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Sunday, July 26, 2009

I Think the Navi Just About Covered It

Two sections from Haftarat Devarim (Art Scroll English translation):

"Hear the word of Hashem, O chiefs of Sodom; give ear to the Torah of or G-d, O people of Gemorrah. Why do I need your numerous sacrifices?--says Hashem--I am satiated with elevation-offerings of rams and the choicest of fattened animals; and the blood of bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not desire. When you come to appear before Me--who sough this from your hand, to trample My courtyards? You shall not continue to bring a worthless meal-offering--incense of abomination is it unto Me; [New] Moon and Sabbath, calling of convocation, I cannot abide mendacity with assemblage. Your [New] Moons and your appointed festivals, My soul hates; they have become a burden upon Me [that] I am weary of bearing. And when you spread your hands [in prayer], I will hide My eyes from you; even if you were to increase prayer, I do not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, purify yourselves, remove the evil of your doings from before My eyes; desist from doing evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the victim, do justice for the orphan, take up the cause of the widow."

"Your princes are wayward and associates of thieves; the whole of them loves bribery and pursue [illegal] payments; for the orphan they do not do justice, the cause of the widow does not come unto them."


Anonymous said...

I was actually thinking over Shabbos that rabbanim don't have to give a drasha this Shabbos - they just have to stand up & read and translate the haftara!

way to go! said...

Yes, great and timely mussar.

Similarly, the haftoro on Yom Kippur morning talks about the need for justice and not just ritual fasting and displays of external piety.

Unfortunately, I suspect that many people don't understand the words, and/or in some places they are sped through and read in a mumble-jumble fashion (e.g. in shtiebels the people tend to mumble the haftoro individually). That is a great barrier to letting the powerful message getting out loud and clear.

They should be proclaimed loud and clear and explained in the vernacular, so our position is very clear.

Anonymous said...

"Your princes are wayward and associates of thieves; the whole of them loves bribery and pursue [illegal] payments; for the orphan they do not do justice, the cause of the widow does not come unto them."

i am afraid that there will be those who read the whole sentance and justify what they did "because" they were using the 10% that they took for the poor and shuls
or they might say that theft is ok as long as you use the proceeds for the widow and orphan

Tamar said...

This was the unnerving topic of our Shabbat table conversation. I was wondering if you agreed with me on the following: if someone chooses to dress in a way that clearly distinguishes him as a Jew, do you think he has a heightened responsibility to live cleanly and in consonance with broader society? I mean, we all have that responsibility; it's just jarring to see kapotes and peyot handcuffed and escorted into court, perhaps more disconcerting than if the criminals were not so glaringly Yidden.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Tamar. If you chose to mark yourself as a Jew, then you are in effect saying "Look at me. This is how an observant Jew behaves." That means not just refraining from illegal behavior, but also taking care to be polite to the cashier at the grocery store, not cutting people off in traffic, giving up your seat on the subway to someone who is elderly/infirm, etc.
It's a tough burden and no one can live up to this all the time, but the uniform creates heightened expectations of exemplary behavior -- and isn't that how we want it to be?

Chaim said...
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Chaim said...

Make a difference- Post (and follow this demand): In advance of the Rosh Hashana fundraising season, I say to all our organizations, don’t bother sending me a mailing to tell me what you accomplished or how great you are UNLESS you can first tell me where I can find your certified audit and 990 tax forms online.

Ahavah Gayle said...


Hate to ask, but how could you be sure they weren't photo shopped?
It's not like many of the Ravs in charge of these things would even blink at it - since, after all, it's for the benefit of fellow Jews? Many Chereidi/UO groups just don't have the same morality as people on the outside (even other Jews).

On a somewhat related note:
This haftarah was also the topic of conversation at our home on Shabbat. Of course the latest scandal from New Jersey came up (home of my oldest son's grandfather), and Madoff, but we also talked about how many communities refuse to submit to building codes, zoning ordinances, parking regulations, etc., and make the neighbors more prone to hate Jews? VIN seems to have stories regularly, but nobody takes them seriously.

Anonymous said...

We didn't talk about it in our home on shabbat, and I avoided most people this shabbat, and thus didn't talk about it at all. A little remaining jetlag caused a slightly longer than usual nap as well. Then a walk with 4 out of 5 kids, and before I knew it, shabbat was ending.

The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach. And brain. And heart.


ProfK said...

