What Remains

Vindication is nice, but there’s sometimes bitter mixed in with the sweet.

Back in October of last year, a headline in the New York Jewish Week read: “No Religious Haven From Abuse.” The subheader amplified: “New study finds Orthodox women are sexually victimized as much as other American women.” As I wrote shortly thereafter, first in a letter to the Jewish Week and then in a longer essay, the study found nothing of the sort.

Because of the sample it recruited, the study, in the American Journal of Psychiatry, could not and did not make any claim at all about the relative prevalence of abuse in the Orthodox and general American communities.

The study’s authors themselves in fact stated as much, noting that “those who chose to participate may not be representative of the [Orthodox] population,” and that the unfeasibility of obtaining a representative sample constituted a “major limitation of this study.” What is more, over half the women comprising the recruited study sample were receiving mental health treatment at the time. Victims of abuse, needless to say, are more likely than others to seek counseling, and so the sample would be expected to yield a larger number of victims than one representative of the larger Orthodox community.

And so, by comparing the 25%-27% figure for American women claiming (in randomized surveys) to have suffered abuse at some point in their lives with the 26% figure yielded by the recent (self-selected and non-representative) study of Orthodox women, and concluding that “Orthodox Jewish women suffer as much [abuse] as other American women,” the Jewish Week writer revealed only her own innumeracy. If anything, the similar percentages between an Orthodox group disproportionately likely to have suffered abuse and a non-Jewish random sample arguably indicate a lower rate of abuse in the former.

After daring to call attention to all that, I was roundly and strongly censured. One subsequent writer to the Jewish Week, utterly uncomprehending of the point about the number of study subjects receiving mental health treatment, claimed it indicated the precise opposite of what it did, and accused me of denying that abuse exists in the Orthodox community, although I explicitly noted in both my letter and essay that abuse exists in every community, including the Orthodox.

Another letter-writer, this one a Long Island psychologist, condescendingly sniffed that without “a knowledge of… non-parametric statistics” I simply was not qualified to address the study’s findings. He too, incredibly, managed to misconstrue the entire point about the sample’s disproportionate share of mental health patients. Then blogs, of course, weighed in, demonstrating with their rantings just how widespread is the misconstrual of the word “critical” in the phrase “critical thinking” as “negative” rather than “analytical.”

Finally, though, several weeks later, some sanity came to reign. In a long and comprehensive article, the Director of Psychotherapy Training in the Psychiatry Residency Training Program at the University of Cincinnati, Dr. Nachum Klafter, asked by a blog to evaluate the study and the Jewish Week article, presented his conclusion that I had “correctly read the AJP paper” and that the Jewish Week writer had clearly misreported its findings.

That was followed by a joint monograph by a Professor of Psychology, a Professor of Education and Philosophy, a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology and a well-known and regarded author of essays and books on cultural issues. It stated that “to attempt to generalize from [the study highlighted in the Jewish Week article] to the Orthodox mainstream – or to draw grand comparisons between subgroups within this skewed sample – seems to be a gross misrepresentation of the data obtained.”

Both of the recent papers, moreover, noted that the study’s data in fact yields the remarkable (yet somehow unremarked upon by the Jewish Week) fact that the survey respondents who were raised Orthodox were 50% less likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those from non-Orthodox homes. Considering that the survey asked if abuse occurred at any point in respondents’ lives, it is plausible if not likely that much of the abuse reported among those raised non-Orthodox occurred before they joined observant communities.

None of which, of course, is to deny either that abuse exists in the Orthodox community (as it does in all communities) or that all communities, including the Orthodox, have a responsibility to put effective measures into place to prevent it. But the fact of its existence in the Orthodox world is no justification for drawing unwarranted conclusions about its extent there.

I am gratified, of course, that the record regarding the study and article has been corrected. But something still grates, and, I think, for good reason.

Because all that many, if not most, of the Jewish Week’s readers will likely ever remember about the entire business will be a mendacious headline. Despite all the setting straight of facts, what will remain in minds – not to mention in the eternal echo-chamber of cyberspace – will be only those deceptive, in fact slanderous, words.

© 2008 AM ECHAD RESOURCES

[Rabbi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America.]

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26 comments to What Remains

  • Ori

    This is a general problem with modern life. We get so much information pushed at us, from so many sources, that:

    1. We don’t have time to properly evaluate it for truth.
    2. We remember only the parts that are easy to digest – even if they are deceptive.

