Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Chief Rabbis

In the past week the police have recommended that Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Metzger be indicted for fraud and breach of trust. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Amar meanwhile, has been cleared of wrongdoing in a kidnapping scandal for which his wife and son have been indicted. These are the latest of a seemingly never ending series of scandals involving public figures - Israelis are hardly even surprised when yet another story of this kind breaks.

The police take particular care when deciding on whether or not to indict a public figure of a certain stature and therefore it is likely that the evidence against Rabbi Metzger is fairly solid. If there is evidence enough to indict, the likelihood is that the case will become a messy affair which will drag the office of the Chief Rabbi through the mud. The Scottish legal system, which is separate from the English system, allows a jury to deliver 1 of 3 verdicts; Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven. Whether or not he is convicted in the end there will always be the suspicion of impropriety over Rabbi Metzger - Not Proven.

Rabbi Amar's case is different - he has not been indicted in a case which involves the kidnapping and beating of a youth who it appears was having some sort of liaison with his daughter. During the youth's ordeal he was physically in the Amar home - the Rabbi claims to have been asleep at the time. Even if this is true - and clearly the spectre of doubt must trouble the minds of the cynical at least, then the police have concluded that the Rabbi's wife was aware of what was going on and possibly even instigated the kidnap. A Rabbi chooses a wife as a partner; it is often the case that a Rebbetzin is equally if not more involved in the guiding of the flock than the Rabbi himself, so how on earth can a person who is charged with the moral leadership of a community fulfill his duties if his own house, if his own wife is not in order?

Rabbis are entrusted with more than just plain leadership - they have a responsibility for the moral and ethical dimensions of our spiritual health. It is a sad day when the two men nominated to take the lead in our religious lives find themselves in a position where it appears that either directly or indirectly, they have strayed from the appropriate path and have failed to provide an appropriate example for how to be a mensch.


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