Sunday, July 26, 2009

Judging the News

If you haven't noticed, the news has been rather bad lately. Super Raizy gives a short round up.

The two most horrible things I heard of lately were the case about the mother in Meah Shearim who was arrested for 'starving' her child, thrown into prison for a week without having a psychological evaluation, and then finally released on house arrest, still without an evaluation and not given the chance to see her other children. Finally, the evaluation came back normal, but she is still under scrutiny.

Side 1 in this case: She's a horrible mother who starves her sick child in the oncology unit in Haddassah, and deserves to be thrown into prison. She mistreated him, may have Munchausen syndrome, and won't let the doctors do their job.

Side 2 in this case: She's a mother with a terribly sick child who throws up everything he eats, and is being used as an experimental case in Haddassah's research program, who got thrown into prison without any hearing, trial, or evaluation, and even once she had a psychological evaluation, she couldn't see her other children at all.

So, trying to be unbiased...which side do you think is right? It's hard to tell. The rioting? Not the best response, but it did get her out of prison and into house arrest. I don't know the full story, but I've heard enough about it to show that it might be biased at the highest level. I'm not taking her side, or the other side, but I do think that everyone should know all the facts.

Second piece of bad news? Well, important and prestigious rabbis were caught money laundering and organ selling, and were turned into the FBI. The NY Times Article can explain it in more detail. Personally? There are two sides to this one also.

Side 1: The Rabbis were wrong to do it, (i.e. , someone donates money to 'charity', they deduct a percentage to charity and give the rest back, making it tax deductible.), but it's not so shocking. It happens all the time. When polled among my friends and neighbors, most have said that they have taken a discount in return for paying in cash, or that they know of kollelim who do this routinely. Depressing. It may not be halachically assur, but it isn't the yashar way to do things.

Side 2: They were stealing, they were wrong, and they deserve to be prosecuted.

Not to mention the other side of this story- Shlomo/Solomon Dwek, who acted as an informant and turned them all in. Why? Why would a frum Jew turn others over to the authorities? Isn't that halachically and morally wrong also?

There are always two sides to every news story. Be careful how you read, and how you judge.


Anonymous said...

You're correct that it's important to keep an open mind, but that doesn't mean we should ignore facts based on our built-in cultural or community biases.

Also, I'm upset by the blog comments saying "everyone does it" regarding tax evasion, etc. Even if everyone does it, a) it doesn't make it right and b) not everyone does it to the same scale. Occasionally paying a contractor in cash to save a few hundred dollars is wrong, but is it the same as avoiding all income taxes, year in and year out?

Yes, driving over the speed limit is breaking the law, but it's not the same as murder. You can't equate the two.

nmf #7 said...

Tesyaa- I'm not saying you should ignore facts, just we may not have all the facts.

It is wrong. Does that mean they should be prosecuted? And, what they did is definitely not the same as murder. I'm not condoning them though.

SuperRaizy said...

Thank you for the link.
I understand your point that we need to be dan l'kaf zechut, but I just can't be that tolerant or understanding. Most people manage to conduct their lives honorably, without breaking the law or hurting others. I'm not that willing to see the side of those who don't.

Jewish Side of Babysitter said...

yea, it is hard to judge. I actually already commented on this elsewhere, so I'll just copy and paste.

This was my first comment:

"It's really upsetting. My parents went to a bris 6am by avenue M and saw all the FBI stuff going on. Then my mother told me that she had worked for one of the Rabbi's a bunch of years ago- before she got married. It's so sad, that someone you had looked up to and trusted did such a horrible thing.

The new governor has a 1 or 2 year old kid, it's crazy, what he just did to his family, poor kid!"

then I changed my mind:

"You know what, I changed my mind, I think there may be a chance that they are innocent, actually they are innocent until proven guilty.

It's starting to sound like this Dweck guy set them up, and that's all they did wrong, perhaps they weren't doing anything wrong beforehand. We'll have to wait to find out."

and I added this:

"See the way I look at it is like this. People like scandals, because they like to gossip, it's an exciting thing, so people automatically assume the worst, because it "sounds the best". This is when you don't know the people involved, because it doesn't effect you. However, if it were to be a family member of yours, or someone you know, you wouldn't be so close to judge."

Lvnsm27 said...

It's so sad the situations going on nowadays.

Ezzie said...

I don't agree that there's necessarily two sides to everything, and certainly not in these cases.

Re: the first case, I have no idea what happened with the lady herself. But the idea that rioting can be justified because it "got her out of prison" is a bit much, isn't it? Rioting is wrong - period. There's no second side on that.

The same with the stealing. That "everyone does it" says more about your friends than about the situation's morality.

It may not be halachically assur

How would that not be halachically assur!? Even those who twist themselves into knots to justify stealing from the Israeli government (I've had Rabbeim do this, and other Rabbonim and Roshei Yeshiva were appalled) would have a mighty hard time trying to explain how something like fraud is muttar.

Not to mention the other side of this story- Shlomo/Solomon Dwek, who acted as an informant and turned them all in. Why? Why would a frum Jew turn others over to the authorities? Isn't that halachically and morally wrong also?

