Rabbi Elyashiv: 'Law of pursuer' for fraud
Leader of Lithuanian-haredi community says men arrested over Jerusalem Kollel fraud affair caused blasphemy, must be treated with utmost severity
The leader of the Lithuanian-haredi community, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, spoke out Monday against ultra-Orthodox men arrested over a Jerusalem-area Kollel fraud affair , saying that if the suspicions were proven true – they should be subjected to the 'Law of the pursuer' (Din Rodef).
He explained that with their actions, the haredi detainees caused 'Chillul Hashem' (desecration of God's name) which could lead to acts of vengeance on the haredi community in Israel and abroad, and so they must be treated with the utmost severity.
The Rabbi Elyashiv's statements are unusually harsh, as the spiritual leader used a term that in its halachic form demands a death sentence. And yet, it is clear that in this case, the term has been used in order to stress the seriousness of the situation and not in order to promote physical violence against those involved.
'Assembly line of fraud'
The haredi institutions are suspected to have produced fake IDs in order to receive monthly stipends from the Education Ministry for alleged yeshiva students.
Hours after a raid on the haredi educational institutions the police stated that the organizations operating the institutions operated like industrial assembly lines for fraud and deception.
"The organizations we raided worked as factories through and through, systematically producing fake IDs, some for students not studying at yeshivas and some for people who do not exist," said Chief-Superintendant Haim Shmueli, who headed the raid.
"All of this was done in order to enlarge the annual stipends paid by the state. We checked, and found that just a slim percentage of students reported by the yeshivas actually studied there."
Six suspects were arrested and four others were brought in for questioning. The authorities are now investigating where the millions smuggled out of the country are being hidden.
The question remains: What situation did Rabbi Elyashiv find "serious"? The stealing? Or getting caught?
There are some who say that Rabbi Elyashiv did not need to specifically condemn the stealing, because it is clearly forbidden to steal.
But stealing from and defrauding the government is relatively common in the haredi community, from open tax evasion to all sorts of money laundering and kollel scams, and you will be hard pressed to find frequent or loud condemnations of this behavior by haredi rabbis – except when one of these fraudsters is caught.
Indeed, there are even rabbinic opinions permitting various forms of stealing from the government, primarily through tax evasion.
What Rabbi Elyashiv should have done is to condemn stealing even when the victim is the government and then add din rodef to the mix.
But he did not.
Clearly, no matter how you view Rabbi Elyashiv's statement, you must say he views getting caught as being far worse than the actual theft.
Perhaps this would not have been a problem for him if he and other haredi leaders had loudly and strongly condemned stealing from the government and other white collar financial crimes in the years leading up to this scandal.
But they did not.