Wednesday, January 30, 2013

R Manis Friedman's problematic views of sexual abuse



Audio that is missing from the beginning of the video




29 comments:

  1. What he says on the first video (and before it starts) shows that he is quite incomptent in the field of sexual abuse and that he should just refrain from talking about it.

    At least, he seems to understand that rabbis are not psychologists and that victims should go to the police.

    The perception that victims are "damaged goods" is quite shocking. It seems to be widespread in the hareidi world. this would indicate that the hareidi world, despite its seeming religiosity, is particularly cruel towards victims of sexual abuse.

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    1. "It seems to be widespread in the hareidi world. this would indicate that the hareidi world, despite its seeming religiosity, is particularly cruel towards victims of sexual abuse."

      It is a basic principle of statistics that you cannot generalize to an entire population based on one case ("an n of one.") Just saying.

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  2. here is a case of someone relying on previous halachic sources who did or didn't address the issue.
    "Psychology" is - generally - considered as a treif subject amongst the halachic community, with a few good exceptions.

    But if we go back 20 years, many of these same "halacha only" Rabbis would say similar things about smoking, as if RMF's teshuva in the 1950's had the koach to nullify the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke.

    Even R' Bleich, pre-eminent posek of YU and also America, tried to argue that smoking is not forbidden by halacha.

    An interesting story - the Lubavitcher rebbe did smoke, but chose to give up himself. I suspect that since Lubavitch consider their rebbe as a Tzaddik, one who never sinned even inadvertently, hence it is impossible that smoking could be assur!

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  3. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 30, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    1 of 2: About Manis Friedman

    Manis Friedman is one of the greatest kiruv and outreach rabbis in the English-speaking world. Probably one of the top ten kiruv rabbis ever!! He has a phenomenal mind and power of expression and a warmth that is the envy of any speaker. He is a powerful yet warm and humorous orator. He is totally lovable and does not have bad bone in his body! He is in many ways one of the best legacies and spokesmen for Chabad-Lubavitch in the world today and stands head and shoulders above almost all his Chabad shluchim contemporaries. He is a model that they could all follow in how not to be crazy meshichistim and how to project normalcy and the height of being well-adjusted !!

    Having said that, in all probability, the root of Manis Friedman's mindset in this situation, is that he has spent his life explaining away the most complex notions and concepts and contradictions in the Torah and Yiddishkeit based on Chasidus and Kabbalah to thousands of aspirant and potential baalei teshuva, mostly females to whom he is a hero par excellence and for very good reason. He is a very wise man and healer and balm to suffering souls. With a thousand Manis Friedmans the geula would be close!! He has probably counseled and genuinely helped many countless thousands college age and young professional females who have confided in him their guilt and shame about their immoral sexual lives, and those are not pretty individual sexual histories in the secular world today because it includes sexual promiscuity from a very young age, incest, rape, date rape, sex with all sorts, all forms of seductions and sexual and erotic acts, sexual depravities and kinkiness and on and on, that haunts the conscience of each and every sufferer. They come and confide to Manis Friedman, as the head of his Bais Chana seminary and the Bais Chana Women International day in and day out year in and year out for many decades, and he "fixes" them with his soothing deep and brilliant talks that washes away their pain, guilt, grief, relieving their conscience, giving them perspective and making the worst sexual encounters and episodes in their lives "die" because he helps them get past their ordeals and renew their quest for a purer life. He is not a psychologist and has never pretended to think or talk like one or to be a spokesman for how to "fix" people the way a professional psychotherapist would think or expect it should be done according to some preconceived text-book method or formula or philosophy.

