Saturday, September 29, 2012

Holiness is not ascetisicm:Rav Shimon Shkop

Translation by Rabbi Micha Berger click here for full introduction

In my opinion, this whole concept is included in Hashem’s mitzvah “Be holy, [for I am Holy].”3 The Midrash (Leviticus, Emor, ch. 24) says about this verse: “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘for I am Holy’ to teach that My Sanctity is above yours.” And about the foundation of this mitzvah of sanctity the Toras Kohanim4 has “‘be holy’ – be separate”. Nachmanides, in his commentary on the Torah, explains at length this notion of separation as it is stated in this mitzvah, that it is separation from excessive comfort and pleasure – even if they are actions that are not prohibited to us. In one illustrative statement, he writes that it is possible for a person to be disgusting with [what would otherwise be] the permission of the Torah, see his holy words there.

According to this, it would seem the Midrash is incomprehensible. What relevance does the concept of separation have to being similar to the Holy? The verse tells us with regard to this that His Will is not like this. As it says, “Can it [truly] be ‘Like Me?’ This is why it continues, ‘For I am holy’ to teach that My sanctity is higher than yours.” It is more difficult to understand “My sanctity is higher than yours.” This explanation is incumbent upon us to understand – in truth there is some similarity in the holiness He expects of us to His [Holiness], except that His Holiness is more general and inclusive. If we say that the essential idea of the holiness He demands of us (in this mitzvah of “be holy”) is distance from the permissible, that kind of holiness has nothing to do with Him.5

Weberman: The smoking gun

Rabbi Horowitz   After many delays and much legal wrangling, Nechemia Weberman will finally stand trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court on October 30th for allegedly abusing a young girl in the Williamsburg community over a period of three years -- beginning when she was 12 years old. Mr. Weberman is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.[...]

Moreover, it would help undo the denial and cognitive dissonance of those who defend Weberman -- by pointing out how disturbing were the circumstances of his "treatment" of the young girls referred to him.

Think of it this way. Wouldn't alarm bells go off in your mind if a doctor performed an invasive procedure without using latex gloves or if he/she picked up a used syringe to give you an injection? Wouldn't you think it strange if you were a single mother and were requested to meet with your son’s Rebbe or principal at 9 p.m. one evening in a deserted Yeshiva building to discuss your son's progress?

Well, those of us familiar with the do's and don'ts of accepted practice in the mental health profession saw similar blaring warning lights in our minds, as should you when the facts were made public that Weberman:

1) Had unregulated access to many girls over a number of years in his inappropriate and illegal role as their unlicensed "therapist."
2) Had these young girls referred to him for counseling by very Chassidish schools, whose general level of gender separation far exceeds those of the typical "Bais Yakov" (and it would be exceedingly rare for non-Chassidish girls’ schools to regularly refer their Talmidos to a male therapist)
3) Engaged in private, unsupervised counseling sessions with young girls -- often in an office/apartment that contained a working bedroom -- violating all norms of Yichud and Tzniyus.
In addition to all these disturbing facts, it has become clear that these serious allegations are in fact not isolated ones. In fact, since Mr. Weberman's arrest, I was personally contacted by immediate family members of four additional alleged victims of his who are afraid to come forward, and those of us close to the community have heard similar reports from others as well. [...]



Mea Shearim:No gender segregation for Sukkos

YNet   The Toldot Aharon Hasidic dynasty has pledged not to send ushers to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood's streets to impose modesty rules during the holiday of Sukkot, and not to enforce gender segregation as it has done in previous years.

In discussions held between senior haredi community members and representatives of the police and Jerusalem Municipality, the parties agreed that a safety fence would be set up to maintain order during the Simchat Beit Hashoeivah celebrations held in the area on the intermediate days of Sukkot – but not to impose segregation.

The Jerusalem Police updated Jerusalem Council Member Rachel Azaria on the developments, following her petition to the High Court of Justice against the gender segregation on the neighborhood's main street in past years and the judges' ruling that authorities must prevent this situation. [...]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jewish student lied about hate crime assault

MLive  Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said a 19-year-old Jewish Michigan State University student who alleged he was assaulted last month because of his religion won't face criminal charges for false reporting.

Zachary Tennen, of Franklin, said he was at a party about 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 26 in the 500 block of Spartan Avenue, about a half-mile north of MSU's campus, when two college-aged men asked him if he was Jewish. When he responded in the affirmative, the pair beat him unconscious then stapled his mouth, he alleged.[...]

The case was closed Thursday, though, after authorities concluded there was no merit to Tennen's assertions of a hate crime. A police report on the matter detailed the accounts of multiple witnesses who said Tennen harassed and inappropriately touched women at the party, leading to his being punched in the mouth.

