Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Child Abuse - A sefer on the Jewish Perspective II

Vosizneias posted this article I wrote regarding the issue of child abuse. [Previous posting]
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Child abuse is one of the things parents fear most for their children - physical abuse or sexual molestation. It means not only a major violation of trust – in the assumption that adults will protect children – but it can also be a source of severe lifetime psychological damage to the tender child – that can lead him/her to hurt others in turn.

But it is not just parents who abuse and molest their children - it is also siblings, extended family, teachers, clergy – and sometimes strangers.

While everyone will agree that it is horrible – the response to child abuse has been strangely muted. Even in the Orthodox Jewish community – there is often silence from the family of the victim – refusing to press charges even when begged. Sometimes there are active attempts within the community to silence the accusation. [This is true of other communities as well]. On the other hand, in the world of the communication media – especially the liberal newspapers and magazines as well as some blogs - there is almost a gleeful lynch mob mentality – “Let’s get the mamzer and show the world that the well thought of parent, educator, author, principal, teacher or psychologist is nothing but a warped pervert preying on innocent children.”

How in fact should someone respond when they hear rumors or suspect that some one is molesting children in his/her neighborhood or school? What should a parent do when it seems Uncle Mark has been spending a lot of time with his 9-year-old niece – doing inappropriate things? Is the ideal response to pick up the phone and call the police?

Is it to call your rabbi? Or perhaps one should simply pickup a baseball bat and teach the person a lesson?

I am presently working on a book – Child Abuse and Halacha. Contrary to other halachic issues such as theft, or whether opening a soda bottle is permitted on Shabbos – there are many diverse and conflicting considerations when dealing with child abuse. I am exploring questions such as, “Is the primary concern the suffering of the victim or stopping the perpetrator?” “Does the potential chilul HaShem deserve the most attention or is the destruction of trust and respect of teachers and schools?” “Are we to be concerned only with the loss of Olam HaBah promised to informers or is the requirement of stopping a rodef more important?” “Are all the above considerations primary some of the time – or is there a response which is best all of the time?”

I am not only collecting the halachic sources on the issues above but also researching the psychological literature in terms of the nature of the damage. What types of abuse constitute pikuach nefesh? Is it better to focus on accepting what happened or to encourage repression of the experience? Is systematic desensitization training more useful than the concern with catharsis?

In addition, I am trying to elucidate the various perspectives that are brought to bear on the subject.

For example I recently posted one of the earliest references to child molesting – the Tzemach Tzedek – on my blog Daas Torah. The question was whether this teshuva represented a gadol’s ignorance of child abuse or whether there simply was very little if any child abuse in the 1800’s? Alternatively it could be argued that the Tzemach Tzedek’s prime focus was not whether a serious crime was committed but whether the event could be understood as innocent enough so the rabbi would not lose his position. While the question remains unresolved, it needs to be explored further.

Finally I will be presenting actual cases which can serve as guidelines for the concerned parent, teacher or community rabbi. For example, I was once consulted by a young lady who had been molested by some frum boys when she was ten. She concealed the event from her parents and became increasingly withdrawn and depressed. As a teenager she tried committing suicide. Had a mental breakdown. Was hospitalized in a mental hospital for several years. Now at the age of 20, she seemed fully recovered, cheerful and productive.

My question to her was, now that it is over why are you coming to me? She replied that she has learned to deal with the horrible memories, the pain and degradation. She has learned to let go of feelings of revenge. She has a single problem left. She had asked a single question to all the rabbis she has consulted, “Why did G-d do this to me?” They all replied with some version of, “G-d always does what is best and for reasons beyond our comprehension felt that you had to be raped.” She said simply, “I can’t accept that G-d is so cruel!” My response was that these rabbis were wrong. That they were providing her with one legitimate view of theology i.e., that all that happens is caused by G-d. But there is an alternative view – that of all the Rishonim.

This view says that one man can harm another man – even though G-d doesn’t want it to happen. This is the view not only of Rishonim but is that expressed in Michtav M’Eliyahu, the Netziv citing the Zohar, it is also the view of the Maharal. Thus I told her, G-d did not want it to happen but He gives free-will to man, He does not stop man from acting. You have suffered greatly but will be compensated in the World to Come. She replied that she could live with such an understanding of G-d, while the other view was totally unacceptable. However other victims receive greater consolation from the original answer. One needs to be sensitive to individual differences.

14 comments :

  1. Interesting article.

    The last few paragraphs, in particular, regarding the issue of hashgacha in connection to human evil, is particularly thought provoking.

