Reb on the Web


“Kol Yisrael Areevin Zeh Bazeh – all of Israel is connected, one to the other.”  It’s a famous teaching in our tradition.  But like many famous teachings in our tradition, we have a tendency to dismiss the words as “trite” or “fluffy.”  But the idea that what we do impacts others is anything but “trite” or “fluffy.”  Annie Dookhan is a 37 year old chemist who works for a Massachusetts crime lab.  Based on her lab work, defendants are often found guilty or not guilty.  Her work is sometimes the difference between a person waking up in the comfort of his own bed, or in the foreboding space of a dark jail cell.  Dookhan surely has made a difference in people’s lives.            


Two months ago Dookhan was sentenced to 3-5 years in prison after admitting to faking forensic tests that put hundreds of people behind bars.  “How did she do it?” It’s called “dry labbing.”  Dookhan would be given a patch of samples to test, but she would only test a fraction of those samples and then list all the samples as positive for illegal drugs!  This leads to the big question – “Why would she do it?”  Why would she do something that would destroy people’s lives – people she never even knew?  Her answer was depressing, but not surprising.  She wanted to be a “star” in her field.  She wanted to show her bosses that she was incredibly productive and had a sterling reputation for delivering a conviction.            


It turns out that between 20013 and 2012 Dookhan’s lab work was a factor in more than 300 drug convictions.  It’s difficult to imagine what happens to a person’s name and reputation and life when he is thrown into the clinker.  You can get out of jail and get back your freedom, but it’s not as easy to get back your name.  Dookhan, in an attempt to climb the ladder of her career, used many, many people as a footstool.  I guess you can say that she “made a difference.”          


Each of us really does make a difference in the lives of others.  It’s just that sometimes we make a difference in ways that God never intended us to make.          

“Kol Yisrael Areevin Zeh Bazeh” – Each of us is connected, one to the other.  Are those words “trite?”  I think they are true. Just ask all the people who crossed paths with a certain chemist from Massachusetts.