Kav HaYashar:Myth of Ramban's apostate "son"

Debunking a Parshas Nitzavim Myth
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times
There are a number of Seforim on the weekly portion of Nitzavim that cite a story in the “Kav HaYashar” regarding the words of the Ramban on Dvarim (29:17), “Ki Mishoresh Matok lo yetzeh mar – from a sweet root, something bitter will not be produced.”
The book “Kav HaYashar” was first printed in Frankfurt, Germany by Rav Tzvi Hersh Keidenower in 1705.  Rav Keidenower was the son-in-law of the Shach’s brother and authored a remarkable commentary on Mussar and Chumash.  Although it is a well respected Sefer, in this book, the author puts forth an extraordinary claim (Chapter 81 in some editions), regarding a story that he had heard of one of the sons of the Ramban. 
The story, in essence, has the Pope (presumably Clement the IV) having just read a comment from the Ramban’s recently printed commentary that if a son of a Jew adopted another religion it is a proof that he was never from Jewish lineage in the first place, sent a message to the Ramban.  The message stated that since the Ramban’s own son had just converted to Christianity, his interpretation was wrong.  The Kav HaYashar continues that the Ramban was quite saddened until his wife revealed to him that long ago she was attacked by a nobleman on the way to immerse in a faraway place and this particular child was from that encounter.  As proof she produced the nobleman’s severed finger which she had bitten off. 
The Ramban told the Pope what had happened and the Pope brought the nobleman to see his hand.  Sure enough after the glove was removed from the nobleman’s hand, the finger was missing.  The Ramban felt that his interpretation was thus exonerated.
The story is cited by a number of more contemporary figures other than the Kav HaYashar, including Rav Menashe Klein.  Notwithstanding the citations, it is this author’s view that the story is apocryphal.  There are no less than eight different reasons for this conclusion:
1.       The story is filled with anachronisms.  There was no printing press in the time of the Ramban.  The story uses the term “Dfus” which indicates that there was an actual physical press and also indicates that the Ramban’s work was printed.  This was not the case.
2.       The Ramban’s three sons, Shlomo, Nachman, and Yehuda are known and had Jewish descendents or interactions.  Shlomo had children and the Ramban wrote that they should rather name him after the maternal grandmother and not after him.  Nachman was the recipient of letters from the Ramban and authored commentaries.  Yehuda is cited It is possible that there was a fourth son, Yoseph, but the record shows that he maintained his Judaism, when he is mentioned.  No histories indicate one iota that there was  a descendant of the Ramban or his wife who became Catholic.  Also, this is the type of information that would be spread and cannot be kept hidden.  The Dominicans, antagonists of the Ramban, would certainly have spread it as certainly as they defamed the Ramban in regard to matters of the disputation.
3.       Pope Clement IV was never in Aragon, where the Ramban lived.  He lived in Viterbo 50 miles north of Rome throughout his entire pontificate.  There is no known personal interaction between the Ramban and Pope Clement IV.  The Pope did extend a ban on the Ramban returning to Aragon, but that was by proxy
4. 
5.     [...] See Five Towns Jewish Times for full article
8.     

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

Lulav & Esrog versus Honoring Father?

The Better Lulav and Esrog
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman  http://5tjt.com/?p=8905
Here’s the scenario. Your father asked you to pick him up a lulav and esrog set. You bought two. One for you and one for your father. One of them is more Mehudar than the other. Who gets the better one?

Believe it or not, the issue is not so clear. A number of Poskim rule that there is no obligation to give the better one to the father, and they cite the following She’arei Kneses HaGedolah and Bikkurei Yaakov as proof. 

The She’arei Kneses HaGedolah (OC 660) states that if you want to buy a lulav and esrog and someone else is trying to purchase it for a leading sage of the generation, there is no obligation to let the sage have it. The Bikkurei Yaakov (OC 656) writes that the same would be true regarding a father. 

Rabbi Shammai Kehas Gross, a Dayan in Belze in Eretz Yisroel, and author of the Shaivet HaKehasi (Vol. IV #175) is one of the Poskim that ruled that there is no obligation. Initially, Rav Gross wished to distinguish between a case when the father was aware that a second one was purchased from when he was unaware. He writes that when the father is aware, it may cause him an ill feeling if he was given the lesser quality set. Later on, he cites a responsa of the Maharam Lublin (#136), that if the embarrassment to the father is caused only by inaction rather than action, it is not a problem. The Shaivet HaKehasi thus rules that even in such a situation there is no obligation to give it to the father.
Rav Aharon Yehudah Grussman (Vedarshta v’chakarta Bereishis 9) writes that not only may the son keep the better one, but he is even permitted to deceive the father and hide the existence of the second better quality Esrog.

The responsa Chukei Chaim, written by Rav Chaim Shaya Koenig, (Vol. IV #131) (cited in the Sukkas Chaim p. 196) also rules that the son has no such obligation. 

It is this author’s view, however, that the citation of the She’arei Kneses HaGedolah and the Bikkurei Yaakov have no relevance to our case because they are both discussing a situation where there is only one esrog set available for purchase. In that case, it is clear that there is no obligation.[...]

It is this author’s view that even according to the Poskim that Hiddur Mitzvah is biblical (Raavad in his critique on Baal HaMeor on Sukkah 29b; Chiddushei Anshei Shaim on the Rif and others, Kapos Tmarim Sukkah ibid), one would still be obligated in giving it to the father, as one can still fulfill the Mitzvah with the other set. Honoring parents is known as one of the highest Mitzvos and would be preferable to Hiddur Mitzvah as well. [See Five Towns Jewish Times for full article]

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sotah (3:4): An ascetic (angelic) woman destroys the world

The Tiferes Yisroel that Rav Kasher quotes below says that asceticism is inherently inappropriate for woman and is therefore destructive - is consistent with my thesis that kedusha i.e., perishus - is not the path for women's spiritual development. This is also the explanation of the Maharal. And that is why women don't wear a kittel on Yom Kippur because they can't be like angels who are removed from gashmiyus.

