How telling are the wise words of Rabbi Waxman. Though Judaism always privileged the tzaddik, the ultra-pious human being, its texts from the Bible on through the Talmud highlight just how flawed and full of failure leadership can be. Just think of King David: Here is one of God’s greatest kings sleeping with a married woman and then ensuring that her husband die in war.
However, many will not admit that David sinned. The thing is that most people don’t want to see clergy as human. In some sense, it’s much easier for people to put their priests and rabbis up on an ethical and moral pedestal. By seeing them as angels, people absolve themselves of ever having to listen to them or trying to live up to their words.
In some ways they see their synagogue membership fee as a way of outsourcing their religious obligations. They say to themselves, “The rabbi keeps up Judaism, and I keep to myself.” People want to believe that their clergy are saints because they think they are covered so long as someone is embodying piety on their behalf.
The bottom line is that while clergy are expected to live up to a higher moral standard than their flock, they are no different than any one else: They have passions, needs, desires, and lusts. They sin, repent, love, and hate in the same way that every human being does.
So if you are banking on them to get you to heaven by outsourcing your religious life, you better think again.