RECONCILING CORRUPTION AND GREED WITH RELIGIOUS BELIEF:
Those of us here at LostMessiah are forever trying to draw attention to the reprehensible behavior of those people who commit crimes, frauds, thefts, abuses and all sorts of notorious acts in their daily business or family lives while at the same time claiming a devotion to G-d and his tenets.
We are unrelentingly burdened by the contradictions inherent in a religious community that looks the part of the truly devoted but acts the part of criminals, fraudsters thieves and even sexual abusers.
It is important to understand that this does not apply to everyone. There are those who are truly devout by acts and behavior for whom the assorted crimes and transgressions set forth on these pages are unthinkable. Unfortunately far too many of us are judged by the actions of the worst within our community and not the best. In our view, and one of the many underlying tenets of this site is, until we can confront the ills within our community and weed out those corrupt, morally and ethically challenged and dangerous, our entire religious system will continue to be tainted in the eyes of the greater worldview.
The following is a post submitted by a Community Contributor to The Forward. We are reposting a portion of it and will direct you to the original article, which we believe is well worth the read.
The post was not submitted to us by its author, at least we do not think so. By posting it here, we are not in any way, shape or form claiming to have the endorsement of the author of the piece or of The Forward. We do not know if the author is a reader of our site, nor do we claim to have any connection to him. We are posting his commentary because we find it profoundly relevant to the entire mosaic of information that comprises this site.
He may disagree.
Thank you to the person who sent the link to us.
The Torah has tragically been placed in a rabbinically induced solipsistic coma at the very times that we need it to be awakened. It’s hard to know the exact year that represents the golden era of the government being the enemy that the yshiva community is operating in, but based on the posture in our community toward women, I would guess before 1920. Having never seen Hebrew grammar or the Prophets on the syllabi of any yeshivas speaks to the range of post-enlightenment education that is lacking in our schools.
I have heard stories of young couples giving money to an uncle, with a different last name, to use as a down payment on a house. Then the couple would live there while the government (taxpayers) were paying their mortgage. Rumors of second-party checks being used as currency had made their way to the coffee rooms in Israel. Still, I was not prepared for the dominant culture of Lakewood.
My first encounter with the systemic corruption was, sadly, at the local Jewish bookstore. The rabbi rang up the books, but the price changed when I took out my debit card. Unfamiliar with the custom of the city, I asked, “Is it a different price for cash and credit?” “No,” he said, “I just need to charge you tax if there is a record of it.” Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.
The system is broken and it starts at the top. I tell the following story with a very heavy heart. It involves a rabbi that was kind to me. He inspired me and honored us with naming our son. This Rav once told me that people are like borer, the act of separating on Shabbat: You have to take the good from the bad. It is with that intention that I share this reflection because there is there so much good in Lakewood.
I opened the frum, religious, gym at 5:30 a.m. and was a personal trainer before yeshiva started for the day. When I got the job, the owner asked me how I wanted to be paid. “The 1st and 15th?” I answered, not really understanding the question. “No. Do you want me to pre-tithe it for you?” He then explained how there was a wonderful outreach organization that would give him back 90% of a monthly “donation” he made to them in cash. He would get a deduction, no one would have to pay taxes or declare it as income, the organization could continue its “holy work” and I wouldn’t have to tithe it (give 10% of it to charity).
I was silent with disgust, and then it got worse. “Ask a shilah,” he said. “Everyone does it.” Out of curiosity, I called my local Posek. “Cheat!” He ruled, with enthusiasm, as if it were a mitzvah.
I did not. It is the Torah, God and the world that are being cheated. How can the choice to be ethical OR to follow the rabbis even exist at all?