How Does One Know When a Disgraced Religious Leader Has Repented?

In the 1990s, Rabbi Shmuel Tal was a rising star in religious Zionist circles, who eventually founded a network of educational institutions in the Israeli town of Yad Benyamin. At some point, he began asserting that he was in contact with “the Holy Spirit,” and used the authority stemming from this claim to sordid purposes. His behavior eventually led to public condemnation from a prominent rabbi as well as a civil suit, which he lost. But a rabbinic court recently ruled that Tal had repented sufficiently to be allowed to continue to direct religious institutions.

Rabbi Yosef Blau, a prominent American educator who has dealt with similar situations in the United States, examines Tal’s recent statements and finds him to be insufficiently chastened:

After the rabbinic court’s ruling was announced, Tal and his yeshiva responded with ecstatic singing and dancing—though the ruling was not, in fact, a vindication. This was not seen as appropriate for someone who is doing t’shuvah [repentance] for what he had done. Tal then gave a speech explaining that [at present] there are no full totally righteous people and therefore we are all therefore ba’aley t’shuvah [penitents]. The implication is that his leadership continues with his authority intact.

As an outsider to the community, but as one who has been informed that Rabbi Tal’s authority in his community is absolute, [I would say that] any “t’shuvah” that does not change this fact is inherently suspect.

Moses Maimonides discusses at length the power of t’shuvah, as well as the behavior associated with it. It involves serious changes, modifications in one’s style of life. Admitting mistakes, but ignoring damage caused to others and declaring one’s own motivations pure, while arguing that making these mistakes is a reflection of the generation [rather than taking full responsibility] is not consistent with Maimonides’ understanding of repentance.

If acknowledging that asserting inspiration from the Holy Spirit was a mistake does no lead to a willingness to reduce the level of control over an entire community, then the risk of further sin is great. A true ba’al t’shuvah has, at a minimum, learned to modify his self-confidence in claiming total authority.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: baalei teshuvah, Judaism in Israel, Moses Maimonides, Rabbis, Repentance

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security