Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Value of Judgement in this World

"I heard just this week that a Chabad-Lubavitch colleague of mine from New Jersey suggested that I should not be called up to the Torah at a Chabad House, apparently because on my TV show, Shalom in the Home, I had counseled a lesbian couple with children.

People are tired of this kind of harsh religion that is all about judgment and not about redemption, all about rejection and not about acceptance, all about condemnation and not about inspiration."

So declares Shmuel Boteach, Michael Jackson's former Rabbi, who currently preaches via his radio show reminding one of a more sex-obsessed Dennis Prager and a Learning Channel TV show 'Shalom in the Home' in which he plays an unlicensed therapist bonding with wacky dysfunctional families that include the aforementioned lesbian couple and a Jewish man who married a Muslim Turk and converted to Islam.

It's safe to say that at no point does Boteach actually attempt to impart to them any moral lessons or uphold any of the Torah's values, instead using his supposed Rabbinical status as shtick. Now last time I checked Boteach had been expelled from Chabad and has no Chabad colleagues. After his sensationalistic books on Sex, his dalliance with a millionaire pedophile, brushes with financial malfeasance, he's settled into marketing his Rabbinic status as pop culture infused advice giver, delivering inspid and blatantly obvious platitudes that would shame even Dr. Phil.

Of course none of this has anything to do with Torah or Hashem but then when you've achieved fame and fortune enabling a pedophile and then made a career dispensing feel good advice, the last thing you want is judgement or rejecting what is bad in favor of what is good. Instead you favor universal acceptance and non-judgementalism. After all if Rabbi Boteach were to speak out against homosexuality or intermarriage, he would no longer have a TV show and he knows it too. The only kind of religion that sells on tv is non-judgemental and accepting, soft-religion that jettisons morality in favor of redemption for all, no questions asked.

The problem with celebrity clergy is that clergy shouldn't be celebrities. When servants of God work to cater to an audience, they create idols for themselves to worship that leave God behind. The accepting religion is ultimately the customized religion. The 'My God' phenomenon in which every person recreates God in their image worshipping their own ideals and values creates a customized idol for themselves.

Values require judgement. This does not mean alienating or abusing people necesarily, but it does mean at the very least, making clear what you believe is right and wrong. A clergyman who does not do this allows the public to believe that God is as equally devoid of judgement as him and that all forms of conduct are acceptable. This can be often difficult in a society that values the tolerance of all things above all else but then being a servant of God was never meant to be easy. It is actually exceedingly difficult, or should be. It is not a cakewalk or a celebrity dinner. It is not a TV show or a book deal. It is standing up for what is right in a world that by its very nature more often tends towards the wrong.

One does not have to be a Rabbi to give charity, to counsel families or to dispense advice. Anyone can do these things and should. Being a Rabbi requires more than just helping people, it requires upholding G-d's values (rather than generalized fuzzy do-gooder values) and thus proclaiming his name in this world whether it is through teaching, learning, counselling or most importantly judging. Most people are capable of fuzzy definitions of good. But fuzzy definitions of good are often the difference between good and evil. Undefined fuzzy definitions, tolerance of evil, misplaced charity and mercy or in reverse excessive intolerance, lack of charity and mercy, lead one towards evil. Judgement requires drawing those defining lines and finding that balance to walk, the tightrope on whose both sides lie the abysses of ruin. Clergy who err on one side or another, fall and lead others to fall with them by misleading them and misguiding them to false and destructive extremes.


Keliata said...

It's very disappointing to read this about "Shalom in the Home." I had only seen the tail end of one episode, and thought it looked promising--a religious alternative to the horribly exploitive Wife-Swap type shows on ABC.

Since the the entire premise of "Shalom in the Home" appears to be centered around a religious Jewish theme, I can't understand why TLC would take the low road with it and feature lesbian and gay "families."

Lemon Lime Moon said...

"Speak to us smooth things and prophecy delusions" Yeshaya 30,10
He plays to the crowd and Hashem said that the crowds would demand just such smooth preaching and stroking rather than the truth .
Truth demands changes in ones personal life , something most are not prepared to make.

catlady said...

it's like people don't get that speaking out against hatred, bashing and murdering of gays is NOT the same as condoning homosexuality

Rev Billy said...

I preach mainly hell fire and brimstone.Just a joke there.
Well you know brethren it takes all kinds and some will do a lot to be popular.
I come off being a bit of a comedian here but I am a serious fella and I think this fella wishes to do some good but you know its not good to give up your values for a pat on the back. Just never works out right in the end.
Specially for a preacher of any religion. You have got to stick to the main event which is the bible. No way around that if you want to keep playing on the team.

