Thursday, October 31, 2013

New Lebovits Revelation As Retrial Nears

Jewish Week    A “notorious” alleged chasidic sex abuser, who was sentenced to up to 32 years in jail but got that verdict overturned because of a prosecution violation, has all but admitted on tape to sexually abusing the young man who testified against him, The Jewish Week has learned.

The tape, according to police documents, was made under the supervision of NYPD Det. Steve Litwin in September 2008 and captures a secretly recorded conversation between Baruch Lebovits and one of his alleged victims. The tape was translated from the Yiddish — both apparently informally and by a certified translator — into English for the prosecution.

It was not, however, introduced at Lebovits’ 2010 trial. (Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has pledged to retry Lebovits and his next court date is scheduled for Nov. 19.)

Multiple e-mails to Hynes’ spokespeople seeking an explanation for why the tape was not used at trial, and whether it will be used in the upcoming retrial, were not answered.

During the recorded conversation, a transcript of which was obtained by The Jewish Week, the victim alerts Lebovits to the fact that others, including someone in Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office, had heard that something “happened between us.” [...]

And along with these setbacks was the arrest in 2011 of Sam Kellner, the father of the third alleged Lebovits victim (the misdemeanor case). Kellner was indicted a year after Lebovits’ conviction and charged with having attempted to use emissaries to extort the Lebovits family and paying the witness who dropped out of the case to fabricate his charges against Lebovits.

In a series of articles over the past year, The Jewish Week has highlighted the numerous weaknesses in the district attorney’s case against Kellner, including credible evidence that Kellner was framed in order to cast doubt on Lebovits’ conviction. (Kellner’s trial, which has been postponed several times by the district attorney in what Kellner’s lawyers have characterized as a strategy to delay the case past Tuesday’s general election for district attorney, is set for Nov. 12.) [...]

Mendel Tevel - alleged pedophile arrested in L.A. - awaiting extradition to New York


CBS News    A rabbi facing child sex-abuse charges in Brooklyn is awaiting extradition back to New York after being arrested in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Menachem Tewel, 30, who also goes by Mendel Tevel, was arrested Tuesday at the JEM Center, a Jewish youth community center on Santa Monica Boulevard, police said.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office put out a warrant for his arrest for several counts of criminal sex acts with minors.

Police said he abused four boys between the ages of 6 and 14. A watchdog group that focuses on child abuse prevention said the alleged attacks happened in Brooklyn sometime between 1995 and 2004.

All of the alleged victims are now adults. Tewel himself would only have been about 12 in 1995.

“Mendel Tevel has been accused by many people of being a molester,” said Ilanit Gluckosky with Jewish Community Watch.

Dana Cole, a lawyer for the community center in California where Tewel was arrested, said the alleged crimes happened only in New York.

“No child, no parent, no one has alleged anything against the JEM Center,” Cole said. ”This involves activities that occurred several years ago in New York City.” [...]

G-d exists! Scientists claim proof found in Godel's theorem

Epoch Times   Two scientists believe that they have proven that God exists.

Analyzing a theorem from the late Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel with a Macbook has proven that God exists, say the two scientists–Christoph Benzmüller of Berlin’s Free University and his colleague, Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo of the Technical University in Vienna.

Gödel’s theorem is based on modal logic, a type of formal logic that, narrowly defined, involves the use of the expressions “necessarily” and “possibly,” according to Stanford University.

The theorem says that God, or a supreme being, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist.

Paleo and Benzmüller say that they have proven that the theorem is correct, at least on a mathematical level.

In their initial submission on a research server, “Formalization, Mechanization and Automation of Gödel’s Proof of God’s Existence,” the pair so that “Goedel’s ontological proof has been analysed for the first-time with an unprecedent degree of detail and formality with the help of higher-order theorem provers.”

They add: “The following has been done (and in this order): A detailed natural deduction proof. A formalization of the axioms, definitions and theorems in the TPTP THF syntax. Automatic verification of the consistency of the axioms and definitions with Nitpick. Automatic demonstration of the theorems with the provers LEO-II and Satallax. A step-by-step formalization using the Coq proof assistant. A formalization using the Isabelle proof assistant, where the theorems (and some additional lemmata) have been automated with Sledgehammer and Metis.”[...]

SABJE (South African Board of Jewish Education) issues an apology OVER THIRTY YEARS LATER for sex abuse

King David School Foundation   "SABJE makes Bold Apology 

This is a reproduction of a letter of apology sent out by SABJE to the current parent body at King David, dealing with past abuse perpetrated by a member of staff who was employed at King David. 

Dear King David Community

The South African Board of Jewish Education is committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment which fosters the most appropriate environment for excellent education to take place. This is a responsibility which we take seriously as it underpins the key relationship that of the teacher to the student.

It was therefore with agreed sense of disbelief, pain and anger that we, the current Executive,  was made aware of the inappropriate behavior of a male staff member who worked in a senior position at King David Primary School Linksfield in the 60's, 70’s and early 80’s. Our investigations into the records and events of the time have revealed that these allegations were in fact true and were the cause of such staff member being fired.  Our efforts also revealed that no official apology was ever made at the time to those harmed by the behaviours and so we as a Board holding our fiduciary position in perpetual succession have taken it upon ourselves to do so.  We unreservedly apologise to all ex-Davidians from that era for any harm be it of a physical or emotional nature experienced under the tutelage of such a teacher and under the watch of the Board executives of the time.  Such behaviour being antithetical to what we as a school system stand for.

This process has led to much introspection and a review of related policies and practices that address the safety of all members of the King David Schools.  While we cannot change the past, the new policy implemented and the education of staff and students on this policy, we believe, will assure an ongoing safe environment.

The policy is available online at www.sabje.co.za for your perusal and all staff will be bound by the policy as part of our employee policies.  New employees will also be required to sign a behavioural code.

The King David Schools will apply a zero tolerance attitude to any such behavior and with regard to the new policy: [...]

Intimidation because of publicizing abuse causes Zephaniah Waks to leave Australia

Manny Waks reports on Facebook     I am bitterly disappointed to share that due to the ongoing harassment, intimidation and discrimination from leaders and members of the Yeshivah Centre, which has effectively led to my parents’ excommunication from their community of almost 30 years (carried out by Yeshivah leaders and most of its members), my parents (Zephaniah and Chaya Waks) have made the difficult decision to sell their family home and relocate. My parents will now spend half of the year in Israel, and as they own a wig business in Melbourne (http://www.wakswigs.com.au/), they will live in an apartment near their shop (located some distance away from the Yeshivah community) for the periods they will be in Australia.

Their home, my childhood home, was officially put on the market yesterday.