    Both of these facts make us tremendously vulnerable to propaganda. Any ideas on how we can resist it, without giving somebody else the ability to control what we see and read?

  • Bob Miller

    Rabbi Shafran,

    If possible, please provide links or other ways to obtain the two new papers cited.

  • joel rich

    Your readers might find this Jewish Press article of interest. Pay special attention to the abuse statistics studies mentioned.

    http://www.thejewishpress.com/displaycontent_new.cfm?contentid=30215&mode=a

    KT

  • Yaakov Menken

    Bob,

    Dr. Klafter is a frequent commenter on Cross-Currents, and I wonder why he didn’t submit it as a guest column. I’ve only seen it elsewhere on the Net. David H. Rosmarin published his study on his site.

  • Mark

    Rabbi Shafran,

    If it’s any consolation to you, I distinctly recall Dr. Klafter’s article because I marveled at how well he presented his points and how he simplified the issue so that even novices such as myself could understand the shortcomings of the Jewish Week’s column. Those looking for the truth know where to find it. Those uninterested in finding it will miss it even if it’s placed on their doorstep.

  • Yossi

    Joel,

    Where are the numbers in that Jewish Press article? He just tells us “research has shown” that “the Orthodox community” has as big a problem with domestic violence, substance abuse, and sexual abuse. He’s misreporting flawed studies like this one.

    Dr. Michael Solomon is part of a web site that posts false accusations against frum Rabbis with true stories of abuse (Orthodox and non-Orthodox). Even if he davens three times a day, you can’t trust his judgment about the Orthodox.

  • nachum klafter, md

    My essay can be read here: http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2008/01/sexual-abuse-in-orthodox-community.html

    I would like to clarify that while I disagree with the critique of the AJP paper which is cited above in comment 3. This is addressed in my essay in footnote #10.

    I wasn’t aware that cross-current solicits guest posts. The reason I posted it on Hirhurim is that Gil Student invited me to.

  • dr. william gewirtz

    1) “…the record regarding the study and article has been corrected.” linking the article and the study leaves an unfair implication. Read dr. klafter’s post carefully. 2) It was not just the article that deserves attention / censure. 3) balanced means attacking innacuracies on both sides. 4) many incorrect conclusions can be drawn from the study; many conclusions in either direction are speculative.

  • Michael

    The disagreement between Dr. Klafter and Dr. Rosemarin et al seems to be whether the original paper’s authors or only the Jewish Week writer derived an untenable conclusion from the data about actual incidence of abuse. Marvin Schick says the paper derives the false conclusion, Dr. Klafter says it doesn’t, and Rosemarin et al say the authors were vague and contradict themselves.

    All parties are in agreement that no such conclusion can be drawn, which, of course, was Rabbi Shafran’s point in his original article, which to my reading agrees with Dr. Klafter’s approach. As Rabbi Shafran pointed out, both also say (using Rosemarin et al’s words) “individuals who were raised Orthodox were nearly 50% less likely to experience sexual abuse than those from non-Orthodox homes.”

  • One Christian's perspective

    Is there, perhaps, another issue at play ? I too am a member of a religious community and as such I found that it is was all too easy to fall into the trap of presenting to others a picture of how I want them to see me. In honesty, I admit that I have strived to be all that I could be, but, this was at the expense of not recognizing all that I was – warts and all. Superficially, I belonged to a group that I perceived said ” if you do X, Y and Z everything will be OK”. That mantra was my idol and it only worked for a while. Deep down, my hurts and pain that I had “effectively” denied and covered-up were still there. I had resorted to coping mechanisms to survive and didn’t even recognize them. In effect, I was building my own cistern without turning to G-d.

    To say that “the Orthodox, have a responsibility to put effective measures into place to prevent it” may not be enough if the root cause is not addressed.

    Hurt people hurt other people. Patterns of abuse are learned and repeated. There needs to be a safe place where folks can come together to share their pain and it must be a place where what is said there stays there and who you see there stays there. By necessity, it must be a place so safe that masks can be removed.

    In the Christian community, programs like Celebrate Recovery offer this hope for healing by providing a safe haven and by recognizing that a power greater than ourselves can bring us to sanity. For me, it was G-d who led me to this program kicking and screaming in denial and a whole suitcase of stuff. I entered the program with a new song: G-d’s promise that He would never leave me or abandon me. It was my hope and my lifeline when things looked bleak – as I opened the suitcase, metaphorically. G-d became my Savior when I recognized that I could not save myself.

