Monday, 3 December 2012

Cast adrift

And so it appears that we have reached the endgame. Weeks of plotting and intrigue have left us a stage looking like the aftermath of a Greek tragedy. Halpern slain in one corner, Padwa struck down in another, his signet ring carrying the Kedassia seal beside him splattered in blood with another Halpern swinging his sword indiscriminately in the last throes of death. As for the other players, they are like dancers at a masked ball fading into the night, though unfortunately no assassin amongst them.
Enough, probably too much, has been said about the accused and the nature of the allegations and it is time to move on. Let's ignore for a moment every one of the allegations of which the vast majority of us haven't heard first person. Let us also ignore every statement we haven't been given the opportunity to read, every meeting we didn’t attend and the many quotes from rabbonim we haven't spoken to. We shall instead concentrate on the few incontrovertible facts in this sorry saga.
This much we can be certain about. That Chaim Halpern resigned "in his own interest" from all public positions bar his own beis hamedresh; that the letter in his own hand refers to complaints relating to marriage counselling but which it fails to deny; that no one has stood up to defend him publicly and on record; and that rumours of the most heinous nature are circulating about him.
Even if every single allegation is discounted, every halachic trick conjured up to disqualify such evidence that there is and the spin his camp is putting out is accepted in its entirety, the above facts alone are unprecedented in the annals of our community or of any chareidi community anywhere. They demand a response from responsible leaders and this has not been forthcoming, which gives us one more incontrovertible fact. That these people are neither leaders nor responsible. As I quoted in my last post, it is not the rodent but its hideout that is at fault. And the size of this rodent is matched only by the size of its hideout: the rabbonim who continue to shield him.
We have never had much confidence in our rabbonim who have created a dunghill from the matters swept out of sight and it can’t be said anyone is really surprised, since not much was expected from them in the first place. Like Avrohom, Padwa could plead with Rav Ehrentreu to rescue his own Sodom but to speak up for the victims has proved too much of an effort. The humanity in his father's Cheishev Ho'eifoid, vol. 3 seems to have passed to another brother while he grabbed for himself just the throne.
But those who orchestrated these happenings do not fair much better either and for reasons of their own are also keeping their counsel. Last week a letter emerged signed by an anonymous group where guidance is sought on the issue from Reb Chaim Kanievsky. Putting aside the ungrammatical Hebrew and clumsy drafting and without meaning to be rude, or, rather, with every intention of being very rude, the questions posed in that letter fit into the category of, 'Teacher, may I go to the loo'. Except that this is not addressed to a primary school teacher but to the chareidi equivalent of the Lord Chief Justice.
If they are convinced in the truth of the allegations do they not possess a modicum of common sense and decency to provide the victims with the justice they deserve and the general public with the protection they require without being told so by Rav Kanievsky? And if the allegations are in doubt how on earth will an octogenarian thousands of miles away make them any wiser? They might as well have addressed their enquiry to Rav Elyashiv at his graveside and any reply would have been just as authoritative.
And so a bewildered community wanders about from blog to tweet perplexed at the turn of events and desperately seeking an explanation, knowing that an answer is too much to ask for. If we had a free press they would be yelling in headlines reminiscent of the days following the death of Diana, "SPEAK TO US, RABBONIM." "Show us you care." "The people have spoken, now you must." The multitude of comments show that there are still many who cling to the hope that given time and space the rabbis will prove their worth but I hate to say, their optimism is not only misplaced but their faith in this lot is nothing short of madness.
Turn to your rabbis to sell your chometz and for the odd query over a Shabbos hotplate but for little else. Just read the comments and hear the voices of a public begging for guidance but their rov has jetted off to the USA so that his senior rabbi can fiddle while Rome burns. Except that we are not Rome, chas vesholem, we are Jerusalem. Rome is them lot who bothered listening to the victims and spoke to their representatives and at least made an effort but it is we who apparently are the purest embodiment of Judaism.
To say they are not fit for purpose would be stating the obvious. If they came with a warranty we would be queuing for our money back. Running a chol hamoied merry go round would be too much for them and how on earth can an entire community be entrusted in their hands?
If this saga has shown us anything, it is the abject failure of leadership which itself is no more than a reflection of the lack of leadership in the entire chareidi world. We have all come to learn the hard way that da'as torah is clueless, loi soguru mipnei ish makes them recoil in fear, chielo d'oiraiso equals cowardice and apathy and emunas chachomim just beggars belief. They aren't spineless; their entire being consists of jelly.
Now is not a time to defer to our leaders but to raise question for ourselves. How have we come to be landed in a situation where universal crimes such as murder, rape and theft don't count if committed by bearded or bewigged members while idiocies of worms and skirt lengths occupy our finest brains? When did we reach a situation that to commit the perfect crime one needs only seek out a chareidi neighbourhood to carry it out? How has it come to pass that the only allegations we will deal with are when one side of the equation fails to sport a beard or doesn’t clad himself in a dustbin liner for a me'il.
Whatever is currently being alleged has been alleged over the years but most of us had not heard about it. It is only thanks to the medium they are desperate to ban that we can discuss it freely. But the chilul hashem is caused by us bloggers and commenters, not the po-faced rabbonim and supine communal leaders. Why do we write here anonymously? Because every one of us is frightened of the pack of hounds in full cry that might be unleashed by those same rabbonim who do nothing in the face of these most atrocious allegations. Kedassia issued only last week another of their imbecilious notices over chodosh and yoshon in products including Marriage’s flour but have nothing to say when their marriage counsellor allegedly comes close to deflowering virgins.
Our system is morally and spiritually bankrupt and would be so financially too if it didn't kowtow to those sustaining it with their rotten millions. They too had better realise that the days when they could treat us as their vassals if not their tenants are coming to an end. It may have worked to stop the Stamford Hill eiruv and other shenanigans but those days are as numbered as their grandchildren’s housing benefit cheques.
This is the world we have created, this is the world we sustain and this is the world which will continue until we see it for what it is. If we won’t it will be left to our emboldened youth who are already doing so in droves.
Welcome to the Torah world but not for much longer.