Saturday, April 30, 2011

Father of Intifada big lie - al-Durrah- wins lawsuit against Israeli doctor for exposing truth


A French court ruled Friday against Dr. David Yehuda, an Israeli doctor who was sued for slander by Jamal al-Durrah, the father of Second Intifada symbol Muhammad al-Durrah.

The Israeli doctor, an orthopedic surgeon who operated Jamal al-Durrah, exposed details from his medical file and claimed that his scares were the result of a surgery, and were not caused by IDF fire.

Following the verdict, Dr. Yehuda said that he intends to appeal the sentence.

"In the past two years I've been fighting the State of Israel's just war. This is a terrible scam. I feel hurt and a personal sense of insult," he said. "Again they are trampling and twisting the truth…I can already see the negative results and a new wave of hatred to come out of Europe."

Victim faces her molester stepfather


Tracy Ross talks to Donnie Lee, who admitted to sexually abusing her between 25 and 50 times.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel’s Foes


Egypt is charting a new course in its foreign policy that has already begun shaking up the established order in the Middle East, planning to open the blockaded border with Gaza and normalizing relations with two of Israel and the West's Islamist foes, Hamas and Iran.

Egyptian officials, emboldened by the revolution and with an eye on coming elections, say that they are moving toward policies that more accurately reflect public opinion. In the process they are seeking to reclaim the influence over the region that waned as their country became a predictable ally of Washington and the Israelis in the years since the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The first major display of this new tack was the deal Egypt brokered Wednesday to reconcile the secular Palestinian party Fatah with its rival Hamas. "We are opening a new page," said Ambassador Menha Bakhoum, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry. "Egypt is resuming its role that was once abdicated." [....]

OU alternative communities fair

Jewish Star

There is affordable housing and day school tuition breaks, but can South Bend, Indiana, really coax a young Jewish family to leave the comforts of New York? “I thought I’d be living in New York for the rest of my life,” said Moshe Gubin, 34, a former resident of Kew Gardens Hills. “I was visiting my in-laws in South Bend and my wife wanted to live near her parents,” Gubin said. Although the move meant a pay cut and a long commute to Chicago for work, Gubin is not looking back. He attended the Orthodox Union’s Emerging Jewish Communities Fair on March 27 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. The event was facilitating New York Jews to move across the Hudson River and beyond.

“I have a big lawn, a four bedroom home with a two-car garage for only $89,000,” Gubin said. While South Bend does not come close to New York in terms of amenities, the basic Orthodox services such a day school, mikvah, and eruv are a requirement for participation in the fair. “There has to be an infrastructure for the community to grow, and the other requirement is incentives, such as job opportunities and discounts in tuition and housing,” said Frank Buchweitz, OU special projects director. The third annual fair drew 37 communities from Maine to California.

Alongside Arizona and Kansas, five Long Island communities attended the fair, with real estate as the focus of their pitch. “These communities said to us that they are also OU members and are trying to grow with the same efforts,” Buchweitz said. The five Nassau communities were Long Beach, Merrick, Oceanside, Plainview, and Roslyn.

NYC couple who split house with wall get divorce


A feuding couple who built a wall through their house because neither husband nor wife would give it up were granted a divorce after six years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys' fees.

But the legal battles may not be over for Simon and Chana Taub, whom the media likened to Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner's warring spouses in the 1989 film "The War of the Roses."

Chana Taub is unhappy with the judge's order to sell the divided Brooklyn house, plus two others, and split the proceeds with her soon-to-be ex-husband, said her lawyer, Neil Iovino. She plans to appeal.

"She's now in a position to be dispossessed," Iovino said. "She was most upset that the properties in her name and especially the property she lives in should be sold."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cuomo: NY law sheds 24,000 sex offenders from Web

Wall Street Journal

A New York law is credited with removing 24,000 sex offenders from Internet social networking sites nationwide.

The law proposed by then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo requires sex offenders registered with the state to provide all their screen names and e-mail addresses, with regular updates. The information is sent to two dozen social networking sites which then block the offenders.

Cuomo, now governor, says the law passed by the Legislature in 2008 is one of the most effective means to protect children from sex offenders in the nation.

White Institute Conference: Understanding & Treating Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Jewish World

The presenters will include both expert psychologists and psychoanalysts from the Institute as well as rabbis who are experts on the halachic and theological considerations concerning sexual abuse in the Orthodox community.
Rabbi Yosef Blau who is on the Rabbinic Committee of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children, and Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, who has edited a groundbreaking book on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse that includes chapters written by several of JBAC's officers and executive committee members will join Drs. Alison Feit, Richard Gartner and Julie Marcuse in discussion and presentation of the complex cultural, religious and psychological dynamics involved in working with survivors in our community.
This historic event is recommended both for experienced clinicians who treat survivors of abuse, as well as for rabbis, teachers, school and camp administrators, victims advocates, community leaders and anyone else who finds themselves in a position to be of assistance to survivors of abuse.  
The Jewish Board of Advocates for Children is offering a limited number of scholarships based on need, for those who wish to attend but cannot afford to.  Please email me to apply.  Survivors for Justice is also providing some scholarships ---

Dr. Asher Lipner
email -

Three Cups of Tea: Desire to believe in great men - the subsequent betrayal & shattered faith


I remember my first Mortenson Moment. It was a few years ago, in an old auditorium in Santa Fe, N.M., and I sat waiting with my wife and son in a large murmuring crowd. Greg Mortenson, arriving late, flashed a shy smile and a namaste sign as he took the stage. He had a bashful cluelessness that somehow made him all the more endearing. Soon he launched into The Story: How in 1993, he stumbled into the tiny Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt on K2. How the kind villagers nursed him back to health with many cups of tea. How as payment for their generosity, he returned to build a school. How that one school became hundreds of schools across Pakistan and Afghanistan. And how, tonight, we could help him build more.

If Mortenson’s story—distilled from his mega-bestseller Three Cups of Tea—seemed smarmy in places, its pull was irresistible. Anybody with a heart had to be inspired by the beautiful idea that one man could make such a profound difference in such a hard and desperate part of the world. I remember thinking that this was not only a book talk and charity fundraiser, it was something akin to a religious experience—a modern-day tent revival. People had not merely come to listen, they’d come to believe. Mortenson, a son of missionaries and a nurse by training who by then had been thrice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (and whose books were required reading by the Pentagon), was a secular saint who’d seized upon a revolutionary notion that soared across conflicts and continents—the power of educating children, especially girls, in tribal societies racked by poverty and war. In our cynical age, he was one dreamer who seemed to give off an authentic halo glow. That night, I could see genuine reverence in people’s eyes and in the earnest faces of children clutching their jars of pennies. [...]

Addiction - does giving in sometimes cure it and is more economical?


It sounds like an alcoholic's vision of heaven: a free place to live, paid expenses (mostly), and an ample supply of booze. But the reality of "wet houses" for homeless alcoholics looks more like hell, even as these programs — which take their residents off the streets — reduce costs to taxpayers and health-care providers.

A New York Times Magazine story slated to appear in print on Sunday reports on one such program in St. Paul, Minn. St. Anthony's Residence houses several dozen men including Dave, a formerly homeless 60-year-old man named who lives in a single-bedded "sterile 12-by-12 concrete room."

Hamas has taken over the Palestinian nationalist movement


The Palestinian reconciliation deal, if realized, heralds the takeover of the Palestinian national movement by Hamas, providing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with an escape from the rut he has fallen into because of the deadlock in the peace process. This is just what Netanyahu needed to unite the Israeli public behind him and thwart international pressure to withdraw from the West Bank.

A "unity government" or "technocracy" - as the Palestinians called it yesterday - is a nice but empty headline. In real life, there is no a-political rule and there are no egalitarian governments. There is always a ruling side with partners being dragged behind it. The stronger, more organized, better armed side, i.e. Hamas, will rule the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, not "technocrats." This is how the communists took over East Europe after WWII. [...]