    Recognizing what we have denied and forgiving the abuser breaks the cycle of abuse and frees the captive. Forgiveness is such a powerful tool G-d has given to those abused to bring healing. Recovery is painful and it is so very hard. It is a wilderness experience in the presence of G-d. It is, in my mind, a very Jewish reality because this is what happened to Joseph in Egypt long before his brothers recognized their own sin and repented before him. Long before they were healed, G-d reached out to Joseph and drew him to His side and showed him things he denied and in love healed him as He led him to green pastures and restored his soul.

    Statistics can only reflect what is observed or reported. They do not reflect hidden pain or hurt that we are too ashamed to admit because we have become ‘experts at denial’. In the past, I would have never considered being a statistic. It was too painful to even consider.

    May the G-d of Israel grant wisdom and courage to those in position to make safe havens within your community of faith where He can heal your pain and suffering. May the abused sing a new song.

  • Robert Lebovits

    I believe there are two distinct issues that the controversy over the Jewish Week article highlights. The first is the legitimate question of the prevalence of domsetic abuse in the Orthodox community: how much and how often; is it being given the resources and attention it warrants; to what degree is there denial/defensiveness about the issue from community leaders and rabbonim;etc.
    The second – and more insidious – issue is the apparent determination by some to vilify the Orthodox community through innuendo, misrepresentations, and outright defamation, whatever the subject may be. This is a much more serious problem since factual refutations are irrelevant to the goal of tearing down the Orthodox and therefore rarely accepted.
    Maybe the increased size and influence of the Orthdox world has something to do with becoming a larger target of critics. Maybe our own infighting has given impetus for others to attack us. Whatever the reasons, we can’t just chalk it up to “Ortho-bashing” and leave it at that.

  • Steve Brizel

    WADR, one can and should distinguish between three different phenomena under discussion. The study that the NYJW article linked to was clearly devoid of sufficient information that warranted the draconian conclusions therein. Dr Klafter confirmed that fact, while reminding us that abuse exists within our communities. Dr Salomon’s book decries the psychotic elements that have been raised in the shidduch process. All of us should and can agree that these elements have no place in the process. I would part company with his assessment that someone who appears to be precise in his or her observance of mitzvos is manifesting an obsessive compulsive disorder. That being the case, I think that we should be all thinking of venues such as a Shabbos table where both genders can sit in a non-pressurized situation and consider whether someone present is even worth considering dating before investing time in the process.

  • YoelB

    It’s interesting that Rabbi Shafran writes “Both of the recent papers, moreover, noted that the study’s data in fact yields the remarkable (yet somehow unremarked upon by the Jewish Week) fact that the survey respondents who were raised Orthodox were 50% less likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those from non-Orthodox homes.” This looks like essentially the same thing that Rabbi Marvin Schick said, and which Dr. Klafter explicitly dissected:

    “He [Marvin Schick] also states, “In sum, to the degree that this survey has any value, it appears to point to a lower, probably much lower, incidence of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community than in American society as a whole.” It puzzles me that while he so eloquently establishes that the data are not representative, he is nevertheless willing to tentatively draw selective conclusions from it.”

    I haven’t read Dr. Salomon’s book and so can’t comment directly about it but I will say that while someone who is precise in mitzvah observance may not be manifesting an obsessive compulsive disorder, there certainly are sufferers from OCD in the Orthodox population. Not only that, observance provides a vast and fertile ground for expressing obsessive and compulsive behavior. It is possible that for people with mild OCD, halachic observance and a wise Rav might well give them the tools to manage their pathology without medication, and even use it in a positive way. Unfortunately for some among us it’s more serious than that and honoring a person for behavior that is not healthy doesn’t do them any favors.

    After I had been observant for a couple of years a professor who was likewise a BT told me of an acquaintance of his who got so — yes, obsessive about chametz that once his Pesach cleaning was done he kept packages of paper muffin tin liners by the doors so that members of his household could use the liners to turn the knobs and not get chametz on their hands. My mentor commented that the laws of Pesach gave a person a great opportunity to confront certain neurotic tendencies. But neurosis is healthier than full blown OCD.

  • nachum klafter, md

    “It is possible that for people with mild OCD, halachic observance and a wise Rav might well give them the tools to manage their pathology without medication, and even use it in a positive way.”

