I love a good story about a good person, an act of unexpected sweetness that shows you Hashem’s love and providence. The Bad stories are even easier to tell, and are generally much easier to “sell”, and harder to ignore.
It’s human nature to respond to horror with talk. It alleviates confusion, and gives you the opportunity to vent your feelings. It also simultaneously opens two doors. One is the door you have to open to re-establish justice and heal real pain. The other is the door that you can open to flood you with the delight of righteous indignation (one of the cheapest and most rewarding feelings on earth), and smug I-told-you-ism. In the case at hand, choosing the wrong one is a moral disaster. If you don’t get it right, you deny the victims closure, and leave them in a vacuum where they will never forgive your ignoring the toxic evil that they have experienced.
I am sure that only those of you who live in a cave have no idea of where I am headed. For your benefit, I am talking about the tragedy of Chaim Walder’s victims, and the tragedy of his life
In the course of my years in Neve, every so often I came across girls who had wounds so deep that healing was almost unimaginable. The dread that they felt when someone they knew and trusted would leave them feeling defiled, often times guilty, and often times full of dread. “If you tell anyone what happens” was, for them, the beginning of sentences that never end well.
When the story broke, I chose to say little. I wasn’t there and neither was the supercilious writer for Haaretz, one of Israel’s left-leaning dailies. I had heard his name before. His career is built on exposés and he spares no effort time or (probably other people’s) money on digging up anything he could about the observant community that he abandoned. Often times people who leave the path of Torah remain scrupulous about some mitzvos. I don’t know him personally, but I know that one mitzvah that he treats lightly is telling the truth. As time went on, it turned out that some of Israel’s most respected authorities, world class dayanim associated with the most respected courts were conducting interview after interview . Their conclusions were hair-raising and undisputed. One thing must not be forgotten. I am not sure what the sentence would have been if he were tried in a court of law, and sentenced, but I am sure that we don’t have a punishment called Death By Shaming.
One of the Torah’s mitzvos is “Don’t stand on your brother’s blood”. This applies to him, he was a fellow Jew, a member of the Tribe. It applies even more so to each of his victims, all of whom are left bleeding. Making the reality that they lived through known may save lives. Being heard validated, and seeing that they are not the guilty party is a step towards healing. The facts are out. There is at this point a need to change your focus.
What seems to me to be far more important is knowing how to prevent recurrences of horrors of this nature.
1-Children have to be taught that the thief is the Bad Guy, not his victim, even if the victim wasn’t clever enough to foil the thief. Creating an atmosphere in which the basic rules of safety subtly give kids the message that the Bad Guy is the kid who trusted a stranger is wrong. They have to know as early as possible that no one ever did bad things because the Torah told them to. They do bad things when they disobey the commandments. The child is never to blame for his being abused. Parents and teachers have to be available to listen.
MUCH MORE IMPORTANT AS A PREVENTATIVE MEASURE!!!
2-The Torah is pro-active. It is far, far better to protect yourself than it is to punish a criminal after the fact. Children and adults must know that KEEPING the laws of yichud (being in solitude with a man) and negia (affectionate touching) will protect them.
3-Suicide robbed both the offender and his victims of peace.
I did not forget the first paragraph. It’s easy once you have at least some idea of what happened, and what the concrete responses must be, to fall into other traps.
Lashon hara is a killer. It doesn’t just kill the one about whom the lashon hara is spoken, it kills the speaker and the listener by robbing them of the positivity that has to be your backdrop if you want a life that includes Hashem. A person who habitually speaks lashon hara can’t see the Face of the Shechina. He won’t even seek It out-he will focus on the clouds that conceal It.
You can’t ever allow yourself to be a judge unless you are a genuine dayan who has to adjudicate a case. Even in this circumstance, you can only define deeds as good or bad, permitted or forbidden, pure or defiled. Only Hashem can judge people. Charisma success, and being in the public light, beloved from afar are all challenges to maintaining personal balance and integrity. Chaim Walder’s 53 books were inspiring, sensitively written, and sold 2 million copies, a record for Israel. He lost his balance. I didn’t stand in his shoes. Hashem is called The Place in which the world exists. Pirkei Avos tells you not to judge anyone until you stand in their Place, where something pure remains. For him. For the journalist, for all of us, this is always true. It must never distort your commitment for sharing the pain of victims.
Tomer Devora (Chapter 2) writes about olam haba, and the effect of mitzvos. Olam Haba is far greater and more powerful than anything in this world is. It isn’t’ discussed directly because you can only use words that have meaning to you, and olam haba is in an entirely different category. Any mitzvah that you do gives you access to olam haba, even the most minor of mitzvos gives you something eternal that will never be extinguished. Each person must pay for their sins, and will receive reward for their mitzvos. If someone did 40 sins and observed 50 mitzvos, the result isn’t reward for 10 mitzvos. It’s still punishment for 40 sins, and reward for 50 mitzvos. This is, of course not numerical. Only Hashem knows the worth of a particular mitzvah done by a specific person, and the gravity of a sin done by another person.
People are complex.
You are a mixed bag, and so am I. This doesn’t mean that we are all equal or identical or that all people are equally as good. It does however mean that avoiding simple black and white conclusions keeps you honest. It’s important to stay in the present, and to use every opportunity to grow, to care about others and about yourself, to reach out and to feel Hashem’s presence as you face what today’s potentials are.
Hashem took us out of Egypt by doing great miracles that opened the doors that we closed step by step by descending to the 49th level of defilement. May we soon see miracles that will open the door to redemption.