בס"ד This is a blog for Jews who feel a sense of deep identification with HaYachad (Dead Sea Sect). This group is for Jews who feel nostalgia and longing for a Judaism that was, and a profound yearning for it to be again. Our way leads to the Self-realization and, on an even more deeply satisfying level, the Mutual-Realization of Mashi'ach. That is what differentiates us from HaPrushim. NO MATERIAL HERE IS TO BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION.

My Photo
Location: Tzfat, Israel

Monday, April 12, 2004


What Does The Rabbinic Tradition Have To Say About Unfit Judges and Religious Leaders?

Although it is most likely that HaIsi’im (The Essenes) would have denounced the phenomenon of unfit Judges and religious leaders in the absolutely strongest of terms and spared no expense or exertion to remedy the situation had it arisen, whether the Judges or religious leaders be unfit because they are ignorant, corrupt or both; the Rabbinic tradition also contains a very impressive compendium of considerations on the matter as well.

Although the existence of increasing numbers of agunot is the most extreme example of the suffering brought about by unfit Rabbinical Judges and Rabbis, in fact we are all suffering and living in the generation of the darkest confusion every because our Rabbis and Judges are unfit for their positions and teach Torah improperly. It behooves us to examine ourselves, those we look to for religious leadership and inspiration, our generation and our society without brutal honesty.

It is indeed a most serious sin to speak ill of a true Torah scholar or a wise and good Judge. However, it is a mitzvah to reveal a fake. How shall we know a wise and good Judge from a corrupt fool? The answer is simple: We must look at the results of the Judge's decisions. If peace, happiness, prosperity, health, serenity, and all manners of well-being reign in the vicinity of the Judges we may know that they are wise and good and find favor in HaShem's eyes. Do peace, happiness, prosperity, health, serenity; all manners of well being characterize Eretz Yisra’el?

Let us examine what the Rabbinic sources say about unfit Judges and Torah leaders:

Rabbi Yossi ben Elisha says in Tractate Shabbat (139a):

“If you see a generation that is beset by many troubles, go and examine the Judges of the Jewish People. For all the retribution that is visited upon the world is only on account of the sins of Jewish Judges, as it stated in Mikhah (3:9): Listen now, to this, O leader of the House of Jacob, and officers of the House of Yisra’el, who detest justice and twist all that is straight…”

Tractate Sanhedrin (7a):

“Rabbi Shmu’el bar Nachmani taught in the name of Rabbi Yonatan: Every Dayan (Rabbinic Judge) who does not render halakhic decisions of absolute truth, causes the Schekhinah (Divine Presence to depart) from the Jewish People. For it is written (Psalms 12:6): “Because of the plundering of the poor, because of the cry of the needy – ‘Now I will rise up HaShem will say.”

Reish Lakish declares in Sanhedrin 7b:

“If one appoints an unfit Dayan (halakhic Judge) it is as if he has planted an ashera (a tree that was used for idol worship) in Yisra’el.”

“Any breach that is not committed by the Gedolim (Torah leaders) is not considered a breach” (Midrash Rabba, B’reisheet 26:8).

Rabbi Yehuda said:

“Be cautious in study, for an unwitting error in observance to insufficient study is accounted as wanton transgression” (Tractate Avot 4:13).

Kohelet 4:1: “I returned and saw all the acts of exploitation that are committed beneath the sun and behold, the tears of the robbed, with nothing to console them.” The Midrash Rabba states:

“Rabbi Binyamin interpreted this verse as referring to Torah sycophants. Everyone thinks that this individual is real read in Scripture and quite learned in Talmud, but actually he is neither well read nor learned. He goes about wrapped in a talit like a Torah scholar and with t’fillin on his head.”

In his commentary on the verse (Exodus 21:1) “And these are the judgments that you shall place before them” in his book GUR ARYEH, the Maharal of Prague wrote:

“I some countries, and some congregations, they turn justice over to wormwood. First they erected alters (1) by appointing a number of ignoramuses to be their leaders – men who do not speak the language of justice or know the Law. They disgracefully interpret the very as if the Torah insists that we place justice in the hands of unlearned laymen. They have not only appointed judicial leaders who are totally ignorant, but also taken the control of justice away from those who are knowledgeable in judicial Law, in order to give it to the ignorant. It has come to the point where those who are knowledgeable, and their students, must watch with their own eyes as a few ignorant judges pervert justice and issue rulings based on theft and exploitation, and they are powerless to help those who are victimized even when the victims are orphans and widows.”

Note: (1) The Ramba”m writes in Hilkhot Sanhedrin (4:15): “If one is unfit to render legal decisions - either because he is not knowledgeable, or because he is unworthy – but the Chief of the Exile transgressed and gave him the authority, or the Rabbinical court erred and gave him this authority, this authority is of no use to him until such time as he himself becomes qualified. For if one dedicated a blemished animal for sacrifice on the Temple altar, the sanctification does not take effect.”

The Ramba”m also writes in Hilkhot Sanhedrin (3:8):

“If a Sanhedrin, king or leader of the exile community appoints an unworthy Dayan (Rabbinical Judge) over the Jewish People, who is unwise in the knowledge of Torah and unfit to be a judge – even if he is of an entirely pleasant disposition and has out outstanding qualities – those who appointed him have transgressed a negative commandment. For the Torah states (Deut. 1:17); ‘You shall not show favoritism in judgment,” and the Oral Tradition teaches us that this refers to the person in charge of appointing Judges…For he will end up ruling in favor of the guilty party and against the innocent one – not because he is wicked, but because he does not know the Law.”

There are many more quotes in the very same vein in the Rabbinic tradition. Many can be found at the cites mentioned above, particularly in the Talmud.

And so we see that the Rabbinic tradition speaks in no uncertain terms: We would not be experiencing the calamities and suffering that we are experiencing in the Holy Land if our Judges and Torah leaders were knowledgeable and upright. The very fact that we are experiencing such terrible hardships: among them aginut of course, but neither can we ignore our security situation, our economic situation and the fact that we are not longer able to rely one on the other is proof positive that our Judges and Torah leaders are distorting the Torah.

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzat