As Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, he will have to address questions about sexual misconduct accusations leveled against him. In recent weeks, 3 women have stated the judge engaged in inappropriate habits or attack as a high school or college student.
The claims have actually sparked discussions across the political spectrum, from how attack survivors typically keep their allegations personal out of worry or trauma, to whether individuals ought to be held liable for actions they devoted as teenagers, to how the credibility of the claims is to be examined.
We asked rabbis how Jewish law and ethics can help us understand the misconduct claims. Here are their responses through email, which have been lightly modified for grammar and design.
The course to repentance
Rabbi Meesh Hammer-Kossoy is a trainer at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, a nondenominational yeshiva in Jerusalem. She has taught about how the Talmud assists us understand the #MeToo motion and the ethics of confidential accusations.
Jewish tradition offers us several essential lenses for comprehending the accusations versus Judge Kavanaugh. On the one hand, the Talmud informs us, “A priest who kills an individual is disqualified from carrying out the priestly blessing” (Berachot 32b). Some acts– even if they are not prosecutable in court– permanently stand in the way of high leadership.
On the other hand, as of today, the allegations versus Judge Kavanaugh refer to events in the far past. Is there no possibility at all for a person to move on from errors? Talking about the above declaration in the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch maintains an argument about whether repentance restores the killer’s priestly benefit (SA OH 128:35). According to Rabbi Joseph Karo, “a prosecutor can not turn defense lawyer”– spiritual rehab does not advantage a homicidal priest to bless the country. Rabbi Moses Isserles disagrees: Jews forgive.
Maimonides sets out clear steps for repentance consisting of recognizing the sin, confessing it, apologizing and altering future habits. Has Kavanaugh faced his offenses? Even if he has, will that be sufficient to allow a “prosecutor”– somebody who has been accountable for serious violations of human dignity– to become a “defense lawyer” delegated with protecting all individuals, including females?
Obviously, all of this depends upon substantive proof of Judge Kavanaugh’s acts and character. For that, we await the upcoming Senate hearing and examinations that may follow.
Regarding the victim
Rabba Sara Hurwitz is the co-founder and president of the New York-based Yeshivat Maharat, the first organization to ordain Orthodox women as clergy. She has actually discussed women management in the age of #MeToo.
The #MeToo movement has obliged society to face lots of key questions: Do individuals lie about attack for their own gain? Should we extend statute of constraints? How should we define the parameters of unwanted sexual advances? Do perpetrators be worthy of redemption? I believe the most essential question we should ask, and of primary concern in our Jewish custom is: Has the victim suffered?
Indeed, the Gemara’s posture is to safeguard the victim from physical harm. “One who wounds his neighbor is liable to pay for 5 damages: irreversible problems, pain and suffering, recovery expenditures, joblessness, and pity” (Mishna Baba Kama 8:1).
The rabbis understood that there are numerous layers of damage that can be inflicted on another person. In addition to physical pain and suffering, a victim might likewise struggle with failure to be efficient and successful at work. He or she may require “healing expenditures” in acknowledgment that there is genuine work and time to the healing procedure. The damage triggered might be irreversible, no matter how far back it took place. Finally, a victim also experiences pity, emotional distress, beyond noticeable physical injuries. The question that I think we must all intuitively grapple with first is about the well-being of the victims. Have they suffered? And, have appropriate damages been paid?
The rights of the accused
Rabbi Pesach Lerner is the president of the Union for Jewish Worths.
The Torah states: “Lo yakum eid echad b’ish … Al pi shnei eidim oh al pi shloshah eidim yakum davar”– “A single witness will not withstand any guy … according to two witnesses or according to three witnesses will a matter be confirmed.” (Deut. 19:15)
Those 2 witnesses, neither of whom was the accuser or any close relative of the accuser or the accused, were fully investigated and questioned prior to they were accepted. The Torah is very worried about the rights and credibility of the accused, and that is the Jewish view.
A deeply problematic process
Rabbi Hara Individual is the chief technique officer for the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis and the publisher of CCAR Press. She has discussed how Jewish communities ought to deal with harassment of female rabbis.
The text of Deuteronomy 16:20 enters your mind: “Justice, justice, shall you pursue.” The repeating of the word “justice” in this verse advises us how vital the pursuit of justice is to a healthy society. Commenting on this verse, Rashi proposes that it is the visit of truthful judges that allows society to flourish. Ibn Ezra goes even further, recommending that the duplicated word implies that each side in a match need to pursue justice, whether each celebration will benefit or not, indicating that the pursuit of justice is a greater value than partisanship.