It is a sad day when the bullies, especially those cloaked in religion, have had such a major impact as to force a family to leave their home. However, thankfully my parents have not given up the fight and they will continue to be vocal about the issue of child sexual abuse. Importantly, they will continue to hold the Yeshivah Centre to full account in any way they can, including through the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

After years of service to the Yeshivah community (e.g. my mother was President of N’shei Chabad “Women of Chabad” for a few years and my parents regularly hosted countless people for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays), less than a handful of community members have stood by them. This is an indictment of the Yeshivah/Chabad community.

But then again, I guess my parents’ farewell is as bright as their welcome was to the Yeshivah community some 30 years ago. It commenced with racist taunts and violence (as per yesterday's Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/manny.waks/posts/624180104291661), and is concluding with bullying and excommunication. Sadly, the modus operandi of the Yeshivah community and its leaders seems to have remained unchanged in at least three decades.

But they will need to answer for this – to their conscience, the community, and ultimately, when they meet their Creator.

I have no doubt that justice will prevail.

Absence of evidence for claims that Ger stopped serving soybean products because of fear of homosexuality

Tablet Magazine     A case study in how not to report on the ultra-Orthodox community

Visit the web site of the national British daily newspaper, the Independent, and you’ll find an article titled, “Rabbi bans students from eating soy in case it leads to gay sex.” It goes on to offer the juicy details:
The Hasidic yeshiva of Gur has ruled that boys should not eat soy, lest it leads to unwanted sexual arousal, according to a report in HaMevasser.
Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Alter issued the ban due to a belief that the ‘hormones’ in the food could cause boys to become effeminate and make their teachers and older students to become attracted to them.
Intrigued, I followed the link to the Hebrew source for this fantastical claim and was surprised to find that the cited article said the exact opposite. Here’s a translation of the Hamevaser piece:[...]

The hasidic community of Ger is not even mentioned in this ringing rejection of concerns over soy. Apparently, the Independent decided to run with a story based on sources its journalists couldn’t actually read, with predictable results.

But if not from Hamevaser, where did this salacious scoop come from? The origin of the claim traces back to a blog called “In the World of the Haredim,” written by Chaim Shaulson, which some have dubbed “The Haredi National Enquirer.” Shaulson’s October 28th Hebrew post states that the yeshivot of the Ger hasidim have dropped soy from their lunch menu, due to concerns about the “evil inclination” (a euphemism for sexual and possibly homosexual arousal). The piece does not say who ordered this change, or cite any sources. (It also includes a clip of the aforementioned Hamevaser article to disprove the alleged Ger claim about soy’s effects on child development.) [...]

Did Ger actually drop soy from its lunch menu? If so, was this done over concerns about gay sex? Or was it absent for the same reason my own elementary school cafeteria didn’t offer soy, because the meals didn’t require it and students didn’t ask for it? Or was it simply due to the health controversies that swirl around soy today, leading it to be shunned in many quarters, Jewish and not?

The honest answer to these questions is: we don’t really know. But saying “we don’t know” is not the forte of many journalists–though apparently citing sources one can’t read or confirm, and embroidering them with utterly fictitious details, is. [...]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rabbi Grylak's problematic editorial "The Wise will keep silent"

 Update 10/29/13 Mishpacha "How Was That Red Line Crossed?"

Unfortunately Rabbi Grylak has failed miserably to follow his own advice in the editorial that I criticized below.   In his latest editorial at the above link he accuses Nati Grossman of incitement against Rav Steinman with the result he was physically attacked. This outrageous slander is a clear example of someone throwing gasoline on a fire - while proclaiming he is only trying to reduce the fighting. I was told that there will be a lawsuit against Rabbi Grylak as a result of his accusations.

 He writes in the above editorial

Of course, that the deranged individual who burst into Rav Aharon Leib Steiman’s home and attacked him will be presented by the enemies of Rav Steinman (yes, the 100-year-old sage has enemies that go beyond the far-reaching dispute over the leadership of the chareidi community) as a bizarre, mentally unstable individual who acted independently. They will certainly argue, in their own defense, that an entire community cannot be indicted for the actions of a single individual. They will certainly claim that this man does not represent the community of voters who threw their support behind the alternative “Eitz” chareidi party. And I agree with them. Heaven forbid that real bnei Torah could think of committing such a dreadful act. But at the same time, he is not a person suffering from a psychological illness. Rather, he is a person who has been incited to violence. [...]
 My friends, despite the litany of accusations and curses that have been hurled against Rav Steinman, we cannot blame the Eitz voters for this travesty. But there is one person who cannot escape responsibility, one man who has made it his mission in life to besmirch Rav Aharon Leib Steinman’s name. Over the years, he has led a campaign against the gadol hador in various ways and with an assortment of strategies. This past year, he crossed all red lines with a series of slanderous pashkevilim and pamphlets, reaching a nadir that has never been seen in the history of disputes between the gedolei hador. He was totally focused on his goal of defaming this person, this man whose word is heeded by the majority of the Torah world, this man who is a bulwark of support for so many of us, the gadol whose exclusive counsel was sought by Rav Elyashiv ztz”l. [...]
 Yet my successor at Yated, Nati Grossman, made sure to constantly attack anyone who didn’t march to his beat. That is part of his nature. But in his most recent battle, he has sunk to unprecedented depths, to the point that a single avreich, who was affected by his incitement and taken in by his slander and lies, simply got up and committed the unthinkable. May Hashem have mercy on us, on all of us, on the entire Jewish people.
update Kikar Shabbat
התגובה של נתי גרוסמן
פנינו לנתי גרוסמן כדי לקבל את תגובתו לדברים שפורסמו ב'משפחה', אך הוא בחר לחזור אלינו באמצעות פרקליטו, עו"ד אורי הברמן, שמאיים בהגשת תביעת דיבה תוך שהוא מציין במכתבו כי האשמות נגד גרוסמן נועדו להשפילו בעיני הבריות, לעשותו מטרה לשנאה, לבוז וללעג בקרב הציבור החרדי.
עו"ד הברמן מוסיף וקובע במכתבו כי "מעשיו של התוקף נעשו על רקע חוליו הנפשי ועל רקע זה בלבד", ומציין כי "התוקף מוכר כאחד ממעריציו של רה"י הגראי"ל שטיינמן ונמנה בין תומכי יהדות התורה, כך שאין המדובר בתוצר של הסתה".
"אין זה ראוי", מוסיף עו"ד הברמן, "לנסות ולקשור בין מעשה תקיפה על רקע נפשי ובין מרשנו ואין זה ראוי להמשיך לדוש ולהרבות את צערם של בני הציבור ובני משפחתו של התוקף כשזהו הרקע האמיתי של מעשיו". כראיה לטענתו, שטרם הובררה אף בבית המשפט, מצרף עו"ד הברמן מכתב שלטענתו נכתב על-ידי משפחתו של התוקף שמבהירים כי מדובר ב"חולשה נפשית".
עו"ד הברמן מוסיף וכותב כי ייחוס הדברים לגרוסמן, "מעיד, אם נתבטא בלשון מנומסת, על חוסר העמקה וחוסר היכרות עם דעותיו ופועלו. הרב גרוסמן, מעולם לא נקט בפגיעה כלשהיא, בכתיבתו, בפועלו ובכל דרך אחרת, בגדולי התורה ובזקני הדור בכלל ובכלל זה ברה"י הגראי"ל שטיינמן".
 ============================
 Update see Chareidi World continues to self-destruct    The following is from an editorial that Rabbi Grylak wrote for the Oct 23, 2013 Mishapacha - "The Wise Will Keep Silent". It is in regards to the harsh words that major rabbis said about each other in the recent elections in Israel. Click here for the full text

