Rabbonim Defending The Indefensible

YNet has published a copy of a letter (above), supporting alleged child abuser Elior Chen, apparently signed by leading rabbonim, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.

“Rabbi” Elior Chen was recently extradited from Brazil, where he had fled child abuse charges in Israel. Chen is accused of running a cult-like operation, based in Beitar, and instructing/participating in the systematic torture of eight children, who were apparently possessed by demons. This torture, including beatings and burnings, led to one of the children now being in a permanent “vegetative state”.

The letter obtained by YNet, is signed by leading rabbonim, reads:

קוראים אנו בזאת לכל מי שרוח טהרה בקרבו לרחם ולעורר רחמי שמים ולהטות שכם לעוסקים במסירות בהקמת קרן לפדיון שבויים עבור האי גברא יקרא, הר"ר אליאור חן ני"ו, מתושבי עירנו, אשר כל ימיו עסק בתורה ויראה והרבצת תורה ואשר נימוק בבית האסורים כבר שנתיים ונתהפך עליו הגלגל בעינויים קשים ומרים. ולא עוד, שמשפחתו רעבים לפת לחם ממש".

"היות שאנחנו מכירים אותו כאיש ישר והגון, מחוייבים אנו להוכיח צדקתו. ואשר גדולי ישראל אשר שמעו את זעקת לבו הטהור נזעקו לעזור ולסייע בכל מילי אשר יועילו להוכיח צדקתו כדי לפדותו מצרת נפשו, אך כאשר הוצאות לזה, כגון השכרת עורך דין ועוד, עולים הון עתק ואין אנו יכולים לעמוד מנגד בשומעינו בהתחננם על נפשו ונפשות בני ביתו. פונים אנו אל אחינו בי ישראל שהם רחמנים בני רחמנים שייקחו חלק במצוות פדיון שבויים ביד רחבה וברוח נדיבה

Which I loosely translate for your convenience (feel free to contribute an improved translation):

Where hereby call upon all who are of pure heart to have mercy and to evoke the mercy of Heaven and to assist those who are selflessly establishing a Ransom Fund for the heroic man, Rabbi Elior Chen, a resident of our town [Beitar] who occupied all his days with Torah and fear of Heaven, and spreading Torah, and who languishes in prison for two years, and who is bitterly tortured. Furthermore, his family are hungry and literally without bread.

As we know this man is honest and fair, we are obligated to prove his innocence. And when the Gedolim (leading rabbis) heard his cry from his pure heart they also cried out for help and support in proving his righteousness in order to redeem him from his suffering, even as the costs, such as hiring a lawyer etc, mounted up, we cannot turn our backs on having mercy on him and his family. We turn to you our brothers of Israel, who are the merciful ones, sons of merciful ones, to take upon yourselves part of the mitzvo of Releasing a Hostage with open-handed generosity.

The signatories include Rabbi Elyashiv, the leading rabbi of the Lithuanian Chareidim, Rabbi Steinman, Rosh Yeshiva of a division of Ponevitz, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who is Rav Elyashiv’s son-in-law and a leading halachik authority/Possek in Jerusalem.

The publishing of this letter has evoked outrage, including from the families whose children were allegedly abused by Chen. Some have accused Chen's supporters of duping these rabbonim into signing; others have alleged that these rabbonim showed gross insensitivity and added yet further trauma to the victims.

There is also concern that this letter gave out a very damaging message to child abusers that, in the event they are caught, they too will be tolerated, and even publicly supported, at the very highest levels of their communities.


  1. See http://haemtza.blogspot.com/ March 12 post entitled " Devil Gets His Due".

    See also http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/rabbi_baruch_lebovits_convicted_E17UyO1U2HZjcS0bmnCNRK

  2. Consider this though: while most people have access to multiple sources of news, both reliable and not, the signatories on this declaration do not. Newspapers are trief in their eyes. They are entirely reliant on their askanim for information about the outside world.
    Now, let's say the askanim came to them with limited information, say: "There's this guy, Elior Chen, and he's a big marbitz Torah, mamash, and the police arrested him for no reason or worse, because of a bunch of lies. Can you support helping him?" Now this announcement makes more sense.
    Or worse, what if the askanim simply bypassed these gedolim, drafted the pronouncement and simply signatured-stamped it because, after all, they just know that these gedolim would approve?

  3. Whatever the reason, it's sickening! Yuck!

  4. Garnel,

    The Chazon Ish said long ago that most bad psak involves not errors in understanding halachah but errors in determining metzius(the facts). To presume to issue statements when you don't have an adquate grasp of facts is halachically criminal. It is like judging shechitah when you cant differentiate the trachea from the artery.

    These so called poskim should remove themselves from paskening in areas where they are ignorant. And ignorant they are. Ihear your claim that they rely on others. How many mistakes do you have to make before you realize that you are a poor judge of who to trust. A supreme court judge who gets routinely snookered by his clerk is not up to the job. By some bizared version of circular logic all mistakes are rationalized and the dissenters are accused of all sorts of things.

    Even when they admit a mistake they dont admit that the mistakes reflect a systemic problem. We probably have more poskim alive now who are ignorant of the social realities and scientific realities surrounding them than at any time in history.

    It is time for people who believe in halachah to declare that ignorant rabbis are dangerous. unless one can ascertain that you are dealing with a question of pure halachah that does not involve fact finding.

    I think the new slogan should be: Rabbis who are Rabbis don't let Rabbis pasken while in a cloud of ignorance.

  5. From the outset of this story, something about it sounded to me like a lynch against the accused. I have yet to see, read, or hear real hard core evidence other then hearing the words of the "victims".

    Personally; I will not allow myself to join the ban-wagon of those who seek to make individuals guilty until proven innocent, regardless of how severe and brutal the charges are. This is fundamentally wrong and against the values of our Torah.

    If anything, the mere fact that the charges are so beyond comprehensible makes it a bit suspicious.

    V'hamivin yovin

  6. To: Anonymous 18Mar2010 06:22

    In your eyes, is child molestation by frum people "so far beyond comprehensible" to make such charges "a bit suspicious"?

  7. To: dman 19 March 2010 03:49:

    I myself am a victim of brutal sexual abuse -for more then 4 years consistently. yet, I feel there is something very odd about this story. It has the taste, smell, and feel of a lynch. I've witnessed a lynch before in my life where an individual was destroyed and arrested for a completely false charge. Thankfully, in the specific instance I refer to, the victim was vindicated in court.

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  10. Eliyahoo William Dwek:

    Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be heading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:
    ‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

    ‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    “Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

    “Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”


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