Friday, July 31, 2009

Why Do Some Religious People Act Unethically?

Some Thoughts On The Arrests of Rabbis, Last Week and Last Year.

Thank you to Abigail Hirsch for videotaping this video, and to Lorne Lieberman for his support of the video project.

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Anonymous said...

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chabakuk elisha said...

An interesting and valid point.

I also think that to properly understand this phenomenon, we must first differentiate between crimes a little bit on the one hand, and then understand the reasons behind them a little bit on the other.

First, it should come as no shock to anyone above the age of 20 that all people are people, be they religious/non-religious, or leaders/non-leaders. I have yet to meet a perfect human. As such, they have an evil-inclination to overcome in whatever areas that they struggle, and while it would be great if we would all succeed 100% of the time, it is really not so – as King Solomon said, ”There is no righteous person who does only good and does not sin.”
This is not a rabbinic or even a Jewish problem, per se; rather, it is a human one.

Now, as to molestation or other similarly sick behaviors, that is a problem that has nothing to do with one’s religious beliefs. If that individual happens to be a rabbi or a psychologist or a doctor or a bus driver is irrelevant – he is simply an individual who needed to get some kind of help, but didn’t. It is a sick human being – and tragic as it is, the fact that it may be a rabbi/priest/Indian chief is only significant in that it may be a “man-bites-dog” kind of story, or used as a tool to discredit a group for whatever reason.

Then we come to money. Honesty when it comes to money matters is truly the single greatest challenge we face in the world. The human mind can rationalize many things, and it is a very skilled navigator in this area. On top of that, a leader has responsibilities in the Orthodox community that most of us (who are lucky enough not to be in such a position) ever have to deal with. They have schools, institutions and charities that are doing communal work and are, in the vast majority of cases, greatly underfunded. A compassionate and caring, moral, man who is trying to service those people that depend on his leadership can sometimes fall prey to a scam or scam-artist that can help his budget.
It is here that lines can become blurry, as he may rationalize that so much good can be accomplished if he participates in some money-laundering scheme or what have you – and, of course, if he gets away with it once it becomes almost “permitted” behavior and is repeated.

Obviously, it’s terrible, it’s illegal, it’s unethical and it’s tragic. But the individual rabbi almost feels forced into it. I wish it was not so, but it is so.
In the vast majority of cases, these aren’t money hungry or power hungry monsters – they tend to be just faulty humans.