Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jew on death row sues to keep kosher after eating chicken dinner (not certified kosher)

William Harry Meece has been removed from the kosher meals program after eating an unlabeled meal of rotisserie chicken; according to Meece and a Reform rabbi, this was not a violation of dietary laws.

 A Jewish inmate on Kentucky's death row is suing in federal court, saying he was unfairly removed from a kosher meals program for eating an unlabeled meal of rotisserie chicken.

The Courier-Journal reports that William Harry Meece's chicken dinner violated a rule requiring people getting special meals to strictly adhere to their religious diets. That's because Kosher meals cost 72 percent more to prepare.

The Jewish Prisoner Services International ministry estimates that at least 20,000 inmates nationwide falsely identify as Jewish to get these meals. [...]

But Meece says he was born Jewish, and was a dues-paying member of a Reformed Jewish synagogue in Lexington. His lawsuit says that while Orthodox Jews are limited to food stamped "kosher," Reformed Jews can merely avoid pork and shellfish and maintain other dietary restrictions.

The Courier-Journal reports that Senior Rabbi David Ariel-Joel of one of Louisville's Reform synagogues, who holds a master's degree in Jewish Philosophy from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, agrees with Meece and is supporting him in struggle with the prison authorities.[...]

A New Depression Treatment (Behavior Activation B.A.) Shows Promise

A new method known as behavioral activation (BA) is effective and can be cheaper than cognitive behavioral therapy

One of the worst things about clinical depression is its cruel circularity. Feeling lousy smothers motivation; loss of motivation leads to inactivity; inactivity makes depression worse—and on and on. There are an awful lot of people caught in that terrible spiral: According to research by the World Economic Forum, an estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, with a projected global cost approaching $5.4 trillion over the 20-year period from 2011 to 2030.

The good news is that treatments work. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which people are taught to reframe their thinking and challenge negative assumptions about their lives, can reduce symptoms. Anti-depressant medications can help as well. The not-so-good news is that treatment outcomes can be uneven across populations, with reduction of symptoms heavily dependent on the skills of the psychologist or other caregiver. Not insignificantly, therapy can also be expensive.

Now, according to a British study just published inThe Lancet,;there may be another therapeutic option—one that can be administered by a larger population of less-rigorously trained caregivers, making it both more-available and less expensive than CBT. Better still, in some respects the new treatment involves little more than doing the things you like to do—or at least the things you used to like to do before depression made it hard to enjoy anything at all.

Known as behavioral activation (BA), the new protocol involves some of the elements of more traditional therapies, including identifying situations and thoughts that trigger depressive episodes and learning to avoid the rumination that often makes symptoms worse. Medication, which is compatible with CBT, can also be used with BA. The key difference, however, is that sessions with therapists are not devoted to practicing cognitive-behavioral coping skills as they are with CBT, but at least partly to planning pleasurable and productive activities and learning to follow through on them.

“CBT is an ‘inside out’ treatment where therapists focus on the way a person thinks,” wrote psychologist and David A. Richards of the University of Exeter Medical School, lead author of the Lancet paper, in an email to TIME. “Behavioral activation is an ‘outside in’ treatment that focuses on helping people with depression to change the way they act.”[...]

The outside activities in which the BA patients engaged varied depending on the patients themselves. In some cases it might have been exercising or doing volunteer work or going out with friends; in all cases it had to be something positive and proactive. “Activities can be literally anything. Social, environmental, physical or even very private (like reading),” wrote Richards. “The main thing is that they are consistent with the individual’s values and that they are functional.”

All of the patients in both groups received follow-up assessments at the six-, 12- and 18-month points after the therapy ended. Those assessments revealed the outcomes to be statistically indistinguishable, with two-thirds of all patients reporting a 50% or better reduction in depressive symptoms, regardless of group. Results like that mean that BA crossed what is called the “non-inferior” threshold, which sounds unimpressive but is also simply another way of saying that, in this study at least, it was just as good as CBT.

The edge for BA comes in the cost. In the U.K., junior health care workers earn only about two-thirds of what the certified therapists earn. That lower pay is passed onto patients in the form of lower cost, with the fee for an average course of CBT treatment going for £1,235 compared to £975 for BA—or about $1,620 compared to $1,280 at current exchange rates. [...]

Monday, July 25, 2016

An opinion regarding Yehuda Pogrow's direct involvement in offering help to survivors of abuse

This represents the views of one of the readers of this blog. Yehuda Pogrow is welcome to comment or write his own guest post on his vision and qualifictions

Guest post by commenter KwikEMart

Thank you Rabbi Eidensohn for posting my guest post on your site.