"Many Chereidi/UO groups just don't have the same morality as people on the outside (even other Jews)." Youch! Not a very helpful statement and not all that true either. I could point out that the Deal and Brooklyn Syrian communities are not traditionally called Chareidi, nor even UO. And this time they were on the catseat as well as someone from Boro Park re the organ scandal. It could also be pointed out that Madoff was far to the left of MO. Ethical delusion, such as was witnessed in this latest scandal, is not, unfortunately, the possession of only one frum group. We may have that perception because the lavush of those from the Brooklyn and Brooklyn type areas whose pictures are sometimes posted in the newspapers are distinctive. Lots harder to precisely pinpoint an MO person in a grey pin stripe suit without a kipoh on when he is rounded up and taken to be indicted.

Any push to get frum people to act in a more ethical manner is doomed to failure if you divide it along current label lines--each group will point to the other as the troublemakers and those most in need of rehabilitation. It's Klal, as a whole, that needs to be "fixed."

Upper West Side Mom said...
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Upper West Side Mom said...

Tamar, Many of these people in kapotes and payot are living in an parallel universe. There is their universe and the other one that is populated by goyim, schvartzes, less frum Jews and non frum Jews who are all a lower form of life and of no concern to them. They have no concept that when you so obviously dress as a pious Jew you are making an example of yourself and by default all of the Jewish people.

Chaim said...

Ahava, I meant on charity navigator or the like

History repeating itself? said...

We have a serious crisis on our hands and the great gains that Orthodoxy made in recent years, are endangered by it. It may be of some consolation to know that history tends to repeat itself, but it can take its time doing so. There were massive defections from Orthodoxy/Haredism (though it wasn't called that then) years ago. Seems that we may be headed in that direction again.

The Orthodox rebound in recent decades came about when people saw that Orthodox can be intelligent, with it, conversant with the language of the land and the culture, polite and pleasant, moral and living a higher and meaningful life. That we were not necessarily backward, closed minded and mired in poverty. Our image changed and we became hot.

Now we are facing a PR disaster of monumental proportions when story after story depicts angry, violent, closed-minded, book-banning and burning Orthodox, people in trouble with the law, involved in abuse scandals and cover-ups, and other less than savory activities. Often, those involved in such cases belong to insular sects or groups that are not as concerned about what outsiders think of them, than those of us that deal more with outsiders.

Hopefully people will wake up before it is too late, or I fear that we will have tough times ahead, before things straighten out, which could take a long time.

Hashem yiracheim aleinu.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought-
Is there perhaps room for a limud zechus in the money laudering cases? One of the rabbis arrested is 87. Could it be that he just doesn't quite understand the system, and when a wily businessman came to him and said "Could you help me, I have a problem with the tax authorities" he innocently thought nothing of it? I think when it comes to laundering it may not be quite as obvious that what you're doing is a crime, especially if it was a slimy businessman-turned-provocateur talking him into it. It could be he thought he was doing a favor by watching somebody's funds for him, or something like that, and getting some money for the charity in return.
I'm not ch"v defending criminal behavior. I'm also sickened by this whole thing. But I do think we should try being melamed zechus when it's possible.
Your thoughts?

SephardiLady said...

I think you bring up a few good points, the most productive being that we NEED to educate all who run discretionary funds on what is legal and what is not legal. I don't expect Rabbis to know the legal code. That is why they need advisors, just as I need an advisor on what questions of halacha.

I think at this point we have to await the evidence. I am not convinced the FBI goes after people who have not been flagged in different federal systems. My own guess, as a person with some experience in the area of fraud, is that certain charities had already been flagged through other audits or through banking systems and that is why the FBI looked to get more evidence.

What I don't understand is why a person who was already indited on a $25 million check fraud was welcome enough in a community to be able to access charities, etc. I can't imagine a person of questionable ritual observance being so welcome.

Nonetheless, the Navi speaks to me. These problems aren't new and being melamed zechut needs to be balanced out by a love of integrity and some commonsense. That's my opinion

Anonymous said...

SL: Your analogy to needing advisors on Halacha is terrific. That might make it more palatable. It's also another reason why millions of little or not so little tzedaka funds and organizations don't always make sense. The larger an organization is, the more likely it will have some proper financial controls and can get legal and accounting advice, much of which may be available pro bono or for reduced fees. Many religious organizations mistakenly think that because they don't have to apply for 501(c)(3) status and file annual state and federal informational returns like other types of non-profits do and are exempt from a few laws, that other rules don't apply to them.

Jonah Halper said...

Very appropriate. We can all learn from it, no matter how closely we fit the bill (unfortunately).