Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beitar - Parents reported abuse & son has no school

Kikar Shabbat

לפני כעשרה ימים עצרה המשטרה את ישראל מלאכי בניאס, מלמד בעיר החרדית בית"ר עילית, בחשד שלכאורה התעלל ותקף באכזריות מספר רב של ילדים בכיתה בה לימד בשנים האחרונות.
בין המתלוננים נמצאים הורים לילד חרדי בן 9, שעל פי החשד גם הוא עבר מסכת התעללות קשה על ידי בניאס, לדברי ההורים, בעקבות התלונה במשטרה שהגישו, עברו מסע התנכלויות בקהילה. 
בראיון לעופר חדד בחדשות 2 שיחזרו ההורים את הרגע בו גילו שהילד עבר את המתקפה הקשה: "הילד התחיל לקשקש על הידיים, לעשות דברים מוזרים, ואני פשוט לקחתי אותו לחדר ודובבתי אותו. אמרתי לו- אתה מכיר 'מלמד' בשם ישראל מלאכי?, אז הוא אמר לי 'אמא, הוא רשע', אמרתי לו- מה הוא עשה לך?, הוא אמר לי- הוא לקח אותי...", בשלב זה האמא לא הצליחה להמשיך לדבר ופרצה בבכי.
מסכת היסורים הקשה שעבר הילד ומשפחתו לא מסתיימת בזה, לדבריהם: "ידענו את המפקח ואת המנהל, התגובה שלו הייתה מאוד חריפה, 'מה פתאום תיקחו טיפולים לילד?', 'תלכו לרבנים, הרבנים יטפלו"'.
"הילד הולך לתלמוד תורה וחוזר, ואחרי זה יומיים הוא בבית סיפרה האם וטענה שהילד עבר מסע התנכלויות. "מה עכשיו? 'לא היה לי מחברת', 'לא היה לי מחק'" תירץ הילד את ההיעדרות מבית הספר.
לדברי האבא: "מנהל אגף החינוך בעיר אמר מפורש 'בגלל שהלכתם למשטרה אז אנחנו לא נטפל בילד הזה, תמודדו איתו לבד', הוא אומר 'איך אתם רוצים, איזה מנהל יקבל אותו?, הרי יש לו כתם, יש לו בעייה'".


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Get given because of embarrassment is Get Me'usa


The UN vs. Israel: Is Israel the worst country in the world?


ORA to hold protest against Aharon Friedman in Washington

Stern is unfortunately misrepresenting the halacha as well as the facts in justifying another public demonstration against Aharon Friedman. His claim that Aharon Friedman's motivation is sadism is totally disgusting and simply a lie. I received an email request from the Roll Call reporter to present the other side. But she sent the email to me after it was Shabbos in Israel and she said she had to have an answer within a few hours to meet her deadline.
 Click this link [psak from dayanim of the beis din of Rav  Korelitz]
A Get given because of embarrassment of ORA's demonstrations is invalid - Get Me'usa 
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JPost   “We are rallying now to continue our efforts to convince Aharon Friedman to give Tamar Epstein a get,” Rabbi Jeremy Stern, the executive director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, in charge of the demonstration, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“His sadistic refusal to do so is in clear violation of Jewish Law and constitutes domestic abuse. He is an embarrassment to the Jewish community, and it is therefore incumbent upon us to stand together and state clearly that we will not tolerate this abuse in our midst.”

“[Friedman’s] recalcitrance is a form of domestic abuse,” Stern said.

Roll Call Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director for the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, the organizer of Thursday’s protest, said get refusals are a form of abuse to Jewish women by their ex-husbands, who are usually seeking to extort alimony or pressure them into giving up custody of children.

Stern added that Thursday’s protest on Capitol Hill is ORA’s fourth against Friedman — previous protests were held at Friedman’s Silver Spring apartment in December 2010 and 2011, as well as at a conference Friedman spoke at in February 2012.

“Aharon Freidman is a pariah and not welcome in any of the synagogues in the area,” Stern said. “How he can call himself a religious Jew is beyond me. He is an embarrassment, we feel, for the Jewish community.”

Numerous reports attribute the dispute to a custody battle between Friedman and Epstein. Epstein moved with the couple’s daughter to Philadelphia following their separation, and a court denied Friedman’s request to have their daughter moved back to Maryland, where the couple lived while they were married and where Friedman still resides.

Although many prominent rabbis have come out against Friedman on the issue, the rabbinical court Shar Hamishpot issued an opinion in June 2012 siding with Friedman, saying Epstein “had no right to unilaterally relocate their daughter” to Philadelphia.

Importance of Praying that Weberman does Teshuva

Guest post by fordaas Torah

“Why is it important to pray that Nechemia Tzi ben Dina does a complete Teshuvah

The Talmud teaches that Adam before he sinned spanned from the heavens to the earth and from one end of the world to the other.  This means that on some very real level this world is actually made up of one “Adam” that encompasses the entire world.

This "one-Adam-world" was given a job to do which is really very complicated.  And unfortunately he failed; he ate from the “Tree of Knowledge” while G-d explicitly told him not to.  So Hashem developed this plan where He split Adam's job into billions upon billions of pieces, assigning it to billions upon billions of people coming down into this universe at different intervals of history, each with their own sliver of this “huge cosmic task."

Thus, while we all should be fully invested in working on our own unique mission, we must also remember that in the end we each are dependent on one another to reach our final destination.  In order for redemption to occur every piece of the cosmic puzzle must become fully actualized, so that Adam’s original task gets completed.

I believe that molestation and incest are among the more difficult issues that we need to solve as a community.   We need to work through this stuff, clean it up, and discover the underlying decay in our universe that enables such wickedness. (And perhaps even find some disguised Jewels hiding in this filth, waiting to be rediscovered, cleaned up and rectified.  Perhaps as a nation there are important lessons we can extract from these horrors that can help us get some clarity about what true Kedusha needs to look like.)

Making sure that people stop supporting this evil, support victims instead, and doing whatever we can to ensure the safety of ALL children, are very important first steps.   Then, of course, we must ensure that victims get the help they need to heal from this horrifying trauma, and perhaps even find some meaning to their suffering.

In addition though, a total soul-cleansing teshuvah by the perpetrators seems vital if we are to fully clean this thing up as a “one-Adam-world.”  There is a level of deep-core-knowing about the utter, total wrongness of these actions that must somehow be embodied in our universe.  And who can better accomplish this then a perpetrator turned Baal Teshuvah?  One can only imagine the healing that can come to our “cosmic-Adam-universe” when a perpetrator is able to fully face the despicableness of his actions, the depths of the damage caused to the victim, to himself and the entire universe, and then have the strength to live with this awareness, and have that awareness inform his day to day life.

We all know that Mr. Weberman isn't the only molester around, unfortunately.  Yet Mr. Weberman has become a "public-figure” regarding these issues.  The fundraiser and the intimidation of witnesses drew lots of attention to his trial and probably indirectly caused his steep sentence.  (Yet this is the way of the universe; actions have repercussions.  Getting people to give money for your defense because they believe you are innocent, when in fact you know that you are guilty, comes with a steep price.

Now given that all this unfortunate stuff has happened, and Mr. Weberman will probably be spending the remainder of his life in prison, wouldn’t it be such a waste of suffering if he doesn’t achieve a full teshuvah? Prison indeed is a place where people are forced, in some sense, to face who they have become as a result of their wrong choices. Yet sadly, by definition, most perpetrators suffer from extreme narcissism, which surely makes teshuvah so much more difficult for them.

But as we contemplate the fact that Mr. Weberman too is a part of our greater whole, shouldn’t we seek to do whatever we can to ensure the most mileage out of this horrible saga for our “collective-cosmic-Adam”?  I believe there are two steps we must take as a community to help move Mr. Weberman along towards this goal.

Firstly, we must stop this nonsense of insisting that he is innocent.  Teshuvah is in part the ability to see the truth for what it is, regardless of how unappealing that reality might be.  Crying “anti-Semitism”, “ community being on trial”, or “kangaroo court”, just takes the focus off from the truth, and makes it all the more difficult for Mr. Weberman to face up to the truth about himself.

