December 26: Readers weigh in on Lupolianski

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sir, – With regard to “The Lupolianski case – a test for Israeli society” (Comment & Features, December 23), when Uri Lupolianski was sentenced to the same length of imprisonment as Ehud Olmert despite the fact that he had directed the Holyland Affair funds to Yad Sarah whereas Olmert pocketed the bribes, my husband and I were shaken beyond belief. It was, therefore, a pleasure to read the criticism of Judge David Rozen by Shmuel Jakobovits.
We are secular but have always admired Lupolianski’s efforts. We have been observers of very many instances, including in our own family, of the tremendous contribution made to the health sector, with no financial burden whatsoever on the recipient. The ready availability of a very wide type of assistance is not matched in any other country.
I would pose one question for the judge, whose sentencing was so cruel: Should he or a member of his family require any of the vast array of help provided by Yad Sarah, to whom would he turn? MYRA ZION Tel Mond Sir, – Early in Pirkei Avot (1:2) we learn the vital importance of g’milut hasadim (charity). However, even before that (1:1) there is the overarching admonition to build a sayag l’torah (a fence around the Torah).
This is my response to Shmuel Jakobovits’s opinion piece.
Uri Lupolianski deserves enormous gratitude for his dedication to the needy through Yad Sarah. However, on becoming mayor he should not have allowed these (commendable) feelings to prevent his “building a fence.” As mayor he should have cared most strenuously that his identification with Yad Sarah would not blind him to the essential justice of preventing a bribe, regardless of the beneficiary.
While the severity of his sentence may well be open to question, Lupolianski’s “flexibility” on injustice cannot be excused by his signal charitable dedication.
Sir, – Shmuel Jakobovits expresses most eloquently the sadness at seeing a great tzadik (righteous person) confined to six years in prison, and he takes to task the judge. Although in his words “a bribe is a bribe is a bribe,” he sees the case of Uri Lupolianski as being different.
As both a rabbi and judge, Jakobovits must surely be aware of the biblical injunction of lo takir panim (Deuteronomy 16:19), which is usually translated as “You shall not respect someone’s presence.”
This means that the sentence a human judge pronounces must not take into consideration the person being tried. Such considerations ultimately lie in the province of the Supreme Judge.
In the very same verse it is stated specifically: “You shall not accept a bribe.”
If there were any doubt considering mitigating circumstances, the Torah warns us in Deuteronomy 23:19 that money begotten by sinful means may not be used for holy purposes.
Finally, we must recall a principle of our sages that the most virtuous of humans are judged by the most minute standards.
We have no better example of this than Moses himself.
Sir, – Niccolò Machiavelli, the 15th and 16th-century Florentine politician/philosopher, knew a thing or two about human nature.
He said in The Discourses (1517): “No well ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits, but having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for good conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits.”
Sir, – Shmuel Jakobovits’s defense of Uri Lupolianski is quite wrong. Israel is not Sherwood Forest and the former Jerusalem mayor is not Robin Hood.