Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Unholy Trinity – From Rav Goren to Dayan Sherman, and Rav Kamenetsky

Eddie – Guest Post   [I requested this post to see how Eddie would justify his repeated condemnation of Rav Sherman. This post doesn't describe what the halachic issues were but focuses on what Eddie sees as similarly in situations and variations in psak. The problem with Eddies analysis is that the situations are not similar nor are the halachic rulings and thus I think the comparisons are not valid. In short I disagree with this analysis and Eddie's conclusions]

Controversies in halacha can be legitimate l’shem Shamayim,  but also can be  gladiatorial, or ideological. For the layperson, it is sometimes difficult to know whether to take sides, and which one at that.

In the history of the past few decades, several areas have been the most bitter: these include the “who is a Jew” debate, the Aguna debate, and the problems of mamzeirut.   Some of these problems  often come in combinations of several of these.  Any agunah release which is not fully accepted by all poskim, can be accused of leading to mamzeirim, ch’v’shalom.

One of the most divisive figures in recent memory was Rav Shlomo Goren.  For the Modern and Tzioni world he remains a major Gadol and figure of almost Biblical proportions, whilst for most of the Hareidi world, an ilui who went terribly off the derech and had to be stopped. The most controversial of all his piskei halacha involved his freeing of 2 siblings who were declared mamzeirim by a Beit Din comprised of major Gedolei Yisrael.  His strategy was to cast doubt on the giur of the father, and hence declare that the mother was never technically married to him.    This was attacked by the vast majority of Gedolim in the Hareidi world, and defended by a number of Modern and Tzioni figures.  The purpose of this vort is not to prove he was right or wrong but to show the problems involved and similarities with other cases.

The 3 principal accusations I had heard about Rav Goren were the Langer case; the Dakar submarine (also involving agunot)  and his opposition to land for peace, especially in the Rav Shach era.  2 of these were solved when a) the fragments of the Dakar and the remains of lost sailors were found under sea, and b) when Rav Shach himself opposed the Oslo agreement and said that it is assur to return holy land won by miracle to terrorists, thus adopting his onetime colleague’s position.

The 3rd problem, ie the Langer case, was solved, IMHO, when only a few years ago, Dayan Sherman of the rabbanut (together with a Rav Attias) annulled giurim of thousands of geirim, allowing some of them to walk free from marriages without a get.  These were geirim who had been converted by known Rabbis, Roshei Yeshiva and dayanim, and immersed in mikveh etc.  Contrast this to the figure in the Langer case who had no evidence of having had a giur, nor recollection of the name of the rabbi, no knowledge of the Posuk “Shema Yisroel” etc, but was considered a Jew in every way by major Gedolei Yisroel.  What is immediately clear is that the Hareidi powers have no clear or consistent standards for what makes a valid conversion. 

Again, my purpose is not to prove Rav Goren right or Rav Sherman wrong, although I may personally have a bias in the matter.  My argument is that Rav Goren had more grounds for his annulment than Dayan Sherman did in his. And since Dayan Sherman had support from major Gedolim in his generation, his actions raised the ire of the DL world and not the Hareidi world. In an interview, Rav Shachter of YU said he had read R’ Sherman’s psak and said it could not have been Rav Sherman who wrote it, because it was so riddled  full of errors (Sherman studied at YU). Rav Dichovsky wrote a scathing critique of Sherman’s psak in Techumim, citing Rav Chaim Ozer, Rav Moshe  Feinstein,  Rav Kook and others who opposed the annulment of giur.
[Incidentally, Rav Yosef had a machloket with the Chazon Ish on whether we can disregard rulings of the Shulchan Aruch if they have been questioned  by Gedolim through the generations.   Ironically, the CI takes a more rationalist approach, whereas ROY is fundamentally a follower of Rav Karo].
One of the supporters of Rav Sherman’s psak was a then still favoured Rabbi Tropper of the EJF.
Tropper had claimed that the Tzioni Rav Druckman’s conversions were worthless.  It later transpired that Rabbi Tropper was also performing conversions, in exchange for gilui arayos with his candidates for conversion.
However, the problem has evolved from the Langer controversy, when there was an ultra-meikel view towards giur by the Hareidi powers, whereas it is now ultra-machmir.  On the other hand, Rav Goren took a machmir view in that case, whereas R’ Druckman has been meikel.  The only consistent position was ROY, who maintained his position between the two controversies.