Folic Acid Follies - dangers of too little & too much


No woman who's expecting, or expecting to expect, can avoid the advice, from any doctor or health site worth its salt: Take folic acid. The vitamin deserves its exalted status. When women take it before and during pregnancy, it reduces the risk of devastating neural-tube defects in the fetus. It's one of the only things we can do to improve fetal health that is supported by rigorous evidence.

But these days millions of women (and men) are getting high doses of the vitamin—and not because we're piling our plates with natural sources like spinach and collard greens. Since the late 1990s, the United States has fortified many breads, cereals, and pastas with folic acid. And then there are the supplements: both in regular multivitamins and freestanding folic acid pills. For pregnant women, the government recommends a daily dose of 400 micrograms in addition to any folate, the naturally occurring form of the vitamin. But millions of expectant mothers, as well women who are not yet pregnant, go hog-wild, taking more than 1,000 micrograms in pill form a day, an amount the government deems the "tolerable upper intake level." Somewhere along the line, it seems, folic acid crossed the line from vitamin to talisman.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Repeated sex offender suspected of assaulting 5-year-old girl

A repeated sexual offender was arrested Monday for allegedly sexually abusing a five-year-old girl in Holon while serving under house arrest. 

According to the complaint filed by the child's parents, the suspect approached the child while she was playing with friends in one of the city's public playgrounds.

A court battle over a husband’s rage & a wife who’d had enough

The morning after her nose was broken, as Mr. Sheehan, 49, was shaving, Ms. Sheehan, 46, shot him five times with his .38-caliber revolver, which he had left in the bedroom. When it was empty, she picked up his Glock and shot him six more times. 

The police arrived to find him dead on the floor of the bathroom, and her waiting on the porch with her sister and a UPS deliveryman. She was charged with second-degree murder. 

The case, now more than two years old and still at least months away from trial, returned briefly to State Supreme Court in Queens on Tuesday as a remarkable war was being waged between prosecutors from the office of the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, and the defense lawyer for Ms. Sheehan. 

At the moment, she has been barred from presenting testimony from psychiatric experts about long-term abuse, but Richard L. Buchter, a judge who recently took over the case, has agreed to reconsider that decision.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Calling police - reviewed & approved by Rav Sternbuch p 109-111 in "Child & Domestic Abuse"

Consulting rabbi before calling social services or police

Despite the fact that the halacha is clear that a child molester should be reported to the police and in fact it is often required by secular law - the poskim generally state that a rabbi should be consulted first. It is obvious of course that if waiting to consult a rabbi results in danger or harm to the child - that the police should be informed without consulting a rabbi. In the normal case where there is time, however, why should it be necessary to consult a rabbi? Rav Sternbuch commented that where there are serious consequences of making a mistake - it is required that a rabbi be consulted for the sake of objectivity. Even if there is little chance of making a mistake, he said that a rabbi needs to be consulted “so the world should not be hefker (without structure and authority).”

In addition in this area besides the danger of misunderstanding information, there is also the possibility of false accusations. Students who want to settle a score with teachers or divorcing couples whose lawyers advise them to make false accusations to gain custody are a danger which a rabbi can help prevent. In most cases there is no danger to a child by consulting a rav first and if there is concern that there will be then the police should be contacted. It is always best to consult a rabbi who has a lot of experience in these matters and especially once who has close relations with mental health professions and government social agencies and the police. Even after consulting a psychologist or lawyer, a rabbi should still be consulted before going to the police. Not just because of the reasons already discussed, but also as protection against those who mistakenly consider all informing the police as being prohibited. These elements can not only harass those who go to the police but they can cause severe damage to them by their slander and criticism of the entire family.

Rejecting a rabbi’s psak when he says not to go to the police

One frequently encountered problem is when there is clear evidence of child abuse and yet the rabbi consulted says not to go to the police. He might say that the molester promised never to do it again or that the molester’s family or community or yeshiva might suffer significant financial losses or embarrassment. In other words if the rabbi is saying to sacrifice children for the sake of money or embarrassment or the disgrace to the community, it is clear however that this view has no basis in Jewish law. We don’t sacrifice innocent people for the sake of negative consequences to others. Rav Moshe Sternbuch commented that any rav who would say such a thing is not practicing as a rav. A rabbi has an obligation to provide protection to the victim. By definition it seems it is an unjust ruling. Any rabbi who makes such a ruling may be ignorant of either the halacha or he doesn’t understand what the molesting or wife abuse causes. Therefore if there is time - another rabbi should be consulted.
However an alternative reason that a rabbi might say not to report the molester is that he feels he can guarantee protection for children against the molester. For example he might threaten the molester with a severe beating or provides supervision or he claims the molester has repented and won’t abuse again. He might also claim he can provide therapy equal or better to a psychologist. While these seem to be logically equivalent to the police, the likelihood that they will be effective is not very high. Therefore one should find a competent rabbi who agrees that the police should be informed in the case of actual abuse. Rav Sternbuch commented that only a known talmid chachom posek can posken these problems.

Bombers, molesters & rabbinic guidance with seichel & derech eretz

The purpose of this post is to try and clear up a number of issues from a previous post relating to substance and form of dealing with gedolim and sensitive halachic issues - as well as the need for respect and derech eretz for others - even when you disagree with them.

As most of my readership is aware - I have recently published a 2 volume book dealing with the very sensitive subject of child and domestic abuse. It deals with very sensitive halachic issues such as rodef, mesira, lashon harah. This project was done with the strong encouragement Rav Moshe Sternbuch. While Rav Sternbuch did not read through the material before it was published - we did have a number of discussions. When I asked him to write a teshuva on the material he said simply that I should a write a summary of what we had talked about it and he would review that summary - which he did by carefully reading and annotating and correcting the summary. That corrected material has been included in the book.

It was clear that care needed to be taken in presenting material to him to make sure I presented the context correctly and that I understood the context of his comments. One case which I documented in a post - was when certain chasidim came to me because of their concern with my posting about the Tropper case which they were heavily involved. When they asked him about writing about this while he was walking to Mincha- he told them he saw no need to be involved in the subject. They gleefully pointed out that they had just gotten a psak that I should not write anymore about Tropper and that if I respected Rav Sternbuch's Daas Torah than I should cease and desist from further posting on the subject. I was clearly puzzled by Rav Sternbuch's comments since he had clearly indicated the importance of my writing and publicizing the issue. After Mincha I asked him to clarify his negative comment he had made to the chassidim and the positive comment that I had received. He expressed surprise that I was puzzled. He said he thought he was answering the chassidim what he felt they should do concerning their involvement in the matter while the positive comments were regarding what I should do.

I'd like to address the reason for this post. Franks comments regarding the very serious issue of what to do when faced with a possible life threatening situation - do you need to ask a rabbi's permission to call the police. We are dealing with a case of where there is a real possibility of immediate danger of delaying reporting to the police - in such a case Rav Sternbuch told me one should call the police first.

Frank commented on a previous post about the Santa Monica bomber said...

Micha: Rav Shternbuch specifically said it may only be reported to the authorities in a case where we can determine with certainty that the accused is guilty prior to such reporting. Yes, I have it first hand from Rav Shternbuch. You can ask him directly if you seek to truth.

The above comment is misleading - possible deliberately so. There are a wide number of scenarios that could fit into Franks assertion. (I am assuming that Rav Sternbuch stated what Frank claimed - though it is possible he misunderstood what Rav Sternbuch said.) I am thus questioning what Rav Sternbuch meant to say. For example 1) Did he think that there needs to be 100% certainty or just a reasonable possibility as opposed to merely suspecting that the person was guilty? 2) how likely did Rav Sternbuch think that there might be danger of delaying calling the police? 3) how serious a crime is the person suspected of committing? Are a serial killer treated the same as someone who drives without a driver's license? 4) Is the guilt or innocence readily established by a rabbi or does it need professional expertise. There are a number of other possibilities

Finally Frank tossed in a gratuitous insult "You can ask him directly if you seek the truth" A sneering statement which reveals a basic contempt for me and an assumption that I am not concerned with truth - at least not as much as Frank is.