And secondly, may I suggest that we each take a couple of moments every day to beseech Hashem to grant Mr. Weberman the courage and honesty he needs to enable him to move onto the path of teshuvah.  May each day bring with it for him more enlightenment about the greatness of Hashem, the utter holiness of every Jewish body and soul, specifically those of his victims.  May he realize more and more how molestation is akin to soul murder, and how accountable we each are for our actions, regardless of whether  we can hide them from the public or not.  And perhaps his teshuvah can be the catalyst to awaken our community, so that we no longer are willing to exchange real Kedusha for the appearance of Holiness.

Perhaps deeply integrating the above truths can serve towards a soul-cleansing teshuvah for Nechemia Tzvi ben Dina.
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Postscript by fordaas Torah: Perhaps one reason we struggle with accepting the realities of molestation is because we struggle to accept that someone we know personally can be such a monster.  Our habit of “black or white thinking” makes it very difficult for us to dismiss someone that we know personally as an evil individual who doesn’t deserve any sympathy whatsoever.

Also, incest by definition involves a family member, someone the victim might have strong feelings for.   So here too, the question arises for the victim; “how do I orient my feelings towards the perpetrator who has acted like a monster, yet is still my close relative?”

The answer to this dilemma might be to totally condemn the perpetrator’s actions, while still viewing him as a human being, i.e. as someone who has purpose and can contribute to our world.
I believe praying for them to do teshuvah is the way to accomplish this.  On the one hand it doesn’t minimize how horrific these actions are, while it still leaves space for us to interact with the perpetrator as a human being. 

I understand that the “teshuvah” concept is often grossly misused when dealing with these issues.  I.e. people often claim the perpetrator has done teshuvah without having any proof to believe that.  Thus the victim is then urged to stop complaining and let bygones be bygones, when the truth is that if a real teshuvah was done the perpetrator would understand that it is his responsibility to be מפייס the victim, and no way does the victim need to curb their righteous indignation in order to make the life of the perpetrator easier.

However I am advocating here for us to pray for the perpetrator to do teshuvah, not to decide that the perpetrator has done teshuvah.   I believe we can pray for this while still holding on to the truth of how difficult it is for a proper teshuvah to be done when it comes to these matters.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

12 Good Reasons Why Secular Israelis Reject Haredim

Jewish Press      In an article titled "Maybe the Secular Are Right?" that was published this winter in the Haredi Kikar Hashabbat, Rabbi Bloch asks: "Why is it so common for Haredi pundits and public figures to pin the motives for secular hatred against Haredim only on the formers' bad qualities, their emptiness, anti-Semitism and the ignorant man's hatred for the scholar? And another question we should ask ourselves is whether, in some cases, the value benefits from this conduct or another are worth the consequent heavy price of hilul Hashem (desecration of the Holy Name).

Rabbi Bloch then poses 12 questions which he encourages his Haredi readers to ponder.

    1. We've chosen, for understandable educational reasons, to withdraw and live in exclusively Haredi cities and neighborhoods, avoiding as much as possible any social contact with the secular.

    This is legitimate and understandable, but as a result they don't really know us, amd so they naturally view us as bizarre, in our manner of dress, our behavior, and our language. This creates aversion and alienation. Why, then, we are angry at them for treating us this way?

    2. We chose, for educational reasons—although some of us really believe it—to teach our children that all secular Israelis are sinners, vacuous, with no values, and corrupt.

    This could possibly be a legitimate view, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular, in return, teach their own children that the Haredim are all primitive, with outdated and despicable values?

    3. We have chosen, for the sake of the preservation of Torah in Israel, to prevent our sons from participating in carrying the heavy burden of security, and instead tasked them with learning Torah.

    Of course we could not give that up, but why are we outraged and offended when the secular, who do not recognize nor understand this need—or rather most of them are familiar with the issue, but argue that there should be quotas—see us as immoral, and some despise us as a result?

    4. We chose for our sons who do not belong, by their personal inclination or learning skills to the group of Torah scholars (Yeshiva bums and worse), to also evade enlistment—including into perfectly kosher army units. And when it comes to the individuals who have joined the Haredi Nahal, we do not praise them, but despise them instead, and we certainly show them no gratitude, while the Haredi press ignores them—in the best case.

    Why, then, are we outraged when the secular don't believe our argument, that the purpose of keeping yeshiva students from enlisting, is to maintain Torah study and not simply the Haredim's unwillingness to bear the burden?

    5. We chose to teach our children not to work for a living, and to devote all their time to Torah study. Clear enough, but, then, why are we shocked when the secular—who do not consider Torah study an all encompassing value—feel that we are an economic burden on their necks, as a mere 38% of us take part in the labor force, and they hate us for it.

    6. We chose not to teach our children any labor skills, and we condemn those who do pursue a profession. As a result our kolelim include all of those who do not belong among the scholars and still prefer not to work for a living.

    Why, then, do we complain when the secular feel, and say so with an increasing volume, that we are parasites, living off of their efforts?

    7. We chose (for educational considerations?) not to educate our children to show gratitude to the soldiers who risked their lives and were killed or injured for our sake, too. So we do not mention them in any way by any special day or prayer or special Mishna learning that's dedicated to their memory. Moreover, not a single Mashgiach or Rosh Yeshiva ever talks about it in a Mussar Schmooze, and you'll find no mention of it in the Haredi press.

    Why, then, are we surprised that the secular feel that we are ungrateful and despicable, and that the reason for our not enlisting is simply because we are parasites, living off the sacrifices of others in society?

    8. When extremist, delusional groups behave in ways that besmirch the name of God—e.g. the spitting in Beit Shemesh, dancing during the memorial siren, burning the national flag—our rabbis chose not to condemn them, clearly and consistently ( except for a few faint statements here and there). Why, then, are we explaining away the fact that the secular believe we all support those terrible acts? Why do we insist that their hostility stems from their hatred of the scholars?

    9. We've opted to allow our public officials and pundits to curse out all the secular all the time. Why, then, when the secular media treat us the same way, are we offended and cry out that they're persecuting us?

    10. The Haredi press will never offer any praise of or express support for secular Israelis who perform good deeds. Why, then, do we jump up and down when we are rewarded equally? And, in fact, while Haredi spokespersons rarely point anything positive about secular society, the secular media often gives positive coverage to Haredi organizations like Yad Sara, Hatzala, Zaka, etc.

    11. We would not agree, under any condition, that secular Israelis turn up in our schools to teach our children heresy, and we would have kept them from putting up stands with books of heresy in our areas. Why, then, do we not understand when the secular do not agree that we seduce her children into denying their parents' heresy?

    12. We do not agree—in my view, rightfully so—that secular people move into Haredi neighborhoods. So where do we get the arrogance and audacity to call anti-Semites those secular who don't agree that Haredim move near their homes, in secular neighborhoods?

Israeli psychotherapists: Dismissed trauma of Holocaust

Haaretz   [...] Recent research by historian Rakefet Zalashik on the history of psychiatry in Palestine during the Mandate period and following the founding of the state [...]. Indeed, she claims in her 2008 book, "Ad Nefesh: Refugees, Immigrants, Newcomers and the Israeli Psychiatric Establishment" (Hakibbutz Hameuchad; in Hebrew), that the eugenics-based concept of "social engineering" was part of the psychiatric mainstream here from the 1930s through the 1950s. [...]

Eugenics wasn't the only dubious theory the German-Jewish psychiatrists brought with them, Zalashik adds: They also adopted German psychiatry's conception of trauma and its method of treating victims of emotional shock. 

Many psychiatrists in the young state believed that the psyche of Jews was more resilient due to the persecution they endured throughout history. In 1957, Fishel Shneorson published an article in the journal Niv Harofeh, about the emotional fortitude of Holocaust survivors. He argued that there was a lower rate of mental illness among survivors who immigrated to Palestine/Israel than among those who settled elsewhere. 

The theory, widely accepted by psychiatrists here at the time, was that the conditions in this country - the absence of anti-Semitism, combined with the survivors' participation in fighting for and building the nation - had a salutary effect on their mental health. Because of this, psychiatrists tended to attribute a large portion of Holocaust survivors' complaints to immigration difficulties and inter-familial issues, rather than to diagnose them as emotional problems and treat them accordingly. 

