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September 10th, 2013
02:22 PM ET

Who gets to judge Anthony Weiner?

Opinion by Jeffrey Weiss, Special to CNN

(CNN) - A day before the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner was out asking voters to judge him favorably in Tuesday's election.

He ran into a bit of unwelcome moral judgment, as well.

One of the city's best-known Jewish politicians got into a heated religious argument at the Weiss Kosher Bakery in an Orthodox neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The argument - replayed and reported on cable news - raised questions about how the Jewish tradition deals with transgression, judgment, repentance and rebuke.

Those are all prime concerns for the days around Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, which begins Friday night.

Weiner, of course, is the former congressman forced to resign after being caught in a scandal not covered by the rabbinic sages: digital infidelity.

After a year of relatively private life, he decided to run for mayor of New York City, only to see his campaign slowed by revelations that his graphic sexting continued long after he’d said he’d stopped.

But his campaign, incredibly, didn't stop.

READ MORE: Weiner: Hate media? Love me

I’ll say only this in Weiner’s support: He has enough chutzpah for an army. (Leo Rosten’s famous definition: Chutzpah is the attribute possessed by a man who, having killed his parents, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.)

So the day before Rosh Hashana, Weiner wanders into a bakery in Brooklyn. The first three minutes of the campaign stop, recorded on video by a blogger, is merely and painfully surreal.

Weiner is trying to do the normal candidate glad-hand thing and none of the customers initiate a conversation or even make eye contact. They look at him, look away.

I would bet many of them were thinking “A shanda fur die goyim.”

The Yiddish translates literally as “a scandal for the non-Jews.” In the days and places where Jews were attacked for no reason, the worst sin was a transgression by a Jew that became widely known and gave anti-Semites an excuse to tar the entire Jewish community.

That’s still a live concept for the Orthodox. How did Weiner expect to be received in that bakery?

As the candidate leaves, one man in the shop can no longer hold his tongue: “You’re a real scumbag, Anthony Weiner.”

Weiner keeps walking, but responds: “Very nice in front of kids. Very nice. That’s a charming guy right there.”

And then the critic, later identified as Saul Kessler commits an error of his own, saying that Weiner “married an Arab.” Actually, Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, was born in Michigan. Her father was from India, her mother from Pakistan. Sure, she’s Muslim. But most of the world’s Muslims aren’t Arabs.

READ MORE: Is Huma Abedin blaming herself?

Kessler and Weiner have a heated exchange, but Abedin’s ethnic heritage doesn’t come up. Weiner challenges the man’s right to judge him. Kessler tells Weiner that he’s a bad example and should stay out of the public eye.

“What rabbi taught you that you’re my judge,” Weiner demands. “You know who judges me? Not you. You don’t get to judge me because you have shown no sign you are superior to me. And you are not my God.”

Is Weiner right in saying that only God can judge him?

From a religious standpoint there’s a long Jewish tradition calling for those who transgress religious norms to be judged and rebuked by others in the community. (The Christian concept of “judge not lest ye be judged” has nothing to do with Judaism.)

Exactly how and where it should be done – whether the right place was a shouting argument in the middle of a bakery – is more of a grey zone.

As the saying goes, if you question three Jews you’ll get four opinions. But let's look at a few of the most common interpretations.

Let's start with a famous passage from the Torah, in the book of Leviticus: “Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him.”

The Talmud has a long passage chewing over what that means. Here’s a nugget: “How do we know that if a man sees something unseemly in his neighbor, he is obliged to reprove him? Because it is said: Thou shalt surely rebuke.”

So maybe Kessler was right?

But the biblical passage also seems to say that the correction must be done without incurring your own guilt – done in a proper manner.

And another Talmudic passage says “judge every person on the positive side.” Which some rabbis interpret as saying that you should always give someone whatever benefit of the doubt you can.

There are other instructions that rebukes should be done in private, if possible, and always in a way that minimizes humiliation of the person being corrected.

So maybe Kessler was wrong? Definitely with the “scumbag” line.

But what if this is the only chance he’ll have to talk to Weiner? Maybe that justifies his verbal attack in that place and time?

And by putting himself in front of the public to be judged, by walking into the bakery, maybe Weiner invited this sort of judgment?

And while Kessler says some nasty things about Weiner, he also makes some specific and potentially constructive suggestions about how Weiner’s behavior could be better.

So maybe that part is OK?

But then there’s another whole Jewish tradition called “loshon hara” (literally “evil tongue”) that covers what one should and should not say about other people.

Under this teaching, passing along negative stories is generally wrong – even if the stories are true. So maybe Kessler’s public rebuke violated that idea?

But there’s a loophole in loshon hara: You’re allowed to pass along the information if it’s important for others to know it.

And maybe the other people in the bakery, some of whom were voters, needed to know the details of Weiner’s transgressions?

Here’s what we know for sure: The voters’ secular judgment will be passed down on Tuesday.

As for the judgment of the Jewish community? The annual Yom Kippur service includes a public confession where the entire congregation repeatedly ‘fesses up to imperfections.

The “Al Chet” prayer starts with this:

“For the sin which we have committed before you under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before you by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before you inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before you with an utterance of the lips.
For the sin which we have committed before you with immorality….”

That seems to cover both Weiner and Kessler. And most of us, as well. As the prayer says, “For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.”

Jeffrey Weiss is an award-winning reporter in Dallas. The views expressed in this column belong to him. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Holidays • Judaism • Opinion • Politics • Sex • Sexuality • Sin

soundoff (150 Responses)
  1. M MURDOCK

    I shall rule the universe

    September 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  2. M MURDOCK

    Zeus is a coward

    September 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  3. M MURDOCK

    Horus is my lover

    September 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  4. M MURDOCK

    R u prepared

    September 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
  5. Gig 'em

    Weiner is one sick lizard.