In sum I stand by my original statement - in the case of the Santa Monica Bomber - one should call the police rather than a rabbi when the bomber was identified and there was even the slightest chance that he might escape or hurt someone i.e., perhaps he had another bomb with him. In addition in reporting molesters or other dangerous people - if there is a possibility that someone will be hurt by the delay or that the rabbis are not qualified to investigate - the police should be contacted.

And yes I did send a letter to Rav Sternbuch with a request for confirmation of my understanding of what to do in a question of doubt in a dangerous situation. If his view differs from what I have understood in the past - I will publicize his answer.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Suspected rodef - defensive behavior when it is possible but not certain someone is a threat

Rav Yehuda Silman (Yeschurun 15):
Question: Is it permitted to kill someone that there are doubts whether he is in fact a rodef (threat to life)? I was asked concerning a security guard in a public place e.g., the entrance of a restaurant or a mall who notices a man approach and he appears suspicious. The person is acting strangely and appears to be an Arab. When the security guard approaches him, he begins to run. The security guards suspects that he is a terrorist. This is only a suspicion since it is possible that he is in fact a Jew and there are people in the world who act strangely. In addition it is possible that the suspicious stranger is running away simply out of panic. However it is possible that in a short time the stranger will in fact cause a serious terror attack. Is it permitted to kill the stranger when the facts are not clear? This is a common question and a similar question can be asked regarding a bank teller who is suddenly confronted with a bandit with a pistol in his hand. There are many times when it is later determined that the gun was only a toy and even if it were real the bandit didn’t intend to kill but only to scare the bank teller. Nevertheless there is a doubt whether the person is in danger. In such circumstances is it permitted to kill him? Answer:… Conclusions: 1) It appears that we hold in practice that it is permitted to killed a suspected rodef. In other words someone who is doing activities that endanger others even if there are doubts. … 4) Therefore in the two versions of the question that were asked concerning a suspicious person it is permitted to kill him. That is only in a case there are valid bases to suspect that he is trying to kill. 5) In contrast in the case of someone running in the forest or is shooting and there are doubts as to his intent[ - he is not to be viewed as a rodef because we assume he has a legitimate reason for doing these things (chezkas kashrus).

Dangers of selling (giving away) chametz - actualized


As reported by haredi media outlets, members of the Mishkenot Yaakov community in the capital’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood were encouraged by their Rabbi Simcha Rabinowitz to take the tradition one step further, and rather than selling the hametz, actually give it to the non-Jew, who would presumably return it after the holiday.

Many people chose to put their products – including expensive alcoholic beverages – in the room destined for the hametz, believing that such an act would be a higher degree of observing the holiday’s prohibition of not owning leavened products.

After the transaction took place and shortly before the holiday began, however, the gentile arrived with his vehicle and proceeded to take the goods, which were legally his. Objecting to his actions was not an option, since that would prove that the deal was not sincere, which would mean that the hametz would have belonged to the Jews.


תושבי רמת שלמה הופתעו: הגוי החליט לממש את זכותו
מקרה לא-נעים בשכונת רמת שלמה בירושלים, כאשר עשרות אנשים הפסידו את מיטב "חמצם", לאחר שהגוי מימש את זכותו ולקח את החמץ לעצמו ● בכניסת החג, הגיע הגוי עם רכבו והחליט לממש את המתנה שקיבל, הוא פתח את החדר בו הופקד החמץ של התושבים, ונעלם ● פרסום ראשון (זמנים, פסח


Monday, April 18, 2011

Hooked on Addiction: From Food to Drugs to Internet Porn

America is having an addiction moment. Media headlines scream daily about new neuroscience findings on porn addiction, Internet addiction, food addiction and plain, old-fashioned drug addiction. As TIME's Michael Scherer wrote last week, 42 U.S. Senators called on Attorney General Eric Holder to increase obscenity prosecutions for pornography, due in part to fears over sex addiction. There's even a new online magazine about addiction called The Fix (full disclosure: I write for it).
But what do the recent neuroscience studies actually tell us about addiction? What is addiction really?

The Santa Monica bomber test - halachic clarity vs confusion

I recently discovered a very simple test of whether a person will report child abuse. Or rather whether he is so tied up in knots about the complexities of halacha and the horror of mesira that he would not call the police unless a godol gave him permission.

The test is the story of the confused Jewish individual who exploded a bomb at the Santa Monica shul and then escaped to Denver where he was recognized by a rabbi who then called his rabbi for permission to call the police.
The test consists of "What would you do if you recognized the Santa Monica bomber - would you call the police or call your rabbi for permission to call the police."

One answer I got - "You can't really trust the police - after all look at the harsh sentence that Rubashkin got. You have to consider all sides of the issue and a godol would know best what to do. Perhaps the guy just needed some therapy and understanding."

The test illustrates the need for our educational system and rabbonim to educate the community in the laws of pikuach nefesh and rodef. Issues which often do not allow time for a telephone call. This is no different than teaching the issue of pikuach nefesh for Shabbos. One case I heard was of a avreich whose baby developed a fever of 105 over Shabbos. He read through Shmiras Shabbos and concluded that it was permitted but didn't feel comfortable about calling the doctor. After Shabbos he went to the doctor and was told that his child was brain damaged. In a state of shock and depression he went to speak to Rav Moshe Feinstein - "How can this happen? I just wanted to sure to avoid avoid chilul Shabbos. Rav Moshe was very upset and told him - "the halacha is very clear that this was a life threatening situation - there was no heter of being frum at the expense of your child."

How to explain child abuse by Orthodox Jews - to secular therapists?

I was asked to give a speech at a major conference on the issue of child abuse in the Orthodox community. The conference is being held for secular  psychotherapists who deal with this issue daily. It will be in a month

I was not asked to speak as a therapist but rather as an Orthodox Jew. This is an interesting and important challenge since these therapists have a significant number of Orthodox patients and clearly would like a better understanding of the dynamics of this issue. Many of the therapists are Jewish but very few are observant. A number of them come from Orthodox backgrounds - but are now secular.

I would appreciate suggestions and insights which you think might be important to get across to an audience that will be polite  but not  sympathetic to the dynamics of the Orthodox community. What would you say if you had this opportunity?
I'd also like to report  the fact that my books on abuse are selling in Jewish books stores without significant opposition - contrary to everyone's prediction.. Eichler's of Flatbush just told me that it is selling well and that they just reordered. The world has changed - but still has a way to go.

Rav Chaim Brisker - . Amora has the power to argue with a Tanna

 Contrary to the view of the Kesef Mishna and clearly at variance with Rav Elchonon Wasserman that the authority of a Tanna is that of Sanhedrin which an Amora can not reject. And also in disagreement with the Chazon Ish that the Tanna had greater knowledge of the truth than an Amora -  is Rav Chaim Brisker's view that theoretically an Amora can disagree with a Tanna but in general don't.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman[i](Kovetz Shiurim Bava Basra 170a #633): Rav said that the halacha is neither that of R’ Yehuda nor of R’ Yochanon. The Rashbam said that Rav was considered a Tanna and thus could disagree with other Tanaim. However Tosfos (Kesubos) says that R’ Yochanon disagreed with this halacha and since we have a rule that in a dispute between Rav and R’ Yochacon that we rule in accord with R’ Yochanon that means that Rav is not viewed as a Tanna and thus cannot argue with Tannaim. But this presents a question. How can it be that Rav is disagreeing with the Mishna here? This question I asked my teacher R’ Chaim Brisker and he answered, “That in truth an Amora has the power to disagree with a Tanna. This that we regularly find the Talmud rejecting the views of an Amora by simply showing that a Tanna rejects it – that is because as a general rule an Amora did not disagree with a Tanna. So if the Amora only knew the view of the Tanna we assume he would not disagree with it. However where we see that an Amora explicitly disagrees with a Tanna it is possible that the final halacha is in agreement with the Amora.”

Chazon Ish - authority of Chazal is their superior knowledge of truth.