In contrast, the Kavanaugh hearings are a deeply flawed procedure, driven by partisanship and developed to obfuscate instead of light up the fact. The minimal amount of documentation on Kavanaugh that has actually been offered is troublesome enough. Contributed to that the accusations of sexual assault that have developed that are not being appropriately examined, and the rush to bring the hearings to a quick close, all seem desired to circumvent the course of true justice. That this is being carried out in order to call someone as a judge to the highest court of the land is a perversion of justice that is destined to bring about chaos and mistrust of the legal system, the reverse of a healthy and growing society that Judaism posits as a perfect.
Holding leaders liable
Rabbi Aviva Richman is a professor at Hadar. Her areas of research study include Jewish law, gender and sexuality in Judaism.
The Bible makes a difference between sex crimes in a city and a field. The rabbis interpret the”city” not as a matter of population density however culture. A city is a location where individuals appreciate sexual assault and respond. In this context, the rabbis concentrate on the obligation of the community and leadership to react to and ideally avoid sexual violence. Under this rubric, one middle ages Talmud scholar characterizes the entire Persian empire under king Ahashverosh (Ahasuerus) as a field. Since the supreme leader of the land was a womanizer, acting like he was sexually entitled to any female he wanted, no one in his kingdom took sexual violence seriously.
When our nationwide leaders dismiss accounts of sexual attack since “absolutely nothing occurred,” or decline to put in location and follow clear procedures to react to these accounts, they are setting a tone that has causal sequences well beyond the bench of 9 justices.
This is a moment where we need to ask ourselves, do we live in a city or a field? We should hold our management responsible to take sexual assault seriously. Otherwise, the most robust system of courts and justice is actually simply an empty field.
How we deal with the other
Rabbi Jacob Staub is a teacher at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. He has actually blogged about gender dynamics and sexuality due to #MeToo.
A central teaching of Musar, Jewish ethical literature, is that we are each bound to deal with the other according to his/her needs. It is upon us not to assume that we understand what they need. Rather, we must head out of our method to reveal what they do not have and serve them according to what they require. By contrast, the habits described by Judge Kavanaugh’s accusers reflects an orientation that is diametrically opposed to this Jewish concept. Their stories paint an image of guys using ladies to please their own needs without any issue for the long-lasting terrible impact that treatment may have upon them. Might it hold true that a person repercussion of the Kavanaugh election is that all of us will take a look at how we can deal with other people with the regard and care that is the right of those developed in the image of God.
Public service is a benefit
Rabbi Mira Wasserman is director of the Center for Jewish Principles and assistant teacher of rabbinic literature at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. At RRC, she organizes a task to gather responsa on Jewish ethics and the #MeToo motion.
A story in the Talmud (Moed Katan 17a) anticipates present events: Awful reports about a regional rabbi reach Rav Yehuda, a leading rabbinic authority in Babylonia. Rav Yehuda deliberates about what to do: On the one hand, the accused rabbi uses valuable services to a local community; on the other, the rabbi’s ruined credibility degrades his office (in Talmudic language, “profanes the name of God”). In the end, Rav Yehuda decides to act on the allegations and ostracize the accused. On his deathbed, Rav Yehuda reveals satisfaction that he did not acquiesce pressure to flatter a crucial guy however was rather governed by concept.
These are the principles I draw from the story:1.
For the rabbis, there is a high requirement of evidence. In the lack of corroborating statement, a wide variety of claims– no matter how persuasive– do not be adequate to found guilty the implicated of a criminal offense.
2. Public service is an opportunity, not a right. Judges, like rabbis, are to be held to the highest ethical standards. Serious accusations– even in the absence of evidence– are adequate to exclude the implicated from a highly regarded office of leadership.
3. True management means applying these concepts to everyone, without regard for the status of the implicated.
Predisposition vs. the look for reality
Rabbi Avi Weinstein is the head of Jewish studies at the Hyman Brand Name Hebrew Academy, a neighborhood day school in Overland Park, Kansas. He has actually discussed how Jewish texts attend to the concept of fact.
The timeless rabbinic presumption is not that “we can’t manage the truth”; it’s just that we can’t get to it. The dialectic method so familiar to traditional learners is suggested to reduce personal biases in order to approximate showing up at the “reality.” We desire know the fact. Eventually, understanding it is always evasive. When the renowned senators get here with openly revealed inescapable conclusions concerning the prospect, this does not augur well for this, the most lofty of aspirations. A judge in Jewish tradition had to be wary of his own biases in addition to the restrictions of smart argument.
The charges levied against the judge would most definitely be disqualifying, however would the suspicion alone suffice for him to be dismissed? How much smoke does there have to be prior to we presume that there is a fire? On this, there could be a variety of opinions, but all would concur that acumen alone would not be sufficient for a Jewish judge to be appropriate. It comes down to how one examines suspicion without difficult evidence, which brings us back to our predispositions, which inevitably cloud our aspiration to discover what holds true.