Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tamar Epstein's Heter: Money can metaher [purify] a mamzer

One of the puzzling questions in the present scandal is why this mess has not been resolved either by 1) simply presenting the obvious facts that the "heter" is based on lies and is a corruption of halacha and is causing adultery and mamzerim or 2) the fact that a wide range of important rabbis have denounced the heter.

This question can be answered with another question - why have so many rabbis remained silent in the face of the clear violation of one of the most severe sins. Of course some of this silence is the results from the hesitancy to publicly criticize some extremely important rabbis and the resulting chilul haShem. But the real answer lies elsewhere  - it is the issue of conflict of interest where rabbis don't want to offend those who provide significant support to their institutions and followers. 

This is not a case of explicit blackmail - but simply an awareness of these leaders that there might be dire consequences for taking a public stand. Thus they leave it to others who are less vulnerable to protest. I have heard of no case where a gvir has stated that he will punish anyone who denounces the "heter". But the fear that it might happen has had a very chilling effect.

A possible example of this influence is the well known benefactor of many Torah causes - Shimmy Glick. He is very close with Rav Steinman and Rav Dovid Cohen - and many others. What is the impact of his son being married to Tamar Epstein's sister? I don't know and I have not heard any claim criticizing him in any way. But I have heard from a number of rabbis that many people - especially in Bnei Brak - have not responded because they are afraid that there might be consequences to the benefits they receive from him. 

I myself attended a meeting with the son of a very important rabbi - who listened to all the charges and read all the letters and concluded that this was truly a terrible matter. But then said there was nothing that could be done and his father would not get involved - end of discussion. I was told by knowledgeable insiders that his father receives significant support from American's who are close with Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky - and therefore the father would not get involved.

In sum, we see this scandal of the  "heter" as not only a chilul haShem but one that has exposed the vulnerability of our leaders to virtual blackmail. It has shown the ability of a small number of very wealthy people to make the rabbis dance to their tune - or at least to ignore clear Torah obligations. As Rav Sternbuch told me - "Money can metaher [purify]a mamzer." [see Kiddushin (71a) and Rashi's comment].

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