Monday, May 27, 2013

Regarding molesters: True Hishtadlus is that which works

Guest post in response to R' William Handler's nonsensical rant that was published by the Jewish Press

Getting rid of molesters…. with TRUE effort

A story is told about a small church in town, which had a garden that has become completely overgrown. Years of neglect have turned it into a veritable jungle of thorns, bushes, and weeds. Among the members of the parish was a man who was quite a talented and accomplished gardener. The sight of the overgrowth bothered him week after week, until he finally decided to do something about it. He put on his gardening gloves and began pulling weeks, removing bushes, tilled the earth, planted grass, transplanted flowers, and over several days, the garden started to look really lovely.
He worked up to the last minute before services, and was on his hands and knees in the garden, finishing up, as the priest walked by.

Looking around appreciably, he said “My word, isn’t it amazing what man could accomplish with the help from Providence!”

The gardener stood up, brushed of his hands, and responded. “With all due respect, father, you should have seen this place when Providence had this place to himself!”

Obviously, the gardener was trying to point out that it was his actions that brought about the beauty before them. And, just as obviously, the priest was trying to point out that without a God to cause seeds to germinate, grass to grow, flowers to sprout, and beautiful colors come forth, all of the work the gardener had done would have also been for naught.

This is the concept of “Hishtadlus”, loosely translated as “requisite effort” that is basic to the Jewish faith. Ever since God commanded the Jews to first travel into the Red Sea before he split it, the understanding is that God will do “his job” as long as we do “our job” 

This responsibility to do our Hishtadlus carries on to earning a livelihood, to keeping our bodies fit, and to safekeeping ourselves……. and our children.

How much Hishtadlus one is required to do is up for debate, but what is NOT up for debate is that whatever Hishtadlus entails, one is obligated to do.

If you are continuously failing in what you are trying to accomplish, you must change your game plan, your Hishtadlus.

How do you reconcile “If you fail, try try again” with “It’s not working, time to try something else”?
If you have a logical reason explaining why what you have tried did not work, and now it might, then it might pay to continue. If you have tried everything, and still have not had the success you have been hoping for, Hishtadlus might very well rule that it is time to figure out a new game plan that will work and get you the results you desire.

Continuing what you had been doing is not an option,

For decades, some of our children have been living in a veritable jungle of fear, in an undergrowth of distrust, with the thorns of molestation thrust upon them through the neglect of the community that should have protected them.

During that time, the understanding was that the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” were “dealing” with the problem.

However, it was not working. The jungle life in the garden continued to wreak havoc, one Korban at a time.

Clearly, what was being done was not working. We are now coming to the realization that logically, going to the Rabbonim with was not true Hishtadlus.

How could it be Hishtadlus? The Rabbonim with don’t have the resources, training, equipment, or ability to conduct a criminal investigation.

Upon hearing of the recent guilty plea, I was flummoxed. Where was the siyata d’shmaya? How could an Adam Gadol, who was so POSITIVE that the accused was innocent, be so WRONG, in such a SPECTACULAR fashion? The only explanation I could come up with is that “siyata d’shmaya comes as PART of Hishtadlus. When a person has a Shaila about a chicken, his Hishtadlus is to go to a Rav. And the Rav will be given siyata d’shmaya in his ruling. Since proper Hishtadlus for a molestation victim is to go to the authorities, “siyata d’shmaya was withheld from the Rav in that situation who was not doing HIS Hishtadlus in that situation, by referring the case to people who are properly equipped to investigate the situation, prosecute the culprit, and assign proper punishment.

Our Gedolim are Tzaddikim who lead us, guide us, in areas of Halacha, Mussar and Hashkafa. They need to be looked up to, and follow their dictates, which indeed DO have tremendous siyata d’shmaya in areas of Psak Halacha.

Conducting a criminal investigation is not an area in which our Rabonnim have been trained or properly outfitted for.  Not only are they not qualified to conduct the investigation, they are even less qualified – or even able – to mete out appropriate punishment.

Clearly, while Halachically one is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED to perform proper Hishtadlus, to save the lives of their children, paradoxically there were many the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” who were stopping this very Histadlus from being performed.

Thankfully, though, the tide has turned. 

Along came certain gardeners who have worked to start weeding out the evil from amongst us.
Slowly, beauty is emerging in the absence of this evil.

The people harming our children are being incarcerated. Many more are put on notice that we will not stand by and let them prey on our young.

A beautiful garden is growing.

But, make no mistake.

