Sunday, July 09, 2006
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 15 Comments
"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.
Labels: Jewish Matters ·