The scandal surrounding Rabbi Moti Elon has shocked the Religious Zionist community, and shaken it to its core. (See here, here, here, and here.)
For those who are unfamiliar with him, for decades Elon was touted as the great white hope of the Religious Zionist community. His public lectures were attended by hundreds of people from all sectors of Israeli society, and listened to by thousands more on the radio and TV. His followers are legion, and he has been dubbed the 'rebbe' of the National Religious world.
Now Elon is accused of sexual impropriety, harassment and exploitation of some of his students. A relatively new organization called Taqanah, has issued a public warning against R. Elon. The members of the forum number some of the most senior, and certainly the most revered, members of the community. Most prominent among these is the חתנא דבי נשיאה, Ha-Gaon R. Aharon Lichtenstein שליט"א, whose reputation for probity and moral rectitude, caution and respect for human life are nigh on legendary. The distinguished, irreproachable makeup of the forum is what makes this matter so disconcerting. Their charges cannot, under any possible circumstances, be lightly dismissed.
I am still trying to organize my thoughts in the wake of this wrenching, ongoing tragedy. And yes, it is a tragedy; for R. Elon, for his students, for the members of Taqanah, and for the entire RZ world. I sense a feeling of despair that reminds me (and perhaps surpasses) that which resulted from the expulsion from Gush Qatif. The following are the directions I've been contemplating:
1) Charismatic Leadership is an extremely volatile, often dangerous, quantity. As a good friend noted, charisma may well be a gift of God. However, as with all such gifts, it can be (and all too often is) abused both by the leader or by his/her followers.
2) In our present circumstances, we are so desperate for leadership that we run amok looking for saviors and messiahs. We either deify them, or we use them up and spit them out. This is true of both secular and religious society. It is, however, more dangerous and more heinous in religious society. Our primary loyalty is supposed to be to God, not a human being.
3) I have a feeling that the above is a function of the fundamentally neurotically narcissistic character of contemporary culture. We worship celebrities, with or without beards. As Edith Hamilton wrote of the Greeks, we create our gods in our own image. One result is that there is a general abdication of personal responsibility. Ironically, it was from R. Elon himself that I first heard the cynical comment: סלח לנו אבינו כי חטא הוא.
If the allegations are true, I hope that R. Elon will do the right thing and emulate King David by uttering the words: חטאתי לד'. If not, I trust that the members of Taqanah will beg his forgiveness. Either way, I am sure that they are fasting, as is appropriate when judging cases wherein lives are involved.