Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rabbi Barry Freundel and Personal Safeguards

CHEATING ON A SPOUSE IS USUALLY considered an unforgivable sin and often ends in divorce. It is also socially reprehensible, though regrettably, we have become numb to its frequent occurrence. I was surprised to learn that research indicates that oftentimes cheating spouses are not necessarily unhappy in their marriage, or are looking to cheat as a way of satisfying their ego, and do not always engage in this act impulsively. The way a psychologist explained it to me is that, oftentimes, it’s the outcome of a fantasy that festers and festers in his or her mind for days, months, and maybe even years. Psychologically speaking, if a spouse has multiple affairs, we can chalk it up to the idea that has been around since Talmudic times, that once you have tasted the forbidden fruit, it’s too difficult to go back.

I don’t know Rabbi Barry Freundel or the particulars of his character, other than what I have heard and read recently. But it might very well be that his sick and perverted behavior stemmed from a fantasy that festered within him for a very long time. Perhaps after a particularly frustrating day he did some research about cameras. A few months later, after an unfulfilling day in the office, he bought one, and a few months after that he installed it. Once he recorded his first victim, it was too difficult to turn back.

Whether my psychological analysis of Rabbi Freundel is correct is not the point. What is important to recognize is that even the most moral, ethical and family oriented person can succumb to a desire that is the product of a far-fetched fantasy he or she never dreamed would actually come to fruition. The unfortunate truth is that we can destroy many lives by turning a fantasy into a reality that we never really wanted in the first place. We need to protect ourselves from ourselves, but how? Just as important as creating communal safeguards to prevent society from acting on its basest instincts, is the need to create personal safeguards to prevent ourselves from yielding to the unholy and unhealthy temptations we face on a daily basis. Is there anything we can do to ward off the “impure,” “evil” or inappropriate thoughts that enter our minds? Are there strategies we can adopt to protect ourselves from allowing an idea to fester to the point that we make the biggest mistake of our lives? Can we be programmed to flip an “off” switch to shut out these thoughts? Is it possible to diffuse or at least control them?

Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel Arrested for Voyeurism; Abuse


Jewish tradition provides a number of what has currently come to be called “cognitive behavioral techniques” to protect someone from succumbing to their base desires. The advice is remarkably prescient and remains relevant today.