Rabbi: Elon case could benefit the religious
Along with the pain, shock, and grief, "This is a chance to examine ourselves and work on our shortcoming."
BY JONAH MANDEL • Jerusalem Post
As the bitter pill of the recently revealed alleged sexual misconduct of Rabbi Mordechai Elon is reluctantly being digested by the national religious nationwide, rabbis from within the sector are groping for the answers, and the questions, which would enable them to turn what many see as a tragic downfall into a beneficial, albeit painful, opportunity.
The Takana Forum’s announcement last week spelled out what scores had feared to be the case – “sexual abuse by a man possessing spiritual authority.”
Police have in the meanwhile launched a preliminary investigation into the allegations against Elon.
A rabbi and educator who teaches at a yeshiva took great care to express his “shock, grief and sorrow” over the affair in a recent conversation with The Jerusalem Post, before expounding on the issues and challenges facing him now as a teacher and spiritual mentor of young religious men.
“This is a chance to examine ourselves and work on our shortcomings, students as well as rabbis,” the educator said.
“Everybody sins: rabbis, scholars, people with long beards and white beards who talk Torah. If Elon sinned, we all can,” he added, affirming to the Post that one of the most closeted topics within the religious sector, homosexuality, will inevitably be on the table in the wake of the allegations against Elon.
“Great rabbis are people, too, not angels,” he continued. “David Hamelech, who wrote the psalms, sinned [in sending warrior Uriah to his certain death, so that he’d be able to wed his wife Batsheva]. The greater a man, the greater his urges,” the rabbi quoted.
The rabbi’s approach of using the affair to promote humility and modesty was evident in his own attitude toward Elon. When asked by the Post if he was angry at or disappointed in the man who has besmirched an entire sector, he was careful not to be judgmental or condescending.
“I feel nothing but great pain for him, his family, his students, all of us. And who knows, he might be in a process of repentance as we speak,” he said of Elon.
The rabbi was not concerned that Elon’s case would be so traumatic for the young and religious that it might cause some of them to lose their faith altogether.
“We promote complex thought in our yeshiva, so there is less of a danger of serious crises in faith among our students,” the rabbi said. “We say: Rabbis are not angels but simply people, with virtues and shortcomings. The more a yeshiva or educational institute promotes the persona of rabbis as something sublime and perfect, with no weaknesses or room for failure – the harsher the crisis.”
This approach, he said, is also what will enable the salvaging of Elon’s indisputably valuable teachings.
“The Torah he taught is Torah in every way,” the rabbi stressed, noting that there is no movement to remove Elon’s books from the shelves of yeshivot. The longstanding tradition of venerable relations between students and rabbis, as dyed in the wool as the stripes of a tallit, were not likely to change dramatically or permanently, the rabbi said, “But there will probably be more caution on both sides – students and rabbis.”
The rabbi also noted the shame experienced by the sector as a whole in the face of the negative media and public attention.
“When the disgrace of a man of such great stature is exposed, it becomes the disgrace of all of us,” he said. “Some people are saying that the trauma within the sector is tantamount to that after the Gush Katif evacuation.”