Friday, August 30, 2013

Baal Keri on Yom Kippur - sign of righteousness?

The following is a puzzling gemora regarding Yom Kippur and determining personal righteousness. I have added Rashi, Mishna Berura and Magen Avraham - and I still find it difficult. There is also a Levush on this gemora which I am working on. This gemora is clearly meant to be understood and clarify important issues of Yom Kippur, righteous and sexuality. It parallels BM 83b where R' Eliezer ben R' Shimon cut out fat from his body to determine if whether he made the right decision to become police chief for the Romans [which is the source that  secular mandated reporting law must be obeyed.]

Yoma (88a): A tanna recited befor R' Nachman, "One who experiences a seminal emission [inadvertently – Rashi] on the day  of Yom Kippur, all his sins will be forgiven." But is that true since a braissa states, "All his sins are arranged before him?" What does this expression "arranged before him mean?" [It doesn't mean in order that he will be punished] but rather so that he will be forgiven. In the School of R' Yishmael it was taught, One who experiences a seminal emission on the  day of Yom Kippur should worry the entire year [that he will be punished]. However if he survives the year, he is assured that he is deserving of the World to Come. R' Nachman bar Yitzchok explained [why it is a sign of blessing]. The entire world is being deprived and yet he experiences satiation. When R' Dimi came he said, he will have a long live, thrive and have many children.(Yoma 88a): If he has a seminal emission – inadvertently. All his sins are forgiven - it is a favorable sign that indicates he will have many children and long life. He should worry the entire year -  that the emission is a sign that his fast is not accepted since he is experiencing satiation. This is like a servant who pours a cup for his master who throws it in his face. However if he survives the year and doesn't die – then he possesses good deeds that are protecting him and thus he is deserving of the World to Come. Because you should know that the entire world is deprived of sexual relations while he is sexually satisfied and is not sexual deprived though not through his intent. Nevertheless if he survives the year that shows that he is completely righteous (tzadik gamur). His life is magnified – the one who has the emission on Yom Kippur is  deserving of long life. He will multiply and become many – he will have children and grandchildren. As is alluded to in Yeshaya (53:10), you will see seed (seminal emission or children) and long life.

Mishna Berura(651.3): If he has a seminal emission he should worry the whole year [for punishment]. Because perhaps his fasting was not accepted because G‑d is showing him that He doesn't desire his sexual abstention. Look at the Achronim who write that concern for punishment is only if the seminal emission was not because of excessive eating or drinking or sexual fantasy etc. However if it is known that it resulted from sexual fantasy or other causes – even though this is a great sin – nevertheless he does not have to worry that he might be be punished with death. That is because he himself has caused the seminal emission to happen and the fact that he survived the year doesn't carry the assurance that he will get the World to Come. It is mentioned in seforim that the principle way to atone for failing to stop seminal emission is that he should strengthen himself - from that point on for the rest of his life – in Torah study. The merit of Torah will protect him. This is mentioned in Tanchuma. "If a man sinned and he deserves death at the hand of heaven – what should he do so that he continue living? If he typically learned one chapter, he should now learn two chapters. If he typically learned one page of gemora he should learn two pages. [ The medrash says that if he doesn't know how to learn he should at least give charity and do kindness – and this will allow him to live....  ] The basic reason for Torah study is in order to know what to do. Therefore our Sages say that f a person learns and he doesn't fulfill  his halachic obligations then it is better that he was never created. In addition his failure to observe the mitzvos means that the Torah study will not be able to protect him from punishment - chas v'shalom

Mishna Berura(615:4): If he survives the whole he is assured that he will get the World to Come – Because surely he has many merits that protect him from harm and he will have long life as it says in Yeshaya (53:10)... It is therefore appropriate for him to give praise and thanks that he has been given life from Heaven [Korban Nesanel 77. See also what he says in the name of the Arizal.]

Magen Avraham(6:15:3): If he survives the whole years he is assured that he will get the World to Come. His survival for a year after a seminal emission on Yom Kippur indicates that he apparently is a tzadik and therefore did not need to afflict himself on Yom Kippur.

Compromise allows Eida leader to climb down from absurd confrontation with Rav Sternbuch

JPost   The two leaders of warring factions within the radical ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit communal movement have agreed on a compromise which will allow construction work at a building site in Beit Shemesh to continue unhindered.

Rabbi Yitzhak Tuviah Weiss, the head of the Eda, and Rabbi Moshe Shternboch, the second in the leadership structure, have agreed that a new inspector will be appointed who will be responsible for overseeing any concerns regarding graves at the site.

A bitter and at times violent confrontation which has lasted for more than two years arose around the Goloventzitz residential project, due to the objections of the Atra Kadisha organization, tied to Weiss, which protests and campaigns against construction which could damage Jewish graves. [...]

Under the terms of the agreement, the inspector, Rabbi Eliyahu Rosen – a rabbinical judge from the rabbinical court of senior haredi leader Rabbi Nissim Karelitz – will oversee the opening and inspection of any caves or pits at the site by a team of experts to check if any graves are within them, and if so, to check if they are Jewish graves or not. [...]

Teacher gets 30 days in jail for raping 14 year old student

LA Times       A Montana judge has come under fire after handing down a 30-day sentence to a former high school teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student and for making statements in court that the victim was "older than her chronological age" and "as much in control of the situation" as her teacher.

Outrage is particularly sharp in Billings, where the crime took place, because the girl committed suicide in 2010, just shy of her 17th birthday, as the criminal case was pending. A protest was planned for Thursday, and organizers have called on Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh to resign.

The uproar began Monday when Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to 15 years in prison on one count of sexual intercourse without consent, but then suspended all but 31 days and gave him credit for one day served. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.

Baugh said that after reviewing statements made by the girl before her death, he concluded that she was a troubled youth. He then made the controversial remarks, including that he thought the girl had been "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold. The girl's mother, Auliea Hanlon, was in the courtroom and screamed at the judge before storming out, according to the Associated Press.

Sexual abuse in New Square Special Report from TV News 12

Westchester News 12   NEW SQUARE - A shroud of secrecy surrounds the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of New Square. Many of the residents shun the outside world and keep to themselves. 

However, a sex abuse victim from the community has spoken exclusively to News 12.
Yossi, who prefers to use only his first name, says he wants to speak out about his ordeal in the hope that other victims of abuse will come forward.

Yossi claims that Herschel Taubenfeld, a teacher in his community, inappropriately touched him three times a week for four months.

The teen asked for help from the head rabbis of New Square who had just set up their own sex crimes unit called the VAAD. The agency told him to see a therapist.

