Indecent acts

Earlier this summer, I wrote on this site about the woeful attitude of many in the Jewish establishment towards cases of child abuse: “Sorry, Rabbi, it’s not OK.” With Mordechai Elon being found guilty this morning of indecent acts against a minor, I feel the need to respond to some shocking reactions on social media.

The fact that the man may have sinned does not change the quality of the Torah he has taught for decades.

Well, we have two choices here. Either the Torah as a whole is invalidated, or Elon’s tiny, tiny corner of it is. If you truly believe that child abuse does not impinge on one’s suitability to teach God’s word, then you have made God an accomplice to some truly heinous acts.

It’s the month of Elul! Don’t you believe in the power of repentance?

Repentance is, in the Jewish conception, between man and God–not via priest, press or public. (Elon has denied the charges throughout the legal process.) When a court determines guilt, penitence is absolutely irrelevant. The victim and perpetrator will get to talk about how they feel at sentencing.

Whatever you believe, this is a very sad day.

The sad days were a decade ago when Elon committed these acts. The sad days were every day since then that the case was handled with kid-gloves, as compromises were reached and feet were dragged. Today is a day of justice, a day when healing may begin.

Justice is, after all, the opening theme of this week’s Torah portion, Shofetim: “Justice, justice you must pursue” (Deut. 16:20). In fact, the Talmud understands this (Sanhedrin 32b) as a mandate to “Seek out a fitting court.” The broader tragedy here is that so many religious Jews seem to be unclear as to what a “fitting court” is for this sort of reprehensible crime.


About the Author
Yoseif Bloch is a rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Shvilei Hatorah and served as a congregational rabbi in Canada. He currently works as an editor, translator and publisher. As a blogger and podcaster, he is known as Rabbi Joe in Jerusalem.