Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rav Landesman and Rav Malinowitz on the Aguna Crisis

EDITOR'S NOTE: Rabbi Leib Landesman is the rosh beit din of the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din, in Monsey, NY. His beit din has presided over cases involving some of the most complicated halachic issues, specially in the field of matrimonial law. Rabbi Landesman has been invovled with thousands of divorce cases, and has personally administertd approximately 500 gittin, In an interview with the Jewish Homemaker's managing editor, Avraham, M. Goldstein. Rabbi Landesman responded to a variety of points raised by the directors of Agunah. Inc. in their article.[October 1992]

Agunah Inc's primary contention is that a "crisis" exists today regarding matter of Jewish divorce. Rabbi Landesman disputed this claim. He challenged the statistic printed by the Jerusalem Report that there are 10,000 agunot in Israel, and the extrapolation from that figure by Agunah, Inc. to the effect that there are thousands in the U.S as well. [The Jerusalem Report's figure comes from a film by the Israel Women's Network-Ed.]

Rabbi Landesman questioned the premise that there are more agunot today than say  twenty years ago. He attributed this perception to "individuals and organizations that have made all this into an issue, so there's more  exposure. It doesn't necessarily mean there are more cases now."

A critical area at issue, he noted, is how to define an agunah "It's a colloquial phrase," Rabbi Landesman said, "that's used  today for someone who wants a get but doesn't have a get.But it's  used in very broad terms. It's used to describe someone who has followed the proper procedures and after a certain amount of time still doesn't have a get. But it's used as well for someone who hasn't done things right. It also is used for someone who wants a get on demand and it's not forthcoming instantly. She decided last wee: that she wants a get, and she doesn't have it within a day or a week."

   Pressed regarding the figure given by the Jerusalem Report, Rabbi Landesman pointed out that there is a great difference between the Israeli system and ours. In Israel, batei din have jurisdiction over matrimonial matters. If the problem between the couple is limited to financial support, the batei din are on an equal footing with the secular court system. If a get is involved, then the beit din has sole jurisdiction over all matters, however ancillary, which are related to the get, including but not limited to custody, child support, and property. 

   He continued that, just as with the secular courts in the U.S., the beit din system in Israel suffers from overload, which has created a backlog. A contested divorce may take from two to five years. Rabbi Landesman added that lawyers and to'anim (client representatives before a beit din) often have no desire to expedite their cases, since the more time is spent, the greater is their fee. 

   Rabbi Landesman stated that, if there is any truth to the 10,000 figure, it refers to all cases currently within the beit din system, regardless of their status, and that it is improper to categorize a woman whose case is going through the process as an "agunah. 

   He added: "In almost every case I've known about, when there are major issues at stake, where they're really fighting, it takes a few years until it's resolved· But once everything is resolved, the issue of the get is resolved too. The get is one of twenty issues that have to be resolved." 

Rabbi Landesman said that he would be very surprised if one could compile a list of 50 women in the U.S. at any given time who have followed the proper procedures and not received a get.

According to the rabbi, a critical error is the failure to follow these procedure at the outset. It often takes a long time until the wife takes her estranged partner to belt din. While she may consider herself an agunoh even before instituting a get proceeding, he believes this is an inaccurate appraisal.

As an example, he says that he once remarked to an agun (a man whose wife refused to accept a get), ''Whose fault was it that your problems of eight years have first been brought to the beit din's attention twenty minutes ago?"

  Rabbi Landesman emphasized that he holds in great esteem organizations which exist for the purpose of helping agunot. "Even if they help one person who is truly in need, it is worth all their efforts,"he noted. Moreover, "The fact that these organizations exist does at times speed things up. For example, . instead of taking a year or two until the recalcitrant spouse realizes it's over, it may speed things up by a few months." He said that the number of agunah cases may have decreased in  recent years because of the efforts of groups such as Agunah, Inc.

Rabbi Landesman took strong exception to the allegation that batei din are unfair to women. He emphasized that, at least in his own beit din, both parties are treated equally. He rejected the idea that the woman is made to reel uncomfortable or cannot compete on an equal footing in the halachic arena, and stated that a female to to'en would be welcomed at the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din. (There are, to his knowledge, no female to'anim in the U.S. His beit din generally disdains to'anim, believing they do little to advance the case of the party they are representing, and that they will often resort to impressive-sounding but halachically vacuous arguments in order to justify their fee.)

