Scandal Aside, Hit the Mikvehs

Disgraced Rabbi Freundel arrested on charges of voyeurism

Disgraced Rabbi Freundel arrested on charges of voyeurism

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.


Filed under Mikveh, Ritual Purity, Women in Karaism

13 Responses to Scandal Aside, Hit the Mikvehs

  1. That’s why I always like your blog – you don’t use what’s wrong with a differing opinion as a step ladder to promote Karaite Judaism. Good on you, buddy!

    While it is very unfortunate that events such as these occur, one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch.

  2. David Marshall

    Very well said, Shawn.

  3. TrueBlue

    Not to make light of a serious situation, not at all, well maybe a little, but David ended up in a bit of a predicament after watching Bathsheba in her bath, so there is a history in Tanakh a good defence attorney might well be tempted to use out of desperation…I don’t condone the rabbi’s actions, not in the least, but I can say the same for a lot of lawyers and a few interpreters of Scripture.

  4. John

    anti-Talmudism is NOT anti-Semitism

  5. Caleb

    After reading this post, my first thought was
    (any) other way is a Abomination! and that like King David I hate every false way,

    I don’t have your understanding for this Babylonian False path! I don’t see anything
    Different from any other religions to me it
    Right or wrong that’s right black or white

    I fear I may be lacking in compassion as I wish to distance myself From all Traditions no matter how old! (If not in Torah ) in 07

    I Found a path that I felt was as close to The
    True way! but I am sad to say same in

    Karaite Judaism still wish to hold up These
    False and ungodly ways so it is like it was before my conversion does anyone truly
    Believe in the one and only GOD of Israel
    Or do they wish to compromise with anything
    So no one offends well that makes me sick

    And sad this could be part of the reasons why
    It has hit the wall ? Could GOD be saying well
    Get back on track and stand up for the right and only Way! to Speck the truth all the time
    don’t worry what anyone will say, as long as it is ( as I was asked before my conversion do you stand and belive in the whole (TORAH)

    I said I will sign on the dotted line for that Mate)
    But now I see anything is Allright what has gone wrong? Or is it people wish to be loved by all?
    And GOD came in second now? to
    Peoples feelings it is one thing to say we stand by Torah and then welcome false paths
    with love
    I don’t under stand this way of thinking I don’t say I know much about Torah
    In Hebrew but looks like King David and I would Have been friends would you who compromise with YAH’S word and say evil is good and good is evil

    peace to all may YAH lift up your heart
    To love YAH with all your heart and soul

    Caleb Charleston

    • Caleb, nice to hear from you. I’m not sure what you are referring to. I am not trying to uphold false ways. Rather, I am seeking to say this scandal is not a reason to leave rabbinic judaism – if one is a believer.

  6. Zvi

    “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.”
    — I am impressed that you were honest enough to concede that not everything is totally correct in Qaraism just yet.


    Our orthodox brothers in the DC area must feel very violated by this “man’s” action. To feel empathy for another Jew, regardless of the tradition they follow is what makes us “Jewish”- IMHO. Great blog Shawn. Imagine how David felt after his actions were brought to light in his court and the shock of those who put there trust in him. Same goes for those in the DC Orthodox community. We Karaites are not above human weakness.

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