The eradication of this evil is being done by gardeners performing their Hishtadlus, the parents who are going to the authorities to protect their children.

None of this beauty, none of our now convicted molesters ending up in jail came about by “Providence” alone. Nor through the work of Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya”.  If anything, recent court actions show that due to the insistence of  Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” molesters have been free to continue to molest, to the point where we now have second generation molesters in our community, who have molested children AFTER the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” have been informed of their activities. In this particularly embarrassing case, the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” were absolutely CONVINCED, after “thorough investigation” that the accused was innocent… Until the accused stood up in court and admitted guilt to each and every charge.

Moreover, if the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” had their way, Nechemia Weberman would still be giving “therapy” to teenage girls in a locked office with a bedroom for 12 hours a week, Yosef Kolko will still be a camp counselor, and Jordan Murray would still be teaching 5 and 6 year olds.
It is only through TRUE Hishtadlus, going to authorities, that this problem can be dealt with.

It is clear that when people like Rabbi William Handler tell us that we should leave the issue in the hands of the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya”, we MUST stand up, brush our hands off, and tell him “You should see what a jungle this place was when the Rabbonim with “siyata d’shmaya” had it to themselves”


  1. Im not saying that these rabbonim have or dont have syata dishmaya. But you seem to think they forsure do. Its not a given that a rebbe or rov has syata dishmaya but u seem to think that they do. Please clarify

  2. Some saichel pleaseMay 28, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    While the positions of rabbonim and talmidei chachomim in the community are critical to our present and future, we would be irresponsible to allot them roles for which they are not equipped. It is the exceptional Rav that can repair an automobile, and probably even more rare to fix a broken air conditioner. The Rav must be moral and clear enough about his own identity and skills to know his limits. A Rav is not trained through rabbonus, in most situations, to serve as a therapist, counselor, or an evaluator. In fact, many therapists are not trained or qualified to evaluate a child reporting abusive behavior. To make this the purview of the untrained chochom is simply irresponsible and dangerous. And behaving stupidly while hoping for syatta dishmaya is not very smart either. I found Rabbi Handler's ranting irritating. At first, I thought he was sarcastic, and I was only passing off his humor as tolerable, since he might have been having a bad day (argument with his wife, audit by tax authorities, medical issues, etc.) until I realized he was serious. Sorry, but his op-ed was very strange.

    Syatta dishmaya does not grant the privilege of being irresponsible, then pinning the blame for what goes wrong on HKB"H.

  3. who judges which Rov has Siyata DiShmiyah, maybe many don't.
    who decides who is a "godol"; their peers the Kehilla.
    Is ther are manual?.

  4. guest post authorMay 28, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    I took it to mean that when a Rav is issuing a Psak in a field where HE did his Hishtadlus, he will see Syata dishmaya. For example, A Rav who has Smicha in Yoreh Deah will have Syata dishmaya when Paskening on Hilchos Kashrus. A Rav who has Smicha in Choshen Mishpat will see Syata dishmaya when Paskening Dinei Mamonus. A Rav who has Smicha in Yoreh Deah will NOT see Syata dishmaya when Paskening Dinei Mamonus, since he has done no Hishtadlus in that area, he has no business Paskening. Therefore, neither one of those Rabbonim would have Syata dishmaya when Paskening on criminal activity, since neither one has any business paskening on these

  5. Handler has a valid point, which is not answered by saying we have no choice. A solution may be to train people in the community to do what needs to be done. This is probably unfeasible in the near future but could be something to work towards.

  6. Could be. It also would be a good way (irrespective of accuracy) to reconcile a cognitive dissonance between the philosophy of the strong form of daas torah and the facts as seen through earthly eyes.
    Joel Rich

  7. How can Jews resort to our system (personnel, procedures,...) to prevent further molestation and get justice for victims of molestation, when our system is in such obvious disrepair? Those who condemn or harass victim families for bypassing our current system should be the first to repair our system instead of lashing out against other people. Where our repaired system exists in golus, its functioning must also be consistent with the applicable details of the secular laws we have to live under.

    One must question the attitude of any Jewish authority who sees serious defects in our system but makes no attempt at a workable remedy. How can such laxity be consistent with Daas Torah?

  8. At this point the only wayto make a dent in this faulty system is to hurt thier pockets. R.Belsky is the official ou rov. If we unionize and tell the ou that under no circumstances are we going to stand for this, whether its boycotting thier charities run by the ou or boycotting thier hashgacha etc..or getting the media involved.if they sence loss of Revenue this may be a start


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