  Rabbi Landesman also took strong issue with Agunah, Inc.'s insinuations that the secular courts are fairer than batei din. He said: "The article gives a very rosy picture of the court system and a very shoddy picture of the beit din system. This is very misleading. People think the court system is the epitome of righteousness, but being privy to many confidential matters, I can clearly state that I know more than one judge who belongs in jail. And I know of cases which have been 'fixed' between the judge and one of the lawyers."

He did acknowledge that in many batei din -although not in the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din - there is a lack of decorum, which may lead to the perception that batei din are not as meticulous as the secular courts. Yet this a "a Problem of color, not of substance," he declared, saying that batei din are much more scrupulous than secular judges, and that 'judges and lawyers are much more corrupt than any beit din or dayan can be subjectively perceived to be, even in the worst possible case." The rabbi agreed with Agunah, Inc. that different batei din have different halachic standards. He stressed that it is up to the litigants to do their homework before selecting a particular beit din.

Rabbi Landesman pointed out that American batei din do not have the power to force compliance with their decisions. Therefore, what Agunah, Inc. sees as beit din problems are almost all implementation problems. For example he insisted that the fact that it is the husband who has to give the get does not put the wife at a disadvantage as far as the psak is concerned. He declared that a beit din decides its cases based solely on halachic criteria. It is in cases of noncompliance (which, he says, when taking all differences, not just the get, into account, happens about equally between husbands and wives) where implementation of the psak becomes difficult. He said that almost all recalcitrants eventually comply, and that in many cases the husband's tactic is merely to wait the wife out, hoping she will compromise on some of the areas where the psak was favorable to her.

While this is certainly an example of the get being used as a weapon, Rabbi Landesman explained that, if a woman is patient and is unwilling to be defeated by the husband's tactic, the entire psak will eventually be implemented in almost every case.

Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz. who sits on the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din, opined that, if all methods short of physical coercion were properly applied. any husband in his right mind would give a get. These methods include ostracism from the community and using all legal devices available to make the husband support his estranged wife financially. as he must do according to halacha. According to Rabbi Malinowitz. the financial strain alone is usually enough to bring about compliance.

Commenting on Agunah. lnc.'s assertion that a man has the option of a heter me'ah rabbanim, Rabbi Landesman said that such a heter is rarely issued. Therefore. the husband is just as stuck by the lack of a get as the wife The exception to this is, he said, where the parties are not strict about religious observance. Since the woman's sin would be much greater than the man's, the lack of a get may not prevent the husband from finding an outlet for his desires. This, however, is a commentary not on Jewish law. but on the lack of observance in some circles.

Rabbi Landesman noted that he knew of one case where the husband had to pay over a million dollars to convince his wife to accept a get. No heter me'ah rabbanim was granted him.

 Rabbi Landesman said that a matter often glossed over is the difficult some husbands find in exercising the visitation rights which have been accorded them. He said, "I would be inclined to think that there are as many problems with fathers' visitation rights as there are with gittin for women." He cited cases where ex-husbands have rarely or never seen their offspring after having given a get, including a case where a man spent $32,000 in court in an unsuccessful attempt to have his rights enforced. Asked what can be done, he replied, "I don't know; I am baffled. Most people don't have the thousands of dollars it costs to go to court, or they don't have the mental endurance needed."

Are Orthodox divorces rising in number? And what can be done to avoid divorce?

Rabbi Landesman disputed recently published statistics that say divorce in the Orthodox community is rising. He said that. at least in proportional terms, the incidence of divorce has declined over the last two decades.

   In his opinion, the primary reason for this trend is that "people now realize divorced life is not all that rosy, especially for the woman. The second tine around, it's basically a man's market. Women have friends who are divorced. They speak with them and see that it's difficult financially and in other respects." According to the rabbi, people today "don't rush for a get like they used to," a phenomenon he applauds. He said: "If there is an unbearable situation involving health, religion. or physical abuse, where objectively one just cannot remain in the marriage. divorce is an alternative. But if there's a personality clash, including disliking one's character or just not liking the person, these are subjective tastes. and they are things one can learn to change ...

   Rabbi Landesman said that women who come to him seeking a divorce are encouraged to first speak with divorcees and remarrieds so that they will have a better understanding of divorced life. He asserted that women have to decide whether it may be better to remain in a non-ideal marriage. and that if there are children, the nachas derived from them often makes the marriage worth saving.

   Rabbi Landesman had other suggestions for reducing divorce among Orthodox Jews. He said that, in over half of divorce cases involving Modern Orthodox couples with which he has been involved, the parents of the woman were opposed to the match in the first place. He told one such wife:

"When you go to buy a fur coat, you first ask the opinion of someone else. But with something as important as marriage. you have the attitude that you don't need to inquire."

