Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On The Law and Lawlessness

The Yeshiva Bachur reports on a meeting that took place last night in Boro Park. The topic of the meeting was that Orthodox Jews should obey the law. The general idea (from his report) was that Jews shouldn't cheat on taxes, insurance, mortgates, etc. They shouldn't think that they will get away with crimes. The Chaplain of the Federal Bureau of Prisons explained to them that life in prison isn't easy for the prisoners or their families. Other speakers mentioned how the acts of some bad "frum" Jews reflect upon all of us.

I find it very sad that such a meeting is even necessary. After all, aren't we the people who are supposed to be a "Light Unto the Nations?" Aren't we supposed to be setting the example to everyone else how to live? Aren't we the people who live by the Law? And while it's certainly true that the Law we primarily live by is Torah law and not United States law or New York State law, nonetheless, the Torah requires us to follow those laws as well, under the dictum of dina d'malchusa dina. Even without DDmD, many of the crimes covered are forbidden under the simple prohibition of stealing (where stealing from non-Jews is just as forbidden as stealing from Jews)!

I suppose that maybe a wake-up call to the frum community is necessary. We all know that this sort of "shtick" goes on. I suppose it shows that the frum community, just like any other community of people in the world, has it's share of theives, crooks and con men. We're no better or worse than others in the world... which is a darn shame, since we have a code that is meant to show us a better way to live as an example to others. It's a shame we don't always live up to our mission.

The Wolf


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Of course its sad that it is apparently necessary. But its good that Jewish leaders recognized the need for it and acted on it.

M-n said...

The prevalence of white-collar crime in the hasidic and deep-yeshivish communities is more of a reflection on compulsory poverty than willfull flouting of authority. They get no education, and their interaction with the world is carefully proscribed, severely limiting their economic opportunities. Such an environment fosters and breeds the crimes the speech was about, even though it wasn't designed to cause it. All the speeches in the world will have less of an effect than a living wage.

I'll never forget the time I met a guy who was an expert at the "geneivishe shtick" the hasidic community uses. I sat enraptured as he regaled me for two hours with details of chicanery, thieving, scams, and abuse of governmental services. He himself wasn't a user -- he had dragged himself up through sheer willpower into a technical skill worth money. But he knew the inner workings of the seemy engine of corruption, and it is quite a tale.

Anonymous said...

very important post.
The chilul hashem involved reflects on the entire community.
It also reflects on the compartmentalization of 'bein adom lachavero' and 'bein adom lamakom.'

Enigma4U said...


You make a very valid point about imposed poverty being a stimulus for the prevalence of white collar crime in the frum community.

If it were only impoverished people who took advantage of the system, it would not be so disturbing. But a lot of the monkey business is done by relatively well-to-do folks who feel it is their God-given privilege and right as owners of a Yiddishe Kohp to "beat the system".

You're completely overlooking this hallmark of frumkeit, which is the attitude that goyim and their goyishe government were created for the sole purpose of serving the needs of Jews, and that stealing from non-Jews and government programs is sanctioned, even encouraged, by Halakha.

Without being at this meeting, I would bet that most of those who attended were relatively well-off Jews who would manage fine without all this chicanery (i.e., putting their houses in others’ names in order to qualify for Section 8 and other welfare programs) . The ones struggling to make ends meet and cheating the system just a smidgen in order to survive probably couldn't make it because they likely were still at their second evening job in order to support their large families, or busy helping their overburdened wife put 8 (or more) children to sleep.

M-n said...

There's a lot more of the latter than the former. Don't kid yourself -- most of these hasidim are poor. The social attitude is used to justify it, but it's not the cause -- it's the rationalization. If it didn't have the "chosen" ideology to feed on, some other rationalization would take hold. It always does.