Tuesday, December 22, 2009

There is a certain kind of chareidi askan who takes perverse pleasure in making trouble for anybody he perceives to be modernish. Not infrequently, such askanim are eventually exposed as personally corrupt.

For example, Leib Tropper is one of the tzaddikim who took upon himself the sacred work of pestering gedoilim to put Natan Slifkin in cheirem. He has also been a central player (through his organization, Eternal Jewish Family) in invalidating conversions in which either the convert's subsequent behavior or the theological views of the dayanim don't meet his standards. (The tie-in is that Tropper would disqualify a conversion in which one of the dayanim did not believe that the world is literally 5770 years old.)

Now it is alleged (I'm being cautious but the tapes are on youtube) that Tropper used his power over the conversion process to manipulate a potential female convert into providing sexual favors for friends of his (and possibly for himself).

One should not draw the wrong conclusions from multiple stories of corruption on the part of kannoim. It is not the case that all kannoim are corrupt. Some are genuinely zealous for truth or, at least, consistency.

What is true, however, is that people who are corrupt to the core often compensate by being especially zealous about upholding strict community standards. This is a perfectly reasonable approach to life. There are entire communities grounded in the unassailable principle that upholding strict community standards is far more important than an individual's level of piety. (Yoily, are you there?)

I have known several people in my life who were, to the best I could discern, completely devoid of any moral sense at all. Each was corrupt in a different way. One was simply violently mean to everybody, especially our teachers. Another was a shameless plagiarist. A third was arrested for breaking and entering a high school to steal the regents and subsequently molested children. But every one of them shvitzed about his yichus and despised YU.

There are some jobs Jews don't like to do. For most such jobs in Israel, Arabs fill the gap between supply and demand and, if not, foreign workers can be allowed to fill the gap.

There is one kind of work, though, that Jews don't like to do for which Arabs and foreign workers can't be relied upon: police work. As a result the available supply of police officers is very limited and it is necessary to scrape the bottom of the barrel. The results are evident to anyone who has ever had anything to do with the police here. But today's expose in the Jerusalem Post is horrifying and revolting even by the low police standards to which we've grown accustomed.

It's interesting how power and influence are projected and perceived in democracies. In short, some people's opinions count for more than others. This is a function both of how they perceive themselves and of how others perceive them. For example, Finance Minister Yuval Shteinitz recently observed that Israel's Supreme Court rules without any regard for the financial consequences of its decisions. The point is both obviously true and not especially damning since a strong case can be made that (at least in this one small regard) the Justices are doing what they are supposed to do. Nevertheless, the demagoguery that issued forth from a few entirely unrepresentative left-wing professors and know-nothing journalists with bully pulpits sent Shteinitz looking for cover and ended any reasoned debate on the topic.

On the other hand, Defense Minister Ehud Barak treats settlers threatening to defy the building freeze as if they were enemy combatants and makes clear that he intends to use the army to enforce it. Let's ignore the merits of Barak's case as well as the merits of the case in favor of refusing military orders; this doesn't concern me here at all. The point is that Barak does not take the religious Zionist crowd seriously. He just brushes them off like water off a duck's back. Clearly, they have failed to project power in a convincing manner.

I'm afraid, though, that he has misjudged -- or at least that there is now a disconnect between how Barak perceives religious Zionists and how they perceive themselves (at least the ones under 30). Barak is an old fart who carries with him old, entirely justified, stereotypes of Mafdalnikim as goody-goody two-shoes pushovers. He is likely to soon discover, however, that the Roshei Yeshiva he is pushing around are the last of the burganim. If he tries to send in Kfir units to subdue settlers, he may be forced to re-evaluate some of those stereotypes.