I have been following the writings and comments of Yehuda Pogrow, both on this site, his facebook page, as well as other blogs. Ordinarily one needs to hear both sides of the story before sharing an opinion, but there is an exception to that rule, that exception is when the one side you've heard disqualified themselves by the way they argue for themselves. I've only heard what Yehuda writes and he is highly UNQUALIFIED to be working with victims.

Yehuda's facebook posts and comments clearly indicate that he is a man that is not ready to be working with victims. He is broadcasting anything negative written about him, and then calling upon that author's employer to break their connection with him. He is constantly using the phrase "has lost all credibility". At different points, Rabbi Yosef Blau, Benny Forer, Meyer Seewald and Yerachmiel Lopin have all "lost credibility". Is there anyone he does admire besides himself? Does he admire Manny Waks, Dr. Michael Salamon, or Magen? How about Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, or the blogger UOJ who exposed the Kolko story in Yeshiva Torah Temimah? Does he admire anyone besides himself? Does he at least give them some credit even if has some disagreements with them? Is there not a single activist/advocate he respects and that he can get to support his efforts and mentor him in his new role? Sorry Yehuda, credibility is earned, they've earned it through their tireless efforts and their success in the field, you have yet to earn it. And the one without credibility isn't the one who decides that the credible one is no longer credible.

What also disturbs me is how quickly Yehuda switches from the advocate to the victim. When some of the above mentioned people criticized Yehuda, he responded that their agencies should part ways with them because of "the way they are treating a victim" (might not have been an exact quote). Sorry, but if you are playing the advocate, and being criticized for your advocacy, you can't switch hats and then cry about how you are being treated as a victim. All this indicates is how much Yehuda cares about his own ego, and how far he goes to protect it. Unfortunately, some of his posts indicate that he willing to go as far as harming the victim he is supposed to help, in order to protect his own ego.

Let me give everyone a tip, if the therapist you are seeing has their own ego as their top priority, go get help elsewhere. Don't pay a therapist to use you as a means for stroking their own ego. And when it comes to activists, don’t trust someone who comes from nowhere, attacks everyone else, says "Let me be your leader", and has no plan except everyone following him. That is not advocacy. It is simple ego.

What qualifications does this person have? That they were abused? Being abused doesn't make you qualified to help the abused any more than being a basketball player helps you be a basketball coach. Sure there IS common ground and there ARE people who can and do succeed at both, but it is hardly a given. Magic Johnson is an NBA hall-of-famer, he was listed as one of the 50 best players of all time, but as a coach he had a record of 5-11 before quitting (and to all you Knicks fans, I'll spare you the harshness of bringing up the Isiah Thomas era)

Yehuda claims that he is behind an agency called "Survivors for Change". Is this anything more than a Facebook page? Is there a board? Is it recognized as a non-profit? Are they insured? It is also VERY interesting that Yehuda keeps plugging his organization, all while asking why there is even a need for such organizations.

To close, I'd like to remind the public that this was a completely one sided investigation. I did not hear from the other side, just from Yehuda. Some of the things that were said by Yehuda are no longer available to be viewed, but they were still said, deleting them does not mean they weren't said. I feel for Yehuda, he is suffering tremendously from the shocking revelations about his brother, and his own admission of being an abuse victim. He needs help and I believe he is looking for it. But victims are real people who need competent help. It would be malpractice to let Yehuda (at this stage) work with a victim simply cause it will help Yehuda.

To all of you who still say that Yehuda should work with victims, after-all, he himself is a victim, whilst turning a blind eye to all my points above, I have one thing left to say to you: "Hi, I've been circumcised, please let me do milah on your son"

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is being sued in November for sending out warnings regarding a convicted pedophile.

Y referred to here is a convicted pedophile classified as a level three offender. I have not mentioned his name because he has threatened me with legal action for mentioning his name and his crimes - which are on the public record  - in the sex offenders registry and newspaper accounts. 

As Rabbi Horowitz notes this is an outrageous situation where people are not allowed to inform others against possible harm to their children. Level three means there is high risk of re-offending and that there is a threat to public safety. Please support Rabbi Horowitz.

Gloves Off!

Our Trial is Your Trial  

For the first time in my life, I will be a defendant in a court of law, with my trial set to begin this coming November in Israel.

My crime?

am being sued for using Twitter to warn residents of Har Nof, Jerusalem, that Y., a convicted registered level-3 sex offender, who served 13 months in prison for seven counts of sexual abuse in the second degree and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, relocated to that neighborhood in Israel. The  NYS Division of Criminal Justice website describes a Level 3 registered sex offender, their highest level, as one who has a "high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists".

We did not launch a public campaign until now, as we were hoping that sanity would prevail in the judicial system and the lawsuit would be dismissed by the courts. However, not only is this lawsuit continuing, but recently, Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, a child safety advocate in Israel, is also being threatened with legal action for slander, after posting online similar warnings about Y.. If you care about the personal safety of children, these lawsuits should trouble you deeply. For make no mistake. If these outrageous lawsuits are permitted to continue, fewer and fewer people will be posting warnings when convicted sex offenders move near you or those you love.   