   The rabbi emphasized that potential mates frequently do not understand the commitment involved in a marriage. Were they to recognize that marriage is not a game," they would be more careful when selecting a partner.  He said that this deficiency can be found in all kinds of Orthodox shidduchim

Furthermore he noted that the Steipler Rav, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky zt"l voiced concern for the fact that yeshiva. students often have nor learned how to interact with others. Rabbi Landesman said that early problems in a marriage often occur because the husband needs time to learn how to act towards his wife - a difficulty that can be ironed out with time. patience. and hard work.

A further step toward reducing divorce, he said , would be if people realized that the beit din system can be used to resolve problems short of divorce.  The husband especially has certain obligations to his wife. and she can take him to beit din if he is not meeting those obligations. Were a small issue nipped in the bud, it might not become a larger one. leading to a divorce which, the Talmud says. the altar sheds tears.

The Ground Rules
When is a get called for? Is one entitled to a get upon demand? These and related questions were put to Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz. who sits on the Kollel Horabonim beit din with Rabbi Landesman. The following is a summary of his response.

According to the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), even when a get is desirable, there are varying ways in which the beit din's decision may be expressed. The kind of psak which will be issued depends upon the circumstances of each particular case.

At one extreme, the beit din will direct that there must be a get, and that the husband may be coerced, even physically. to divorce his wife. Grounds for this kind of psak may include physical abuse, financial non-support by the husband, and refusal to have marital relations.

At the other extreme, the beit din may advise the parties that a get is desirable, but will not declare that the husband is obligated to grant the get or that the wife is obligated to accept it.

There are varying degrees which lie between these extremes. A common on is a psak which obligates the husband to give a get and permits all forms of pressure, short of acts which would constitute coercion, for the purpose from implementing the psak. The types of pressure include total ostracism from the community and forcing the husband to financially support his estranged  wife.

    Grounds for this sort of psak are looser than for a decision which permits coercion. Examples are a lesser degree of financial non-support by the husband or a lesser degree of the wife being unable  to live with him.

Generally, if the beit din considers a marriage "dead", as determined through the rules set out by the Shulchan Aruch. a psak will be issued obligating the husband to give his wife a get and obligating her to accept it.

 Rabbi Malinowitz says he is convinced that in "99 out of 100 cases" proper implementation of steps such as ostracism and forcing the husband support his wife would result in a get. He says that "anyone in his right mind would give a get rather than paying thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to a woman with whom he is not living. Rabbi Malinowitz feels that the problem lies in the unwillingness of Jewish society to totally ostracize the recalcitrant husbands. and the difficulty of implementing a psak of financial support in a society where church and state are separate.

Rabbi Malinowitz sums up: "Not always when a woman decides she doesn't want to live with this man or vice versa is the marriage dead. The Torah views marriage as an obligation between two parties, and it can't be revoked just because one party wants out: there have to be certain safeguards.

"The Shulchan Aruch decides what a dead marriage is. If a marriage is practically dead from an objective viewpoint and can be seen by the beit din as being objectively dead, the halacha calls for a psak of obligation, with or without various types of pressure short of actual coercion." [...]

Dr. Marc Shapiro: The Aguna Problem part 2 Is the husband always obligated to give a Get?

Seforim Blog  [...]  Let me make one final point. In matters of divorce my feeling is that when either husband or wife wants a get, and it is obvious that there is no future in the marriage, then neither party should prevent the divorce from taking place. There shouldn’t be any reason to go to a beit din to force a divorce. Adults should be able to see that the marriage isn’t working out and come to a conclusion that it is time to end it. Any husband who chooses to withhold a get when he knows that the marriage is over is acting in a very cruel way, and the full weight of halakhically acceptable communal pressure should be brought on him. Nothing should scandalize us more than a so-called religious person keeping his wife captive as a means of revenge. I would even suggest reading the names of some agunot during the Shabbat prayers, in order to sensitize people to the issue.
I know that many people will regard what I have just written as obvious. What I will now say might anger some, but I think that it too should be obvious. I have often heard it said that a get should never be withheld, and that the get should be given immediately. For example, on ORA’s website it states: “[I]t is never acceptable to refuse to issue a get once the marriage is irreconcilable.” On JOFA’s website it states: “As soon as it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation, the Get should be written and delivered to the woman so that it cannot be used as a bargaining tool in financial or custody negotiations.” 