Maharal (Sotah 22a): Mishna: ... an ascetic woman (isha perusha) and ascetic wounds ... destroy the world. Women are materialistic and therefore asceticism is not relevant for her i.e., to abstain from that which is permitted to her. That is because abstaining from that which is permitted is abstaining from materialism entirely and this is simply not characteristic of women since they are materialistic therefore it is not normal for her to be ascetic. If you do find a woman who is ascetic it is because she wants to be viewed as a righteous woman and thus it is for her benefit – rather than for spiritual purposes. This is similar to “ascetic wounds” It happens to a person who is excessive with his asceticism and he does things which are inappropriate. This is only done is to make an impression on others rather than for spirituality and thus it is not normal. So not only do these two categories fail to build the world they actually are destructive to the well being of the world. That is because all things which are excessive - remove a person from the world. Similarly foolish piety which is also mentioned in this Mishna and a cunning wicked person – because they all act inappropriately. It is very necessary to understand these matters in order that a person knows to do acts of piety with wisdom and common sense.

Torah Shleima (Bereishis 30:16.58):The Yerushalmi Sotah (3:4) states that the “isha perusha” referred to in the mishna is one who sits and insults the words of the Torah which says that Leah said “come to me.” In other words she is proclaiming herself more modest than Leah who directly asked for sexual relations from Yaakov. In fact however she is only doing that in order to insult the words of Torah. This is similar to the explanation of the Pnei Moshe. (In the sefer “Ahl HaYerushalmi” it brings from the Roman Manuscript that the text is not ma’aleves (insults) but ma’aleges (ridicules)... Sotah (22a) explains it means a woman such Yochni bas Retuvi ( who was a witch but she presented herself as a righteous woman). ... However the Tiferes Yisroel (Sotah 3:4) says that an isha perusha is one who truly conducts herself with extreme asceticism. The reason that Chazal say such behavior is destructive is that it is not appropriate for a woman to be ascetic. We see this from another statement of Chazal here that a woman prefers one measure of food (minimal) with sexual excess than 9 measures of food (maximal) with sexual abstinence. Thus condemnation of isha perusha (the ascetic woman) is to understood in the context that asceticism is inherently not appropriate for women. Furthermore the Redal in his comments notes that the Yerushalmi’s comment is to explain the statement here of Rabbi Eliezar that one who teaches his daughter Torah is as if he is teaching her immorality. That is because by means of studying Torah she will become cunning which will enable her to bring support for her immoral behavior from Leah who said to her husband, “come have sex with me.” She will also come to ask directly for sexual intercourse.< [I saw in the Otzer HaChaim that it expresses surprise at the words of this Yerushalmi because at first glance it would seem that there is no connection between the isha perusha (ascetic woman) and the woman arrogantly asking for sexual relations. To answer this problem he answers that he heard that in the library of Paris that there is an edition of the Rambam which has the text “isha perutza” (the wanton woman) instead of our text “isha perusha” (the ascetic woman). That variant text seems to fit the Yerushalmi well. However according to our explanation the text which says “ascetic woman” does in fact make sense. In fact if the variant text is the correct one – there would be no need for any explanations since it would be self-evident that a wanton woman would behave that way.]

Rav Tzadok: Holiness is not asceticism

Tzadok Rav (Kedoshim Tehiyu #3): What is the meaning of the phrase, "Sanctify yourself with that which is permitted?" It says in Toras Cohanim (beginning of Parshas Kedoshim), “You shall be holy” (kedoshim tehiyu) means you shall be perushim (ascetics).” The Ramban says that there is a separate mitzva to minimize that which is permitted in order that you shouldn’t be a disgusting person within the realm of that which is permitted by the Torah.  For example our Sages (Berachos 22a) say that Torah scholars should not be overly sexually involved with their wives like chickens. And this is true of other pleasures. See Ramban’s commentary to the Torah where he discusses this at length. He brings a proof to this assertion from a Nazir. He is called “holy” (kodosh) because of his avoiding certain pleasures which are generally permitted by the Torah. The Maharsha (Yevamos 20a) also cites this as proof.

 However it says in Vayikra Rabba (24:4), Just as I am parush (ascetic) you should also be and just as I am holy (kodesh) you should also be holy as it says in the Torah – kodesh tehiyu (you shall be holy).  This description is also found in Torah Cohanim (end of Parshas Kedoshim) for the verse, And you shall be kesdoshim (holy) to me.  Thus we see – contrary to the Ramban - that asceticism (perishus) and holiness (kedusha) are not the same thing  but nevertheless they are both included in the word kedoshim in the Torah verses. We also see in the hierarchy mentioned in Avoda Zara (20a) that perishus and kedusha are two separate attributes. Rashi states that perishus (asceticism) applies even from that which is permitted in order to be stringent. This implies that kedusha (holiness) is distinct from perishus and is a higher level. Consequently we can  say that the general meaning of perishus is just to avoid all types of lust and desires – which is the literal meaning of the word perishus. The Mishna Sotah(20a)  states, “A female ascetic (isha perusha) and the wounds of perushim (asceticism)”. Look at the gemora’s (Sotah 22a) explanation as well as Rashi. Sotah (22b) says, There are seven types of perushim... they do the disgusting deeds of Zimri...” Thus we see that separation alone is the essence of perushus. From the Torah verses we see that separation or avoidance of desires is included in the word kedusha but it only the beginning of the process of kedusha. A man begins the process of holiness in this mundane world by means of avoiding lusts for permitted things. However the language of our Sages in the Talmud divides it into two processes

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bitul Seruv of Aharon Friedman - Translation

The following is a translation of Rav Gestetner's bitul seruv concerning Aharon Friedman. It was shown to Rav Gestetner who approved the translation and its public distribution. Original Hebrew is here

Cure of PTSD? Injection in neck nerves


 
Fox News  A federally-approved injection is offering new hope to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The injection, which takes approximately 15 minutes to administer, has led to dramatic improvements in some veterans who suffer from the disorder.
 
