Many a predator and addict I work with has been helped by the mystical concepts of Kabbalah. Every one of us comes into this world with an emptiness born of a cosmic vacuum we glibly refer to as Genesis. Thus, you and I are children of the vacuum, and we endeavor throughout our lives to fill that void as best we can with meaningfulness. Some of us, however, try in vain to fill it with food, others with drugs or alcohol and yet others with sex, either at our own expense or that of others. But when we do so, our well-springs only become drier and drier because, as the 16th-century Rabbi Yitzchak Luria reminded us, a vessel is capable of being filled only if it is also capable of decanting. Otherwise, it is like driving with a gaping hole in your gas tank. Refueling at every gas station along the way will not stop the leak. Likewise, trying to fill your void by throwing other people into it only deepens the chasm, and with each victim, you dig yourself another six feet under. So, I might ask a predator: Which way are you going--down or up?
Rabbi Gershon Winkler
Walking Stick Foundation
Cedar Glen, CA
Judaism teaches a good line about repentance, but achieving sobriety is not a six-week project, and rectifying the injuries inflicted on others is no simple matter of asking for forgiveness. Besides ordination, I also have a degree in clinical social work and worked in an outpatient agency for many years. Among my clients were several men who presented with sexual acting-out behavior that included exhibitionism, frequenting prostitutes, and inappropriate if not dangerous liaisons in the mikveh and public cruising areas. It was clear to me that my training was inadequate to the task; one-on-one treatment without a supportive group would also fall short. The best I could hope for was short-term suppression of symptoms. So the simple answer is: Find an expert who will treat the person's whole constellation of mental health issues, and get the person connected to a support network
I worry, however, that this question focuses on the perpetrator of sexual harassment or violence and overlooks the target or victim. Other questions: How do we create a zero-tolerance work environment where reporting on a superior doesn't put one's job at risk? How do we counsel a person who fears stigmatization to speak up? How do we counsel people who feel ashamed and need reassurance that they can heal and restore their lives? And, finally, what can we do better as a Jewish community to address these issues as they inevitably occur in our midst?
Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer
The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism New York, NY
Sexual predators' lives crash in on them when they are discovered. Clergy...