Over the last month the Rabbinic world has been rocked by the Washington, D.C. mikveh scandal, in which Orthodox Rabbi Freundel (allegedly) set up cameras in the local mikveh to record women during their ritual immersion.
Karaite Judaism does not believe that a mikveh is required for ritual purity. For us, a shower works. But I’m not here today to tell Rabbanite women to abandon the mikveh or Rabbanism altogether. Quite the opposite.
Among the promises I made myself when starting this blog was that I would try my best not to use scandals in the Rabbinic community to promote Karaite Judaism. I do not want to create a movement of purely disgruntled Rabbanites. I want a Karaite movement of Jews who believe that Karaism is the correct form of Judaism today and that the interpretations of the movement are generally correct.
Since the mikveh is largely a Rabbinic innovation, I will not offer any solutions here as to how the Rabbanites might ensure the sanctity and security of the mikveh in a manner that is consistent with the Rabbinic halakha.
But, if you are disgusted, as I am, by the recent DC mikveh scandal, and if you are a devout Rabbanite, which I am not, I pray that you do not reject Rabbanism or its institutions on the basis of this scandal.
As long as mankind is administering institutions, our institutions are susceptible to the moral and ethical frailty of the administrators. The same human frailties that dog Rabbinic institutions haunt all institutions – be they Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Congressional, charitable, and – yes – even Karaite.
In short, it is much better to put our faith in God than to put our faith in man. That is why the fundamental tenet of Karaite Judaism encourages us all to search the Scripture for ourselves and not to elevate the opinions of any individual. That is also why Karaites historically have eschewed the cult of the personality.
Of course, we all must demand accountability from those who run religious institutions. And institutions owe it to the people they service to explain what precautions they take to guard against this type of activity. We the people in partnership with our institutions must work each day to ensure that something like this never happens again.
And please do not wait till scandal occurs to have these conversations. By then it is too late and too much damage is done. But each time scandal does occur, we must display unending compassion for the victims and we must be unrelenting in our desire to “clean house.”
We will never survive as a people if we respond to each scandal by turning our backs on our various customs, traditions, and halakha. We will be strengthened if we have more and better people involved in the running of the institutions that help preserve our customs, traditions, and halakha.
So, for everyone who believes in Rabbinic Judaism and believes that a mikveh is the proper way to ritually purify yourself, by all means go to the mikveh. If you are a believer, do not throw the Babylonian Talmud out with the guy who oversees the mikveh water.