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Earthquake in the National Camp

By Tzvi Fishman
2/18/2010, 12:00 AM

I don’t intend to write about the personal side of the tragic scandal that has fallen upon us from out of the blue. Hopefully, all of the painful reports and rumors will prove to be without concrete foundation. Rather, I would like to focus on the social and national aspects of the unfortunate affair.


It is impossible to ignore the tsunami of media attention, front-page headlines, TV reports, and round-the-clock radio coverage that the story is receiving.  Granted, not every day is a famous rabbi suspected of immoral relations with students. It seems to me that the media’s knives have been sharpened precisely because the rabbi in question is a leading figure in the national religious camp, which, in combining Torah with a love for Eretz Yisrael and all the Jewish People, aspires to be a role model for others to follow.


When President Bill Clinton of the United States is caught in a disgraceful sex scandal, it is a red light that the culture and society of America is immoral, as well as its commander in chief.


So too in our case, when a spiritual leader of the dati leumi community (national religious camp) is under the magnifying glass of the media, the entire community is under the spotlight as well. Therefore, we are called upon to make a communal self-accounting and to understand that there is something rotten in our midst, whether the facts of the case prove to be true or not.


For example, a photograph of the emergency meeting of the “Takana Forum” appeared in the media. The Forum is a distinguished group of rabbis and educators set up to deal with problems related to sexual abuse. In the picture, the rabbis are seen sitting on one side of the room, and the women of the Forum are sitting on the other side. My friends, in the Haredi (UltraOrthodox) world, this would never be. There, rabbis meet with rabbis, and women are free to meet and discuss things in some other room. There isn’t any mixing.


The time has come to stop pretending that this prudent behavior is some form of unduly saintliness and extreme uncivil crudeness. This is not “ultra” Orthodox. This is the way Judaism should be in guarding the modesty so paramount to a true Torah society.


The time has come to stop pretending that these types of scandals can’t happen amongst us, as if we are immune from such base temptations. It is time to stop ignoring the warnings of our Sages, as if the dangers don’t apply to us. It is time to stop pretending that the laws of modesty are secondary matters in Halachah and Jewish life, and that we are exempted from them because we are engaged in more lofty matters – the building of the nation and the settlement of the Land. It is time to stop inviting guests to mixed weddings, and to stop holding mass demonstration where men and women are squeezed together like sardines. It is time to stop trying to be just like the secular Israelis, in order to win their favor.


The time has come to regard modesty as a subject of vital importance, both for the individual and the community, and to understand that sexual holiness is the very foundation of our nation. The time has come for our spiritual leaders to speak about these matters openly, for us to learn the laws, and to rebuild the fences that our Sages have instituted throughout our history to prevent tragic scandals from occurring.


Certainly, in the Haredi world, there are many moral breaches and sordid scandals as well. Our Sages have warned us that no one is free from the temptations of forbidden relations. Nevertheless, just as our Haredi brothers can learn from us about the love of the Land and the great and holy mitzvah of its rebuilding; we can learn from them about the sacredness of modesty.


The time has come for us, the national religious Zionist camp, to raise aloft, not only the banner of settlement, but also the banner of kedusha (holiness) as well. Without sanctifying all aspects of our lives, we cannot raise our heads and aspire to assume the leadership role in directing the nation forward. Without sanctifying all of our lives, all the splendor of the settlement movement, and all of the tremendous achievements we have made in all aspects of Israeli life, are in danger, G-d forbid.


Let’s hope and pray that out of the present darkness, a new light will appear to shine on Zion, and that we will all merit to rise up to a higher level of rectification and tikun, both personally, and for the entire national religious camp as well, in confidence that all of the nation will follow.