Two months later, Yossi reported the abuse to the Ramapo police. He says that his friends stopped talking to him and treated him like he didn't exist.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Frum" halachic concerns about abuse - causes mental constipation

I just received a letter regarding 
Pesachim (113b): Three the Holy One, blessed be He, hates: he who speaks one thing with his mouth and another thing in his heart; and he who possesses evidence concerning is neighbour and does not testify for him; and he who sees something indecent in his neighbour and testifies against him alone. As it once happened that Tobias sinned and Zigud alone came and testified against him before R. Papa, [whereupon] he had Zigud punished. ‘Tobias sinned and Zigud is punished!’ exclaimed he, ‘Even so,’ said he to him, ‘for it is written, one witness shall not rise up against a man, whereas you have testified against him alone: you merely bring him into ill repute.’

Question: It states clearly in Pesachim (113b) that if a single witness testifies about the sins of another that he receives malkus. Thus publicizing allegations that are not actionable by beis din i.e., 2 kosher witnesses - is a major sin. So how is it possible that you are advising people to notify schools or communities regarding a suspected molester or calling the police when you lack 2 kosher witnesses? Even if you want to rely on the Chofetz Chaim that when there is to'eles it is permitted to speak lashon harah, but how does that justify indiscriminate publicity - especially if brought about through the arrest of an alleged molester? Why do you think that people in Israel need to know about an alleged pedophile in  Lakewood or Monsey and vice versa? Answer:You are taking a very "frum" perspective i.e., that in abuse cases we are dealing with witnesses testifying before a beis din that will determine guilt or innocence. Since 2 witnesses are required nothing is accomplished by a single witness except to ruin the accused and thus it is lashon harah. This is the perspective of Rav Menashe Klein and apparently the former Lakewood beis din for child abuse.

However in fact according to most poskim we are dealing with the issue of preventing harm - not poskening guilt or innocence. We are dealing with rodef which doesn't require beis din or a psak. If you know someone is a molester he is a rodef and thus you can call the police to stop him harming others. Even if it is only a sofek rodef you can call the police.

If there are only children who are witnesses then see C.M. 35. and the Sho'el U"meishiv.  If there are only rumors or circumstantial evidence - you can still act to protect yourself or others. See Rav Yehuda Silman's article in Yeschurun vol 15. Following Nida 91 you don't believe that the rumors are necessarily true but you still need to take protective action. See Rav Sternbuch's teshuva dealing with a principal who refused to listen to allegations and rumors (because it is lashon harah). Our society has gotten so obsessed with the horror of lashon harah it ignores the other half of the posuk - "Don't stand idly by the blood of your brother." As I have noted from Rav Elchonon Wasserman and others - there is no prohibition of lashon harah in a case where it is beneficial. It really is as simple as that.  [See Piskei Teshuva O.C. 156] Furthermore taking the view of the Maharal regarding lashon harah - if you are willing to say directly to the person you suspect  that you have heard rumors that he is a molester - then you can say the same to others and it is not lashon harah. The Maharal holds that the issur of lashon harah is to say nasty things behind someone's back.

In addition you are ignoring the issue of mandated reporting which we learn from BM 83 regarding Rav Eliezar ben Rav Shimon. In addition you are ignoring the discussion of public welfare found in Rambam(Chovel U'mazik 8:11) and the Chasam Sofer on Gittin 7a.

An additional point is mentioned in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 38:1): If the single witnesses can cause an oath to be taken or to stop sin - then it is permitted.

Regarding your second point, it is clear to anyone who is involved in child abuse - that the problem is not a  local problem. Molester readily move between neighborhoods - in fact they are often sent away to another community without providing any warning to the new community.

In sum, you are getting tangled into a halachic knot that causes mental constipation. The cure for this is using seichal - which is discussed in C.M. 2. - especially the Rashba cited by the Aruch HaShulchan. Instead of frum excuses that we don't have two witnesses etc etc - you should be asking  - what do we have to do to protect the children.  The problem is the frum questions blinds you to the reality that children are not required to be sacrificed on the altar of frumkeit. By taking the mistaken view that we can't speak lashon harah, we can't do anything without proper witnesses, we can't call the police, we can't act on circumstantial evidence, we can't decide anything of significance without rabbinic permission, we can't use the secular courts, we can't shame the community or the family of the pedophile, and we surely can't cause him to be punished with jail (which is not a Torah punishment) - you cause children to be abused and experience a living death. You cause children to give up religion. You cause a disgusting chilul hashem when it becomes known that you have betrayed the weak and dependent children - in the name of halacha.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kosher Get Deposited but rejected by NY State Judge

For illustration only
Guest post: The following was sent to me anonymously:

A NY Judge has rejected a Get deposited in a valid Bais Din as fulfilling the requirements of the NY Get Law on the grounds that the Bais Din insisted that the Get only be given over in accordance with Halochoh to ensure the validity of the Get. The Bais Din ordered the female Plaintiff to be tzias dina and leave arko’oys in order to receive the get as required by Shulchan Oruch. The Plaintiff refused.


The judge claimed that since the Get was not unconditional, it was not a valid Get and ordered that a “Glatt Kosher” Get be issued. Thus is despite the fact that “Glatt” only applies to “shechted” meat, and refers to the smoothness of the lungs.

The Plaintiff’s lawyer insisted in forcing the Defendant to go to one of the many “hired gun” mercenary type, for profit, purported “botei din” in the NY area (the Bobover) in order to consider settling the case which the Plaintiff has deliberately dragged on for many years in order to destroy the Defendant financially as well as prevent him proper access to his children.

The Judge furthermore warned the Defendant through his lawyer “off the record” (so that there would be no proof of the threats in advance of any trial and any due process occurring) that if the matter did go to trial if another Get was not issued, the judge would see to it that the Defendant’s visitation would be reduced but reasons totally unrelated to the Get would be created in order to reduce likelihood of this being overturned on appeal. The Defendant would have to pay additional money as maintenance to the Plaintiff since he was preventing the remarriage of the Plaintiff.

For fear of retribution, the parties involved shall remain anonymous.

1. Is this not against the constitution in terms of separation of church and state?

2. Is this not Stalinist behavior in terms of punishing someone even before the case and the 

3. Defendant’s arguments have been heard? Is the Defendant not at least entitled to a fair trial

4. Do not Rav Elyashiv zt”l, Rav Menashe Klein, Rav Moshe Sternbuch and even the Aguda and every other posek with some inkling of yiras shomayim hold that this will produce an invalid get me’useh?
=======================
Update [8/26/2013 D.T.] Here are some quotes from Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz' critique of the New York State Get Bill from JLaw   Update 8/27/13 Rabbi Michael Broyde's response

In the view of this writer, the problems with the New York State Get Bill are so many and varied, that the wonder is not the opposition it has met, but rather that it has any support whatsoever. Many contend that the Jewish community is immeasurably better off without the bill than with it since, as we shall see, the bill represents a dangerous time-bomb to the validity of many Gittin. Hence, ultimately, it endangers the sanctity of the Jewish family. In addition, ironically, the bill may actually be counterproductive. The halachic process, which, under most circumstances solves Igun problems when followed through, is undercut by "solutions" such as these. By encouraging people to avoid a Bet Din and avoid having to justify their demands by the standards of halacha, it only helps frustrate Rabbanim and Rabbinic Judges who seek halachic solutions. It teaches litigants to ignore the Bet Din process and rulings and, indeed, to second-guess them. The overwhelming majority of Igun cases, after all, are solved -- by rabbinic leadership along with community pressure. If the public is taught by well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning activists that the halachic route is to be avoided and ignored, then although there may be a few agunot helped by (one hopes) valid Gittin, there will be many many more who find their problems compounded. 