    I very much agree. I have commented on this in another forum in the past.

    Actually, there are certain halakhos and minhagim which seem to be designed specifically to help people with OCD or with obsessional, intrusive worries about ritual observance.

    For example, there is a fine minhag observed by many women to eat something immediately upon leaving the mikvah facility. Some mivka’os provide candies, and others popcorn. The reason for this minhag is avoid the possibility that the woman who has immersed will become concerned that there may be or may have been some food substance caught in her teeth which may have served to invalidate the immersion as a chatzitza. Therefore, if a woman eats food right away, she will not attribute any imaginary sensations in her mouth to food which was before the immersion, but will attribute it to the food she ate immediately upon leaving the mikvah building.

    No, this is not a safeguard against obsessions about cleanliness and ritual purity which can typify full blown OCD. Yet, as a psypchiatrist and psychoanalyst, it strikes me as highly plausible that this minhag has saved many women a lot of psychological anguish. There are similar advantages for people with obsessional worries which are offered from bitul, chazaka de-me-ikkara, and the atzumo shel yom ha-kippurim mekhaper.

    “…but I will say that while someone who is precise in mitzvah observance may not be manifesting an obsessive compulsive disorder, there certainly are sufferers from OCD in the Orthodox population.”

    Yes I have witnessed countless examples of this. Individuals who cannot stop saying keriyat shema because they fear they have mispronounced a word in a manner which is me’akev; concerns about netilas yadayim–I am aware of the case of a person who washed his entire arms because he was not sure where the “wrist” is exactly, and even an intervention from this Hassidic Rebbe failed to alletiave him; an individual who due to his concerns about mayim chamim nifsalim le-mayim acharonim investigated with the water company whether his cold tapwater might possibly be water which was warmed at one point and then cooled off; individuals who check their tefillin all morning long to make sure they are centered and perfectly square to an extent that they can’t complete the dovenning; individuals who worry about basar or chalav being tramitted from their hands to a towel to someone elses hands etc.; individuals who have learned the gemara which states “hirhurei aveira kasho me-aveira” and become trapped in an viscious cycle of scrutinizing their thoughts to make sure they have no sinful fantasies but then, of course, directing their thoughts to sinful fantasies in the process of scrutinizing them; etc., etc.

    I will also add that the line is hard to draw from a clinical point of view. I will not name them in this forum, but there are great gedolei ha-dor who are known to have exhibited the following symptoms.
    1) The inability to stop thinking about Torah to an extent that it would cause him headaches when he tried to stop learning. Some consequences–he found it mentally agonizing to use the toilet because it is forbidden to think about Torah there, he rarely got haircuts because he did not want to spend even a few minutes with his head uncovered; he could not refrain from leraning Torah even to observe the fast of Tisha Be-Av in its entirety.
    2) An individual who was troubled by anything which resembled a crucifix or cross. This caused him to complain to the telephone companyh in Israel that the telephone poles and wires are constructed in a way to resemble a cross.

    Now, again, these two individuals were incredible ga’onim and gedolei ha-dor. Yet, it is hard for me to imagine that these were not symptoms of some obsessive compulsive difficulties. Therefore, it is not so simple to draw the line between psychopathology and what I will call “pious eccentricity”. We need to let individuals themselves decide when their ability to live their lives the way they want is being hampered, and to decide when they need treatment. We need to avoid imposing our own sense of what is an acceptable manifestation of unconcious conflict or anxiety vs. what is unacceptable and requires treatment. (I am not referring to cases where there is a danger to onseself or others, or when someone’s judgment is so impaired that he cannot decide for himself in his own best interests.)

  • Charles B. Hall

    Here again is the link to the original article:

    http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/164/11/1700

    I have previously indicated my agreement with Dr. Klafter’s critique and have little to add to that. Mr. Rosmarin and his co-authors should submit their critique as a letter to the editor of *American Journal of Psychiatry*, to which Dr. Yehuda and her co-authors could respond. I totally disagree with Dr. Schick regarding his labeling of the original article as “Scholarly Abuse”. It is absolutely true that the article was not designed to address prevalence. However, it is essential that preliminary studies such as this must be published in order to allow for the funding of more expensive studies that can accurately address prevalence, incidence, and risk factors, and lead to interventions that can address the problem. The last sentence in Mr. Rosmarin’s article sums up this very well: “It is hoped that this inquiry will spawn future research in this area, however, and ultimately lead to an increased understanding of this important subject matter.”

