Written by Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
If a community suffers the misfortune of an av beis din shesarach (a Rabbi who sinned), whose wrongdoing would be cause for the common man to be excommunicated—ein menadin oso (we do not excommunicate him), nor is it a basis for moridin oso migedulaso (firing him from his position). We are directed to tell him, “Shev b’veisecha” (sit at home)—with an additional mandate: “Hikaved v’shev b’veisecha,” a word that can mean both “heavy,” as in “act as if you have a headache,” and “honor” meaning, “this will be the more honorable position for you.” In essence, the rav, as if, is served with a private nidui (ban), though it is not publicized.
(There are circumstances where the rav’s position is no longer tenable due to the nature of the offenses committed: for example, the rav’s actions subvert mitzvos to the point that it is a michshol (stumbling block) in the observance of his congregation. In addition, any crimes perpetrated against people that are subject to legal intervention may cause a de facto dismissal from authority.)
In contrast to the av beis din shesarach, we find the case in the Gemara of a tzurva derabanan (Torah scholar) who acquires a shem ra (bad reputation) and is ultimately placed in public nidui. The distinction between these two can be determined in two ways: either due to chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) in the case of the tzurva derabanan—on account of his shem ra—it is cause for a harsher response; alternatively, the difference lies in the fact that in the first case, the head of the Beis Din is an authority in public office, while the tzurva derabanan is a learned person who works in the private sector.
When handling either case it is imperative that utmost care and discretion be used to ensure that all the variables above are taken into account. The utmost must be done to uphold respect for Torah scholars and Rabbanim (halachic authorities)—yet every effort must be made to prevent a chillul Hashem by providing the community with the most exemplary role models who uphold Torah values.