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  4. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 30, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    2 of 2: About Manis Friedman

    So it is no surprise that on these videos Manis Friedman, leshitaso, is trying to help people who have been sexually abused get on with life. No one should think that he is espousing the "definitive Shulchan Oruch" of how to deal with this terrible subject, but in his own way, a a method of teaching a "mehalech" to escape a tortured past, he is helping some tortured souls deal with their damaged and scarred lives, to put it into some sort of "helpful" framework for the victims so that they not feel like total garbage and hate themselves and want to jump off roofs and help them in whatever which way start to focus on what "positive" things can come out of even the worst and most disgusting episodes in life.

    This is not much different to counseling Holocaust survivors, there is no "right formula" for a rabbi to do that, he can offer a mix of positive hashkofa, chizuk, simcha, bitachon,limuddim, hadrocha, chazals, tefila, eitzos,etc, etc, etc, and let's go "veiter" that is not the way of psychology but with a good kiruv rabbi it can help a complex struggling guilt-ridden potential baalas teshuva grab onto a more wholesome message and not just wallow in self-pity, self-righteousness and obsession with mandated reporting, therapy, police, lawyers, judges, revenge and retribution (that won't help a neshoma in pain) while they are all needed BUT are only part of more complex solution that is needed from a rabbi like Manis Friedman and it seems that is what is he is providing in these kind of talks. So take them with a huge lump of salt!

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    1. Interesting analysis, RaP -- thanks!

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    2. I listened to all of what Rabbi Friedman said. I agree that if you listen to snippets of what he said, it sounds offensive, but if you listen to the whole thing, he comes across as knowledgeable and caring.

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  5. What he says about the victim not being damaged goods is actually correct from a Torah point of view because the victim was generally coerced into the situation and is not guilty of any crime. However, a young victim may actually be damaged in their warped and guilt ridden feelings about intimacy which are induced by the unwelcome situation. This can cause severe damage for them for their future relationships.

    However, what about the severs sins that are being performed by the abusers? What about the chiyuv misa of mishcav zochor? What about the issur koreis of bias nidah? What about the lo sikrivu legalos erva obligation of yehoraig v'al yaavor? How could anyone with any influence allow people to induce these crimes? What about the awesome ruach hatumah of these sins done with full taavas aveiro?

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  6. What about the effect on the victims when the perpetrators are coddled and allowed to continue to prey on innocents?

    These people don't care about the burgeoning legions of children at risk and off the derech that these crimes and cover cause?

    The Chofetz Chaim did not want to forgive a person who had a child removed from Yeshiva because of lack of funds who turned into Trotsky, one of the worst enemies of the Jews. If you think that some of these victims will not turn against us, then you are not thinking at all.

    Rav Chaim z"l said that preventing shmad was pikuach nefesh and one could mechalel shabbos to prevent conversion to another religion. Why don't many in charge deal with these issues with the same level of severity?

    Rabbi Friedman is correct in terms of helping the victims come to themselves. Even someone who did an aveira bimaizid is loved by Hashem who wants him to do teshuva and return to serve Him. However, none of this should excuse anything but a vigilant effort to remove the perpetrators from our midst.

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  7. This approach, publicized through our media, gives a green light to present and future molesters and thereby magnifies the problem. Didn't anyone realize that the bad guys are listening in? What a strange naivete.

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  8. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 30, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    (One of Two) More about Manis Friedman

    "tzoorba said...What he [Manis Friedman] says about the victim not being damaged goods is actually correct from a Torah point.."

    You don't get it, Manis Friedman is a great chosid and an obvious mekubal (one proof is that he never toots his horn about it but everything he teaches is obviously based on it if you listen carefully to what he says and the way he says it), he understands the geography of the lost neshomas (souls) in the wild seas of today's modern meshugana world, he is talking about the NESHOMA (the JEWISH SOUL), that it can never be damaged, just as in cases on kuddush Hashem (martyrdom) when Jews give their lives or are murdered, or even in just plain death, the NESHOMA NEVER DIES because as a part of God it is INDESTRUCTIBLE and it is untouchable since it is the chelek Eloka mima'al and it is IMPOSSIBLE to "damage" God ch"sh kevayochal !