    It would seem that even according to the opinion that human beings can go against Hashem's will, you still can't avoid the fact Hashem is permitting the event to happen, in that He certainly knows it is happening and He certainly has the ability to prevent it. So, ultimately, you still can't completely avoid the issue that Hashem is choosing to value human free will over the suffering of the victim.

    Being that this is so, I'm not sure how much you have gained with this when dealing with someone who is deeply troubled by such suffering. It would seem that no matter how you cut it, the issue of God "doing" evil or just "allowing" evil are not really that different.

    On a separate note: It seems that the first position, that nothing happens unless Hashem wants it to happen, is the dominant opinion in the Torah world today, despite the fact that there appears to be more support in the sources for the opinion that human beings, with their free-will can inflict harm on others even when Hashem does not want it. Why would this, apparently minority position, become the dominant one? (Perhaps this is because this appears to have been the position of the Vilna Gaon.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why would this, apparently minority position, become the dominant one? (Perhaps this is because this appears to have been the position of the Vilna Gaon.)
    ===================
    This is a misconception - presented in Sifsei Chaim. The Vilan Gaon never said that HP applies to everything.

    This was a major discussion in the Avodah forum

    http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol12/v12n019.shtml#11
    I wrote the following:
    -------------------
    Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 19:11:48 +0200
    From: Daniel Eidensohn

    Subject: Hashgocah Protis - Sifsei Chaim's view of Gra

    > gil@aishdas.org wrote:
    >>I refer back to my earlier post on the subject
    >>(http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol12/v12n004.shtml#07) and the
    >> citation from the Sifsei Chaim that the Gra held from what is being
    >> called here the Besht's position. I do not believe that RD
    >> Eidensohn refuted the Sifsei Chaim's peshat in the Gra's commentary
    >> to the Zohar and the Gra certainly quoted the Yerushalmi that Rav
    >> Schach allegedly rejected.

    > Could you please explain why you don't except my statement that the
    > Gra's position is dealing with the issue of knowledge not hashgocha
    > protis....

    R' Micha Berger wrote:
    > I thought RGS did, quite succinctly. He believes the SC understood the
    > Gra, and is relying on his authority rather than your citation. Not
    > owning a SC, I must wonder if he was necessarily basing himself on the
    > quote of the Gra that you give. (Then there's RYEibshits and the Radal,
    > who the SC also attributes this position.)

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Here is my translation of the Sifsei Chaim page 87-88
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    In summary: we learn from the words of the Rambam, Ramban, and Ramak that only that which is solely concerned with animals -- without
    any connection to man -- the hashgocha is general concerned with the preservation of the species. There is not hashgocha protis to judge or
    decree on a particular animal whether it will live or die. Whether it will have a life of suffering or pleasure. Rather the individual animal
    is governed by the laws of nature. In contrast concerning that which is connected with the preservation of the species, G-d is concerned in a
    particular manner to each element of the species...

    In contrast if a particular animal is relevant to man or has a purpose that is relevant to man it also receives hashgocha protis according to
    the decree of the person.

    Chapter 4: HaGra: All that which was, is and will be in all parts of creation, inanimate, plants, animals, man -- everything is included in
    the Torah.

    On the other hand we find in the words of the Gra a different shitah. It holds that even hashgocha clallis i.e., the natural processes --
    is supervised in each particular for everything that happens. The Gra writes the following in his commentary to Sifra D'Tzinusa chapter 5)
    "The general principle is that all that was, is and will be until eternity...is entirely included in the Torah from Bereishis until L'ainei
    kohl Yisroel...not only the generalities...but ever the members of each species and every person in particular and everything that will happen to
    each person...from the day of his birth until his end and every gilgul and every single detail...and also for all species of animals and every
    grass, plant and inanimate object in every detail and all the members of that species in full detail until eternity concerning what will happen
    to them and their shoresh".

    It is thus openly stated in the Gra's words that all events that happened and will happen in the future and every detail in the life of
    every particular animal is written in the Torah. It seems then that if everything is written in the Torah then it must be that there is personal
    hashgocha on every single inanimate object, plant and animal.

    Similarly the Gra writes in his commentary to the Zohar "There are natural processes but all is judged and supervised by G-d...because a
    person will not bruise his finger unless it has been decreed above and even birds are trapped according to Heavenly decree...but nature is the
    shliach..." G-d's hashgocha and His decrees are actualized by means of natural processes...so that all that happens naturally is under G-d's
    supervision...