I found it troubling because he is saying don't act based on what the gedolim are saying. If one major rabbi calls another one a heretic or Amalek  - are the followers of the one critized supposed to remain silent?!  If the gadol you follow makes these criticisms - doesn't this mean that you are to view the person he criticizes differently and act differently towards him?  If Rabbi Grylak is acknowledging the validity of what the gedolim are saying - then how can he tell people not to act on what the gedolim say? Clearly the gedolim said it because that is what they think and they want their followers to take the same view. As far as I know no significant rabbinic leader has said to ignore what gedolim say - so on what authority is Rabbi Grylak saying this? On the other hand if Rabbi Grylak  feels the gedolim are wrong to speak this way - then why doesn't he say that so? In short I find his editorial position unacceptable.
 ==================================================
Those in the Torah camp who think they have to take sides in the most recent machlokes - thereby disparaging talmidei chachamim - would do well to remember the fate of those who fanned the flames of the most famous dispute that threatened to tear apart the Torah world two and a half centuries ago. 
Those aware of the raging machlokes over the leadership of the Torah community in Eretz Yisrael might be realizing the irreparable spiritual damage being inflicted on our society in its wake. There is no need to rehash the details of a conflagration that has pitted bochur against bochur, but suffice to say that machlokes is not an exclusively Israeli phenomenon, and even an insular split all too easily spreads across continents. So permit me to share with my overseas readers a story that vividly illustrates the tragic and devastating consequences of machlokes - a story I heard in my own youth and makes me shiver to this day. [...]
It is well-known that in the 18th century there was a deep rift between two Torah giants, Rav Yaakov Emden, also known as the Yaavetz, and Rav Yehonasan Eibeschitz. Rav Yehudah Leib Maiman, author of Sarei Hamei'ah, described the bitter, poisonous fruits of that machlokes. He writes that he was once honored with a visit by Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, who wished to avail himself of Rav Maiman's extensive library. As he passed over the shelves of sifrei halachah, he saw that two volumes, Kereti Upeleti by Rav Yehonasan and Mor U'Ketziah by the Yaavetz, stood side by side. His face lit up, and turning to Rav Maiman, he exclaimed, "If this machlokes had been confined only to the inner circle of followers of these two giants of our nation, who were crowned with the glory of the holy and pure, then surely these two geonim would have made peace in their lifetime. But unfortunately, the Satan succeeded in getting the rank and file involved, people of lesser caliber, whose only intention was to provoke a fight, and these people injected poison into the disagreement and expanded the rift." 
Then Rav Kook, with an air of heartbreak, told Rav Maimon the following: "I heard this story from my father-in-law, the tzaddik Rav Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz-Teumim, the rav of Yerushalayim, about the sad end of one of those who dishonored Rav Yehonasan:" Rav Kook told his host. "It is a chilling story that underscores the warning of our Sages: Be careful of their glowing coals, lest you be burned, for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, and their hiss is the hiss of a venomous snake ... 
"[... A woman related that she was the daughter of the] apostate who authored a book called Nesivos Olam [not to be confused with the holy book by the Maharal of the same name], a libelous attack on Torah Judaism and its alleged hatred of Christianity [...]"[Eventually]This man did indeed return to his people  [...the following is what he told his daughter]
[...]My father was among those who stood at the side of Rav Yaakov Emden and instigated the war against Rav Yehonasan Eibeschitz, the rav of Altona. Many of the venomous attacks against Rav Yehonasan were written by my father, who was very gifted with words. In fact the book Akitzas Akrav (Altona 5513), which is full of scathing words and mockery against Rav Yehonasan and which is attributed to the Yaavetz himself, was actually written by my father. He finished writing it on the day of my bris, and the joy in our home was redoubled. All the guests saw it as a good omen and predicted a shining future for me. And my father told me that the Yaavetz gave both him and me this brachah: "May your newborn son merit to be raised in the spirit of the sefer you've just completed, and like you, may he too oppose the views and teachings of that man (i.e., Rav Yehonasan) -who calls himself the av beis din of Altona
"'And now you see [...]that the brachah of the Yaavetz, along with the hope and belief of Rav Yehonasan was  fulfilled in me [....] I have sinned and done damage beyond repair, and where am I now going?'[...] 
Yes, a frightening tale. Is there anything to add? 
Only this: Hamaskil ba'eis hahi yidom. One who is wise will be silent at such a time. Very silent.

Chareidi world continues to self-destruct

Behadrey Haredim (Hebrew)    See Rabbi Grylak's problematic editorial  Behadrey Haredim (English)

Avrechim must sign: pledge to abide by Gedolei Yisroel    
The Litvishe sector split saga continues, as after yeshiva students who voted 'Etz' were thrown out of kollelim, as well as the order of Hagaon R' Chaim Kanievsky to fire melamdim who voted 'Etz', comes the next step, designed to completely differentiate the voters of Etz and subscribers of Hapeles from the Litvishe community.

After a series of consultations, the heads of the large kollelim initiated a version which every avreich will be asked to sign, in which he undertakes not to dispute with Gedolei Yisroel, not to support the controversy, not to bring home the newspaper 'Hapeles' and other writings of mockery of Gedolei Yisroel and to increase respect of Torah.[...]


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pediatricians: No More than 2 Hours Screen-Time Daily for Kids

Scientific American    Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn't have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms, according to new guidelines from pediatricians.

The new policy statement was released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) today (Oct. 28) in the journal Pediatrics.

The average 8-year-old spends eight hours a day using various forms of media, and teenagers often surpass 11 hours of media consumption daily, according to the authors of the AAP statement. More than three quarters of teenagers have cell phones, and teens ages 13 to 17 send an average of 3,364 texts per month. 

Several studies have linked high media consumption with poor health outcomes. For example, children with TVs in their bedrooms are more likely to be obese. [...]

In addition to limiting all entertainment screen time — including TV, the Internet and various smart devices — to less than two hours daily, the guidelines recommend children under age 2 get no screen time. [...]

Children shouldn't have Internet access or televisions in their rooms, because that makes it too hard for parents to monitor kids' media use, Strasburger said.

"If you have a 14-year-old son and he has an Internet connection in his bedroom, I guarantee you, he's looking at pornography," Strasburger told LiveScience.[...]

