Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Rabbi Who "Lusts" for Money


Having seen so much negative publicity about rabbis asking for financial assistance, and the apparent chillul Hashem (desecration of Hashem's Name,) I felt it important to bring out some vital information, so often neglected by the public. I'm not going in to the sources as to the permissibility of the action - rather, and more importantly, I felt another angle was necessary - one that leans towards the concept of "rabbi," his role, and how too often, he is simply taken for granted. Apparently, he is seen as a spiritual being who devotes his life completely to God, and with this, has no need to actually live a physical life. When he does choose to, he is so often condemned for his inappropriate behaviour. Perhaps, we need to seriously re-consider our thinking of who he is, his role, his availability for others, and in fact, his vital contribution to Jewish society, and in truth, the world in general.

So great has the "desecration" become, it is considered taboo for a rabbi - or a Torah scholar to dare to ask for money. He is looked down upon, frowned upon, and dismissed as someone who needs to go out and get a "proper job". Alternatively at the very least he should be prepared to offer himself to everyone at no cost, because he has indeed chosen a life of poverty - the life of the "rabbi", a spiritual being connected to God, with no need for a physical life.

Rabbis - are in fact just like other people - human beings who are composed of souls that live inside bodies. These bodies of their's require the exact same food to live, a home to live in, and maybe a car to get around in (they should be so lucky - so deserving!) They even wear garments to keep themselves warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and be of the types that are quality enough that they (the garments) bring enough respect to them, that the world may feel they are in fact dignified, honorable and clean in every respect. Surely wearing rags would do even more damage - than his apparent "lust" for wealth. 

It's not really the negative publicity that's as much of a problem - as is the sudden calling upon of the rabbi for some things he can actually give to the other - from that very person who once humiliated, insulted and degraded "the rabbis" for their apparent "lust of money", apparently contradicting everything they ever imagined about this spiritual being (they assume) they call a rabbi.

It's when suddenly at 12am they feel low about life and want someone to talk to who understands something about life - and they pick up the phone to call their "rabbi" for help. And he's actually there - prepared to talk and to listen... It's when there's a marriage and they suddenly need their "rabbi" to officiate - and he doesn't just do the ceremony as some might think - he spends years learning the laws to make sure it is done correctly. Subjects such as these require sharp, clear minds - and most of all the ability to be able to sit and learn for hours every day - without disturbance, in order to clarify that the final "show" will actually be in accordance with normative Jewish law.

It's when their baby boy turns 8 days and they need the "rabbi" (Mohel in this case - who could also be the rabbi) to take care of the commandment at that time. It's when suddenly they may need a Mezuzah checked - and call the "rabbi" (Sofer in this case - but could equally be the community rabbi) to check - or even to know just where to put the Mezuzah up. It's when they need a divorce (which can actually happen) and they need the "lustful" rabbi to have spent years learning the laws gratis as a gift to all and sundry - never to charge for his time spent in learning - to make sure he does what needs to - as it should be done.

It's when their relationship with a partner may be falling apart - and they feel the need to talk to their "rabbi" to help put things back together again - or when the father of a child dating someone of another religion feels it is not the right thing to do - and feels he must now speak to the "rabbi" to help. Now the rabbi must help - though just moments before (in their eyes at least) - he was greedy about money, bowing and kowtowing to the wealthy for help.

It's when the person realises suddenly that he needs to actually learn some Torah - he needs to grow, he needs some life, he needs some meaning which he feels suddenly that he might find in the Torah... and he calls - "heaven forbid" - the "rabbi" to help him get on track again - and return.

But God forbid that the rabbi should mention he needs any money to live - or God forbid he take a cent from anyone (especially if he has the chutzpah - the audacity - to ask from the wealthy) - lest he appear in their eyes as greedy or the like - bowing, kowtowing and lowering himself from his exalted level of spirituality - to make out as if he is a physical being of any kind.

Let us be clear, just like a doctor may study medicine for many years and then begin to charge huge sums for the work he does, as does the accountant or lawyer, the rabbi has involved himself in many years of study as well. What makes him different in the eyes of others, is the fact that they believe that by following God, by being spiritual, by living a more spiritual (apparently dignified) life, he should offer his service at no charge, or at minimum charge, or should at least compromise to everyone's wishes to what they can afford. He dare not ask for money when he is battling (note: to survive!) because this should be beneath the dignity of one who sets himself up in the eyes of others as a Godly person, a spiritual person engaged in spiritual pursuits.

The truth is - as any Jew should know, the rabbi performs many functions. Sometimes he talks to inspire a congregation. Sometimes he teaches children. Sometimes he teaches adults. Sometimes he acts as a friend. Other times he will help others with the rituals they are in need of performing. Sometimes he offers spiritual advice to assist others in their growth in life. He may be available all day and all night - being prepared to wake up whenever another is in need - in order to help them immediately. He has so many hats - even if it appears he only wears one (an old black one that seems to look like he really needs to replace it!) He does so much... (very often without any charge at all!) Yet, many do not realise just how much he gives... until of course, it is they who suddenly need his help...

It may seem "undignified" for the rabbi to have to ask for money to live, but in truth, it is not he who is at fault. It is we - the one's who will not pay him his fair due to live appropriately and be able to give of his time without the need to wonder how to make ends meet. When we give more, without his having to ask - he will be able to do more, and appear even more dignified in our eyes for the tremendous work and good that he does in fact do.

It just takes a little thought to ponder upon his role in life and how so many need it. When we see him asking for help, for financial assistance, it is not for us to judge how lowly he is and what a chillul Hashem (a desecration of God's Name) he has done. Rather, it is for us to remember, that he too is a person who needs to live, to eat, to wear garments, to have a house to live in and maybe even a car to drive! 

We must remember, that when we give without stinginess, then when the day comes that it is we who need the help from that rabbi - he will be there for us. For if not, then when one day we do need his help - for anything - he will not be there for us. He will be unable to learn. Perhaps, one day, instead of offering sage advice to make the difference in a life-or-death question that one has - he will find that "rabbi" checking his goods out at the supermarket.

1 comment:

814 אורנה ניצבת said...

And there is the rule, a rabbi needs a wife to be a rabbi, to have Daat.
And needs to take care of her financially, when she takes care o him, house, babies, guests, etc, a very important point.

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