Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Waters of Quarrels in Migdal Emek – A Lost Opportunity for a Kiddush Hashem


יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל 
…For the reason that you did not uphold your faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel…


We all know the story of Moshe and the rock. After the passing of Miriam there was a temporary stoppage of the well water in the desert camp. The nation appealed to Moshe to restore the water supply. HKBH instructed Moshe to take his staff and speak to a specific rock and it will give out its water. Moshe’s attempt to speak to the rock did not achieve the desired results (seems that there was something that he did not do right), so he raised his staff and struck the rock. That seemed to do the trick.
But HKBH was not pleased. He decreed that Moshe and Aharon are to be denied entry to Eretz Yisroel. And why?

…For the reason that you did not uphold your faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel…


Rashi explains that if Moshe were to follow the instructions precisely, the nation would have learned a very valuable lesson in the importance of following the word of G-d. By deviating from these instructions, no matter how slightly, the whole lesson was lost.
I recall that when I was learning this Parsha of the Chumash in 8th grade, my rebbe (Harav Zalman Rubin, Shlita) expounded that the ultra-severe punishment that HKBH decreed on Moshe and Aharon was due to this that “Moshe Rabbeinu did not make as big a Kiddush Hashem as he could have made.”
What he was saying is: don’t think that Moshe’s actions were sinful and he made some kind of a chillul Hashem. Not at all. Even the episode as it took place was a Kiddush Hashem. The problem was that it could have been a much bigger Kiddush Hashem. And for the minor infraction that instead of making a moderate Kiddush Hashem, he squandered the opportunity to make a colossal Kiddush Hashem, he effectively was fired from his job.
Moral of the story: If you ever get a chance to perform a great Kiddush Hashem, do not pass it up. You may never get another one.
It seems to us that the punishment and the midas hadin in this case was extraordinarily harsh. And for ordinary people like us, it would be. But Moshe Rabbeinu was extraordinary. Rambam calls him “the father of all Prophets”. HKBH says, “In My entire household, he is loyal…” For someone of the stature of Moshe Rabbeinu, nothing less severe would be appropriate.
The magnitude of a Kiddush Hashem or a chillul Hashem is measured by the stature of he who performed it. As such, in the sugya about chillul Hashem in Yoma 86a, Rav states as an example of chillul Hashem:If somebody such as I makes a meat purchase and does not pay the price on the spot.
Rabi Yochanan rejoins: “If somebody such as I walks four cubits without wearing tefillin or murmuring Torah.” (See Rashi.)

The gemara’s lesson is that even though these minor “transgressions” would not be taken to account for the common Jew, but for a Gadol in Torah, one of great stature, even these actions can constitute a chillul Hashem.
The greatness of the person involved dictates what kind of impact his actions have on others.
Like so many of us, I revere Rav Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Shlita as an exemplary person and an inspiration for klal Yisroel. Excuse my secular mindset, but aside from being a Talmid Chacham and Yarei Shamayim, he is (l’havdil alfei alaphim) the Father Flannigan of Israeli society. “There is no such thing as a bad boy (or girl)…”
I have written again and again that the vicious vendetta against Mrs. Malka Leifer is unjustified even if the 10-15 year old allegations are true. Both Halachically and morally. Protecting our youth is paramount, but harassing retired [suspected] molesters does nothing to advance this cause. And extradition, mesira and imprisonment for no toelles are strictly forbidden.
Most true bnei Torah agree with this and I am certain that Harav Grossman feels the same way. As long as any potential threats are neutralized, our only duty is to help wrongdoers, not to hurt them. And nobody knows better than Harav Grossman that no person can be automatically deemed irredeemable and that they must be given the chance to do so.
Ironically, this applies ever so much more to people who are mentally sound. Those who have psychiatric disorders are the unfixables. Thus, those who have invested thousands of [whose?] dollars and shekels to chase our villain around with a video camera to prove that she is a normal person and can live normally in society for at least 200 hours without laying a finger on anybody have only proven that there is less justification for this witch hunt.
Oh, of course, she definitely must be doing the most horrifying things behind closed doors. Funny, but all the 200 hours of high priced video didn’t seem to catch any of that. And it’s not like anybody warned her that she is being taped.
Like many, I was taken aback by the startling turn ofevents of the preceding week. Harav Grossman initially announced that he will take responsibility for Malka Leifer if she is released to house arrest while awaiting further proceedings. From what I understand of Rav Grossman, this made sense to me. Thus it shocked me when, several days later, he abruptly announced that he can no longer "be of assistance".
The lion’s share of the public – the lynch mob – lauded his withdrawal with many of them commenting, “What was he thinking to start with?” I, on the other hand, have been lamenting his sudden change of heart and saying to myself, “How can such a prominent person make such a disastrous blunder?”
Of course, we all know what it says in Pirkei Avos: Do not judge your fellow unless you can stand in his shoes. There is no question that there was an immediate backlash to his offering from the lynch mob. Doubtless, he was bombarded with hundreds or perhaps over a thousand hostile emails. Was that it? There is much talk that a segment of his financial backers threatened to cut him off. Was that it? Or could it be that he received (chas v’chalila) some even more malicious types of threats?
I don’t think I will ever know how hot things got behind the scenes and I certainly cannot say with conviction that I would have reacted differently if I were in his place, but I still think he made a very costly mistake by withdrawing his assistance.
I know he certainly received a lot of emails. Truth be told, as his (Migdal Ohr’s) email address was being flung about, I also took the liberty to send an email. I am sure it wasn’t like all the other emails. It was merely a copy of the email version of my previous blog post about the laws of extradition. It was meant to be a show of support. I wasn’t really expecting a response.
But I did get a response. I received a copy of the same automated response that was sent to everyone who contacted him, “Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman informed the parties … that he is unable to assist in Malka Leifer’s legal case…etc., etc.” This indicates that this letter was sent to all of those who contacted him by email be it hundreds or thousands.
When I thought about it, I got sick to my stomach. Rav Grossman now has email addresses for hundreds or thousands of misguided people all operating on a blind presumption of guilt, screaming to moser a Jew they don’t know to the non-Jewish authorities 10,000 miles away, and who have no idea about the true Halachos of rodef, mesira, lo tasgir, and more. This is a golden opportunity to reach out and temper the mob. I can only dream of getting the attention of such a huge crowd. (How many people are actually going to read this post?)
What a Kiddush Hashem he can create and be matzil neshamos in the process!
And what does Rav Grossman do?
He backs away, runs and hides, and in so doing, he encourages the high strung emotions of the lynch mob and feeds their frenzy. And the chillul Hashem and tremendous damage continues unabated.
המה מי מריבה אשר רבו בני ישראל את ה'...
These are the waters of the quarrels, whence the children of Israel quarreled against G-d…