This leads us to the current problem of the Agunah, Tamar E., who was allowed to remarry without a Get , by a group of American Rabbonim, who until now had very good standing in the Agudah and Torah world.  It seems the tide is turning against RSK, who was praised immensely by RHS only a few years ago, but today has very few people to defend him.  Some comparisons have been made between RSK and Rav Goren.  This might be true when it comes to isolation and disapprobation.  However, the cases were very different.  If anything, RSK would be closer to Rabbi Rackman’s  solution for agunot, which was a disaster for both the MO world and the Hareidi world.

In terms of halacha,  I have no authority to say what is correct or who to follow. This is purely for the individual to rely on a posek. However, it seems that some people can get away with “murder”, whilst others cannot.  Thus Rav Sherman had the support of Rav Elyashiv, and did a “Goren” on an industrial scale; whilst Rav Dov Kook (married to daughter of Rav Zilbershtein, and granddaughter of Rav Elyashiv) issued many flawed gittin creating havoc, but is still considered a great Mekubal. (He did apologise for his errors, and vowed not to get involved in gittin again).

It seems that what was once a divide between the modern and hareidi world is no longer so clearly labelled. The problems now appear in the most respected hareidi circles, and the pressure is taken away from the modern world.  IN many of these controversies, some have suggested a Hillel and Shammai type debate, whilst others claim it is falsification of halacha. What we must avoid, is falling into the disaster that befell Beit Shammai, which Chazal said was akin to the Golden Calf – the use of force and violence to impose one’s viewpoint.  It is easy to point to the modern and feminist world as being the source of evil, but without these factors, even inside the Hareidi world, we have seen tragic controversies.

The Ritva teaches that one only has to follow the rov when dayanim sit together; if they do not sit together then an individual can maintain his halachic position.   There are genuine halachic positions and false ones.  The rov – majority – can try to persuade the minority to retract their position. Failure to do so can be costly, as we see in the case of Akavya ben Mehalel – who had a valid tradition for his position.   Akavya was a Gadol haDor who was offered the position of Rosh Beit Din if he retracted. [Incidentally, Rav Goren was approached by Rav Shach in the ‘60s to set up a Yeshiva together, since he was still accepted as an Ilui at that time].

These controversies have always been, and will continue, perhaps even when we have a Sanhedrin. The greatest tragedy is the fate of the mamzer, who suffers for things he was not responsible.


  1. It is a spin on the concept from another religion, and so this phrase is often used as a counter to that. Would be worse to call them the Holy Trinity?

  2. There is no evidence that Mr Borokovsky underwent a successful giur. he could not name the BD or the rabbis who converted him. Several articles are available on the matter. The Jewish Observer of 1972, is perhaps the best one from the Hareidi perspective, but it contains many falsehoods. They cannot name the BD that converted him. They search all the cases from the previous dayanim, none have the name or details of the alleged BD. What they came up with was that he had been circumcised by a Rabbi. They argue that Mohel would not circumcise someone unless they would in the future be a successful ger through a valid BD. That is a logical fallacy. They also bring a letter signed by Mr Borkovsky admitting that he had lapsed back into Christianity. This was one of Rav Goren's pieces of evidence. They try to worm their way out of this by claiming that the first son (who had been baptised by Mr B) said that his father signed it out of compassion for the mamzerim. Again, this is laughable, if it wasn't so sad. This is hard evidence that Borkovsky had lapsed back into Christianity as was claimed by his wife and rav Goren. It is clear that he had been coached, 30 years after his alleged giur, on what frumkeit is. of course you cannot learn everything in a few weeks, even if you are coached by Hareid rabbonim,hence he did not know the verse beginning "Shema Yisrael.."

