The Gedolim and Leadership
I write this post with a heavy heart.
Over the last decade, the Gedolim of the Charedi world have done many things that, in the opinion of many, did not reflect well on their judgment.
The ban on Making Of A Godol, the ban on my books, the financially devastating ban on the Lipa concert and subsequent abrupt reversal, etc.
While I maintain that serious wrongs were committed in these cases, I tried my best to explain the Gedolims' point of view to people. Hence my essay, "In Defense of my Opponents."
Then came Troppergate, which eclipsed them all. Where the real chillul Hashem was not that this menuval did what he did, but that this man, who was known for decades to be a menuval and manipulator, was given so much power and honor, and even after being publicly exposed was not publicly condemned, because of the millions of dollars that he gave to the yeshivos. And nor was there any investigation into what improprieties (signatures on pashkevillim, false conversions, and who knows what else) were arranged by his money.
But now there is something that makes Troppergate look positively mild.
Rabbi Elior Chen of Beitar was indicted for some of the worst child abuse allegations ever. He fled to Brazil but was extradited back to Israel where he will stand trial. According to prosecution officials, the evidence against Chen is so overwhelming that there is absolutely no doubt that he will be convicted. (UPDATE: He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison.)
But recently, a letter appeared, signed by several of the Gedolim, asserting that they know Elior Chen to be a marbitz Torah and a righteous person and thus innocent of all charges, and asking people to support him!
At first, I did not post about this, because I couldn't bring myself to believe that these signatures of the Gedolim were authentic. As much as I had seen what I believed to be improprieties in the Gedolim affixing their names to things, surely they couldn't do this. I was inclined to agree with all the commentators at the afore-posted link who insisted that the signatures must have been faked. People close to the Gedolim insisted that the letter was not authentic.
But then a neighbor of mine wrote to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, asking him why he signed it. He received the following reply:
על כתב שרבותי חתומים גם אני חותם"On a letter that my rabbis are signed on to, I also sign."
The implications of this sentence are so appalling that I can't even think of how to write about it in a way that will do justice to it.
I have always tried to write respectfully about the Gedolim, even when disagreeing with them strongly. But now I am honestly not sure if one should be respectful about the signing of this letter, especially when it is defended on the grounds that other rabbis signed it. The best limmud zechus I can think of is that, due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash, the Gedolim are simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated. But if that is the case, and it results in them signing letters such as this, then how are they suited for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong. And even with this limmud zechus, one has to wonder how a Rav could attest with certainty to the innocence of someone who has been indicted for such terrible crimes, with one child suffering permanent brain damage and in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, merely because other rabbis say that he is innocent.
With the publication of the letter supporting Elior Chen, is there any way to justify the system of leadership in the charedi world?