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that typically follows exposure to a traumatic event such as combat, disaster or assault.  Symptoms include nightmares, jumpiness, paranoia, irritability and aggressiveness.  It is often accompanied by depression, substance abuse or other anxiety disorders.

To address the soldiers who aren’t finding relief from standard therapies, Dr. Eugene Lipov,  medical director of Advanced Pain Centers in Chicago, director of pain research at Northwest Community Hospital and medical director of Chicago Medical Innovations, is championing a little-known treatment called Stellate ganglion block (SGB). 

According to Lipov, PTSD sufferers who have been administered the block have reported relief from symptoms in as little as 30 minutes.  
 
Lipov has received a waiver from the FDA to perform SGB and is currently recruiting participants for a clinical trial.  SGB, which has also been used in the past to treat depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, and other mental health disorders, is not backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for treating PTSD in soldiers.

For the treatment, local anesthetic – commonly used in epidurals during labor – is injected into a collection of nerves in the neck known as the stellate ganglion.  These nerves are connected to various parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which are thought to be associated with PTSD. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guilt of Yisroel Weingarten - letter of R M Stauber to Beis Din of Rav Wosner

What Was Said Inside Satmar About Yisroel Moshe Weingarten

by Yerachmiel Lopin on 12/07/2010
In 2003 a letter was sent by Rabbi Mordechai Stauber in Antwerp to the Bais Din of R Wosner in Monsey. You can see the Hebrew original here. (Translation by Yerachmiel Lopin- full copyrights reserved for translation) Printed here with permission
BAIS RACHEL
Kleuter, Lagere, Middelbare School en Satmar
Lamorinierestraat 26-28
2019 Antwerpen
Tel 281-3000 – Fax 218 91-23
Friday, Parshas Pinchas, 5763, [July 18, 2003] Antwerp, May Zion be Restored
Respectfully to the renowned great scholar, presiding on justice, righteous leader to his congregation, his glory on the Jewish people, the honorable renowned, Rabbi, Gaon Benzion Yaakov Halevi Wosner, may he be granted long days, and along with him to the rabbis and sages, members of the Beit Din Tzedek (religious court) of the Holy Congregation of Monsey.
After inquiring about your well-being, I am answering your request to write what I know about the painful affair of the Weingarten family.  They lived here in our city Antwerp for many years. Their young girls were educated here in Bais Rachel of Satmar. There was a feeling during all those years that an oppressive atmosphere was controlling the girls and their mother. Though we tried to do everything for the good, it did not help much. In the summer of 5756 [1996] Reb Yisroel Moshe came and pestered us to move his oldest daughter, Frumah Leah, to a higher class; something we don’t do for others. After deliberation we decided to agree. We knew the bitterness of the daughter came from the goings-on at the house. Therefore [we thought] it is worth giving in on a trivial matter; perhaps through this the student will be more satisfied.  But actually we saw, to the contrary, that she came to school with swollen eyes, and at times, with other marks. We did not want to touch this because we knew they were odd people and we wouldn’t accomplish anything.
Reb Wolf Gross, who lives several houses away from them, was a true friend of Yisroel Moshe, and he helped them a lot so there would be something to eat in their house. He told me that Frumah Leah wants to commit suicide, G-d save us, and throw herself out the window. They actually saved her at the last moment. [He told me that] in my role as principal I am obligated to interrogate her in order not [to be guilty of] “standing by on the blood of a fellow Jew” [Leviticus 19:16].
I initiated discussions with her several times until she revealed to me that she endured murderous beatings from him [her father] for reasons she could not reveal to me under any circumstances. Only after much urging and assurances, she wrote on paper that for a long time her father was doing with her [sexually] perverted things, have mercy on us. I do not remember all she wrote. But this I remember exactly as I received it from her. “He takes and he ejaculates (motzi zerah l’vatallah) …(ellipses in original) very close to actual biblically prohibited incestuous intercourse, (ad karov ligiluy arayos mamash), have mercy on us.    She added afterwards, verbally, that she was disgusted with a life like this for a quite a while and that he hit her with frightening sadism. Because of this she wanted to put an end to her life, G-d save us.
It is self understood what a shock this was for us.  Because the one of whom we speak was a girl of 15, we passed the matter over to the rabbonim and the leader of Satmar [in Antwerp], Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Weiss, may he live long, head of our congregation. [Rabbi Weiss] took the testimony and he [the father] did not deny it. As a consequence he [Rabbi Weiss] forbade him [Yisroel Weingarten] to seclude himself with his daughter (asar lo l’hityached im bito). He arranged for her to immediately go to Manchester, [England, to a girls school where she would board].
This happened during Chanukah, 5757 [December 1997]. At the end of the winter she returned from Manchester and the whole family traveled to Israel for Passover. After Passover he [Yisroel Weingarten] returned alone with his aforementioned daughter and he was secluded with her all summer. All we did was write a letter that we have no responsibility (achrayis) for the aforementioned student [Frumah Leah] from here on in. Also, that none of his children have permission to set foot in our institutions. Till the month of Ellul, his disgrace was not [publicly] revealed. On the contrary; he [Yisroel Weingarten] made himself out to be a respectable man and we kept quiet. In the middle of Ellul his true disgrace was revealed through others with more ugly things. The whole city was astonished. Suddenly it came out through a tape that the daughter was involved in sin with a neighbor, Meyerowitz Meierowitz. This was something that the dayan of Satmar did not hear from him [Yisroel Weingarten] all through the course of the previous winter while he judged him.
We surmised that all of his doings were astounding and full of contradictions. My wife, may she live long, told me many times at the end of long discussion that she senses from him an air of impurity (ruach tummah). I still gave him the benefit of the doubt until I heard from his daughter the aforementioned deeds [about which she wrote]. Through this were explained many contradictions.
His wife endured a lot from him. Many times she burst out in gushing tears. He was terribly, unfathomably, sadistic towards her. After some weeks she returned and said that all of her words were nonsense and lies, and so on. It was seen that he manipulates her [manipaleert ) in a terrible way.
The devastation (hachurban) [evoked] in putting forth my words pains me greatly. [Do] what it is in your power to save them from this hypocrite, crook and swindler without equal who does the acts of Zimri and demands the reward of PinchasBT Sotah 22b referring to Numbers 25:6-14].  I would also add, that the Admor Rabbi Leibish of  Phshevorsk, may he live long, said that they investigated the family in 5757 [1997-1998], meaning the woman and daughter, in Jerusalem the holy city, and they [the investigators] uncovered things. [
Signed and sealed in sorrow and wishing you success,
Mordechai Stauber
(HT for Translation to DH and JE)

