Here I go again, looking for trouble. Something tells me I’m going to get it. Before everyone gets all “what in blank’s name are you talking about Captain Ahab?” on me, let me set up the comparison first. I know I said I’d lay off him after he thankfully advocated organ sales, but the hypocrisy just boiled over the surface of the pot again and I can’t take it.
A spate of articles came out recently about Barry “Tom” Freundel the “Peeperer Rov” Shlitah (everyone rise). One article was published in the Washingtonian on January 3rd, brought to my attention by my wife, that brought to light even worse aspects of the case than we knew about previously. Apparently, Barry set up hidden cameras in a vacant apartment he had set up for a Haredi woman as a safe shelter who was fleeing from her abusive husband. The woman had gotten in touch with him for help and he took advantage of the opportunity to see her naked.
The schadenfreude instinct in all of us loves to squirm at the thought of something like that and denounce Barry for being even more heartless than we thought. It certainly is quite gross. From his perspective though, there wasn’t any difference between that and spying on women in the mikveh. In both cases he assumes he will never get caught, nobody will ever know, and therefore no harm will be done because none of the women will ever find out.
So practically it doesn’t matter if he’s peeping on an abused woman he himself is helping shelter from an abusive husband, or converts dunking in the mikveh or whatever. There’s no nafkah minah (practical difference) assuming he is never caught, and all criminals assume they will never be caught or they would never commit their crimes.
The Eight Levels of Tzadaka, The Eight Levels of Harm
But let’s consider harm in levels parallel to Rambam’s 8 levels of Tzadaka, or charity. Rambam, Zra’im, Hilchos Matanos Ani’im 10:7 says that the highest form of charity is giving someone a loan or a gift (notice Rambam does not differentiate between loan and gift) or a job so that he does not have to rely on charity any longer. This level is higher than the ever-praised level of giving anonymously to people who not even the giver knows the identity of, which is only the second level, and called a Mitzva Lishma, a Mitzva for its own sake, by the Rambam. The third is knowing who you give charity to but them not knowing who gave it.The lowest level is giving tzedaka grudgingly, publicly with a sour resentful face.
Conceptually, this means that employing someone at $10 an hour who needs a job is considered better than dumping a million bucks on the same needy person who will simply consume it and continue to live off charity. Hiring someone, whether to help him (Lishma) or make money off him (Lo Lishma), is a higher level than anonymous giving. According to the Rambam then, the highest form of charity is not even charity, since it could even be a loan or employment. The highest level is to lessen the need for charity in the first place.
Before we even flip that around, it’s amazing to consider that hiring labor at any wage or extending a loan for someone to start a business (which could include buying shares in an IPO or buying corporate bonds, setting aside the issue of interest) is a greater level of charity than giving a billion dollars anonymously to anonymous people. In today’s world though, those who give away $1 billion anonymously are considered gracious selfless philanthropic saints. A business owner who hires a worker at $10 an hour, which is a higher level than giving $1 billion anonymously to charity, is considered a cheap selfish misanthropic schmuck.
Now let’s invert that. If the highest level of charity is turning unproductive people into productive people, then the highest level of harming a person or people is turning productive people into unproductive people, necessitating that they live off charity, or worse, taxpayer money. Harming anonymous people anonymously, say by being a sadist for fun and setting a bear trap for random people on a sidewalk you will never see and just reveling in the thought that someone you will never know got seriously hurt, well that would only be the second worst way to harm someone. That would be harm for the sake of harming people, “harm Lishma”, paralleling Rambam’s description of anonymous charity to anonymous people as a Mitzva Lishma, but still only second level.
The third worst way to harm someone would be to harm people anonymously, they no knowing you but you knowing who they are. The least bad way to harm someone would be to harm him grudgingly, he knowing you and you knowing him, but not really wanting to harm him at all, and the victim knowing that you don’t really want to harm him.
Barry is on level three in terms of the harm he inflicted. He inflicted it anonymously against people he knew about. He wasn’t as bad as harming anonymous people for its own sake. He wanted to see them naked. He didn’t want them to be harmed Lishma. If he did, he would have uploaded the videos so everyone could see them. Had he taken videos of anonymous women, never watched them or knew who he was videotaping, and simply uploaded them to the internet just to cause harm, that would be harm Lishma, only the second level.