The Talmud: Why has a Jewish law book become so popular?

BBC   When someone asked Einstein, shortly before his death, what he would do differently if he could live his life again, he replied without hesitation: "I would study the Talmud."

It contains the foundations of Halakha - the religious laws that dictate all aspects of life for observant Jews from when they wake in the morning to when they go to sleep at night. Every imaginable topic is covered, from architecture to trapping mice. To a greater extent than the other main Jewish holy book, the Torah, the Talmud is a practical book about how to live. [...]

When the commuters of Long Island struggle over a difficult passage of Talmud, they know that tens of thousands of Jews all over the world are on the same page. And when he travels abroad, Eliezer Cohen can usually find a local group to continue his studies. On one trip to Jerusalem, he even encountered a man who, like him, taught the daily reading on his way to work (although on a bus, rather than a train). [...]

Sandusky abuse settlement costs Penn State over $100 million

Fox News      Penn State has announced that it is paying $59.7 million to 26 young men to settle claims of child sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

The university said it had concluded negotiations that have lasted about a year. [...]

Penn State has spent more than $50 million on other costs related to the Sandusky scandal, including lawyers' fees, public relations expenses, and adoption of new policies and procedures related to children and sexual abuse complaints. [...]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tractate Shkalim and the Chassidic/Misnagdim Divide


Five Towns Jewish Times By Rabbi Yair Hoffman


As students of Jewish history know, Jews have lived under three very different groups of Christians.  When the Roman Empire fell in 476 CE, Christianity was soon to split in half.  The Byzantine Empire which lasted another thousand years after the fall of Rome developed into the Eastern Orthodox church. The Roman Catholic Church also developed independently and soon began to wield significant temporal power as well.   Only in the latter sixteenth century did a non-Catholic third type of Christianity emerge from the western change, inspired by Martin Luther.  Jews, for centuries a weak minority in the exile, have had to navigate their way between these three different types of Christianity.

THE PRINTINGS OF SHAS

In the mid-sixteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church set its eyes upon blocking the Talmud and began its program of systematically burning copies of it.  Notwithstanding the technological advances brought about by Guttenberg and his press, the printing of Shas was limited and curtailed.

But the Torah Jew would not give up.

Jews were aware that in the Byzantine Empire, the Talmud could still be printed and they utilized the Shas that their Byzantine brethren were printing in the presses of Salonika and Constantinople.  Soon though, opportunity opened when Polish kings defied the hand of the Polish Church, and the Shas was allowed to be published in the city of Cracow.  It was published twice, and unedited by the Catholic Church’s censors – in 1602-1605 and 1616-1620.  The Chmielnicki massacres soon took place, but within the next century a further edition of the Talmud was published in Amsterdam. Two more editions were printed in Germany, now that the Germanic lands were no longer under the control of the Catholic Church.

THE SLAVUTA SHAS
Jewish history and Jewish Talmudic study continued to flow.  The Chassidic movement was born, and soon the Pale of Settlement developed.  A new edition of Shas was to emerge. The Slavuta press founded by a son of Rav Pinchas of Koretz, a prominent Talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, at the turn of the century in the Ukraine, arose.  His name was Rabbi Moshe Shapira and three editions of the Talmud ensued. Rav Pinchas Koretz was a descendant of the Megaleh Amukos, and his son too was steeped in in-depth study of the Talmud.  Slavuta was in the Ukraine between the Chasidic capitals of Lvov and Kiev.  Rabbi Shapira’s printing of the Talmud Bavli in Slavuta also included the Yerushalmi’s tractate Shkalim in 14 pages.  Shkalim is the only tractate missing in the Bavli.  The Slavuta edition was wildly popular, among a large population of fervently observant Russian Jews. A Litvish press, however, emerged in Lita.  The Romm Press soon published the Vilna Shas, and a fierce competition developed.  The Shapira’s claimed that the Romm printing house was in violation of Hasagas G’vul.  They had received a Rabbinically approved special license to be the sole publishers of the Talmud for 25 years.  Rabbonim on both sides issued rulings and letters.  The competition was to last for well over a century, even past the life span of the original Slavuta printing house.  Oh, and by the way, the Romm edition had 21 Blatt for tractate Shkalim. How did the Slavuta Press close?  A worker in the printing house, a bookbinder was found dead by the Russian authorities. It is said that this bookbinder had reported to the Russian authorities that the printing house had printed material that the government had not sanctioned. There are two versions – one has it that he was found hanging in the Shul in Slavuta, by apparent suicide.  Another version has it that he had fallen in the Slavuta Press and hit his head and died. Regardless, the Shapira’s were taken into custody and tortured severely by the Russians. 

[As a parenthetic note, the Steipler Gaon once related to a friend of this author that the bookbinder who had hung himself was the son of a once childless couple who had received a bracha from a certain Tzaddik to have children.  Ironically, the Steipler pointed out, the person who was informed upon by the bookbinder was the grandson of that Tzaddik!]

In 1836, the Czarist government closed all Jewish printing houses in Russia save two:  One in Vilna and one in Zhitomir.  The Shapira children and nephews rented the printing house in Zhitomir and were back in business by 1847 completing the printing of Shas in 1864. Romm completed another edition two years later, in 1866. The competition was in high gear.

THE BIRTH OF AGUDAH
In the early 20th century, after Germany had conquered sections of Poland from Russia, the German government asked some of its German Jewish citizens for advice and assistance in now to administer such sections as Warsaw, now under German control.  One such expert was Ludwig Haas, a Reform Jew and member of the German Reichstag who had succeeded in doing away with traditional Jewish education and implementing far-reaching reforms in education in his hometown of Baden Germany.  

The Polish Rabbis were very concerned and reached out to the Orthodox Jews of Germany for advice and help.  Somehow, the German government appointed to Orthodox Jewish experts two assist them, Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Cohn and Rabbi Emanuel Carlebach.  These two individuals, litvaks, reached out to Polish Jewry and helped them organize.  

Thus, Agudath Israel in Poland, started by two litvisha Jews in Germany and backed by the Gerrer Rebbe and others, was born.  Agudath Israel of Poland was a remarkable experiment.  It combined the organizational and logistical talent of German Jewry – decidedly Litvish with the masses of voters that Chassidish Jewry would bring to the table.  

Soon Agudath Israel of Poland morphed into a political party in the newly formed Second Republic of Poland.  It began to take an active role in ensuring that the secularization processes that existed in Russia and in Germany did not develop in Poland too.  The Knessiah  Gedolah held in Vienna, Austria, featured an idea by a cousin of the Shapiras, an idea embraced by none other than the Chofetz Chaim himself.

Rav Meir Shapiro introduced the idea of Daf Yomi.  And in its initial form, it too included tractate Shkalim.  But which version?  Would the Agudah sponsored program adopt the litvisha Romm version of 21 blatt, or the Chassidish version of 14 blatt?