Reporting a group that takes human kidneys off people for $10,000 because they need the money? Organ trafficking? That happens to be serious sakanah. But even if it were wrong for him to turn others in - are we really going to focus on that instead of on the fact that we have community leaders who have no qualms stealing!? How can we as a people be more concerned with those who "tattle" than with those who do the exact opposite of what we claim to be?

I heard people talking like this on Shabbos: They were more upset that someone could be moser than that Rabbonim could be kiting millions of dollars, or that frum people could be involved in trafficking human kidneys. That boggles my mind.

Whatever happened to Wrong is Wrong, and Yashrus is Yashrus?

jb said...

Ezzie- couldn't have said it better! My one quibble is with your take on Dweck (you can correct me if I got it wrong). If you or I had stumbled into this ring, saw all this wrongdoing and called the cops, then we would be heroes who did the right thing because mesirah doesn't apply in such a case. But Dweck is no hero looking to right egregious wrongdoing; he did what he did in order to save his own behind. He is just as much a dirty crook as those who got arrested.

Ezzie said...

I'm not saying Dwek is a great guy at all; I just don't like how people focus on that and let that get away from the more important discussion re: our communal leaders.

Bas~Melech said...

NMF, you are so right. But rather than just being careful HOW we judge, I think it's so so important to withold judgement at all. It's not our place to judge people in the news, and there's nothing to be gained by it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we shouldn't judge, per say, but we can definitely take some lessons out of this.

For one, even if these people were entrapped and weren't fully aware of the ramifications of what they were doing--well, it is important to be educated in the proper, legal way to deal with financial transactions. The frum world needs to wake up and realize this.

For another--there really aren't any short cuts to making money, other than maybe winning the lottery.

Also, I'd really disagree with you that it's ok on the basis that other people do it. If it's against the law, it's against the law. That's enough. People have to realize that.
Also, re: the rioting: my sister was arguing the same point as you, using as proof that the Rabbanim (i.e. Eidah HaChareidus hadn't come out against it) and then guess what was written in last week's Mishapacha? Basically that the leaders of the E.C. did come out against it. Somehow that wasn't deemed newsworthy enough to be spread till after the fact.

Anonymous said...

People can rationalize all they want about little "shortcuts", but when it comes down to it if they were really concerned they'd ask a posek. People don't ask because they don't want to be told what they already know.
Your attitude is pretty shocking to me, in fact, because in the past your blog has been well balanced and thought out, a fresh voice of reason, if you will. I sure don't feel that way anymore.

nmf #7 said...

SuperRaizy- I didn't say you had to pick a side- just that it was funny to me that the news took one of 2 perspectives...and that neither one was totally unbiased.

Jewish Side- I hear your point...and agree- just I truly don't think what they did was Yashar at all!!

Lvsnm27- Very true.

Ezzie- On the halachically assur point- I was pointed out by someone who learns Gemara (I don't- so I can't be exact on this) that there is a diyuk (did I spell that right?) between an outright case of stealing/fraud and this one. It's definitely not Yashar, and it shouldn't be done, and Dina D'Malchusa Dina does apply.

And about Mr. Dwek- turning people in is called being a Moser. That is wrong too. I'm not saying that the rabbis weren't wrong- just that he was wrong too.

Jb- I agree with you.

Bas Melech- Finally!! Someone who gets the point of what I was writing. Sheesh. One would think by the comments I'm getting that I agree with the rabbis.

Anon #1= Um, I DON'T agree with them. Let's say that again: I DON'T.
And I read last week's Mishpacha, and they said basically that the Eidah did protest the bums rioting and setting fire to garbage cans, but they agreed with the peaceful protests, and saw that the riots did have an effect on the government, sadly.

nmf #7 said...

Anon #2- I'm NOT advocating the shortcuts, and balance is precisely what I tried to show in this post.
Sorry if that wasn't clear, and I'm even sorrier that I disappointed a reader.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was in the Hamodia then (the American edition), I think a Yonasan Rosenblum article. He interviewed a Rabbi Paperstein (?) who is a leader in the E.C. and said that he is against protests nowadays because there is no guarantee things won't get out of hand. Rosenblum then asked if he could quote him on that, and the Rabbi said if somebody isn't willing to put their name to a statement it loses 95% of its effect.

Ezzie said...

FWIW, there's balance and there's balance. In a situation such as this (I'm specifically talking about the political scandal), the balance is firmly on "this was wrong", and that's it.

There's no diyuk here: This was outright money laundering. That is the classic example of how to do it.

Moser is the only aspect where you should be putting up the questionable Side 1 vs. Side 2: Whether one is considered a Moser in a situation such as this or not. It's a very large machlokes, and most seem to come down that it is NOT din Moser in a country like the US and when you include the specifics of the case.

Finally, I disagree about whether we should be judging people in the news. We absolutely should, to reinforce for ourselves and our communities what is and is not okay. While I only heard our Rav (R' Shaul Arielli) speak about this on Tisha B'av, I was told that every Rav who spoke this Tisha B'av in one of the yeshivos gave incredibly strong drashos on this subject and spoke unequivocally.

(Also, I hope I'm remembering this right: See the Sma in Sefer HaMitzvos, Hashavas Aveidah (10?) - ? where he talks about how dishonesty in dealings with the umos haolam is what keeps the Beis HaMikdash from being rebuilt.)