Art of Apology — For Rabbis Too
There really is little to add to the “Perverts Speech” of Rav Yigal Levinstein, Rosh Yeshiva of the Eli Pre-Military Academy. All week long we have been inundated with political, rabbinic and ideological commentary. Within the mess, I identify two noteworthy lessons that should be learned from this collision, the second far more significant.
From a purely tactical perspective, similar to the Chief Rabbinate, it is time for the leadership of the radical Hardal faction of Religious Zionism, to realize that they are often their own worse enemy, undermining the brand of Torah ideology they aspire to promote. In the week leading into the Gay Parade, the LGBT community couldn’t have hoped for a better strategic boost, than Rav Yigal’s careless fumble handed to them on a golden platter, followed by his zero-sum stubbornness and refusal to retract any aspect of his controversial phrases.
Beyond the tactical mistakes, this episode has presented an alarming educational failure, which shouldn’t go unnoticed. At this point, all parties involved, recognize that the use of “Perverts” was a severe error. Some are only willing to admit it was a tactical mistake, while others object the derogatory terminology from a moral, religious perspective. It is sad to witness Rav Yigal’s inability to publicly apologize for a clear error. It shouldn’t be so difficult for him and his supporters to balance their democratic right and religious obligation to express their views, alongside the requirement to apologize for obvious mistakes. Instead of a responsible apology all we have been hearing are pathetic versions of “it’s not me it’s you”.
Rav Yigal Levinstein undoubtedly has outstanding merits in educating thousands of students and inspiring their devotion to Torah, Israel and the Jewish People. Notwithstanding, the ability to take personal responsibility and courageously apologize for mistakes, is a cornerstone educational value. The “Art of Apology” is a critical tool for any soldier, employee, spouse, parent, sibling and child. No one wants to fight alongside a soldier that passes on blame to his fellow comrades. Employees that waste valuable time focusing on excuses instead of results, are loathed by bosses and co-workers alike. I pity a young girl that marries an arrogant angel who is never wrong. One of the foundations of a loving relationship, is the ability to own up to our mistakes and sincerely apologize from the heart. A haughty parent that is too insecure to apologize to their children, is a poor educator, raising children who will also become dysfunctional spouses. The only proven method of education is to lead by example. Rav Yigal and his supporters’ inability to own up and say “sorry”, reflects an arrogant and insecure educational failure.
One final note in spirit of the Rosh Hashana season that is just around the corner. Someone who is too weak to apologize to Israeli society, comrades and commanders, brothers and sisters, mother and father, spouse and children, will discover that they are also too weak to apologize to Gd when it is required. It’s better to perfect the Art of Apology than waste time on the Art of Excuses.