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 A great deal of our reactions to events is dependent upon what our previous expectations regarding those events or personalities were. If we have very high expectations of success, morality or altruistic behavior from our individual leaders, be they political or religious, national or personal, we are invariably doomed to disappointment - the higher the expectation, the more bruising the disappointment.

Much of this disappointment is engendered by our heroes engaging in normal human behavior in circumstances when somehow we expect super human behavior from them. Our expectations are fed by the public image and persona of those leaders who invariably portray themselves as being all-wise, selfless and beyond pettiness and human foibles.
Since they have portrayed themselves in such a fashion, the rule of society – the bigger they are the harder they fall – invariably is invoked. We are witness to this on a national scale regarding the attitude of much of European political leadership, academia and intelligentsia towards the state of Israel.
Not long ago one of the foreign ministers of a Scandinavian country openly stated: “We expect much more from Israel than we do from the Palestinians or the Arabs. Therefore, it is true that we do have a double standard when it comes to events and policies regarding the Middle East.” This revealing statement emphasizes the truth that throughout history Jews were expected to be more Christian than the Christians, more liberal than the liberals and certainly more pacifist and peace-loving than anyone else.
This expectation, unfair and unrealistic as it may be, was somehow fostered by the Jewish self-image. This attitude has been carried over today by the unrealistic and unfair expectations that many Jews have today of Israel. When Charles de Gaulle called us an “elitist” people he was reflecting the attitude that many Jews have about themselves. So, when Jews do not behave in an “elitist” fashion, the disappointment of the world and of the Jewish people is truly magnified.
The Jewish world, especially the observant Orthodox section of it, is currently reeling from a number of scandalous incidents involving yeshivot, Chasidic courts, Kabbalistic savants, differing ideologies, corruption and criminal charges against revered rabbis, powerful political leaders and public representatives of our faith. Great people and seemingly holy institutions have been brought low by sad and unworthy incidents loudly trumpeted by the press and the media both here and in the United States.
What makes all of these incidents so much more painful is that we were led to expect more. If rioting factions in one of the greatest yeshivot in the world can break up a prayer service for the sake of turf and self interest, it is difficult to see how Torah and meaningful prayer can be advanced amongst the masses of the Jewish people. And this is simply because the antagonists themselves have portrayed themselves as the paragons of virtue and see themselves as being the true owners of the tents of Jacob.
We expect better from them. We expect restraint and holiness, tolerance and peace and the willingness to abide with agreed-upon settlements crafted by the religious court system. When these expectations are dashed by what unfortunately can be called “normal” human behavior – selfishness, self-interest, turf and greed – the despair and hardship of the observer is compounded.
There are apparently only two possible antidotes to this disease of scandal and dispute. One is to simply lower our own expectations of our leaders and institutions - to admit that they are not infallible; they are not necessarily as holy as they portray themselves to be and that in their human errors – even shameful ones - can and will occur.
Apparently this is the way that the Bible and the Talmud chose in discussing the lives and events of the great leaders of the Jewish people in First and Second Temple times and thereafter. No one gets a free pass. Paradoxically, this does not seem to diminish anyone's greatness or heroic stature in the eyes of the Jewish people. Rather, it enhances their humanity and our ability to identify with them and learn from their challenges and circumstances of life. In effect, we are taught to have realistic expectations of humans and thus minimize the angst and despair that unrealistic expectations will always bring upon us.
A second path in this area is to truly demand high achievements from our leadership, that they truly live up to their public persona and press clippings. Covering up faults and ignoring the obvious circumstance that the emperor has no clothes can only lead to public shame and private disaster. I think that perhaps both of these attitudes can be pursued simultaneously and that Jewish society will strengthen and enhance it.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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