Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is a talmid chachom/tzadik beyond criticism because he is presumed that he doesn't sin or because he certainly repented immediately?

One of the interesting issues that I found in researching the concept of judging others favorably - is the question of how to relate to the a talmid chachom/tzadik versus an average type person.

Judging favorably typically means that one gives someone the benefit of the doubt. If the act he did or the words he uttered could be understood as bad - then we are to judge him favorably. If the deeds are not ambiguous but are closer to being certainly bad - then judging him favorably is a pious act but is not required.

 We see from the following Rabbeinu Yonah that the tzadik or talmid chachom is judged differently. Even if the evidence is highly likely that he sinned - his is not to be judged as sinning.  The assumption is that it is so highly unlikely that he sinned. Thus Rabbeinu Yonah says this is not called giving him the benefit of the doubt - it is just not in the realm of likelihood - even if we have strong - but not conclusive evidence that he sinned.
 Rabbeinu Yonah(Shaarei Teshuva 3:218): In a situation that a person says something or does something and it is possible to judge his words or his actions either as being good or bad. 1) If he is a G-d fearing man then truth demands that he be judged innocent even if his words or actions are reasonably closer and inclined to being bad. 2) However if he is an average man who tries to be careful not to sin - even though he occasionally does sin - then you should push aside the doubt and judge him favorably. This is in accord with Shabbos (127b), "One who judges his fellow favorably then G-d will judge him favorably." Doing so is a positive command from the Torah as it says in Vayikra (19:15), "With righteousness you shall judge your neighbor." And even if the action seems more likely bad than good – it should remain a doubt – but don't decide that he is guilty. 3) Nonetheless if most of the man's deeds are bad or if you have established that he lacks fear of G-d in his heart – in such a case then in the case of doubt you should assume that his words and deeds are evil as it says, "The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked to their ruin" (Proverbs 21: 12). We have already interpreted this verse.

But what if he actually sinned and there is clear evidence that he sinned. Rabbeinu Yonah uses a different principle. It is not longer that he has a chezkash kashrus that is so strong that it is highly unlikely that he actually sinned - but that it is now highly unlikely he hasn't repented and thus the sin is not to be held against him. He bases himself on Berachos (19a).

Rabbeinu Yonah(Avos 1:6): Judge everyone favorably – This is talking about a case of a man who it is not known whether he is righteous or wicked or that he is known as an average person who sometimes does evil and sometimes does good. Therefore if he does something which could be evaluated as being either sinful or as good – or even if it seems more likely to be sinful – but since it is possible to understand it as good it should be believed that he intended it for the good. However this rule does not apply to either the truly righteous or the truly evil. A truly righteous person even if he does something which is totally bad  - he should be judged as innocent by saying that it was an accident and that he has repented for the sin. This is stated in Berachos (19a), "If you see a talmid chachom at night doing a sin one should not suspect him of being sinful the next day because he has definitely repented."... Thus we see that a talmid chachom is never to be viewed as a sinner and therefore there is no need to say that he should be judged favorably. Similarly a truly wicked person is not judged favorably   - even when he does something totally good that there is no basis to question – he should still be viewed as an evil person and that he is a hypocrite for acting as if he were good. This is stated in Mishlei 26:25),

Rabbeinu Yonah(Mishlei 24:28): Don’t be a gratuitous witness of your fellow man – ...This principle is stated in Berachos (19a), If you see a talmid chachom sinning at night, do not suspect of him of sinning anymore by the day because he will surely have repented by then. Since he has the reputation of a person who is fearful of sinning and he is upset and regrets that his lust overcame him. However if the talmid chachom is in fact a wicked person who is mistakenly thought by the people to be righteous – he is not only to be criticized to those who know how to keep quiet – but in fact it is a mitzva to publicize his deeds until they are well known to the public. That is because severe harm occurs when wicked people are honored because he will turn many away from the proper path and denigrate the honor of the righteous and encourages sinning. There is in fact profanation of G‑d’s name by honoring the wicked because some people will be aware of the sins the wicked do and will concluded that there is nothing wrong with sinning and that it doesn’t lower one’s stature (Yoma 86b)…

The obvious problem with this Rabbeinu Yonah is that the gemora makes a clear distinction and says that the presumption of immediate teshuva is only for sexual sins - but not for monetary ones. Why doesn't Rabbeinu Yonah makes this distinction. A second problem is that we see clearly in our generation that talmdidei chachom commit sexual crimes they don't repent immediate and in fact we have seen recent cases where there sinning has continued over many years? The answer to these questions is that the Chavis Yair (62) and others say simply that the status of talmid chachom for these issues hasn't been relevant for hundreds of years.