Apart from the bill's flaws with respect to the validity of Gittin, there are three other anti-halachic effects. In the opinion of this writer, these effects are so manifest, so incontrovertible, that it is mystifying that any Orthodox Rabbi, much less any rabbinic institution, can be in favor of it. 

 I. The first basic flaw in the Get Bill is that it is intended to aid in procuring a Get -- even if there is no reason according to Jewish law to assume a Get to be appropriate.[...] 

 II. Furthermore, resorting to the secular courts to resolve disputes is strictly forbidden in Jewish Law.14 This transgression is described by the Shulchan Aruch as akin to blasphemy and "taking up arms" against the Torah.15 The Rashba16 warns against confusing this prohibition with the dictum Dina D'malchuta Dina ("the law of the land is law").17 Even if both parties agree to go, and in fact stipulate in writing that they will utilize the civil court system, it remams forbidden by halacha.18[...] 

III. As we have noted, the prohibition of resorting to the secular courts holds true even if every court action happens to follow all the rules of the Shulchan Aruch. If there are any differences, the additional issue of out-and-out theft arises, if the courts award money or privileges to either party.21 (Even in circumstances where one had received permission from a Bet Din to "use the courts" one is prohibited from keeing any monies he is not entitled to according to halacha.) The Get Bill encourages a woman to use the civil courts to set rates of maintenance and "equitable distribution despite the fact that she might not be entitled to that money according to Jewish law. [...]

Conservative & Reform Jews find High Holidays boring

Tablet Magazine   High Holiday services are a slog. OK, not at every synagogue, not all the time, not for everybody. But it’s true widely and often enough that most of you are nodding to yourselves. Granted, services aren’t meant to entertain us every minute. But which of the 613 commandments prescribe boredom? [...]

The rabbis themselves bear much of the responsibility. Year after unchanging year, they guide their flocks through the long hours of often-stilted liturgy without explaining what’s being recited, how it’s relevant, or where a segment begins or ends. Congregants turn page after page, parroting passages aloud as instructed, sitting and standing (and standing … and standing)—with few people knowing why. One chant runs into the next, often sung by a polished-but-formal choir whose high-church timbre can be distancing. Many in the pews eagerly await the rabbi’s sermon because it’s likely the one respite from predictability. Yes, some people feel moved at moments, but for what proportion of the 15-to-18-hour marathon? Indeed, one prominent rabbi told me he wouldn’t attend his own services if he weren’t running them; another told me he brings a good novel. [...]


On the High Holidays, large numbers of American Reform and Conservative Jews are inert spectators, expecting clergy to sprinkle atonement like fairy dust. Except for those raised with rigorous Jewish instruction (the Orthodox clearly operate in a separate sphere, often immersed from the womb in text), most of us have never taken the time to study the mahzor, nor could we explain the holidays’ origins. How many Jews do you know who could explain, for instance, how the shofar relates to the Binding of Isaac? Or how Yom Kippur connects directly to Mount Sinai? Some think it’s too late to learn, some can’t imagine how they’d find a teacher, many simply don’t rate it important enough to pursue. Most seem to rationalize the minimal investment, saying, “I bought my ticket, went to shul, confessed my mistakes, and vowed to do better. Dayenu.” [...]

Monday, August 26, 2013

Iron Dome has curbed Palestinian terror attacks




No tour of Middle East conflict zones could be complete without a stop at Sderot, an Israeli town of 24,000 that stands uncomfortably close to the Gaza Strip. The rain of rockets out of the Palestinian enclave has made Sderot famous for two things: the thickness of its roofs (even bus stops have reinforced concrete tops); and the collection of crumpled missiles arrayed in racks behind the police station. As a visiting VIP in 2008, U.S. Senator Barack Obama dutifully inspected what the machine shops of Islamic Jihad and Hamas fashioned from lengths of pipe and scrap metal. Low-tech doesn’t begin to cover it. [...]

Back to the Beersheba wedding. The revelry appears to carry on oblivious to the wail of air-raid sirens competing with the DJ (that song in the background is “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5). If Israelis no longer scramble to shelters, then Iron Dome really has changed the dynamic. It’s not yet at that point; schools still close when the rockets fly, and parents stay home from work. But Rafael’s head of research and development, who began work on Iron Dome even before the government thought to ask for it, tells TIME that its overarching accomplishment is that it can break the pernicious cycle of escalation that can lead to things like invasions. The batteries can liberate Israel’s elected leaders from the public pressure that comes with mass casualties. “The big success of Iron Dome is not how many missiles we intercept,” says Roni Potasman, the executive vice president for R&D. “The main success is what happened in the decisionmaking civilian population environment. The quiet time. Clausewitz used to say the mission of the military is to provide the time for the decisionmakers to decide. Now, if out of 500 missiles, 10 of them get by and cause casualties, a school or kindergarten, then this is a whole different story.” [...]

MK Dov Lipman interviewed by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times   Recently, MK Dov Lipman gave an interview with Arutz Sheva after a “peace talk meeting” sponsored by the Geneva Initiative. He said that some of the Arabs he had spoken to who had themselves served time in Israeli jails. They said that they had had conversations with their jailers and grew to better understand the Israeli side. “I am not saying that they turned into saints, but something happened to them.” MK Lipman agreed to answer further questions about his thoughts for the Five Towns Jewish Times with Rabbi Yair Hoffman.

YH: The first question is: Did the interview you gave Arutz Sheva truly reflect your thinking here that you think most of the prisoners did change significantly by their incarceration? Do you really think that there is a sort of charata here? What percentage roughly do you think are really changed? Most of us believe, au contraire, that they become more entrenched in their thinking and justify even further what they have done. This is particularly the case when they are given a hero’s welcome..

DL: I never said most of the prisoners change I said there are prisoners who change. It is not a question of charata – they now understand our side better and truly seek peace. What people who have not sat with former prisoners believe is irrelevant to me. I also thought so until I met them and spent three days with them. People who have not met them can think what they want but it is based on speculation and not based on facts on the ground.

