Can the Crown Heights example be reproduced elsewhere?

The following article from the Jerusalem Post is of interest to the wider community. Amongst Chabad, it has been known for some months. Read it.

The Jewish term רגלים לדבר can be translated using the words of this article as “credible evidence”. The critical issue is determining whether evidence is credible. There are a range of views. On one extreme is the largely derided view of R’ Menashe Klein ז’ל who clearly stated as follows:

Child abuse reporting R’ M Klein 16 58

In summary, R’ Klein felt that the Torah does not halachically consider anything to have happened unless there are two kosher witnesses who attest. This is an extreme view. I would suggest that certain cloistered circles utilise this view in order to keep things “in-house”. I don’t think that they are motivated by the actual legalistic decision itself, and in many cases the people involved and who use it as their justification are cowards, selectively religious, or simply not God-fearing. R’ Klein’s position is extreme and is opposed by Rav Eliashiv, the Tzitz Eliezer ז’ל, R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ז’ל all three of whose decisions, in general, are considered to be more widely accepted, influential and robust.

The Crown Heights Beis Din clearly didn’t agree with R’ Klein’s view either. That being said, the determination of “credible evidence” is a critical issue.

The Aguda, in my opinion, have been dancing on the tightrope. Faced with a reality wherein people aligned with their organisation have and continue to be involved in serious crimes, it cannot be seen to be taking R’ Klein’s view. The internet has laid bare the pockets of iniquity and forced the Aguda to make pronouncements through their Council of Sages and their mouthpieces. On the other hand, devolving the determination of what is considered credible evidence to non-Rabbinic authorities, be they Jewish or otherwise, Police or professional, is not something Aguda have been prepared to say unequivocally and with complete clarity and transparency. There are some clever spin doctors who speak for the Aguda, but they fool nobody in their level of translucence on this issue. Indeed, some members of Aguda leadership, such as R’ Shmuel Kamenetzky, are thought to lean towards R’ Klein’s views on such matters even today, despite the mounting evidence that there is a scourge that needs to be excised.

Allegations against R’ Motti Elon are before the courts in Israel, however, it is clear that elements of the Orthodox Zionist Rabbinate in Israel, felt that they could deal with those allegations by effectively placing R’ Elon under conditions akin to “house arrest”. I do not know whether they also informed the police. Perhaps they knew that the Police were already aware of the allegations. Rabbi Elon denies the charges. Time will tell. The courts will decide.

I don’t think that any Posek, however, will attempt to define רגלים לדבר in a general way. If so, the person in the street is left with two choices:

  1. When a situation arises, ask a recognised world authority (and here, I do not mean one’s local orthodox rabbi most of whom would readily admit that they are not qualified to make determinations on such issues)
  2. Decide for oneself whether there is enough רגלים to hand over the דבר to the police, so that the authorities will decide in the end whether there is רגלים לדבר.

In my opinion, there is also a qualitative difference in respect of 1. above. A renowned Posek will not need to question witnesses nor will they need to question the accused or make local enquiries. Rather, they will listen to the nature of the quality of information that is provided to them and indicate whether it is appropriate to pass on the matter to the authorities. It would be wrong, in my opinion, for any para-inquest regarding the veracity of testimony to take place. Rather, the Posek would only look to see if someone was basically   “off the planet” in their allegations.

If a Posek insists on hearing evidence first hand, for example, before they can make up their mind whether a matter should be reported, then I contend that their position is closer to that of R’ Klein and/or the the Aguda.

God forbid, someone has been reported to have entered your neighbour’s house with a gun, and screams are heard. What do you do? Do you go to your Posek? Does your Posek insist on speaking with the alleged gun wielder or screamer before giving you permission to report to the police? All I can say is I hope not.

To be sure, there are some 3% reported false accusations. In addition, there is collateral damage that may occur when issues come to light. We need to get away from a culture where those who report are seen as pariahs.

Author: pitputim

I've enjoyed being a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia, as well as band leader/singer for the Schnapps Band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel and later in life at Machon L'Hora'ah, Yeshivas Halichos Olam.

2 thoughts on “Can the Crown Heights example be reproduced elsewhere?”

  1. The penny still hasen’t dropped:
    Report to the Police FIRST & IMMEDIATELY.
    By all means AFTER reporting to the Police report to your favourite orthodox Rabbi.
    Check out the information evening below held recently in the community.
    Yes,about 2.5% of accusations are false. Of those the accuser is almost always detected & charged himself for making a false accusation so that concern is just not valid.
    Until the time comes that the Rabbis say what they mean & mean what they say nothing will change.I don’t see any change coming until after Moschiach arrives.Do you?


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