Mother suing church for delayed abuse report

Washington Post  The mother of a 13-year-old girl allegedly raped at a Tulsa megachurch is suing the church for waiting two weeks to report the allegation.

The lawsuit — first reported by the Tulsa World — was filed Friday in Tulsa County District Court. It seeks more than $75,000 and alleges that Victory Christian Center officials tried to conceal the allegation in an effort at “damage control.”
 =========================
kjrh   Another possible victim has come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against former Victory Christian Center employee Chris Denman, the fourth involving a former church employee in recent months.

The 12-year-old girl is the third minor to bring claims of sexual abuse against Denman. Denman, 20, was arrested Sept. 5 for raping a 13-year-old girl at a church event and molesting a 15-year-old girl.

The original allegations against the former church intern have ignited a firestorm in recent weeks as six other Victory Christian employees have been arrested -- one Israel Castillo for making a lewd proposal to a minor and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime and five others for failure to report child abuse.

Among the five were John Daugherty, Victory Christian youth pastor and son of senior pastor Sharon Daugherty, and wife Charica Daugherty.

A lawsuit filed by one of the alleged victims' parents also accuses Sharon Daugherty of having knowledge.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Benny Morris:Palestinians reject 2 states

Haaretz   After 30 years, he’s giving up. “This is the last book I will write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” declares historian Benny Morris, sitting on the balcony of his home, overlooking distant lush hilltops covered with cypresses and pines. A pioneer in researching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and one of the most prominent Israeli historians of his generation, he has had his fill of the exhausting and bloody cycle that he has documented for the past three decades. “The decades of studying the conflict, which led to nine books, left me with a feeling of deep despair. I’ve done all I can,” he says. “I’ve written enough about a conflict that has no solution, mainly due to the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of a solution of two states for two peoples.” [...]

“It’s true there’s a difference between the extremists, who say directly that they want to wipe out the State of Israel, and the secular nationalists, who outwardly say they’re ready for a compromise accord. But actually, both of them, if you read their words very carefully, want all of Palestine. The secular leaders − if you can call them that − like Yasser Arafat and President Mahmoud Abbas, are not prepared to accept a formula of two states for two peoples. So as not to scare the goyim, they project a vagueness about it, but they think in terms of expulsion and elimination.” [...]

“Arafat, since the ‘70s, after Fatah’s guerrilla warfare failed to yield results, concluded that the liberation of the homeland would be accomplished through a ‘policy of stages.’ The idea of the ‘struggle in stages’ was meant to achieve the gradual elimination of Israel and a solution of a single Arab state. In other words, the Palestinian Liberation Organization leaders continually put on a conciliatory face in order to please the West, but actually their goal was to eliminate Israel in stages, since they couldn’t do it in one blow.

“The same staggered strategy, which sees the establishment of a state in the occupied territories as the first stage in the conquest of the entire land, was, in their view, better than a direct strategy of endless military confrontation. Abbas says it day in and day out, and continues to demand the right of return.”

“The realization of the right of return essentially requires the destruction of the Jewish state. For the same reason, Abbas currently refuses to hold negotiations with the Israelis. Because negotiations could lead to a resolution to the conflict. He has no desire or intention of reaching a solution of two states for two peoples.”

Friedman-Epstein: Get war continues

Washington Jewish Week   A huge photo of Aharon Friedman, the Silver Spring resident who has become famous for his adament refusal to give his former wife a get, was posted in the Wheaton metro station earlier this week.

The photograph of his face is accompanied with the message, which is written in all capital letters, "AHARON FRIEDMAN GIVE A GET NOW!"

The advertisement is sponsored by ORA, Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. It was paid for by a sponsor and out of the organization's operating budget, noted Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director at ORA.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kidneys discarded - why the waste?

NY Times  Last year, 4,720 people died while waiting for kidney transplants in the United States. And yet, as in each of the last five years, more than 2,600 kidneys were recovered from deceased donors and then discarded without being transplanted, government data show. 

Those organs typically wound up in a research laboratory or medical waste incinerator.

In many instances, organs that seemed promising for transplant based on the age and health of the donor were discovered to have problems that made them not viable.

