Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Holding to a Higher Standard

Ever since I learned about this sting in New Jersey on Friday, I have been thinking about it. A lot. Rabbis from some orthodox congregations are caught up in a money laundering scheme, millions of dollars passing around, politicians involved (shocker). I feel sick about it.

I remember when I was a young woman, the rabbi at the conservative synagogue I attended growing up was accused of sexually improper behavior. I was devastated... and he wasn't even "my" rabbi. All I could think of was, "What??? Rabbis don't do that!" It wasn't that I didn't believe it, more that it shook my foundation of what a rabbi was supposed to be. Rabbis are put out there as higher on the spiritual ladder. I put them as higher on the spiritual ladder. Yes, I admit it, I hold them to a higher standard. And the orthodox rabbis? Even more so.

I should explain myself as saying that the reform and conservative (and reconstructionist and secular humanist and whatever nonorthodox branches you can come up with) rabbis seem more... human to me. I can see their foibles, their weaknesses and accept them easily. They live in the same world that I do, and I understand all the temptations therein. The orthodox rabbis? Somehow they seem not really living of this world. Their visual cues mark them as closer to G-d, as ones who follow the mitzvot far more than I do. In my opinion, when you put on all the trappings of an observant Jew and are a rabbi on top of it, then yes, you open yourself up to being held to a higher standard. Hillul Hashem, desecrating the name of G-d, is so much worse when you have the appearance of one who is religious. I wonder if that is why my feelings of shock and yes, even disgust, are deeper now than with the other fallen rabbi of my past.

I still feel like I'm struggling for clarity. I'm not done with this. Not by a long shot. Thoughts?


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