Discover more from Rationalist Judaism
Late To The Party, Again
Well, it took a couple of years, but the charedi establishment finally reached the same conclusion as everyone else: that the person they referred to as "HaRav HaChasid R. Eliezer Berland, Shlita" is actually a thoroughly evil monster. They acknowledged that he has transgressed, or has committed sins that come close to transgressing, all three cardinal sins - idolatry, murder, and illicit relations. Idolatry - for setting himself up as a deity. Murder - for encouraging his followers to beat and even kill his opponents. And illicit relations - taking advantage of countless women.
The results of this investigation by the three top charedi Batei Din were just announced. The investigation itself was launched, with publicity, last June. At the time, I wrote a post entitled HaRav HaRasha, Shlita, in which I was sharply critical of this enterprise.
The primary problem was that no such investigation was required. Berland had already confessed in court and was convicted. There was also plenty of video evidence of his madness. The new charedi investigation also gave Berland a hechsher while it was taking place, stating that nobody was allowed to speak against HaRav HaChasid, shlita, until the investigation was complete.
There's a steady pattern of things that us non-charedim realize, and which the charedi establishment denies, and which eventually the charedi establishment is forced to come to acknowledge. Many people were warning for years that Rabbi Leib Tropper was a sicko; the Gedolim instead were giving him unprecedented power, but were later forced to agree. Everyone warned that crowded situations should be avoided when coronavirus broke out; the Gedolim insisted that the yeshivos should stay open because "Torah protects", but were later forced to agree. And now they have finally agreed that the non-charedim were correct about Berland, too.
(The supposed justification for the way in which the charedi investigation was done was that only such an investigation, launched with the consent of Berland, would get his followers to abide by the ruling. If anyone thinks that this is actually going to happen, I've got a bridge to sell them. Read about this "biography" of him on Amazon, and check out the reader reviews.)
Being late has consequences. Tropper ruined lives. Coronavirus took lives. And for years, Berland was allowed to continue his sick preatory activities without any opposition from the charedi establishment. Just a few months ago, he was arrested again after it was discovered that he was fleecing millions of shekels from terminally ill patients by promising miracle cures.
But the problems here go beyond those caused by needless delays. What happens even now? To what extent will the findings of these Batei Din be publicized?
Years ago, Mishpachah magazine printed an article, "The Fire and the Light: The Mystical World of Rav Eliezer Berland" which was a puff-piece about the holy Rav Berland. Are they going to print a follow-up article warning about him? Of course not. (And kal v'chomer Ami magazine won't print anything; besides, they are too busy triumphantly boasting about how ultra-Orthodoxy reacted to coronavirus.) In the official world of Orthodoxy, it just doesn't happen that revered rabbis have any significant flaws, let alone turn out to be monstrous predators.
This refusal to air dirty laundry has several terrible consequences. One is that it means that people are more vulnerable to being preyed upon, since they are conditioned to believe that Holy Men can't possibly do anything wrong. Another is that people who are preyed upon are much less likely to tell anyone about the absolutely unthinkable thing that happened. And yet another is that the predators enjoy much greater freedom, since they know that people are very unlikely to expose them.
Some people complain that I spend too much time criticizing the problems with charedi society. Well, if charedi society itself would be open about exposing its problems, there would be less need for other people to do so.