Curious George Finkelstein
A former rabbi-teacher of mine has been accused of molesting students. So, why can’t I stop thinking of the good he did?
When I returned to yeshiva three days later, he asked me where I’d gone.
“MoMA,” I said.
“I prefer the Met,” he replied with a smile.
George was curious.
Three weeks ago, thanks to the reporting of the Forward, I found out what happened to George: He’d fled, like so many other Jews who find themselves under a cloud of suspicion, to Israel. He fled there, as Rabbi Naked Jacuzzi had, and as Rabbi Under the Covers Bed Check had. It’s no surprise that NAMBLA is changing its slogan to “Next Year in Jerusalem.” (You can use that joke, by the way, but I totally want credit for it.) I’m certain this is not what God had in mind for his Promised Land. “And you will reach the land that I promised you, and you will settle there, and you will bring with you there all your perverts and all your molesters, and all your murderers and all your embezzlers, and all your tax cheats and all your white-collar criminals, to live in freedom from all charges and fines and legal authorities that pursue them, and you will be for me a less-than-great nation with questionable ethics and perverted morals, but I’ll take what I can get. PS: no cheeseburgers.”
So, what is all this then, Auslander? What’s with all these positive reminiscences of a clearly troubled man? Is this some kind of defense of a rabbi accused of physically and emotionally hurting countless number of yeshiva students? Is that what this is about?
It’s not about a defense.
It’s about monsters.
The strange thing about monsters is that, as children, we believe in them and the adults tell us they’re not real, that there are no such things and we should just go back to sleep. And we believe them. But later, as we grow up and become adults and we see the world in all its misery and suffering and injustice and cruelty and shit … we decide to believe in monsters again. Because monsters help us to make sense of the world. Monsters help us feel better about our obviously non-monster selves.
There are monsters, after all, and then there’s … us.
If only all the monsters were full-time, green-skinned horror-show monsters. If only they were ogres top to bottom, demons start to finish. If only they had pointy horns and red eyes and razor-sharp claws.
But they don’t.
They have ties and jackets and jobs.
And some have beards.
And some wear yarmulkes.
And sometimes they do good.
And sometimes they do bad.
And sometimes the bad they do nullifies the good; in my case, looking back now on the situation, I am even more disillusioned than before, which is no small feat. Disillusioned with rabbis, religion, people, men, with the whole goddamned planet. If I were God, I’d fucking flood it.
So, trust me—I’d love it if George was a monster. Because George (allegedly, Ms. Attorney) did a lot of bad. But he also did some good.
He was curious.
Just like birth, and life, and love, and death, and all the unbearable and barely bearable moments in between.
Very, very curious.
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