YH:Speaking with people who have innocent blood on their hands and are not remorseful about it but profess a desire for genuine peace – shouldn’t this be a non-starter? The current Germany was built by dealing with non-Nazis such as Adenauer and the like – not non-repentant Nazis.. If you are not remorseful about the idea of killing innocents, how can we be partners in peace? Isn’t it just, at best, a temporary solution – and, therefore not in Israel’s best interests? [...]

Yeshiva University: Official abuse report released

Dear Members of the Yeshiva University Community,
Last December, in response to reports of past abuse at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees retained the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell LLP to conduct a full and independent investigation of the allegations as well as to review current policies and procedures. Sullivan and Cromwell, in turn, engaged T and M Protection Resources to provide specialized knowledge and expertise with respect to allegations of abuse and abuse prevention. ....
 ================================== 
Report Findings:
"While it was the intention of the Board of Trustees to have made public a report which would have set forth the specific details of the extensive interviews conducted and documents reviewed by the Investigative Team, as a result of the Pending Litigation, the Investigative Team has been directed by the Special Committee to describe its findings with respect to sexual and physical abuse in summary fashion.The Investigative Team has concluded that multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place at YUHSB during the relevant time period. This conduct was carried out by a number of individuals in positions of authority at the High Schools at various times throughout the period covered by the Investigation, including, in certain instances,after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct. In addition, the Investigative Team found that, during the relevant time period, sexual and physical abuse took  place at other schools comprising the University as well. ..."


Man initiates adultery because of egotism

This discussion of adultery is presented before Rosh HaShanna as a way of understanding the nature of sin and consequently how to do teshuva. Adultery is used as a metaphor for the Jewish people betraying G-d - either because of failure to submit to G-d's will or because of lust for other things. Adultery is explained differently for men and women. Women seduce a man primarily because of sexual or emotional needs. This is described in great detail in Mishlei (5:1–19), Mishlei(6:24–35) , and Mishlei(7:5–27).  

This Kli Yakar explains that men in contrast, initiate an adulterous relationship from egotism - to have that which another man has exclusive rights. This is also the contemporary explanation for rape i.e., that it is an issue of power - not lust. The following is a cogent explanation of a puzzling assertion (Sanhedrin 110a), that Moshe was widely believed to have commited or was interested in committing adultery.
=================
Kli Yakar (Bamidbar 16:4): And Moshe heard and fell on his face – Sanhedrin (110a), “What rumor did he hear? This teaches that he was suspected of adultery as it says in Tehilim (106:15), Everyone was jealous of Moshe in the camp. That means that everyone warned his wife because of Moshe [and that is why Moshe moved his tent outside the camp].” This is very far from being indelible. We can’t learn this from Tradition because who said that this suspicion was exactly at this time - because the verse itself implies no such thing. Therefore I claim that the author of the Agada wanted to explain the verse, “That all the community were holy and therefore why are you elevating yourself above on the community of G‑d.”  He was bothered by the question of what is the relationship between “holiness” mentioned at the beginning of the verse and the “elevation” mentioned at the end. And if you want to say that there is a relationship between them and that the holiness means it is correct to stop the elevation – then Korach should have simply asked, "Why are you elevating yourself above the holy community?" Obviously Korach was speaking to Moshe in a manner similar to Sotah (4b), "Whoever is conceited will eventually commit adultery" or alternatively (Sotah 4b), "Whoever is conceited is as if he violated all prohibited sexual relations." As is known that wherever you find holiness (kedusha) you will also find protection against sexual sins because sexual sins degrade holiness. This is what Korach said from on his own recognition (sevara), "All of the community is holy and they are protected against sexual sins so therefore why are you elevating yourself and lording it over everyone? Such behavior will cause you to stumble concerning adultery and that will bring about the profaning of the holiness of the people." That is why Korach referred to "the community of G-d" at the end rather than "the holy community" since Korach thought that Moshe had unjustly elevated himself therefore there was no holiness. That is because whoever is egotistical will in the end be involved in adultery and this causes a profanation of the holiness of the people. Moshe realized that Korach suspected him of adultery and that is why the Torah says, "And Moshe clearly understood what Korach meant and that is why the Torah said, "And he fell on his face." The underlying reason for the relationship of egotism and adultery that whoever is egotistical is continually checking all types of authority that he sees others have – with the desire to ultimately have everything under his control and authority. He is relentless in his looking into all types of authority until he eventually looks into the exclusive authority that a man has over his wife. The egotistical person wants to have control of this authority also. That is why it says "that in the end" because in truth it is at the end of the process of checking authority and the final barrier for everyone. This is a very valuable explanation that fits well with the language not only in this parsha but also the language of the gemora.
 Update
Bamidbar Rabbah (9:3):.. There was an incident with a woman to whom a manmade advances. She asked him where he wanted to have their meeting. [After he told her] she went and told his wife. His wife went to that place and they had intercourse. He was very upset when he found out what had happened and prayed for death. His wife told him, “But it was your own bread that you ate from and it was from your own cup you drank.” She said that the cause of his trouble was that he thought that he was better than other men. The solution was to view himself as the equal of other men.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Be on the Correct Side of This Issue! by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

Rabbi Efrem Goldberg (senior rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue) gave permission to republish this letter with the link to his shul's webpage. This is an important letter. [see letter by Rabbi Heshy Billet]

This time of the year, Rabbis everywhere can be heard lecturing and preaching about teshuva, repentance.  They are likely invoking the famous formula of the Rambam, Maimonides, who instructs us that authentic, genuine self reflection and introspection are made up of three crucial elements:  we must verbally confess the error of our ways, we must be regretful and remorseful for what we did and lastly, we must commit never to behave the mistaken way again.

This year, I believe, Rabbis would be terribly remiss if we didn’t broadly and loudly model and exemplify the formula for teshuva ourselves before we lecture about it.  We, the Rabbinic community and the leadership of the Modern Orthodox establishment, are in profound need of collective teshuva.  Allow me to explain.

The beginning of the new millennium saw the shocking revelation of widespread sex abuse among Catholic priests and the apparent cover-up by the Church itself.   There was a public outcry stemming from the inability to comprehend how those responsible for the safety, well-being and protection of children could themselves be complicit in such devastating behavior.

Sadly, as we have entered the second decade of the millennium, it has become clear that the Jewish community is not immune to such behavior.  Though the latest revelations of abuse at Yeshiva University 30 years ago are officially only allegations at this time, it is clear from the anecdotal evidence that has emerged, as well as the direct statements of dozens of victims, that our collective community is in need of a profound and difficult teshuva process.

