Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our Leaders and A Reality Check

So, I am in the process of teaching the work of Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato, or Ramchal, to my Tenth Grade class on Jewish Thinking and Philosophy. I love teaching Luzzato because he brings so many different endeavors of thought and intellectual pursuit in his work. He also reminds us of probably the most important tenet to remember as human beings, Jews or otherwise. WE ARE FLAWED HUMAN BEINGS and must be content to live with these flaws. The only true perfection or שלמות אמיתית as Ramchal calls it resides with G-d. ONLY THE CREATOR IS PERFECT NOT THOSE THAT THE CREATOR CREATES – that would be us. Now, on one level this can be disconcerting, but what does every therapy and support program known to us teach us – the best way to love and cherish ourselves is to accept ourselves – our flaws along with what we love best about us. I think this is so basic (remember the very middle of the Torah teaches “and you shall love your neighbor/friend, including that which is not so great about him, as yourself!” ואהבת לרעך כמוך

A simple concept to be sure, but…. This is not always the behavior modeled by our leaders. We are seeing ongoing articles and information in so many public arenas about our leaders in our country, in Israel, and yes, in the leadership of our Jewish community who are leading by tying the noose of the power they wield around the necks of those of us who live in the community, while abusing and considering themselves above and beyond the reach of law. This is absolutely against everything I have ever learned about what it means to be a Jew. Don’t we always teach that we are to lead BY FOLLOWING THE RULES AND LAWS GIVEN US BY G-D, THE ONLY PERFECT ONE and not make it up as we go along, so to say? Isn’t that the point of Torah M’Sinai?

So, why is it that I am constantly dealing with people who are feeling the horrible impact of what is going on with the reversal of conversions that are LEGITIMATE and HALACHIC in Israel while some of the very gatekeepers of this decision are being investigated for crimes and misdeeds that we would never accept in our own lives – those of us who care, anyway?! Why are we seeing such abuse of individuals in our community, such as our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and friends and others who are gay while they are so intent on being שומרי מצוות and yet feel that they are not welcome in our shuls and Jewish institutions too often? Why are women becoming more and more invisible in a growing sector of the Orthodox observant community? This pains me to no end.

My own children who are all as observant as they can be on so many levels DO NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE AND EMBRACED by our Orthodox world because of this… and yes, let’s call it what it is, HYPOCRACY! How sad this makes me, how very sad and despondent. They are each wonderful role models and fabulous exemplars of everything that is wonderful about being Jewish and yet, feel marginalized too often. Admittedly, I have certainly felt this as well but just plod on through because I have just been doing so my whole life. This is not good enough for my children! I can’t fault them for this. They can and should be AMONGST OUR LEADERS but alas, will not…. not in that way anyway, not within the community in which they grew up and learned how to be the wonderful human beings they are. What a loss. How many other wonderful people feel the same way? Who does this leave us with for our leadership? I know…. the ones who make up the rules as they go along without the feeling of modesty and respect that we see in our fathers and mothers of old… and as they lead, the community over which they wield their power will become more and more depleted of wonderful Jewish exemplars of the closest to perfection we as humans dare come while these leaders might feel that they can continue to cross every line of decency and lawful behavior.


  1. I think this tension is lived out in the conversation about whether we create change from the inside or we deem the structures to broken and therefore start anew from the outside.

    I applaud your efforts, and those of so many other wonderful individuals and organizations, who walk the line in between and therefore are establishing change in both realms. It is certainly a difficult taks, but I imagine this work will lead to both repair in that which already is and the creation of that which can be.

  2. Thanks Rachie. I try to hold onto this same optimism. Its not that what is in place is ALL BAD -- clearly it came to be out of need and a sense of purpose. That being said, one needs to remember that we are only at best FLAWED HUMANS and that power is not a right, but an incredibly difficult responsibility -- we as Jews do NOT buy the formula that it is okay that POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY. We are REQUIRED AND COMMANDED to remember that our most powerful MUST be our most humble -- Like Moshe and Melech David, both called EVED HASHEM due to their humility and acknowledgement of their many flaws.