Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud

Spitzer’s Mask

It may be a twist of fate that Eliot Spitzer faced his downfall a few days before Purim, the Jewish holiday that entertains how people are often not what they appear. Spitzer appeared to be someone who defended and upheld the law of the land. He was known as a ruthless attorney general. Now we know it was all a mask.
Spitzer’s sin was not only that he cheated on his wife. He also cheated on the people of New York who voted him into office as governor to uphold the laws of the land.

I can’t tell you how many Jewish friends and colleagues have told me they cringed when they heard the news about another Jew involved in a shanda (shame, scandal). We are averaging about one a year. Jack Abramoff’s lobbying scandal in 2006. Paul Wolfowitz giving his girlfriend a cushy job at the World Bank in 2007. Now Spitzer in 2008.
What is it with these guys? Have they no sense of shame? Or, as Rabbi Stern implies, do they just think they can do whatever they can get away with? This dynamic is also discussed by the rabbis in Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot). They wrote: Know that a seeing eye is above you and everything is written. The point is: we shouldn’t do things because we think we won’t get caught; God sees everything and records all. Obviously others can see too, as Spitzer sadly discovered, a bit too late.
Anthony Weiss, in an analysis for the Forward, points out that the Jewish community had embraced Spitzer as a favorite son even though Spitzer held himself somewhat aloof from the Jewish community. Intermarried, with little contact with the organized Jewish world, Spitzer nevertheless claimed that Jewish values inspired his liberal outlook and commitment. Too bad he could not also apply those same Jewish values to his interpersonal and professional life: values such as honesty, the sanctity of marriage, and following the law of the land.

Comments read comments(2)
post a comment

posted March 23, 2008 at 6:09 pm

What lesson can we draw from Elliot Spitzer? Perhaps that branch of Judaism known as Psychiatry has some insight. Elliot appears to be Cluster B — anti-social in a way that only a prosecutor can be, a grandiose sense of entitlement, with self-fulfiling isues of abandonment due to knowledge that he is unworthy.
The question I ask is why are we fooled time after time by rigidly self-righteous people who devote their lives to finding fault with others? The fault, Dear Brutus, is not in the stars but in ourselves. All the signs were in plain view but we chose to ignore them.

report abuse


posted March 24, 2008 at 1:22 am

I just taught my high school class about the Spitzer situation. The lesson I taught them is to be personally aware of the difference between
A) good values we practice and
B) cherished ideals are at the moment beyond our grasp. They are our future goals (that hopefully we’re working towards).
We need to learn how to communicate the difference when we present ourselves to others. Otherwise, people might develop an unrealistic picture of whom we are. Along with this unrealistic picture, might also come also unrealistic expectations.
I asked my class to imagine a job interview where a person really hikes up his or her credentials and experience level. Based on this impressive presentation, the person lands the job. What is soon bound to happen ? An expectation of job performance that’s really unrealisitc for the newly hired employee.
Similarly if we don’t create a flawless impression of ourselves, chances are that others won’t expect the unrealistic from us. I’m left wondering, had Elliot Spitzer not placed himself on such a high moral pedestal to begin with, would his fall been so hard?
I’m aware that the situation has many controversial angles, but this is the personal lesson that resonantes most with me for the moment and anyways, compartmentalizing issues is very Talmudic.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

The Task Is Never Finished
It has been heartwarming to read the warm responses to Rabbi Waxman's post asking Beliefnet to reconsider its decision to cancel Virtual Talmud. Virtual Talmud offered an alternative model for internet communications: civil discourse pursued in ...

posted 12:31:46pm Apr. 03, 2008 | read full post »

Some Parting Reflections
Well, loyal readers, all good things must come to an end and we’ve been informed that this particular experiment in blogging as a forum for creating wide-ranging discussion on topics of interest to contemporary Jews has run its course. Maybe ...

posted 1:00:29pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

Obama's Lesson and The Jewish Community
There are few times in this blog’s history when I have felt that Rabbi Grossman was one hundred percent correct in her criticisms of my ideas. However, a few weeks ago she called me out for citing a few crack websites on Barak Obama’s ...

posted 12:09:08pm Mar. 31, 2008 | read full post »

The Future of Race Relations
As a post-baby boomer, it is interesting to me to see how much of today’s conversation about racial relations is still rooted in the 1960s experience and rhetoric of the civil rights struggle, and the disenchantment that followed. Many in the ...

posted 4:04:41pm Mar. 25, 2008 | read full post »

Wright and Wrong of Race and Jews
Years ago, as a rabbinical student, I was one of a group of rabbinical students who visited an African American seminary in Atlanta. My fellow rabbinical students and I expected an uplifting weekend of interfaith sharing like we had experienced ...

posted 12:50:11pm Mar. 24, 2008 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.