At first the answer would seem to be obvious.  Poland was teeming with burgeoning numbers of Chassidic Jews.  The founder of the Daf Yomi, Rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Chochmei Lublin, was a cousin of the Slavuta/Zhitomir owners.  So, yes, the Daf Yomi had 14 blatt allotted for Shkalim. Of that, there was no question.

But soon, the Nazis y”sh devastated Poland, wiping out more than 90 percent of Polish Jewry - more so than in any other country.  

A half century after the very first Knessiah Gedolah had passed.  Polish Jewry was no more.  The once mighty Yeshiva of Chachmei Lubin was now gone, and its building was used by the medical school in Lublin, Poland.  

And tractate Shkalim?  

In an era before the Artscroll Schottenstein and the Mesivta Gemorah, 14 blatt was just too much.  In 1975, after seven cycles, the Daf Yomi commission of Agudah, I am told with the approval of the Chassidish Gedolim, changed Shkalim to 21 blatt. 

Slavuta had lost its final battle.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

The Epstein-Wolmark debacle: Making Heroes Out of Villains

Guest post by Rabbi Michael Tzadok Elcohen


Rabbi Eliyahu Fink recently wrote an article for Haaretz entitled "Rabbis Who Beat Men Into Divorcing Their Wives:Villains or Heroes.  The blog owner offered me the chance to critique it here, and I accepted.  In truth it has turned out to be a harder task than I thought.  Not because Rabbi Fink's points and proofs are hard to argue with, but simply because I have never had so much problem doing so with a modicum of respect.  

Personally as a Rabbi myself, I find the even the very question to be offensive.  What is it about these two men, who frankly don't deserve the title Rabbi, that we should even harbor the question that they might be heroes?  What is worse is that he ends with that very point when he says, "That rabbis were inflicting violence is a terrible consequence. But the real villains are the recalcitrant husbands. Let’s not forget that these rabbis were heroes to the chained women. But at the same time, we should not need such complicated heroes."  That someone who is both a Rabbi and a JD (Juris Doctorate), meaning that he is theoretically at least schooled in both Jewish and US law, would conclude that individuals that engaged in vigilante justice are heroes is simply reprehensible.

We must thus ask what brought Rabbi Fink to such a low and degraded moral place in which he would celebrate thugs and criminals as models of Jewish society.  It would appear from a simple reading of his paper that it is the "agunah crisis."  Meaning a woman who is chained and has no way of moving forward with her life.  Unfortunately Rabbi Fink is confusing terms.  He is claiming any woman who cannot obtain a Get on demand is an Agunah, and let us be honest that is simply not the case, and it flies in the face of Rabbis and Gedolim that have worked long and hard to free true Agunot.  Who are true Agunot?  The widows of the soldiers lost in the Yom Kippur War are a good example.  That was a true "Agunah crisis."  Even today we find that women and children are abandoned by their husbands and left, and are true Agunot.  However this is a a rarity.  It is far from being a "crisis" by any stretch of the imagination though, I am sure to such a woman it is very much a personal crisis. Likewise for a true Agunah, you will not find a Gadol who is not willing to do whatever is possible to set her free.

However the "crisis" that Rabbi Fink wants to foist upon us is not one of agunot, it is one of divorce on demand.  He quotes Rabbi Joseph Telushkin on this matter saying, 
"During the twelfth century, Maimonides ruled that if man refused to grant a divorce to a woman who was entitled to it, he was to be whipped without mercy until he did so (Mishneh Torah, "Laws of Divorce," 2:20). The legal precedent for his ruling was the talmudic law, "If a man refused to give a woman a divorce, he is forced until he declares "I am willing” (Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 50a). That Maimonides was willing to accept as voluntary a statement elicited by whipping indicates how anxious he was to assist a woman who was being mistreated.
He unfortunately fails to mention the other stipulations that the Rambam gives concerning a Mais Ali. He also fails to mention that the other rishonim pretty roundly rejected his opinion.  Further he fails to mention that the Shulchan Arukh, and poskim say that in a case of Mais Ali where there is clear reason, we cannot force a man to divorce his wife, we are only permitted to inform him of his halakhic obligation.

So when Rabbi Fink says, "While I can’t condone violence and while I can’t support thuggery, we must see these rabbis for what they are. They are knights in shining armor for these chained women. Like our favorite fictional vigilante, they may not be the hero that we want or deserve, but sometimes they are the hero that we need.".  We ought to be repulsed by his statement, more we ought to protest.  More than anything such statements and such praise are nothing less that incitements to violence.  These men, these so called Rabbis, they are not the Lone Ranger or Batman or whatever other vigilante hero, that may have won over someone's boyhood imagination.  Not only was the very basis of their actions against both the halakha and the law, but as the criminal complaint and their subsequent arrest clearly shows, they could not even be bothered with giving the show of respectability, they could not even be bothered with ascertaining the facts.  They exploited desperation and acted out of greed.  Far from heroes they are villains.  Where they could have used their positions to do good, by trying to influence these women to work within the bounds of halakha or even to be reconciled to their husbands, they decided instead to do evil, and to create a chilul HaShem.  Rabbi Fink shame on you for holding them up as some sort of hero.
--

הרב מיכאל צדוק אלכהן

Rashi claims that gossiper was given a meal if he was believed?!

Rashi asserts that a gossiper was given a meal as acknowledgement that what he said was believed. He bases this on Targum. However Ramban and Maharal reject this assertion and claim that Rashi is based on a mistaken reading of Targum.


Rashi(Vayikra 19:16): Do not spread gossip – ...The Targum says our verse should be understood in Aramaic as "you shall not eat the food of winking" (lo saychul kurtzin). We find this understanding in Daniel (3:8), "And they ate their food of winking concerning the Jews [i.e., they informed against the Jews]. And in Berachos (58a), "He ate the food of winking concerning him to the king's palace" [i.e., he informed against him to the king]. The reason that "eating the food of winking" is understood as lashon harah apparently is because it was the practice in those days for the gossip or slanderer to eat something in the house of the one who listened to him as a sign that his words had been accepted as true. This symbolic meal was called "achilas kurtzin" where "kurtzin" is referring to an unfaithful man who winks with his eyes (Mishlei 6:13). That is because it is typical of gossipers to wink with their eyes to the listener and thereby indicating that he is speaking in a negative manner about someone so that others who might overhear the conversation will not realize what he is saying.