Abuse has not only allegedly taken place at Yeshiva University and previously under NCSY’s watch, but over the last few years, sex abuse scandals have shocked Orthodox communities all over North America and beyond.  Our own Boca Raton community has found itself the focus of much attention of late, not because of allegations of abuse in our community, but because of serious allegations surrounding a Boca resident prior to his relocating here.  (I once again invite anyone in our community with questions or seeking clarification regarding this issue to meet with me and I know Rabbi Brander extends the same invitation to community members seeking clarification from him as well) [my emphasis DT]

A common theme in many of the cases is the knowledge among community members that something was suspicious about the person and their behavior long before a newspaper story was published, a scandal broke or an arrest occurred.  Yet, the discomfort with the perpetrator felt by community members and leaders alike, rarely led to action.

Who is accountable for the pain, trauma and in some cases irreversible damage done to those who were hurt after the community was already suspicious?  Is it previous victims? On average it takes a victim of abuse 20 years to tell anyone, including those closest to him or her.   They are not to blame for failing to speak up and any attempt at blaming them is deepening their pain while failing to understand their plight.

Is it parents of those abused?  In many cases the abused or their parents desperately don’t want the attention or consequences resulting from being the person or people who “brought the perpetrator down.”  They prefer to suffer silently rather than enter the fray.   I don’t believe we can judge them or their decision, certainly not if we have never been in their shoes.

What about fellow community members who were aware of the suspicious behavior?  What is their accountability?  After a perpetrator is identified in the newspapers or by being arrested, you will often hear community members say, “I am not surprised; I had heard that he has an abusive past.”   Some even have the audacity to call out community leaders for failing to act when, in fact, the community leader may not have known what these community members knew or as much as they knew, and they are the ones whose silence was inexcusable.  It is easy after the fact to boast how much one knew about the perpetrator and their nefarious behavior all along.  Doing so, however, reveals in retrospect that the boaster was a passive enabler to the abuse, as he failed to intercede earlier.

I admire and applaud Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and others who have penned an apology for not having done more to speak up on their classmates’ behalf.  Perhaps similar statements by those who “knew” and didn’t want to get involved in other cases would go a long way to alleviate the pain and suffering of victims of abuse, who in addition to the pain suffered from their perpetrator, have felt isolated and abandoned by those who should have done more.

What about Rabbis and community leaders?  What is our accountability?  As we reflect back on the scandal of silence, a harsh and painful observation emerges.  In too many cases, Rabbis were at best alerted to, and at worst directly called upon to intervene to stop perpetrators of abuse.  Tragically, not only did too many fail to act to report offenders to the authorities, but in many cases, some Rabbis shielded and even embraced the perpetrators, instead of the victims.  Laws of lashon harah (gossip) and judging others favorably were misapplied, often at victims’ expense.

As we reflect back, it is becoming clear that too many Rabbis turned away victims, rather than rushing to embrace them, believe in them and support them.  Too many Rabbis justified and excused the behavior of perpetrators maintaining their friendships, rather than protecting their communities.  Too many Rabbis, who no longer could tolerate the offender’s presence in their communities, shipped them to other communities in an effort to move on and hope the problem would go away.  Most egregiously, they failed to even notify their colleagues of the offenders past so that his new community could vigilantly watch over him. Too many institutional leaders and heads have failed to speak with moral clarity in addressing our collective past, present and future regarding these issues.

The Rambam’s formula begins with verbal confession.  It isn’t enough to know in one’s heart that he or she did something wrong.  It doesn’t suffice for behavior to be so egregious that an apology need not be verbalized.  No, the Rambam says, unless one undergoes the exercise of articulating what went wrong, we cannot assume he or she understands the severity of their misdeeds or the impact it had on others.

Now is the time to articulate our collective failings and where we have been deficient.  As the distrust in Rabbis and modern orthodox institutions grows by the day, and the cynicism and skepticism for our mission and messages increases with it, we absolutely cannot afford to be silent and mute.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.  Many speeches were given that day, but his is by far the most famous and the most remembered.  But there was a Rabbi who spoke that day on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Council, and a rabbi from Berlin who experienced the wrath of Hitler, warned:  “Bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems.” He continued, “The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most tragic problem is silence.” Remembering the rise of Hitler, he added: “A great people, which had created a great civilization, had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, in the face of mass murder. America must not become a nation of silent onlookers.”

We cannot and must not be silent and thereby fail to address what happened, what went wrong, who was involved and how can we prevent it from happening again.  If Rabbis are to retain the respect of our congregants and if Jewish institutions and organizations are to retain the trust of the community, rather than be silent onlookers, we must speak loudly and clearly about where we stand on these issues.

We must ensure that our synagogues, schools, camps and campuses be free of abusers, pedophiles and perpetrators.   Aside from the continued risk their participation presents, their mere presence can trigger past trauma and pain of victims of abuse who are in the same room. I recognize and empathize that when there is suspicion with no clear proof, it is complicated to know what to do.  However, while due process is owed to the alleged offender, a process itself is owed to those who raise the suspicion and to the community in which the accused resides.

The bottom line is this:  There is a right side and wrong side to this issue and now is the time to be clear which side we are on.   It is difficult, and perhaps even unfair, to evaluate the response thirty years ago to accusations of abuse, with the knowledge and understanding we have now. But, what in my mind is not difficult at all and what is necessary now that we know so much more, is to be on the correct side of these issues today.

When a leading Rabbi in Israel invites a convicted abuser to give a Shiur to his Yeshiva, he is on the wrong side of this issue.  When a Yeshiva High School principal who wants the trust of his students and parents maintains a visible relationship, even if understated, with a registered sex offender, he is on the wrong side of this issue. When a major Jewish organization retains a Rabbi who continues to defend a pedophile who pled guilty in court, and continues to defend a letter he wrote stating that the victim who reported the pedophile is a moseir who has no portion in the world to come, it is on the wrong side of this issue. [emphasis DT]

It pains me that my beloved Yeshiva University is currently embroiled in controversy of its own, so let me be clear.  YU and my many Rebbeim there have shaped my identity, my thinking and my Rabbinate.  I am YU through and through and believe the world would be a much worse place if YU didn’t exist.  The Orthodox Union is a center of great chesed, youth work, outreach and education.  I am proud of our Shul’s affiliation with the OU and my personal involvement in their activities and programs.

I turn now to YU and the OU, not to alienate, criticize or condemn.  I turn to them as a loyal and loving ally, not as an adversary.  I turn to YU and the OU because that is what I have always done and because I, like so many of you, yearn for their leadership at this critical time. I respect and admire Dr. Lamm’s courage in addressing his role in the YU case, but more is desperately needed, and it is needed right now. [emphasis DT]

History will evaluate how the Modern Orthodox world, its leadership and its institutions reacted to these revelations.  I, for one, don’t want to be accused of being a silent onlooker to the pain and plight of victims who were failed by the community and the Rabbis who were entrusted with the sacred duty of protecting them.  We owe victims of abuse an apology and a comprehensive plan of how we will make sure that what happened to them never happens again.