The dismissive attitude toward the effect of the Holocaust experience is evident in the case of one Romanian-born Jew, who was admitted in 1955 to Jerusalem's Talbieh Psychiatric Hospital to see whether he was suffering from a psychiatric problem. He was described as "possessing borderline intelligence, very weak social understanding and an infantile personality," and diagnosed as suffering from depression, anxiety, insecurity and aggression. 

Zalashik: "The therapists devoted three whole pages to the patient's life history, from his childhood up to his hospitalization, but this was all they had to say about his wartime experience: 'In 1941, during the war, the patient was taken to the labor camps and was separated from his family. In the camps he did not suffer from any illnesses. After his release from the concentration camps in 1945, he returned to Romania and learned that his entire family had been wiped out.'" 

'Compensation neurosis'
The psychiatrists' attitude toward the survivors' trauma took on added significance in 1952, with the signing of the reparations agreement between Germany and Israel. According to the law in Germany, survivors were entitled to seek compensation for damages caused them by the Nazi persecution. Israeli psychiatrists were asked to write professional opinions about the demands for compensation. Survivors who were not former citizens of Germany, or were not part of the German cultural milieu, were entitled to seek a disability pension from the Israeli Finance Ministry and from the National Insurance Institute, and medical opinions were required for this as well. 

Zalashik concludes that instead of using this opportunity to take a closer look at the survivors' psyches and recognize their mental anguish, the psychiatrists primarily saw themselves as the guardians of the state coffers, and were disinclined to acknowledge the psychological harm wrought by the Nazis. And when they did recognize it, they tended to assign the person in question a minimal level of disability. 

Psychiatrist Kurt Blumenthal went so far as to claim that many survivors were just pretending to have mental problems, when he wrote in 1953 about "compensation neurosis" or "purposeful neurosis," which was ostensibly characterized by an attempt to portray oneself as having suffered great damage in order to increase compensation one would receive. Psychiatrist Julius Baumetz, director of a Jerusalem mental health station, implored his colleagues to do their utmost to put an immediate end to such allegedly neurosis-driven demands, lest survivors' conditions deteriorate to a state of "infantile dependence." 

"The Israeli psychiatrists betrayed their role when they decided to worry more about the state coffers than about their patients," says Zalashik. "When people came to them complaining about nightmares, they told them they were making it up. One German psychiatrist I interviewed said that he was horrified by the opinions he received from Israeli therapists. He said they were so outdated and non-specific that they were harmful to the patients. The theories upon which they were based - i.e., that trauma does not cause any long-term change in personality - were already considered outmoded in Germany in those years." 

Zalashik says this atmosphere made it easier for the Health Ministry to decide that mentally ill Holocaust survivors should be treated in private psychiatric institutions instead of by the public health care system. Survivors were kept in these institutions for decades. Eventually, these facilities became hostels; to this day, they are home to about 700 Holocaust survivors.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chaim Gravitzer - just reprinted

For an insiders view of the chassidish and litvishe world - this novel is highly recommended. Despite being written as fiction it provides a very accurate and sophisticated understanding. It has been out of print for many years and has just been reprinted. Just before it was reprinted a used copy went for $500! The following is the advertisement from the publisher.

Yiddish volume I downloadable as free pdf 
Vol II Spielberg digitalization
      volume II 
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"שבע יפול צדיק וקם" – פתח הרבי ופירש מיד כל מילה ומילה – שבע פעמים נופל הצדיק וחוזר וקם מנפילתו...כל עלייה של נשמה יש בה ממילא אפשרות של נפילה, אלא שכל נפילה ונפילה היא בשורה מאוימת לעלייה העתידה לבוא. שכן נפילה וקימה – זהו התוך והמהות של העבודה האמיתית, התנועה רצוא-ושוב של הנשמה, המתעלה מעלה-מעלה.
חיים גראביצר הוא חסיד חב"ד שנועד לגדולות. עם זאת הוא מסרב בכל תוקף לרבנות ודבק במלאכת המלמד, בזכותה הוא רואה עצמו כמשה רבנו המביא נשמות רכות למעמד הר סיני. אין דומה לו, לגראביצר, בקולו הרועם, במזגו הסוער וביושר לבו, שאינו מתכופף בפני איש.
אולם אסון נורא שומט את הקרקע מתחת רגליו, וגראביצר נקרע מחייו, מעולמו ומאמונותיו, כגרם שמים שניתק ממסלולו ונותר משוטט בחלל. הוא "נופל" ומתגלגל במסע מלא תעוזה ומתח בין עולמות רוחניים תרבותיים וחברתיים שונים: מחסידות חב"ד לחסידות פולין, משם לישיבת וולוז'ין ולעולמם של המתנגדים ולתנועת ההשכלה ועד לגורלם הטראגי של הקנטוניסטים.
חיים גראביצר – סיפורו של נופל הוא ספר ייחודי ומרתק שנכתב ביידיש בשנות העשרים של המאה העשרים וראה אור לראשונה בעברית בשנת 1939, בתרגומו הנפלא ומלא החיים של הסופר והמשורר אברהם שלונסקי. הספר מקים לתחייה את העולם היהודי של העיירות בפולין במאה התשע-עשרה, ומתאר נאמנה את חיי היהודים באירופה שלפני מלחמות העולם.
פרופ' יהושע פישל שניאורסון (1958-1888) נולד למשפחת רבנים ואדמו"רי חסידות חב"ד, למד בישיבות והוסמך לרבנות, ולאחר מכן למד רפואה ופסיכיאטריה בברלין. בשנת 1936 עלה לארץ ישראל והקים בתל אביב מרכז אבחון וטיפול פסיכולוגי. לצד לימודיו ועבודתו הקלינית, חיבר שניאורסון סיפורת ייחודית מודרנית, אשר נתנה ביטוי מרתק לאישיותו ולשאלות שהתחבט בהן בחייו. הספר חיים גראביצר הוא גולת הכותרת של יצירתו הספרותית.
הוצאת ידיעות ספרים גאה להשיב אל קוראי העברית אוצר תרבותי וספרותי שכמעט ונשכח בארון הספרים היהודי. הספר רואה אור כעת במהדורה מחודשת, מעודכנת ומוערת.

Watchful Waiting' Best for Ear Infections, Pediatricians Say

ABC News   In an effort to rein in antibiotic use, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued stricter guidelines on diagnosing and treating ear infections in kids.

The updated guidelines, published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, also added a recommendation against prophylactic antibiotic use in kids with recurrent ear infections. 

The 2013 guidelines are specifically for uncomplicated acute otitis media at ages 6 months to 12 years in otherwise healthy children without tympanostomy tubes, anatomic abnormalities such as cleft palate or Down syndrome, immune deficiencies or cochlear implants.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A father's words on his 17 year old daughter's 9th yahrzeit

This was sent to me to post as a result of a question as to whether I had seen any discussion of parents' mourning their children in the Torah literature. It was sent as "a testament to how a bereaved parent grieves and heals 9years out."
 ================================
Guest post by Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.

On the 2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, Monday, February 11, 2013 we will commemorate the 9th Yahrtzeit of our daughter Hindy. ... 9 years .....

Every Motzoi Shabbos we welcome in the new week, with the words of Havdallah: “Hinei Kel Yeshuasee Eftach Velo Efchad Ki Azi Vezimros Kah” - Behold! Hashem is my salvation. I shall trust and not fear, for Hashem is my might and my praise/song.  Ki Azi “Vezimros” Kah (Yeshayah 12:2).

The Hebrew word “Zimrah” has various meanings. It can mean song, from the word “Zemer;” it can also mean the most praiseworthy, as in Yaakov Avinu’s instruction to his sons “Kechu Mizimras Haaretz” take from that which is most praiseworthy (Bereishis 43:11); and it can also mean to prune as the Gemorah in Shabbos (73b) says: “Zomer Chayav Mishum Note'a” (pruning is Chayav because of planting). When one has a tree with an inferior branch that is drawing nourishment from the mother tree, thereby taking away nutrition from the good branches, the bad branch is pruned, cut away, for the sake of the others.