But many experts agree that a significant number of discarded kidneys — perhaps even half, some believe — could be transplanted if the system for allocating them better matched the right organ to the right recipient in the right amount of time. [...]

There are no such obstacles in Europe. And in 1999, seven countries, including Germany, began matching kidneys from donors 65 and older to recipients in the same age bracket. Those kidneys were allocated close to home to shorten cold time, and biopsies were used sparingly.

The number of older kidney donors has more than tripled, and discard rates are less than a third of that in the United States, said Dr. Ulrich Frei, a German nephrologist who has compared the two systems. Studies have found no significant difference in survival rates for older patients in Europe and the United States, he said.

Off the Derech:Importance of Parents


Guest post by Shlomo Silber
See also Dr. Sorotzkin's article of Role of Parents in Off the Derech kids  Link to this document on Scribd

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gladwell:How child molesters get away with it

New Yorker   [...] When monsters roam free, we assume that people in positions of authority ought to be able to catch them if only they did their jobs. But that might be wishful thinking. A pedophile, van Dam’s story of Mr. Clay reminds us, is someone adept not just at preying on children but at confusing, deceiving, and charming the adults responsible for those children—which is something to keep in mind in the case of the scandal at Penn State and the conviction, earlier this year, of the former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on child-molestation charges. [...]

One of the most remarkable and disturbing descriptions of the grooming process comes from a twenty-two-page autobiography (published as a chapter in a book about pedophilia) by a convicted pedophile named Donald Silva. After graduating from medical school, Silva met a family with a nine-year-old named Eric. He first sexually molested Eric on a ski trip that the two of them took together. But that came only a year after he befriended the family, patiently insinuating himself into the good graces of Eric’s parents. At one point, Eric’s mother ordered an end to the “friendship,” because she thought Silva’s friends had been smoking pot in her son’s presence. But Silva had so won over her husband that, he writes, “this beautiful man found it in his heart to forgive me after I assured him that such a thing would not happen again.” Silva describes an unforgettable night that he and Eric spent together after they were “reunited”. [...]

This is standard child-molester tradecraft. The successful pedophile does not select his targets arbitrarily. He culls them from a larger pool, testing and probing until he finds the most vulnerable. Clay, for example, first put himself in a place with easy access to children—an elementary school. Then he worked his way through his class. He began by simply asking boys if they wanted to stay after school. “Those who could not do so without parental permission were screened out,” van Dam writes. Children with vigilant parents are too risky. Those who remained were then caressed on the back, first over the shirt and then, if there was no objection from the child, under the shirt. “The child’s response was evaluated by waiting to see what was reported to the parents,” she goes on. “Parents inquiring about this behavior were told by Mr. Clay that he had simply been checking their child for signs of chicken pox. Those children were not targeted further.” The rest were “selected for more contact,” gradually moving below the belt and then to the genitals.

The child molester’s key strategy is one of escalation, desensitizing the target with an ever-expanding touch. In interviews and autobiographies, pedophiles describe their escalation techniques like fly fishermen comparing lures. Consider the child molester van Dam calls Cook.[...]

Hypocrisy:The murder of pro-Palestinian activist Arrigoni

Tablet Magazine On Monday, a Hamas military court convicted four men in the kidnapping and murder of pro-Palestinian activist Vittorio Arrigoni. If your allergies were flaring up at all yesterday, then you might have blinked and missed the coverage of the trial, it was buried in a 150-word capsule on page 8 of the New York Times. The outcome was reported elsewhere, but with similar economy.[...]

The news of the Arrigoni verdict threw the end of last month’s case against the Israel Defense Forces in the death of ISM activist Rachel Corrie into sharp relief. The verdict in the Corrie trial–which exonerated the IDF of wrongdoing–was front page news across the world, garnering some 950 words of initial reportage on A1 of the Times, as well as a number of follow ups and opinion pieces in media outlets around the globe. Outrage ran wild. 

So why the relative silence for Arrigoni, who, unlike Corrie, was obviously and brutally murdered? Where are the off-Broadway plays and poems and paintings? There are some clear factors stunting the media uproar–Arrigoni wasn’t American and the timing of his death–but none of these make the circumstances of his death–now confirmed by a Hamas court of all adjudicators–any less outrageous

Leading up to and following the Corrie verdict, the ISM website devoted several entries to the case, drawing attention to the news coverage, highlighting the perceived injustice of the trial, and again accusing the IDF of cold-blooded murder. In the days before and after the verdict in the Arrigoni case, there hasn’t been anything posted and, perhaps more telling, from reading the tributes to Arrigoni on the ISM site and elsewhere, one would think he died of natural causes and not at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. In many ways, this is emblematic of all the deaths that seem to come more cheaply when a Jew is not to blame.

Mahane Yehuda Market & modesty squads

YNet  One of them approaches a woman who shops at the market once a week. The woman, wearing a tank top and jeans, has her full attention on the tomato box. The haredi woman touches one of her bare arms. The woman turns around and the haredi woman immediately snaps at her, pointing at her bare arms: "Next time don't come to the market like this. Next time you'll come with sleeves."

The woman in the tank top tries not to appear insulted and looks at the other haredi women. One of them approaches a young woman in shorts and a sleeveless shirt. "Next time cover yourself," she orders her. The haredim have been targeting Mahane Yehuda Market for quite a while. The patrol unit, which began touring the market alleys in recent weeks, is the result of growing haredi involvement in the area in the past 18 months.

The reason for their growing interest is the fact that the market is gradually becoming a multi-cultural center, a pilgrimage site for youngsters, visitors and tourists and a nightlife hot spot for many in the city.

