Lev Tahor made the news yesterday after nearly one hundred Guatemalan police officers raided the compound, searching on behalf of a woman who has left the group and was no longer allowed to see her children.
While the strange sect, founded by R’ Shlomo Helbrans, has always been controversial, with a parent making it a issue of custody, the question over their legitimacy has never been more consequential.
Is Lev Tahor merely another religious sect, albeit a very strange one with intensely strict rules and regimen? Or are they a brainwashed cult, trapped by strong leaders who are imposing their will on them?
The answer to this is very relevant to the more mainstream crowd then you might think. From Lakewood to Monroe, from Brooklyn to Monsey, divorced parents are fighting custody battles to protect their kids from former spouses who have left the community and are trying to bring their offspring with them.
All of a sudden, the question hits home. Are these Lev Tahor adherents any different then other groups of chassidim? They both wear a levush that seems strange to the outside world but fits perfectly with their own lifestyle. Would we say that these people are in a cult and that children should be taken out of there and breakaway from their religion? Chas V’Sholom! Of course not!
Or is Lev Tahor a whole different ball game and the comparison can’t be made. If that is the case, we should all be very clear in denouncing their ways. Otherwise, we might be setting a very dangerous precedent.
Not a Posek