Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I haven't had much to say about the Jack Abramoff scandals, because, well, what can one say?
But I finally do have something to say. I am particularly ashamed of the whole business because Abramoff appears to have been involved with (a) legitimate Jewish charities; (b) a number of Orthodox rabbis; (c) the Israeli settlers' movement.
Abramoff not only fleeced his clients and corrupted his government, but he seems to have thought this was OK in part because he was stealing money (partly) to finance Jewish charitable and political/religious/nationalist activities.
This is deeply wrong on a variety of levels. Not only because violating the law of the land is, where that law itself is not unjust, a religious transgression (the rabbinic dictum is: dina di malkhuta dina - the law of the land is law). Not only because these kinds of games are "bad for the Jews" in that they may lead people to think that all Jews are similarly corrupt, or that Jewish involvement in politics is potentially corrupting. But because it is categorically wrong to fulfill a mitzvah - a commandment - by means of an avera - a transgression. You get no points in heaven for behaving like the Bad Baronet of Ruddygore.
It is one thing to say, such-and-such law is unjust, so breaking it to do good is not a transgression. But theft is wrong, corruption is wrong - the laws against such behavior are not unjust, and breaking them in order to do "good" - leaving aside whether the particular activities he supported were indeed good - is sinful on a number of levels.
And yet, for some reason, over and over again I read about rabbinic authorities who have failed to comprehend this basic principle, and accept dirty money and corrupt relationships for their charities or other activities.
This kind of behavior has got to be anathematized in the Jewish community, and especially in the more insular parts of the Orthodox world - not for my sake, but for theirs, and for the sake of Heaven.