To their credit, Yeshiva University has commissioned an investigation and has promised to share the results publicly.  I trust them and eagerly await their showing us how to take responsibility, display empathy, and put in place a process to prevent and address these kinds of abuses.

The final stage of the Rambam’s formula for teshuva is a commitment to the future.  Here is my pledge to our Boca Raton Synagogue community:

As your Rabbi…
  • I will always put the safety, security and protection of our children first.
  • I will take seriously and immediately address any report of abusive behavior or inappropriate conduct.
  • I will not hesitate or delay to report abusive behavior to the authorities to investigate, while staying cognizant of the fact that a person is not guilty just because they have been accused.
  • I will be transparent with you regarding what I know and how and why I did or didn’t act, to the greatest extent possible without violating confidentiality.
  • I will do all that I can to ensure that our campus is off limits to established pedophiles, convicted sex offenders, and abusers.
  • I will be proactive in communicating with the leadership of other communities should a perpetrator of abuse move from my community to theirs. [emphasis DT]
I have no doubt that the Orthodox community will overcome this issue and position itself once again as a voice of moral clarity and a principal spokesperson of Torah’s timeless values.  We will have to take courageous steps, make difficult decisions and have uncomfortable conversations.  But when we do, we will have not only lectured about teshuva, we will have demonstrated it.

Was marriage traumatic for children in Middle Ages?

In the course of discussing child abuse the issue of child brides has been brought up a number of times. While it is clear from Torah and Talmudic sources that a girl can be married while she is a child by her father - we have a clear statement by Rav (Kiddushin 41a) that it is prohibited because she needs to be able to decide who she wants to marry her - and that is not possible for a child. Prof. Grossman has a very informative discussion of the subject (parts excerpted below. It is highly recommended that the chapter as well as the book be read.] You will notice that what we today as child abuse, was clearly not viewed as such by society - including the Christians and Muslims). While apparently largely driven by social and economic factors, it seemed that child marriage was very common. There seems to be no discussion of the practice being overwhelming and traumatic - as we would automatically assume today. This reinforces the thesis that I have raised that psychological abuse is a function of the nature of expectations and that in fact in previous times child marriage did not in fact produce trauma. Abuse today is largely the result of betrayal of a child by adults. A child in the middle ages would apparently have been upset if she hadn't been married by the age of 13. The negative consequences of not having child marriages at that time clearly were greater than having child marriages.
=====================================
Excerpts from "Pious and Rebellious" Chapter II by Prof. Avraham Grossman
[...] Several Talmudic sages counseled that a person should marry his sons and daughters at a young age, and the Talmud and Midrash even contain clear tes­timony of the marriage of children. On the other hand, there is also strong opposition in the Talmud to the marriage of young girls who have not yet attained intellectual and emotional maturity, and who are unable to judge for themselves the suitability and character of their intended husband, even though from a purely formal halakhic point of view the father is allowed to betroth his underage daughter and such a marriage is considered entirely valid. The Talmud (Niddah 13b) states that: "Those who play with female children delay the Messiah." This is an expression of clear opposition to sexual relations with girls who are not yet able to bear child, which are understood as "playing" rather than as marital relations. There is no mention there of the exact age of such girls, but it more or less overlaps the age of puberty at twelve, as mentioned above. In any event, the expression "play with female children" indicates the extent to which the phenomenon was understood as negative and deserving of condemnation.

In the name of the amora Rav - or, according to another tradition, in that of the Palestinian amora R. Eleazar - it is said: "A man is forbidden to marry off his daughter when she is underage, until she grows up and says, 'I want so­ and -so,' ." This unequivocal formulation ("is forbidden") clearly indicates the opposition to the phenomenon of marrying off immature children and its total rejection from the moral viewpoint, even if it is legally valid. Moreover, the reason given for the prohibition - namely, the girl's right to express an opinion onthe choice of her intended husband and to give her consent-carries impor­tant implications for the woman's status in the family and in society.

Intense opposition to the marriage of young girls is brought in the name of R. Shimon bar Yohai, that "Whoever marries off his daughter when she is   There were many cases of child marriage in Spain. The responsa literature ofthe twelfth and thirteenth centuries preserves dozens of testimonies to this,most of them mentioned in passing in the context of the testimony of a person  simply describing a situation, from which we may infer even more strongly the  large number of such marriages. [...]

Another important testimony is preserved in the words of the Tosaphists. In  their discussion concerning the above-mentioned statement of Rav that it is  forbidden for a father to marry off his daughter when she is a minor, the Tosafot  state that in their day they were not strict about this prohibition:
But now we are accustomed to marry off our daughters even when they are minors. This  is so, because every day the exile becomes stronger. Thus, if a person is able to provide  his daughter with a dowry, perhaps at some later time he will be unable to do so, and  his daughter will remain a spinster forever. 
Another reason was that offered by R. Peretz ben Elijah of Corbeil (second  half of the thirteenth century) in the name of R. Meir of Rothenburg. In his  opinion, the prohibition against marrying small children was only in force in  Talmudic times, "when there were many Jews in one place. But now that we are  few, we are accustomed to betrothing even a small child lest "the prospective  bridegroom be taken by another," In this case, too, we cannot determine  exactly what the rabbis meant by saying "we are accustomed to ... ," but it seems  clear that this does not refer to the practice of unusual individuals alone, a read­ing for which there is support also from other sources. The fact that R. Meir of Rothenburg did not deal with this issue in a purely theoretical manner, but  married off his own daughter before she was twelve years old, certainly influ­enced many other people: "And so did I do with my small daughter. I said to  her: 'My daughter, accept your qiddushin if you wish."' If the greatest Ashke­nazic scholar of the thirteenth century behaved in this way, why should others  take heed of Rav's admonitions not to marry off a "minor"? Rabbenu Tam like­wise testified that in his family they married off "minor" girls, that is, less  than twelve years old. One may assume that the practice of prominent figures  in the community influenced others. The desire to emulate the behavior of the  elite group in society is a well-known and accepted social phenomenon.

In Italy, too, the marriage of young girls was common practice. From the  responsa of R. Isaiah of Trani, it follows that in his day (the thirteenth century),  young girls in Byzantium wcre betrothed at the age of four and five. For many  years, Sicily was under Muslim rule, and traces of this rule were felt in Jewish  society there even after it returned to Christian hands in 1091. The widespread  practice in Muslim society, of marrying young girls to older husbands, influnced the Jews of Sicily as well. [...]