While in general both these statements are correct, it is not correct that this is always the case. For instance, let’s say the wife runs away to Europe with the kids. Does anyone seriously think that the husband is still obligated to give her a get? In such a circumstance it is entirely appropriate for the husband to insist that she come back to the United States and settle all custody issues before a get is issued. Or let’s say a husband and wife separated, and the wife refuses to let the husband see his children. It could be many months before the secular court rules on the matter of visitation. Why would anyone think that in the meantime the husband is obligated to give his wife a get if she refuses to allow him to see his children? I don’t think that there is any reputable beit din in the world that would side with the woman in these two cases. These are obviously extreme examples, and have nothing to do with the typical agunah case we hear about. Yet we should be aware that there are nuances that sometimes come into play, and every case must be investigated by a reputable beit din before judgments are made.[...]

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter has been rescinded!

The heter has no halachic significance at this point.  Rav Greenblatt does not create reality by his psak. If he paskened that the dead were alive or that we were all healthy wealthy and wise  - it would have the same significance. His psak is universally declared to have been a mistake. Whether Rav Greenblatt or Rav Kaminetsky acknowledges this reality is a psychological issue rather than a halachic issue. Tamar is committing adultery and any children she has from this relationship are mamzerim. 

Each day that goes by without the acknowledgement by Rav Greenblatt and Rav Kaminetsky that the heter is a mistake - causes additional destruction to their well earned reputations and to the emunas chachomim of their followers. The fact that the emperor mistakenly believes he has clothes - doesn't make it so and makes him the subject of ridicule and contempt.

 - 3 : to make void (as an act) by action of the enacting authority or a superior authority :

Torah, Psychiatry and Psychology, and Heterim. (part 1)

Guest post by Jonathan Fishman

Some modern Jews, seek loopholes within what they perceive as the extensive restrictions of Halachah, and psychiatrists and psychologists provide strategies and mechanisms for loopholes - heterim. Because of the credibility and prestige of these professionals as well as the authoritative status of their assertions and judgments and the acceptance of the concept of "mental illness" some Jews allow these assertions to affect the Halachah.

On 24 Sept. 2015 In Memphis Tennessee at an Orthodox shul an eishet ish - married woman - married a second husband without a Get - based on the hearsay report of an anonymous psychiatrist?!

We need to ask;

Does a psychiatrist possess the power to influence the process whereby a married woman without a Get may marry another man because the first marriage should allegedly be annulled on psychological grounds?

Right now, because of this Memphis Tennessee case we have a crisis of credibility and confidence in authority regarding marriage, Gittin - divorce and adultery Halachah.

Psychology appears to have changed the Halachos of adultery and divorce. It seems that a Get is no longer necessary and all we need is a psychiatrist to find some or other 'personality disorder' to render the marriage a mekach taut.

There is something disturbing happening at the core of the integrity of Judaism! Is this going to chas v' shalom set a precedent?

Daas Torah wrote about this heter, they enabled "any woman to invalidate her marriage with a psychologist's report. Even if the therapist never talked to the husband and even if he wrote the report based entirely on the nasty things an estranged wife might say about her husband without hearing the other side at all- and even if he simply made up the report out of his own imagination - the heter says the marriage is invalid"

When the psychiatrist declared that the first husband was mentally insane and unable to be a husband, he destroyed his name and future to remarry – Daas Torah (In actual fact the husband is a competent, well functioning, shomer Mitzvot, nice guy working as an attorney in the US Congress!)

It is not only, in the area of married women remarrying without a Get, that therapists produce a heter, but in many other areas of Halacha!

We need to ask the general question: Does hiring therapists or psychiatrists to declare somebody with a mental illness and thus claim heterim - loopholes permitting the previously forbidden - have a regular place in the Torah?

To digress from heterim for a moment, let's look at a related illustrative example. Recently articles appeared just before the Iowa Republican caucus asserting that US presidential candidate Donald Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder!

In fact, there is a tradition of invalidating public figures by means of denigrating labels. The following is only an example;
30 Jan 2016

"Talk radio host Glenn Beck, who is in Iowa with his family and staff campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, took to his Facebook page earlier this week to blast GOP front-runner Donald Trump, calling the New York builder “a pathological narcissistic sociopath” who is “trying to put Megyn Kelly… in his dungeon.”

In a Facebook post this week, Beck wrote:

I have had more than one medical professional warn me that Donald Trump is a pathological narcissistic sociopath.

I do not say that lightly nor to smear him.

Look the terms up and talk to psychiatric professionals.

A few have already written about this and spoken out.

