Desecrating Hashem’s Name

Question

CONFIDENTIAL–For the Attention of Rabbi Lauffer–Not for publication ____________________________________________________________ Dear Rabbi Lauffer: Thanks so much for agreeing to respond confidentially to my question. The situation involves a rabbi in my condo building who has been engaged in a substantial amount of inappropriate behavior. My view is he may well need some sort of assistance, perhaps some sort of peer counseling if it is available. I believe he is an Orthodox rabbi. There have been a number of issues with this rabbi, but what has finally prompted me to write is a series of problems involved with his smoking. This rabbi smokes cigarettes, and he has smoked around the outside of the building near various people’s units—disturbing them with his smoking—and they have had to confront him with the problem. In addition, he has consistently littered the area with his used cigarettes. What finally brought this matter to a head was that we found several used cigarettes and an empty cigarette box that he threw into our building’s garden. Recently, our condo board has confronted him with the littering problem. In a written response to the board, he has denied any responsibility; he asserted to our board that it could not have been him. He specifically claimed to be a “non-smoker.” His statement is quite untrue—he has smoked around the building on numerous occasions, and he has been observed doing so by several people. What is perhaps most astonishing is that he has told the board he is a non-smoker, even though he knows he has been observed smoking. Although I was born and raised Jewish, I am not an expert on these issues. Still, his inconsiderate conduct and his blatant lying certainly seem quite at odds with my expectations of appropriate/ethical behavior as set forth in the Torah, Talmud, etc. I am especially struck by his willingness to lie to our board—claiming to be a non-smoker—even though he knows it is untrue and even though he knows that he has been observed smoking. As a lay person, I suspect that there may be many other “issues” in his life that need to be addressed—it’s probably not a simple issue just with his smoking. Given these facts, my impression is that he may need some sort of assistance—perhaps some sort of peer counseling if it is available to rabbis. I would be interested in your analysis of this matter, and in particular, if there is some sort of process or procedure that is in place to address problems of this sort. Again, thank you very much for agreeing to listen to me and respond confidentially. Bruce

16 years

Answers

  1. I was truly saddened by your letter. It is an unfortunate fact that there are sometimes people in the clergy who might perhaps be better off being in another profession and, if what you write is accurate, it does sound as if your neighbor is not really the spiritual role model that he ought to be. Having said that, there is no real “Rabbinical body” to turn to in order to try and teach him the correct way to behave. Unfortunately, it sounds as if things will continue in the same way until he is caught in a compromising position. The worst thing of all is not that he will be greatly embarrassed (which I imagine he will be), but rather that it will be the cause of a desecration of G-d’s Name, which the Rabbis describe as a very grave sin.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team