Keliata said...

Very true. But when people want only to promote their own celebrity, they'll prostitute the Torah for the masses.

Keliata said...

A phenomena not unique to Judaism either. Christian television is full of so-called ministers promoting their own celebrity to fill their wallets.

Sultan Knish said...

they'd take the low road because the low road sells, they'll look specifically for gimmicky wacky families in order to get attention and if they center a show around a Rabbi, they'll be twice as determined to find those kinds of families...particularly inappropriate ones in order to 'shock' people

that's reality TV really, which is exploitative and degrading of norms and sensibilities

Anonymous said...

Reality tv is a downward spiral and sees how degraded people are willing to make themselves for a moment of fame.
They eat vile things, do stupid monkey tricks for the cameras and say or do anything for money.
They have no clue how disgusting and low class they really look to most people.

A while back the writers of Beevis and Buthead came out and told teenagers that they disliked them really and were mamesh making fun of them.
Teens still watched the show.

Editor said...

Wow you sure made plenty of judgements of Shmuley!


A Chabadnik who would have no problem calling up Shmuley or any other Jew up for an aliya. We accept them all at face value..

Itzik_s said...

Boteach is a total joke. A cross between Al Sharpton, Oprah and the Berg clowns. He would be welcome to have an aliyah at any Chabad House - on Purim!

Ani lo bediuk Boteach bo.

Neshama said...

Hi guys,
I tend to see everything spiritually these days. One must make judgements every day in all matters in order to keep going forward and not be pulled down to this nation's lowest common denominator. America is on its way out. I hate to sound so "doomsdayish" but that's how I see it.

America's lifestyle is deteriorating rapidly, and unfortunately taking many, many Jewish neshomas along with it.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...


I'm no fan of Shmuley (or Chabad), but neither you nor catlady are being quite fair to him. He has never spoken in favor of homosexuality. Rather, he has consistently said they do not deserve mistreatment or discrimination, period. He even explicitly defines it as a "religious sin" here:

Now, you can accuse him of minimizing the importance or significance of religious sin, but it's entirely ridiculous to put words in his mouth and imply that he has given blanket acceptance to homosexuality. He hasn't. He simply differentiates between what is and isn't his business, and simply because he doesn't rail against gays on his show doesn't mean he automatically thinks homosexuality is the greatest thing since sliced bread, as a simple Google search (try Boteach + homosexuality) would show. He, God forbid, actually has a slightly nuanced opinion about the whole thing.
(See and for more examples.)

Shmuley's show, inane as it is (and it is,) isn't about getting people to become frum; it is no more his place to lecture a lesbian couple on Judaism's views on homosexuality than it would be to tell a secular Jewish family that they should keep kosher and that the wife should start going to a mikvah. The families and/or show's producers come to him with specific requests for help and advice regarding how to make their relationship work, not whether the Torah says it's ok.

Hate him if you want, but at least hate him for stuff he's actually done and said.

Sultan Knish said...

it is no more his place to lecture a lesbian couple on Judaism's views on homosexuality than it would be to tell a secular Jewish family that they should keep kosher

actually as a Rabbi it's precisely his place to say these things

no one is asking him to go around yelling that gays are going to hell, but when a Rabbi participates in a segment with a homosexual couple and advises them on child rearing, he is giving the impression that he accepts their lifestyle... the same way if he advised a pedophile married to a 3 year old on how to brush her teeth, while ignoring the overall fact that child molestation is going on here

(a proper enough analogy for michael jackson's rabbi)

some things you don't actually have to speak in favor of to appear in favor of by treating them as normal and casual

it really comes down to whether he's there representing G-d or representing himself. For the latter then yes he has no real place telling anyone, anything at all. But of course taking that approach is admitting he's not a religious figure and should stop capitalizing on the title of Rabbi and just call himself Shmuley.

nari said...

wouldnt you think giving the Palestinian their right to decide what to do with their country that they were forced out by TERROR of Jewish war gangs. dont you think they have the human right to live in their country, they didnt creat the Crimes against jews. they dont deserve to be displaced by people chose to creat a state on the palestinian land
Honesty and truth is hard to swallow, Israelies took the palestinian land and it is war against the agressor, and occupiers.
would you be honest enough to publish my comment!!!

Sultan Knish said...

1. there was never any palestinian country. period. there was egypt and jordan.

2. the terror was on the side of the arabs

3. the arabs had repeated chances for a state and peace, beginning with the UN partition plan they rejected in 1948 to the present day... they rejected every one of them and chose the path of violence and murder

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