Tonight on the eve of my daughter 9th Yahrtzeit, all aspects of the word Zimrah are applicable. “Kechu Mizimras Haaretz” take from the best; that would be my daughter Hindy. She really was a great kid. She was from the best. Perhaps she was ... ‘plucked’ from us at a young age or “pruned” from our tree, so that she would be an atonement for others, and that is perhaps why were are able to sing about her life 9 years later, because in the depth of our souls we understand that she may have saved us.

---

The most emotionally wrenching episode in Parshas Vayishlach is the death of Rachel Imeinu during the birth of Binyamin. Recall, that on the way to Eretz Yisroel, Rachel Imeinu went into childbirth, and the midwife indicated that it was a son. Rachel Imeinu's labor was extremely difficult, and ultimately proved fatal. The Pasuk (35:18) records that in her last dying breath, Rachel Imeinu named her son "Ben Oni," but that "his father" (i.e., Yaakov Avniu) called him "Binyamin."

As Rachel Imeinu breathed her last breath on this world, knowing fully well that she was about to die, she named her son “Ben Oni” meaning the son of my pain. Obviously she went through great pain in order to bring him into the world. Yet Yaakov Avinu ignored her dying wish and called him “Binyomin” instead - son of my strength.

Why would Rachel Imeinu give such a depressing name to her son “Ben Oni” and how could Yaakov Avinu change it?

I gave a lot of thought to this brief exchange between Binyomin’s parents over his name that is wedged into the Posuk of Rochel Imeinu’s death, I reflected heavily on what exactly was Rachel’s pain, what was her dying message to her son, and what was Yaakov’s response, and who was right? I have concluded that this enigmatic Posuk contains powerful insights into pain, powerful lessons on how to grieve properly, and finally inspiring lessons on how to go forward in life after a tragedy.

But first, let us try to imagine the scene leading to the birth of this child as it unfolded, and the conversation that I suspect might have transpired between Yaacov Avinu and Rachel Imeinu. After being childless for so many years, Rachel Imeinu is finally blessed with her second son. After yearning and praying for decades, her prayers are at last answered. She is lying in bed. She is dying--and she knows it! She is about to be separated forever from the only man she ever loved--and she knows it! She will never reside in Eretz Yisroel--and she knows it! She will never be able to raise this 2nd child of hers--and she knows it! And she is consumed by pain! She looks at her newborn son, and while searching for the appropriate name for him, she is so overcome with pain and grief, that she chooses a name that embodies her emotions: “Ben Oni” - the child of my suffering.

In my research into this Posuk, I discovered two incredible insights that shed light into the private world of turmoil that Rachel Imeinu carried within her:

First, the Chasam Sofer: The reason Rachel Imeinu died when they came into Eretz Yisroel is that Yaakov Avinu and all the Avos kept all the Mitzvos while in Eretz Yisroel. Since he couldn't be married to two sisters, Rachel Imeinu being the second sister he married was doomed to death upon their return from Chutz La'Aretz into Eretz Yisroel. This all happened to Rachel Imeinu because of the strength and courage that she showed in helping her sister Leah marry Yaakov on what was to be her wedding night. Rachel Imeinu’s death was yet another painful chapter and yet another tragic consequence of her heroic and selfless act.  And hence, her intense pain culminating at that moment.

Second, from Rav Yaakov Meidan, the Rosh Yeshiva Har Etzion: In Parshas Vayeitze, Rachel Imeinu steals her father's Terafim (idols) (Bereishis 31:19) and she now believes that her death is a consequence of her sin. Hence, she names her son “Ben Oni” (literally, "the son of my sin"). In contrast, Yaakov Avinu understands his wife's death to be a result of his vow to Lavan that the one who took the Terafim will surely die. Therefore, he calls his son Binyamin (literally, "the son of the right [hand]" in the Torah, oaths are frequently represented by the right hand). In other words, instead of accusing each other and blaming each other, both Yaakov Avinu and Rachel Imeinu assumed responsibility and shouldered the blame for Rachel Imeinu’s death. Again, this was her internal pain.

But that addresses the agonizing pain as to why Rachel Imeinu named her son Ben Oni. This still begs the question even more! How could Yaakov Avinu deny his dying wife’s wish? This seems rather strange. What's wrong with the name “Ben Oni?” If this was Rachel’s last wish, shouldn't he have kept the name she so greatly desired? Why change it?

The Ramban points out that the word "Oni" really has two meanings.  It can indeed mean strength as in "Raiyshis Oni," or it can mean very deep sorrow and pain. On the day of someone's death, a close relative who must mourn for him is Halachically called an "Onein." The day of death is the most painful day in a person's life. Perhaps Rachel Imeinu called her son “Ben Oni” so that he would always remember the great pain she was willing to suffer in order to bring a son into this world. In fact, on the very day of his birth Binyomin was actually considered an Onein. By naming him “Ben Oni” he would always remember how much he meant to her. That she was willing to sacrifice her own life for him. He was to remember this lesson every day of his life. In fact he would be celebrating his birthday on the very day of her Yahrtzeit, on the day he had once been an Onein. Her subtle message to him may have been that he should always prove himself worthy so that she wouldn't have suffered in vain. Every day of his life he'd be reminded that his mother had given up her own life so that he could come into this world and would try to live up to her great expectations. Hence the name “Ben Oni.”

According to the Ramban, Yaakov Avinu may well have been worried that Binyomin may subconsciously blame himself, for his mother's death. After all, if not for him, she would still have lived. While it certainly wasn't his fault; it was his birth that was responsible for his mother's death. This very thought could haunt a very sensitive person for the rest of his life. To be reminded of this fact on a daily basis may be too much for him to bear. Every time someone would call him by his name “Ben Oni” it would somehow remind him of that tragedy that occurred on the day of his birth, and that his mother suffered and had died on his account. Yaakov Avinu probably felt that this was far too much for a person to bear, and so he decided to change his son’s name. Yet he didn't change it completely. He kept the first part of the name "Ben" and only changed the second part.

The Ramban suggests that Yaakov Avinu both wanted to honor Rachel Imeinu and sweeten her bitter words at the same time. The Ramban says that he changed the word “Oni” which can also mean strength to the word “Yemin” which also connotes strength or power, since it is the right hand which is the strong and powerful one.  In other words, Yaakov Avinu respected and honored Rachel Imeinu's choice of names, but disagreed with her about its meaning.

I understand this amazing Ramban as follows: At that agonizing moment, Rachel saw pessimism and finality, that her family would celebrate Binyamin's birth while they were sitting Shiva for her, that she would never know him, and he would never know her, making little orphan Binyamin into a tragic case. Nor was she wrong!

But at that same gut-wrenching moment, Yaakov Avinu instead saw optimism and possibility, strength and hope, in Binyamin. He refused to dwell on the past and only looked to Binyamin's future.

Binyomin’s birth was rooted in the tragedy of his mother's death, but also symbolizes a triumph of completion. The Shiftei-Kah - the twelve tribes became complete when Binyamin was born, the journey of Yaakov was completed. In the end, even the Bais Hamikdosh was to be built in the territory of Binyamin partly because of what Binyamin's birth represented.

Yaakov lived perhaps the hardest and most punishing life of all the Avos. Yet, when he looked down at his new baby boy - Binyamin - rather than succumbing to the tragedy and the realization of what he had lost, he instead focused on that which he had gained, a special son, a Ben Zekunim, a child of his old age, a memorial to Rachel Imeinu.

Yaakov Avinu was a relentless optimist. In each challenge that came his way, he found reason for hope and inspiration. When the rock covered the well, he did not dwell on how impossible it would be to move it, he just did what he had to do. When he was fooled into marrying Leah, he did not write sad poetry about it; he went back to work for Rachel Imeinu. When Lavan tried to cheat him, he did not play the victim, he just figured out a way to turn the tables. And when Rachel Imeinu died - tragically and suddenly - he found joy in his son and kept moving forward.

May we be like Yaakov Avinu, recognizing the good that we have and being irrepressibly optimistic about the future.

Bilah HaMoves Lanetzach, Umacha Hashem Elokim Dimah Meyal Kol Ponim - May He swallow up death forever; may Hashem wipe away tears from every face (Isaiah 25:8) T'hei Nishmasa Tzrurah B'tzror Ha'chaim.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Emotional abuse: Embarrassing with strong praise?

