Moshe Katsav and the Blessing of Guilt

Moshe Katsav and the Blessing of Guilt

Why the heck is he smiling?

I was rushing to my favorite treadmill on the other side of the gym when I was suddenly stopped in my tracks, mesmerized by the smug, even celebratory smile on the face of former president/convicted rapist Moshe Katsav.

Granted, the footage I saw was taken a few hours BEFORE Katsav was convicted of rape and given a 7-year jail sentence.

AFTER the conviction, I was told, Katsav rushed off to a waiting car not looking “break-out-the-champaigne”-ish in the least.

But since I saw that infuriating smile on the face of our disgraced president, it’s been stuck in my mind with super glue. I guess that smile bothered me so especially much since it reminded me of the vigorous denials and smug smiles of Katsav’s pedophile comrades around this neighborhood.

And it reminded me how entirely, absolutely baffled I am by these people.

If I forgot to say birkat hamazon after I ate, I would feel guilty, and I would check my watch to see if I could still say that missed benching. If I realized a salesperson gave me too much change earlier that day, I would feel guilty, and I would make a note to go back to that store to return those 10 shekels. If I was mean to someone, I would feel guilty, and I would try to apologize or at least I would try to be a bit nicer the next time around.

So how is it possible that a person can purposely commit heinous atrocities against another human being, and not feel guilty?

The other day, during a Skype session with my mom, I tried to pick her brain for some insight: “Mom, what’s up with Katsav? How could he have that huge smile on his face? How could he not feel guilty for the horrible things he did to so many women?”

My mom’s been a psychiatrist for the past 30 years, and she’s seen EVERYTHING.

But my mom just shook her head, scowled and said, “Jenny, believe me, I have no idea.”

So the only conclusion I’ve come to regarding all these infuriating smug, smiling rapists and molestors is the following…

Guilt gets a bad rap.

Guilt is an emotion that we wish we didn’t have to feel.

And I agree that we don’t want to go overboard. If we are kicking ourselves so terribly hard that we push ourselves into despair, then we will probably end up doing even worse things than the misdeeds we initially felt guilty about.

But guilt also has an important function. Guilt can serve as a roaring siren to alert us to what we need to change.

Guilt is also a sign that, with all our faults, in our essence we are good people.

We care about others, and we care about doing the right thing.

Guilt is ultimately a reminder that we were created in the Divine image, which some people in this world, apparently and tragically, have lost.


  1. Katsav said today that he is a wreck but he promises not to commit suicide. Why doesn’t he and all the pedophiles, rapists and sexual abusers commit suicide and do us a favour
    After he spends time in jail he will feel the smile will be wiped off his face.

  2. love this. Just forwarded to my mom who is chronically feeling guilty. Insightful!

  3. I don’t know if Moshe Katzav was or wasn’t guilty of the kind of impropriety he was accused of. But one thing for sure, his trial was nothing short of a political lynch, with the outcome long predetermined by both the court and the media. If he is guilty, I am sure he’ll get his due. But if he is indeed an innocent man wrongly convicted, in the end he’ll be the one to have the last laugh, in this world or the next, and then why shouldn’t he smile?

  4. Chana Jenny, you are nothing if not courageously outspoken, I love it!

  5. I don’t understand one thing. How it’s possible to decide on the guiltiness if it was 11 years ago! Whether he is guilty or not, it can’t be proven with even 90% confidence, so he is not guilty. If this becomes a common practice, anybody can be sentenced to anything only because somebody doesn’t like him or somebody wants to become a president.

    • That’s why there is a law called “statute of limitations”, that limits the amount of time after which it is possible to convict someone of a certain crime. The law is 10 years for sexual crimes, and the case took SIX YEARS to be completed; A. complained “only” five years after the rapes occurred.

      Rape victims are often so traumatized and ashamed that it takes them years to find the courage to step forward. A woman who presents herself to the police after a rape must undergo a humiliating and demoralizing examination (both physical–at a hospital–and spoken, describing what happened to her in specific detail); she must face the social and emotional implications of speaking out against her perpetrator (in this case a public figure) and of being known as a “rape victim”; she must deal with the financial, physical and emotional costs of being involved in a court case that last for years. There is very little incentive for doing something like this just because “she didn’t like him”.

      No crime can be proven with even 90% confidence. Especially in the case of rape, the entire case usually rests on the testimonies of two people alone, who may have very different perspectives on what happened and remember very different details, making it extremely difficult to tell what really happened.

      Even if it couldn’t be proven at all, that doesn’t make him “not guilty”. Whether he is guilty or not is not determined by the legal reality; if it were, by definition he is guilty. Even if the law could not find him guilty because of the statute of limitations, it could not erase the fact that he raped a woman and sexually harassed others.

  6. Shimon Peres wanted to be Prime Minister a few years ago. Suddenly, the Prime Minister was assassinated.

    A few years ago Shimon Peres wanted to be President of Israel. Suddenly, Moshe Katsav, the President of Israel, was accused of rape.

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