    The Yated article is a historical perspective, but is totally misleading and misrepresents the arguments brought by R' Goren. The Observer at least brought some arguments, but the Yated doesn't actually bring any of the substantive arguments, since they cannot halachically counter them so easily, and would be showing up their own side.
    Another article by Rav Bleich also brings some good points, including an analysis of Rav Zholty's critique. Again, Rav Zholty is trying to prove that you don't need a BD to be considered a convert, it's enough to live like Jew for a few weeks. (If Druckman had used rav Zholty's article, it would have embarrassed Rav Sherman big time. For that reason alone, I lose respect for Druckman). Rav Zholty is disproving everything that R' Sherman has tried to do, and for that matter also the others, such as Eisenstein and the former Rosh Yeshiva mr Tropper.

    There is an excellent article which gives the various steps used in the Heter of RSG, written by Yaaskov Weinstein. One point is

    "The Shulḥan Arukh (Yoreh Deah 268:10) implies that a ḥazakah of Jewishness can be applied only if the convert claims he was converted in a specific bet din (which Borokovsky could not do)."
    Also, there is no evidence or witnesses to Mr B marrying Chava , in a Jewish ceremony. They were married in a christian ceremony.
    (BTW, the Yated point out that their son was baptised before he (Mr Borkovsky) had converted to Judaism. Nice, so presumably he was taking a 1 year crash course in judaism, and at the same time impregnating his Jewish teenage wife, attending church, and baptising their Jewish son. The forced /bribed "conversion was under pressure from her frum parents, and yet he was so interested in Judaism from before them getting married that he baptises their son too!
    RavEitam Henkin , H'YD writes an article in Hebrew about his great-grandfather, the Posek HaDor Rav Yosef Henkin ztl. Rav Henkin gave his opinion to his son [Rav Yehuda henkin's father] and this note states that Rav Goren cannot be attacked, because he is one of the Gedolei hador, his psak cannot be thrown out either, but also that doesn't make it accepted as a new shita. Now, rav Zholty had asked rhetorically, why hasn't one single gadol come out in support of R' Goren? Well several did, including Rav Zvi yehuda Kook ztl, but also rav Henkin himself.

  3. Reb Avraham Borokovsky z"l was 100% Jewish whose geirus had Eidem and dayanim. He never left Torah Yiddishkeit. Everything claimed about him by Mr. Goren was 100% sheker and done for political expediency to fulfill Mr. Goren's political campaign promises he made when running for the office of chief rabbi of the Zionist state.

  4. what you're saying is totally false there never any witnesses. Rav Zholty , who supported Rav elyashiv's psak, argued that you don't need witnesses or evidence of a Bate din in in order to prove a valid conversion. you are not making your statements based on the official documents of the haredi world namely the Jewish Observer and yated. Furthermore Rabbi Bleich, who is known as the rabbi's rabbi, write a detailed article on the matter it is clear there was no evidence whatsoever that a bet din existed. The Jewish Observer which was the mouthpiece of the aguda at the time and hence represented the views of the moetzet, recognise that Mr ab had written and signed the letter that he'd lapsed into Christianity.

  5. While he was being bribed by chava's parents and threatening they would report him to the police for marrying a 14 year old in a church (she convert to Christianity), he baptised their bachur, and went to imaginary geirus classes while still going to church.

