Who Will Daven For Rachel Imeinu?

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Rachel Imeinu always looms large and important in our prayers. More so than the other matriarchs, she is the iconic Mother of Israel, interceding in Heaven (Yirmiya 31:14) for the well-being of her children. She does not differentiate between her biological offspring through her two sons and her spiritual offspring through the other shevatim.

On this, her traditional yahrzeit, we must ask: if Rachel worries about us, who will worry about Rachel, as her name and reputation are sullied by the very people who devote themselves to her honor?

Here is a quote from an advertising supplement to last week’s Mishpacha:

Let me introduce Reb Weinman [not his real name], a wealthy businessman from New York; a generous baal tzedaka who attends a daily Gemara shiur and respects Torah scholars…One day he called [name of a huge gadol] with a seemingly overwhelming problem – he had become entangled with the IRS, and was under criminal investigation. The most optimistic experts informed him that if he were lucky, he’d end up spending “only” several years behind bars.

The IRS has succeeded in infiltrating his staff. These talented undercover policemen wormed their way up to prominent positions in the company, where they had access to sensitive information, and then used that information to put together a seemingly clear-cut criminal case.

The text goes on to describe Reb Weinman’s salvation. Through the aegis of a particular tzedaka, tefilos were offered on his behalf at Kever Rachel. The next day, he received a call from the IRS, which informed him that rather than take his case to trial, they would let him off the hook by paying a fine. His accountant told him later that this was an extremely unusual disposition of such a case. The power of Rachel Imeinu’s intercession had been shown. Q.E.D.

We have to wonder what the authors of this piece were thinking. Once again, we have a story of a community hero, a benevolent tzadik who shares his wealth with good causes, but takes liberties with dina demalchusa and chilul Hashem. Alas, he would have continued undisturbed, were it not for the villain who “infiltrates” his organization, and “worms” his way to a position of prominence, where he turns on the good folks who trusted him, and viciously strikes out at them. Ah, the chutzpah of those evil government people. The message? If you find yourself in the same predicament, a generous donation will get you off the hook as well.

Do we really want to perpetuate the ethos than underlies this story – that stealing from the government is a noble vocation, provided that you don’t get caught? If the story is not a complete fabrication, there are two possibilities. Reb Weinman may have been guilty of nothing more than sloppy accounting, or even an error of judgment that the IRS turned unjustly into a damning case against him. If this is what happened, the authors should have said so, instead of glorifying the illegality of his actions. If, on the other hand, he indeed acted willfully, the authors should have disguised it, rather than to broadcast their acceptance of a pattern that has led to the incarceration of too many people, each time causing massive chilul Hashem.

Someone needs to speak to these people. (And someone needs to gently remind the staff of Mishpacha, who are fine and responsible people, that they need to check their paid advertising as carefully as they check their editorial content.)

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16 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    “If the story is not a complete fabrication, “.

    Smells like it is

    “The next day, he received a call from the IRS, which informed him that rather than take his case to trial,”
    The only Court that the IRS litigates in is Tax Court-the Justice Department has jurisdiction to litigate in all other courts eg Claims Court, Courts Of Appeal, and District Court. The only place a criminal tax case could be tried is District Court where the IRS does not litigate-it is DOJs responsibility.

    ” they would let him off the hook by paying a fine.”
    It it was a deal with DOJ to plead to a fine for the criminal charge rather than imprisonment it would not be the IRS phoning him-he would have been represented a long time before by an attorney for his dealings with either the DOJ Criminal Tax Division orthe local US ATtorney-depending which area of the country different divisions would have handled the case.
    If the case had not been referred to DOJ-and theIRS decided to proceed with the case only civilly the case would ahve been referred to Civil Divison for enforcement action which would have been determining what if any deficiencies were owed plus any applicable civil penalties.

