This is generally a topic for Ellul and Tishrei , but some incidents that have just come to light made me think of their current application. When it comes to making an account of our sins, we talk about din v'cheshbon. Why the double language? There are various interpretations, including one attributed to the Vilna Gaon  that offers an economic term to understand it. The din is for the wrong that was done, and the cheshbon is the opportunity cost -- the time lost to accomplishing something positive because it was put into a negative action.

 That interpretations makes sense for understanding how zdonos  can turn into zchuyos, merits. If one accomplishes teshuva, then the bad action actually led to a good one, and so both the action and the time spent on are transformed into a positive force. As for the lower level of teshuva, the zdonos become shgagos, unintentional actions, mistakes. One erases the bad but hasn't turned it all to the good, so the cheshbon, the time spent becomes neutral and still has not become a positive use. 

Today, as I was thinking of some of the scandals in the frum community that have come to light,  I thought of another possible take on the double language. The person who has acted wrongly and hurt others directly is culpable for the din. However, those who knew about it and swept it under the rug would have to give a cheshbon.  I'm sure they can give a list of reasons for why they contributed to the cover-up, ranging from not quite believing to trying to avoid a scandal that would cause harm to the spouses and children of the person who had done wrong. 

 Nevertheless, they thereby exacerbated the pain of the victims, particularly those who bravely came forward in order to prevent other from falling prey to people who were considered beyond reproach. I'm certain that there many more victims than those who spoke up; they remained silent because they knew that they would bring upon themselves vicious attacks from those who refuse to believe that a person they have placed on a pedestal not only had feet of clay but a complete disregard for betraying others' trust. 

If there's one lesson we should all take from Pinchas, it's that you cannot let a person's position blind you to what is morally right. Obviously, we can't all lay claim to being kanaim, but we still have the obligation to remove those who pose a threat. I would go further and say they should receive a punishment beyond removal from their posts of authority, but even that first step seems to be more than some are willing to take. 

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I never heard it put that way- opportunity cost, and the reason for becoming zechuyos. Yours?

Here in Chicago there haven't been any scandals lately, as far as I know. It's been a hard time for those of us that can only be proud of themselves when they sneer at others that are worse.
Ariella Brown said…
I recall Chaim referring to it some time ago. I did a search and found it attributed to the Vilna Gaon. I'll put that in the OP. Thanks for reminding me of the need to do so.

There's no point in sneering at others. There is a point to not covering up for people who harm others, for that is what enables them to keep up the bad work.

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