Another testimony of the ignoring of Rav's prohibition against marrying off  a young girl may be found in the halakhic codes of the twelfth and thirteenth  century sages. The "theoretical" pesaq literature is by nature closer to the for­mulations of the Talmud. It follows that these testimonies are of great value.  Thus, for example, Maimonides chose a less binding formulation than that given  by the Talmud:
Even though the father has the right to betroth his daughter when she is a minor or  when she is a maiden [...i.e., ages 12 to 12.5 ] to whomever he wishes, it is not fit­ting that he should do so. Rather, the Sages commanded that one should not betroth his  daughter when she is a minor until she matures and says, I want so-and-so. It is like­  wise not fit that a man should betroth a minor girl, nor should he betroth a woman  until he sees her and she is fit in his eyes, lest she not find favor in his eyes, and he will  divorce her or lie with her even though he hates her.
The phrases, "the Sages commanded" and "It is not fitting," are less forceful than  the original language used in the Talmud, "it is forbidden."  [...]

The marriage age for young boys or men goes beyond the framework of our present discussion. Some sources have also preserved evidence of marriage of "minor" males, but this phenomenon was rarer than in the case of girls. As a  rule, that age was also brought forward. It would seem that the sages' admo­nitions to advance the age of marriage bore fruit. But we must exercise great  caution in relying upon admonitions of this type. Just as one ought not to deter­mine the actual age of marriage in Palestine during the Mishnaic and Talmu­dic age on the basis of the dictum, "Eighteen years of age to the marriage canopy,"  so is it difficult to entirely ignore the impression left by this statement on  people over the course of generations. The same holds true for the similar call  of sages in the Middle Ages to advance the marriage of boys. For example: the  statement by R. Yitzhak ben Shmuel, one of the leading Tosaphists, that a  man should take care to marry his son "close to his maturation." Similarly in  Sefer Hasidim, we read, "Take a wife while you are a minor, and likewise for your  son ... and make sure once they reach maturity that they are married, and find  them a woman to marry; for if you delay, perhaps they will lie with the wives  of their fellows or with alien women ... " "But as for the boys, you should  marry them off before they are grown, lest they say like Samson: 'Take that one  for me, for she is comely in my eyes."' R. Yitzhak Aboab stated that: "The best,  most suitable, time for a match is as early as possible, before he is overwhelmed by his Urge." In these words he relied upon various Talmudic sources, from  which he found support for the view that one ought to bring forward the mar­riage age of men. He also explained why there is no contradiction between this  statement and the advice to first devote time to study of Torah.[...]

The conclusion that follows is that the usual age of  marriage of girls in Jewish society was between twelve and sixteen, while many  girls married at an earlier age, and there were even those who were given in mar­riage by their parents while they were still literally small children. [...]

The reason given  by Rav, "until she grows up and says, I want so-and-so"-which lay at the basis of the prohibition against marriage of minors-was no longer in force. In the  reality of medieval Jewish society, this reason no longer had any significance,  as the parents chose the destined bridegroom themselves, without asking the  girl. Her agreement was a purely formal act, lacking in all practical significance.  This was the case even after the age of twelve. There is abundant evidence for  this phenomenon, discussed at length below, in the next chapter. [...]

The phenomenon of marriage at an early age led to deleterious results in several areas of family life.

One consequence was the absolute dependence of the young couple on the  parents for a considerable period, including total involvement of the parents in  their personal life. [...]

Childbirth at an early age, before the young mother was prepared in either  a physical or an emotional sense, could be another negative factor. It is never­theless doubtful whether this sufficed to increase the number of children in the  family in a significant way, due to the high infant mortality rate in the Middle  Ages. Indeed, pregnancy and childbirth at an early age increased the number  of mothers who died in childbirth. Initial sexual relations at an excessively young  age likewise harmed the woman's health, as was already noted by the Tosaphists:  "and several minor girls are ill from this." [...]

The phenomenon of beating wives may also have been exacerbated by mar­riage of girls at an early age. The fact that at times the wife was extremely young  led the husband to relate to her as he would to his daughter. This was particu­larly true in those places where young girls were married to husbands signifi­cantly older than themselves, which was, as we have seen, a common phenomenon in Jewish society, and particularly in Muslim countries. Moreover, it may well be that the beating of the wife, which was a part of the life of the young couple, also continued thereafter. [...]

Modern Orthodox leader condemns failure to criticize Rabbi Druckman & Rabbi Belsky

Jewish Week  by Rabbi Heshie Billet, a former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, is spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Woodmere. [see letter from Rabbi Efrem Goldberg]
 
The time for serious vigilance of child abuse in the Modern Orthodox Jewish community is long overdue. It is time that lay and religious communal leaders have zero tolerance for child abusers and cease to cover up, enable, or protect them.

In recent years, both in Israel and in America, our community has learned many painful lessons on this topic, and institutions that have owned up to mistakes made in the past and seek ways to create policies that would avoid repeating these mistakes have made some progress. But we have not done enough. The progress made has been insufficient. [...]

In defiance of Takanah's warnings, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva (YBA), the network of Bnei Akiva yeshivas in Israel, engaged Rabbi Elon to teach in his boys' yeshiva, Ohr Etzion, and rehired him after Rabbi Elon's conviction.  

Psychologist and others have observed that this case highlights the danger of charismatic figures, and a failure of the Israeli rabbinate. Followers caught in the allure of such individuals surrender their freedom of choice. We call groups like this a cult. Furthermore, besides the broader Takanah panel, most of the Israeli rabbinate has chosen to remain silent on this case. Rabbi Druckman has gone a step further by enabling Rabbi Elon to teach in a boys’ school, which could potentially have tragic consequences. [...]

In the U.S., parents of a boy in Lakewood, NJ pressed charges of sexual molestation against Rabbi Yosef Kolko. Rabbi Yisrael Belsky, the Orthodox Union’s halachic authority for kashrut, publicly accused those parents of “mesirah,” the crime of turning a Jew over to secular authorities. As a result, the complainants were driven out of Lakewood. A few months ago Rabbi Kolko confessed to his crimes. Nevertheless, Rabbi Belsky continues to condemn the complainants as “mosrim.” His position is contrary to the OU's position and that of its rabbinic arm, the Rabbinical Council of America, that child abuse must be reported to the secular authorities.

The OU has refused to publicly rebuke or take any action against Rabbi Belsky. It is time that the OU publicly condemn his defiance of the rules of the RCA and the OU. Principles must trump kashrut revenues in a major Orthodox organization’s order of priorities. The existence of the Takanah Forum in Israel is refreshing. Nothing like it exists yet in the United States, though still our community has made some progress in recent years.[...]

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Camp Jihad: UN camps teaching hatred for Israel

Fox News   Palestinian children as young as 5 are being taught to hate Jews, glorify martyrs and support jihad, and a U.S.-funded United Nations agency is helping to underwrite the effort, according to a controversial new documentary.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency hosts summer camps in which Palestinian children are allegedly being indoctrinated, in scenes captured in “Camp Jihad: Inside UNRWA Summer Camp Season 2013.” In addition to learning hateful phrases, the children are taught that Israel belongs to them by birthright, according to the film by the Center for Near East Policy Research.

