Cross-Currents on the Ropes

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2 Responses

  1. Tamara Zwinak says:

    What is the constructive purpose of the public chastisement of Mr. Abramoff? I hope we take this opportunity to demonstrate Shmiras Haloshon in action.

    I empathize with Mr. Abramoff. I can not possibly know the inner workings of his heart, but must take him at his word and then watch his behavior to determine if he is repentant.

    I cannot remember exactly where I read this, but correct me if I am wrong, we are all guilty when we go into court, and innocent when we exit. That is it. Mr. Abramoff is now innocent. He has entered his plea and is cooperating with the authorities. Let him and his family rebuild their lives in peace.

  2. Ken Applebaum says:

    Although there does not appear to be a direct written source supporting Rav Adlerstein’s position, I believe the following does offer some support and, at the least, is relevant to the discussion. The Torah in Genesis ch. 35, verse 22, states that Reuven (son of our Patriarch Yaakov) went and lay with Bilhah, the concubine of his father. The Talmud in Tractate Shabbos (page 55 and brought by Rashi on verse 22) interprets this to mean not that Reuven actually had relations with Bilhah. Rather, after Rachel died, Yaakov moved his bed, which had been regularly kept in Rachel’s tent, into Bilhah’s tent (as Bilhah had been Rachel’s maidservant), and Reuven considered this as an affront to his mother Leah, and in defense of her honor, he moved Yaakov’s bed into Leah’s tent. This was the sin that Reuven had committed.

    Reuven subsequently did Teshuva (repented) for having committed this sin, as Rashi states at Genesis ch. 37, verse 28. In fact, our Rabbis say that Reuven was the FIRST to do Teshuva, which is explained to mean that even though others, such as Adam, Kayin and Yehuda, had done Teshuva before Reuven, Reuven was the first to repent for a sin which had been committed with good intentions, i.e., it had been committed by Reuven in defense of his mother’s honor.

    Reuven’s sin was not a simple one; it is described in the Torah as a Chillul Hashem (a desecration of Hashem). As Yaakov, at the end of his life, says to Reuven that Reuven had desecrated “He Who ascended my couch.” (See Genesis ch. 49, verse 4 and Rashi there).

    Now Yaakov made this statement in the presence of all of his sons (as the preceding verse 3 states) and it was recorded for all posterity in the Torah even though this occurred after Reuven had done Teshuva. This leads to the conclusion that even though Reuven had repented, Yaakov believed it was necessary to condemn the action because it had resulted in a Chillul Hashem. Yaakov’s condemnation and instruction were necessary for all of Yaakov’s sons to hear and to be recorded for all generations to teach the severity of the sin of Chillul Hashem even where the act was undertaken with the noblest of intentions.

    While I recognize that this is not an exact parallel to the case at issue, it lends support to the view that notwithstanding the transgressor’s repentance, it is necessary for the leaders of the community to speak out against acts that caused a Chillul Hashem to instruct fellow Jews and all peoples on the Torah’s viewpoint on the issue.

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