 Another troubling component of Y.. case is that it follows the pattern of the State of Israel welcoming and later protecting (either knowingly or carelessly) people who are convicted or accused sex offenders like Avrohom Mondrowitz or more recently Malka Leifer, all three of whom fled to Israel from their native countries to avoid prosecution. 

With all this in mind, we respectfully ask that you join us in this effort we are launching to convince elected and appointed officials in Israel and the Israeli press to:

1)      Request that the Justice Department immediately dismiss the frivolous lawsuit brought by Y.  against me, and not permit any lawsuits of this nature moving forward.

2)      Encourage responsible information flow and publication about convicted sex offenders to local parents and schools.

3)      Conduct sex offender background checks on all people who apply for citizenship, and expeditiously reject those who are wanted for sex crimes in their native countries.

4)      Ideally, a longer-term goal would be to enact legislation in Israel to protect children similar to Megan's Laws in the United States, where convicted sex offenders are required to register with local police and to notify law enforcement authorities whenever they move to a new location.

Below are email addresses of important agencies in Israel related to Justice and Immigration/Absorption, those for Yediyot Achronot and The Jerusalem Post as well as my email address, to enable me to print and bring your emails to elected officials here and in Israel.

To show your support for this effort, simply forward this email and cut and paste these email addresses in the "To" section of your email, perhaps adding a personal note.

Alternatively, you can compose your own email to those addresses or use this sample email text if that is more convenient.

Subject Line:  
Protect Our Children; Not Convicted Sex Offenders

Body of Email:

I am deeply disturbed that Y., a convicted, registered, level-3 sex offender in New York State, is being permitted to sue child safety advocate Rabbi Yakov Horowitz in Israeli courts for slander, for having warned residents of Har Nof, Jerusalem, that he had relocated there and was wanted for outstanding charges in the United States.

This is a travesty of justice and I respectfully request that this frivolous lawsuit be immediately dismissed. Children in Israel will not be safe if child advocates are intimidated into silence by this type of outrageous lawsuit.

Additionally, Israel cannot and should not become a place of refuge for convicted, registered sex offenders. I respectfully request that all people applying for Aliya be given a simple background check for sex offenses, and that all avenues be explored for Y. to be returned to the United States to face justice for outstanding abuse charges.

As a longer-term goal, I would encourage the Knesset to enact legislation similar to Megan's Laws in the United States, to mandate the registration of known Israeli sex offenders and the publication of their whereabouts.

Here are some phone numbers you can call:
  • Israel Ministry of Justice, 972-2-646-6666, 8 for English, then 144
  • Ministry of Aliya and Immigrant Absorption 972-3-973-3333  
  • United States Embassy in Israel    972-2-621-4555                      
Thank you very much for your participation in this effort.

Yakov Horowitz  
P.S. If you are wondering why a registered, convicted sex offender would bring attention to himself by suing me, please read Bullies Bully and Abusers Abuse. It's all there and there are some helpful links for parents there as well.

Finally; here are 3 free videos that can help you have effective, research-based child safety/abuse prevention talks with your children: Safety Video #1Safety Video #2, andSafety Video #3 
© 2016 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

==================The following is an email sent out in defense of the pedophile's lawsuit
From: Thetan Group-JW <weinbergjthetangroup@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 9:39 PM
Subject: Fwd: From Yona Weinberg