    --------------------------------------------

    The Sifsei Chaim is mixing knowledge of what will be with hashgocha which is direct supervision. The Kuzari 5:20 already acknowledged that nature
    is the messenger of G-d's decrees. The Gra is saying the same thing as the Kuzari except he is adding that this knowledge is also contained
    in the Torah. Everyone agrees that G-d knows the details of every bit of matter. Rambam(Hilchos Teshuva 5:4) "Know that everything is done
    according to His will..."

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe states" Even according to the opinions which state that Divine providence does not control inanimate objects, plants and
    animals agree that G-d knows all the minute particulars concerning these creations as Ikkarim(4:7) states: "We are forced to say that His knowledge
    encompasses every entity found in the world and every event that takes place. Nothing -- neither small nor great -- is beyond Him. Nevertheless,
    He does not watch over (animals) to grant them reward and punishment for their deeds. Instead, He watches over their particulars insomuch as
    they are part of the general category, protecting the existence of the species but nothing beyond that".[translation R' Eliyahu Touger].

    The Chidush of the Besht is that there is hashgocha protis on everything -- not just knowledge. He asserts -- according to Chabad -- that even
    a leaf falling off a tree is from hashgocha protis.

    Daniel Eidensohn

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  3. 2 comments

    1. The "olam" seems to have paskined like the Rabbis who spoke to the rape victim - and this is one of the downsides to the popular psak

    2. relative weights to competing interests (you list earlier in the post ) is the stuff of "lev shel torah"; I hope you are able to quantify somewhat (I suspect the best you will get is a regression analysis based on your read of the elements of historical cases)

    KT
    Joel Rich

    ReplyDelete
  4. Rabbi Eidensohn says

    "This view says that one man can harm another man – even though G-d doesn’t want it to happen. This is the view not only of Rishonim but is that expressed in Michtav M’Eliyahu, the Netziv citing the Zohar, it is also the view of the Maharal. Thus I told her, G-d did not want it to happen but He gives free-will to man, He does not stop man from acting. "

    This is certainly not the view of all the Rishonim. Rav Yeruchem Levovitz z"l, the Mirrer mashgiach, disagrees with this interpretation of the Rishonim. He discusses this in Parshas Haazinu in Daas Chochma umusar in the topic hashgacha clalis vehashgacha pratis. The majority of current baalei hashkafo also agree with Rav Yeruchem that Hashem is directly in charge of every event that happens to any person and will not allow things to happen at random because of the bechira of another person.

    Certain bad events are not in the nature of punishment but rather they are a form of a test (that the person will not be faulted for not passing initially). Others, such as the death of infants, are because Hashem wants to preserve free will and he will provide a special reward in the world to come to those children for being placed in this situation.

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  5. tzoorba said:
    "This view says that one man can harm another man – even though G-d doesn’t want it to happen. This is the view not only of Rishonim"- is certainly not the view of all the the Rishonim. Rav Yeruchem...disagress with this interpretation of the Rishonim.
    ===============
    So? Most authorities accept that this is the view of the Rishonim - including Rav Dessler and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Why are you concerned with the revisionist view of Rav Yerucham.

    More to the point. My article was concerned with the need for sensitivity to the need of the individual. This young lady was not comforted by your view. Are you trying to say she was not allowed to accept the view of the Rishonim?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Daas Torah said...

    "...this is because this appears to have been the position of the Vilna Gaon."

    This is a misconception - presented in Sifsei Chaim. The Vilan Gaon never said that HP applies to everything.


    My source was not the Sifsei Chaim but the following quote (in R' Yosef Jacobs pirush on the 8th pereh of Shemoneh Perakim):

    הג"ר זונדל מסלנט זצ"ל אמר ששמע מהג"ר חיים מוולאזין זצ"ל בשם הגר"א מווילנא: שזה טעות מה שמורגל בפי העולם, וגם ברמב"ם איתא כן..., שבעל בחירה יכול לעשות לאדם בלתי גזירת הבורא. רק שבכל דבר נגזר על האדם באיזה אבן ינגף, אבל בבעל בחירה לא נגזר איזה בעל בחירה יעשה לו לטוב ולמוטב, אבל אם לא נגזר עליו מן השמים אין בעל הבחירה יכול לעשות לו מאומה. (תולדות הצרי"ז מסלנט עם' קיב, מובא בספר אורות הגר"א, עמ' שא. וראה עוד בספר משנת ר' אהרן ח"א עמ' רמח מה שכתב בענין זה). אאא

    ReplyDelete
  7. Daas Torah said,

    "More to the point. My article was concerned with the need for sensitivity to the need of the individual. This young lady was not comforted by your view. Are you trying to say she was not allowed to accept the view of the Rishonim?"

