The guest post that follows by Asher Lovy is a response to the debate about whether Rabbi Shmuel Tal truly repented of his egregious manipulation of woman he was counseling to get her to divorce her husband so Tal could marry her. A beit din declared he could retain his position heading a yeshiva because he did repent. I posted about the episode (and included a statement by Rabbi Yosef Blau). Subsequently there were also posts by Rabbi Blau in the Times of Israel and by Hannah Katsman on her blog, A Mother in Israel. All of us utterly dispute the claim that he repented.
Asher Lovy is the Director of Community Organizing at Zaakah, and an activist who played an important role in securing in some legislative victories involving child abuse in New York State.
Let’s Talk about Policy Instead of Whether Rabbi Shmuel Tal Did Teshuva
by Asher Lovy
I respect Rabbi Blau and appreciate his his article, Rabbi Shmuel Tal’s Authority is Intact; Everybody Should Be Asking, Why? But, I feel like the discussion around this issue has been allowed to veer into the morass of our particular religio-communal-cultural discourse around sexual impropriety, and that we’ve lost objective focus of this issue.
Last week, Rabbi Elli Fischer wrote a post that generated an intense discussion. In that post he said that he felt the beis din was correct in not stripping him of his position because he could understand the possible frame of mind in which Shmuel Tal did this to that woman, and that since nothing else otherwise incriminating was found on his computer, and we don’t have a long record of Tal doing things like this, the conditions set by the beis din that Tal could no longer counsel women or claim to have Ruach Hakodesh, while still maintaining his position as rosh yeshiva, were fair. (Note- Rabbi Fischer has since removed his article from public viewing on FaceBook after a lot of online criticism).
To me this whole discussion is missing the point. It’s not relevant whether or not he did teshuva. It’s not relevant whether or not stuff was found on his computer. We need to start looking at these cases not as individual cases to be adjudicated individually, but as broad matters of institutional best practice. Continue reading