Defendant Yakov Horowitz is telling the public that he's being sued for publishing public information, when he really knows he's being sued for telling lies about the Plaintiff. This has nothing to do with his affiliations or hobbies or the like. This is HIS case and HIS case alone. This is about a man who is using his social media accounts to spread lies about a private citizen. For those who understand Modern Hebrew, this is actually stated in the Yediot article Defendant Horowitz displays on his website [that he won't let you read]. 
Only a week or two ago, Plaintiff's motion to amend the original complaint to include Defendant Horowitz's more recent lie about Plaintiff's fleeing the United States was approved. The motion was approved because Defendant Horowitz hasn't stopped lying about the Plaintiff and the nature of this case since he was sued. He just did it on Tuesday, 13 July, and Defendant Horowitz is proud of it! 
Planning a move to Israel can take almost a year. Plaintiff entered the State of Israel at least twice in 2014 prior to settling here in September that same year. There are so many people, from Israeli bureaucrats in New York to employees at the shipping companies used, who can testify that Plaintiff's move to this country was planned and prepared for well in advance. And, as per the prior understanding of 42 U.S.C. § 16913(a), there was always notification every step of the way. 
On a side note, Defendant Horowitz can also be accused of being disingenuous with his own supporters. On September 21st of last year, Defendant Horowitz states that he is on this Crusade (this is the Holy Land) because he is following his Posek (Rabbi), Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky of Philadelphia, despite the findings of modern science and real research on this topic. Yet, on October 21st, Defendant Horowitz defies his own Posek, who holds that even the Polio Vaccine is a hoax, by exhorting his readership of their religious responsibility to vaccinate their children. How does Defendant Horowitz know when to rely on Science and when to rely on his own Rabbi? Please see: www.daattorah.blogspot.com/2014/10/rav-shmuel-kaminetsky-claims-that.html 
What is even more disingenuous is that Defendant Horowitz publicly supports the blogger referenced above, while this same blogger hasn't stopped criticizing Rabbi Kaminetsky about a different and more serious issue for several months. This particular blogger has gone so far as to accuse Defendant Horowitz's Posek (Rabbi) of being like Korach, bringing more Mamzerim into this world, and being comparable to Esau who was also not concerned about adultery. At what point did these two Keyboard Warriors agree that "business is business" and cast aside respect for the Torah and its teachers (and, lehavdil, Science) in order to achieve their potential, common goals of self-promotion and getting attention? 
Defendant Yakov LashonHorowitz is not being sued because he is publishing public information. Defendant Yakov LashonHorowitz is being sued for telling lies about the Plaintiff. 
If you believe self-promotion is more important than telling the truth, then this is YOUR case. If you believe that it's okay to talk out of both sides of your mouth, then this is most definitely YOUR case. If you believe getting attention is more important than respecting the Torah, then this is most definitely YOUR case. If you don't believe in the Rule of Law, this is most definitely YOUR case. 
Please see the attached. If you can't understand it, please show it to someone who understands Hebrew.

Clinton VP tapped pro-terror Muslim leader for immigration seat

Arutz 7    Virginia Senator and former Governor Tim Kaine has been the Democratic Party’s presumptive Vice Presidential nominee for just three days, yet the pick has already drawn fire from the pro-Israel community due in part to Kaine’s robust support for the Iran nuclear deal, his boycott of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress in 2015, and his ties to a left-wing NGO.

Now, a controversial appointment made during his tenure as Governor of Virginia has raised new questions about Kaine’s bona fides as a self-described “strongly pro-Israel Democrat”.

In 2007, then-Governor Kaine appointed Esam Omeish, a Libyan-born physician and then-president of the Muslim American Society, to Virginia’s Immigration Commission. This came despite Omeish’s history of ties and expressions of support for radical Islam and Jihadist terrorism.

Omeish is a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Dar Al Hijrah mosque, which two of the 19 terrorists responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks attended, as friends of the mosque’s imam.

That imam was Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Salafist cleric who later fled the United States and joined Al-Qaeda, after settling in Yemen.

In 2010, President Obama placed al-Awlaki on the CIA “kill list”, citing his orchestration of deadly terror attacks against Americans. In 2011 a US drone strike killed al-Awlaki in southeast Yemen.

But Omeish was not merely a congregant at the Dar Al Hijrah mosque where al-Awlaki preached; in 2000, he was vice president of the mosque and was responsible for vetting and hiring the radical cleric as the mosque’s imam.

The Muslim American Society, then headed by Omeish, had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004, a description later validated by a federal report describing the group as “the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.”

In addition to Omeish’s ties to radical Islam, his recorded comments prior to the 2007 appointment by Governor Kaine made his support for Jihadist terror even more explicit.

During a December 22, 2000 speech at a Jerusalem Day Rally in Lafayette Park, in Washington D.C., Omeish praised “the Jihad way” to “liberate your land”.

"We, the Muslims of the Washington metropolitan area, are here today in subfreezing temperatures to tell our brothers and sisters in Filastine [Palestine], that you have learned the way, that you have known that the Jihad way is the way to liberate your land. And we, by standing here today, despite the weather, and despite anything else, we are telling them that we are with you, we are supporting you, and we will do everything we can inshallah [Allah willing] to help your cause."

In 2004, Omeish explicitly praised Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.[...]

Friday, July 22, 2016

Texas Rape Victim Was Jailed for Fear She Would Not Testify, Lawsuit Says

NY Times    A rape victim who was jailed in Texas for nearly a month because prosecutors feared she would not return to testify after having a mental breakdown on the stand has sued the Harris County district attorney’s office, county officials and jail employees.

The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was held in the general population at the county jail — the same place where the rape suspect, Keith Hendricks, was housed. There, the suit says, she was misclassified as the perpetrator of a sexual assault — not as a victim — attacked by an inmate, denied medication and punched in the face by a guard.

Jane Doe’s treatment amounted to “an absolute deprivation of her personal integrity,” her lawyer, Sean Buckley, said in an interview Thursday. “As a rape victim, the psychological trauma she experienced was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness.”