    My understanding is that the other view is the majority view of Rishonim also. However, it is acceptable in this circumstance to tell her the point of view that baalei bechira can do harm.

    However, I don't understand how in this point of view, anyone can have Bitachon unless you assume that Hashem will engineer it that a bad person doesn't come in contact with you. It doesn't make sense to me that an after the fact reward for the suffering would be considered what we have bitachon about.

    ReplyDelete
  8. lazera said:
    My source was not the Sifsei Chaim but the following quote (in R' Yosef Jacobs pirush on the 8th pereh of Shemoneh Perakim):
    ==========
    R'Eliach also cites this source p756. I am not convinced. This is the only source?

    Even in Chassidic sources it is acknowledged that a man can harm another even without G-d's decree
    ערבי נחל בראשית וישלח - דרוש ב

    כי אם זדון לבו השיאו, ונודע כי רצון האדם הוא תלוי בבחירה, ובעל בחירה יכול להזיק לאדם בלי גזירה, ואין הש"י מציל מיד בעל בחירה זולת לצדיק גדול שזכותו רב כמאמר רז"ל בכיוצא בזה (סנהדרין סז ב) שאני רבי חנינא דנפישי זכותיה, משא"כ אי נימא שמצד רצונו החזיקו כאח רק כעסיה ויצריה אנסיה, אזי אינו תלוי בבחירה, והרי זה דומה לחיות יער וחזיר היער שהש"י מציל בהם אפילו מי שיש לו זכות כל דהו.

    ReplyDelete
  9. See tanya iggeret hakoesh 25

    ולא עוד אלא אפי' בשעה זו ממש שמכהו או מקללו מתלבש בו כח ד' ורוח פיו ית' המחייהו ומקיימו, וכמ"ש כי ד' אמר לשמעי קלל והיכן אמר לשמעי אלא שמחשבה זו שנפלה לשמעי בלבו ומוחו ירדה מאת ד' ורוח פיו המחייה כל תבאם החיה רוחו של שמעי..כי אילו נסתךק רוח פיו ית' רע אחד מרוחו שדל שמעי לא יכול לדבר מאומה

    and before:
    ואף דבן אדם שהוא בעל בחירה מקללו או מכהו או מזיק ממונו ומתחייב בדיני אדם ובדיני שמים על רוע בחירתו אעפ"כ על הניזק כבר נגזר מן השמים והרבה שלוחים למקום...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for the quote from Tanya, Moshe--you beat me to it.

    The issue of understanding suffering has nothing to do with child abuse per se. The question of why the generally innocent suffer has many answers that are well known. There's no need to dismiss hashgocho protis ch"v in order to deal with it.

    Also, here it wasn't just about intellectual theology, but about emotions and healing. When counselling someone one needs to bring them to focus on positive thoughts that will help them recover. Why Hashem brought the suffering we can't really know. That's all. Why did Hashem bring suffering from goyim? The Holocaust? Terror from the arabs? Goyim aren't baalei bechira. Further, why do people die in car crashes? That's domem--there's not a trace of bechira there.

    It's at the core the same theological issue, that becomes very emotional for someone personally involved l"a. the issue just become confused when there is a human (Jewish) perpetrator, and that's what the Alter Rebbe comes to explain in Tanya--that even then it's from Hashem just the same.

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  11. Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

    The issue of understanding suffering has nothing to do with child abuse per se. The question of why the generally innocent suffer has many answers that are well known. There's no need to dismiss hashgocho protis ch"v in order to deal with it.

    Why Hashem brought the suffering we can't really know. That's all. Why did Hashem bring suffering from goyim? The Holocaust?...
    =================
    Why did the Lubavitcher Rebbe single out the suffering of the Holocaust - when you assert it is all the same issue?

    BTW I would appreciate a Lubavitch understanding of the teshuva of the Tzemach Tzedak that I posted regarding child abuse

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  12. Sorry for not being clear enough: I do not mean to suggest that all cases of suffering are the same. Of course, some are more explicable than others. The Rebbe explicitly said about the Holocaust that it can't be understood. That's a specific issue. My point is that we can't know FOR SURE why the suffering came. However, I think it's okay to speculate, and perhaps investigate to see if Hashem gave particular signs to the person as to why the suffering was necessary. In any case, there are all sorts of possible explanations to explain why it isn't cruelty.

