[This week’s Haveil Havalim is here]
The more I think about the scandals of Rabbi Elon this past week, and Rabbi Tropper a short while ago, the more I believe that the Jewish world makes two mistakes:
1. We have a very low bar for entering leadership
Many people have desires which go unfulfilled because they lack opportunity. Admired leaders, whether overseers of conversion processes or heads of yeshivot and seminaries, have that opportunity on a daily basis. We should be doing more to vet people before putting them in those positions of opportunity.
I’ve actually believed this for a long time, ever since I was put in charge of various things at a pretty young age. A leader, a Gadol, someone we will trust with our institutions as well as our hopes, cannot be a work in progress other than in his own humble mind.
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we hunger for leaders. We look at generations past and see their great figures, we look at the recent ones, like Rav Moshe Feinstein, and we long for their kind. And so we look to people who have yet to prove themselves, and we make them leaders. But Rav Moshe, to use him as an example, was a long time in the making, decades before he was recognized as a leader.
A leader should spend decades proving himself before the nation turns to him with that level of respect and trust. In learning, in chesed, in publishing, in apprenticing, a potential leader must prove himself before we place the Jewish world, and our trust, in his hands a la וגם בך יאמינו לעולם (Shemot 19:9).
2. On adultery, we overstate Yosef’s greatness
The Torah portrays Yosef passing the test of Potiphar’s wife (Bereishit 39) with little hyperbole. Yosef went to work, she approached him, Yosef ran away. Gittin 57a also notes that Yosef's deed was a one-time event; righteous, certainly, but not truly heroic.
We, on the other hand, play it up as an incredible deed, this refusal to commit adultery with the wife of his employer.
I wonder whether this hyperbole doesn’t provide a subtle heter (permission) for adulterers: “Well, Yosef was a great tzaddik, and that’s why he didn’t stumble; I’m not Yosef, it’s not the greatest problem if I stumble once or twice.”
I know you could (and perhaps should) argue the point, but I’m just wondering about it.