Rabbinical Advice and Rabbinical Vice

From the earliest days of our dispersion, first to Babylon followed by the Roman empire, Jews sat at the feet of their learned rabbis, wise sages steeped in Torah and Talmudic knowledge. They came to their rabbis for all kinds of advice, they listened and they followed the words which came from the mouths of these holy men.

These rabbis, great and small, were humble men whose only mission in life was to serve God and to bring His Torah to His people. They were the healers, the physicians, the psychiatrists, the marriage counselors of the ages. Men and women flocked to their homes seeking their advice.

With the emancipation of the 18th century in Europe, there began the “war” of the rabbis….those who followed the traditions and teachings of the Gaon of Vilna, the great Lithuanian sage, and those who followed the mystical ways of the humble Eliezer Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement.

The Hasidim established dynasties in towns where their esteemed rabbis dwelt and especially on major Jewish holydays they received hundreds, perhaps thousands of their followers who came from distant places merely to touch the robe of their chosen sainted rebbe.

In modern times, the greatest of them all was Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Chabad Rabbi of Lubavitch. He had been educated at the Sorbonne in France, spoke a dozen languages, and was widely educated in the ways of western civilization and modernization, all the while adhering strictly to Orthodox teachings and Hasidic wisdom.

I had the privilege… nay, the honor… of meeting the Rebbe on three occasions. Looking into his blue eyes and seeing his warm smile gave me at first the shocking thought that I was looking into the Face of God. He was gentle and wise and loving. And tens of thousands from all over the world, Jews and non-Jews, political leaders and officials of governments came to his home on Eastern Parkway in the Brooklyn section of New York, seeking his advice.

Rabbinical advice from such great men is not to be taken lightly. They are held in highest esteem and respect and no Jew who came seeking his advice walked away empty-handed nor spiritually unfulfilled.

Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews did not have Hasidim, as we know it, but they had rabbis of the highest order, men of renown, whose advice they sought and gladly took.

The golden years of rabbinical advice has sadly been diminished in our time. Golden years have turned into rusty years when rabbis, instead of giving advice, turn to vice to quench their personal hunger for sexual satisfaction.

Many Orthodox rabbis both here in Israel and in America are following the path of David and Bathsheba and are becoming in numbers like many priests of the Roman Catholic church who have been accused for centuries of child molestation, rape, sodomy and other manners of sexual criminality which disputes and dishonors their religious vows and callings.

Orthodox rabbis have been found guilty of sexually molesting young boys in the yeshivot, of having extra-marital affairs with women who came to ask for advice, and of forcing themselves upon non-consenting women. “Thou shalt not covet” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery” have been replaced by hunger for forbidden flesh.

In America there is an organized group of Orthodox gay rabbis and gay synagogues can be found in several cities.

To be very clear, I do not dislike gay men or women. Many of them are wise intellectuals who create their gifts and give their talents to better our society and civilization. I do not disapprove of gay people living a romantic and loving relationship together, although I am very opposed to the new concept of gay marriages.

But regrettably in Israeli society in particular, several well-known Orthodox rabbis are guilty of crimes of vice. The Berland tragedy, now before our courts, is one of the tragic examples. And the sexual lusts are not limited to the rabbis. Our ex-President sits in prison for raping women.

Military officers have been accused of sexual molestation and of forcing themselves upon non-commissioned female soldiers. Unlicensed and unwanted sex have become a sad and sick way of life.

Thankfully, most of the Orthodox rabbis in the world are men of honor and distinction, loving Torah and sharing it with their people. To these chachamim (wise men) I would gladly come to beseech their advice.

Rabbis like HaRav Kook, Herzog and Unterman, for example, set an example of respect and holiness to our people in the State of Israel. They brought honor and righteousness to the Israeli rabbinate. Aifo hem hayom? Where are they today?

Rabbinical vice is a plague that we do not want nor need. Rabbinical advice, on the other hand, is always to be treasured.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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