WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT. DON'T READ THIS IF YOU DON'T WANT TO.
On every radio station this week, discussions were about the heinous crimes allegedly committed by former Penn State assistant football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The timing of the release of the grand jury report fits in perfectly with this week's Parsha. Chazal were ever prescient when they said that the events of the week are related to that week's Parsha. The scary part, however, is the need to be vigilant and supervise our venues and children to do everything in our power to make sure that events like this do not happen even within our own communities. This week's parsha tells us that, as well.
Take two stories: visitors arrive in a city, the entire city converges at the front door of the host's home and demands the visitors with whom they want to perform evil acts. The host offers to placate the mob by presenting his daughters for their amusement, but the mob refuses and remain insistent. The visitors, who are really angels in disguise, strike the mob blind and escape.
In another city, a man with his concubine were out of town, seeking lodging but finding none. After dark, a man takes them in. But neighbors demand the visitors for their amusement, and they are given the concubine, who returns to the doorstep near dawn, still alive, though barely. When she died soon thereafter, the man sent a graphic version of the story around the country which led to a bloody civil war.
The first story is the story of the angels visiting Lot in Sodom, in this week's parsha. The second story is from Shoftim, the book of Judges, chapters 19-20, and is the incident known as Pilegesh B'Giva. Looking at them side by side, my head burst: how is it possible for Jews in shevet Binyamin to act in an almost identical manner to the residents of Sodom, one of the most evil groups of people in the history of mankind? It is mind-boggling how Jews acted so similarly to the people of Sodom. Ramban mentions a few differences (in Sodom the entire city showed up and in Giva only some of the city; in Sodom they were homosexuals and in Giva they were not; and the entire culture of Sodom was anti-guest so as to not share what they had with anyone else, but such a culture did not exist in Giva), but it is still hard to digest.
About the residents of Sodom not allowing visitors because they did not want to share the beauty and riches of their hometown with others, one opinion in the Mishna in Pirkei Avos says "one whose attitude is 'what is mine - is mine, and what is yours - is yours' - this is the trait of Sodom," because of an unwillingness to share their bounty with others. Unfortunately, the evildoers of today are not identifiable by this trait. Instead, they take a personal interest in underprivileged youth, or kids from broken homes, and shower them with attention and gifts. Others say "what a great guy he is," but he does it to gain the trust of an innocent, unsuspecting youth, and, Heaven forbid, performs atrocities on these children, and lo aleinu, scar them for life.
This is the pattern that happened to Pinny Taub.
How can it happen? Sefer Chasidim says: : מנהג היהודים, הטובים שבהם כמנהג הגויים שבתוכם הם
יושבים. This did not apply to the people of Givah. But still it happened. We in our own time are certainly not immune to these same issues, Hashem Yerachem.
Friday is Veterans Day. One reason Veterans Day is observed on November 11th is because November 10th is the birthday of the Marine Corps. Marines are unique among the armed forces because while soldiers and sailors are such while in uniform, out of uniform they are regular people. Marines, however, whether not in uniform while still in the service or even when retired, are always Marines. There is a code of dress that Marines keep for life that distinguishes them as a Marine, and there is always a special comeradarie between any two Marines, even if they had never met before. In that regard, religious Jews are like Marines. We dress differently that everyone else. If we see another Yid while travelling, a certain connection immediately springs up. When people see us, they say to themselves, "those are Jews over there," and they hold us to a higher standard, just as seeing two guys who stand straight and are dressed neatly are identifiable as Marines.
The end of the first stanza of the Marine's Hymn - a hymn, not just a song - states:
First to fight for right and freedom / And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title / Of United States Marines.
At Penn State, there are many who have not kept their honor clean. In Jewish communities, there are, unfortunately, those who have not kept their honor clean. But the issue isn't only that they did not fight to keep their honor clean, it is that by not treating the issue with the full seriousness it deserves, more innocent children were harmed. More than that, some are even proud of their not becoming involved! The GA, McQueary, was horrified by what he saw and told his father, but apparently did not call the police. I even heard a former Penn State football player wonder - on the radio - if this GA's appointment as a coach the next season was a payoff to buy his silence. But the bottome line is, when confronted with scenarios like this, Hashem Yerachem, you have to contact the authorities who have procedures and experience in dealing with these issues. Telling well-intentioned but inexperienced people is not enough.
Public Service Announcement (for those in Chicago)
The second annual "Jewish Week for the Prevention of Child Abuse" presents the author of "Hush", whose topic is "If You Know Something, Say Something", Sunday, November 20, 2:00 pm, at KINS, 2800 North Shore. CEUs available. Sponsors: Nefesh Chicago and JBAC.