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Jerusalem - Opinion: Abuse Of Holy Power

Published on: October 16, 2012 10:10 AM
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Jerusalem - There is nothing more embarrassing than revered rabbis and kabbalists being suspected of stealing Torah scrolls or bribing police officers. No amount of water can extinguish a fire that rages in God’s vineyard. What will naive, God-fearing Jews say when they see corrupt rabbis striving to retain their positions as leaders of communities, and when the homes of the grandchildren of the righteous become their prisons?

One of the greatest kabbalists of the past generations lived in the Shabazi neighborhood in Tel Aviv for decades. He was known as the “holy cobbler,” and he lived in a small apartment beside his shop. Each night, pious sages would gather there to learn, pray and offer formulas of “tikkun olam” meant to repair a fractured world. They were all poor Jews who supported themselves through menial labor. Each of them had a nickname that reflected his profession — the cobbler, the builder, the painter, the milkman and the street cleaner. They did not have titles of honor and their yards were always filled with hungry cats rather than important businessmen.

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During those years, Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi, of blessed memory, lived in Jerusalem. Sharabi, a great kabbalist and founder of Yeshivat Nahar Shalom, a yeshiva for the study of kabbalah in the neighborhood of Nachlaot, was visited by many students eager to learn the secrets of Jewish mysticism. Hundreds paid him a visit each night, and the rabbi patiently blessed each of them. Every cent of the charity donations he received was transferred immediately to the needy, while he himself never took interest in monetary gain. Most of his life was spent in affliction, shunning worldly materials. He viewed the world as a narrow passageway to the world of the afterlife.

Years passed and the ever-growing material world took its toll on rabbis studying and teaching kabbalah, the holy crown of Jewish wisdom. Materialism began to affect rabbis who were viewed as role models — rabbis who were supposed to be modest, humble and devoid of material desires. Jewish mysticism, which transcends the mundane world, was gradually taken over by a few characters who proceeded to transform it into nothing more than a lucrative business venture. Those people purchased palaces, luxury cars and other envy-inspiring items with the money they obtained. A genuine sage told me years ago that a kabbalist has never emerged from a five-room apartment.

The unholy alliance between the tycoons looking for something to help them deal with their consciences, rabbis under the influence of material desire and media agents who constantly chase the ratings, created a difficult reality that tarred the image of religious Judaism and the kabbalah. God, as we know, is upright and loathes corruption, even when it is done in the name of heaven.

The common response to the charges of corruption is that it was perpetrated by rabbinical aides, without the knowledge of the rabbi himself. But if a rabbi is unaware of what his aides are doing right under his nose, how can he know what is being done by Jews who seek his advice?

Everyone has the right to approach his trusted rabbi and donate money to him, even if the money constitutes the person’s entire life savings or his or her accumulated pension funds. But the line is crossed when the act involves a desecration of God’s name, something for which there can never be any restitution.

It is important for rabbis, kabbalists and public servants to internalize the significance of being a personal example. It is unfortunate that the splendid image of Judaism is being held captive by a few unholy people who exploit the heritage of our forefathers and abuse their special God-given abilities.

Dr. Haim Shane, a professor at Shaarei Mishpat College   Dr. Shine can be reached at his email here  

The above opinion appears in today’s edition os israeli newspaper Israel Hayom



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Read Comments (24)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM Anonymous Says:

Kabbalah is for you to heal yourself and improve your community. It is not a way for you to make a buck and try to expose the greater wants of an indigent or otherwise wanton group of people to acheive their "aims". Kabbalah is about healing. And in my vision of Kabbalah, you only have Kabbalah if Hashem wants you to have it. You can join the ranks of Kabbalists by studying Torah and keeping the Commandments. And if you really have Kabbalah, it might be your secret. Its not a way to make money and its clearly not a way to dazzle the imperfected tribe with your own promise and elevation. Keep the Faith. Do not corrupt Israel.