    September 14, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  6. Kate

    Weiner.....seriously, are people still talking about this moron. He has serious issues to deal with, but they are private issues and I don't appreciate the fact that I had to know about it at all. I wouldn't vote for him on the single fact that he's an idiot.
    Lets move on and not give this guy any more publicity...please. We are all so much better than this.

    September 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  7. :)

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlcxEDy-lr0&w=640&h=360]

    September 14, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  8. Akira

    Troll of a 1000 names:
    "the trolls that expressed their grief, the same ones pretending to be meredith, alqeada, etc., blame meredith’s god for instigating 9/11. if not for the xtians in this country, no one would attack america."

    Bull.

    Please tell me where I have ever posited that God or Christians were responsible for 9/11. I never said that and I don't think that. Re-post where I said that or just tell everyone what a liar you are.
    Further, I have told you before that I am not an atheist. Therefore, not only do you not retain what you read, you lied about that, too.
    And before you start quizzing me, I am not going to tell you my beliefs because it is None. Of. Your. Business.

    Stop beating up on the the 9/11 widow. You're a despicable person to keep doing that. Leave her alone, you bloody bully. And yeah, she has my condolences. You are the one that has expressed nothing but contempt for her ordeal.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Canaan

    That seems to cover both Weiner and Kessler. And most of us, as well.
    As the prayer says, “For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.”

    –Agreed!

    September 13, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • House of David

      Agree!

      1 John 2:1

      September 13, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  10. donna

    It's not about judging him. It's about trusting him.

    We just can't trust him so we won't vote for him.

    On the other hand, NY voters seem to trust Spitzer.

    So it's not about judging anyone.

    September 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
  11. Vince

    Who is going to judge Weiner? Oscar Meyer of course.

    September 12, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
  12. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    I believe the answer to the question is... a tape measure...

    September 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      Oh, wait, there is no possesive 'S after Anthony... my bad....

      September 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  13. Moses

    Al Chet prayer

    “For the sin which we have committed before you under duress or willingly.
    And for the sin which we have committed before you by hard-heartedness.
    For the sin which we have committed before you inadvertently.
    And for the sin which we have committed before you with an utterance of the lips.
    For the sin which we have committed before you with immorality….”
    For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.

    September 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Aaron

      :).

      September 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Joshua

      Prayer of repentance

      Almighty God,
      Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
      maker of all things, judge of all men:
      We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins
      and wickedness,
      which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
      by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
      provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
      We do earnestly repent,
      and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
      the remembrance of them is grievous unto us,
      the burden of them is intolerable.
      Have mercy upon us,
      have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
      for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
      forgive us all that is past;
      and grant that we may ever hereafter
      serve and please thee in newness of life,
      to the honor and glory of thy Name;
      through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

      September 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
      • Aaron

        🙂
        .

        September 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Moses

    Al Chet prayer

    “For the sin which we have committed before you under duress or willingly.
    And for the sin which we have committed before you by hard-heartedness.
    For the sin which we have committed before you inadvertently.
    And for the sin which we have committed before you with an utterance of the lips.
    For the sin which we have committed before you with immorality….”

    September 11, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • Joshua

      Prayer of repentance


      Almighty God,
      Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
      maker of all things, judge of all men:
      We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins
      and wickedness,
      which we from time to time most grievously have committed,
      by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine Majesty,
      provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.
      We do earnestly repent,
      and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings;
      the remembrance of them is grievous unto us,
      the burden of them is intolerable.
      Have mercy upon us,
      have mercy upon us, most merciful Father;
      for thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake,
      forgive us all that is past;
      and grant that we may ever hereafter
      serve and please thee in newness of life,
      to the honor and glory of thy Name;
      through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

      September 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
      • Aaron

        🙂
        .

        September 11, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
    • Aaron

      🙂

      September 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "Al Chet prayer" pronounced "All Shlt" prayer... that about sums it up...

      September 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
      • Jeffrey Weiss

        Not that you deserve a cordial reply but: Pronunciation is closer to al-kett. The "ch" is that consonant found in Hebrew, German and other languages that English that comes from the back of the throat.

        September 12, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  15. Noel

    Who gets to judge Anthony Weiner?

    -GOD

    who gets to judge Carlos Danger?

    –we the people

    September 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
  16. Daniel

    When Weiner asked the guy who he was to judge him. He guy should have said. " I am a New York voter and I do judge you"

    September 11, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  17. Thinking things through

    Who gets to judge him? Well, I don't vote in New York City, so I'm out of the loop...

    September 11, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  18. CommonSensed

    Who gets to judge? People with morals and taste.

    He's a pig and a narcissist. Anyone who votes for him is either doing it for the comedic value or is a sick human being.

    Huma is a sycophant who should have divorced him months ago. She's an embarrassment to empowered women.

    September 11, 2013 at 12:19 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      The man is a true hero. If we were a monarchy (which we thankfully aren't), I'd call for a knighthood.

      September 11, 2013 at 7:42 am |
      • CommonSensed

        Please do the rest of humanity a favor and do not vote or breed. Also, please go pray in traffic.

        September 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'm going to inseminate a chick next time I'm in a polling booth just to spite you. Also, it's the 21st century. Who prays?

          September 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "He's a pig and a narcissist." While I agree, I don't know what the prerequisites for a political career have to do with him losing...

      September 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
      • Just the Facts Ma'am...

        He lost because he showed us the whole hog...

        September 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  19. Concrete

    His wife

    September 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.