Among the prohibitions of emotional abuse is that of embarrassing someone. In fact embarrassing another person has been described in the commentaries as an aspect of murder.

The following story told by Rabbi Zilberstein raises an interesting problem regarding the parameters of the prohibition.

Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer had a group of talmidei chachom who met with him discussing various Torah issues. Amongst the group was a yeshiva bachur. At some point in the discussion the bachur made a comment and Rav Issser Zalman got very exicted. He told everyone that what the bachur said was a profound insight. The bachur was embarrassed by the praise. When the bachur tried to protest the praise but that only increased the intensity of the praise. After everyone left, the bachur approached Rav Isser Zalman and asked why he praised him since he was only stating the position of the Shach regarding the discussion topic.  Rav Isser Zalman told him that he knew it was the view of the Shach. He explained that it was time for the bachur to find a shidduch and he wanted it know that he viewed the bachur as a serious talmid chachom.
Rav Zilberstein added that when Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach heard the story he noted that there was an additional aspect of Rav Isser Zalman’s greatness. Since it was clear to the other scholars that this was in fact the view of the Shach – Rav Isser Zalman had degraded himself by making a scene for the sake of the bachur and indicating he himself didn’t know this fact.

I also remember a similar episode when I was in yeshiva. 
There was a bachur who was smart but was very insecure and had low self-esteem issues. Once he made a comment retarding the gemora and the rebbe made a big fuss about what a fantastic chiddush the bachur made. The bachur told me afterwards that he was strongly embarrassed by the rebbe’s praise but it clearly indicated that he felt that the bachur was a nebach who needed to be praised and thus singled him out for this “positive” reinforcement.
My question is whether strong praise said with the intent of benefit - but which in fact causes embarrassment  – is it permitted or is it prohibited as emotional abuse?

Friday, February 22, 2013

ITIM challenges State monopoly on Orthodox conversions

JPOST   The ITIM religious services and advocacy group has filed a petition with the High Court of Justice demanding that the Interior Ministry recognize Orthodox conversions performed in Israel in non-state Orthodox rabbinical courts.

The state conversion authority, which comes under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, is the only body in the country through which an Orthodox convert can gain legal recognition that he or she is Jewish.

But many Orthodox conversion candidates have in recent years sought to convert in non-state Orthodox rabbinical courts, largely because of bureaucratic obstacles and inefficiencies in the state run system.[...]

The organization cited one case in its petition in which a woman from South America, who wishes to remain anonymous, applied to the state conversion authority to convert in 2007, but was only accepted by its Exceptions Committee to begin the conversion process in 2010.

She had, however, become frustrated with the system by this time and had already approached the haredi Badatz rabbinical court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak, which accepted her for conversion.

She successfully completed her conversion course through Karelitz’s rabbinical court and in March 2011 was registered by a state rabbinical court as Jewish.

The woman subsequently married and had a child, but because she is not registered in the Interior Ministry’s population registry as Jewish, her child is not considered Jewish by the state.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Weiss-Dodelson – A Response to Attack from Rosh Yeshivas on Rabbi Weiss

Medical Bills: An obscene story of GREED!

Time Magazine  This is an incredible article that goes into great detail as to why American medical bills are so high despite not providing superior medical care. In particular it focuses on why the government is focusing on the question of "who should pay" rather than the more intelligent question "why charges are so high and largely unrelated to costs."
======================
   [....] The total cost, in advance, for Sean to get his treatment plan and initial doses of chemotherapy was $83,900.  Why?

The first of the 344 lines printed out across eight pages of his hospital bill — filled with indecipherable numerical codes and acronyms — seemed innocuous. But it set the tone for all that followed. It read, “1 ACETAMINOPHE TABS 325 MG.” The charge was only $1.50, but it was for a generic version of a Tylenol pill. You can buy 100 of them on Amazon for $1.49 even without a hospital’s purchasing power.

Dozens of midpriced items were embedded with similarly aggressive markups, like $283.00 for a “CHEST, PA AND LAT 71020.” That’s a simple chest X-ray, for which MD Anderson is routinely paid $20.44 when it treats a patient on Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly.
Every time a nurse drew blood, a “ROUTINE VENIPUNCTURE” charge of $36.00 appeared, accompanied by charges of $23 to $78 for each of a dozen or more lab analyses performed on the blood sample. In all, the charges for blood and other lab tests done on Recchi amounted to more than $15,000. Had Recchi been old enough for Medicare, MD Anderson would have been paid a few hundred dollars for all those tests. By law, Medicare’s payments approximate a hospital’s cost of providing a service, including overhead, equipment and salaries.
On the second page of the bill, the markups got bolder. Recchi was charged $13,702 for “1 RITUXIMAB INJ 660 MG.” That’s an injection of 660 mg of a cancer wonder drug called Rituxan. The average price paid by all hospitals for this dose is about $4,000, but MD Anderson probably gets a volume discount that would make its cost $3,000 to $3,500. That means the nonprofit cancer center’s paid-in-advance markup on Recchi’s lifesaving shot would be about 400%. [...]

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Psychiatric issues from bullying last into adulthood

NY Times   Victims of bullying at school, and bullies themselves, are more likely to experience psychiatric problems in childhood, studies have shown. Now researchers have found that elevated risk of psychiatric trouble extends into adulthood, sometimes even a decade after the intimidation has ended.

The new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday, is the most comprehensive effort to date to establish the long-term consequences of childhood bullying, experts said.

“It documents the elevated risk across a wide range of mental health outcomes and over a long period of time,” said Catherine Bradshaw, an expert on bullying and a deputy director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at Johns Hopkins University, which was not involved in the study.

“The experience of bullying in childhood can have profound effects on mental health in adulthood, particularly among youths involved in bullying as both a perpetuator and a victim,” she added. [...]

Researchers found that victims of bullying in childhood were 4.3 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder as adults, compared to those with no history of bullying or being bullied.

Bullies who were also victims were particularly troubled: they were 14.5 times more likely to develop panic disorder as adults, compared to those who did not experience bullying, and 4.8 times more likely to experience depression. Men who were both bullies and victims were 18.5 times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts in adulthood, compared to the participants who had not been bullied or perpetuators. Their female counterparts were 26.7 times more likely to have developed agoraphobia, compared to children not exposed to bullying. [...]

Major fraud investigation: Chareidi computer training paid for by the Federal government but don't have a single computer

 Jewish Week part I   At Yeshivat Avir Yakov, an all-boys school in the chasidic enclave of New Square in New York’s Rockland County, students spend the vast majority of their long school days studying religious texts in spartan classrooms furnished only with battered wooden benches and desks. Unlike their counterparts in public or private schools outside the chasidic community, the boys at Avir Yakov do not have access to the Internet or computers in their school because chasidic leaders view the Internet as a corrupting force capable of undermining their way of life.

Indeed, recent graduates report never having seen — let alone used — a computer in their classrooms, and video of the inside of the Avir Yakov building shot within the past two weeks and obtained by The Jewish Week seems to support their accounts: not one of the yeshiva’s classrooms, public areas or designated resource rooms seen on the video contains a computer, or even a telephone.

So it comes as a surprise that the approximately 3,000-student school has, since 1998, been allotted more than $3.3 million in government funds earmarked for Internet and other telecommunications technology.


Nonetheless, the company recently sought $1.2 million from E-rate, a federal program subsidizing technology costs for schools and libraries, to equip its neighbor, Bais Ruchel D’Satmar, with “internal connections” and provide “internal connections maintenance.”
Universal Service Administration Company (USAC), the nonprofit that runs E-rate and other programs for the Federal Communications Commission, appears to have denied that particular request. However, it did pay Computer Corner more than $500,000 in 2011 for services provided to the Satmar girls’ school, a school that 12 years earlier was implicated for colluding with the local community school district. The 1999 scheme involved placing dozens of chasidic women on the public schools’ payroll in no-show teaching jobs in order to funnel more than $6 million to the school and its parent organization, United Talmudical Academy.
How did Computer Corner — along with numerous other little-known companies, most of them located in fervently Orthodox neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Rockland County — get to be among the largest service providers in the E-rate program, earning millions of dollars providing Internet and other tech services to yeshivas whose leaders publicly rail against what they call the “evils” of the Internet?
Some of these companies, many of which, like Computer Corner, don’t have a website, have even appeared on E-rate’s top 10 list of funding approvals and funding denials nationwide.