2

 Oct 16, 2012 at 10:48 AM Wondering Jew Says:

It begs the question. Is Kabbalah itself a fraud perpetrated on the Jewish people? The Rambam seemed to hold that one could be a fine Jew without Kabbalah. The question could be taken further. In light of the various scandals and mismanagment of various communal issues, Can it be that Daas Torah is also something of a fraud. Can it be that blind faith in another human being is itself antithethical to Judaism? Is it not somewhat of a Chutzpah for Rabbinic leaders in our generation to expect blind allegiance from the Tzibbur. Isn't it wrong for Roshei Yeshiva to not encourage their Talmidim to question dogma,and to actually promote the kind of culture that feeds into these Kabbalah scams. Just asking, and wondering.

3

 Oct 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM Anonymous Says:

you can add using an I-PAD by a so called "rav" to your above article whats ossur is ossur for everyone. I dont believe for one second that hagon rav shteinman shlita was mattir any rav to use the I-PAD
as a matter of fact a meeting was held this week to tackle the problem of internet,cellphones,l-pads etc. THe worst example and chillul hashem is for a rav not to practice what he himself preaches. There is no double standard when it comes to daas torah and what rabbonim assur is assur for all.
I for one wont be donating to that ravs organization though in the past i felt it was a worthy investment . nor will i listen to any of his tapes though they are intertaining. In my books he's now on par with jacki mason

4

 Oct 16, 2012 at 11:47 AM FredE Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

you can add using an I-PAD by a so called "rav" to your above article whats ossur is ossur for everyone. I dont believe for one second that hagon rav shteinman shlita was mattir any rav to use the I-PAD
as a matter of fact a meeting was held this week to tackle the problem of internet,cellphones,l-pads etc. THe worst example and chillul hashem is for a rav not to practice what he himself preaches. There is no double standard when it comes to daas torah and what rabbonim assur is assur for all.
I for one wont be donating to that ravs organization though in the past i felt it was a worthy investment . nor will i listen to any of his tapes though they are intertaining. In my books he's now on par with jacki mason

I dont know. Jackie Mason is at least funny...

5

 Oct 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Wondering Jew Says:

It begs the question. Is Kabbalah itself a fraud perpetrated on the Jewish people? The Rambam seemed to hold that one could be a fine Jew without Kabbalah. The question could be taken further. In light of the various scandals and mismanagment of various communal issues, Can it be that Daas Torah is also something of a fraud. Can it be that blind faith in another human being is itself antithethical to Judaism? Is it not somewhat of a Chutzpah for Rabbinic leaders in our generation to expect blind allegiance from the Tzibbur. Isn't it wrong for Roshei Yeshiva to not encourage their Talmidim to question dogma,and to actually promote the kind of culture that feeds into these Kabbalah scams. Just asking, and wondering.

YES! And I 100% agree with you.

You have my vote

6

 Oct 16, 2012 at 12:02 PM Anonymous Says:

I once went to one of thses kabbalists to see if he can bring about yeshous to a tzara. This particular one siad he can look at your hands and see the future. He can then try to somehow turn it into good. (Sort of like the gemara in brochos that the outcome of dreams are determined by its interpeter) He wanted $100 for to intially llok at my hand and more oney if it requires additonal tikunum. Guess what i walked out on him

7

 Oct 16, 2012 at 12:04 PM Anonymous Says:

Why are Chasidish Rebas different? The Sanza Ruv didn't go to sleep at night if he knew that there was still a kopeka in his pocket. You think he spent money building a nicer Tish Tzimer to outdo his competiter?

8

 Oct 16, 2012 at 12:04 PM Anyone Says:

Kudoos to VIN for printing this article and KOL HAKAVOD to Dr. "shine" for being a "Shining" Star above the rest.

Where are our leaders? there should be an outcry and a condemnation against such behavior, but everyone is quiet.

watching the double standard and hypocrisy it is no wonder why our Children go "Off the derech".

We need more "Shining" examples like Dr. Shine. Kol Hakavod.