    “His accountant told him later that this was an extremely unusual disposition of such a case.”
    His accountant would not have handled a potential criminal case -he would probably have gone to one of the firms that either specialize in criminal tax law or at least to a specialist in white collar criminal defense

  2. Shimon says:

    Did anyone else find the numerous adverts for Kupat Hair recently which showed a photograph of R’ Chaim Kanievsky putting money in one of their boxes during the shiva for his wife?
    How can any human being with an ounce of common sensitivity feel that when a man is sitting in mourning for his wife of decades it is appropriate to shove some cash in his hand, put your organisation’s box next to him and say “smile for the camera”? Leaving aside the respect due to a Gadol, how is it possible to treat ANY person in such a manner? (Unless what truly occurred was that the Rav, while sitting shiva, specifically said something like – “wait a minute, this is the perfect photo opportunity for Kupat Hair! Give me some cash and bring them in!” in which case I apologise.)

  3. Harry Zeitlin says:

    Although we believe that tzedaka has great power, it’s arrogant for us and demeaning to HKBH, chas v’shalom, to imply that we are able to penetrate the levels of the mechanisms of tzedaka and pretend we know how it works.

  4. aron feldman says:

    After reading this story,I recommend what has become my weekly ritual,as soon as I get my usual supply of frum weeklies I toss any pull out from Tzedaka organizations promising results in the garbage sight unseen,I need not aggravation reading silly testimonials

  5. Reena Adlerstein says:

    I wouldn’t condemn the person who used the tzedaka for this purpose, even if he was guilty and had charata for his actions and was davening for a yeshua. What bothers me is that such an example should be used publicly, for the klal. There’s a difference between someone falling ill, or even falling on bad times financially and standing to lose a great deal of money, and the actions described in this article. If a frum person has a problem with alcoholism, or some other addiction, and is trying to conquer it and donates to this tzedaka, should we publish that as well? To quote an old American expression, “Don’t wash your dirty linen in public”. The only excuse to do so is when there is a problem in the community which needs to be addressed. That was clearly not the purpose of this article, and therefore, it appears to be a tremendous chilul Hashem.

  6. Harry Maryles says:

    Until the Charedi rabbinic leaders do what you have just done, organizations like this will continue to promote values like these.

  7. Ezzie says:

    Yiasher Kochacha on this post.

    Sadly, too many frum people do not feel this way. One commenter on my blog said simply that he/she does not care whatsoever how a former boss made his money (he recently cut a deal and plead guilty to one count of six), so long as he “supported frum people with it.”

  8. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >It is my impression that the Tzedakah itself does great work, the Gedolim give it much deserved haskamos

    But are they unaware of the the promises being made in their names.

    >and given that they neither see nor can read the English-language ads produced here in America, are not speaking out against them.

    The hebrew ads these organizations produce are no better – they can read them and yet they choose to ignore them.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    If HaShem sees something fundamentally wrong with one or more of our activities, we shouldn’t expect some indirect approach (segulot, appeals to past and present Tzaddikim…) to produce good results for us. Step one is introspection and step two is sincere teshuva.

    Some of the indirect approaches also have the potential to veer off into avoda zara.

  10. Yaakov Menken says:

    We receive Mishpacha, and received the circular “An Entire Year at Kever Rochel” from an organization which, in the past, has been roundly criticized (including here on Cross-Currents) for offering up miracle stories and suggesting guarantees if people only surrender their money. In my version of the circular (which I didn’t bother to open until now) — I can’t find this story! Is it possible that they are testing multiple versions of their circular, perhaps contemplating the damage done by these sort of miracle claims (even generally, much less when combined with criminal activity)? Their pre-Rosh Hashanah circular was similarly devoid of the types of claims that earned them Rav Matisyahu Solomon’s condemnation.

    Charedi Leumi, when I wrote about this organization (if indeed it’s the same one), it was to point out they mistranslated the words of the Gadol. It is my impression that the Tzedakah itself does great work, the Gedolim give it much deserved haskamos, and given that they neither see nor can read the English-language ads produced here in America, are not speaking out against them.

  11. Dovid says:

    Mama Rochel suffered terribly because of her father’s cheating – ending up having her sister marry her own husband, and also losing money (ויאכל גם אכול את כספנו). What a travesty to associate her sacred memory with lying and deceit.

  12. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >Do we really want to perpetuate the ethos than underlies this story – that stealing from the government is a noble vocation, provided that you don’t get caught?

