By Yochanan Gordon
While the majority of the case against Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin has continued to spiral downward, leaving very little to rejoice over, the recent acquittal of the child labor case gave us all a little hope. As inherent believers in G-d the unexpected acquittal of all 67 counts alleged against him stirred within our very essence that feeling of hope that the tide was about to turn. Many returned to their tehillim and continued their good deeds on his behalf hoping that each one would continue to tip the heavenly scale in his favor. But on Monday, the 21rst of June, many unexpectedly learned of the harsh sentence handed down by Judge Linda Reade condemning Sholom Mordechai to 27 years in prison, two more years beyond the request of the prosecution.
With the days and hours leading up to the sentencing the speculations abounded. Many focused on the pressure on the Judge to continue in her obstinate and harsh path, hoping that the previous acquittal would have shed a positive light on his overall persona and so to speak force her hand to deal leniently in the sentencing over the 86 counts of federal Bank fraud. And now following the heartrending 27 year verdict many continue to analyze and speculate the legal decisions of the judge and the possibility and probability of a successful or otherwise unwise and unsuccessful appeal of this verdict. It is this seeming fetish that needs to be addressed from an ethical perspective.
As Jews we have been dubbed rachmonim b’nei rachmonim which points to our innate character as merciful and compassionate human beings. Furthermore, our Rabbis have taught the very indication of a Jew is his mercy, bashfulness and benevolence. It would therefore dictate that a person who is outwardly cold and accusatory calls his or her Jewishness into question. It’s interesting to note however that the first letters of the words Rachmanim, Bayshanim and Gomlei Chasadim combine to spell the word Gever which connotes inner moral strength as in the Mishna in Ethics of our Fathers, “Eizehu Gibor Hakovesh es yitzro”. So while these are inborn character traits, in some cases a little inner strength is necessary in order to bring these virtues outward to the fore. In other words, being that these are strong indicators of the overall Jewishness of the person the Yetzer Hara will attempt to undermine, conceal or taint these very attributes in an attempt to obscure our sublimity over the rest of creation getting us to ultimately abandon our firm connection to the righteous among us who are the pillars of the world, our relationship with G-d and our sentiment of homage to each individual Jew who we are commanded to love as we do ourselves.
So following such a harsh sentence, one that caught many of us off guard, instead of sitting and analyzing the legal details and making sense over why exactly a clearly anti-Semitic judge ruled the way she did we should be sitting in prayer and trying as best we could to ease the burden on the family through attending rallies and prayer vigils, donating money or just setting aside time to daven, learn or do mitzvos on his behalf. Nothing brings more solace to a family in distress than knowing that the entire world is backing them and looking for ways to add a little light in order to banish the prevalent darkness. While the legal technicalities and possible loopholes and appeals are very important from a worldly perspective it would be best left for the legal experts who themselves are paid to navigate these details towards mediating a more pleasing verdict for the client. In fact the Torah in times of war utilized the ambiguous term ‘eleph lamateh, eleph lamateh’ (one thousand per each tribe, one thousand per each tribe). Some commentators explain that the reason for employing this redundancy was to teach us that one tribe went out to fight and the other sat on the very same battlefield and waged a spiritual war trying to champion the physical war through spiritual means. One could ask why the second tribe was not sent out to merely analyze the strategiv moves of their combatant counterparts. Obviously the answer is that there is nothing constructive about someone on the outside analyzing a war or any situation for that matter if it is not going to materialize in a beneficial way towards achieving a positive outcome on any level. If we were being honest with ourselves its just our way of trying to be like the newscasters and reporters that we have become so obsessed over in the same manner that we used to idolize and impersonate our favorite sports players while playing ball as children; But as King Solomon in his wisdom quipped, “There is a time for everything under the sun”, yes, even growing up.
Many have quoted time and again the raison d’etre of the Baal Hatanya who was apt to say, “mir darf leben mit di voch” in other words our prescription for life should come from the Torah portion which we read on each and every week. In fact one who goes through the Parsha in depth could fine hints to certain occurrences that have happened and it is no surprise since the Torah is the blueprint for this world. On that note we have recently read about the Jews travels through the desert following their exodus of Egypt and their incessant complaints to Moshe and Ahron to provide for them meat, water and all of the amenities that they enjoyed in their previous life in Egypt. What’s more disturbing than their longing for food and drink is the lack of faith and trust in G-d displayed by their unceasing complaints to Moshe to the point where Moshe was left with no other choice than to hit the rock which resulted in the premature death of an entire generation who did not merit to cross the Jordan into the land of Israel.
While we may not be that same dor dei’ah we do read the Parsha and some of its commentaries enough to try to detect similar inconsistencies in our own personalities in order to ultimately weed out the negative influences of a morally depraved and more or less atheistic society from amongst us and cleave to G-d and His Torah. If we were being morally and historically honest with ourselves we would approach our study of Torah with more profound introspection and earn our right to ask these questions on the dor Hamidbar instead of asking them from a strictly intellectual level – which is not what G-d had intended with his giving us the Torah, as it says “Lo nitnah Hatorah ela ltzaref bahem as Habriyos”. The goal is to purify our moral compasses and internalize and actualize the messages that we glean on a weekly basis from the Torah and daily from the daf or any other mesechta or limud that we have devoted time to.
As Jews we have been repeatedly subjected to the negative side of journalism in many of the worlds leading daily newspapers when they sometimes in their ignorance and many times purposely portray us collectively in a undesirable way to the world that religiously reads and reacts to their stories. When this happens we stand together and voice our protests calling for a fair and two sided approach to their reporting instead of resorting to bias and anti Semitism. If that’s the case then we in our reporting should respect the sensitivities of the parties intimately involved and the readers who express their concern and raise their voices in prayer and support of the victims and ourselves become vocal and active supporters of our own kin – leaving the rest of the case in its legal technicalities in the hands of G-d.
In fact just last week we read the Parsha of the red heifer. The Para Aduma is the quintessential chok in other words a mitzvah which we as mortal human beings cannot comprehend. About this mitzvah King Solomon writes that the reason surrounding the red heifer remained distant from his comprehension. Still, our allegiance to G-d is to perform mitzvos not because it makes sense to us, but rather out of subordination to the King of the Universe. Rav Dovid Eibischitz in his sefer Arvei Nachal (Also the author of the Levushei Serad commentary on the Shulchan Aruch) writes that the Satan tries to cunningly coerce the Jews not to perform such mitzvos saying, “It completely defies all rationale”. We are supposed to confront him and say that we perform the mitzvos out of subservience and not because we understand why we are being commanded to do such. He continues and says that G-ds very counterargument against the Satan and his ilk in order to justify bringing our salvation at a time when we do not deserve it is a result of our performance of His commandments which defy reasoning.
G-d is in control of every minute detail of our lives. G-d has been present throughout this entire ordeal. And while it seems according to nature that the Rubashkin family is climbing a steep legal hill and the chances of reversing any judgments against him seem farfetched or bleak, there is no sense in stating it, because doing so just reveals the limited level of faith in the heart of the one who makes such a declaration or prediction. As G-d said to Moses, “Is the hand of G-d limited in what it can accomplish”? We are asking anyone who has doubts in the unlimited power of G-d to keep it to themselves and not ruin it for people who look longingly and faithfully in His direction hoping that he will nod in approval and grant Sholom Mordechai and his wife, family and ardent supporters the verdict that we have all been waiting for. May we merit to hear the good news very soon.