We have had several views of authority - Kesef Mishna - Talmud was accepted by the Jewish people as authoriative (bottom up). Rav Elchonon Wasserman - Majority of rabbis has status of Sanhedrin and thus Talmud was accepted by Sanhedrin authority (top down). Chazon Ish - authority is due to innate superiority and they also have the innate authority of truth and thus they are objectively right..

Chazon Ish[i](Letters 2:24): The truth is that the generation after the Mishna witnessed a decline in stature relative to the Tannaim. The new generation knew for certain that the truth was always with the Tannaim. Once they knew the truth of the matter that it was impossible for them to comprehend something that had not been understood by one of the Tannaim—it was no longer possible to disagree directly with the Tannaim on their own authority. Therefore, they only taught what they understood to be the teachings of the Tannaim. Similarly with the close of the Talmud, the words of an Amora, who was unaware of the teaching on that matter of a tanna, were null. The only exception being Rav who because of his greatness his words were not null. All their conclusions were reached with Divine guidance and ruach hakodesh which manifested itself. Their rulings were in agreement with G‑d as it says in Bava Metzia 86a — Rebbe and Rav Nachman were the end of the Mishna. Thus, it was at the conclusion of the Talmud as it says that Ravina and Rav Ashi were the end of hora’ah. While Rav Yosef Karo says that the authority came because the Jewish people accepted them as authoritative (Kesef Mishna Hilchos Mamrim), he did not do any kindness or good with the sages by this assertion. The fact is that their authority is because they had the truth. How could we simply go according to our opinion if we know that our understanding is limited and we don’t have the truth? How could we go against the sages? In fact, the entire Torah was given at Sinai — even that a student would “create” in the future. The Tanaim recovered that which had been forgotten and up to the time of Rebbe, not everything had been revealed. However, at the end of the Mishna, everything that was appropriate to reveal was revealed and henceforth nothing new was revealed. In fact, everything was hinted at in the words of one of the Tannaim. Thus, it was revealed the Mishna from the first generation of the Amoraim until the last generation of the Amoraim. Our portion is only what is mentioned in the words of the Amoraim. This was a tradition that they had as it says in the gemora Bava Metzia and Avoda Zara 9a that there were a period of 2000 years of Torah. This alludes to the Tannaim because this period ended shortly after them

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Itamar massacre solved; 2 arrested


via ynet - News on 4/17/11

צילום: תקשורת שב"כ
Joint investigation of Fogel family murder by Shin Bet, IDF and police culminates in the arrest of two Palestinians. Both suspects admit involvement in terror attack; say they wanted to 'die martyrs' death'

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is It Murder If a Mom Withholds Cancer Treatment From Her Child?


Imagine you are a single mother suffering from depression, overwhelmed with caring for an autistic, nonverbal and developmentally disabled son. If he were diagnosed with cancer, what would you do?

Kristen LaBrie, a Massachusetts mother, chose to disregard a prescribed chemotherapy regimen. On Tuesday, two years after her son, Jeremy, died  at age 9, a Superior Court jury declared her guilty of attempted murder.[...]

Rav Shlomo Fisher - authority is bottom up from acceptance of people

This is the first of 8 pages.

Everything given on Sinai - but not everything was given on Sinai?!

From Daas Torah (2nd  edition) - translations copyrighted - there are obviously many more sources concerning this matter.

Berachos (5a): Rav Levi bar Chama said  in the name of Reish Lakish: What is the meaning of the Shemos (24:12), “ And I gave you the stone Tablets, and the Torah and the Mitzvos which I wrote to teach them.” “The Tablets” is referring to the Ten Commandments. “Torah” is referring to the Five Books of Moshe, “Mitzvos” is referring to the Mishna, “Which I wrote” is referring to Prophets and Writings, “To teach them” is referring to the Talmud. Thus this verse teaches that all of these were given to Moshe at Sinai.

Torah Temima (Shemos 24:12.28): Look at Megila (19b) that learns that G d showed Moshe dikdukei Torah and dikdukei Sofrim and what the Sofrim would generate in the future…. The intent of these statements is that the halachos which would be generated in the future by means of hermeneutic principles and intellectual analysis were in fact inherently contained within the Torah that was given to Moshe. They do not literally mean that also the analyses that were used to generate these halachos were actually said to Moshe as some fundamentalist try to insert this meaning into the drashos I cited. They use these drashos as a banner and insist that the Talmud is saying that all the intellectual analysis as well as the discussion and evaluation that a student would say in the future - were literally already given to Moshe at Sinai. Even though it is self-evident that the intent of these statements is that only the basic laws that were used to generate the details in the future were given to Moshe and not the analysis itself and there is no need to prove this – nevertheless a reliable source that this is true is expressed by our Sages in Menachos (29b). There the greatness of Rabbi Akiva is described in the following manner. “When Moshe went up to Heaven to get the Torah he was shown the sages of every generation. He saw Rabbi Akiva interpreting every detail by means of intellectual analysis and Moshe did not understand what was going on and he got upset. However at some point Rabbi Akiva’s students ask him how he had derived a particular point, he answered that it was the halacha given to Moshe at Sinai. When Moshe heard this he felt better.” Thus we see an explicit proof that our Sages understood that only the fundamental halachos were said to Moshe… and that is why Moshe felt better when Rabbi Akiva said it was halacha given to Moshe at Sinai because that is superior to that which is generated by analysis… A clearer proof that Moshe was not literally given the intellectual analysis that would be used to generate the new halachos is found in Bamidbar Rabba (41), “Did Moshe in fact learn the entire Torah in 40 days. That is not possible since the Torah is described as being greater in size than the earth. Therefore what is meant is that Moshe learned the general principles at Sinai.” This doesn’t need further explanation. There is more to discuss about this general topic but what I have written is sufficient here.

Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvos Shoresh 2): We have already explained in the Introduction to our Commentary to the Mishna that the majority of Torah laws were generated by the use of the 13 Hermeneutic Principles. Furthermore that such laws are sometimes the source of dispute amongst our Sages. However those laws and explanations of the laws which were transmitted by Moshe were never disputed. … The proof to this is Temura (16a) which states that,” 1700 laws derived from kal v’chomer and gezera sheva and dikdukay sofrim were forgotten in the days of mourning for Moshe. Neverthless Osniel ben Knaz rediscovered them through his analysis …” If this large amount is what was forgotten, than obviously the number of unforgotten laws that had been derived by analysis must have been considerably more. This large number of derived laws existed already in the time of Moshe since the forgetting of the 1700 derived laws occurred during the period of mourning for Moshe. Thus we have shown that even in the time of Moshe there were derived laws called dikdukei sofrim (the exactitudes of the Scribes). That is because all that was not heard explicitly at Sinai has been produced by the rabbis….

Rashi (Sukkos 28a): Kalim v’Chomrim – Torah laws deducible by use of kal v’chomer - since they that don’t require a tradition - were not explained at Sinai.

Shaloh (Toldos Adom Beis Chochma):
All that which the sages of all generation have discovered was in fact received at Sinai from the Kol (sound) and it is not the result of human intellect and analysis. Thus in truth it was commanded in the Torah by means of Moshe (Devarim 17:11), “According to the Torah which you were taught and the laws which you were commanded to do, do not deviate from that which you were told right or left.” A person who doesn’t obey is deserving of death (Devarim 17:12).  This Kol was the great sound with did not end (yasaf)…In the Yerushalmi Peah (2:6) the Sages said that even what an experienced student would decide before his teacher was said on Sinai. Thus it is clear that all the words of the sages in every generation and all that they innovated and all their analysis is from Sinai. It is not from human intellect but from the divine intellect. They served merely to actualize the potential Torah which had been given at Sinai.

In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures


It is a question asked repeatedly across America: why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?

Answering such a question — the equivalent of determining why a dog did not bark — is anything but simple. But a private meeting in mid-October 2008 between Timothy F. Geithner, then-president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Andrew M. Cuomo, New York’s attorney general at the time, illustrates the complexities of pursuing legal cases in a time of panic.