רמב"ן (יט:טז) לא תלך רכיל בעמך -ואין במה שפירש בתרגום הזה טעם או ריח, כי השומע מן הרכיל לא ישבע לו שיאמין דבריו ולא יתן לו אות ומופת, גם המלשין עבד אל אדוניו לא יבטיחנו האדון שישמע אליו, ומה טעם לאכילה הזאת. ונבוכדנאצר בהודאת [בהוראת] הצדיקים עשה מה שעשה, לא האכילם למלשינים ולא נשבע להם, וגם לא האמין להם אבל שאל הצדא שדרך מישך וגו' (דניאל ג יד), וצוה שישתחוו מכאן ואילך והיה מעביר על מה שעברו. ודריוש לא היה מאכיל לו למלשיני דניאל רק לענה וראש, וכתוב בהן די אכלו קרצוהי די דניאל. ואפילו אם אמת הדבר שיעשה כן בזמנים ההם, אחר שהכתוב אמר "לא תלך רכיל בעמך" למה יזכיר אונקלוס מנהג השטות ההוא ואין לאזהרה ענין בו:
אבל עיקר לשון הארמית בכאן איננו אלא לשון השמעת קול, והוא מורגל בדברי חכמים (ב"ב ה א), ועיזא לאו אכלויי מכלו ליה ולאו גברא בעי לאכלויי, ותרגום יונתן קרא בגרון (ישעיה נח א), אכלי, ושרק לו מקצה הארץ (שם ה כו), ויכלי ליה, וינהום עליו כנהמת ים (שם שם ל), ויכלי עליהון, וכן במקומות רבים. והנה הוא לשון כל משמיע קול שיודיע חפצו בלא חתוך מלות, ולכן יאמר כן בצועק לעזים הנכנסות בשדה ויתרגם כן השורק והנוהם והצועק. ודרך הרכילים לבא ברבים או לפני המושל וינהמו בגרונם ויקרצו בעיניהם לרמוז כי שמעו דברים עד שיפצרו בהם ויגידו אותן, על כן נקראים אוכלי קורצין, נוהמים ברמזים:
ואונקלוס תרגם רכילות ענינו, וכן שמו בלשון הארמית, ולא חשש לפרש לשון הכתוב וכן דרכו תמיד, כי להבין הענין הוא מתכוין. אבל בלשון הקודש היו קורין אותם "הולכי רכיל", מן אבקת רוכל (שה"ש ג ו), רכלתך (יחזקאל כו יב), כי הרוכל הולך כל היום קונה מכאן ומכאן והולך ומוכר במקומות אחרים בכאן ובכאן, כמו שמזכירין חכמים (מעשרות פ"ב מ"ג) רוכלין המחזירין בעיירות. וזה טעם "בעמך", כי הוא הולך ברבים. ולהבדיל בין שניהם, היה שם זה "רוכל" פועל, ושם זה "רכיל" שם תואר בעצמו כמו סריס נזיר, ירמוז השם כי בנפשו הוא ועליו תשוב:
                                        
[
מהר"ל (גור אריה ויקרא יט:טז) :לג] לאכול בבית המקבל הלעטה וכו'. דברים אלו, שאין בהם טעם, כבר השיג הרמב"ן עליו. ולפי דעתי, מה שתרגם אונקלוס 'לא תוכל קורצין', רוצה לומר שלא ימדוד לחבירו פורעניות, כי 'תוכל' הוא לשון מדידה בלשון תרגום, כמו שכתב הרמב"ן ז"ל בפרשת תרומה אצל "קשותיו ומנקיותיו" (שמות כה, כט) , והוא נמצא לרוב, 'לכי תיכול עליה כורא דמלחא' (שבת ריש ד.) . ו'קורצין' מלשון כריתה, כי בעלי רכיל המגידים לרעיהם רע על אחר, הרי הם ממלאים ומשלימים המדה עד שיביאו לו פורעניות, כי דרך בני אדם להיות מצוי ריב ביניהם, והרכיל הוא שמודד המדה עד שהיא מליאה, ואז הריב בא על ידיו, כן נראה לי:

Yair Lapid: Talk about anti-Semitism in Hungarian parliament


Self Esteem or Self Compassion

Guest post from Allan Katz   Self Esteem or Self Compassion 

It is generally accepted that a negative self esteem and self concept gets in the way of a person dealing with setbacks and failure, but the research shows that also high self esteem does not buy very much and can be very problematic. Despite the  Self Esteem research    the belief in ' self esteem ' is so engrained. Teachers and parents are told to praise and compliment kids and help their   ' self –esteem ' by reflecting on all their positive attributes. So why is ' self esteem ' problematic and what can be done instead to foster success?

The problem with fostering self esteem with praise is not because kids are over –praised or don't deserve praise – it is praise itself. Praise is a way of getting kids to experience success as a reward and esteeming of the self. Instead kids should experience success and failure as information they need to make changes or   become even   more successful. The problem with self esteem is the focus on the 'self'.


The SDT  Self Determination theory talks about 2 types of self esteem. Contingent self esteem is experienced by people who are preoccupied with questions of worth and self esteem and are strongly motivated by the desire to appear worthy to self and others. Their worth is seen as dependent on ' achievement ' and appearing in certain ways. Whether such individuals come away with positive or negative conclusions, the very fact that one's self esteem is in question, suggests a psychological vulnerability. Non- contingent self esteem characterizes people for whom self-esteem is not a concern or issue. Success and failure is experienced as information and does not implicate self –worth, even when they lead to a reevaluation of their actions and efforts. These people experience themselves on a fundamental level as worthy of esteem and love.

The psychologist Eric Fromm talks about 2 types of people -   the ' To have '  people whose self worth and esteem depends on their 'having' .It leads to people being overly attached to possessions, achievements , and relationships. ' To be '  people focus on how they experience the world rather than on having.

'To have'  people view the 'self' as an 'object' which needs to be appraised , judged and evaluated, and the more positive , the better. In contrast SDT and religion see the Self as a process where a person makes meaning of experiences and integrates and assimilates them into his personality.

The research shared by Kelly Mcgonigal describes what helps people to deal with setbacks and change and what gets in the way.The first experiment she shares deals with people who are dieting and are invited to participate in an experiment testing the effects of food on mood. Each person chooses their favorite donut, eats the whole donut and is given a big glass of water which leaves them with a full and uncomfortable feeling. This triggered feeling of guilt amongst the dieters. The question was would the feelings of guilt help dieters resist subsequent temptations?   In order to test this, the dieters were given a ' taste experiment '  - to choose their favorite candy and eat as much as they needed to in order to evaluate the taste of the candy. One of the test groups was exposed to the following message. In a very by the way fashion , they were given a 3 point message -  they were made aware of their guilt feelings of previously indulging in the donuts , they were told that it is human to error , it does not say  that there is something wrong with you , everybody indulgences here and there and thirdly – so don't be hard on yourself. The group that was exposed to the   message calling for self-compassion ate 40% of what the group who were not exposed   to the self- compassion message ate. People who are hard on themselves and have guilt feelings end up despairing, saying I can never change and what the heck and then indulgence even more.
In another study shared by  Heidi Grant Halvorson  participants who failed an initial test were given a chance to improve their scores. One group were encouraged to boost their self –esteem by affirming and validating positive qualities. Another group was encouraged to exercise self –compassion and not to be hard on  themselves. Those who took a self-compassionate view of their earlier failure studied 25% longer and scored higher on a second test, than the participants who focused on bolstering their self-esteem.