The ultra-Orthodox battle was launched a year ago, when they declared war on the market area and the street parties held in the city center throughout the summer, claiming that the revival of the city center was creating lawlessness and harming their children's education.

Obesity:Fitness more important then fat

NYTimes   In study after study, overweight and moderately obese patients with certain chronic diseases often live longer and fare better than normal-weight patients with the same ailments. The accumulation of evidence is inspiring some experts to re-examine long-held assumptions about the association between body fat and disease. 

Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, was one of the first researchers to document the obesity paradox, among patients with heart failure in 2002. He spent more than a year trying to get a journal to publish his findings. [...]

But there were hints everywhere. One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight. Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study; mild to severe obesity posed no additional mortality risks.

In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.

To date, scientists have documented these findings in patients with heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure — and now diabetes. 

Ad Calling Jihad ‘Savage’ Is Set to Appear in Subway

NYTimes  As violent and sometimes deadly protests consume much of the Muslim world in response to an American-made video mocking the Prophet Muhammad, New Yorkers will soon encounter another potentially inflammatory rendering of Islam: an advertisement in the transit system that reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” 

It concludes with the words, “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” wedged between two Stars of David.

After rejecting the ads initially, then losing a federal court ruling on First Amendment grounds, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said on Tuesday that the ads were expected to appear next week at 10 subway stations.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why wasn't Malbim's commentary banned?

The Malbim is considered one of the standard commentaries to the Bible. He was also one of the strongest opponents of the Reform movement. And yet there are comments where he clearly rejects views expressed by Chazal and the Rishonim as not being compatible with the latest scientific facts.

This despite the fact that there was concern about heresy - the reaction against Mendelsohn is a good example. In fact there were some Chasidim who viewed the Malbim as a maskil. While the Reform viewed him as a fanatic reactionary. The Malbim apparently was trying to produce a frum Biblical criticism much as Rav Yisroel Salanter was trying to produce a frum haskala

Dr. Noah Rosenbloom in his biography of the Malbim notes that there were several books in Hebrew  - concerning with science -  which were published at this time for the frum world. The Malbim apparently took his information from one of them - Sefer HaBris. The author of Sefer haBris clearly was aware of the dangers of publishing discussions of science and he took the precaution of announcing that the work was merely an introduction to Rav Chaim Vital's Shaar HaKedushah - to explain the scientific basis. Of interest he makes no attempt to actually explain any particular verse. As Dr. Rosenbloom points out - if he really was concerned with clarify and explaining Shaar HaKedusha - he would have written it as a commentary rather than as a introduction. In addition he was careful to obtain many haskomas from important rabbis.

My point being that it is not so much the content but the perceived context that influences whether something is perceived as dangerous literature that needs to be banned.
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Malbim (Bereishis 1:1) ... This interpretation [which I just quoted] makes sense according to the view of the ancients who says that there exist Spheres  on which are fixed all the stars of the Heavens and therefore when it says that G-d created the Heavens it is referring to the Spheres which were created on the first day. And then the sun and the moon and the stars were created on the fourth day and attached to the Spheres that are referred to as the rakia of the Heavens. However it has recently been established that there are no such things as Spheres. Rather [the scientists] have stated that all the heavenly bodies  move in their orbits in an atmosphere which is called Ether which fills the entire universe. Therefore if the stars weren't created then nothing of the heavens was created because there is nothing to the Heavens except the heavenly bodies. Furthermore the scientists have recently established  that the stars in the Heavens are not composed of a fifth type of matter which is unique to the Heavens as the ancients claimed. The fact is that the  heavenly bodies which only reflect light such as the moon are composed of the exact same materials as we find here on our earth....

'Lizzie Beautiful': ‘Stop staring and start learning’


Lizzie Velazquez was born with a medical condition so rare that there are only three known cases in the world.

The “Lizzie Beautiful” author says she's used to standing out, but dealing with bullies, like people on the internet who dubbed her “World's Ugliest Woman”, is hard. Yet, in our beauty-obsessed culture, Velazquez always finds a way to thrive and inspire.

“I'm human … of course these things are going to hurt ... [but] I'm not going to let those things define me," she told HLN’s Dr. Drew Tuesday night.

She added, “The stares are kind of what I'm really dealing with in public right now … I'm starting to want to go up to these people and introduce myself or give them my card and say, ‘Hi, I'm Lizzie -- Maybe you should stop staring and start learning’.”


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Is sexual abuse an excuse for murder?

NY Times  The scheduled execution of a convicted murderer has prompted pleas for clemency from thousands of people who argue that he should be spared because he had been sexually abused by his victim. 

The inmate, Terrance Williams, 46, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Oct. 3 for killing a man after what his supporters say was years of being abused by the victim, as well as by a teacher and an older boy who first raped him when he was 6.

Mr. Williams was 18 in June 1984 when he beat to death Amos Norwood, 56. [...]

Mr. Williams’s history as a victim of abuse was unknown to the jurors who sentenced him to death in 1986, according to affidavits signed by five of them who said they would have voted instead for life in prison without parole if they had known all the facts.


Friday, September 14, 2012

An oncologist's weekly music therapy

Tablet Magazine  I was a junior faculty member at a Philadelphia medical school many Septembers ago, racing to meet a research deadline, when my partner on the project announced that I’d have to finish the work myself because he intended to return home to Baltimore for the High Holidays. “I rarely attend synagogue services,” he explained, “but singing familiar holiday songs makes me feel like part of a community.” Up to that point, he’d done most of the work, so I couldn’t argue. Besides, his observation about the power in the music resonated for me.