At the Fed, which oversees the nation’s largest banks, Mr. Geithner worked with the Treasury Department on a large bailout fund for the banks and led efforts to shore up the American International Group, the giant insurer. His focus: stabilizing world financial markets. [...]

If Talmudic authority is result of acceptance - where is evidence?

from Daas Torah - translaton copyrighted

Mahretz Chayes (Toras Neviim #3 Maamar Lo Sasur): The Kesef Mishna (Mamrim 2:1) raises a very strong question against the Rambam. The Rambam says that where there is a dispute based on sevora or drasha concerning a Torah law, a later generation can reject the view of an earlier generation - even though it is not greater in wisdom and number. If so then why don’t Amoraim disagree with Tannaim and in fact we find many instances that an Amora’s view is rejected because his view differs from that stated in a Mishna or braissa. The Kesef Mishna answers, “It is possible to say that from the day that Mishna was completed it was accepted and established that later generations would not be permitted to disagree with the earlier generatons. Similarly when the Talmud was completed, no one had the right to disagree with it.” But there is no evidence in either the Talmud Bavli or Yerushalmi that there was such binding agreement. One can not find the slightest hint in the Mishna or Talmud and the Kesef Mishna’s questions are very solid… However I saw something similar in the Rambam’s Introduction to the Mishna Torah, “However all those matters that are found in the Babylonian Talmud are obligatory for all Jews and they can be forced to observe them… And all these matters were agreed to by all Jews.” We see that the Rambam also writes the reason for the obligation is that all Jews agreed to it. However I don’t know where there is evidence that such an agreement occurred.

Claims of bribed witnesses in Baruch Lebovitz abuse conviction

Daily News

Baruch Lebovits, 60, received a sentence of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison last year for sexually abusing minors.

Prosecutors stood by a Brooklyn rabbi's child-molestation conviction Wednesday, even as they charged a Hasidic man with shaking down his family and bribing someone to make false accusations.

Baruch Lebovits, 60, received a sentence of 10 2/3 to 32 years in prison a year ago, based on the testimony of a 22-year-old man who said the rabbi sexually abused when he was 16.

The trial and stiff penalty sent shockwaves through Borough Park's tight-knit Jewish community.
But Samuel Kellner, 49, who brought the victim to prosecutors' attention, was charged with paying another man $10,000 to accuse Lebovits of abuse.

Oral vs Written:Without writing there is no logic, or philosophy or mathematics

I am presently reading The Information by James Gleick . It is an astounding series of revelations about the nature of information and the significance of how it is available for what its meaning and how it is thought about. This is obviously of significance for the distinction of Oral and Written Torah. It perhaps also answers the question of why the gemora was not written in the form of the Mishna Torah. etc etc

chapter 2

"Logic might be imagined to exist independent of writing - syllogisms can be spoken as well as written - but it did not. Speech is too fleeting to allow for analysis. Logic descended from the written word, in Greece as well as India and China, where it developed independently. Logic turns the act of abstraction into a tool for determining what is true and what is false: truth can be discovered in words alone, apart from conceret experience. Logic takes its form in chains: sequences whose members connect one to another. Conclusions follow from premises. These require a degree of constancy. They have no power unless people can examine and evaluate them. In contrasst an oral narrative proceeds by accretion, the words passing y in a line of parde past the viewing stand, briefly present and then gone, interacting with one another via memory and association...".

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Should childhood sibling sexual abuse be revealed to one's wife?

The following letter was forwarded to me by the recipient with permission to publish without identifying information.

Dear Rabbi

When I was a young child I was molested by an older brother over a  protracted period of time.  He was only a young teenager at the time  and therefore I do not harbor any resentment or bad-feelings toward  him now.  In fact, our relationship is very good.  I am now a happy  father and husband learning in kollel. The molestation affected and  continues to affect my life in many ways.  I recieved therapy when I  was a bochur, and have recently gone for a tune up over the last few  months because I was dealing with depression and other unwanted  feelings.  My wife knows about that I was victimized as a child and I  have been very open with her about many of the issues I have faced.  However, I never told her that it was done by an older brother.  However, there are times where I feel that her knowing that  information would be helpful in her ability to understand my  occasional difficult times.  I am very wary to tell her because  although she is very level-headed and understanding, I do not want her  to have negative feelings towards my brother.  It could be that if she  sees my lack of negativity, she would follow suit.  It is also a  lashon harah shayla whether it is permitted to tell her.

 Thank you.

My response to this letter is as follows

If he wants to maintain a positive relationship with his brother he should not tell his wife. However he in fact had no obligation to forgive his brother and even if he did forgive him - his wife doesn't have to forgive him for what he did to her husband.

If he feels that there is a need for his wife to fully understand the horrors of what he experienced - then he has every right to tell her as long as he accepts that she will have negative feelings to his brother. It is not likely that these will be eliminated by his positive attitude towards his brother.

However it is likely that his need for periodic tuneup indicates that he has not actually forgiven his brother and that he remains strongly conflicted over the matter. Adding his wife into the mixture is likely to make the situation worse - but might ultimately lead to a better resolution of the problem with a proper therapist.

The issue thus is the relative importance of his need for his wife to fully understand him versus the desire to have a positive relationship with his brother. It is not likely that he can have both. In addition there is the question of maintaining the status quo versus a more complete resolution of the matter. There is no "correct" answer to this question. The lashon harah question is subordinate to the above and does not exist as an independent issue.

Rosh (55.9) No one's view - not even Rashi's - is automatically accepted

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Rosh (55.9): You wrote that because of the perfection of the distinguished scholar Rabbi Yaakov ben Shushon no one would think to question his views and reject his explanation. That is not a reason for not disagreeing with an authority. Who is greater than Rashi who illuminated our eyes in the darkness of exile with his commentaries and yet his own descendants Rabbeinu Tam and Ri disagreed with him concerning many issues and rejected his words. That is because it is the Torah of truth and we submit to no man because of his status and authority. And this that you said he was perfected in reasoning or language – it doesn’t matter because Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his (Rosh HaShanna 25b)… Furthermore the Gaonim (Seder Tanaym and Amoraim #25) have said that from Abaye and Rava the halacha follows the more recent authority – not the previous ones…

High medical costs:Surgeons get kickbacks for spinal fusion surgery

Wall Street Journal

A Portland, Ore., neurosurgeon who performed multiple spinal fusions on the same patients lost his operating privileges at the hospital where he did many of his surgeries and is under investigation by the Oregon Medical Board.

The latest developments came as new information emerged about the medical-device distributorship that supplies Dr. Makker with spinal implants. The distributor, Omega Solutions of Fresno, Calif., sometimes pays surgeons to use its products, according to a document reviewed by the Journal that Omega recently sent to surgeons it sought to recruit.

The document says that the company enters into partnerships with surgeons who agree to use its products and pays them "dividends" based on the number of surgeries they perform. Critics say such arrangements are controversial because they can skew medical decision-making.

The document details the cash payments made to one of Omega's partners, an unnamed spine surgeon in Los Angeles. From Jan. 1, 2009, to May 19, 2010, the surgeon received a total of $519,674.35 based on his use of Omega implants in two to three surgeries a week, the document says.

Rabbi accused of bribing witness to testify against Baruch Liebovitz


A Brooklyn rabbi is under arrest and facing charges of bribery and witness tampering for allegedly paying an individual to accuse another rabbi of sexual abuse.

Sources tell NBC New York that Samuel Kellner was arrested Tuesday night. The Brooklyn district attorney has scheduled a news conference but has declined comment ahead of the announcement.

Kellner is accused of paying a witness to say he was abused by Rabbi Baruch Lebovits, who was sentenced a year ago to 32 years in prison after he was convicted of child molestation. [...]