“And if you take out the sexual violation itself and you look at the underlying psychological trauma,” he added, “this is exactly what these defendants did to her again while she was still in recovery for her rape.”

According to the suit filed Monday in United States District Court in Houston, the woman began testifying in December against the man she said had choked, beaten and raped her two years earlier. The woman has bipolar disorder, the suit says, and did not finish her testimony.

In what the district attorney later called “an extraordinarily difficult and unusual situation,” because of concern she would not return to the courtroom, a judge had her locked up until the trial resumed, even though she was not charged with a crime.

It was an unusual and risky decision that raises questions about the treatment of people with mental health disorders in the Texas justice system and about the wisdom of jailing someone already victimized and traumatized by a suspect the district attorney called “a serial rapist.”

Advocates for sexual assault survivors also said they feared the case could have a chilling effect on other victims’ willingness to speak up.[...]

The woman was sent to St. Joseph’s Medical Center for 10 days after she broke down on the stand, the lawyer said. There was no follow-up after she was released from the hospital, and she was handcuffed, arrested and sent to jail on Dec. 18, Mr. Buckley said.

During that time, the woman was taken to the courtroom to testify against Mr. Hendricks. He was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences without parole. A judge allowed her to go home on Jan. 14 — 27 days after she was jailed.

In a video statement that has been uploaded to YouTube, Devon Anderson, the county district attorney, said the rape victim had suffered through a life-threatening mental health crisis and had expressed her intention during the trial not to testify again.

“If nothing was done to prevent the victim from leaving Harris County in the middle of trial, a serial rapist would have gone free, and her life would have been at risk while homeless on the street,” Ms. Anderson says in the video. [....]

Mr. Sullivan said the woman would have been placed in a separate cell had the court ordered that she be kept separate from the general population, but no such order was issued.

The lawsuit says that when the woman was processed, she was accidentally classified as having committed a sexual crime, leading to negative treatment from the jail’s medical staff members who didn’t believe her protests.

She was in at least two physical confrontations while in jail. On Dec. 23, an inmate pushed her to the ground and repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor, according to the lawsuit. On Jan. 8, she suffered “an acute psychiatric episode,” the lawsuit says.

The prison guards’ response caused her to have a panic attack, during which “she became hysterical and physically uncontrollable,” the suit said. At one point, a guard punched her, causing a bruised eye socket, the lawsuit said.[...]

Defense Ministry chief tells rabbis Levinstein and Sadan that their comments violate military code on preserving human dignity

Times of Israel   The Defense Ministry on Thursday reprimanded two rabbis who head a prominent pre-army religious academy, saying their recent anti-gay comments violate the Israeli military’s code of conduct.

Defense Ministry Director-General Udi Adam met with rabbis Yigal Levinstein and Eli Sadan, who jointly lead the prestigious academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, Hebrew media reported. Sadan recently decried pro-LGBTQ efforts in the military as “a cynical attempt to turn the army into a body to reeducate religious people,” while Levinstein last week referred to homosexuals as “deviants.”

Adam told the pair that the IDF code includes as one of its core values the preservation of “human dignity,” which defines the way in which all its soldiers must act. According to the code, “the army and its soldiers are obligated to protect human dignity. Every person is valuable, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, standing or role.”

Another key ethical value of the army, Adam told the rabbis, is camaraderie, which demands that every soldier act with compassion and selflessness to his or her fellow soldiers.

“There is no doubt that pushing the LGBTQ community outside the bounds of society is against the most fundamental values of the army,” Adam said, and told Levinstein to clarify his statements in the coming days.

Sadan has already responded to Levinstein’s comments, according to Channel 10, stating that “in the army you will meet many people. We are all brothers — Jews, Druze, religious or not, sexual tendencies like this or like that, Messianic Jews or Reform.” [...]

Yet in a recently published booklet which was distributed to his students, Sadan wrote: “Unfortunately, in many cases the army does not [take religious sensibilities into account]. When they force cadets in the training base to listen to an hour-long lecture from a young LGBTQ man who explains that this is a totally normal [lifestyle], that society must get used to the fact that there is no difference between a family with a husband and wife and a family with two husbands… this is a cynical attempt to turn the army into a body to reeducate religious people.”

These words were similar to the message which landed Levinstein in hot water last week when he was filmed telling a Jewish law convention that “under the framework of pluralism, soldiers and officers are taught to refer to [LGBT people] as ‘proud,’ but I don’t dare call them that…. ‘deviants’ is what I call them.” [...]

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: The warning not to be too much of a tzadik

One of the lessons of the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter is an old lesson which unfortunately seems to readily forgotten - though it is widely mentioned. That is the warning in Koheles (7:16)  Do not be too righteous; nor make yourself too wise; why should you destroy yourself? Why does being too righteous lead to destruction? Why does being super wise bring about self-destruction? 

