Thursday, December 11, 2008

How Can A Rav Say That He "Doesn't Want To Get Involved?"

Vos Iz Neias has a story about a young girl who was molested in Boro Park recently. The family first called Dov Hikind's office. Afterwards, they contacted four rabbanim to ask whether or not they are allowed to report the molester to the police. Here's how VIN reports it (emphasis mine):

According to State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has championed the cause of abuse victims in recent months, the family first reported the incident to his office. They then contacted four community rabbonim to ask whether they were halachically permitted to report the perpetrator to the authorities. Three rabbonim allegedly said they didn't want to get involved. The fourth, in contrast, permitted them, and apparently strongly urged them to proceed.

I don't want to talk about whether or not the family should have gone to the police first. I don't even want to discuss the wisdom of calling Dov Hikind's office first. Obviously, the family felt the need to seek out halachic guidance during this difficult time - and I'm not going to second guess their decisions while facing an extremely traumatic situation.

What amazes me is the fact that three of the four rabbis allegedly said that they didn't want get involved. How can a rav, in good conciseness, choose not to get involved? How could they turn away a family in pain with a vital question of communal importance and possible ramifications on communal safety? It's one thing to say that you don't know the answer, or that further reserach is needed. But to say that "you don't want to get involved?!"

If that's the attitude*, then they should just return to the beis midrash and stop accepting shailos from people. If you don't have the fortitude to even attempt to answer the tough questions, then just close up shop.

The Wolf

* Yes, I understand that there might be legitimate reasons for not wanting to get involved. One might be because the victim or perpetrator is a relative/close friend. But I don't think that's the case here -- especially with three different rabannim.


Ezzie said...

I'd want to know why and the context. Did they not want to get involved at all? In the way the family was asking? Why didn't they want to be involved - they're not qualified and recognize themselves as such? Did they give advice on what to do? Etc.

But very, very troubling.

Originally From Brooklyn said...

In the rabbunim's defense, there are some rabbis who do kasherus, there are others who answer Nidda Questions, and still others who just teach for a living, how can you expect someone who has no halachic basis for answering a question to give a definitively halachic answer? These people were looking for halachic guidance in the matter, if the rav felt that he couldn't give it in this situation, what else can he say but, "I don't want to get involved."?

ProfK said...

ChildIsh, how about a simple "I don't know" followed by a simple "Contact X who might know." To my knowledge "I don't want to get involved" can't be translated as "I have no halachic basis for answering your question." There is also a huge difference between "I don't want" and "I can't" or "I am unable." Perhaps one rav could confuse the language this way, but three of them, all with the same answer?

Mikeinmidwood said...

Horrible story.

SuperRaizy said...

Child Ish-
There's a difference between saying "I can't help you with this problem, but here's the name of someone who can" and simply saying "I don't want to get involved; you're on your own." I think that it is irresponsible for a Rabbi to turn away a person who comes to him for help without offering an alternative.

Originally From Brooklyn said...

ProfK & Super Raisy: I have heard a well respected Rav answer the bug question with the same, I dont get involved, answer. It's not an excuse, I'm just saying that it is what Rabbanim do from time to time.

Lubab No More said...

> I understand that there might be legitimate reasons for not wanting to get involved. One might be because the victim or perpetrator is a relative/close friend.

I don't see that there is any legitimate reason for not getting involved. For example, if a friend or relative of mine was trying to kill someone and I was notified about it by the soon to be victim how could I say "I don't want to get involved"???

If someone comes to you with an issue like this there is no valid reason to stand by the sidelines.

Chaim said...

You are missing the point here. Yes, the Rabbi's actions were terrible, BUT this is a VAST improvement.

A year ago those same 3 Rabbis would have likley said that it is Assur, or Mesirah. The fact that they didn't is a HUGE step in the right direction.

Keep the blog pressure on. It is working!

Anonymous said...

you are all commenting based on the report that does not claim to be quoting anyone - I highly doubt that vosiznies got a quote from anyone directly involved...