I will admit that I am as shocked, horrified, dismayed, repulsed and saddened by the Chaim Walder tragedy, as everyone else. And I am definitely feeling a sense of TMI for myself and my family. I didn’t know Chaim Walder or anyone else who had anything to do with him. I only knew his books which, over the years, helped my children grow up to be more mature, happy, confident, accepting, calm and respectful people. And my children are, as are we all, reeling from this episode. Once again, in a world of over-connectivity, they have lost a large portion of innocence and faith in mankind. My 10-year-old daughter — after hearing far too many gory details of the entire saga from the kids in her class — asked me: “Is Chaim Walder a totally evil person? Should I stop reading his books? How could he have helped so many children and hurt so many people at the same time…was he schizophrenic?”
And that’s the thing that strikes me the most in this tragedy (and it is tragic on all sides), that there are serious clashes of truth. No one can lay absolute claim to the truth right now because it is multifaceted, and before you start accusing me of taking sides, please read until the end. There are many opposing truths bound together right now. Judaism believes that human’s don’t lay claim to absolute truth, only God can and does. In Judaism, it is only God who sees and knows everything, absolutely everything, that happens to every human being on earth — everything we do, feel, think and need. Humans, on the other hand, are very short-sighted – we can’t see the whole picture, and we are clouded by our own opinions, agendas and experiences. We can only piece the pieces together, one human, one incident, one emotion at a time. So here is my small take on this clash of truths:
The truth is that there are many people out there who are hurting, whose lives have been destroyed. The truth is that this includes both the victims of rape and molestation at the hands of Chaim Walder, as well as his wife, children, parents and siblings who have just lost their beloved husband, father, son and brother. The truth is that suicide is a horrible and devastating way to die. The truth is that his family will have to live with this shame and devastation for the rest of their lives. The truth is that the victims had to speak up and tell the truth. The victims need validation, vindication, love and support. The truth is that the Walder family is suffering right now through no wrongdoing of their own. They too need validation of their suffering, they also need love and support.
The truth is that we must protect people. The truth is that the media has agendas and ratings in the forefront of their minds, not necessarily justice and repair. The truth is, that the people who had any inkling that this was going on could have stopped it long ago and saved everyone so much sorrow and heartache. The truth is that Chaim Walder’s books are amazing. The truth is that he helped a lot of children. The truth is that he did terrible things. The truth is that suicide is wrong. The truth is that politics, bureaucracy and faulty legal and police systems allow criminals to walk free for far too long. The truth is that all sexual misdemeanors are lumped into one category in the public eye, thereby preventing the truly deadly and severe cases from being taken seriously enough.
The truth is that I personally know relatives, close friends, and several of the brides that I have taught, who were raped and the perpetrator is still walking around and was never brought to justice. The truth is that I also know people who, on the flip side, were prosecuted and had their lives and careers destroyed for making a lewd comment or touching someone’s rear end. I am not excusing wrong behavior for one second, wrong is wrong, but when we equate minor offenses with major offenses such as rape or murder, we belittle those major offenses.
That was the problem I had with the #MeToo movement – no distinction was made. I think rape and molestation survivors deserve better. The truth is that people do use the media for personal agendas, vendettas and vengeance – to the point where no one even knows what to believe anymore. The truth is that right and wrong in our world have become subjective. The truth is that using the media instead of law enforcement often leads to more destruction not less. The truth is that children should not be exposed to all of the terrible things that happen in this world, before they can even understand or process the information in the correct way. Too much or too little information can both have devastating consequences. The truth is that even the Rabbis who are battling over the truth in this episode are not God. And the truth is…we will never know the whole truth.