I have not the slightest inclination to listen to the infamous audios floating around on the Internet, for a few reasons.
One, because we are trained (Pirkei Avot 4:18) not to look at others בשעת קלקלתן, at the time of their corruption. We have nothing to gain, and much sensitivity to lose, by such voyeurism.
Another reason is that I saw this coming years ago. I didn't predict his specific downfall, but I attended an EJF conference in Boston several years ago, where it was obvious that the people in charge were taking advantage of the benevolence of their major donor, Tom Kaplan.
Mr. Kaplan spoke at a dinner during the event and outlined his vision of an organization which would help intermarried couples return to Judaism. From what I could see, this was not the agenda of the people running the conference, and it was not what was being implemented on the ground. The man with the dream was being used by the people charged with carrying it out.
I turned to the person next to me – turned out to be the Executive Director – and I commented, “He reminds me of Peter Pan.” After that comment I didn’t get invited back, which was neither a surprise nor a disappointment; it was clear that agenda had already trumped ethos.
But the major reason I don’t want to hear those conversations is the thought of how many others could end up doing what he did.
The profile for leaders who fall into this trap is straightforward:
People whose great ambition overwhelms their personalities;
People who abandon tzniut as they put themselves into the spotlight;
People who think they are the smartest ones in the room.
Taken with their ambitions, they overstep lines in pursuit of their goals, until the act of breaking rules becomes meaningless;
Abandoning tzniut, they stand front-and-center, eating up the accolades and thinking themselves unbounded heroes whose foibles are nothing to their successes;
Believing themselves the smartest in the room, they ignore the concerns of others and they imagine that any danger they don’t perceive must not be real.
And so they feed their egos, and so they break rules, and so they fall, thinking all the while that they are in pursuit of the greatest good.
There are lots of ambitious, talented, charismatic leaders in the Jewish world. They are many leaders who are quite capable of ignoring red lines on issues that are dear to them. I am very concerned, worrying who will be next.
[This week's Haveil Havalim is here.]