  • LAWRENCE KAPLAN

    Dr. Klafter: I wonder whether or not some of these stories about gedolei Yisrael, where their behavior exhibits possible signs of OCD, may in truth be exaggerations told by admiring disciples in a well meaning but misguided attempt to praise and magnify their piety.

  • YoelB

    One profound distinction between a great Rav and the poor soul Dr. Klafter mentioned who couldn’t stop saying Kriat Shema is that a posek who responds to shailot from all over the Jewish world cannot be irresolute. Certainly, he must feel the enormity of his decisions, but he must also make a decision, a distinction, and take the responsibility for it.

  • nachum klafter, md

    Yes, YoelB is correct. The psychiatric term for what you are describing is the ability to “function”. But many individuals are able to function despite very painful symptoms.

    Prof. Kaplan may indeed be correct. It is impossible to know what is true and what is not. However, at least in the case of the wires and the telephone poles, it seems that the information I was given is fairly well documented.

  • Ori

    Is a Gadol somebody without psychological difficulties? Or is it somebody who has great Torah learning and insight, and great midot (= character traits)? How is having OCD incompatible with being a Gadol?

  • nachum klafter, md

    Ori, I am not disagreeing with you.

    In the context of the discussion above regarding the difference between punctilliousness in halakhic observance on the one hand, and OCD symptoms on the other hand, I am offering the following observation: It is difficult to draw such a distinction because extremely pious individuals express their piety even in their symptoms of mental disorders. Stories about gedolei-olam even seem to reflect this complexity–the traits which are being praised and admired also appear to be symptoms of psychological difficulties.

    So, I absolutely agree with you that being affliched with an mental disorder does not disqualify one from being a great Torah manhig. In fact, it is easy to argue that part of what makes tzadikim and gedolim so great is that even their rough spots are channeled into avodas HaShem and Torah.

    This is a fascinating thing–one person develops a fear that he is contaminated with germs, and another develops a fear that he will harm others with loshon hora. Same disorder (OCD), but different underlying “dynamics” (=motivations and conflicts).

    The more important distinction to draw is whether the symptoms observed are causing a person to suffer in a way that he or she wants to be treated. This is the non-judgmental vantage point that psychotherapists need to be operating from. I would not treat someone because there is something wrong with worrying about telephone wires looking like crosses. Rather, I would treat someone because he finds the resemblance between telephone wires and crosses to be causing him undue distress, interefering with his ability to think about other things, etc., despite his full awareness that there is really nothing “wrong” with the construction of our telephone poles in a halakhic sense. (Again, exceptions to letting the patient decide what is a subject for treatment are cases of danger to self/others, psychosis, and other profound impairments in judgment).

  • Alan

    Alternatively, however, one could argue that the numbers may be deflated, as women who grew up in frum homes, but were sexually abused, may have left the community and therefore not participated in the survey. Alternatively, the sexual abuse of Baalei Tshuva when they were young may have been the impetus for their life changes.

  • LAWRENCE KAPLAN

    Dr. Klafter: That is why I referred to “some ” of these stories.

  • nachum klafter, md

    Alan:
    Yes, what you say is a very reasonable speculation about one artifact in this data. However, once we determine that the data are declared as unrepresentative. we simply can’t draw any conclusions from it about the general population. I.e., the point you are making is may be neutralized or greatly overpowered by many other factors.

    The Rosmarin et al argues the opposite of what you are imagining. If you see footnote #10 of my essay I briefly address a few of the many points in their critique which I take issue with.

    Prof Kaplan: You are always one step ahead of me. A point I forgot to make is that if the stories are hagiaographic bubamayses, then it is all the more remarkable to consider that in our current frumkeit, one person’s inspiring mayseh is another’s pathognomonic sign of OCD.

  • YoelB

    RE: #22 Dr. Klafter is making a very important point that bears restating in an even more emphatic way because it is one of the things about data sets that takes some getting used to especially when we have an emotional investment in an issue:

    If the data are unrepresentative (due to small sample size, or the sort of factors Rabbi Shafran mentions regarding the AJP article, etc.) you cannot draw any conclusion at all — whether it be a conclusion that you don’t like or one that you do like — about the population the sample was drawn from. You might even be right in your opinion; it’s just that the data don’t support your ideas (the data don’t refute your ideas either.)