How could he?
Suppose he would have stuck to his guns and put out a response such as this:

Thank you for contacting Migdal Ohr with your concerns.

While we understand the sensitive nature of this issue, rest assured that all steps have been taken to ensure that no minors or innocent people are exposed to any harm.

It is important to know that although there have been complaints from numerous students and we are not challenging their credibility at this time, nevertheless, the allegations have not been confirmed by any judicial means. Our Torah does not allow us to prosecute people on the weight of accusations alone.

As long as the concern of continued harm is no longer in effect, our Torah does not allow us G-d fearing Jews to extradite Jews out of our land and to subject them to a non-Halachic penal system. Nevertheless, it is imperative to be respectful of the law of the land and of other nations.  

It is with this in mind that we are in consultation with the authorities in an effort to resolve this matter as closely as possible to the dictates of Halacha to the extent allowed by the law.

It is trying situations like these where it is most important to adhere to the Torah’s principles for the benefit of all involved and not to allow our personal emotions to cloud our judgment.

May all of us be blessed to live in freedom and safety wherever we dwell and merit to see the complete redemption from all of our troubles speedily in our days.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Y. D. Grossman

What do you suppose would have happened?
No doubt a substantial percentage of the public would scoff at this and continue to criticize and ridicule Harav Grossman. Trust me, this will not be a single percentage point more than those who continued to scoff and ridicule him in the wake of his retraction. His retraction did not win him any friends. In fact, throngs of them are not satisfied. They are demanding an apology. For them his retraction is not enough.
So what did he gain with his retraction?
Not a whole lot.
And what did he lose?
He lost a ton of respect from those who previously admired him. Yours truly included. He is now thought of to be without principles by those on both sides of the controversy (though I may be the only one on my side).
Harav Grossman, you know what they say:
If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Moreover, despite the prevailing attitude, I am certain that many of the people who sound off are well meaning people and yarei Shamayim and sincerely do not know any better and are just going with the flow. Some have even deluded themselves into thinking that there is backing from serious Torah authorities. I have encountered a fair number of them in the course of my writing on this subject and have succeeded in getting some to rethink their opinions. The irreligious ones and the secular minded ones are not going to change their Western style of thinking, but those who are capable of the Thinking Like a Jew perception can be reached and set straight. It is inexcusable to let this opportunity slip through one’s fingers.
And what about his financial backers?
I personally think that if he would have put out a letter such as the one I drafted, most of those who support his projects would have been placated and would continue to support them. I think the fallout would be minimal. Time heals these kind of wounds. This has been the case in other situations when prominent people were involved in controversial matters. 
I repeat that I am not privy to the magnitude of backlash and severity of the threatened repercussions and am in no position to judge his actions. Nevertheless, a Kiddush Hashem does not come cheap.

We are taught that one is supposed to be moser nefesh to perform a Kiddush Hashem. Though it may come with a high price, as we learned from Moshe Rabbeinu, the price for passing up the opportunity may be even higher.

The chance to make such a Kiddush Hashem is Heaven-sent. It does not come every day and it does not come to every person.
It came to Harav Grossman because he is a special person.
ומי יודע אם לעת כזאת הגעת למלכות!

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