Rabbi Avi Weinstein

"For me, Rabbis are just average Joes…"

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Tablet.com has some insight and background into the Syrian Rabbinic Roundup this past week. They conducted an audio interview with Zev Chafets who wrote about the Syrian Jewish community for the NYT magazine a couple of years ago.

At one point, he was asked whether he was shocked that so many rabbis were included in the corruption scandal that has shaken New Jersey. His answer was that he had been a Jew for sixty-two years and from what he sees rabbis are just “average Joes” no more or less exemplary than those in the general community. When Chafets lived in Israel, he witnessed first hand the corruptions of the religious parties that were seemingly no worse, but no better than the Godless socialists. His remark saddened me because, he no longer has any expectations from the rabbinate and sees them as cynically exploiting their position for personal gain, just like so many others in power.
We rabbis should see ourselves as people who are less impressed with our position, but daunted and committed to the mission of serving the Jewish community and leading by example. Too often, many of us are more impressed with our position than the gravity of our mission. The fallout is total disregard for not only us, but the Torah we have learned, and even worse, the Torah we have taught.
I believe that observant communities are exemplary when compared to how non-observant communities behave. They have fewer criminals, safer neighborhoods, and have a better track record for caring for the most vulnerable. Nevertheless, Rabbi Kassin may have taken a bad hit from the perp walk that starred him, but, ultimately, it was God and the Torah who will bear the brunt of the blow. And that’s the kind of stuff that gave us solemn occasions like Tisha B’Av.
This is something we all need to do Teshuva for.
“Woe to the generation whose Judges are judged.” (Ruth Rabba, Petichta)
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