    That is what he means that the (true) rabbi, who knows about what a NESHOMA of a Jew is all about, should reach for that message somehow and try and get the victim aware of that that will in turn give a new "chiyus" a rejuvenation and revivification, a veritable techias hameisim whereby the victim gets a "new" NESHOMA (meaning they become in touch with the deepest part of themselves, and in that way it is possible to overcome any form of suffering and tragedy be it a Holocaust or sexual attacks that for the victims are the same. Quite often rape leads to death and the shame of rape or incest is like a living death for the victims.

    At no point in these videos is Manis Friedman degrading secular professionals and therapists or any aspect of the secular law, in fact he makes it quite clear that rabbis must work with and submit to the professional qualifications of psychotherapists and the law of the land in dealing with the human destruction that comes from sexual abuse, but by the same token Manis Friedman is stressing that the rabbi has a unique role above and beyond everything else.

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  9. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 30, 2013 at 7:47 PM

    (Two of Two) More about Manis Friedman

    Thus in the second video he makes it very clear when he quotes from a psychologist (actually it was the psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger from the 1950s who wrote a book [in the 1970s] called "Whatever Became of Sin?" who said that spiritual leaders were being derelict by not teaching MORALITY that would in turn make the job of mental health professionals easier by having fewer people acting out immorally and hence lead to less sexual abuse. It's a brilliant example of using a professional who believed that clergy and mental professionals should and rae partners in helping heal people.

    (By the way it is worth to read up a little on Dr. Karl Menninger and his methods as an example of what a successful mental health professional can do, in contrast to work that rabbis should be doing. See Wikipedia, Karl Augustus Menninger (July 22, 1893 – July 18, 1990) was an American psychiatrist and a member of the Menninger family of psychiatrists who founded the Menninger Foundation and the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas...During his career, Menninger wrote a number of influential books. In his first book, The Human Mind, Menninger argued that psychiatry was a science and that the mentally ill were only slightly different than healthy individuals. In The Crime of Punishment, Menninger argued that crime was preventable through psychiatric treatment; punishment was a brutal and inefficient relic of the past. He advocated treating offenders like the mentally ill...n his publications, Menninger offered demonic oppression and/or possession as a possible answer to many of the unknowns that could not be explained through science, especially in the area of schizophrenia. He correlated this finding biblically and collaborated with the late Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen of New York...On October 6, 1988, less than two years before his death, Karl Menninger wrote a letter to Thomas Szasz, author of The Myth of Mental Illness. In the letter, Menninger says that he has just read Szasz's book Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences. Menninger wrote that neither of them liked the situation in which insanity separates men from men and free will is forgotten. After recounting the lack of scientific method in psychology over the years, Menninger expressed his regret that he did not come over to a dialogue with Szasz.)

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  10. Rap,

    Even though you are a great Lubavitcher chosid, that has nothing to do with my remarks. I was only indicating that Rabbi Friedman's remarks don't address the other issues that rabbonim should be concerned about. He did not intend to discuss that point of the problem in his comments.

    I was stating that whatever part of the Torah universe is not concerned with the aveiro issues and the hashchosas neshomos is sorely missing the point. If Rabbi Friedman's remarks were intended to make light of abuse issues, which I don't believe they were, that would be a big mistake.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 7:01 AM

      "tzoorba said...Rap, Even though you are a great Lubavitcher chosid,"

      RaP: I am not. Over the years I have been accused of being both anti- and pro Lubavitch, and I am neither. I just look at each subject as it comes up.

      "I was only indicating that Rabbi Friedman's remarks don't address the other issues that rabbonim should be concerned about. He did not intend to discuss that point of the problem in his comments. I was stating that whatever part of the Torah universe is not concerned with the aveiro issues and the hashchosas neshomos is sorely missing the point."