Just an ordinary Jew

9

 Oct 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM tired Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

you can add using an I-PAD by a so called "rav" to your above article whats ossur is ossur for everyone. I dont believe for one second that hagon rav shteinman shlita was mattir any rav to use the I-PAD
as a matter of fact a meeting was held this week to tackle the problem of internet,cellphones,l-pads etc. THe worst example and chillul hashem is for a rav not to practice what he himself preaches. There is no double standard when it comes to daas torah and what rabbonim assur is assur for all.
I for one wont be donating to that ravs organization though in the past i felt it was a worthy investment . nor will i listen to any of his tapes though they are intertaining. In my books he's now on par with jacki mason

i hope you feel better, get a life take a walk get out of the house it will make you feel better

10

 Oct 16, 2012 at 12:54 PM PMOinFL Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

you can add using an I-PAD by a so called "rav" to your above article whats ossur is ossur for everyone. I dont believe for one second that hagon rav shteinman shlita was mattir any rav to use the I-PAD
as a matter of fact a meeting was held this week to tackle the problem of internet,cellphones,l-pads etc. THe worst example and chillul hashem is for a rav not to practice what he himself preaches. There is no double standard when it comes to daas torah and what rabbonim assur is assur for all.
I for one wont be donating to that ravs organization though in the past i felt it was a worthy investment . nor will i listen to any of his tapes though they are intertaining. In my books he's now on par with jacki mason

You are 100% correct. It only goes to show that banning things is never he way to go. H" created innovation and H" created innovators. EVERY innovation can be used for good and evil, whether they be guns, words, or iPads. How a particular innovation is used is a direct reflection of the individual, not a function of the tool itself. For example, if using an iPad allows you to attend an online daf-yomi shiur that you wouldn't be able to attend otherwise, then it is good. If you use it to go social networking sites to bully someone, that is bad.

These misguided rabbonim are no different than the misguided liberals who want to ban guns. It is really no different. I can use a gun to rob a store, or I can use it to defend my family against an intruder.

iPads, smartphones, computers, and the like are TOOLS... nothing more. One man sees it as an opportunity to take advantage of more opportunities to learn, while another will see it as an opportunity to get more pornography. The one man will still learn without it, just not as much or as well. The other will still seek out pornography, it just won't be as convenient.

Fix the PERSON, and the rest is moot.

11

 Oct 16, 2012 at 01:03 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

We are constantly warned not to say anything negative about rabbanim

Now, I was always perplexed by this; I never feel the yetzer harah to commit that particular aveirah, is it really that prevalent?

Apparently, current events are clear indications that Satan has had it with the status quo and is really ratcheting things up to finally catch me in his trap. Nice try. I say nothing and urge all of you to do the same, tempted though you may be.

As a humorous aside, my father (ZZGuS) quotes an alte yiddle as to why m'toor nisht bareden rabboonim: Veil vus far a shaigetz er zol nor nisht zein, ehr hot a groisse zeide in himmel vus vet zich far eim un nemen.

Tread carefully. And if you mess with my Rebbe, you mess with me.

12

 Oct 16, 2012 at 02:15 PM BeKind Says:

A smart phone or iPad (any tablet) in the hands of a youngster is as dangerous as a gun, or poison!

13

 Oct 16, 2012 at 02:21 PM Anonymous Says:

obama is also a revered kabbalist !!

14

 Oct 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM Anonymous Says:

These "Kabalists" are lookes by most normal people as alternative medical practicers. I wouldn't compare them to Rabbonim in any way.

15

 Oct 16, 2012 at 03:09 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
PMOinFL Says:

You are 100% correct. It only goes to show that banning things is never he way to go. H" created innovation and H" created innovators. EVERY innovation can be used for good and evil, whether they be guns, words, or iPads. How a particular innovation is used is a direct reflection of the individual, not a function of the tool itself. For example, if using an iPad allows you to attend an online daf-yomi shiur that you wouldn't be able to attend otherwise, then it is good. If you use it to go social networking sites to bully someone, that is bad.