Supreme Court orders standardized tests for Chareidi schools

YNET   The Supreme Court ordered the Education Ministry on Wednesday to formulate an outline for standardized tests in the ultra-Orthodox school system and present it for court approval within 100 days.

Supreme Court President Judge Asher Grunis warned the representatives of the haredi schools that they "Should start taking things seriously, or face the consequences."

The Supreme Court's decision followed a petition made by the Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). The court ruled that the outline must include a provision stating that schools that will fail to perform the tests will be sanctioned.

Haredi institutions are required to teach core subjects, but the IMPJ demanded that the Education Ministry hold Meitzav standardized tests in the the religious  education system and deny funds from schools that fail to do so. [...]

Rav Chaim Halperin reportedly arrested for sexual assault

BHOL    It has been reported that Rav Chaim Halpern was arrested this morning after his house was searched by police - along with his brother Rav Dovid Halpern and two others who were suspected of interfering with the investigation by paying for the silence of witnesses against Rav Chaim Halpern.

Times of Israel   A man believed to be Chaim Halpern, a London rabbi, was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with investigations into sexual assault and perverting the course of justice.

The London Metropolitan Police will not name him, but the man appears to be Halpern, a former religious judge for the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, who has been at the center of a sexual abuse scandal that has roiled London’s Haredi community since October.

Three more men were also arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in the case. They are all in custody at a north London police station and may be held for up to 48 hours without charge.

One is believed to be a brother of Halpern.

According to the London Metropolitan Police, all the arrests were made at addresses in the borough of Barnet, which includes the Orthodox suburb of Golders Green, where Halpern is a resident. The main suspect is 54; the others are 64, 62 and 25.
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Drug dealing in Beitar: 5 arrested including a sofer & principal

BHOL

 פרשת סחר בסמים מרעידה את ביתר עלית, עיר התורה והחסידות בהרי יהודה: ביום שני בשבוע שעבר נעצרו חמישה חשודים בסחר בסמים, בהם שני אחים, תושבי העיר החרדית.

לאחר מעצר החשודים בסחר, עוכבו 15 'קליינטים', שעל פי החשד רכשו את הסמים מחמשת העצורים. בחקירתם קשרו את עצמם הצרכנים לחשדות, והודו בביצוע מספר קניות מהסוחרים העצורים.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stop bullies - by force - not by being nice!

Tablet Mag   These are tough times for the American bully.

Last week, after a young man opened fire in his Ohio high school, killing three classmates and wounding two, renowned scholars of adolescent psychology such as Charlie Rose and Marlo Thomas were quick to prognosticate and assert that the alleged shooter, the gawky T.J. Lane, was just a bullied kid taking bloody revenge on his tormenters. That the theory turned out to be utterly false did little to satisfy the national hunger for bully-flavored sanctimony. [...]

 The problem is not what to do to defang the bully, but what to do to galvanize his victims. The answer is simple, stark, unfashionable: Teach victims to hit back and hit hard. [...]

And yet, when we talk about bullying, we reserve most of our vim and vitriol for the perpetrators, motivated by the belief that these cruel ogres can somehow be reformed. They cannot. The desire to torment the other, to harass those different than us, to lord it over the weak is all too human. It’s worth remembering here that Joseph’s brothers are the men from whose loins sprang the tribes of Israel—which is to say, to an extent they are the progenitors of most of the people who are likely reading this article. Like them, we too have it in us to be terrible meanies. Suppress that urge, and you deny us our natural birthright.

Which, of course, isn’t to advocate brutalities. Limits must be observed. But attempting to make children preternaturally nice to one another is very much like trying to convince puppies to chew with their mouths closed—we may succeed, but we would have ruined what makes them such jolly beasts, and we would certainly impede their growth. Children grow in part by testing the boundaries of their own abilities, and such testing is always applied vis-à-vis others. They tease and hit and threaten, some more maliciously than others, just to see what happens. If balance is kept, if the victim swings back, peace is restored. If not, a message is sent, clearer than the admonitions of a thousand teachers, that bullying is tremendously effective.

Rather than see bullies as abhorrent and in need of mending, let us realize, per our tradition, that they are us. And rather than forbid malice, let us instead teach our kids to strike back. They’ll be much happier if the biblical justice was allowed to prevail, unimpeded, in the schoolyard. After all, they were born this way.

Beitar teacher arrested for allegedly molesting 10 yr old boys

 YNet    26-year-old resident of Beitar Illit was arrested Tuesday on suspicion he molested children multiple times. The suspect, an educator employed at one of the town's institutions, confessed to some of the allegations and has been remanded in custody.

Last week, one of his victims filed a complaint which was supported by a tape in which the suspect is allegedly heard admitting he committed the acts. 

 A police investigation suggests that over the past few years the suspect would molest children he knew as well as children he met in random. 

Galei Tzahal

בהקלטות שהגיעו לידי גלי צה"ל, מתאר מורה רב מלמד בבית ספר לילדים בבית"ר עילית איך הוא מבצע מעשים מיניים חמורים בילדים בני 10 ו-12. בשבוע שעבר הגיש המדובב תלונה למשטרה נגד הרב המלמד, ואמש הוא נעצר והובא לחקירה במחוז ש"י

הם קבוצת צעירים, שנפגעו מינית כשהיו ילדים ונערים בידי אברכים, ומלמדים בקהילתם. כשסיפרו להורים, הם קיבלו הוראה לשתוק.עכשיו הם רוצים לעשות מעשה, ולהציל ילדים אחרים שנפגעים. בהקלטות שהגיעו לידי גלי צה"ל, מתאר מורה רב מלמד בבית ספר לילדים בבית"ר עילית איך הוא מבצע מעשים מיניים חמורים בילדים בני 10 ו-12. למדובב מעבר לקו, בהקלטות הסתר שביצענו, הוא מספר שיצרו לא עומד בפני הילדים הרכים והקטנים שסובבים אותו כמורה.
התפארותו של המלמד נמשכת לאורך דקות ארוכות. כולל וידוי שלו כי שילם 60 אלף שקלים, כופר לאב שגילה כי הוא פגע מינית בבנו בן ה-10, וכך הושתק העיניין. את הכסף חשף, הוא לקח מהמשכנתה שקיבל על מנת לרכוש דירה לו ולרעיתו.
בשבוע שעבר הגיש המדובב תלונה למשטרה נגד הרב המלמד, והעביר לידי החוקרים את ההקלטה המרשיעה. החוקרים נדהמו מהחומר שהועבר לידיהם, והוא הועבר לצוות החקירה המיוחד שהוקם במחוז שי לחקור את החשדות לפגיעות מיניות בילדים שהוסתרו, לא רק במודיעין עילית. אמש נעצר המורה, כשהוא כבול באזיקים הוא הובא לחקירה במשרדי היחידה במחוז ש"י.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Channel 4 video erred: Hardliners not majority

The Telegraph   When Dispatches: Britain’s Hidden Child Abuse aired at the end of last month on Channel 4, I watched it with interest. The programme had been widely advertised. Its central revelation was to be that British orthodox rabbis were forbidding their followers to report child abuse to the police. As a member of the orthodox community who suffered abuse as a child, I knew how important this was. [...]

When my sister and I were growing up in the Haredi community, we were abused by a rabbi. Between the ages of six and 11, this man — a member of our close family — physically abused me, and sexually abused my younger sister. The matter eventually came into the open, and it caused a split in the community. Many people made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the authorities should not be involved. But there was another group that supported our right to report our abuser to the police. We did so, and the man went to prison for a number of years.  [....]