      RaP: I agree with you on that. But Manis Friedman was not avoiding it, he was addressing how to fix the bodies, souls and lives of the "broken" victims. He is fully aware of the "aveiros" aspect, but you anything about the way Lubavitch works in its outreach they do not focus on giving people "guilt trips" and quite often they will avoid focusing on the pure "avairo issues" and just wait for people to set themselves straight over time. Only Lubavitch has the shita and it has it's pluses and minus, but is how they work. They try to make all their customers happy. They do not fire away with heavy mussar like the Litvish do. And Manis Friedman is a masterful practitioner of bringing secular Jews, especially young women, back to full Jewish observance and becoming fully Torah observant. But I do hear what you are saying and do happen to agree with you. That should not preclude understanding where Manis Friedman is coming from though.

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  11. I've been puzzling over various positions expressed by Recipients and Publicity. The common thread seems to be unconditional support for Chabad and unconditional opposition to Satmar.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      "RAM said...I've been puzzling over various positions expressed by Recipients and Publicity. The common thread seems to be unconditional support for Chabad and unconditional opposition to Satmar."

      Baloney!

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    2. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 10:58 PM

      Now this one of the craziest accusations and mixed up out of context attacks I have ever heard:

      "RaP the Troll said...

      Well previously RaP said:
      Throw away the Gemoras and open up the Tanyas like the Lubavitchers do! Forget the Rishonim just get to the Nistarim! Thrown away your bread and butter and switch to wine, beer and drugs. LSD and CRACK for the masses now -- that's how you make your "popular Kabbalah" for the masses sound!

      and

      I think you live in a different kind of Yiddishkeit, much as Chabadniks and Breslovers live in their own interpretations of Yiddishkeit heavily influence by their own Chasidus.

      To me the common thread seems to be trolling. He's a troll that seeks controversy."

      No, the common thread is that I am an excellent writer and I have incredible logic and reasoning skills!!! And you are very funny, you obviously do not get that I was being FACETIOUS (look it up) and using AD ABSURDUM arguments AGAINST Rabbi Michael Tzadok's CONTROVERSIAL advocating of teaching Kabbalah openly PROVING that he was being ILLOGICAL and that his argument results in CONTRADICTIONS to the way Torah-true Yiddishkeit is practiced today. In any case, if I was pro-Lubavitch and would not say the things that you quote and they are obviously out of context so that what you are transparantly trying to do is "cook-up a FALLACY OF QUOTING OUT OF CONTEXT.

      Please click on all the links above, and if you don't understand them it merely proves that you are just here to play your own games, know nothing about the methods of logical and rational argumentation, and are just resorting to some cheap tricks because you must be desperate.

      SO, grow up and quit trying to make points. I have been commenting on this blog and I have been involved in many serious issues devoting many hours per day, days on end and weeks and months and now years because I agree with Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn goals. Sometimes we have disagreements, but most of the time he does not fight me and posts my comments. Do you really think that after so many years on this blog, with so many critical and sharp thinkers joining that I would last more than a day as a "troll"?! I have fought too many good fights against Leib Tropper and EJF, Guma Aguiar false conversions, Michael Freund and proselytizing, Michael Hersh and child abuse and many many other issues all raised by Rabbi Eidensohn FIRST, so if anything, you must think that he is "troll'' if that is what you think of me because I have always followed his lead and I let him have the final say on all my posts and I have lived with that for a very long time without taking any personal credit at all! So again: Grow up and do apologize!

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    3. RaP: "... I am an excellent writer and I have incredible logic and reasoning skills ..."

      Yes. Many thanks for the obvious effort and concern you put into your writing. Even when we disagree, I find you a Jew with whom it's valuable -- rather than futile -- to disagree.

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    4. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 11:35 PM

      Correct working link for : FALLACY OF QUOTING OUT OF CONTEXT.

