Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Weiner Incident in the Kosher Bakery

This incident is at once tragic and yet fascinating. There is so much to learn from it:
Beleaguered New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner got into a war of words Wednesday with a man who lashed out at him for being “married to an Arab,” in addition to chastising the former congressman about his well-documented sexting scandal.

The incident began inside a bakery in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, where the man yelled out to Weiner, who had just bought cookies and an iced coffee, “You’re a real (expletive deleted).”

Weiner offered a quick retort, then said to no one in particular, “Very nice, that’s a charming guy right there.” It’s then that the man, later identified as Saul Kessler, responded: “Married to an Arab.”

The comment is an apparent reference to Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, who works for Hillary Clinton. Abedin’s late father was an Islamic scholar from India and her mother, a sociologist, is from Pakistan. Weiner is Jewish, as were most of those inside the Brooklyn bakery.

The Democratic candidate responded with, “Very nice, in front of children… That is charming.” Kessler didn’t stop talking, even as Weiner was leaving the bakery, saying, “You are disgusting, disgusting.

“It takes one to know one, (expletive deleted),” Weiner replied.

The two then went face-to-face, with Kessler accusing Weiner — who resigned in disgrace after 12 years in Congress representing part of New York City after admitting to sending sexually suggestive images and carrying on inappropriate relationships with women over the Internet — of doing “disgusting things, and you have the nerve to even walk around in public.”

A visibly agitated Weiner responded,”And you’re a perfect person? You’re my judge? What rabbi taught you that?”

At one point, Kessler implored Weiner to “think about your wife, how could you take the person you’re most closest to … and betray her?

The mayoral hopeful then accused Kessler of acting like he is superior, even though he doesn’t “have the moral authority to judge me.”

The back-and-forth went on for about a minute longer before Weiner left the bakery. He seemed to quickly brush off the confrontation, saying, “He has every right to (challenge me). It’s America.”

Personally, I am disappointed in Anthony Weiner. I thought that he had the potential to be the next Teshuvah poster boy. So far, that has not happened. Instead, he has fulfilled the verse, "As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly."

The incident in the bakery brings to mind what Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah said, "I wonder if there is anyone in this generation who knows how to reprove(Arachin 16B)." Many mistakes were made here by Mr, Kessler, as one can see by learning what the Rambam writes:

It is a mitzvah for a person who sees that his fellow Jew has sinned or is following an improper path [to attempt] to correct his behavior and to inform him that he is causing himself a loss by his evil deeds as [Leviticus 19:17] states: "You shall surely admonish your colleague."

A person who rebukes a colleague - whether because of a [wrong committed] against him or because of a matter between his colleague and God - should rebuke him privately. He should speak to him patiently and gently, informing him that he is only making these statements for his colleague's own welfare, to allow him to merit the life of the world to come.

If he accepts [the rebuke], it is good; if not, he should rebuke him a second and third time. Indeed, one is obligated to rebuke a colleague who does wrong until the latter strikes him and tells him: "I will not listen."

Whoever has the possibility of rebuking [sinners] and fails to do so is considered responsible for that sin, for he had the opportunity to rebuke the [sinners].

At first, a person who admonishes a colleague should not speak to him harshly until he becomes embarrassed as [Leviticus 19:17] states: "[You should]... not bear a sin because of him." This is what our Sages said: Should you rebuke him to the point that his face changes [color]? The Torah states: "[You should]... not bear a sin because of him."

From this, [we learn that] it is forbidden for a person to embarrass a [fellow] Jew. How much more so [is it forbidden to embarrass him] in public. Even though a person who embarrasses a colleague is not [liable for] lashes on account of him, it is a great sin. Our Sages said: "A person who embarrasses a colleague in public does not have a share in the world to come."

Therefore, a person should be careful not to embarrass a colleague - whether of great or lesser stature - in public, and not to call him a name which embarrasses him or to relate a matter that brings him shame in his presence.

When does the above apply? In regard to matters between one man and another. However, in regard to spiritual matters, if [a transgressor] does not repent [after being admonished] in private, he may be put to shame in public and his sin may be publicized. He may be subjected to abuse, scorn, and curses until he repents, as was the practice of all the prophets of Israel.

Obviously, in order to properly reprove somebody according to what our rabbis taught us, you don't start by calling him a, uh, you know, what he said.

However, it must be noted that even if Kessler was not particularly adept at reproof, his heart is in the right place. He obviously detests intermarriage, and he is not afraid to say it. Mr. Kessler has not been spoiled by the prevailing political correctness spouted by "liberal" Jews with regards to this subject. What's more, Weiner's personal behavior does matter. If the man is a habitual liar who cheats on his live-in-partner (I refuse to call Huma Abedin his wife since Jewish law does not recognize such a union), he is unfit to serve the public.

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