JERUSALEM — Rav Yitchak Berkovits, one of the preeminent and most respected American poskim in Israel, conducted a Zoom video call with therapists and mental health professionals in the aftermath of the Chaim Walder matter.
He discussed multiple lessons and takeaways from this challenging episode, and clarified the position of the Gedolim in this complex matter.
Rav Berkovits essentially said that any doubts that one may have had about the allegations were erased by Walder himself.
He said, “What made things very clear was the suicide note. This was not a depressed person writing a note. This was narcissism at its best, this was manipulative, this was a person preparing to commit a violent crime, murder, and the victims…all of us, [he intended that] we should all feel guilty for his death. I think to any level headed human being who has any sensitivity to human beings and a bit of nuance–it’s obvious.”
He added, “We are dealing with a sociopath, who knows how many victims we don’t know about, who knows how many lives were destroyed.”
The Rav said that he does not know why this was not handled by the conventional Bais Din protocol. He was not critical of anyone involved, however he said that victims generally do not need to face perpetrators in Bais Din, and that many Batei Din have dealt with these issues extremely effectively.
He also said that while not every complaint is substantiated, that is usually the exception and not the rule.
In addition, the Rav said that he highly doubts the claim that “nobody wanted to touch this case”, because many cases like this have been properly handled in Bais Din and predators have been punished and prevented from acting further.
He said that “Rav Shmuel Eliyahu has a heart of gold, and when he heard from victims, that was certainly not something that he could live with.”
Rav Berkovits was adamant that males should never counsel females. He told the professionals that “the number one takeaway is that there is no heter for a male to counsel a female, whether as a therapist, counselor, or coach…seminaries where young charismatic good looking men teach women, we have had too many problems, there is something sick with that.”
The Rav said there “are plenty of competent professional women and there is no reason or justification for a woman to ever visit a man.”
He said “in theory it should all be professional, however l’maaseh it is not that way.”
Rav Berkovits is Rosh Kollel in the renowned Jerusalem Kollel. He is recognized world-wide as a prominent posek and ba’al eitzah. Through his varied roles in the kiruv world, he has become a sought after speaker and his advice on complex community matters is valued by Rabbonim and leaders across the globe.