Self compassion is effective because it is non-evaluative. It allows people to look at their mistakes and flaws with kindness and understanding. People then focus on the self as a process and not as an object. You don't judge   yourself harshly nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your positive qualities in order to protect your self-esteem. Setbacks and mistakes are part of being human and essential to the learning process. When the focus is on the process, rather than achievement, the journey rather than the destination you are more likely to be more accurate in assessing your abilities and coming up with a better plan which will help you reach your destination.

People who view the self as an object react by saying ' How could "I"  ( capital I )  do that ?  have feelings of guilt and shame which get in the way, while people who said '  How could I do THAT, did not focus on the self but on their  actions and were successful in changing.

The problem with sin is not the sin itself  but what happens afterwards – not getting up and repenting. The evil inclination encourages guilt feelings as a person feels that this is the beginning of the repentance process. But these feelings end up causing despair and hopelessness which gets in the way of recovery. The verse proverbs 24:15 says that   7 times a saint falls and then he gets up. The failure is not in the falling , but not getting up.
Self compassion leads to higher levels of personal well-being, optimism and happiness less anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness and promoting the needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness help people and kids focus on the self as process.

 Mindfulness is an open non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. Self esteeming and the focus on ME are just   mental constructions of the mind. In mindfulness and SDT there is no fixed concept of the self to protect or enhance, all facts are friendly and inform one's experiences and behaviors.

According to SDT, people with low self esteem are lacking in supports for and satisfactions of one or more of the basic needs of autonomy (= self direction not independence), competence and relatedness. They don't feel worthy as they are missing a sense of love, authenticity, or effectiveness. People with high contingent self esteem seek behaviors that support and reassure them that they are worthy in their eyes and others.

The paradox of self esteem of self –esteem ' If you need it , you don't have it and if you have it , you don't need it .

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rav Eliashiv: Reliability of psakim said in his name

Due to the recent discussion regarding the reliability of teshuvos said in Rav Eliashiv's name, I just noticed the following on Seforim Blog
  1. ר' דוד אריה מורגנשטרן, פתחי דעת, הלכות נדה, [הלכות נדה לפרטיהן עם מקורות הדינים והכרעות הפוקסקים, ובו נתבררו בהרחבה צדדי המציאות וההלכה בנידונים רבים], 397 עמודים.
"Worth noting is the introduction of this work where the author, Rabbi Morgenstern one of Rav Elyahsiv's main students, talks about being careful about relying on the Pesakyim quoted in the name of R Elyahsiv in various recent works."

Sabbath observant meter keeps water flowing 24/7

Times of Israel   Smart metering – the ability to constantly monitor usage 24/7 – has come to the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak in central Israel. But those meters take a rest on Shabbat, thanks to an Israeli water tech company, Arad Technologies

“Our ‘glatt [super-kosher] water meter’ overcomes the problem of a smart water meter operating on Shabbat,” said Tal Tzur, VP Software & IT at Arad. “It allows us to install modern equipment in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods to help save water, prevent leaks, and save money for residents.” 

It also alleviated a situation, said Tzur, in which residents of places like Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood, Safed, and Bnei Brak were planning to do without tap water on Shabbat in order to avoid violating the sanctity of the holy day.

While water metering sounds like an old-tech industry, it is actually on the leading edge of technology. With wifi connections and GPS chips built into meters, servers can now gobble up endless reams of data about water usage. While in the old days, the water company would send out a meter-reader to see how much water a household or business used, smart monitoring technology allows the water utility to keep a constant eye out on water usage.

“Water is more expensive than ever, and ensuring a steady supply of clean water is more of a challenge, as populations grow and industry expands,” Arad vice president Rami Ziv told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of a huge WaTec (Water Technology and Environment Control) exhibition in Tel Aviv this week. “Smart metering is an important way to get water usage under control.”

With a smart meter installed at a water facility, a utility can keep an eye on field installations and get an alert if water usage goes above a certain level. The same holds true for a home user; if water usage seems too high, the utility can contact the customer and ask them if a faucet was left on accidentally, or help to uncover an unknown leak. Smart meters can also detect if someone is tampering with the water infrastructure – illegally tapping into it in order to steal water, for example.[...]

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Project Innocent Heart - Dov Hikind has provided them with $950 K to fight abuse - who are they?

NY Daily News    Assemblyman Dov Hikind has quietly steered nearly $1 million in state cash to a little known orthodox Jewish group aiming to combat child abuse throughout Brooklyn’s black hat enclaves.

The controversial pol tapped Project Innocent Heart [Innocent heart website] — a Far Rockaway based organization headed by Rabbi Moshe Bak — to teach Hasidim about keeping kids safe from pedophiles, kidnappers and other criminals, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

It's been four years since Hikind scored the $950,000 payout from the state’s Office of Family and Children's Services.

The money was first requested to fund Shomrei Yeldainu — Hebrew for “Guardians of our Children” — which nonprofit Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty was going to run.

Hikind wouldn’t return calls explaining what happened to Shomrei or why Project Innocent Heart ended up with the dough.

Met Council — whose revered executive director William Rapfogel was arrested last month in an elaborate kickback scheme — said plans were being finalized. [...]

Child safety advocates argued Project Innocent Heart is too small and too new to tackle the multigenerational, deep-rooted fear within Jewish communities involving reporting crimes to police.

“There are reputable established organizations out there,” said Ben Hirsch, a co-founder of Survivors for Justice.




Friday, October 25, 2013

Kolko case: Halachic basis of the father's actions against Kolko

Israel and Saudi Arabia – Foes or Friends?

5 Towns Jewish Times   Saudi Arabia is the second to largest country in the entire Arab world. It has a population of approximately twenty seven million people, and geographically, is to the south of Jordan which is directly to the south of Israel. Although Saudi Arabia, along with the other Arab states, have officially been at war with Israel since 1948, there are areas where it has been becoming mutually beneficial for the under cover collaboration of Israel and Saudi Arabia. This collaboration would be extremely fascinating because Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s two holiest places, Mecca and Medina, therefore being integral to all Muslims who as a general rule hate Israel and the Jews!   [...]

In conclusion, although externally Saudi Arabia and Israel appear to still be at war with each other, really they may maintain a hidden alliance, created because of common strategic needs. As we can observe from Israel and Saudi Arabia’s recent work to achieve the common goal of installing the new Egyptian regime, their collaborative efforts could achieve great successes. What would happen to the entire Middle East if Israel and Saudi Arabia ever became allied outwardly! With Saudi Arabia’s wealth and Israel’s political persuasiveness and potent military ability, they would be able to change the entire Middle Eastern region!  

Wife claims abuse and wants a divorce: How does a beis din respond?