While, I want to be clear as do they, no one can officially diagnose this without private sessions, I have had more than one professional have laugh at me when I suggested in Trumps defense that maybe he “wasn’t a sociopath”."

This is not a "medical diagnosis" from caring "therapists" who wish to "heal the sick" but a derogatory epithet i.e. slander, motsi shem ra, renamed as "medical diagnosis". It happens not only to recalcitrant husbands and presidential candidates, but the man in the street. It is an underhand way of dealing with our fellow Yidden whom we dislike! But this is what "therapists" were used for in the Memphis Tennessee 2nd marriage without a Get.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: Reports of major development



The Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter - A member of the Philadelphia community respectfully requests an explanation

Guest post by a member of the Philadelphia community. She has recently been posting here under the name of Phillywoman. I asked her to write a post about  about how the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter has impacted her and her community. She is a product of the Beis Yaakov system and is married to a talmid chachom.

I will open up by saying that I have a tremendous love and admiration for both the Epstein and Kamanetzkys families. Both in different ways have helped me through difficult periods of my life, and helped shape me into a person I am proud of. And it is precisely because of my respect for the two prominent families of my community, that I have taken the time to compose this.

Like most of my peers I initially sided with "my family." I sided with the Epstein because they are an outstanding and prominent family in our city. They were the pioneers, that helped this little town grow into a makom Torah. Like the people around me I never once questioned their desire to do the right thing. And even as I write this, I still don't. I know they are good people who desire to do the right thing.

That preface brings me to my most crucial and main concern:

The poskim of our town.

As I have previously stated, I have a tremendous respect for the Kamanetzkys.

Like most people here, I was happy to hear he was involved in the situation. I trusted him. Most of the world trusted him.

I, like everyone around me supported the "free Tamar" propaganda. I rejoiced when heard she "was freed."

I had unadulterated faith and trust in my leaders.

When the recent tension and controversy surrounding the heter broke out, I defended my leaders like all those around me.

When I heard about this blog, "run by some guy who was out to make the Epsteins' life miserable, and with a personal vendetta against Rav Kamanetzky," I came here just to snoop. Maybe even troll a little. I'm not too entirely sure.

But it's irrelevant now, since what I saw here shocked me. I was shaken out of my slumber. I saw that there was so much more to this picture. For the first time, I realized what "the other side" and hetter issues were all about.

That's when my emunas chachamim was fractured.

But it is the continuous silence from those I trusted that has shattered my world.

The world in which my leaders are perfect and do not error.

I looked up to the Kamanetzkys so much - that I have set them on a pedestal. I expect a Rav to be a person who takes responsibility, has credibility and makes his public wrongs right...

It is human to be misinformed, mistaken, and make bad decisions. I understand that my leaders are flesh and blood like me, and I know that they are not immune to mistakes.

What bothers me most is their silence. The lack of backing, the lack of clarity, and lack of answers.

Their silence fills me with a sense of betrayal, despondence, disappointment, frustration, and most of all hopelessness.

These are not easy emotions to battle. It forces one to introspect and question everything around them.

No wonder people rather blast out those who question their leaders. Now, I understand why people are so quick to point fingers at "the other side."

It is so much easier to stay ignorant then to face the reality that our leaders have errored. Our beloved leaders have made the assur mutar. G-d's holy Torah has been perverted by its entrusted keepers.

Facts have been obscured by a misplaced sense of hakares hatov, perhaps by what some may even call shochad.

It pains me greatly to write this, but I know that silence is even worse.

They say the greatness of the leaders mirrors the generation. What have we as a nation come to?

How much longer will we turn away and stay silent?

I am battling conflicting emotions and have no one to turn to, since everyone is too afraid to acknowledge my questions.

I am immediately deemed wrong for questioning, labeled ignorant, and told I am incapable of understanding.

"This is for the rabbis" they say. "Stay out of it. We don't know enough"

And this is where I'm stuck. What was my Torah education worth, if not to discern between right and wrong? The halacha, Navi, Chumash, parsha, and mussar classes were for what then?

We were taught to think, question, and sharpen our minds. We are not blind sheep, we were taught. We have basic principles and fundamentals that guide us. We were told that asking questions is encouraged as long as we are interested in seeking the truth.

So what changed now?

Why the lack answers? Why am I suddenly unable to understand?

This matter is no longer private.

This matter has become public from the day the public donated money for the buses to traveled to MD to protest.

And now, when the rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael have stood up against my leaders, I want answers. I want to see my rabbis defend themselves.

Yes, I admit I want my community to give answers because I want them to be correct. I'd be lying if I said anything else.