JBAC protests against conference on "Molestation Issues"

Sunday, May 15, 2011, Jewish Board of Advocates for Children will
protest at the Brooklyn Marriott, while Aguda Rabbis Chaim Dovid Zwiebel
and Shlomo Gottesman are publicly speaking to 500 orthodox professionals
on, "Molestation Issues and Reporting: Halachic and Legal Overview." The
source of the problem will pontificate about the problem. What a cruel
farce and hoax! There will be no experienced prosecutor, lawyer,
therapist, child advocate, nor recognized rabbi-posek who will speak.
The cover-up and obfuscation continue. And so will the protest. Its an

Rabbis Sound an Alarm Over Eating Disorders


n the large and growing Orthodox Jewish communities around New York and elsewhere, rabbinic leaders are sounding an alarm about an unexpected problem: a wave of anorexia and other eating disorders among teenage girls.

While no one knows whether such disorders are more prevalent among Orthodox Jews than in society at large, they may be more baffling to outsiders. Orthodox women are famously expected to dress modestly, yet matchmakers feel no qualms in asking about a prospective bride’s dress size — and her mother’s — and the preferred answer is 0 to 4, extra small.

Rabbis say the problem is especially hard to treat because of the shame that has long surrounded mental illness among Orthodox Jews.

“There is an amazing stigma attached to eating disorders — this is the real problem,” said Rabbi Saul Zucker, educational director for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, or O.U., the organization that issues the all-important kashrut stamp for food. “But hiding it is not going to make it go away. If we don’t confront it, it’s going to get worse.”  [...]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rabbi indicted for sexual assault


An indictment was filed Tuesday by the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office against a well-known rabbi accused of sodomizing and performing an indecent act on his friend's wife who was seeking his professional counseling.

According to the indictment, the defendant, a counselor for young couples and a rabbi at a girls seminary, was approached early last month by a haredi couple - his student and good friend and his wife - for counseling on family matters. [...]

Call Police: Don't call your rabbi when faced with immediate possible life threatening situations

the Shul Bomber was recently captured by the FBI. The person who discovered him and was aware that he was the bombing suspect - first called his rabbi to see whether it was permitted. This is sheer idiocy. When there is even a suspected life threatening situation you must call the police immediately!

ABC News

"Today, I happened to be on the Jewish website 'Vos Iz Neias,'" the rabbi added. "I saw the facial features, although he shaved off part of his beard. First thing I did was call my local rabbi to see if I could report him. He said, 'If he is a danger to society, you have to report him.' I called the FBI in Santa Monica. They asked me to call the Cleveland Heights police. They came to synagogue, and he was sitting right in the back."

Non-chareidi rabbis also invalidate conversions


The dispute over the degree of leniency that Jewish law affords the conversion process is not one of halachic stringency, but one of nationalistic ideology, a prominent national religious educator said Monday.

“The State Conversion Authority has also annulled conversions,” said Rabbi Neria Gutel, speaking at a conference on religious educational attitudes toward Israeli non-Jews at the Rehovot campus of Orot Teachers’ College, which he heads. “The question of whether to annul a conversion is not one that divides national religious and haredi rabbis.”

Gutel focused his address on the estimated 320,000 Israelis who made aliya under the Law of Return, but are not Jewish according to Halacha. National religious rabbis and lawmakers are seeking ways to help these people – who speak Hebrew, serve in the IDF and consider themselves Israeli in every way – to undergo conversion according to Jewish law. [...]

Majority rule of halacha is not relevant in most cases

from Daas Torah - translation copyrigthed

Chazon Ish (Beginning of Kelayim):
It is well known that the requirement to follow the majority applies only to a beis din which is in session, but regarding scholars holding different views who lived at different times or in different places, the question of majority or minority is not relevant. In a particular area where most of the Torah derives from a particular rabbi and his disciples, and the disciples' disciples, it is correct to follow their rabbi even in a matter in which the majority (of authorities) holds a different opinion. In recent generations most of our Torah has come to us through the specific sefarim in our own teachers like Rif, Rosh, Rambam, Ramban, Rashba, Ritva, Ran, Maggid Mishne, Mordechai, and the commentaries of Rashi and Tosfos, and whenever there is a difference of opinion (and as mentioned above, majority ruling does not enter) it is in the hands of every individual Torah scholar to decide whether to take a strict view or to select particular authorities to follow; likewise, in the case where no decision has been taken and the question is still open (sofek). In addition to the fact that majority rule does not apply in the above situations, we do not even know what the majority view is, since many scholars did not put their views in writing, and many written views did not reach us. (Therefore Jewish law does not change when new manuscripts are printed which convert a minority into a majority. Despite this, the courage and insight needed to decide on a logical basis are sometimes lacking, and decisions are taken on the basis of numerical majority; but it would be better to rely on those authorities whose views have reached us in all branches of Torah. Even though we do not presume to decide between different Rishonim by conclusive logical arguments, nevertheless, the study of their arguments is a major factor in reaching a decision, and many times our master z"l (Rabbi Yosef Karo) decides in favor of one authority because his argument is convincing and removes difficulties. Our Rabbis have taught us not to abandon the use of our own intellect, and we must place great weight on intellectual comparison which is the connecting link between Creator and created.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Errors of rabbinic authority are potentially harmful

from my sefer Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Derashos HaRan (#11): … Since we believe that all which the Torah prohibits is inherently harmful and creates a harmful impact on our souls – even though we don’t know the reason. According to this accepted view, even if all the sages mistakenly believed that something that was impure was actually pure – this agreement doesn’t change anything and it still remains harmful to us and its actual harmful nature continues despite the mistaken understanding of the sages that it is pure. It is equivalent to the agreement of doctors that a medicine has no effect when it is in fact a strong drug. There is no question that there is absolutely no significant change in the nature of the medicine that results from the mistaken agreement of the doctors. In the same way if the Torah prohibits something because it is harmful, the agreement of sages that it is permitted doesn’t change its intrinsic nature – except by some miracle. … [Thus we see that when the Sanhedrin errs and causes people to violate that which the Torah prohibited – they are causing harm.] However it is inconceivable that a person should be harmed by following the ruling of the Sanhedrin even if he eats something which is prohibited because they said it is permitted. The answer is that the soul greatly benefits when a person listens to the Sages since it is the action most beloved by G d… This benefit removes the harm which would naturally result to the soul because of the eating something prohibited. Something similar happens physically when a person eats something which is harmful. If he eats it with the understanding that this food is good for him – his thoughts act on the food and remove the harmful effects – unless the harm is  very strong. It is the same thing when a person follows the commands of the Sanhedrin and perceives something that is objectively prohibited as being permitted. When he follows their directives, that obedience itself will remove all harm that he would normally be subject to because of the natural consequences of eating something which is harmful. That is why the Torah commanded to follow the directives of the Sanhedrin and not deviate either right or left [whether they are correct or not].

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is reality all in the mind or is it objective?

One of the issues I am working on now is the Jewish view about attitude  towards reality. One view is that there is such a thing as  objective reality and that one must know about this reality. One must understand the facts, one needs a clear evaluation of one's talents and a critical review of whether they are beling applied in a way to bring about change. There is a need for feedback and consultation with others as to how effective one is interacting with the world. One needs to learn new skills or make changes in behavior or attitude. This is the view of the Ramban

On the other hand others claim that reality ultimately doesn't matter but all that matters is your feeling or beliefs as to whether they are positive or negative i.e., It all depends on what is going on in your mind.. If you have bitachon you will be happy and wealthy and if you don't you will be an unhappy failure. If you believe everything is wonderful and G-d will provide whatever you need than there is really no need to get a job or see a Rav or therapist about improving your communication skills or stopping harmful behavior. You just need to focus on the quality of your thoughts. Positive thoughts attract blessing and negative thoughts create the reverse. This has a direct counterpart in the non-Jewish world i.e., The Secret. This is the view of Chovas HaLevavos

The following is an example of the "all in your mind" school.

From "Its all in Your Mind" by Sara Yosef page 26 She is Rav Ovadia Yosef's daughter in law - married to Rav Avrahm Yosef.