  • LAWRENCE KAPLAN

    Dr. Klafter: Thank you for your kind words. One story I remember that made my hair stand on edge was told in some hagiographic book relating the life a particular Gadol. The story concerned a certain Rav living in Jerusalem in the early part of the 20th century. (The Rav was not the Gadol.) This Rav was always (to my mind almost pathologically) concerned about the proper order in making birkhot hanehenin or whether he made the right berakhah over a particular food, etc. He would always be coming up with new problems and dilemmas and was (again, to my mind almost pathologically) worried lest he got it wrong. He was wont to comment that he did not understand how people could enjoy their food; they should be worried about making some mistake in the halakhot of berahkot. I was shocked that he begrudged ordinary people, struggling in very difficult economic circumstances to put some food on their table, the pleasure of eating the fruit of their labors. My feeling was he needed to be reminded that the term is birkhot hanehenin, NOT bithkot ha-innuyim. What was worse, in my view, was that the author of the book told this story in praise of this Rav’s scrupulous halahkic behavior.

  • Chaim Wolfson

    Dr. Klafter,

    I always enjoy reading your comments; the common sense and level-headedness they display are truly refreshing. Generally, I find myself in agreement with your points, and for what my layman’s opinion is worth, I agree with your observations about OCD and “frumkeit”. Undoubtedly, OCD can manifest itself in mitzvah observance as in any other aspect of human behavior. I do wonder, though, if the usual clinical standards can be used to define a “gadol’s” behavior as excessively compulsive. I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that our definitions of “rational” and “irrational” behavior is informed to a large extent by our life experiences. A case in point: During the recent NFC championship game, some foolhardy souls painted their faces green and yellow, and stripped down to the waist in sub-zero temperatures to watch the game. Now, we know that these people are not crazy (not in the clinical sense, anyway); they are simply passionate fans. We know that because every football season we see many other rational people exhibiting the same type of seemingly irrational behavior, and also because we can relate to the passion that drives them, even if we personally are not football fans. But if a visitor from a different planet would witness such behavior, wouldn’t he conclude that those people are suffering from a mental disorder? I would argue that the same is true (“l’havdil) of our perception of the behavior of “gedolei Torah v’yirah”. Their lives were/are driven by a different dynamic than ours are, one which is outside our range of experiences and to which we cannot really relate. In their case, do the usual clinical models of “irrational” behavior apply?

    The first “gadol” to whom you referred was known for his tremendous love of Torah. “Chazal” teach that the “love” referred to in the “passuk” in “Shir HaShirim” (8:7), “were a man to offer all the treasures of his home for love, they would surely scorn him”, refers to love of Torah. We have no conception of the depth of “ahavah haTorah” expressed in the words of the “passuk”, but I suspect that “gadol” understood it quite well. If we possessed love of Torah to the same degree as he did, perhaps many of us would behave as he did. Or perhaps not? We have no way of knowing, so we really have no way of judging.

    The second “gadol” you mentioned was famous not only for his Torah knowledge, but also for his outstanding “yiras shamayim”. Maybe it’s not irrational for someone with such a refined spiritual sense to react the way he did. I am reminded of something the previous Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Pinchas Menachem Alter, once said when a non-religious professor commented that the prohibition of “kol Ishah” has no place in our modern age, that only primitive people are affected by such matters. The Rebbe pointed out that while a Bedouin wals barefoot in the desert and is not bothered by the stones and thorns under his feet, a European is bothered by even a small pebble in his shoe. “I’m sure we agree,” the Rebbe concluded, “that the European is more civilized than the Bedouin.” Personally, I the sight of a cross does not bother me. But is that because I’m a Bedouin? Perhaps only a European can answer that question.

    Of course, I don’t mean to imply that the greater one’s “ahavas haTorah” or “yiras shamayim” the more likely he is to act in the manner these two “gedolim” did. We never hear such stories about Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky or Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, for example. But that could very well just be a difference in personality, not a question of nuerosis. [IIRC, "Mekor Baruch" by Rav Baruch Epstein contains an amusing account of the contrast between the "Netiv's" Pesach seder and the "Beis HaLevi's," which underscores the difference in their personalities and how this difference manifested itself in their "avodas Hashem".]

    I’m not saying that a “gadol” CANNOT suffer from OCD. Obviously he can, just like any other human being can. I’m just wondering if we are equipped with the tools needed to judge his behavior one way or the other.