But my Rabbis are silent. Their actions (or lack thereof) is what's driving me away.

I can't dispute black and white with the possibilities of maybes.

I await the day my leaders will step up to the plate.

I await the day when truth will prevail.

I await the day mishpat will no longer be perverted.

May we all merit to see the geula bimhaira biyameinu.

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky: If Rabbonim say not to protest sin

אמת ליעקב (מלכים א' כב:מז). ויתר הקדש אשר נשאר בימי אסא אביו בער מן הארץ

עי' רש"י שהיו נוהגין ניאוף בפרהסיא, וכן פירש הרד"ק וכן בת"י. לכ' הדבר נפליא על התנהגות כזאת, אולם ראה בעקידת-יצחק שער כ', שכתב וז"ל: וכמה פעמים נתחבטתי על זה על אודות הנשים הקדשות שהיה אסורן רופף ביד שופטין ישראל אשר בדורנו ולא עוד אלא שכבר יאותו בקצת הקהלות ליתן להם חנינה ביניהם. גם יש שמספיקין להם פרס מהקהל כי אמרו כיון שמצילות את הרווקים או הסכלים מחטא איסור אשת איש החמור, או מסכנת הגויות, מוטב שיעבור על לאו זה משיבאו לידי אסור סקילה, או סכנת שריפה. ואני דנתי על זה פעמים רבות לפניהם ולפני גדוליהם .הסברתי להם שהחטא הגדול אשר יעבור עליו איש איש מבית ישראל בסתר ושלא לדעת הרבים וברשות ב"ד • חטאת יחיד הוא, והוא שבעונו ימות ע"י ב"ד של מעלה או מטה; וכל ישראל נקיים כמו שהיה עון פילגש בגבעה אם היו ב"ד שלהם מוסרין האנשים הרשעים ההם לבדם ביד ישראל. אמנם החטא הקטן כשיסכימו עליו דעת הרבים והדת נתנה בבתי דיניהם שלא למחות בו, הנה הוא זמה ועון פלילי וחטאת הקהל כלו ולא ניתן למחילה, אם לא בפורענות הקהל כמו שהיה בבני בנימן על השתתפם בעון, והוא היה עון סדום כמו שביארנו וכו', עכ"ל, עיי"ש ובשער צ"ז (והובאו דבריו בהק' לש"ש אות ת'). הרי שיתכן מצב שיתירו זנות בפרהסיא עם כל מיני טצדקי. ומסתמא נלחם יהושפט נגד תופעה זו שלא תהיה פרהסיא בהסכירו להם את גודל החטא כמו בעל העקידה.

Mishpatim 76 – Questioning Authority [ Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter] by Allan Katz

Guest Post by Allan Katz

A teacher walked around a school wearing a T-shirt with ' Question Authority ' written on it. A kid approached the teacher and asked ' Who is Authority '. It is difficult to imagine a teacher wearing such a shirt in a religious school, but it is the same message we see in the Talmud, Shevuot 31. In court, a student thinks that a poor person is in the right and innocent and the rich person is liable and in the wrong, but his Rabbi, the judge holds differently. He is told to voice his disagreement with the judge, and not remain silent. When, according to his opinion he thinks that his Rabbi, the judge is making a mistake he should not wait but intervene and express his opinion and of course in a respectable way. He does not have to be concerned about his Rabbi's possible loss of esteem and respect and he should not fear any reprisals or retaliation by the rich man. He should speak out for the sake of coming to the truth and distancing himself from dishonesty. The Talmud here is not speaking about a disagreement in learning, but in actual p'sak, how a case in a beit din, a law court should be judged. And it obvious that the student should question his rabbi, the authority figure when it comes socio-moral learning, as to how the rabbi conducts himself in the world. This is especially true where corruption and a lack of honesty is involved.

The Talmud learns this from the verse - מדבר שקר תרחק - Distance yourself from dishonesty and untruths. A person has to take steps to live his life in a way that he is not forced to lie or be dishonest. Being financially independent goes a long way in helping a person's be honest and have integrity. In this area religious institutions are challenged and pressure can be brought that can make one compromise one's integrity and adhering to God's will. When one is involved in mitzvoth, good deeds, expressing gratitude , providing a livelihood for teachers and support for students learning in a Yeshiva , people can feel a sense of self- righteousness – נגיעה הצדקות and justify ' cutting corners' and permitting one to be dishonest for the sake of a greater cause. And when the cause involves a woman who is ' perceived as an agunah', a woman who is ' chained' because he husband refuses to free her by giving her a divorce- get, and the husband is being called an evil person, a rasha, the eyes of people are totally blinded. They then believe and act in a way that' the means justify the end. '