This medrash says it is referring to Dovid HaMelech.
Bamidbar Rabbah (21:5): Harass the Midianties (Bamidbar 15:17): Even though [says G-d], I have written that When you come close to a city to fight against it you should ask them to make peace (Devarim 20:10) – in the case of the Midainates you must not do so. You should not seek their peace or their welfare (Devarim 23:7). You find that the one who in fact approached them with mercy in the end brought on himself degredation, war and affliction. Who was that? It was Dovid. Thus Dovid said (Shmuel II 10:2), I will show kindness to Chanan the son of Nachash. G-d said to him, Will you transgress My words? I have written, You must not seek their peace or their welfare. And you want to show them kindness?  Be not righteous overmuch’ (Koheles 7:17)! This implies that a man should not go beyond the Torah, yet this man sends to comfort the children of Ammon, and to show kindness to them! The end was that he suffered insult; as it says, So Hanan took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away (II Sam. X, 4), and became involved in war with Aram Naharaim and with the kings of Zobah and with the kings of Maacah and with the children of Ammon, four nations! In this connection it is written, Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, etc.  (Shmuel II 10:9). Who brought this on David? It was because he sought to show favor to those of whom the Holy One, blessed be He, had said, ’Thou shalt not seek their peace.’ Accordingly it is written, HARASS THE MIDIANITES.
This warning is addressed to those who are truly righteous and truly wise. It is clear that this means that when a person comes to view himself objectively as a tzadik or chachom - he runs the danger of assuming that whatever he decides - that obviously G-d will agree with him. After all doesn't it say the tzadik decrees and G-d fulfills?  And that obviously G-d agrees with what he is doing
Mo'ed Koton (16b) The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: Ruler over man shall be the righteous, even he that ruleth through the [reverent] fear of God. What does this mean? — Said R. Abbahu, It means this: ‘The God of Israel said, to the [David] spake the Rock of Israel; I rule man; who rules Me? [It is] the righteous: for I make a decree and he [may] annul it’.
While this gemora is obviously true - it doesn't apply to violating or perverting halacha. The tzaidk's spiritual test revolves around nullifying his will to what G-d has said in the Torah and not assuming that he is simply anticipating what G-d wants in stretching the boundaries or even crossing them. Even Dovid HaMelech failed this test.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pinchas 76 - The most important word in the world - YES by Allan Katz

In our parasha a census of the men takes place in preparation for the distribution of the land of Israel amongst the tribes. The daughters of Zelophehad came forward with their complaint. Because they had no brothers, their family would be without a share in the land. They therefore requested a share in the land among their father's brothers. Moses brought their claim before God- Hashem. God answers Moses with a YES to their claim. - כן בנות צלפחד דברת . The word Yes here implies that they have spoken right, properly, exactly, they have made a fair claim and they should be happy as God agrees to their words.

When it comes to relationships the word YES is the most powerful word in the world .As we have seen the word yes can communicate many meanings – Yes, I agree... Yes, you are right, Yes, that is a great idea, Yes, .. I understand you. The psychologist John Gottman suggests that we try to introduce as many yesses as we can into our conversations. We can answer Yes, that's a good idea, or Yes, that's a great point, Yes, I hear you.Yes, means agreement and connection. Yes passes on your power and presence to the other person, your friend, partner, your spouse and child, your team and employees. God answered the daughters of Zelphehad with a Yes and transferred His power and presence to them.

Dr Dan Siegel asks us to notice how we feel when we read these words, no, no, no, no,no,no, and how you feel when you read these words, yes, yes, yes, yes,yes,yes,yes …. When you hear no, you feel scolded, stressed, alone and start breathing heavy. When you hear yes, you feel relieved and relaxed. Yes makes us more receptive and when we are more receptive presence can created, which is vital for thriving relationships.

Yes opens the doors to collaboration, cooperation and co-creation. The question is – does the word Yes have a role to play in resolving conflicts and problem solving .? The advice that parents regularly hear is to say ' No' a couple of times during the day, so that kids learn that they can't get everything that they want and they learn to accept the No word. For many challenging kids saying NO triggers the cortisol hormone which puts the child in the ' fight – flight mode. 'What follows is kids either go ballistic, explode or implode accepting that their parents don't consider that they have legitimate concerns or feelings. There is the assumption that parenting is about win-lose scenarios , kids resisting parental control and parents trying to get kids to do what they want them to do. If we really want our kids to ' hear us ', hear our concerns and experience learning when they interact with us, we need to help them live by Hillel's words - If I am not for myself, who will be for me and if I am only for myself, who am I. ? We need to help them go through the thinking process and make meaning of what is happening, we need to get them talking and reflecting, exploring situations and addressing both their own concerns and the concerns of others. Saying No is essentially only one solution to a concern or a problem. Because the solution only addresses the parents concern we are using Plan A, imposing Adult will on the child. Traditionally kids have never had their concerns heard. Some parents will empathize with a kid and validate their feelings or concerns but at the same time demand compliance. They do so, just to make compliance easier for kids to swallow. This is called ' Perfunctory empathy, not true empathy. Kids need reassurance, that when we use collaborative problem solving - Plan B that we are not trying to force a solution, but we first want to hear their perspectives and concerns and work on a mutually satisfying solution that addresses all concerns.