This period of our lives was the most stressful our family had ever experienced. While the court case was going on, my mother was targeted by a group of ultra-orthodox hardliners who despised us for having talked to the police. Somehow, she protected my sister and I from it at the time, and told me the details only recently. It was a campaign of intimidation. Her car was vandalised. Rubbish, including soiled nappies, was pushed through our letterbox. She was spat at in the street, and cursed for generations. Many kosher shops refused her service. She received threatening letters; even our solicitor – a Haredi man – was sent a note saying that if he continued to represent us, his house would be burned down and his children killed.

And most humiliating of all, letters appeared under the windscreen wipers of all the cars in the synagogue car park, stating my mother was mad and we were under her influence. The same letters were sent to our teachers, and to my mother’s employer. Reading this, you are probably wondering why I criticise the Channel 4 programme. The reason is simple. The intimidation was carried out only by a hardcore element of the Haredi community. Many others stood up to them, including my headmaster and our solicitor, both high-ranking rabbis and ordinary people. These people gave us emotional, practical and even financial support, and refused to be intimidated.

A group of senior rabbis even held meetings with those who attacked us, and argued with them, citing Talmudic sources, to suggest that going to the police was the right thing to do. I will always be grateful to these people for their courage and compassion. It was wrong of Dispatches to ignore them, and irresponsible to allow the hardline sects to characterise the entire Haredi community.

The orthodox Jewish community is not a monolithic entity. There are countless sects and sub-sects, and each has a slightly different set of values. Nobody can know the numbers for certain. Perhaps there are more hardliners than moderates; personally, I suspect it is vice versa. [...]

Suspected Modesty Squad members arrested in Beitar

YNET    Two ultra-Orthodox men were arrested Monday for allegedly heading a "modesty squad" that terrorized the female residents of Beitar Illit over what they deemed their "immodest behavior."

The two, both in their 30s, are believed to be responsible for what the police called "a reign or terror."

The two are suspected of a line of violent acts including threats, beatings, kidnappings and more, against what they perceive are indecent women, and at times – men.

The suspects allegedly followed the conduct of the city's residents and decided to "educate" those who did not live up to their standards of modesty.

 According to the case file, the two would watch people's conduct in the streets, the way they dressed, the manner in which they sat on public transportation, their use of language and more.


update YNET Mayor of Beitar alleged to have known about modesty squad and protected it

Office Shooting Video: Run - Hide - Fight!




R. Leib Tropper - educator at RJJ elementary school

Update: Text on Tropper's blog now says "educated at the Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef Elementary School" instead of "educator".

Update in light of some comments in the comments section


Yisroel's comments concerning this shows that he is a shoteh. However Monseylite raises some of the same concerns I mentioned in the post itself. The issue is whether there is any benefit of mentioning the terrible chillul hashem that an individual once did. Monseylite says "its over" " I don't think it's fair to bring him up again and open up another chance for people to shoot arrows at him."
I disagree. Tropper's crime was not a momentary loss of control where he might have taken money that wasn't his. It wasn't an aberration of the situational temptation of eating treif food or selling it. His crime involved the systematic and intentional corruption of Orthodox Judaism and some of the most well know and important gedolim within that system primarily with money but also with kavod and power over others concerning conversion.
For these types of crimes not only is his repentance dependent on the facts of his crime being well known- but something more important. When I traveled to America after the Tropper affair I was confronted with an amazing reality - almost no one I met had heard of the disaster. I am not talking about tzadikim and masmidim who are detached from awareness of scandal. The people ignorant of this historic event were people who pride themselves with knowing what goes on in the frum world. As one American godol who was intimately involved in the events put it, it was event that involved too many big people and involved too much of the system to be publicized. In the vernacular -Eternal Jewish Family and Tropper were too big to fail. But he did. And it caused one of the most negative lowering of rabbinic status, respect and authority of anything else in the last 50 years- if not more.
Furthermore the response of gedolim - not only those in involved - was a concerted effort to silence comment and coverup the crimes that were done. There was not a single comment of apology from a single gadol who was involved in the fiasco except to say what happened wasn't really such a big deal.

So for all of these reasons and more I respectfully disagree with monseylite and his "let's be adult in our midos" approach.

If he has any actual sources that say that this event should be erased from our collective memory, that it serves no purpose to remind the public periodically what happened and that it is wrong to Tropper (who to the best of my knowledge is not a baal teshuva in this matter) to remind him of his past when warning others of what can happened when the rabbinic system loses its transparency and is concerned primarily with power, influence and money - please educate us.

Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it.

The Torah prescribes punishment for crimes that serve as a warning and consciousness raising exercise so that the crimes are not done again.

As Rav Moshe Feinstein put it - "even if a murderer did genuine teshuva - he is still executed." It is still publicized that he was a murderer or any other type of criminal - even though this has disastrous consequences on his family.


Update: Rabbi Micha Berger wrote:  Dr Marvin Schick's email address is on his blog, so it took no work to contact him and ask. Here was his reply:

Leib Tropper does not teach at the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School on Staten Island and to my knowledge has never taught there. Nor does he hold any other position at the school. I hope that this makes the matter clear.

 ===========================
 I was recently given a shock when someone sent me a page from Rabbi Tropper's Blog where he proclaims in the upper right hand corner that he is currently an "Educator at the Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yaakov Yosef Elementary School". That is where his father taught first grade for 30 years.  He also notes that "He is involved in the Character First project, which promotes good character in young people

At the time that the tapes of R' Tropper were circulating the internet and it was clear that he was involved in behavior incompatible with being a spiritual leader  - someone approached a gadol who was associated with Eternal Jewish Family and asked him what he was doing to remove him from leadership of the group.  The gadol unsurprisingly wasn't convinced that he was guilty but said that even if he were guilty - so what? A shikse is not an issur doreissa. He was then asked - well how could he be a rosh yeshiva? The gadol incredibly answerered  that even if he was guilty as charged but since he was not teaching his students immoral behavior or encouraging them to do so - there was no need to remove him!

Basically I am asking this as a question - not claiming that this as the halacha for him. The facts of what has happened are public knowledge for most of my readers and Rav Sternbuch had told me to publicize the facts of his misdeeds

Has the scandal been so successfully covered up that in fact there is no problem with him having an official position of a Torah teacher to children?  Would you want him to teach Torah to your children or be the rav of your shul? Or alternatively even if it is assumed that he has done teshuva [which isn't certain since he has not publicly confessed to his misdeeds] does that erase all that has happened?

When it comes to picking a shliach tzibor there are those who prohibit picking one who had sinned intentional - even if he did teshuva because of the reputation 

Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 53:5):  ... Rema: ... One who has sinned unwittingly for example he accidentally killed someone and repented - it is permitted for him to be shliach tzibor. However if he did it on purpose he can not be the shliach tzibor despite the teshuva because he has already acquired a bad name prior to doing teshuva.

The example of Rabbi Meir and his rebbe who sinned is also not clearly related to the present case since Acher never did teshuva - or at least not until the end of his life.

Bottom line. Can a person who has been involved in a major scandal involving major sins and chilul hashem - ever be given a job as a teacher or spiritual leader?

Child behaves better with less violent & more good TV

NY Times   Experts have long known that children imitate many of the deeds — good and bad — that they see on television. But it has rarely been shown that changing a young child’s viewing habits at home can lead to improved behavior.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers reported the results of a program designed to limit the exposure of preschool children to violence-laden videos and television shows and increase their time with educational programming that encourages empathy. They found that the experiment reduced the children’s aggression toward others, compared with a group of children who were allowed to watch whatever they wanted.

“Here we have an experiment that proposes a potential solution,” said Dr. Thomas N. Robinson, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford, who was not involved in the study. “Giving this intervention — exposing kids to less adult television, less aggression on television and more prosocial television — will have an effect on behavior.” [...]

The new study was a randomized trial, rare in research. The researchers, at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, divided 565 parents of children ages 3 to 5 into two groups. Both were told to track their children’s media consumption in a diary that the researchers assessed for violent, didactic and prosocial content, which they defined as showing empathy, helping others and resolving disputes without violence.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Arrest for allegedly ordering woman to back of bus

Times of Israel  Police on Sunday arrested a man suspected of ordering a woman to the back of a bus, on Friday. The woman was reportedly harassed by other passengers on the bus when she refused to move.