Music can bring a community together; that’s something that many of us notice at this time of year, when Jews around the world gather for High Holiday services and share in the music we hear from cantors, choirs, and our fellow congregants. But music also has the power to elevate our souls and soothe our spirits, whether we’re sitting in synagogue or attending a concert. And as I’ve learned in my years as a doctor treating cancer patients, music is even a powerful medical tool, capable of healing our bodies, our hearts, and our minds. Music is so powerful, in fact, that I’ve made it a regular part of my therapeutic treatment.

It started when a young woman came to me for treatment of a tumor in the Broca’s area, a part of the brain that controls speech. Almost as devastating for her as her bleak prognosis was her inability to talk. As I finished planning her radiation therapy, by coincidence, my wife gave me a copy of Oliver Saks’ best-selling book Musicophelia. A New York neurologist, Saks describes the case of a patient who experiences a stroke as a result of a Broca’s area hemorrhage. Saks discovers that, although his patient has lost the ability to express himself in conversation, the man can still sing. I wondered: Would the same phenomenon hold true for my patient?

The next day, when I visited the woman, I started to hum a popular song. Her family was initially wary of this odd behavior, but they started to sing along during the second verse. By the time we reached the chorus, the patient chimed in—with the words. The latter verses of the song were more challenging to get through since we were all swallowing our tears. [...]

Also See Haaretz In sickness a path to spiritual health

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pearl Engelman: Who is Nechemia Weberman?

The following originally appeared on Yerachmiel Lopin's blog. Because of the importance of publicizing Weberman's trial on October 30th - he asked that I republish it here with the permission of Pearl Engleman and Yerachmiel Lopin. The full text is found here  Frum Follies

How an Entire Community Of Sheep Were Deceived By Weberman

Guest Post by Pearl Engelman

As I write, I hold a list of 8 other victims. Can it really be that our community is so gullible as to believe the PR campaign for Weberman? Can it really be that our community is so willfully ignorant? That we WANT to believe that which makes us more comfortable despite the damage to innocent victims?

Many of my friends and acquaintances assumed my presence and media outspokenness at the protest against the fundraiser for accused sexual abuser Nechemia Weberman was due to my bitter experience with my son Yoiely’s molestation case. Not exactly wrong but not the whole story either.

This past Monday, May 14th, I received a call from an unknown woman asking if she could speak with me confidentially. When I assented she said “my daughter was sexually abused by Nechemia Weberman!” I listened in shock as she told me “when my daughter was 15 years old she began to dress differently than our family’s dress code and my husband and I were very worried about what this signified. We were advised to take her to Nechemia Weberman, the chassidishe (Hasidic) therapist for “troublesome” girls. We trusted Weberman fully, as he was also my husband’s good friend. During the 2 something years my daughter was in “therapy” with him she did not tell us what went on during almost every session.” I glanced at the caller ID and realized she was calling from upstate NY. My caller continued – “After my daughter’s wedding, one day she told me,

Mommy if you would know what Necehmia Weberman did to me you would kill yourself! He showed me sex videos, he made me do ——- to him, he did —— to me, and he told me that I should never, ever tell anyone because no one would ever believe me as I was known as a “troublemaker” and he was known as a very chosheve (prominent) person; I would have no credibility and would only damage my reputation further! He tried to convince me that no one understood me, cared for me or loved me as he did. For sure my parents did not understand me or love me!

To say the caller took my breath away is an understatement. Listening to the sorrowful tone of her voice was awful. Then she said “in hindsight I now remember that whenever I called him for a progress report or an update on my daughter a strange thing happened. He would actually instigate me against my daughter! I used to wonder why doesn’t he say something like – Don’t worry – we are working with her – there is hope for improvement – instead he would say what an ‘azas ponim (brazen girl) she was, how she would burn in gehenim (hell)  for her behavior!’ I would be so very angry at her and she at me; we were going at each other all the time.”

And then my caller told me her name! This family is not “nobody”, this is a well known, beautifully functional family! Very frum (observant) family! She explained to me that because her husband’s livelihood was dependant on the Heimishe (ultra orthodox) public they could not openly expose Weberman. Being from the community they knew the backlash would be directed against their daughter and themselves. And because their daughter was happily married they did not want to rock that boat either.

Her story continued: “When the campaign in support of Weberman was started this winter and I saw the signatures of the Rabbonim (rabbis) I couldn’t bear it anymore. I myself went to Rabbi Teitelbaum (son of the Satmar Rebbe, Zalmen Leib) and to Rabbi Pollack and told them my story. They were shocked,  Oiy, oiy vey, we didn’t know, we were told he was the victim of a bilbul (libel). However, you should know – we are still yiddishe kinder (Jewish children) and for this Weberman doesn’t have to sit in jail. We will take care of him and he will never do this again, and do not hinder us from protecting him!”

How do we say it? REVICTIMIZING THE VICTIM! In essence they are telling this poor mother – go home, choke your feelings and do not stop us from supporting and helping the man who violated your child! Has there ever been anything as cruel, as pitiless, as UNJEWISH? Is this really us? Don’t we stand for the emes (truth), for yoisher (rectitude)? A thought just occurred to me: Al pi torah (according to the torah) what was their responsibility after hearing from the mother?

I gently asked her what could I do to help? Her sorrowful answer was: “I don’t know”. Why did she call me now? Because she feels so terribly sick when she sees the fundraising campaign for Weberman. [...]