- I like the phrase - ' I am not saying No '

Of course this does not mean I am saying yes, it means ' I just want to hear your concerns, can you tell me more?' Our purpose is to get a conversation going with the child mainly speaking and us listening , and focus on solving the problem.When the solution addresses the concerns of parents, we have in fact set a limit with the child.

The psychologist Dan Wile says that we can manage conflict with a Yes. We don't have to say – ' I am not saying No' – we can say Yes and yes, I will seek to understand your problem before I seek to solve it. Yes, I will work to cultivate empathy for your point of view. Yes, I will respect your dream. Yes, I will dialogue with you, even when I disagree with you and try to solve problems in a mutually satisfactory way. Yes, I will remember to talk to you like I talk to somebody I love. So we can introduce what we say with a yes,- yes , I hear you … Yes , can you tell me more, Yes, I am concerned that …. Yes makes us more receptive, gives us presence and helps us connect with kids crucial for the CPS - collaborative problem solving process.

For sure, there will be situations when compliance is vital and we say –' you have to or you can't.' Children are more likely to comply with parental demands ,if parents generally focus on cooperation and allow children to participate in making decisions, rather than demanding obedience all the time. Kids will trust their parents and comply even if they are a bit unhappy about it, because in the past their parents solve problems in a collaborative way, give reasons for their positions and take into account kids' concerns and best interests... God in his Torah does the same. He builds trust by sharing reasons that man can understand, but there is also חוקת התורה – פרה אדומה - the decree of the Torah, the law of the Red Cow, which is beyond our understanding and so beyond criticism.

In situations which are non-negotiable, we can still have discussion and try and be as non-confrontational as possible,- make the request and back off to give them some space, which helps maintain autonomy and dignity. We can give them a choice of how to do the request, when or with whom. We can validate their feelings and be honest that our request is not much fun. We can try and compensate for loss of autonomy in other areas and respond with many yesses.

Criticizing Rabbi Levenstein is criticizing the Torah

Cross-Currents by Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

Rabbi Yigal Levenstein, who heads the Bnei David academy in the Israeli town of Eli, made waves several days ago with some public remarks:
I said there are red lines and I am not willing to bring them up for discussion. I said: the Reform movement is not a Jewish movement. (The chief education officer) asked me ‘why?’ I said: ‘It’s a Christian movement. There were many branches that began in Judaism, then left Judaism and became other movements.’
And, regarding homosexuals, Rabbi Levenstein commented:
There’s a crazy movement of people who have lost sense of what’s normal in life. This group has whipped the entire country into a frenzy, they force their way into the IDF, and no one dares say anything. There are perverts giving lectures in [the officers’ training school] Bahad 1.
Rabbi Levenstein’s comments drew immediate condemnation from officials in the Israeli government and others in Israeli society, from IDF leaders, to liberal Orthodox rabbis, to the head of the Israeli Reform movement. On the other hand, hundreds of Israeli rabbis came out in support of Rabbi Levenstein, with some expressing occasional disagreement with his choice of words, yet nonetheless defending his basic ideas.

Now, an American institution has weighed in. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah just issued a statement entitled YCT Condems (sic) Rav Yigal Levenstein’s Hurtful and Divisive Remarks, which reads:

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School joins the many rabbis, government officials, and institutions in Israel in rejecting the hurtful and unacceptable words of Rabbi Yigal Levenstein of the B’nai David Preparatory Seminary in Eli. In an act unbecoming of a leader preparing young Jewish men to serve in the IDF, Rabbi Levenstein lashed out both at the LGBT community, calling them perverted, and at the Reform community, which he called a Christian denomination.

From its inception, our Yeshiva has stood for inclusiveness, standing with the State of Israel and Jews everywhere to promote the unity of the Jewish people and the importance of learning from all Jews out of a deep sense of love for our fellow Jews and respect for our mutual covenantal (sic) relationship with God and Torah. Ahavat yisrael, the commandment to love our fellow Jew, does not come with qualifiers or limitations.

As Israel’s Minister of Education Naftali Bennett wrote, “Jewish law is not meant to be a divisive tool … One cannot denigrate an entire community and take shelter behind Jewish law.” On the contrary, Israel and the IDF have always been models for the difficult but critical task of unifying Jews of diverse backgrounds and origins, of advocating for respect for different religious beliefs and practices, and of treating people with different sexual orientations with the equality they deserve.

