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Which Politicians are a Chillul Hashem?
Is it the gay politician, or the criminal?
When Amir Ohana, an openly gay Likud politician, was sworn in to the Knesset in 2015, the charedi politicians from UTJ walked out in protest, while the MKs from Shas were also absent but claimed that it was “unintentional.” Of course since it was critical for charedi political power to unite with Likud, they became more forgiving; but when Ohana was elected Speaker of the Knesset last week, UTJ politicians put their heads down or walked out during his acceptance speech, while former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar described it as “unbearable” that a gay man should be promoted to a lofty position and asked where is people’s sense of shame.
People have different criteria for what they consider to be objectionable behavior. But presumably everyone agrees that someone whose behavior is objectionable according to their own values, should not have a prominent public role in which they represent their community.
Which makes it astonishing that both the Sephardic and Ashkenazi political parties have absolutely no problem with their leading politicians being (repeatedly!) convicted criminals, under serious suspicions of crimes, or with extremely shady reputations. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating whether Deri can be a minister, but it’s extraordinary that the charedi community’s standards are no higher than that of the Supreme Court.
There are countless statements in the Torah and Chazal about the importance of people, especially public servants, being not only free of sin, but also free of even an appearance of sin. For example, if a tax collector finds money on the ground, he is not allowed to keep it (which is permitted for everyone else), and he is not even allowed to be repaid a debt while he is working. The reason is simple: if there is any doubt about the integrity of officials, it undermines respect for the system.
All the more so is this true when we are speaking about people who represent the Torah. The Sages praised families of Kohanim who didn’t make use of products that were merely similar to the products that they made for the Beis HaMikdash. When there’s doubts about the integrity of officials who represent religion, then it undermines respect for Hashem Himself.
And how can certain religious people bemoan the secular detachment from religion, when there are elected representatives of religious parties who very much have an appearance of lacking integrity?
The integrity of public officials should be of the highest value. And that is all the more true if you’re religious.
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