ChanaRachel's comment on "Sefer on forced gittin - with haskamos of major ra...":

I'd like to look at the case study (the woman named Sandie) provided in the link cited above by Rabbi Eidensohn Jewish Action Magazine Spring 1998

Let's say that Sandie decides that she can no longer live with the abuse and asks for a divorce. Her husband refuses. They go to beit din.

What would be the response and halachic analysis by:
1- An RCA beit din in the US?
2- A Rabbanut beit din in Israel
3- A Hareidi beit din following the shitot of the above book?
4- How would each Rabbi Eidelsohn analyze the case?

Sandie's Story
Sandie* is a 45-year-old mother of four beautiful children, ages 10, 14, 15 and 22. She works as a school administrator and is highly regarded by staff and parents alike for her professionalism and sensitivity to the children's needs. Her husband David owns a successful business that caters to the growing Jewish population in their neighborhood. He is on the board of their synagogue, attends a Daf Yomi shiur every morning, and is well known as someone who is always willing to help out when a need arises in the community.

Sandie's greatest joy is a new grandchild, their first. Her greatest shame is that, unbeknownst to any of her friends, Sandie's husband abuses her. Some of her most painful moments have been at events when she and her husband were being honored for their community activities; it's all she can do to keep smiling when people tell her how wonderful her husband is, and how lucky she is to be married to him.

Sometimes Sandie has a hard time believing what really happens at home. When David comes home at night, she scans his face to see what kind of evening it's going to be. If he's in a "good" mood, he might generously say, "Forget what you've made for dinner. Let's all go out to eat!" On a "bad" night, she hustles the children into their rooms and tells them to do their homework alone because, "Abba needs it nice and quiet tonight." 

On nights like that, she knows that it won't take much to send him into a rage -- throwing dishes, screaming at her, slamming his fists into the walls, calling her names, accusing her of infidelity, or threatening to divorce her and take the children with him. Although he has shoved her and pulled her hair in the past, he has never hit her or broken any bones. Sometimes he yells at the kids too, but more often he spoils them and tells them that their mother is "too strict." He used to apologize and bring her gifts after a fight; but that never happens anymore.

Over the years, she's tried many ways to fix her marriage. She suggested couples' counseling several times, but David refused to go, saying that all their problems are her fault. She's spoken to rabbis and counselors, most of whom told her to leave him, but they couldn't tell her how she was supposed to support her children on her own. Others told her that he "just has a bad temper," and that she must avoid doing things that "push his buttons." Part of the reason Sandie went back to work was to build up a nest egg for herself, but David insists that she deposit her check directly into his bank account.

She's spent many nights crying, agonizing over the person her husband has become and wondering what she's done wrong. She feels so ashamed that she hasn't been able to keep shalom bayis in her home that she has rarely tried to tell anyone else. When she has hinted at problems, people say she must be exaggerating. She actually has few friends anymore, as David doesn't trust her to see people on her own. He insists they do everything as a couple.

The most recent incident was over the fact that she bought new shoes for their youngest child without asking David first. He kept her awake until 4:30 a.m. yelling about how she can't handle money, and how careless and lazy she is. (He gives her an "allowance" every motzei Shabbos to cover food, gasoline, clothing, school supplies and household expenses: the amount depends on whether she's been "good" that week, but it's never more than $200 for everything.)

For some reason, this fight was the last straw for her. She realized that he wasn't ever going to change; and she didn't want her children to grow up thinking this was normal behavior. That week she saw a card at the mikvah advertising a hotline for abused Orthodox women. When she called, the counselor really listened -- and made her feel that someone finally understood. But she didn't tell her what to do. Sandie had hoped the hotline would give her an answer, but by the end of the conversation, she realized that she was going to have to make some hard decisions for herself. She did feel better, however, after they worked out a safety plan in case things got worse again. The counselor gave her the names of some therapists, a battered women's support group, and a rabbi who would believe her, and told her she could call back any time she wanted to talk some more.

Sandie decided to start with the rabbi, and called to make an appointment. Although she was hesitant at first to give details, he seemed to understand what she meant by a "bad temper." He assured her that he would not endanger her by telling her husband she had come to him, and he set about helping her evaluate her options within a halachic framework. He also suggested that it would be a good idea for her to talk to a domestic violence counselor. 

At this point, after a few visits with the rabbi, Sandie doesn't yet know if she'll stay with David or ask for a divorce: she feels there are pros and cons either way, and she wants to make sure she does the right thing for her children. She does feel, however, that she has finally opened her eyes and is on her way to making things better for herself and for them. She feels hopeful for the first time in years.

* Sandie's case history was provided by NISHMA, a program for Orthodox battered women in Los Angeles. All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Suggestions for improvement in Gittin - Can we all agree?

I am making these comments into a separate post - focusing on how to improve the situation.

Is there any focus on our future, where all who agree with the major poskim and the Shulchan Aruch will not be able to marry the products of invalid divorces from the followers of Kotler and company? And if there is a great war in Israel between the rabbonut and gedolim about divorces, what does that mean? Are we thinking and talking about that, or are there more important issues?


R' Dovid:

I'm imagining that the identifying the "products" of these Gittin would require some sort of registry run by people that have the Gedolim's CLEAR stamp of approval.

That's a tough call, because as the author states, Sincere Batei Dinim are afraid to come out in the open against the Rabbanut, because they need the Rabbanut's אישור on Gittin.

How about dealing with "low lying fruit", first:

Let's get some publicity, articles.. ads etc publicizing a simple, logical truism:

1) No Rov or Bais Din can issue a Psak affecting the rights of any party in issues of בין אדם לחבירו without A) hearing both בעלי דין when they are both present together and B) without seriously attempting to ascertain the facts, unless the Baalei Din are מקבל קנין of their free will for a פשרה that states otherwise.

2) Any Baal Din has a right to ask מהיכן דנתני, where he feels an issue of bias may crop up.

3) Any Baal Din has a right to record the proceedings of Bais Din, where he feels there is an issue of bias.

Even if we assume that Epstein/Walmark can explain away lots of things: They care for עגונות; as Rabbi's they feel entitled to the opinion that גט מעושה is okay in the cases they dealt with; they took money because they have families to support...

....Perhaps the most blatant travesty in the saga is the lack of due diligence on their part: Namely, the fact that they never heard "the other side of the story". After all, there are ALWAYS two sides to every story!

How can Epstein/Walmark claim entitlement to the opinion that גט מעושה is okay in the cases they dealt with IF THEY OBVIOUSLY NEVER MET THE FICTITIOUS HUSBAND?

I think most of Kllal Yisroel - across the board - could empathize with these arguments.

I think that if we stay focused on things that most of Kllal Yisroel CAN agree with, we'll BS"D accomplish MUCH more..

Maybe afterwards - once people are warmed up - you'll BS"D have support going forward....