The incident took place when two ultra-Orthodox men ordered 22-year-old Noa Kentman to move to the back of a public bus — which was traveling from Safed to Ashdod — because of her gender. The woman filed a report with the police, resulting in the arrest of the suspect. [...]

Kentman sat at the front of the intercity coach when a couple of ultra-Orthodox men demanded that she immediately remove herself to the rear of the vehicle.

When she refused, the men shouted she was “impure,” and began reciting prayers and screaming at her.

One of the ultra-Orthodox men then sat on the front steps of the bus near the driver to deliberately sit in front of her. The woman’s younger sister called the police, who sent squad cars to intercept the bus at the entrance of the destination city.
 
See Rav Moshe Feinstein's teshuva regarding a man sitting next to a woman on a bus

Police close Modin Illit rape case

YNET   Two weeks after the Judea and Samaria District Police launched an investigation into a suspected rape of a five-year-old girl in the haredi settlement of Modiin Illit, the case has been closed.

Police decided to end the investigation after it was discovered that the woman who had made the original complaint had fabricated the story. She may face charges for her conduct.

However, the inquiry has opened the door to other suspicions. Police said that during the probe investigators had uncovered a number of cases of molestation involving children in the settlement. Police are now looking into these cases.

Reality Check: A frum Jew is supposed to be a nice person

In the course of researching the issue of emotionally abusing others in the course of chastising sinners or chinuch of our children, it has become clear that we have lost sight of the forest because of the trees.

 In the concern for the dangers and challenges of our time i.e., divorce, shidduchim, pedophiles, Internet, off the derech children, drafting of yeshiva bochrim, an Israeli society which is fed up with the Chareidim etc etc - one point is missing from the discussion. In focusing on avoiding problems  - we curiously have lost sight of the obvious truth  that the goal of life is not about surviving challenges to the status quo. It is not about fighting for preserving a way of life that is about 50 years old. It is not about getting a child to be a caricature in an Artscroll biography.

The primarily accomplishment the Torah demands of us during our lifetimes is not the fact that we ban the internet, smartphones, newspapers, concerts, books, mixed seating on buses, immodest clothing or speaking with apikorsim. Kiddush HaShem is not primarily about learning Daf Yomi or attending mass rallies in sports stadium regading banning the Internet or joining a secular Israeli government while wearing a kippah.

We need to be asking outselves what we want to accomplish - as Jews. What type of people we should be and what we want our educational and social institutions to help our children develop into.  We need to be asking ourself - what does G-d demand of our existence?

The answer which Chazal  have given to this question - is somehow ignored. They say it is to be perceived as a nice person by all men - including the irreligious and non-Jews.  This idea of being a light to the nations seems to have been forgotten in our rush to establish ghettos to protect us from "them". The reflex explanation that predictably is offered when we are criticized - that it is the result anti-religious or anti-Charedi bias - is simply embarrassing in its stupidity and moral blindness. 

Let me offer a few citations to reinforce my point.

Berachos (17a): Abaye liked to say, A man should always be intelligent in his fear of Heaven as it says in Mishlei (15:1), A soft answer turns away wrath. He should always try to increase peace with his brothers and his relatives and with all man – even with the non‑Jew in the street. That is so he may be be beloved above and well liked below and be acceptable to all men. They say about Rav Yochanon ben Zakkai that no man ever gave him a greeting first – not even a non‑Jew in the market.

Avos (3:10): HE [ALSO] USED TO SAY: ANYONE FROM WHOM THE SPIRIT OF [HIS FELLOW-] CREATURES DERIVES SATISFACTION, FROM HIM THE SPIRIT OF THE ALL-PRESENT [TOO] DERIVES SATISFACTION.64 BUT ANYONE FROM WHOM THE SPIRIT OF [HIS FELLOW-] CREATURES DERIVES NO SATISFACTION, FROM HIM THE SPIRIT OF THE ALL-PRESENT [TOO] DERIVES NO SATISFACTION. 
Avos (6:1): Rabbi Meir said, Whoever involves himself in Torah study purely for its own sake, merits many things. This includes the fact that the entire world’s existence is worth while just for his sake. He is called companion of G‑d, beloved of G‑d, lover of G‑d, one who loves mankind, one who causes G‑d to rejoice, one who causes mankind to rejoice. Torah clothes him with humility and fear of G‑d. Torah prepares him to be able to be righteous, pious, upright and faithful. Torah keeps him far from sin and brings him to meritorious behavior. People benefit from his advice, solid understanding and strength... Torah gives him rule and dominion over others as well as the ability to investigate the appropriate law and reveals to him the secrets of Torah. His energy is like a spring that is constantly renewed and like a river that never dries up. As a result of his Torah studies he becomes modest, long-suffering and forgiving of those who insult him. His Torah study brings out his greatness and elevates him above all the other works of G‑d.

Avos (1:12): Hillel said, Be one of the students of Aaron and therefore love peace and pursue peace, love mankind and bring them close to Torah.

Vayikra Rabba (1:16): A rotting animal carcass is better then a talmid chachom lacking in da'as i.e., commonsense and social sensitivity. 

Yofe To'ar (Vayikra Rabbah 1:16): The term da'as is referring to social sensitivity. Therefore the medrash tells us that a disgusting  carcass is better them someone lacking social skills who is despised and rejected by other people. In addition such a talmid chachom degrades the Torah. While the stench of a rotting animal can be avoided by not coming near it, a person without social sensitivities goes everywhere even though he is not wanted Consequently it is impossible to escape from him and he is an unpleasant burden….

Matnas Kehuna(Vayikra Rabbah 1:16): Since this talmid chachom is lacking commonsense he contradicts and demeans G-d's Torah which is the foundation of the highest level of humanity can reach. Without Torah a person remains merely physical substance…He is worse than a dead animal…An alternative reading is found in Avos D'Rabbi Nossan where it says that a talmid chachom who has a high opinion of himself because of his Torah is like a dead animal lying on the roadside. Everyone passing by holds his nose and keeps his distance because of the stench.

Rav Chaim Vital (Sha'arei Kedusha fourth section): [explains how to attain prophesy]. The first requirement is to be a good person. He relates the following story, There was a man who was constantly fasting and also did many good deeds such as arranging for the weddings of many orphans. However he had a yearning for status and importance.  He went to a group of pious men who had reached the level of prophecy and said to their leader, "My master please show me favor by explaining why despite my many good deeds I have not attained prophecy as you have?" The leader replied, "Take a bag full of nuts and figs and hang it around your neck. Go to the main street of the city and gather a group of youths in the presence of the most distinguished citizens. You should say to the youths, 'Whoever wants to get the figs and nuts should come and slap me on the neck and face.' After you have done this many times you should return to me and I'll guide you to attaining Truth." The man replied, "How can such an important and distinguished person such as myself do such a thing?"  The leader replied, "You think I am asking such a big thing? This is the easiest path if you want to be able to comprehend the light of Truth." Immediately the man left feeling totally dejected.


Michtav M'Eliyahu(vol 3 page 291): Rav Chaim Vital said, "Torah without being a good person is comparable to a pig wearing a gold ring in its nose". Rav Simcha Zissel raises the question that since the Gra said that Torah is a cure for a bad personality so how could there a talmid chachom who is not a good person? Rav Simcha Zissel answers that only a person who learns Torah from a pure love of Torah has his personality perfected by Torah study.

Rambam(Hilchos De’os 5:7): A talmid chachom should not yell and scream like an animal when he is speaking. He should not even raise his voice more than necessary but rather should speak calmly with all people. But when he is speaking calmly he should not go to the extreme that he appears to be a conceited person. Furthermore he should greet everyone first so that people like him. He should give everyone the benefit of the doubt and praise others and not despise them at all. He should love peace and actively purse it. If he thinks that his comments will be  effective then he should speak but otherwise he remains silent. For example he should not try to placate a person when he is angry and won’t listen to him. He should not suggest that a person retract his oath when he makes it but should wait until the person has calmed down and will listen to reason. He should not try comforting a mourner while the dead is lying before him because he is too upset until the deceased is buried. He should not add or subtract from that which brings about peace or similar positive things. The general rule is that a person should only speak words of wisdom or kindness or similar things. In addition he should not speak with a woman in the market – even if it is his own wife or sister or daughter.