A Berakhah for Chassidus Spinka

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨בַע׀ יִפּ֣וֹל צַדִּ֣יק וָקָ֑ם וּ֝רְשָׁעִ֗ים יִכָּשְׁל֥וּ בְרָעָֽה׃

When [asher] a leader sins and does one of the commandments of Hashem his G-d which he should not do, in error, and expresses guilt.

-Vayiqra 4:22

“אשר נשיא יחטא” – (ת”כ הוריות פר”ג) לשון אשרי אשרי הדור שהנשיא שלו נותן לב להביא כפרה על שגגתו ק”ו שמתחרט על זדונותיו:

When [asher] a leader sins” – a language of enrichment [ashrei], “Enriched is the generation that its leader gives heart to bring an atonement for his errors, ad a fortiori if he regrets his intentional violations.

-Rashi (ad loc)

Part of being human is having limitations. We have seen in the past year numerous rabbis charged with this crime or that. Usual responses range from blaming the antisemitism of the DA for prosecuting a crime most people get away with and isn’t so terrible to a tearful “Al Cheit” admission of regret.

Rarely do you find a man of such stature and such a love of spreading Torah that he stands up before the community and asks them to use his error as a cautionary tale in their own lives. Rav Naftali Zvi Weiss, the Spinka Rebbe, did just that before an audience reported as being “in the thousands” on the subject of financial integrity. The rebbe, his gabbai, and others were charged with committing tax fraud in order to fund the Spinka yeshivos. He pled guilty in court shortly before the event, which was triggered by other news of the summer. Even if reports were exaggerated (as is typical for partisan news sources in general),  the crowd was large. “[A]n overflow crowd of thousands packed the main building of the Vizhnitz community.” (Forward) You can hear his talk, given last July, here (at 26:50, Yiddish and English). In addition, the talks were available live on line in streaming audio.

The Spinka Rebbe started by gathering a team of accountants, lawyers and auditors to go through his own institutions’ records. Systems were put in place to prevent a repeat Then he collected the funds to subsidize their availability for other tzedaqos looking to stay on the straight and narrow. Glatt Yosher, as the Yekkes would put it.

Everyone fails sometimes. The question is how to respond to their failures. (With all due respect to the current genre of Orthodox hagiographies, which leave you thinking the righteous were perfect since birth.)

There is someone I greatly respect (who reads this blog, so I’m about to embarrass him) largely because he too responded so positively when he saw the cause of his firm’s crash in his own shortcomings. And rather than blame the market, the investors, bad luck, or whatever, he not only turned his own life around, but shared what he learned to help thousands. And has no problem saying, “I messed up” in order to do so. Placing others before his own kavod.

Getting back to Chassidei Spinka, let me close with the promised berakhah:

כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨בַע׀ יִפּ֣וֹל צַדִּ֣יק וָקָ֑ם וּ֝רְשָׁעִ֗ים יִכָּשְׁל֥וּ בְרָעָֽה׃

For a righteous man can fall seven times and rise, but the wicked shall stumble upon evil.

-Mishlei 24:16

The righteous are righteous because of how they get up after they fall. May Spinka’s coming rise be with the proverbial speed of Yaakov’s son Naftali, swift as a Zvi (deer) hastening our redemption.

אל תהי ברכת הדיותות קל בעינך

And your thoughts...?