Gary Schiff
Former Conservative Synagogue President of Board and new oleh

Groping for Answers

The groping in the news leaves one feeling queasy at best as the perpetrators have been men of power.  It is interesting that many of the newly identified gropers are aligned with the political left which is allegedly the party of compassion.  More disturbing, is the fact that two of the key figures Weinstein and Franken are self-identified Jews, which in any other time would be a major hillul HaShem, a desecration of G-d’s name.  Further we are even more outraged when a professed believer on the political right, Jewish of not, is uncovered for his recent discretions because his belief is most likely also uncovered as a fraud.  Clearly he lacks fear or awe of heaven.  And therein lies the obvious answer to the groping issue.

If we believe someone is watching; i.e., HaShem, we are more likely to act with restraint. If there is a spiritual policeman who can pull us over, we are more likely to obey a moral code. So if there are more non-believers on the left or in the secular Jewish world, than in the general population, then perhaps this is the obvious answer.

From a traditional Jewish perspective though, “belief” is a weak word.  In Hebrew there is no word which directly translates as belief.  Emunah,which is imprecisely translated as faith, is actually an ancient derivative of emet; i.e. truth.  And when we say amen, another derivative of the same root, we are declaring what was just said to be true. So determining whether to “believe” takes some personal “digging” in order to determine if it is true; is there a G-d and is he watching?  Rambam elucidates this clearly.  He says we need to be logically convinced and know that God is playing an active role in our lives as the first of the thirteen principles of “faith.”

Yet there are many Jews who point to the man to man relationship and the man to God relationship as two distinct relationships.  Many declare that they are kind and caring and only need to focus on the man to man part of the equation; that they don’t need to deal with the G-d question.  Clearly the recent news regarding unwanted advances and groping by powerful men dispels that notion. These men obviously lack in Yirat Shamayim; i.e., fear or awe of HaShem and so with no moral police, groping is less of an issue. Without an authority and a moral compass from God, the moral slide happens quickly. Unfortunately we are witnessing that slide.

Can America steer back onto a moral track? Once the moral outrage over groping blows over and our senses are further dulled, will another moral outrage appear?  Probably.  And unfortunately, that may be where we are headed.

However there is hope in the Jewish community.  We are witnessing an unprecedented rebirth of Jews seeking true Emunah, which will, B”H, ultimately rebuild our moral compass, our people and help guide our world.  It happened with us. God willing, this return to true Emunah will continue to accelerate.  If it does accelerate, we may see less Jews leading the nation’s moral decline and more leading its moral growth.  God willing, we will witness and assist in that acceleration.

About the Author
Gary Schiff is a former Conservative Synagogue Board President and new oleh.