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  12. I cannot believe these drashos about Manis. I am a Litvak by temperament. So I will talk pshat. A great deal of halachah supporting reporting abusers to the police depends on believing that abuse constitutes pikuach nefesh because of how it leads to mental illness and even suicicde and thus abuse can overide issur mesirah for those who do not accept the position of the Aruch Hashulchan.

    Manis Friedman's comments undermine that rationale and thus rationalize not reporting sex abusers to the civil authorities.

    I am not interested in stories about this great educator, mekubal, manhig, mashpiah, etc. Frankly, I don't care if he is the greatest educator in all of Jewish history. Other great educators have failed when it came to sex abuse. When it comes to sex abuse, Manis Friedman is a destructive influence.

    Those of you that love him and also care about the wellbeing of children should work on changing him instead spouting apologetics here.

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    1. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 7:18 AM

      "Yerachmiel Lopin said...I cannot believe these drashos about Manis. I am a Litvak by temperament. So I will talk pshat. A great deal of halachah supporting reporting abusers to the police depends on believing that abuse constitutes pikuach nefesh because of how it leads to mental illness and even suicicde and thus abuse can overide issur mesirah for those who do not accept the position of the Aruch Hashulchan..."

      Hi Yerachmiel: Worrying and obsessing about sex abuse should not become a substitute "religion" for Yiddishkeit. Just as obsessing about the Holocaust or the spread of cancer will not bring back the dead and will not give faith to those who lost it from personal loss and suffering. Sometimes in spite of everything we must just move on with life and try to make the best of things. If the only prism to judge anyone is how they do or do not react to sex abuse or to suffering in general, then it is a sorry state of affairs. Sure it's vitally important, but Yiddishkeit does not mandate that we transform ourselves into social activists and worry-warts to the point of losing any sense of the bigger picture of the "geshmak" of being a Yid and an "oved Hashem" for the purpose of "ivdu es Hashem besimcha" (serve God with joy [no matter what is happening to you]), and that is what Manis Friedman is trying to do.

      How you can say he is being destructive is incomprehensible when he outright says that one must report sex abuse to the police and that rabbis CANNOT do the work of mental health workers and should not even try. You are being too harsh on him, as if he had done something wrong when he is just TALKING. If you know of any wrongdoing on his part then say so, but so far he has a clean record as far as anyone knows. Please point to SPECIFIC statements that he makes that you disagree with so that we can get a better handle of what is upsetting you so much. Thanks.

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    2. RaP: "If the only prism to judge anyone is how they do or do not react to sex abuse or to suffering in general, then it is a sorry state of affairs.

      RaP, Would I be correct that what you mean is something other than what you've actually written? (Rachamanut is rather foundational to the Jewish "prism".)

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    3. Probably it has something to do with saying that forgetting to say Al HaMichia is more psychologically damaging to a person than being raped.

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    4. Rabbi Tzadok, I understood Manis Friedman to be referring to spiritual damage and distinguishing that from psychological damage. He certainly was saying that if someone comes to you as a rabbi, be a rabbi and address their problem in a halachic and hashkafic way, rather than a psychological way.
      In the al HaMichia example, if I remember correctly, a woman had been raped when she was nine years old. In the above context, he was telling her that having been raped did less damage to her neshama than not saying al HaMichia, not assessing comparative psychological damage (rape vs. forgetting to say.)

      That leads me to several questions: Is the distinction I have drawn (spiritual/psychological) a correct one according to your studies? Can a person suffer significant psychological trauma without significant spiritual trauma or vice versa? If so, is what I understood Manis Friedman to be saying (my listening comprehension of the video aside) a correct statement about relative effect on the neshama? In other words, if I did understand him correctly, is _he_ right from a Kabbalistic standpoint – about that part of his remarks, anyway?

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    5. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 31, 2013 at 11:14 PM

      "Just a Civilian said...RaP: "If the only prism to judge anyone is how they do or do not react to sex abuse or to suffering in general, then it is a sorry state of affairs.