These misguided rabbonim are no different than the misguided liberals who want to ban guns. It is really no different. I can use a gun to rob a store, or I can use it to defend my family against an intruder.

iPads, smartphones, computers, and the like are TOOLS... nothing more. One man sees it as an opportunity to take advantage of more opportunities to learn, while another will see it as an opportunity to get more pornography. The one man will still learn without it, just not as much or as well. The other will still seek out pornography, it just won't be as convenient.

Fix the PERSON, and the rest is moot.

in general your correct, every tool can be used for good and bad but just as you wont trust your 8 year old with a loaded gun even though you own it to protect your family you concede that would be foolish to let him play with it .so too the internet is a loaded gun to shoot your neshama way down to most of us even rabbonim. hence many rabbonim osur it completely .you can be sure that those ehrlich rabbonim who are sincerely dedicated and worried about the future of yiddishkeit dont use or go near the internet

16

 Oct 16, 2012 at 03:12 PM Clay Zion Says:

Reply to #2  
Wondering Jew Says:

It begs the question. Is Kabbalah itself a fraud perpetrated on the Jewish people? The Rambam seemed to hold that one could be a fine Jew without Kabbalah. The question could be taken further. In light of the various scandals and mismanagment of various communal issues, Can it be that Daas Torah is also something of a fraud. Can it be that blind faith in another human being is itself antithethical to Judaism? Is it not somewhat of a Chutzpah for Rabbinic leaders in our generation to expect blind allegiance from the Tzibbur. Isn't it wrong for Roshei Yeshiva to not encourage their Talmidim to question dogma,and to actually promote the kind of culture that feeds into these Kabbalah scams. Just asking, and wondering.

Very very well said!

17

 Oct 16, 2012 at 05:23 PM Footnote: Says:

Some Tzaddikim and great Kabbalists did live in the "lap of luxury". That in itself is not a problem. According to Chazal, a Torah-sage and leader that is wealthy commands more respect and wields more influence.
The main thing is that they didn't DEMAND wealth. They didn't make it a priority. And it didn't affect their piety. And they were constantly fully prepared to suffer poverty (if/when Bashert) and still serve Hashem with the same fervor.

Many Tzaddikim have lived (or still live) in nice houses only because their followers insisted on building it for them.
Some resisted. For example:
The Bobover Shul on 48th st. was originally designed to reach the corner of 48 st. and 15th ave. Which means that the original blue-prints called for knocking down Reb Shlomo's Z'L house and building him a new one down the block. Some wealthy Chassidim and friends were clamoring to bring that about. (It would have also increased the size of the Shul.)
Reb Shlomo refused on the basis that he suspected that they were planning to build him a luxurious mansion. He Takeh wanted just a simple house.
That's why the large Bobover Beis-Hamedrish has such a strange shape.

Continued:

18

 Oct 16, 2012 at 05:24 PM Footnote: Says:

Continuation:

I'll bet that the Lubavitcher Rebbe Z'L also resisted. I've been in his old house (when being menachem-Avel). His kitchen looked like it was salvaged from Noach's Teyvah... The same with Reb Chaim Kanievsky Shlit'a.

But some other great Tzaddikim didn't resist (for whatever reason) or they were informed too late. (Or the Rebbitzins insisted...)

Bottom line: Wealth doesn't Davka signify corruption or greed.

19

 Oct 16, 2012 at 05:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #12  
BeKind Says:

A smart phone or iPad (any tablet) in the hands of a youngster is as dangerous as a gun, or poison!

That is about as true as the pope being jewish.

20

 Oct 16, 2012 at 08:24 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

Reply to #14  
Anonymous Says:

These "Kabalists" are lookes by most normal people as alternative medical practicers. I wouldn't compare them to Rabbonim in any way.

A lot of ignorant people refer to themselves as "normal."