In fact, after the Torah encourages one to distance oneself from dishonesty, it warns people not to take bribes. The Alter from Slabodka explains that we might expect people of lesser greatness to take bribes and certainly justify it for the sake of a greater cause, but the great people, ' gedolim', would never do such a thing. So when the Torah talks about bribery and great people --do not take a bribe, because bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and corrupts the words of the righteous - it is not about money. The Alter from Slabodka explains that the word for a bribe – sho' chad implies that because of a favor being done to them or for some other reason, there is an oneness, a total identification with that person. This oneness and identification prevents a person from seeing the other in a bad light and being the guilty partner. So to identify with a woman who is having problems getting a get- a religious divorce is Ok , but this identification blinds one, and one cannot act as a judge in the dispute between the husband and wife. Each case is different, sometimes the woman is getting the worst end of the deal and it can even be a majority of cases, but sometimes the man is the more innocent party. And of course a final decision has to take into account the children and how the couple will co-parent after the divorce, so identification with either party is problematic.

Questioning and challenging authority is encouraged because it is for the sake of truth and establishing God's authority in the world and personal growth in Torah. And this process means that people have to see ' mistakes as our friends ' in the knowledge that אין אדם עומד על דברי תורה אא"כ נכשל בהם - one only really understands the words of the Torah until one stumbles, makes a mistake in them. Mistakes are also not the problem, because the focus is on Teshuva, repenting and improving, not the falling, but getting up. People who are constantly involved in Teshuva are ready to admit mistakes and see them as a learning opportunity. In fact, it is acknowledged that great leaders are the ones who have to courage to expose their vulnerability and admit their mistakes or lack of knowledge or competence in certain areas. The lesson - being willing and have the courage to expose one's vulnerability is learned from Yehuda and King David. Exposing vulnerability promotes connection and trust, the cornerstones of leadership. Great leaders welcome those who question their authority, because as the sages tell us – we learn a lot from our teachers, but the most from our students and this is not only in the intellectual and academic area but also in the area of socio-moral learning.

Encouraging students to be more challenging also fosters connection and more respect between teachers and their students.We want students to question not only out of a desire to find out what is true but to care and do what is right. They should acquire the insight needed to recognize injustices and the courage needed to oppose them and be willing to take a stand.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The dangers of the Internet: 13 year old killed as a result of online chat

Washington Post    There are few holes deeper than those in the heart of a 13-year-old girl.

For many, it is an age of painful yearning, of a life lived in imaginary cloudworlds, away from acne and algebra and all that awkwardness.

It used to be 13-year-olds would cry into their pillows. Or write in rainbow-covered journals, with rainbow pens. Their pain was private. Still, most endured, and survived.

But Nicole Madison Lovell found something we all wanted when we were 13: an audience.

There are people out there who listen to sad, lonely girls, tell them they are beautiful and smart. They were right there — in Nicole’s bedroom.

She asked them if she was cute. She flirted with them. She showed them coquettish pictures of herself. She was a social media-savvy tween when she told them all about her first kiss. Her imaginary cloudworld wasn’t private. On Facebook, Instagram, Kik, in chats and groups, she wasn’t the kid with the liver transplant scars, or the baby fat girl bullied in her seventh grade classes. She was a flirting, dating teen with lip gloss and great lines.

And Nicole did not survive.[...]

But here’s what we do know for sure: Nicole led an active, imaginary life online, meeting people on Kik, a messaging app that has been the bane of law enforcement officials these past couple years. [...]

“Kik became the latest thing,” Bacon said. “It’s attractive to predatators because of its anonymity. You can make a Kik account and you can make yourself out to be anyone you want to be.”[...]

Bacon said he tells parents to never let their kids have in-depth, online conversations with strangers. If your kid has crossed the line, ask your phone carrier to have your kid’s phone mirrored to your phone.

“Every text, every picture they send, mom and dad can see on their device,” he said.

My kids hate it when I do that. Too bad.[...]