  6. That is complete falsehoods.

  7. you cannot bring any sources, it is just Satmar propaganda that you spread. The Agudas Yisroel rabbis at the time were the leaders of hareidi world, there was no Degel at the time. Their reponses show that what i said is true. Check Jewish Observer issue in 1972, and Rav Zholty's critique of Rav Goren, and the Yated historical rewrite (Mr Tzvi weinman was Rav Elyashiv's right hand man in the affair).
    You just make up your own beliefs and present them as facts. Perhaps you spend too much time with the demon S-m-l

  8. religious - you mean in terms of Christianity? Was going to church and baptising his son when he was on his conversion crash-course. Perhaps that is the same standard that N. eisenstein and D' Sherman employ in their "BD" L'Intonei ha giur?
    Oh, he signed a letter stating that he was lapsing into Christianity - which the Aguda magazine admitted to and bribed his (baptised) son to come up with a buba maase to get out of that one

  9. Every source you cited contradicted what you claimed it to say. You are spewing more falsehoods with each post.

  10. you dont know any sources

  11. This was an interview with Rav Druckman. He notes that the "psak" of Dayan Sherman was done by an ad hoc BD, and they made a psak against Rav Druckman,without hearing his side. This in itself disqualifies these dayanim from making any judgment on the case, it is a total violation of halachic protocol to make a decision in absence of the defendant. Next, Rav Amar , the Av beis Din rejected their psak altogether.

    ידידיה הכהן , כ"ז בניסן תשס"ח 02/05/08 11:33


    שפורסם היום קבעו שלושה מדייני בית-הדין הרבני הגדול, בראשות הרב אברהם
    שרמן, כי יש לפסול את כל הגיורים שנעשו משנת תשנ"ט ע"י הרב דרוקמן, העומד
    בראש מערך הגיור.

    הסיפור החל בעקבות דחיית גיורה של אשה שהתגיירה
    לפני 15 שנה בבית הדין לגיור בראשותו של הרב חיים דרוקמן, לאחר שלאחרונה
    בזמן גירושיה התברר שאינה שומרת מצוות. בעקבות כך פסק דיין בבית הדין
    באשדוד כי גיורה אינו תקף, ובשל כך גם ילדיה, שנולדו אחר הגיור, אינם
    יהודים. בעקבות הפסק ערערה האשה לבית הדין הגדול, ולפני כשלושה חודשים אישר
    בית הדין הגדול בראשות ההרכב הנ"ל את הפסק.

    בראיון לערוץ 7 תקף הרב
    חיים דרוקמן בחריפות את "פסק הדין", ואמר כי לא מדובר בפסק של "בית הדין
    הגדול, אלא בהחלטה של שלושה דיינים, בניגוד לדעתו של הראשון לציון, ונשיא
    בית הדין הגדול, הרב שלמה עמאר, "ישבו שלושה דיינים מבית הדין הגדול, וכתבו
    כתב פלסתר מרושע שאין לו ולאמת והצדק כלום".

    "הרב אברהם שרמן שהיה
    אב בית הדין בדיון, פרסם אותו לפני כשלושה חודשים בכנס דיינים כללי והרצה
    עליו, והזכיר אותי ב"תוארי כבוד" רבים, תוך כדי אמירת גיבובי דברים. בעקבות
    ההרצאה הזאת טלפנו אלי דיינים כשהם מזועזעים מכך, שבלי לדבר איתי או לשמוע
    את הצד שלנו, הוא פרסם פסק דין כנגדי".

    "רק שבוע לאחר הכנס הם
    הזמינו אותי לשמוע את דברי, לאחר שכבר היה פסק דין! הגעתי לדיון ואמרתי להם
    שבכך שהם פרסמו את פסק הדין בלי לשמוע את הצד שלנו, הם פסלו את עצמם
    מלדון, ופניתי לרב עמאר, שהורה להם שלא לפרסם שום פסק דין אלא להעביר אליו
    את התיק".

    "יומיים לאחר ההחלטה של הרב עמאר הם פרסמו את הפסק, כל
    מאן דהוא מבין שזה כתב פלסתר. אלו דיינים? אלו לא יכולים להיות דיינים!
    דיינים, שכביכול באצטלה של בית דין, כותבים פסק בלי לשמוע את הצד המדובר,
    איך אפשר לעשות דבר כזה?", אמר הרב דרוקמן.

