Friday, June 8, 2012

Shabbat O Gram for June 8

Mazal tov to Alexa Karp and family on her becoming Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat.  Join us tonight and tomorrow morning for services as we celebrate this smicha and another lovely, peaceful Shabbat together. And remember that next Friday night we'll be honoring our 8th and 12th grade graduates.  BTW, I've come up with a great way to ensure remarkable attendance at services:  Just change the name of "Shabbat" to "Mah Jongg."  The turnout at this week's tournament was spectacular - wall to wall Mah Jonggers.  Congrats to Sisterhood on that, and also for TBE's continuing strong presence at the Bennett Center Cancer Walk last week.  It's also gratifying to know that we were well represented at the Celebrate Israel Parade
in NYC, aided by our local day schools.

To see hundreds of photos from last week's spectacular Cantor's Concert,  click here.  Also, see the commemorative journal honoring Gary Lessen. A great time was had by all.  You can view share the photos on our TBE Facebook page as well.  And while you are there, like us!  We like to be liked.

Judaism's Triple Crown

This is a week when we are doing lots of crowning.  Celebrating the Queen's crowning achievement, crowning champions at the French Open, a marquee basketball moment for King James in Miami (though I still believe in the Celtics), potentially crowning a Stanley Cup champion in hockey and, until the shocking news came out that he's been scratched from the race, there was  a potential Triple Crown winner at the Belmont.  Still, lots of crowns and kings and queens in this week's news.

There are actually five different Hebrew words used for "crown" in the Bible.  In later sources, God is constantly represented as wearing crown. Brides and grooms are often depicted as wearing crowns.  And of course, the Torah is as well.

Crowns have a deep symbolism in Judaism, and in particular, in Kabbala.   You can read about it here.  The "crown" symbolizes the spiritual power to receive and integrate into one's consciousness the pleasure of Divine revelation.  Just as in horseracing, there are three prongs to the Kabbalistic crown - these are Judaism's "Triple Crown." These three "heads" correspond to three meanings for "Keter" in Hebrew: "crown," "to wait" and "to surround." Anyone who has watched "I'll Have Another" has to be impressed with this horse's patience, his ability to wait far back in the pack, anticipating just the right moment to make his move, to "surround" his opponent.  So had he run, I'd have been on solid ground predicting a victory.  Maybe next year.
Meanwhile, send me some "Jewish" names for racehorses.  "I'll Have Another" sounds like a great name for a Jewish horse (sort of akin to "Pass the Blintzes").  How about "Thinks He's Secretariat?" "Loves his Mother?" "Glue 'Aint Kosher?" "Mr. Ed's Minyan?"  Can you think of others? 

Sex Abuse Cover Ups in the Jewish Community

There has been considerable consternation and media coverage of late about how child sex abuse cases are handled in the haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community. The Brooklyn district attorney, no doubt feeling the pressure, is now pushing for legislation that would require rabbis to report such crimes to the authorities. The coverage has pinpointed an obscure rabbinic prohibition as a major source of the problem: the ancient prohibition against
mesirah, the handing over of a Jew to non-Jewish authorities.

The idea that Jews should be protective of Jewish sinners stems from a longstanding mistrust of just about every government we've lived under - everything until right now, here in America. The most obvious example was the Romans, whom the rabbis had in mind when they advised their students, "Love work, despise positions of power and do not become overly familiar with the government." But the idea of protecting Jews from secular authorities has reached absurd extremes in Jewish law. The principle of mesirah has been used to dissuade Jewish auditors from reporting other Jews to the IRS for tax fraud and, as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled, to prohibit us from turning a Jew in to secular authorities for fraudulent kashrut supervision.

It all goes back to Moses. When he struck the Egyptian taskmaster, Exodus tells us that fellow Israelites began taunting him about the incident, which led Moses to become fearful that someone would turn him over to Pharaoh. Rashi posits that Moses wasn't so much concerned about his own fate; he was concerned that his act would lead "villains and informers" to turn him in, making them unworthy of redemption. So he fled, not so much to protect himself as to protect his accusers from suffering the fate of the moser.

But change "Pharaoh" to "NYPD" and the story reads quite differently. If Moses had struck a cop not in Egypt but Brooklyn, wouldn't it have been absolutely appropriate for a fellow Jew to notify the authorities? Now replace "NYPD" with "Sheriff Jim Clark," and would you turn in Moses for striking a cop who was assaulting peaceful protesters in Selma? Wouldn't you want your moral code to protect him? 

True, one person's freedom fighter is another person's terrorist, but I can stand behind an objective moral standard that says that Moses was right, in the context of his times, and a child molester is wrong, anytime, anywhere, and Pharaoh and the NYPD are not created equal. 

We can both protect Moses and turn in the molester for lots of reasons, but in each case, the least relevant factor is that the perpetrator happens to be Jewish. That's mesirah's fatal flaw.

It's time to declaw this dangerous concept, so that it may never again be used to justify the protection of those who inflict suffering on innocent children.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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