"If a family is not doing well financially, the wife ought to consider whether in her mind she questions he husband's abilities as a provider. Does she think of him unsuccessful, or unable to earn a living? Does she feel that he allows others to take advantage of him, or that he is unwilling to work hard? Without realizing it, she projects her thoughts to her surroundings. Ultimately, these thoughts and beliefs become realtiy. The moment she changes her negative attitudes toward her husband, and instead strives to think positive thoughts about him such as, "He's earning a nice living; he's really quite talented" - that family will begin to see Hashem's blessing in their labors. The family's economic situation will change for the better. Our belief is the key to producing change in our day to day living."

Self help & America's desire for transformation


I am a few hundred yards from the spot where three people died in October 2009. They were on a "spiritual warrior retreat" led by James Arthur Ray, a man with improbably white teeth who claimed he had been initiated into 12 shamanic orders. He had been a guest on Oprah and was featured in the best-selling DVD The Secret, and the nearly $10,000 weeklong course was his platinum self-help offering. On the last day of the retreat — the final chance to "play full on" — he harangued his pupils into staying in an overcrowded, overheated sweat lodge even after some of them had passed out and one had fallen into the glowing rocks in the center. The 55 participants, already weakened from a 36-hour "vision quest" with neither food nor water, suffered terribly in the sweat lodge, but the vast majority stayed. "You're not going to die," Ray told them. "You might think you are, but you're not going to die." He was only partly right. In the end, 18 were hospitalized, and three died from heatstroke or organ failure. Ray's manslaughter trial is due to begin March 1.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Americanization of Mussar: Abraham Twerski's Twelve Steps


Standing at the crossroads of religion and psychotherapy, mussar and Twelve Step recovery, the Jewish and the mass market, Abraham Twerski is a rare case study of intellectual and cultural interchange between Judaism and American society. Twerski's work has not yet been examined as a historical and cultural phenomenon. [2] Therefore, I want to introduce Abraham Twerski as a suitable and even tantalizing subject for scholars and, in so doing, to propose that this Hasidic psychiatrist signifies a major, twentieth-century American shift in the venerable tradition of mussar, Jewish ethical teachings. My essay explores two questions: What changes in the Jewish view of human nature are embodied in his writing? Which elements of American thought and culture does he adapt and incorporate into the mussar tradition? Working in the heart of what one historian has dubbed an "Alcoholic Republic," Twerski adopted the concepts of Alcoholics Anonymous, through which he gained new insight into both the human condition and Jewish tradition. [3]

Friday, April 8, 2011

Words of our Sages are from G-d

Baal HaTanya (Likutei Torah Acharei 27b): Concerning this matter we find the statement of our Sages, “These and those are the words of the living G-d.” [Eiruvin 13b] That means that the words of Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel as well as the words of Abaye and Rava are not literally their words. Rather they are G d’s words that are in their mouths. This is just as the Magid said to Rabbi Yosef Karo, “I am the Mishna which speaks through your mouth.”

Leshem (Shaarei Leshem 2:4:19):
The critical point is that every Jew is obligated to believe with perfect faith that all which is found in the words of our Talmudic Sages - both in halacha, Talmudic agada and medrashim - are in their entirety the words of the living G d. That is because everything that they say is with ruach hakodesh (Sanhedrin 48:). This includes even that which isn’t relevant to halacha and deed…Also all their decrees and statutes are not the product of human intellect at all but rather are the result of ruach hakodesh in which G d has expressed Himself through them. This is the great sound that doesn’t end (Devarim 5:19) of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and it expresses itself in the Oral Torah…. Thus, the Sages are just like messengers in what they say…. This is why the Bal Halachos Gedolos includes the Rabbinic mitzvos with the Torah mitzvos since all of them were given by G d (Chagiga 3b)…We can conclude from all this that anyone who tries to analyze the words of the Sages in order to establish the nature of their truth places himself in great danger. That is because man’s intellect cannot properly comprehend this matter and thus a person can come to heresy from the endeavor. This is what Koheles (7:16) states: Don’t make yourself too wise - why destroy yourself? A person who gets involved in this matter will find it very difficult to resist following his human understanding. He will end up going back and forth between the view of the Torah and that of his own understanding…. The righteous person lives by his faith because that is the foundation of the entire Torah….

Palestinians attack school bus with anti-tank rocket

Will rabbis allow brainy Shabbat driving?


As the interface between brain and machine moves from science fiction to reality, rabbis will be debating whether a vehicle one merely sits in and drives solely with brain activity can be used on Shabbat.

This intriguing thought was discussed on Thursday by Rabbi Dr. Dror Fixler, an electrooptics engineer at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, who was one of the speakers at Thursday’s 18th Torah and Science Conference of the Jerusalem College of Technology, Yeshiva University in Israel and BIU.

The all-day conference, which attracted around 200 men and women, was hosted by JCT president Prof. Noah Dana-Picard, a leading theoretical mathematician who heads the colleges for religious young men and, separately, young women, who study engineering and related subjects.

Fixler showed a recently released clip of a “proof of concept” vehicle that has a person inside who merely thinks of how to maneuver it. The vehicle drives itself safely, turning corners, slowing down and giving more gas. While this is “not something one should do at home,” the Autonomos company successfully tested the proof-of-concept car a few months ago, said the BIU engineer. [....]

All societies have right to survive - even by capital punishment

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Chasam Sofer (O. H. #208): It seems to me that the rulers of any society have the right to execute and punish because of the verse “You have the responsibility for blood” (Devarim 19:10) as is interpreted in Mo’ed Koton (5a). It is logical that even if the Torah hadn’t been given they would have this right. And this was true also prior to the giving of the Torah since there were laws and civilized conduct and every king preserved society through laws (See Rema #10). When the Torah was given there was a reestablished of the laws of society and certain changes were made such as a thief had to pay double and a non dangerous ox paid half damages and the nature of the responsibility of watchmen. This of course doesn’t mean that harmful behavior which wasn’t mentioned in the Torah was permitted - such as damage which is not physically manifest because the ways of Torah are pleasant. Nevertheless they are not included in the laws of the Torah and the king and Sanhedrin are given the discretion according to place and time how to deal with these issues. So surely they have the right to remove the many harmful agents such as murderers who don’t have witnesses. The ways of the Torah are pleasant and all its paths are peace.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Police commander confesses to sexual harrassment - won't be charged


Police Commander Uri Bar-Lev will not stand trial for sexually harassing Dr. Orly Ines, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Thursday.

The attorney general stated that although enough evidence has been gathered to base an indictment, it was decided to close the case after Bar-Lev apologized to Ines and announced that he will retire from the police. [...]

The Case for Having More Kids


Bryan Caplan, an economist at George Mason, is the author of “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids,” which will be released this week. Mr. Caplan doesn’t believe everyone should have a lot of children. But he does say many parents and future parents should consider having more children than they are currently planning.

The economists at Marginal Revolution — colleagues of Mr. Caplan’s — have debated some of the book’s arguments in recent posts. Mr. Caplan also wrote a related article for The Wall Street Journal last year and commented on the “Tiger Mother” book for EconLog.[...]

Website for improving communication during mourning

YNET has created a website aimed at helping friends and family during the Jewish mourning process. The free service is geared to the Jewish community as well as those who may need help in understanding the Jewish mourning practices. provides users with a variety of helpful features such as important details regarding the date, times and location of the funeral, cemetery services and shiva (the Jewish period of mourning after the funeral) as well as an information page (which displays information about common Jewish funeral customs). [...]


Abuse: Boot camps for troubled teens under attack


For the last 40 years, teens with drug problems, learning disabilities and other behavioral issues have been sent to residential facilities to endure "tough love" techniques that are widely known to include methods of outright physical and psychological abuse.

Whether labeled as boot camps, emotional-growth schools, behavior modification programs or wilderness programs, these organizations have operated without federal oversight, and state regulation of the schools ranges from lax to nonexistent. Now, however, individual critics of the programs are using the Internet to find each other and mobilize, and are bringing change.

Consider the Elan School, in Poland, Maine, which has long been known for its extreme practices. On April 1, Elan shut its doors after four decades in operation, blaming negative publicity online for recent declines in enrollment. "The school has been the target of harsh and false attacks spread over the Internet with the avowed purpose of forcing the school to close," Sharon Terry, Elan's executive director, told the Lewiston Maine Sun Journal.