    "ועוד כותבים דבר כזה
    כנגד דעתו של הרב עמאר, מצפצפים על נשיא בית הדין הגדול!". הרב דרוקמן סירב
    להתייחס לגוף הטענות לפיהם חלק מהמתגיירים לא שומרים תורה ומצוות, ואמר
    "אני לא יודע על שום טענות, אין מה להתייחס לטענות שהם מובאים על ידי
    הדיינים הללו בדרך כזאת".


    This is a most fascinating article, for a number of reasons. It is from the American Yated website, which shows a mainstream Hareidi point of view (I am not hareidi, but sephardi-RZ/Dor Deah/Emdenite). It is grappling with the problems I tried to grapple with in the above post. I argued that The psak of rav Sherman is problematic, and that it makes use of the similar arguments to those made by Rav Goren 35 years previously. This idea was trashed by many here, but accepted by few. Now look at what the writer says:

    "It is fascinating to note that even Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren used this rationale to resolve the well-known shaâlah regarding the children of a woman who had remarried without receiving a get from
    her first husband. Rav Goren based his solution on the rationalization
    that the first husband was a convert who never observed mitzvos. Because
    of this, Rav Goren reasoned, he was never Jewish, the first marriage
    never took place, and the children were kosher Jews.
    This indicates that someone who converts for personal benefit and not at all leshem shamayim due
    to his attraction to Jewish belief, his status is in doubt until we see
    his end,” Rav Goren wrote. “If he behaves properly like a Torah
    observant Jew, his conversion is valid from the time he became a Jew.
    But if he does not observe mitzvos after
    conversion, lives like a non-Jew, and returns to his old ways and old
    religion, his conversion is nullified retroactively as if he was never a
    convert. So the wording of the Rambam seems to indicate.” (Pesak Hadin b’inyan Ha’ach Veha’achot, 5733, page 138)"

    It is interesting because the American cousin of the Yated Neeman is validating Rav Goren's approach, in as far as Rav Sherman's approach is similarly valid. Rav Elyashiv fiercely opposed Rav Goren, and fiercely supported Rav Sherman! This is inconsistent, and this was the main point of my argument.

    Another very interesting citation is this:

    Moshe Sternbuch pointed out that 98% of converts, estimated at about a
    thousand a year, “do not observe religion at all.” (Ba’ayos Hazeman Behashkofas Hatorah, Yerushalayim 5729, page 27).

    Parenthetically, Rav Sternbuch’s estimation of converts’ non-observance was statistically verified. Batei dinim in Israel follow the rule of the Toras Gittin that
    when writing the name of a convert, do not write “the son of Avraham
    Avinu” if he is non-observant, since “[Avrohom] does not link his
    honor with someone like this.” Instead, the beis din should write, “Ploni the convert.” Similarly, only observant women converts are called bas Sarah Imeinu."

    Now watch carefully: In Rav Goren's psak, one detail I have come across (not having the original book), is that mr Borokovsky later divorced his wife Chava Langer, when he wished to remarry. On The Gett, he signed Avrohom HaGer, not Avrohom b. Avraham. Rav Goren considers this as evidence that A.B. was a mumar, and his conversion was invalidated retroactively. Now, Rav Shternbuch is arguing precisely the same thing in the citation given in this article. Yet Rav Shternbuch is a very severe critic of Rabbi Goren, only referring to him by his last name, and accusing him of bringing mamzerim into Israel.

  13. Stop your Reform lies. You're not even Orthodox. The husband was, unlike you, a fully observant Orthodox Jew. He did none of the things you lyingly claim about him. He was a fully shower Torah U'Mitzvos, unlike yourself.

  14. You are not familiar with the case.
    Rav Goren had a letter signed by Mr Borokovsky that he had lapsed into christianity. This letter was accepted by the Jewish Observer, which was the Aguda mouthpiece in America. Their only way out of it was to claim that his son told him to sign the letter, so as to show mercy to the brother and sister, who were obviously half brother/sister to the son.


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