21

 Oct 16, 2012 at 08:41 PM Lonelyking Says:

First of all, we need to stay FAR AWAY from passing judgement on any particular person. What do we know if we would be in their shoes...?!!
However, I need to say that I disagree with the article a 100%. The fact is, that some of our leaders Rabbis, Nesiim, Rebbes, Mekubalim were rich beyond dreams. And it was PART OF THEIR AVODA.
Let's not pass the responsibility of the failing ones to the riches. Things are not good or bad, innocent or guilty. It's our fitness to handle them what matters.
And so that is the lesson we should learn.
No one is infallible: and no one has the right to claim that he is.
We should open our eyes and understand and see.
We have a responsibility whom we trust, listen to or promote.
Throwing around adjectives, like as if it matters what is our opinion is covering our own eyes with dust.
It says of Hashem: where is his greatness, there is his humbleness.
When someone at a position of wealth is not humble, and tries to use that wealth to inject differences between himself and Am Yisrael, we should notice the obvious -- because no one sees what's in a person's heart, only Hashem.
May we learn our lessons, and Greet Our Rightous King, Moshiach!

22

 Oct 16, 2012 at 09:46 PM cocoaman Says:

yup #18. that's the big diff bw the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the other chassidic Rebbes. The Lubavitcher Rebbe left NY maybe once since he reached the shores of America. didn't own a car or other luxuries. never saw FL,CA or other exotic places. never took a penny for himself even when he had private audiences (pidyan) he handed out millions of $$ to yidden that shud be given tzedakah. the dollars that were given with a bracha from his hand was kept by the recepient while another dollar was given to tzedakah.... there are only a handful or less of true tzaddikim. the rest are frauds

23

 Oct 17, 2012 at 12:56 AM A Says:

Reply to #21  
Lonelyking Says:

First of all, we need to stay FAR AWAY from passing judgement on any particular person. What do we know if we would be in their shoes...?!!
However, I need to say that I disagree with the article a 100%. The fact is, that some of our leaders Rabbis, Nesiim, Rebbes, Mekubalim were rich beyond dreams. And it was PART OF THEIR AVODA.
Let's not pass the responsibility of the failing ones to the riches. Things are not good or bad, innocent or guilty. It's our fitness to handle them what matters.
And so that is the lesson we should learn.
No one is infallible: and no one has the right to claim that he is.
We should open our eyes and understand and see.
We have a responsibility whom we trust, listen to or promote.
Throwing around adjectives, like as if it matters what is our opinion is covering our own eyes with dust.
It says of Hashem: where is his greatness, there is his humbleness.
When someone at a position of wealth is not humble, and tries to use that wealth to inject differences between himself and Am Yisrael, we should notice the obvious -- because no one sees what's in a person's heart, only Hashem.
May we learn our lessons, and Greet Our Rightous King, Moshiach!

I believe the real problem is not whether these Rebbes, Rabbis, Mekubalim, etc. are rich the problem is how they became/become rich. When they demand a large sum of money in return for a brocha or advice many of us look at them with a bad taste in our mouths.

24

 Oct 17, 2012 at 04:02 AM Wise-Guy Says:

Reply to #22  
cocoaman Says:

yup #18. that's the big diff bw the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the other chassidic Rebbes. The Lubavitcher Rebbe left NY maybe once since he reached the shores of America. didn't own a car or other luxuries. never saw FL,CA or other exotic places. never took a penny for himself even when he had private audiences (pidyan) he handed out millions of $$ to yidden that shud be given tzedakah. the dollars that were given with a bracha from his hand was kept by the recepient while another dollar was given to tzedakah.... there are only a handful or less of true tzaddikim. the rest are frauds

I take issue with only one thing that you wrote:
Regarding Rebbes that went to Florida or California for respite, that was a traditional practice with many of our Tzaddikim of yesteryear.
Countless of Rebbes and Rabbonim over the centuries had the "custom" of, once every year or two, going to a "Kur Urt". (That's Yiddish for either "resort place" or "revitalization spot".)
There were numerous reasons for this "escaping" from their hometowns, including (but not limited to) health-reasons, meeting and conversing with the other Gedolim, in a peaceful and tranquil setting, and to relax and recuperate from the constant pressures back home.
These reasons apply to today as well.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe Z'L had his own ways and practices, but that doesn't make it the ONLY proper way.

25

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