It is also interesting that this explanation seems unique to Rabbeinu Yonah

Rambam(Avos 1:6): Judge all people as innocent. This means that if there is a man that you don't know whether he is righteous or wicked and you see him do something or say something that can be interpreted either as good or bad – you should understand it as good and not bad. However if you know the person to be an established tzadik and his deeds are good and he apparently does something that is bad and only by using a far-fetched explanation can it be justified – then it is proper to assume that in fact it was good and do not suspect him of evil.... On the other hand a person well established as evil then it is best to avoid such a person and not to believe he is capable of doing anything good – if there is anyway of interpreting it as evil behavior. Finally if the person is not known to you and his deeds have not been determined to be good or bad – then it is necessary as an act of piety to judge him favorably.
This takes us to another issue - the principle of judging favorably is apparently going against truth. In other words we are to judge favorably even when it is reasonable that a person actually sinned. An additional problem is that turning off our critical awareness - is harmful to society. While it is true based on Nidah (61a) that one should take defensive actions - but it still highly increases the likelihood of erring when the person is actually sinning - then if we didn't have this principle. There are many examples of this dealing with sexual abuse and financial misconduct. [to be continued]

Friday, November 28, 2014

MK Miri Regev notes that women can be victimizers and not just victims.

Arutz 7    Israel marked the UN's International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women this week, but one Knesset Committee took the opportunity to note that women can be victimizers and not just victims.

The Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee devoted a special session week to the subject of domestic violence, as part of the Knesset's activities marking November 25, the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women, which was declared by the UN in 1999.

The day was also marked by the Knesset's Committee for Advancement of Women's Status, but Internal Affairs Committee Chairwoman MK Miri Regev (Likud) took a more inclusive approach than the one exhibited in the Committee for Advancement of Women's Status. The Internal Affairs Committee is charged, among other things, with supervising the Israel Police.
MK Regev remarked to the committee that domestic violence is also perpetrated by women, and that its victims include children and men. In this, she departed from the “politically correct” line that is usually heard in the Knesset on November 25. [...]

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Consequences of easy divorce: Divorced Mothers Turning to Prostitution

Arutz 7   Dozens of divorced Israeli mothers have joined the prostitution trade in Eilat, as divorce rates skyrocket.

Dozens of divorced and separated Israeli mothers have joined the sex trade in the southern city of Eilat, according to a report on Channel 2 News's website.

The new trend can be seen as a byproduct of Israel's growing divorce rate, which studies say has reached 40% in just the first ten years of marriage.

According to the report, Eilat brothels disguised as massage parlors used to employ women brought into Israel for prostitution from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, but after the security fence was built along the border with Sinai, Bedouin smugglers are no longer able to bring these women into Israel. 

Their place has been taken, in large part, by Israeli women, many of whom are divorced or recently separated mothers. The report quotes several of them as saying that they are able to make 20,000 shekels (over $5,000) or more a month in prostitution, while their former jobs earned them a quarter of that amount. [...]

Under pressure from radical women's groups, Israel has adopted a plethora of policies that encourage women to divorce - including meaningful financial benefits that are offered to separated and divorced women regardless of the circumstances of the divorce.

Fighting Child Trafficking

Here is a letter to me from Rob Morris, just back from a recent trip on behalf of his child trafficking rescue organization, Love 146.

Dear Alec,

Just got in from my trip to the Philippines and it was amazing. I think people too often only talk about the horror and despair surrounding child trafficking and exploitation (which is a reality), but not enough about the hope, empowerment and change that is also just as much of a reality.
As I mentioned in my email, while in the Philippines I had the privilege of being part of two weddings for girls who were rescued years ago, were brought to our safe home, went through our program and were reintegrated back into a community. They came back to our safe home because they wanted to have their weddings there. It was amazing and beautiful. It was so humbling and such an honor to be a part of it.

While there, I was also able to spend time with girls who are currently in the safe home as well as several who had graduated from the home and are now living in communities and holding down good jobs. One of the girls I met with is Amanda. Amanda's past of abuse and exploitation began when she was eight. She was eventually trafficked throughout different provinces and even sold on the Internet. She was rescued when she was 14 and then moved from institution to institution. Her greatest desire was to go to school. Because she was unable to attend school in these institutions she ran away and began working in bars and ended up being exploited again.

Rescued again, she came into Love146's care. We lost no time putting Amanda in a home study program in our safe home that would allow her to learn at her own pace. At age 17 she began at a fourth grade level. After just one year, she passed exams that allowed her to skip high school and go on to college. During college we continued to support her with private tutoring. She has now finished her courses and passed qualifying exams to become a professional caregiver. She is now able to work in hospitals, schools, and other facilities with children, adults and the elderly. 

How many times does a girl need to be rescued before she is free? For Amanda, the answer was until she was given access to education. [...]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How do responsible Jewish organizations respond to abuse allegations?

The Jewish Week     The revelation that one of the most respected rabbis in our community is alleged to be an abusive Peeping Tom has come as a shock. Unfortunately, the allegations against Rabbi Barry Freundel in Washington, D.C., are but the latest in a long string of abuse cases that have come to light over the past few decades. The one thing that they all have in common is that they all had warning signs. There were always things that did not seem right or behavior that was bizarre. Many people were holding pieces of the puzzle but there was no one to put them all together. This is the crux of the crisis facing our community. How do we protect our children and institutions from those who seek to abuse others? [...]

In the wake of the 2000 Jewish Week expose by Gary Rosenblatt on the decades’-long abusive behavior by Rabbi Lanner, who was NCSY’s director of regions, the OU formed a commission to investigate. It became clear very quickly that many lay and professional leaders knew about the abusive behavior, but everyone claimed they only knew a piece of the puzzle. No one was putting it all together. Thus was born the NCSY ombudsman. A position was created so that all complaints would be filtered through one person, independent of the organization and therefore unbiased.

Fast forward to January 2005. That was when I became the international director of NCSY and assumed responsibility for the ombudsman. At the time the system was in place but left much to be desired in terms of accomplishing its goals. I realized that when I was handed a folder full of ombudsman complaints. Unfortunately, the files were generally incomplete. The complaints mostly consisted of emails that had been put in a file. There was no systematic filing system for abuse complaints. More importantly, there was no conclusion ascribed to the complaints. It was impossible to know what had happened and how each issue was resolved. This is not uncommon in the Jewish community, where there is much turnover of staff and little institutional memory.

Aside from the filing issues, another pressing matter was brought to my attention. When the NCSY ombudsman was put into place, there were no guidelines in terms of what fell within the discretion of the overseer. Often, after an employee was let go from the organization, inevitable anonymous complaints would be submitted to the ombudsman complaining about that person’s supervisor. This wasted a lot of time and effort on things that should have been handled by the human resources department. [...]

R Rackman: The solution to Aguna is being able to annul any marriage without a Get

 The following are excerpts from Chapter 3 of One Man's Judaism by Rabbi Emanuel Rackman 

He states on page 244 that Rav Moshe's annulment marriages for preexisting conditions which a normal woman can't live with - is a good start but it is not enough. He raises the important question of whether the ability to help agunos is worth the price of
"making virtually all marriages easily annullable and such liberalism might destroy the sanctity of marriage - one of Judaism's most cherished values and desiderata. Rabbis and laymen would raise a hue and a cry that marriage bonds in Judaism are made of straw. The stability of marriages would be adversely affected. Instead of being viewed as indestructible, marriages would be regarded as ephemeral. That is why our Rabbis in the past so hesitated to suspend the requirement of a Get. That is why they so formalized the procedure for a Get. That is also why the forbade conditions and the inclusion of capricious agreements in the original marriage contract." 

Chapter Three

In contemporary halachic creativity rabbis are rarely daring. This complaint is often heard whenever Jews meet to discuss the present plight of Jewish law. It is, therefore, an event joyously to be hailed when so renowned a scholar as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein publishes a volume of responsa [Igrot Moshe on Even Ha-ezer NY 1961] which reveals not only erudition of exceptional breadth and depth but also courage worthy of a Gadol in an age of unprecedented challenge to our cherished Halachah. 

There is abundant authority in earlier respona of great scholars for all thus far reported from Rabbi Feinstein's volume. However, he deserves our approbation for reaffirming the rulings in our contemporary situation when Orthodox rabbis have become so panicky about liberalism that they have "frozen" the law beyond the wildest expectations of more saintly forebears. But there is one area in which Rabbi Feinstein forges ahead of predecessors. He permits husband or wife to remarry without a Get when there is reasonable assurance that if either had known some important fact about the other in advance of the marriage they would not have entered upon the marriage. Rabbi Feinstein has revived the Talmudic notion of "marriage by mistake," and he does not limit it, as the Tosafists of the Middle Ages did, to the period intervening between betrothal and consummation of the nuptials. According to Rabbi Feinstein, the spouse may avail himself or herself of the fraud or conThere is abundant authority in earlier respona of great scholars for all thus far reported from Rabbi Feinstein's volume. However, he deserves our approbation for reaffirming the rulings in our contemporary situation when Orthodox rabbis have become so panicky about liberalism that they have "frozen" the law beyond the wildest expectations of more saintly forebears. But there is one area in which Rabbi Feinstein forges ahead of predecessors. He permits husband or wife to remarry without a Get when there is reasonable assurance that if either had known some important fact about the other in advance of the marriage they would not have entered upon the marriage. Rabbi Feinstein has revived the Talmudic notion of "marriage by mistake," and he does not limit it, as the Tosafists of the Middle Ages did, to the period intervening between betrothal and consummation of the nuptials. According to Rabbi Feinstein, the spouse may avail himself or herself of the fraud or concealment at any time after the marriage. Thus a husband may remarry without a Get if he discovered that his wife could not bear him children because of an affliction that existed prior to the marriage. Similarly, the wife may remarry without a Get if she discovers that her husband is incapable of sexual intercourse or that he was committed to a mental hospital for a period prior to his marriage and became ill again during the marriage. The presumption is simple: She would not have married him had she known all the facts. 

What is especially noteworthy about Feinstein's desire to relieve anguish and pain is his readiness to ignore prior authorities when their conclusions are antithetical to his. Thus, with the zeal of a great humanitarian he cites the Ein Yitzhak who permitted a widow to remarry without Halitzah because he held the marriage of the widow to be a nullity, but he fails to cite the Shevut Yaakov whom the Ein Yitzhak cites and who unequivocally arrived at a conclusion opposite to that of Rabbi Feinstein in an almost identical case. Such is the power of Heterah (leniency) in the hands of a Talmudic giant! And we thought our generation was altogether bereft of them! 

It is also noteworthy that the eminent Rabbi Weinberg of Montrieux ended one of his responsa, published in Noam, with a prayer that one day some rabbi will be bold enough to rule as Rabbi Feinstein has. He lived to see his prayer fulfilled.
There is no doubt but that the liberalization of Jewish family law can best be done through the broader exercise of the inherent power of a Beth Din to annul marriages for fraud or mistake. Of course, the consequence will be that the issue of marriages subsequently annulled will be regarded as born out of wedlock. But in Jewish law this does not mean illegitimacy-or even serious consequential stigma. Altogether, to solve the Agunah problem without annulling marriages is impossible. Even in Israel, where coercion against the recalcitrant spouse is feasible, the court may be helpless if the recalcitrant spouse is in another jurisdiction or escapes there before the court's relief is sought. Furthermore, in the event of the husband's insanity the wife is absolutely without a remedy even in Israel unless the marriage can be annulled. An insane husband is not competent to delegate his authority or power to the Beth Din. For these reasons, as well as others, the abortive attempt of the Conservative movement in the United States to solve the problem with an eye exclusively on the Get was unfortunate. It seized upon the least progressive alternative (as did some American Jewish journalists) and placed in jeopardy the course Rabbi Feinstein is pursuing. 

The Talmud assumes in many of its tractates that marriages by mistake are void or voidable. Indeed, such marriages can be annulled not only because of facts known to one of the spouses before the marriage and concealed from the other, but also because of facts that no one could possibly have known in advance. Thus the Talmud queries why a widow who is childless cannot annul her marriage to her deceased husband on the assumption that she would not have consented to wed him had she known in advance that she would one day require Halitzah.2 [2. The Tosafists would limit the query to deaths after betrothal but before the consummation of marriage. Rabbi Feinstein does not make the distinction. ]  The answer is that we legally presume acquiescence on the theory that a woman prefers to be married even to a bad risk than remain a spinster. Yet this is a presumption as to a state of mind. And this state of mind is subject to change. Indeed, it has changed in our day. Most Jewish women today would never acquiesce to marriages which would ultimately involve them in an Agunah situation because of the husband's insanity, lack of masculinity, or recalcitrance to give a religious divorce. These are conditions which often exist potentially in advance of the marriage, albeit unknown to either spouse in advance. Certainly they are as much potential facts as is the subsequent death of the husband without children when Halitzah is required, and but for the presumption with regard to an older generation of females who preferred any kind of marriage to none, our Sages would have waived the requirements of Halitzah. Now, however, women feel quite differently. The lot of the spinster is not as pathetic as it once was and is preferred to that of the Agunah. The Agunah is far more miserable, and her lot is far less enviable. Ours is the duty to reckon with the change. 

Rabbi Feinstein hesitates to go so far. He did annul the marriage of a woman whose husband became insane after the marriage because he had been similarly ill prior to the marriage, and he so ruled even though the husband appeared sane at the time of the marriage and thereafter served for two years in the military establishment of the United States. Nonetheless, the subsequent development of the malady was enough to warrant annulment of the marriage. Insanity­ - actual or potential-is sufficient cause for either spouse not to want the marriage. Incompatibility, however, is not adequate. Sadism-even sadism in refusing to give a Get--is also not adequate. Why? We know now that almost all marital problems are due to one neurosis or another. The neurotic behavior and the circumstances that evoke it cannot be foretold. Insanity is only an extreme form. Yet if a marriage may be annulled because a woman does not want to cope with an insane husband, and" therefore, the presumption that she would prefer a bad marriage to no marriage no longer holds because the marriage is so bad, then in every case where it subsequently appears that latent neuroses make it impossible for the spouses to relate to each other as they should there ought also be a basis for decreeing that the marriage is annulled because of mistake. 

The obvious reply is that if one adopts this position one is making virtually all marriages easily annullable and such liberalism might destroy the sanctity of marriage-­one of Judaism's most cherished values and desiderata. Rabbis and laymen would raise a hue and a cry that marriage bonds in Judaism are made of straw. The stability of marriages would be adversely affected. Instead of being regarded as indestructible, marriages would be regarded as ephemeral. That is why our Rabbis in the past so hesitated to suspend the requirement of a Get. That is why they so formalized th« procedure for a Get. This is also why they forbade conditions and the inclusion of capricious agreements in the original marriage contract. 

However, there is another consideration to be reckoned with. The overwhelming majority of marriages will not be affected. Where the spouses continue to be decent, normal and humane, the Get is always available. The problem arises principally when one spouse becomes sadistic, vicious, or vengeful. And when we insist on the Get in such a case-­despite the discovery of indecent, abnormal or inhumane behavior in the intransigent one - are we promoting respect for the sanctity of marriage or undermining respect for Jewish law altogether? This is the issue. Which end are we to safeguard? This brings one to a consideration of means and ends in Halachah generally. Respectfully it is submitted that more Halachic experts of our day ought ponder this problem.
From a philosophical point of view, can it ever be said that correct ends do not justify wrong means? It would appear that there can be no such thing as an ethical objection to the use of so-called wrong means for correct ends, because nothing can be regarded as evil except by reference to the ends involved. If we refuse to adopt a course which we regard as evil--even to achieve a worthy objective--it is because the means are evil with reference to still another end which ranks higher than the end for which we are considering the controversial means. […]

Rabbi Weinberg of Montrieux and Rabbi Feinstein of New York have opened the door. A courageous Beth Din must now restudy the situation and make choices. The worldwide Jewish community feels less bound by Halachah than ever before in Jewish history. Bastardy is, therefore, rifer than ever, and Jewish communal organization with internal discipline is virtually non-existent. Which is the more important Halachic end to be pursued in the present situation-the preservation of an ideological commitment to family holiness which concerns only a few who will not be affected by liberalism in the annulment of marriages, or to prevent the greater incidence of bastardy against which there can be no real protection in so mobile and fluid a society as ours now is? 

Needless to say, a minority among us will scream. But they need not suffer. Nothing will have been imposed upon them against their will. Jews always had small groups that were especially careful in matters of Taharah. as well as family background. There need be no insistence on uniformity or regimentation. Let there be standards of excellence here as everywhere. However, one must help relieve a situation which begs for correction. Most Jews will hail the effort. That Gedolim in the past hesitated to act means only that they mistook the gravity of the situation. They simply erred. With their rigidity they did not save. This was even true in Europe. In America conditions have become indescribably worse. 

What other alternatives are there? We can isolate all who are loyal to Halachah from the rest of the worldwide Jewry, outlaw their intermarriage with the rest of their coreligionists, and let those who suffer as Agunot because of their commitment to Jewish law resign themselves to their fate as the will of God. For those to whom these alternatives are not acceptable, the only available road is that initiated by two Gedolim. of our day

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson grand jury's extraordinary efforts to establish truth - but does it matter?

NY Times  Officer Wilson’s version of events was just one part of a vast catalog of testimony and other evidence that the grand jurors absorbed during the three months that they heard the case. Yet it appeared to have helped convince the jurors, a group of nine whites and three African-Americans, that the officer had committed no crime when he killed Mr. Brown. On Monday, the announcement that there was no indictment set off violent protests, burning and looting throughout the beleaguered St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Most grand jury proceedings are swift and simple: a few witnesses are called, the prosecutor makes the case for an indictment and the jurors vote.

But the grand jury in the Wilson case met for an extraordinarily long session, hearing what the prosecutor said was “absolutely everything” that could be considered testimony or evidence in the case. While what happens in the grand jury room is almost always kept secret, Mr. McCulloch insisted on making the transcripts of the proceedings available to the public immediately after the session concluded. Unlike most defendants, Officer Wilson testified before the grand jury.

The grand jurors in the Wilson case met in a St. Louis County courthouse on 25 separate days. They heard 70 hours of testimony from roughly 60 witnesses. And they confronted a jumble of forensics reports, police radio logs, medical documents and tapes of F. B. I interviews with bystanders. [...]

Monday, November 24, 2014

'Vanished' Millionaire Guma Aguiar's Estate Divided among Heirs

Arutz 7    Two years after Aguiar mysteriously disappeared, 9 Jerusalem properties worth $44 million to be split between his mother, sisters and wife.

The estate of Guma Aguiar, the Jewish philanthropist who disappeared off Fort Lauderdale in June, 2012, has been divided among his heirs by a Florida court, reports Yediot Aharonot.

The court approved a compromise agreed upon by Aguiar's wife, Jamie, and his mother, Ellen, along with his sisters Adriana and Angelika.

The sides had been in conflict over the estate, with each side claiming all of the estate for itself, and Jamie insisting at first that her husband was still alive. Jamie accused her mother-in-law of wanting to drive a wedge between her and Guma, while Ellen said that the reason Guma went out to sea on the day he disappeared was that he was distraught after Jamie told him she wants to divorce him. Jamie completely denies this version of events.

Rav Belsky as a teacher of Torah and as a role model after a series of problematic events?

For many of us, Rav Belsky has been a role model for many years. He is a giant in Torah knowledge. He has been selflessly and readily available for halachic questions and advice. He is one of the leading experts on kashrus in the world and the basis for the reputation of OU Kashrus. He is also an independent thinker - even going against the accepted wisdom for that which he views as true.

Unfortunately events in recent years have raised major question about his judgment. His strong defense of Kolko of Torah Temima, Kolko of New Jersey where he also strongly attacked the abuse victim's father and falsely accused him of being a moser and a molester. The revelation of his role in the torture of husbands in get cases. Gedolim have denounced him in other divorce cases for questionable tactics. What does that mean about his being a role model and gadol? Why does the OU continue to employ him when his values clearly are inconsistent with theirs?

I have received enough emails that have convinced me that I am not the only one who is strongly bothered by the question. More importantly why this is the elephant in the room that everybody tries not to see? Is he simply too big to fail? See Chazon Ish: Lashon Harah about gedolim

RCA acknowledges R Belsky's views on abuse are problematic

R Belsky's contradictory statements about not going to police for abuse 

Rabbi Goldin president of RCA discusses Rav Belsky's views

Rav Aharaon Schecter and Rav Miller criticize Rav Belsky

Rav Belsky, Mendel Epstein and torturing husbands

Abduction and torture of Rabbi Rubin

Rav Belsky accuses father of being a moser and molester

Torture of Rabbi Avraham Rubin to give a get

Rav Belsky's support of child molesters

Support for Lakewood Kolko

Rav Sternbuch's psak to report Kolko to police

Involvement in the Friedman Epstein divorce case
Friedman case - See page 3 of Rav Gestetner bitul seruv

Burying objects with the deceased - what is the source of the practice?

Someone just asked me about the appropriateness of burying objects with the deceased. Below is a description of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's wife being buried with a ring. Similarly Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld was buried with some of the wood of his dining room table as a zechus for the tremendous kiruv work he accomplished at his Shabbos table. Does anyone have a source for the practice?

 From Telushkin, Joseph (2014-06-10). Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History (Kindle Locations 6683-6687). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Per Chabad custom, no eulogies were delivered. A twenty-member motorcycle police guard escorted the procession from Crown Heights. Also accompanying the Rebbetzin was a ring given to her by her sister Sheina, who was murdered in Treblinka; the Rebbe instructed that the ring be interred with her. The last line on the Rebbetzin’s matzevah (monument), after various honorifics about Chaya Mushka and her parents, mentions her sister, “the righteous Rebbetzin Sheina.

Multiple Personality Hoax - or How psychiatrists messed up the lives of thousands

NY Times   The notion that a person might embody several personalities, each of them distinct, is hardly new. The ancient Romans had a sense of this and came up with Janus, a two-faced god. In the 1880s, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a novella that provided us with an enduring metaphor for good and evil corporeally bound. Modern comic books are awash in divided personalities like the Hulk and Two-Face in the Batman series. Even heroic Superman has his alternating personas.

But few instances of the phenomenon captured Americans’ collective imagination quite like “Sybil,” the study of a woman said to have had not two, not three (like the troubled figure in the 1950s’ “Three Faces of Eve”), but 16 different personalities. Alters, psychiatrists call them, short for alternates. As a mass-market book published in 1973, “Sybil” sold in the millions. Tens of millions watched a 1976 television movie version. The story had enough juice left in it for still another television film in 2007.

Sybil Dorsett, a pseudonym, became the paradigm of a psychiatric diagnosis once known as multiple personality disorder. These days, it goes by a more anodyne label: dissociative identity disorder. Either way, the strange case of the woman whose real name was Shirley Ardell Mason made itself felt in psychiatrists’ offices across the country. Pre-"Sybil,” the diagnosis was rare, with only about 100 cases ever having been reported in medical journals. Less than a decade after “Sybil” made its appearance, in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association formally recognized the disorder, and the numbers soared into the thousands. [...]

As retold in this latest video documentary from Retro Report, part of a series exploring past news stories and their consequences, the phenomenon burned most intensely for roughly a decade, from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. Then it faded from public view, partly the result of lawsuits brought successfully against some psychiatrists, who were found by the courts to have used dubious methods to lead their patients down the path of false memories.[...]

Dr. Wilbur did not write up her findings in some dry professional journal. Instead, she went looking for a large audience, and enlisted a writer, Flora Rheta Schreiber, to produce what became a blockbuster. But as the years passed, challengers began to speak up. One was Herbert Spiegel, a New York psychiatrist who said that he had treated Ms. Mason when Dr. Wilbur was on vacation. Dr. Spiegel described his patient not as a sufferer of multiple personality disorder but, rather, as a readily suggestible “hysteric.” A harsher judgment was rendered in the 1990s by Robert Rieber, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a New York City school where Ms. Schreiber taught English. After listening to tape recordings that he said Ms. Schreiber had given him, he concluded that “it is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be.” Debbie Nathan, a writer interviewed for this Retro Report documentary, piled on still more skepticism in her 2011 book, “Sybil Exposed.” Perhaps inevitably in a dispute of this sort, counter-revisionists then emerged to denounce the doubters and to defend “Sybil” as rooted in reality.

Overwhelmingly, those receiving a diagnosis of the disorder have been women. They typically had rough childhoods. A pattern to their stories — Ms. Mason fell squarely within it — was that they endured horrific physical and sexual abuse when they were little. More than a few claimed to have been the victims of torture at the hands of satanic cults. In many cases, their memories were brought to the surface through hypnotism or with injections of so-called truth serums like sodium pentothal. But were those recollections real? The “Sybil” phenomenon went arm in arm with a reassessment of certain psychiatric techniques. Some studies concluded that people may have become less inhibited with pharmacological intervention, but not necessarily more truthful. Other research found that hypnosis sometimes creates false memories. Those who dismiss Dr. Wilbur’s work as hokum say that induced false memories lay at the heart of her work with Ms. Mason. [...]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Har Nof Massacre: Survivor describes his miraculous escape

Arutz 7   Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein describes his 'miraculous' escape from the brutal massacre at Har Nof synagogue - after tackling a terrorist.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, one of several people seriously wounded in last week's horrific attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, has described his "miraculous" survival to journalists for the first time.

Speaking with some difficulty from a wheelchair at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem where he is being treated for his wounds, Rabbi Goldstein recounted the terrifying moment two terrorists burst in during morning prayers at Har Nof's Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue.

He said the attack happened during the Amida - the central prayer of the service - and recalled how he suddenly heard gunshot and saw people fall to the floor "ducking for cover."

Rabbi Goldstein described how one of the two terrorists struck him three times with a meat-cleaver, twice in the head and once in the back, leaving him for dead on the ground.[...]

Religious affairs minister:Jailed Israeli Get refusers should be denied mehadrin food


הפתרון שישחרר עגונות? סגן שר הדתות מציע חוק שישלול מסרבני גט את האפשרות לקבלת אוכל 'מהדרין


הצהריים (א) הופיע סגן השר לשירותי דת הרב אלי בן דהן בפני ועדת השרים לענייני חקיקה וביקש מחברי הועדה לתמוך בחוק אשר שולל מסרבני גט שמרצים מאסר בבית סוהר, אפשרות לקבלת אוכל מהדרין.

Computers and automation make us dumb

Wall Street Journal    Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.[...]

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons.

Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”[...]

Late last year, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration task force on cockpit technology documented a growing link between crashes and an overreliance on automation. Pilots have become “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive,” the panel warned. The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to spend more time flying by hand.[...]

The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 2002 that human expertise develops through “experience in a variety of situations, all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions.” In other words, our skills get sharper only through practice, when we use them regularly to overcome different sorts of difficult challenges.

The goal of modern software, by contrast, is to ease our way through such challenges. Arduous, painstaking work is exactly what programmers are most eager to automate—after all, that is where the immediate efficiency gains tend to lie. In other words, a fundamental tension ripples between the interests of the people doing the automation and the interests of the people doing the work. [...]

Harvard Medical School professor Beth Lown, in a 2012 journal article written with her student Dayron Rodriquez, warned that when doctors become “screen-driven,” following a computer’s prompts rather than “the patient’s narrative thread,” their thinking can become constricted. In the worst cases, they may miss important diagnostic signals. [...]

We do not have to resign ourselves to this situation, however. Automation needn’t remove challenges from our work and diminish our skills. Those losses stem from what ergonomists and other scholars call “technology-centered automation,” a design philosophy that has come to dominate the thinking of programmers and engineers. [....]

There is an alternative.

In “human-centered automation,” the talents of people take precedence. Systems are designed to keep the human operator in what engineers call “the decision loop”—the continuing process of action, feedback and judgment-making. That keeps workers attentive and engaged and promotes the kind of challenging practice that strengthens skills.[...]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Settlement of abuse by popular teacher case to cost L.A. $170 million

Fox News        Once lawyers began digging into Mark Berndt's past, they discovered a three-decade pattern of odd behavior and complaints about the teacher that school administrators either missed or ignored. 

Both students and teachers had complained about the popular elementary school teacher who was eventually convicted of committing numerous lewd acts on his students.

The settlement involving 81 students is believed to be the largest ever for a school sex abuse case, according to victims' lawyers, and increases the public price of the scandal to $170 million when combined with 65 cases settled earlier for $30 million.

"There was a volcano of evidence," attorney John Manly said. "The district settled this case because there as a gun pointed at their head, a legal gun, and it was about to go off and the public was going to find out everything."

Lawyers said none of it would have come to light if it hadn't been for a gutsy pharmacy photo clerk who called police when she discovered the troubling photos and learned Berndt had been processing similar pictures there since 2005.

The 19-year-old woman had only been on the job a month and her supervisors told her not to call police. She did it anyway.

Lawyers for the children said they managed to unearth a dozen incidents involving Berndt between 1983 and 2009 and found that no action was taken to remove him from teaching.