“The children learn the names of many villages – not just the names of big cities like Jerusalem” says Amina Hinawi, identified in the documentary as a UNRWA camp director in Gaza. “This way every child will be motivated to return to their village. UNRWA finances this summer camp. I’m very, very appreciative of UNRWA because the children of Palestine and Gaza need this.”

Indoctrination of young Palestinian children is nothing new, but the documentary has raised the ire of Israelis largely because of the UN role. According to UNRWA’s own website, the United States is the single-largest contributor to its work and in 2012 gave more than $232 million, ahead of the European Commission ($204 million), and the United Kingdom ($68 million).


Does a Mitzvah lead to another Mitzvah, or to a Sin?

Guest Post from Eddie:
Pirkei Avot (4: 2) . BEN ‘AZZAI SAID: RUN TO [PERFORM] AN EASY PRECEPT, AS [YOU WOULD] IN [THE CASE OF] A DIFFICULT ONE,AND FLEE FROM TRANSGRESSION; FOR [ONE] PRECEPT DRAWS [IN ITS TRAIN ANOTHER] PRECEPT, AND [ONE] TRANSGRESSION DRAWS [IN ITS TRAIN ANOTHER] TRANSGRESSION; FOR THE RECOMPENSE FOR [PERFORMING] A PRECEPT IS A PRECEPT, AND THE RECOMPENSE FOR [COMMITTING] A TRANSGRESSION IS A TRANSGRESSION.


Here we see the famous saying of Avot – that a Mitzvah leads to another Mitzvah. Why then, should anyone  think that a mitzvah can lead to a sin?

NY Times recently quoted researchers that “virtue sometimes begets more virtue and sometimes allows for vice.” Is this just treif psychology, or is it applicable to Torah + Mitzvot?


The researchers point to  2 mechanisms:  consistency, which is where one mitzva leads to further mitzvas, and compensation – where we compensate for mitzvot or good deeds, by doing bad deeds.

A very counter- intuitive Gemara seems to agree with the research.

Sukkah (52a): Abaye explained that the yetzer harah is stronger against sages than anyone else. For example when Abaye heard a certain man say to a woman, “Let us arise and go on our way.” Abaye said that he would follow them in order to keep them from sin and so he followed after them for three pasarangs across a meadow. However they simply parted from each other and he heard them say, “The way is long and the company is pleasant.” Abaye said, “If I were in that situation I could not have withstood temptation.” He went and leaned against a doorpost in deep anguish. An old man came to him and taught him: To the degree that a person is greater than others, to that degree his yetzer (evil inclination) is greater than theirs.

(source kindly supplied by R' Eidensohn, from his book on Child and Domestic Abuse Vol2. And upcoming).

The gemara is very surprising, after all, are we not told that a Tzaddik, or a Gadol is very finely tuned to all sorts of things that regular people cannot imagine – and would be less likely to say an evil word, or steal a toothpick?

My own understanding of the principle  “To the degree that a person is greater than others, to that degree his yetzer (evil inclination) is greater than theirs.”, was to look at it from a psychoanalytical perspective, that the more one takes on stringencies and represses bodily instincts, the more this repression is transformed into something more pernicious.

The modern research says it is a possible compensatory behaviour, which is negative.

Another source says:
Panim Yafos (Bereishis 2:7): Our Sages (Sukka 52a) state that a person’s yetzer grows stronger everyday. Thus corresponding to the strength of the yetzer tov, the yetzer harah grows to match it. The gemora there also says whoever is greater than his fellow man his yetzer his greater than theirs. Note that it doesn’t says that he is simply greater. This is in accord with Megila  (6b) that he is great only relative to others but that he is not actually a great person. In such a case his yetzer harah grows. However if he was truly a great tzadik then his yetzer harah becomes totally good…

But Chazal were not “regular rabbis”,  if we consider their greatness, they were on much higher levels than Rabbis of today who we call Tzaddikim.  So it is not altogether convincing that the Panim Yafos is claiming a Tzaddik become totally good.

Whether there is compensatory behaviour, is a matter of empirical research. The Gemara in Sukkah is still very surprising, and it seems to me there are several approaches to it.

1) Is to “deny” or whitewash it,  and base this in our Emunas Hachamim, that they could not be so base in their yetzer hara.

2) That it is limited, and applies only to a certain type of greatness, and is not a generalisation.  The quotation was actually from an unnamed old man, so how do we know if it is true?

3) My personal view is that this is a very honest and true statement, and is counter to the kind of Tzaddikism we are taught. This is taking the Gemara at face value.  Just like in the TeNach we see that key figures were not perfect, so did Chazal recognize that this is the case with Talmidei Chachamim. The statement is made  by the Gemara, and not by a secular academic.

This also ties in with a recent post  about being Frum vs. being normal.  Also the Chatam Sofer reminds us of the dangers of taking on too many chumras, and how this led to the fall of Adam and Chava, after they added a gezeira to NOT touch the tree.

In conclusion, it seems to me there is an encouragement to fulfil mitzvot as per the Mitzva goreret Mitzva of Avos, with a warning that becoming great, taking on many strictures, has its own dangers as per Sukkah, and also Avot 'd'Rabbi Nathan, who tells us of how Chava added to the Torah by being shomer negiah of the Tree.  These dangers were learned of empirically  by the greatest leaders in Orthodox Judaism.  I suggest that the lesson for today's  period is that overemphasis on matters such as ultra-znius dress, buses, and computers may also have its risks, since nobody is on such a level to be frum on the micro-level of every area of their lives, eg business, politics, bein adam l'chaveiro.  

Growing hasidic population in N.Y. causing conflicts

NY Times   Needing to abide by their tribe’s traditions of modesty, Hasidic women want the city to post a female lifeguard during a women-only swim session at a municipal pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and have lobbied a local councilman to take up their cause. 

On another front, Hasidic matzo bakeries, citing ancient Jewish law, have insisted on using water from groundwater wells rather than from reservoirs in preparing the dough used for matzos and have found themselves tangling with health officials worried about the water’s purity. 

And on a public bus service that plies a route between the Hasidic neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Borough Park, Brooklyn, men sit up front and women in the back, hewing to the practice of avoiding casual mingling of the sexes, even after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg condemned the arrangement. 

While these episodes may not have reverberated beyond New York’s Hasidic enclaves, taken together they underscore a religious ascendancy confronting the city’s secular authorities in ways not seen in decades. 

The remarkable rise in the population and the influence of Hasidim and other ultra-Orthodox Jews has provoked repeated conflicts over revered practices, forcing the city into a balancing act between not treading over constitutional lines by appearing to favor a particular religious group and providing an accommodation no more injurious than suspending parking rules for religious holidays.[...]