      RaP, Would I be correct that what you mean is something other than what you've actually written? (Rachamanut is rather foundational to the Jewish "prism".)"

      Hi and I am not arguing with you. I am NOT saying that there should "not" be rachmonus ch"v and I am NOT minimizing the horror and tragedy of sex abuse which is a horrible crime in any meaning, it is an aveira (sin) against mankind, against God and the Torah that is based and teaches the purest morality, and that is utter torture for the victims, nebech. But, what I see Manis Friedman trying to get across is that according to Yiddishkeit as a whole, still and all the sum of all the parts of ANY tragedy is NOT the tragedy itself but EVERYTHING should, can and does fit into a BIGGER SCHEME OF THINGS, the "vast eternal plan" that Tevye plaintively sings of in Fidler on the Roof when he beseeches God to take him out of crushing poverty and make him into a "rich man"!

      Thus no matter what one has experienced, the worst of the worst hells and tortures, if you come out alive and sane and as whole as can be hoped for, be it a genocidal Holocaust, death and suffering from cancer and the crushing pain and humiliation of sexual abuse and victimization, it can and must ultimately be put in a wider broader even more spiritual context and that is the job of the true rabbi. It goes above and beyond what the psychotherapist and psychiatrist can do because it speaks to the whole person, not just the body and psyche and also to the soul and the link to Hashem. I think that is what Manis Friedamn is trying to convey. If you think I am wrong let me know. If you think Manis Friedman has done anything wrong then let us know too, because then he would be hypocritical to be allowed to be a teacher of masses of Jewish people seeking to return to their heritage and also counseling future and present spiritual leaders.

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    6. That leads me to several questions: Is the distinction I have drawn (spiritual/psychological) a correct one according to your studies? Can a person suffer significant psychological trauma without significant spiritual trauma or vice versa? If so, is what I understood Manis Friedman to be saying (my listening comprehension of the video aside) a correct statement about relative effect on the neshama? In other words, if I did understand him correctly, is _he_ right from a Kabbalistic standpoint – about that part of his remarks, anyway?

      This is actually a rather complex question and frankly not one to which I could give an across the board answer. However, there are certain aveirot that have the ability to spiritually damage other people.

      Most powerful of these are sexual sins. Rape and molestation, according to the Arizal in Shaar Ruach HaKodesh and Shaar HaGilgulim have the ability to powerfully damage and or affect a person spiritually. The extent of that damage can in fact be quite severe. Further that spiritual damage can, according to Rabbanim such as the Ben Ish Hai, and more recently Rav Yechiel Fishel Eisenbach result in psychological damage.

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  13. Why is it that maany askonim hardly say what they meam and mean what they say when it comes to controversial subjects..? Is iit perhaps because he is not sure how the vast majority of the public will take his statements so he always has the option of coming out with a second statemnt explaining what he meant..? There is a pattern here I noticed by many rabbanim as well who play word games so that he can always go back to explain himself not to upset anyone or to balancee it out so everyone is happy. This is a very smart method but only if we dont catch on. But by now we see right through ( rabbi ) manis like an xray.

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  14. My take on it is here

    http://pitputim.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/where-rabbi-manis-friedman-got-it-wrong/

    and here

    http://pitputim.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/beth-din-for-rabbi-manis-friedman/

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  15. I think the criticism of Rabbi Friedman is largely undeserved. He does express himself in a way that could be misunderstood. But he clearly is a concerned individual who has had experience dealing with abused people. His words said out of context with the caring and charismatic individual he is could be harmful. But I think his point is an important corrective to focus on the trauma etc of abuse. He is concerned with getting the victim to be able to maximally function and develop a future orientation. That is healthy if done properly and I think he is capable of doing it properly. His wording was a bit disconcerting - but I don't really think it deserved the widespread expressions of horror that followed.

    Please see this new post which is relevant to the issue


    http://daattorah.blogspot.co.il/2013/02/emotional-abuse-producing-overly.html

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