In the rabbinic world, honors and titles are generously bestowed: every other rabbi is "a Torah Sage," usually a "Genius," and, it almost goes without saying - "Righteous." For those who have never chosen a rabbi for themselves, it is difficult to judge whether Rabbi Whatsisname is really a great Torah scholar or not - what do the common folk know? Now and again, it happens that a disappointment faces the public upon hearing "words of Torah" characterized by a low intellectual level and a debased use of language that are matched by the value and moral level of the contents; sometimes it too is not so exalted.
As everyone knows, "The study of Torah with courtesy is beauteous," and as everyone also knows, courtesy precedes learning. Although "greatness" is beyond the understanding of the common folk, courtesy is not. It is clear to many people, because all in all it consists of good manners, respect and seemly behavior, which can easily be judged.
But, oh the shame of it, all too often rabbis are caught out in the unseemliness of scorn and abuse, incitement and divisiveness, prejudice and racism, defamation and sedition. While the rules regarding relations between man and God are observed for fear of the wrath of heaven, the rules on relations between the individual and his fellow man are trampled with a crude and licentious foot, until the Lord of the Universe Himself no doubt gets fed up and loses His temper. It is also possible to desecrate the Holy Name while the name of man is desecrated.
In recent years there has been a growing feeling that anyone who opens his mouth is a light to live by, and their flocks only increase. In this age of "spirituality," every other rabbi is also a "spiritual leader." Apparently only India, with its billion inhabitants, competes with us in the number of mystics, whose very acceptance is a mystery. It is not entirely clear with what they have been endowed.
Like every soldier, who carries a marshal's baton in his backpack, every rabbi carries around a guru certificate in his tallit (prayer shawl) bag. There is no rabbis' house without a "court," and there is no court without disciples, Ashkenazim or Sefaradim, ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox, traditional or just plain Jews whose souls yearn for enchanted spiritualism.
The suspicion has been around for quite a while now that these rabbis are rabbis not by the grace of God but rather by grace of what's good for the rabbi. "Leaders, Ltd." - very limited, or more precisely, leaders on probation. Leaders as long as they can keep their disciples satisfied, speak and rule to their taste, and always bend with the prevailing wind, even if it is an ill wind.
They will not, heavens forbid, annoy the flock, lest it scatter in all directions, leaving the shepherd alone with his pipe. The rabbis are Great and Geniuses and Righteous, the Shepherds of the Generation and Unique in their Generation, as long as they seek popularity and find it, as long as they walk behind the flock and not ahead of it.
And suddenly, something has happened, a surprise that has caused a tempest in the rabbinic world: Former chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, the spiritual leader of national religious Zionism and the leader of the disengagement opponents, showed courage and displayed leadership, and declared for all to hear that "roads must not be blocked, orders must not be disobeyed and the evacuation must not be opposed by force."
Without doubt, a sharp, clear, courageous statement. After all, Rabbi Eliahu knows the soul of his flock and the soul of his brother in the pasture, and he most probably knew ahead of time that what he said would distance the faithful rather than attract them. His statement did indeed create dismay and uproar in the camp, so much so that the rabbinic leader himself - the marionette authority and sage on a string - had to stammer and mutter something in order to "soothe the rage of the masses" and to maintain his grip on the reins of leadership, lest they fall from his hands.
No sooner had the Guru from Jerusalem had his say when the following day 50 more rabbis, "leaders of religious Zionism" to a man, arose and, in an announcement of their own, called upon the faithful not to report for reserve duty ahead of the disengagement; previously they had tried to incite rebellion among conscripts, because it is forbidden "to abet the crime," as they put it.
Rabbi Eliahu, then, is their anointed rabbi, so long as he starts and completes their commandments, does not deviate from their path by a single millimeter and allows them to go wild. Now, the rabbi has no clothes, because the tailors aren't dressing him in the fringed garments of the king.
These rabbis, like Eliahu "among the greatest of rabbinic adjudicators," entered the Torah world only to be used when needed and cast aside when nobody wants them. They will yet be discarded, Lord have mercy, along with their elderly God, when His ideological deviations become evident and it becomes clear that His strength has given out and His hand is too short to save them.
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