Rashi questioning assertion of gemora (Berachos 33b)

Berachos (33b): R’ Zera said: Choose the statement of Rabbi Chiya bar Abba because he is very precise in reporting the statements of his teacher like Rachava of Pumbedisa. Because Rachva said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda ….

Rashi (Berachos 33b): Choose the statement of Rabbi Chiya bar Aba…but this is very problematic. First of all Rachava never saw Rabbi Yehuda. He never saw Rabbi Yehuda the son of Rabbi Elai or Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi. Second -  all the other Amoraim were also very precise in reporting matters in the name of the one who originally said them. Furthermore what is quoted doesn’t show that he was being precise…

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Eliyahu (Pinchas) will restore Mesora in Messianic Times

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Brisker Rav (Malachi 2:4-7): And you shall know that I have sent this commandment to you, that my covenant might be with Levi, says G d. My covenant was with him for life and peace… The Torah of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips; he walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should guard knowledge, and they should seek the Torah from his mouth; for he is a messenger of G-d. We need to understand G d’s promise to return the Mesora (tradition) to the Jewish people in Messianic times. How is it possible to restore the Tradition – which has been passed in an unbroken chain from one person to another going back to Moshe? This chain of the transmission of the Torah has already been broken many generations ago! It appears that Eliyahu HaNavi - who is one of the transmitters of the Tradition (Introduction to Mishna Torah) - will come and restore the Tradition. That is explicit in the verse, “My covenant was with him for life and peace.” This verse is referring to Pinchas [it is the covenant he got after he killed Zimri]. That is why these verses conclude, “For the lips of the cohen should guard knowledge”. This is according to the view that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same person and he will guard Torah for Israel, as it says, “And they shall seek Torah from his mouth.” That means that Torah will be requested from him and he will return Torah to Israel. (When this explanation was told to Rav Chaim Brisker he responded that it had been stolen from him. He added that is why teachers explain to their students that the word “teiku” [which indicates an apparently unanswerable question] is an abbreviation meaning that Eliyahu will answer questions and difficulties. The purpose of this is to implant the belief in the heart of the child that Eliyahu will restore the Torah) … However the question remains as to why Eliyahu merited to be the one to restore the Tradition. It would appear that this is the result of the incident with Zimri in which the halacha was forgotten. Pinchas was the one who saw what was happening and remembered the halacha. He told Moshe, “We have received the halacha from you that one who has sexual relations with a non Jew is killed by zealots.” Moshe responded, “The one who read the letter should carry it out.” Immediately he took a spear … [and killed Zimri] (See Rashi at the end of Balak and Sanhedrin 82). Because Pinchas was the one who returned the halacha at that time he merited be the one who would restore it in Messianic times. That is implicit in these verses, “The Torah of truth was in his mouth…and he saved many from sin.”  That is why it concludes, “The cohen’s lips shall protect knowledge and they will ask Torah from his mouth.” Therefore also in the times of Moshiach he will be with the one that people will seek Torah from his mouth.

Abusive 8 yr old - pepper sprayed by police in class


Colorado police and school officials are defending a decision to pepper spray a second grade boy who threatened to kill his teachers.

Aidan Elliot seems like a typical video game loving 8 year old, but what happened in his Glennon Heights Elementary School on Feb. 28 was hardly typical.

"I kind of blow up a little," Aidan said. "I said I'm going to kill you once you get out of that room."

Aidan is in a class for kids with behavior problems. He became enraged, spitting and throwing chairs and even threatening teachers and students with a sharp piece of wood he held like a knife. [...]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yale accused of failure to deal with sexual abuse


Federal civil rights officials are investigating complaints by Yale University students that the Ivy League university has a sexually hostile environment and has failed to adequately respond to sexual harassment concerns.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights confirmed Friday that it has begun an investigation at Yale. The office gets about 7,000 complaints per year and investigates about one-third of them.

The complaint, sent March 15, alleges that the university failed to respond promptly or effectively to incidents of harassment, resulting in the denial of equal opportunity, the office said.[...]

Everyone has a book that only he/she can write

Rav Tzadok (Machshovos Charutz #15): Even though there are already many seforim in the world and Shlomo cautioned against making an unlimited amount of seforim (Koheles 12:12), nevertheless every accomplished student has something new to teach which is uniquely his and that no one else is able to discover… Not a day goes by without a new insight from some accomplished student of that generation. Furthermore that particular insight, which is part of the process of sustaining the existence of the world, needs to remain fixed and permanent in the world. There are in this matter many additional factors and processes concerned with preserving and perpetuating this new insight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mental illness of abuse is pikuach nefesh even if not life threatening

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Mordechai (Shabbos 424):. R”i bar Sholom explains that all the cases in the gemora where the choleh says it is necessary (tzarich) is to be understand to mean that it appears to choleh that he will die if they don’t feed him because he thinks that he is in a life threatening condition. There are also commentaries which write concerning the matter of Rav Yannai where the choleh says tzarich where it is understood that it talking about possible life threatening circumstances…. All the cases which are brought in the gemora, our Sages were experts in medicine and they knew these cases were life threatening (sakana) such as lighting a candle when a blind women requested it, or breaking down the door when a child was locked in. It would therefore seem that we are not considered experts in the issue of when to feed a choleh while the choleh is. Therefore if the choleh says that his life is not endangered if he doesn’t eat -  it is prohibited to feed him. This is the same for the question of profaning Shabbos to save someone. For example Avoda Zara (28b) states that if an eye is severely tearing it is permitted to put medicine in it on Shabbos. The gemora explains that this is permitted because there is a connection between the eye and the heart and thus it is life threatening. Consequently if the only concern is for the loss of the eye but we don’t consider it to be life threatening - it would not be permitted to put the medicine in the eye on Shabbos.

However Rabbeinu Tam disagrees with this understanding and he has issued permissive rulings in actual cases even when it is not life threatening. This is what he said: Are the sick people prophets or experts in medicine [that we rely on their judgment to permit violating Shabbos or Yom Kippur]? The fact of the matter is that since the sick person or one who recently gave birth is aware that it is Shabbos or Yom Tov and nevertheless says they need to eat or have Shabbos profaned for them – that means they are not able to bear the pain and discomfort which results from their condition. That is why we feed them on Yom Kippur. And this is true even if they are not in life threating conditions (choleh shain bo sakana). For example, how do we consider that being bitten by a mad dog is life threatening or the case of Rav Ashi and Mar Zutra (Kesubos 61a)? Therefore even though the majority of sick people will recover but nevertheless we are lenient when there is even a possibility of danger or severe mental illness (tiruf daas). The expression “that they are going to die” should not confuse you because that is the expression used by the Talmud and you would want to know then what does “a possibility of death mean.” In fact when the Talmud talks about the concern that these people will die it is not to be taken literally. The term death in these cases is a fear that the person will get sick or deteriorate in some way. This understanding is obviously correct. Thus if the sick person asks to eat or drink it is permitted to feed him or give him drink because the lack of food causes him pains in the heart and because of that he will faint and there are times he won’t recover. Thus even there is only the loss of a limb, I would call it a danger and would therefore permit Shabbos to be profaned. We also see this concerning an injury to the interior of the body where the majority of such cases do not die and similarly the case of pregnant women who smell food - we see that they don’t die and yet we are permitted to feed them. Consequently all cases which involve a lost to the body or loss to a limb or embryo is a danger (sakana). We learn this from the case of the mother who recently gave birth or a pregnant woman or someone who is bled and becomes chilled – that it is permitted to make a fire even during the summer even though we have no concern that they will die from this condition So if Shmuel who was a doctor as well as the Sages who were familiar to some degree about medicine and they said that an individual is knowledgeable about his own suffering. So if they literally meant dying that means that all men are experts in this matter for themselves and the statement can’t be reversed. But in fact even if a person screamed out that he wasn’t going to die from this condition - that we have evaluated that he can’t bear – it is permitted ignore him to profane Shabbos according to our judgment….