how you earn my respect

Chanoch Ne’eman 20 Heshvan 5775 Jerusalem (c)

The Baal Shem Tov was reportedly an accomplished scholar, but he did not like to be honored for that, so he would often act ignorant. He felt that people should be respected for how close they were to Hashem.

I think of this now in light of the recent sad episode of the Rabbi at my uncle’s former shul, who has been relieved of his position because of alleged improper behavior. Many said he gave interesting, intellectual classes. But morally, he had (it seems, if true) some flaws. Having prayed in that shul several times, I can report that the rabbi appeared to me to pray super-fast, like not at all. He often came in late to minyan. This is a bad sign. The silent prayer is, in part, a time of self-judgement before God. If you can’t stand there, it is a sign you are afraid to look honestly at yourself.

We need to remember that the first criterion of value is, like the Baal Shem said, moral, not intellectual.

Do you know anyone who is intellectually great but morally challenged? Please share your examples (without names or identifying features of course).


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