Jerusalem - Opinion: Abuse Of Holy Power

Published on: October 16th, 2012 at 12:35 PM

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.

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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