Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | July 29, 2009

Thursday the Rabbi Got Robbed

It’s been a while since I posted, but I have to say something.

The past week has brought terrible issues to the fore. Day after day, corruption, theft, cheating, and yarmulkas and beards in mug shots. WHAT’S GOING ON???!!!

There is a fascinating Midrash in Eicha (the megilla we will read Tisha B’Av evening.) In it, Abraham asks the Al-mighty why his children have been sent into exile, with their Temple destroyed.

G-d answered that there were two reasons: First, they served other gods. Second, they rejoiced at the downfall of their brethren.

It seems to me that the connection between this Midrash and the events of the past week is striking.

When people steal, cheat, or lie to make money, as the charges against the various Jews state, they are inherently denying the ability of the Master of the World to provide for them. They feel they must do what they do to make money. This is idolatrous.

In fact, this mistake is two-fold. They abandon G-d Who is the source of all good in the world, and depend on other things. More than that, those other things cannot help them, and are in fact very dangerous!

Instead of punishing them directly, G-d says, “OK, you think you can do it on your own? Go ahead. Let’s see.”

Whether it was money-laundering, stealing mail, or taking government subsidies illegally, all the people who participate in these acts essentially are denying G-d and His Divine Providence. At the same time, they worship Him in some ways, a behavior truly typical of idol-worshipers with multiple gods of varying powers and purviews.

That’s the idol worship part. What about the second piece, the feeling of smug satisfaction from others when they see these people falling or being dragged into court?

We who are witnessing these events, must be disgusted by the chillul HaShem, the desecration of G-d’s holy name and the tarnishment of His reputation which comes as a result of the action of “His People.”

At the same time, we must feel for these poor souls who felt so bereft that they needed to resort to falsehood and trickery. Perhaps it was arrogance which motivated them, arrogance which will keep them from the sphere of HaShem’s countenance, as He cannot dwell with someone who is arrogant.

Instead of talking about these people, or disparaging stereotypes, we must pray for them and pity them. We must ask that they fall into the hands of G-d, not the hands of Man, for His mercy is great, while Man can be ruthless.

Further, we must strengthen our own faith that despite setbacks, HaShem is carefully orchestrating all events. We must remind ourselves that the only way to succeed is to follow His rules, the rules He set up to run the world.

These things are coming to a head just in time for Tisha B’Av. Someone told me Tisha B’Av is a yucky day and you just have to get through it however you can.

I disagree. Tisha B’Av is a time of supreme closeness. A parent must get very close to his child to spank him and this is a time when HaShem is close. When a child is punished, he can cry and apologize, and his father will hug him and wipe away the tears.

These events have brought this to the fore. We are so far away from our father that we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Let’s stop and realize that He has orchestrated all the arrests to happen at just this time not because He wants to punish us, but because He wants to bring us home.

We can’t change what these people are accused of doing, but we can change our response to them. We don’t need to accuse and point fingers, there’s enough of that.

Our job is to feel for all our brothers and sisters and be saddened when they fall, spiritually, financially, or otherwise.

If we do that, then we will have turned the message of Tisha B’Av into a lesson learned, and we may be able to come home again. If not, we are just as corrupt and off base as those who think they can take matters into their “own hands.”

But that’s just my outlook. What’s yours?



  1. Yeah! I am the first one to comment!

    Great post, Reb Jon! Good message.

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