    >One day he called [name of a huge gadol]

    Shouldn’t this question be posed to said gadol? As far as I can tell, the gedolim who often grace the pages of these advertisement have never taken steps to distance themselves from either these stories or from the snake-oil theology their represent. That being the case, the problem is probably much bigger than bad editorial policy or unscrupulous tzedaka askanim.

    Maybe what is needed is for people, yes even non-gedolim, to confront these leaders on how their name is being used, and in the case where they agree with the status quo, fight against the ideology their represent.

    It is a sad state of affairs when the best thing we can say about these leaders is that they are being manipulated and are too old to know or do something about it.

  13. micha says:

    Somewhat tangentially, there are other issurim involved other than than dina demalkhusa dina:

    1- Chilul hasheim (desecrating Hashem’s reputation) is not only prohibited, but at times reaches yeihareig ve’al ya’avor (let oneself die rather than violate). It is obviously prohibited to do anything that would even risk one emerging from one’s actions.
    2- If there is any chance of them becoming aware of being misled, geneivas daas akum (misleading someone, including a non-Jew) is prohibited.
    3- Intentionally sloppy bookkeeping (“creative accounting”, as Mr Bloom put it in “The Producers”) is prohibited within “even va’aven” (keeping two measuring weights).
    4- Ve’asisa hayashar vehatov (And you shall do the honest and the just). Which comes through as the topic R’ Adlerstein is bothered by, more than the explicitly named prohibition of violating civil law.

    The problem with the story, in addition to condoning bad behavior, is that the “cure” also condones bad religion. Judaism is supposed to be about being a better person, one closer to G-d and to the Image of G-d in which He created us. This notion of doing an action and getting what you want is part of many paths within our tradition, but there is a reason why other paths (Litta, Germany) shun it. The idea is that some mitzvos can come with promises of specific reward, assuming you merit it. Not that there is a magickal way to subterfuge Hashem’s Justice through an act of metaphysical mechanics.

    Our G-d is the meaning of our lives, not Someone you manipulate to get your way. That kind of religion is exactly how the gemara defines idolatry! “Pagans only perform kindness in order to aggrandize themselves.”

  14. joel rich says:

    generally agree, but would add that advertisers generally try to choose themes/examples that will resonate with their target audience (think of drug ads in the us – contrast the pictures with the caveats at the end). if the case at hand is a total misread of the audience, then so be it. if it is not, we need a cheshbon of our community nefesh to understand why this example would evoke a positive response.
    KT

  15. Shimshon says:

    Shalom Rav Adlerstein,

    I don’t know a thing about this particular case. This is the first I heard of it.

    But I do have a question, since you bring this up. What do you think of the Rubashkin case? There are many people who say he was dealt with in an overly harsh manner. But there are a few, who follow travesties of justice like that case JUST IN THE US (and I don’t know how they do it, because they seem infinite). These people, often non-Jews, say was completely innocent and was railroaded. Bill Anderson makes a very eloquent case (http://www.lewrockwell.com/anderson/anderson290.html).

    Since you bring up the Dina D’malchusa, the supreme law of the land is the US Constitution, and only laws passed ACCORDING TO IT. When you actually apply the standard correctly, you would see that the US Federal Government in particular has vastly overreached beyond its enumerated powers. This is regardless of the words of nine black-robed judges pontificating on that meaning.

    Again, I don’t know this case at all. But government has a long and sordid history of using the law as a weapon to persecute those who fall out of its favor, for whatever reason. But the man was convicted of nothing, and you act as if he is guilty because he was “under investigation.” Was he even charged or indicted?!

  16. Baruch Gitlin says:

    Well said, Rabbi Adlerstein! It’s one thing to help out a fellow Jew who gets in trouble with the law, or in any other way, but when we do so publicly, as has happened in many cases recently with which I’m sure most people are familiar, we should never leave out the caveat that we’re helping this person despite what he or she did wrong, and that dina-di-malchuta-dina is as much a mitzvah as anything else. By omitting this caveat, I think many in the Orthodox world are creating an atmosphere in which lawbreaking is taken lightly. If “Am Segula” means anything, it means we are God’s representatives in the world – as such, we should act in a way that brings honor to Whom we represent, and certainly not the opposite.