We Decide Who Our Heroes Are

From the Anash.org inbox: Our community is shaken by the recent episode in Eretz Yisroel. It seems not just because of the severity of the acts per se. It’s quite possible that the ensuing trauma could have been avoided.

By Dovid Berkowitz

Our community is shaken by the recent episode in Eretz Yisroel. Why? It seems not just because of the severity of the acts per se. Unfortunately, we’ve become accustomed to hearing bizarre atrocities on a regular basis.

What troubles us so much is this: How can it be that a person who we trusted, such an important person, has degenerated into such places? That an ‘educational figure’ and ‘social icon’ is capable of this slump?

It’s quite possible that the ensuing trauma could have been avoided.

The time has come for us to examine a development that has been evolving over the last few decades.

Think for a moment: Who were the personalities who our parents adored? Who were the community icons 30-40 years ago?

In the not-so-distant past, the road to the top was demanding. It was awarded to people who demonstrated an extra measure of devotion to Chassidus, toil in Torah and excellence in middos – basically, people whose mind controlled their heart and everyday conduct.

The main speakers at community events were the community rov, mashpia, and mechanech. What made someone a leader in the community was clear: heightened observance in matters of Yiras Shomayim, Torah and mitzvos.

But in recent years, this changed somewhat. We’ve been exposed to the outside world and have gotten carried away with the world of ‘professionals.’

It’s important to note that the professional world does have what to offer and Chazal have stated, “Wisdom can be found among non-Jewish nations.” But that’s all.

We thought that we would extract the ‘wisdom’ by itself. In actuality, we sat the professional at the head and made him the authority. A person who our children see as an example and role model.

Somehow, he skipped past our basic standards for leadership. He didn’t demonstrate exceptional Yiras Shomayim, keeping mitzvos b’hiddur, toil in Torah, or extraordinary eidelkeit.

It’s time to go back to where we used to be.

The subject of the latest scandal had many merits. He was a talented man by all accounts, with true messages that contributed much to our community. But apparently, he didn’t have anything more than that. Even before the allegations surfaced, it was clear that he wasn’t quite worthy of being a mashpia in yeshiva or a rov.

We adopted standards from the outside world. Due to his talents, we treated him as a leader, though he wasn’t worthy of that distinction. In the end, he let us all know what we hadn’t bothered to check out at the very beginning: his yetzer hara had been fully active and he really didn’t control his heart’s desires.

We are at fault for creating this trauma.

We are the ones who decide who sits in the ‘Mizrach’ and is the object of our children’s admiration. In the outside world, an author is a celebrity and leader. But by us, being a leader requires much more than talent.

It would seem strange to place a vagabond in the Mizrach and then complain that the Mizrach stinks.

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  1. I think the author has a good point, but this episode is not the right place to apply it to. In doing so it can hurt many people.

    No one looked up to him as a leader, yiras shomayim, mashpia etc. He was an author who gained peoples trust. People opened their hearts to him. That’s why there’s trauma.

    And on the other hand, even our great mashpi’im etc, of 30-40 years ago, have to be careful themselves and we have to be careful with them. … ein oputrupus l’arayos… no one besides a tzadik gomur can be sure they will never fall.

    There may have been no way of “checking out his yetzer hara” as the author suggests…. and the same applies to “people who demonstrated an extra measure of devotion to Chassidus, toil in Torah and excellence in middos ”
    There is no way to know if one’s “mind controlled their heart and everyday conduct.”

    1. We’re not talking about a sincere person who fell. We’re talking about someone who lived a double life.

      It’s basically impossible to be a genuine Yerei Shomayim – like R’ Pinyeh Korf a”h and other similar chassidim – while doing such things.

      You can’t tell exactly what a person is feeling. But you can tell a genuine chossid (who might even fall sometimes) from a phony.

  2. This editorial is not too on point.
    Then again neither is this whole story.
    I don’t think anyone made him a “leader”….
    He undoubtedly had clout because of his prolific writing and publishing but all within context of him just being a storybook (fiction at that) author.

  3. Where in Chabad was he sat in mizrach?

    Never happened.

    It has to do with kids growing up reading his books.

    If you want to write about that, that is a different subject. לענ”ד

    1. You missed the point. People considered him to be a respected figure, which is why they are so shaken when they heard this.

      If they only thought of him as a good writer, they would not have been so shaken, just as they aren’t terribly traumatized when a storeowner, for example, is found to have an issue.

      If we make it clear to our children that the only people we look up to are ovdei Hashem, than the aftereffect would be considerably less.

      1. True.
        Point it, he was considered a celebrity, and yes, many others are today as well.
        In past chasiddishe times, that title didn’t exist within our circles, that was left for secular or the modern “enlightened” world.
        Chassidim were educated to value, trust only real oivdei Hashem .
        Things have unfortunately changed in that regard.

  4. “We have to go back to who we are.” I have been saying that for at least ten years now to the people around me and I’m only met with slaps after slaps. Agree with this article 110% but this generation who were made by our parents generation have moved on unfortunately.

  5. Guess what? There are a lot more of these low lives out there, who put significant effort in covering over who they really are and to gain people’s trust. And yes, they exist in Chabad too..

  6. I think this is a very good perspective and we need to take action, and I thank the author for putting this out.

    I want to point out one thing, though: the way this article is written makes it seem as though the community is being blamed for this occurrence, and I strongly disagree with that.

    1. You might have understood it that way but the author is not blaming this community for the occurence itself. The author is in other words saying this situation exists amongst our own for years and it needs to STOP! The occurence was a wake up call that if people dont wake up, itll only get worse and by then itll be too late.

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