There are probably no sadder stories in our most recent history than the horrific stories of Epstein, Weinstein and any of the other famous, or unknown, convicted or alleged sex offenders.
These stories make nobody happy.
The news does a good enough job reporting on the details of the famous transgressors and suspected transgressors. The facts revolving around those which go unreported are know, too well, to those involved.
Nothing would be added by this post’s restating any of the facts. In fact, the list of famous people associated with sexual transgressions is nothing but horrifyingly way too long. (Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson, Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby, Oscar Wilde, Bill Clinton ad infinitum.)
Facing tragic events, questions naturally arise. That is human nature. We question. We particularly search for answers when we are shocked and dismayed.
Why? Why would otherwise successful, intelligent individuals fall prey to acts which would ultimately harm them? Could they have not foreseen the simple truth that momentary pleasure weighed against more far-reaching results should be avoided?
How? How could attorneys, actors, millionaires, billionaires men and women of the highest levels of success in our modern times fall to acts criminalized by society and then, sorrowfully, so very sorrowfully, fall to the disdain of that very society?
Finally, what are we as a nation, as a community, each in our own private world, to learn from all this?
I can’t speak for everyone. My dominion, my training, my writings, my adult life has been spent promoting Jewish family purity.
For Jews, it’s an obligation. It’s part of the Torah. It’s incumbent. Many of those Jews, myself included, follow those laws obediently because they are our religion.
By way of investigation, though, let’s briefly step back and glance at some of the principles. Can they, should they, be able to inform, inspire or at least empower us?
Fences. Fences. Fences.
The opening paragraph of the Ethics of the Fathers concludes with these words: “….and erect fences around the law in order to distance oneself from transgressing the law.”
What are some of these fences?
The observant Jew refrains from physical contact with any woman who is not his wife. None.
Furthermore, he refrains from being in closed quarters (generally meant as locked room, though that is not its exclusive meaning) with any woman who is not his wife.
These are the most apparent and obvious to the observing outsider’s eye.
But, let’s look a bit deeper. What about the very simple “Do not covet thy neighbor’s wife?”
That isn’t a “fence.” In fact, that one made it to the top Ten.
What is the point of all this? Where are we going? What do we want to say?
We want to say that which is not popular. To be popular, all you need to do is harp on popular catch phrases, sound bites.
- “You can!”
- “You can achieve whatever you set your mind to!”
- “The sky is the limit!”
That’s how you write to become popular. That’s how you run for office. You don’t win contests by speaking about self-control, respect, reigning in potentially harmful traits.
But, there is plenty to be said for old-fashioned mores. I believe that as a group we can change things. Unfortunately, in our times the actions associated with Epsteins, Weinsteins, Woody Allens and Michael Jacksons have permeated the media. They’ve percolated down.
Has this become the norm? Are we to accept this as the new okay?
But, to change things, we need to change our perspective. Here are some suggestions.
Respect for the institute of marriage. This is my big one. Yes, marriage is forever. Yes, man does leave his father and mother and become as one with his wife. (And, yes, I did find myself asking my own wife of almost forty years (gulp) who was passing through a mild stomach virus for about a week, “Dear, how is our stomach feeling today?”)
Space and respect for members of the other gender, period. All women and all men, mostly men because we’re ostensibly more guilty, need to give space and respect to other people.
Boundaries. That’s a pretty volatile word nowadays. I’m not talking about boundaries to keep foreigners out of our country. I’m talking about boundaries where we limit ourselves to where we belong.
Uninvited, and unwelcome, infringements on other people’s space is simply that. It could also have horrific ramifications.
As a retired prison chaplain who spent thirteen years, full time (that’s 7:30 to 5:00) five days a week inside the cells of maximum security prisons, I can say that there is nothing more heartbreaking than heartbreaking life stories.
When it comes to sexual offenses, whether convicted or alleged, we need to know that we have the power to prevent these shortcomings.
We need to increase self control. Give proper space and respect to others.
We need to know what’s right and wrong. We need to erect and bear by our own personal, internal fences.
And, we will make the world a better place. With G-d’s help.