Accused Rabbis


Question: How do we deal with the recent phenomenon of great Rabbis being accused of crimes and even being arrested?

Answer: This is an important opportunity to teach ourselves two great ethical and communal principles which apply not only to Rabbis but to every individual.

The first principle is that we do not accuse a person of anything before it is conclusively proven that he transgressed.  The police are justified in checking, investigating and arresting if it is necessary.  Their obligation is to relate to every complaint and clarify whether or it is true.  However, we must not decide that someone who is suspected is guilty.  Before anything is proven, every person – whether a Rabbi, a politician or an average citizen - is considered completely innocent.

It is worthwhile to mention in this context that scientific thinking in general is based on the idea that anything which has not been proven is not accepted.  I remember from my youth hearing a person speaking loudly into a public telephone and saying: "Sir, I am a Cartesist (a student of the great French philosopher René Descartes, the father of critical thinking).  I therefore cannot accept anything before it is proven to be so."

The second principle is that there is a severe prohibition of Lashon Ha-Ra, i.e. relating negative things about a person, even if they are true.  This is not only a severe prohibition from a spiritual, ethical and religious perspective, it is also a phenomenon which threatens to undermine and destroy society.  In ancient Rome, a person who slandered another was punished with exile, not because the Romans were holy people, but because they made a great effort to create and advance a healthy society. 

Therefore, when a person is investigated, and all the more so arrested, whether he is a Rabbi or not, there is a severe prohibition against revealing and publicizing the matter.

May we add purity, sensitivity and love.