Still not as bad as turning productive people into unproductive people.
But let’s face it. Had Barry recorded women in the mikveh, not knowing who they were, never watching the tapes, and uploading all of it to the internet just to harm them for fun but not watching because מסתכלין בעריות (watching pornography) is assur and he’s too frum, we would consider that even sicker than what he actually did. We would consider that really incredibly sick and bizarre. But it’s still only level 2.
That incredibly bizarre sickness of harming anonymous people only for the sake of harming them, is not nearly as bad as turning productive people into unproductive people living off charity or taxpayer money, according to the Rambam-1.
It is fascinating how the Rambam’s top level of charity is not even considered charity in the popular sense. Employing a worker or giving a loan is not generally seen as charitable, though it is, and the highest level of it. By the very same token, turning productive people into unproductive people is generally not seen as all that harmful, but it is. It is an even higher level of harm than hurting anonymous people for its own sake.
And how does one turn productive people into people dependent on charity?
Let’s take one example from the Social Justice Rav’s Facebook page. He hasn’t blocked me from seeing the page yet, even though after this post he might. (I dare him.)
I mentioned that the reason Rav Shmuly “unfriended” me years ago was that I yelled at him publicly for supporting American intervention in Syria. He was busy thwacking about trying to get politicians to send lethal weapons and training to “the Rebels” to unseat Assad. These weapons and training ultimately ended up in the hands of ISIS, and led to the civil war that caused the Syrian refugee crisis.
And now, Rav Shmuly Yanklowitz, who advocated for the very cause of the Syrian refugee crisis in the first place, is scoring even more social justice publicity points by diarrheaing about how he has personally invited Syrian refugees to his home for Thanksgiving and New Year’s and Whatever.
So not only is the Social Justice Rav advocating for turning productive people (former Syrian citizens) into unproductive people (current Syrian refugees) by rooting and lobbying for war in their former country. He now wants US taxpayers to support these people with free immigration, free healthcare, free education, food stamps and whatnot. And to add even more insult to that injury, he gets all the publicity for helping them out.
Disclaimer: Helping out refugees is a great thing. But not in this case, where he was the one who was rooting the refugee status on in the first place, and he now wants others to pay for it. In this case his hachnasas orchim (taking in guests) is manipulative self-righteous BS, which seems to be the essence of nearly every single one of Rav Shmuly’s initiatives. I support the actual act of taking in refugees, but cannot refrain from calling hypocrisy on the people who help cause the problem to begin with.
This is just the one thing that set me off this time. Shmuly tries to turn productive people into unproductive people by advocating for minimum wage laws, equal-work-equal-pay laws, and boycotting products made in third-world sweatshops. Minimum wage laws prevent the least productive workers from working at all. Equal-work-equal-pay laws prevent women from being productive. Boycotting sweatshops unemploys destitute third world kids from earning enough money so they don’t have to choose between starving to death and performing sexual favors for a piece of bread.
Shmuly spends a lot of his time advocating that unproductive people remain unproductive with labor legislation. He spends the rest of his time demanding that taxpayers support these unproductive people by force.
And then he takes the fruits of his anti labor (Syrian refugees) and manipulates the whole situation to make it look like he’s the good guy.
The harm Rabbi Shmuly “Social Justice” Yanklowitz causes is much worse than the harm that Barry “Tom” Freundel ever caused. Yes, Shmuly has good intentions, and some of his initiatives are good, like this one. and Barry’s intentions were neutral to bad. He never tried to actively harm anyone, but he did cause harm. I’m sure Barry also had some good initiatives over his career as well. They don’t count for much now, at least not in the public consciousness.
But Mao Zedong, the biggest murderer in world history who killed 45 million people in 4 years in an attempt to create a socialist utopia, was filled with good intentions just as well. Good intentions count for nothing. Zero. The only thing that matters is whether you support liberty, or control over other people’s lives. Ultimately, life and death comes down to that single question. This is reality folks, and as Ayn Rand liked to say, “Existence exists.”
If you advocate for a war in a distant country, don’t be surprised if there is a refugee problem. And when there is, don’t you dare ask that other people pay for it.