Monday, February 1, 2016

Rav Gestetner criticizes ORA



Most of us by now have realized that Tamar Friedman Epstein’s remarriage to Adam Fleischer is a clear violation of the Torah and should she bear any children with him, they will be branded as mamzerim. We have witnessed dozens of great Rabbis decry the Kamenetsky Greenblatt Heter to remarry.  The question is : What caused Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky to allow for such a clear breach of the Torah? The answer in my opinion is that we have allowed for so many years the laws of Gittin to be twisted to conform to the modern feminist  movement’s wishes, which has led us in a path of laxity in the stringencies of Hilchos Gittin.  We have recently seen countless rabbis involved in  practicing “forced Gittin” against halocho, being exposed for their bad deeds. But the list of such rabbis is much bigger. Most rabbis involved in forced gittin aren’t kidnappers or torturers, but their methodologies produce the same mamzerim as Tamar Epstein would. Is it a mere coincidence that so many rabbis involve in this anti- Torah  scheme meet their fate in the same year?  

 One such entity that is responsible for much strife and enmity in Divorce matters is ORA (organization for the resolution of Agunot ) led by R. Jeremy Stern. He runs an organization well-funded by the feminist  movement , to force Gittin on all men. Make no mistake, according to ORA, you have no halachic justification to argue your case on why your wife hasn’t received her Get, but rather they will destroy your reputation, financial means , and distance you from your children all in the name of the GET. This organization has gained momentum in the last 20 years under the false pretense of helping victimized women whose husbands refuse to give them a GET. Although there exist cases of true Agunot, many others are all “self created Agunot” to help ORA bolster the need to raise funds for their “ overinflated number of Agunot”.

 These “fake Agunot” are in reality mentored and guided by ORA to withhold negotiations with their husbands or only negotiate terms that are 100% favorable to them, thereby causing no movement in negotiating an end, and thereby extending the “fake aguna status to 10+ years in many cases. They can then claim to the public that they have an “Aguna Crisis” and raise more money for their cause. Additionally ORA has over the years bullied rabbis who don’t follow along with them in their scheme. Their greatest weapon has been public rallies and other intimidation tactics. 

Let’s take for example the Aharon Friedman and Meir Kin cases. These men have gone to Bais Din from the beginning. They both had followed halachic protocol and showed a willingness to give their wife’s Gittin. In fact Meir Kin had deposited a Get over 8 years ago. However as the following letter from Bais Din Shaar Hamishpot indicates, Lonna Kin stated to Rabbi Gestetner that ORA is unwilling to remove all their hateful propaganda against Meir. The Bais Din has informed her and several others that once the internet/ newspaper bashing is removed, then negotiations for the release of the Get can begin, as otherwise the GET will be not kosher due to coercive tactics employed.  Rabbi Gestetner informed Lonna that indeed ORA is the cause of her not receiving a GET. The question is why after 10 years of separation and  Meir remarrying with a Heter of  100 Rabbonim, that ORA is refusing to help out Lonna in receiving her GET? 

Then  you have Aharon Friedman offering a GET, but just requests that Tamar move back to his vicinity to visit with his daughter, but once again no negotiated end? ORA was once again also involved in the Friedman-Epstein divorce.  How ludicrous is this whole fiasco, where all that had to be done was to negotiate a settlement? But why is Tamar Epstein and Lonna Kin and many others going along with ORA after years with no GET?  Therefore , we all must wake up and realize that ORA is the culprit for many of these unsettled cases. They will continue to obstruct meaningful negotiations if it opposes their feminist agenda or if it diminishes their "Aguna numbers", and until we stop our support of ORA and distance ourselves from them, we will see a continued amount of unsettled divorce cases in which many of these husbands are actually wishing to give their wives a GET, but are waiting for a negotiated fair settlement so they too can live life after the divorce.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Rav Avraham Chaim Sherman :Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter

הובאו לפני דבריהם של הרבנים הגאונים דייני בית הדין קבוע דבאלטימור שליט"א, ראש ישיבת נר ישראל הרב אהרן פלדמן שליט"א, ראב"ד דמאנסי כבוד הרב שמואל יהודה לייב לאנדסמאן שליט"א אודות המעשה הנורא של התרת אשת איש לעלמא בלא גט רח"ל דבר שפוגע בקדושת הנישואין וקדושת עם ישראל.
מאחר והתרת אשת איש לעלמא בלא גט לא נעשתה ע"י בי"ד חשוב ובלא הסכמתם של גדולי תורה ופסיקה והושתתה על הפקעת קידושין בלא גט מכח מקח טעות.
חובה להקים בי"ד חשוב של דיינים מומחים, ובדחיפות שיזמינו את האיש והאשה ????? (אולי וזאת?) ע"מ לאפרושי מאיסורים חמורים, ושמירה על קדושת הנשואין וקדושת עם ישראל.
באתי על החתום להיות שותף לפסיקתם ומחאתם של גדולי התורה והפסיקה, <חתימה>