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

July 16 2019

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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

 

The Attempted Murder of Salman Rushdie Should Render the New Iran Deal Dead in the Water

Aug. 15 2022

On Friday, the Indian-born, Anglo-American novelist Salman Rushdie was repeatedly stabbed and severely wounded while giving a public lecture in western New York. Reports have since emerged—although as yet unverified—that the would-be assassin had been in contact with agents of Iran, whose supreme leaders have repeatedly called on Muslims to murder Rushdie. Meanwhile U.S. and European diplomats are trying to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. Stephen Daisley comments:

Salman Rushdie’s would-be assassin might have been a lone wolf. He might have had no contact with military or intelligence figures. He might never even have set foot in Tehran. But be in no doubt: he acted, in effect, as an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Under the terms of the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini in February 1989, Rushdie “and all those involved in [his novel The Satanic Verses’s] publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death.” Khomeini urged “brave Muslims to kill them quickly wherever they find them so that no one ever again would dare to insult the sanctities of Muslims,” adding: “anyone killed while trying to execute Rushdie would, God willing, be a martyr.”

An American citizen has been the victim of an attempted assassination on American soil by, it appears, another American after decades of the Iranian supreme leader agitating for his murder. No country that is serious about its national security, to say nothing of its national self-worth, can pretend this is some everyday stabbing with no broader political implications.

Those implications relate not only to the attack on Rushdie. . . . In July, a man armed with an AK-47 was arrested outside the Brooklyn home of Masih Alinejad, an Iranian dissident who was also the intended target of an abduction plot last year orchestrated by an Iranian intelligence agent. The cumulative weight of these outrages should render the new Iran deal dead in the water.

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Freedom of Speech, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy