Monday, December 28, 2015

Tamar Epstein's heter: An invitation to Rabbi Bechhofer to defend the heter as valid or possibly so

 Update: One of the solid questions addressed to Rabbi Bechhofer is that in view of his extreme concern with being fair to Tamar, the Kaminetskys and Rav Greenblatt - he is willing to ignore the very consistent and strong evidence against them because maybe maybe - there is another explanation in their favor. The problem is that his extreme avoidance of making judgments only applies to Tamar and her supporters - he does not apply this approach to Aharon Friedman but has called repeatedly called him a rasha and makes no attempt to find circumstances that might justify his actions. Why the double standard?

Rabbi Bechhofer - you are probably the only person in the world who is aware of the outrage about the heter given to Tamar Epstein - and yet claims not to have yet made up his mind about whether the heter is valid. 

You have made a number of inaccurate statements in your comments defending the Kaminetskys and Rav Greenblatt - such as that everyone agrees that the facts presented to Rabbi Greenblatt by Rav Shalom Kaminetsky are true and the only issue is whether they justify the heter. You also claimed that the Baltimore Beis Din did not say that Aharon did not have mental health issues. You have claimed that the rabbis signed letters without any independent knowledge of the facts. That Aharon Friedman did not have his child taken away from him. And finally that this heter is none of our business - contrary to what is clear from all the letters.

Here are some of your comments
Whoa! They did not dispute the facts, they disputed the conclusion. A psychologist who dealt with Aharon directly related his assessment to a frum psychiatrist who gathered additional data and came to a conclusion. That is what R' Shalom said and that is what happened.
AF did not have his kid "taken away." He has her every other Shabbos, half the Yomim Tovim and half the summer. This is the biggest single piece of disinformation that has been put out there.
1. It's your word against the psychiatrist's. No more, no less.
2. I did not see that the Balto. BD said that. In any event, they are not experts in mental health.
3. So long as she was pursuing a get that she thought could be obtained, it was not necessary to reveal the mental health issues.
4. Again, your word against the psychiatrist's.
5. RNG is certainly entitled to his own opinion - much as you may resent it.
6. Mekach ta'us does not require "total craziness." I did not see RSK assert he was a lunatic.
To reiterate: "No one was tricked. The facts as set out by Reb Shalom are accurate. Reb Shmuel and Reb Nota based their heter on those facts. You can dispute the heter - as I have said numerous times, I am not taking a position on it - but the facts were and are correct."
I just received the following letter and I think it is a good idea. I would like to publish a cogent post from you defending the Epstein Heter - or at least showing why an intelligent person would have trouble deciding whether it is valid
Shalom Rabbi Eidensohn,
First, let me begin by saying thank you for your excellent and diligent posts regarding the Epstein situation. It has really allowed people such as myself to engage this situation with a level of access and scrutiny that would have been impossible just a few short years ago.
I am, as I assume you are as well, growing somewhat tired with Rabbi Bechhofer's attempts to justify the circumstances. I find that his comments are obfuscatory and only serve to dodge the issue with an unfortunately condescending undertone.
If I could make a suggestion which is why not publicly offer him a chance to present a coherent and cogent defense with a guest post?In that way we could understand exactly what he intends clearly on the record and hopefully have a more meaningful conversation. I suspect it would also expose just how flimsy his stance really is, especially if he were to refuse to engage.
Kol tuv and hatzlacha rabba with the important work,
 ----------------- Here are some comments Rabbi Bechhofer recently made in response--

This and a number of other his statements are found in the comments section to this post:

I am not sure how to defend my views if in the end I have my own doubts as to the validity of the heter! How about this summation:

1. The Haifa teshuva and others provide basis for the applicability of mekach ta'us. There is room to argue whether they apply to this case or not.
2. I do not believe anyone is lying or distorting anything. There is enough material for halachic uncertainty even if we assume everyone is telling the truth.
2a. There has been far too much twisting and extruding of the facts to the detriment of honest disagreement. This is unfortunate and demoralizing.
3. I disagree with several of the a priori assertions made here, in posts and more so in comments. I have noted these disagreements individually, and do not feel that it is necessary to collect them into a guest post.
4. I became involved in commenting on this issue here because I see it as directly linked to the last time my picture (the same one!) graced the masthead of this blog:
Perhaps Rabbi Bechhofer's most important claim - and one that I feel is totally unreasonable - is that the reason that Tamar did not make any claims of severe personality disorders either to the Beis Din of Baltimore, the secular court during the hearing regarding custody and visitation or even in the privacy of her own diary - is because she felt that she would receive a Get, obtain custody and proper visitation without having to mention that Aharon suffered from severe mental health problems.  This is his point #2 concerning the major discrepancies between Tamar's statements about Aharon while she was seeking a Get versus the claims about Aharon made when she decided she didn't need a Get.

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