I do not know how these rabbis stand on Yom Kippur and recite vidui, doing teshuva for leading others astray. And I do not know how am I supposed to worry about my kashrut and Shabbat observance and ask sheelot of the same rabbis. They will not eat in my house because "it is not kosher enough" based on totally arbitrary standard that has nothing to do with halacha, but they will not worry about how kosher their actions are?

My grandmother was onto something because the G-d that I believe in can forgive an 80-year-old lady not keeping Shabbos, but Hew cannot forgive community leaders for not publicly and forcibly warning members about dangerous individuals.

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