    Regardless of what the true reason may be, we should know that Hashem has His reasons and trust that it's for the best. In this connection I would recommend studying ch. 26 of Likutei Amarim, Tanya, and ch. 11 of Igeres HaKodesh in Tanya.

    The more relevant question is to know when a person recovering is mature enough to accept the various explanations that Torah gives, or when it is better to avoid the issue so as not to cause the person to fall into doubts because he or she is not yet equipped with enough emunah and stability to handle the abstract theological side of the issue.

    As for how to talk theology to a suffering person when the question is posed directly: On the contrary, to think that Hashem allows men to run amok and "looks the other way" ch"v seems to me a more cruel conception of Hashem. To say that He's in charge, was behind what happened, but has a reason that we don't know that we'll understand fully when Moshiach comes seems much less difficult to accept to me emotionally. There's Someone who cares, and He wasn't being cruel after all, and I just don't understand yet. When Moshiach comes, we'll declare, "Odcho Hashem ki onafto bi." May it occur teikef u'miyad.

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  13. Rabbi Yehoshaphat Oliver said,

    "Goyim aren't baalei bechira."

    This is totally false. All human beings have bechira.

    The rishonim argue abour the Mitzriyim who oppressed the Yidden and ask why were they punished because megalgelim chov al yidey chayav and they had no choice? The Rambam and Ramban disagree. One says that there had to be a chayav to do it but any individual didn't have to be one of the group of oppressors. The other opinion is that if they did exactly what they had to, they would have not been punished but they did worse than what they were required to do. From both of these opinions it is obvious that Goyim have bechira.

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  14. I have to second Tzoorba's response to the idea that goyim do not have bechira. It is very clear that they all human beings are baalei bechira.

    I also have to agree with Tzoorba's question regarding bitachon according to the opinion that baalei bechira can cause harm to another person even "against" God's will. If we accept this position (at least, as it is being presented), then bitachon ceases to have any meaning in connection to any area subject to interference by other human beings (the Chovos Halevovos, in Shaar HaBitachon, clearly applies bitachon to areas involving human activity). This would seem to water down the concept of bitachon, possibly beyond recovery. Moreover, it would seem to fly in the face of sentiments expressed in many parts of our traditional prayers, when we daven for protection from harm from other people (e.g. the 2nd yehi ratzon in birchas hashachar and the alokai netzor after shemoneh esrei).

    The Sefer HaChinuch (241) explains the issur of nekamah based on the idea that we must recognize that, ultimately, any harm we suffer comes at God's will.

    It seems to me that we may be grossly oversimplifying the position of those who maintain that a baal bechira has power to harm independent of God's will.

    I suspect that the actual intent is similar to the idea found in regard to endangering oneself, in that one needs more zechusim to avoid harm. The idea being that when one enters a situation that, al pi derech hateva, one is at greater risk of harm, this creates a kitrug - i.e. increases the power of midas hadin - in that, in such a circumstance, midas harachamim would entail a greater than usual "exposure" of His hashgacha, which is not His ratzon. One is, in effect, "forcing" His hand, and, without powerful zechusim, He may "call the bluff."

    Similarly, perhaps, if one does something that earns the ill-will of another human being, he has entered a similar "makom sakana", in that the ratzon Hashem is to allow people full bechira, and thus to counter the will of a baal bechira would require greater zechusim (along the lines of the Arvei Nachal cited previously).

    In any event, the theological analysis is not the real issue that Rabbi Eidensonn is dealing with. He is dealing with the issue of counseling a victim of violence. What the victim needs is some way to reconcile her belief in God's omnipotence and benevolence with the suffering that she has experienced. The problem is not amenable to intellectual analysis but to the feelings of the victim.

    As I pointed out previously, even if we turn to the position that man's free will enables him to cause harm "against" God's will, this does not truly solve the problem, in that, ultimately, God is choosing to allow the suffering to happen, because He "likes" free-will. If the victim feels that the cruelty of her suffering exceeded the limit justified by God's preference for free-will, then you are back where you started.

    Ultimately, I suspect that attempting to solve such problems by finding the "right" theological position for each individual victim will only work for a fairly small number of sufferers. It would seem that a more effective approach would be to find some way to "accept the decree" in a manner similar to our approach to suffering without human agency (e.g. disease).

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