Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Chofetz Chaim And The Cat

There is a story told about the Chafetz Chaim, I may be mangling some of the details but the point is accurate.

It seems someone was busily writing harsh words (perhaps a newspaper column) against the maskilim and various innovators at the time in Eastern Europe. The Chofetz Chaim rebuked the person for going over the line. He asked, “but Rebbe, you yourself have spoken out harshly about the same things!”

The Chofetz Chaim answered as follows:

Sometimes a house becomes infested with mice. Then the householder has to do something about it. So he buys a cat. Now both the householder and the cat are happy -- but for different reasons. The householder is happy that his house is being rid of mice. The cat, on the other hand, is happy that she gets a chance to chase mice.

You, he rebuked the writer, are like the cat, not the householder. Your interest is not ridding the community of malingerers. Your interest is enjoying tearing down people. That is no mitzvah.

* * *

The Orthodox world is now subject to scandals involving child abuse. Much has been written about it already on the J-Blogosphere, and much more will yet be written.

When reviewing these posts, one should always ask oneself: what is the person’s agenda? Is he or she sincerely interested in helping the Orthodox community deal with a problem? Or, is he or she like the Chofetz Chaim’s cat – seeing an opportune time to tear down and attack the Orthodox community?

Frankly, I have seen a very broad range displayed on the internet. Some sincerely want to “rid the house of the mice.” Others, however, clearly have an anti-rabbi or even anti-Torah agenda. A few even engage in Nazi-like propaganda to smear the entire community with the faults and mistakes of a few.

Don’t believe me? A few months ago, an article appeared in a well-known magazine in New York which more or less revealed the latest scandal. Apart from the juicy details of the scandal itself, the writer made sure to quote anonymous sources (“there are some who believe”) who blamed the “repressive” gender separation and ban on pre-marital sexual relations of the Orthodox community and even the system of taharas ha mishpacha! These cornerstones of Orthodox family-life, the writer dutifully informed us, “create[] a fertile environment for deviance.”

(Here is the link for those who don’t believe me: Look at page 5.)

So for those who, like the householder, sincerely wish to rid our community of a serious problem, I wish you hatzlacha and siyatta di shmaya.

On the other hand, those who see this as an excuse to tear down rabbinic authority or even the laws of the Torah itself, I say: save your breath. Greater people than you have tried and failed. Our Torah has lasted for more than 3000 years and will outlast this latest scandal.

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