Third, there is a new culture of hero worship of rabbis in Orthodoxy. To a large extent, protective cover was provided for Lanner because he was considered a talmid khakham, a Torah scholar. Indeed, Rosenblatt, the Jewish Week editor, was accused at the outset of violating the rules mandating respect for a talmid khakham; even the recently released summary of the investigation into the matter doesn't name names of those Orthodox Union officials who allegedly failed to stop Lanner's misdeeds. The summary cites "prurient interest" as its reason, but clearly the motivation again is to protect those who carry the title rabbi, as if they are entitled to special dispensation when it comes to violations of a social or sexual nature.

In truth, I am proud that throughout our long history, our heroes have always been our Torah scholars and religious personalities. But these came by virtue of spiritual and intellectual accomplishment, not merely title.

Opening the door on the Lanner case should be welcomed by every member of this religious community and of every other one, for it provides an opportunity to take a deep look at what went wrong and to begin the process of correction. There are many tasks to undertake, and they can all begin now.

As a community, we must start the process of reviewing our sacred texts--many of which cause terror for women--and our laws that disrespect women. Everything is related to everything else, sometimes in ways that might not at first be clear: Inequitable divorce law impacts on women's leadership roles; rules limiting women's role in public prayer impact their general spiritual rights; laws restricting women's voices impact on the treatment of their bodies.

Women must be granted access to positions of leadership and authority. It seems likely that the plug would have been pulled on Lanner much sooner had women been in on the supervisory process and the religious court of law convened to judge him.

Protecting our children is a top priority. The community must set community-wide standards to which every group or institution involved with children must adhere. This should include a system for periodic self-monitoring and independent monitoring.

The Lanner case reminds us that power tends to corrupt, in every area. A system of checks and balances is vital to the health of any social organism, including a religious community with all of its hierarchical structure. Laity and leadership should be able to work more in partnership and interdependence, rather than one having unchecked authority. Esteem for religious leadership will still be able to find expression in a more democratic structure than the one we now have.

The excesses in this case are a signal to religionists of all stripes that it is a most difficult task to keep the core message of a faith system front and center. But it is an effort worth making, for that is what is at the heart of the religious enterprise. Rabbis, teachers, leaders, parents, all of us have to keep asking the questions: What is the essence of my religion? What is the message underlying this ritual I observe? What is the vision that Judaism holds out to me? These are not small or easy questions, but they are integral to keeping a perspective on the thousand details that make up a religiously observant life.