Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Current Trends Predicted In The Gemara?

After reading numerous stories of rabbinical figures, judges, or otherwise people known as community leaders failing to be truthful, judge truthfully, or deliberately concealing the truth, such as this recent post by Rabbi Maryles on Emes Ve-Emunah, I was shocked to learn several sections of Gemara in today's Daf Yomi (Shabbos 139) that seem to talk about the results of these actions we Jews have brought upon ourselves. The translation has been modified slightly per that found in the Koren Talmud Bavli.

It was taught. R. Jose b. Elisha said: If you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles, go forth and examine the judges of Israel, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the Judges of Israel, as it is said, "Please hear this, heads of the house of Jacob, and officers of the house of Israel, that abhor justice, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, etc."

Shortly after that, the Gemara continues:

And the Holy One, blessed be He, will not cause His Divine presence to rest upon Israel until the wicked judges and officers cease out of Israel, for it is said, "And I will turn My hand upon you, and thoroughly purge away your dross, and will take away all your tin. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning, etc."

Lastly, interspersed with Rabbi Steinzaltz' commentary (p.319) in bold italics.

R. Melai said in the name of R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon: What is meant by the verse, "The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers?"  'The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked' refers to the judges who become a staff for their attendants;  

The attendants abuse people, and the judges provide the attendants with legal backing and moral support.

'the rod of the rulers' refers to the Torah scholars in the families of the judges. 

These Torah scholars assist their relatives, the judges, conceal their faults.

Mar Zutra said: This refers to the scholars who teach the laws of the public to ignorant judges.

They teach ignorant judges just enough Torah and modes of conduct to prevent the people from realizing how ignorant they are, enabling them to maintain their positions.

I think these sections speak all too clearly about the frightening, increasingly prevalent problem of individuals and groups who are meant to be, or insist they are, halachic authorities and then abuse the power they have gathered or proclaimed upon themselves. 

We have many troubles, one of the most significant is child abuse, which seems to be quite a plague in communities where this sort of irresponsible judgments and abuse of communal power take place on a regular basis.

We have seen judge's attendants - the so-called askanim of gedolim cause inordinate amounts of trouble for people such as Rabbi Natan Slifkin, Lipa Schmeltzer, and others undeservedly, creating a huge public ruckus that helps no one in the end.

And we wonder why the Beis Hamikdash hasn't been rebuilt - the Gemara plainly says that HaShem won't rest His divine presence on us until these wicked judges and officers cease to exist among us.

I wonder if the thousands of others out there learning Daf Yomi took a moment to consider these passages with any serious thought and self introspection?

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