We are heartened by the overwhelming message coming from so many corners of the Jewish world that we will not allow narrow-minded partisans to drive us from our commitment to the Jewish people as an am echad.

It is interesting to read the public statements of Rav Yosef Dov Ha-Levi Soloveitchik zt”l of RIETS about the subjects for which Rabbi Levenstein is being castigated.

Concerning non-Orthodox houses of worship, in regard to their practice of mixed pews:

It would seem to me that our remembrance of history alone should keep us from imitating today the practice of primitive Christianity (which introduced mixed seating for worship – AG) almost 1900 years ago… In my opinion, Orthodoxy must mobilize all its forces and wage an indefatigable battle against the “Christianization” (I have no better word for it) of the synagogue – a practice which is being accomplished by people who have no sense of Halacha and no historical-philosophical concept of the nature of prayer; but they do have the arrogance to wreck principles and traditions which have become hallowed through blood and tears. (Community, Covenant and Commitment, pp. 134-135; The Sanctity of the Synagogue, B. Litvin)
And concerning homosexuality:
A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, take out a Chumash and read a pasuk. ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה. (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.” -Vayikra 18:22) We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth. 
I can never predict what modern society will come up with. Everything is possible. The most abnormal, obnoxious, repellent ideas may be introduced in the form of legislation to Congress. And now, since it is modern to be liberal, it’s quite in vogue to be heretical, so any law can be adopted. The Supreme Court in America is the most unpredictable body. Did you see, did you read carefully, the decision about abortion? 
This is b’nei basar (“children of the flesh”). B’nei basar are oversensitive to beauty, to unredeemed beauty. We ourselves cherish beauty, but redeemed beauty. Unredeemed, vulgar, coarse people. And simply what the b’nei basar preach is non-interference on the part of ethics and morality. This man wants to enjoy life, that’s all. Because actually the pagan way of life rests upon the idea of egocentric hedonism. The latter was declared by the pagans to be morally desirable. In other words, free man is expected to reject any restrictive norm interfering with his hedonic freedom. The permissive society is the pagan society, which heads toward disaster. The permissive society consists of the b’nei basar, the children of the flesh, who are obedient to the flesh and its biological pressures. 
The main sin of pagan society consists in its exploiting nature for the sake of man’s enjoyment without the latter accepting responsibility for the very act he enjoyed. In a word, hedonic society, the Dor Ha-Mabul, drove itself and the environment to annihilation. That is exactly what happens to the Western part of the world, the so-called “democratic world” or the “free world”. 
What is the motto of modern man? ויראו בני האלהים. Modern man is very mighty… He is a wizard, as far as intellectual achievements are concerned… But the same wizard, a בני אלהים, is a fallen angel… He is tempted by vulgar beauty… ויקחו להם נשים – he surrendered. 
The man whose mathematic equations proved to be true 500 million light years from there surrendered to the בנות האדם, to vulgar beauty, to enjoyment. This is no way of life. This was the eser doros me’Adam v’ad Noach (ten generations from Adam to Noach) that were misgalgel (systematically declined) until they reached the bottom… (from 1974 public shiur in Boston, printed here on pp.91-94)
Should Rav Soloveitchik likewise be condemned? His words contain attitudes similar to those expressed by Rabbi Levenstein. Just asking.

Although I am quite removed from the scene, I cannot see myself making the public remarks articulated by Rabbi Levenstein, either using his phraseology or other, more delicate wording, due to public sensitivities and society’s hypercharged atmosphere, which usually render such remarks counterproductive on a pragmatic level. But the essence of Rabbi Levenstein’s remarks, even if expressed more artfully, cannot truly be condemned, and to read condemnation of the essence of his remarks is quite puzzling – no less than would be a condemnation of the Torah itself, in commanding “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” -Vayikra 18:22.

Brooklyn math tutor busted with molesting student

NY Daily News    A Brooklyn math tutor charged with repeatedly violating a six-year-old student is expected to go to trial in the fall.

Moshe Friedman was hired by the young boy’s parents to conduct in-home tutorials in 2013. Instead, for over 10 months, Friedman allegedly repeatedly assaulted and sexually abused the child.

Friedman, 30, was arrested in January 2015 for first-degree sexual conduct against a child and other shocking charges.[...]

On another occasion, while the boy’s hand was in a cast, Friedman allegedly followed him into the bathroom and violated him, according to the criminal complaint.

Friedman allegedly sexually assaulted the boy, shoved a rag in his mouth and threatened him with a gun.

"You'd better not tell your parents or I'll kill you and your family," Friedman allegedly said to the boy.