Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shelach; "7, 8, 11, 13"- Why These Numbers On Tzitzis?? by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

What is the "Kesher" of these numbers and the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, that we wrap each corner with these specific numbers???

It turns out, they equal 39, and correspond with many other concepts in Torah...

In this Shiur, we walk through some of the connections, and try to "tie" them all together, into one concept....

For questions and comments please email at salmahshleima@gmail.com



Snapping a picture of your hotel room could help stop human trafficking

Fox      Snapping a picture inside your hotel room could help protect children across the globe.

The TraffickCam app enables travelers to submit pictures of hotel rooms around the world. The images are matched against a national database used by police.

“You just enter your hotel name and your room number. You take four pictures, and you submit them to the website,” Washington University Researcher and TraffickCam developer Abby Stylianou said. “And then those become part of the pipeline that law enforcement can use to track down where the victims are being trafficked.”

Stylianou was among the speakers at a Human Trafficking Town Hall at Maritz Tuesday.

“Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds,” she said.

Hotel photos submitted by travelers will allow police to query the database to determine where the pictures of victims were taken.

TraffickCam now has more than 1.5 million images of hotels across the world, thanks to support from the public.

The idea for the app is merging of ideas between researchers at Washington University and the Exchange Initiative, a non-profit formed by Nix Conference and Meeting Management. A few years ago, police sought the help of Nix staff to identify the specific hotel where a victim was trafficked.

“It was a photo that they had from the internet,” Nix Principal Molly Hackett said. “One of the girls in our office knew exactly what it was.”

The Exchange Initiative created the app, which Hackett said is widely used by her staff. But use of the app isn’t limited to her line of work.

“It’s great that everyday citizens can do everyday things by taking a picture help stop sex trafficking,” Hackett added.

The internet has made it easier for criminals to engage in sex trafficking and child exploitation, Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh with St. Louis County Police said. Kavanaugh is the deputy commander of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

He said detectives are noticing an increase in younger victims.

“The average age, when we talk to our girls that we deal with, most of them have started at 13, 14 years old. And most of them have been sexually abused as children,” he said.

He said he is optimistic the new technological tool will make a difference.

“I think it’s going to be crucial to help us identify not only where they’re at now, but where they’ve been at. Which is something we need – that’s helps with prosecution.”

TraffickCam is free and available for iPhoneiPads, and Android devices.

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsy - unapologetically responsible for adultery - is honored with a sefer Torah - "The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

Watch video!

Hi,

I just saw this clip and there are no words to describe it other than unreal.

http://matzav.com/watch-hachnosas-sefer-torah-at-philadelphia-yeshiva-in-honor-of-rav-shmuel-kamenetsky/

What is wrong with our chareidi world today is everything literally upside down? I just don't understand it, there is a woman continuing to commit adultery because of him and they write a sefer torah to honor him. Am I missing something here??


========================
Below is a letter from Rav Steinman to Rav Kaminetsky


kvod harav 
do you recall any letters sent from e'y rabbonim to the hundreds of  hachnasas sifrei torah a year that take place in the USA or is this some political eishes ish letter??????

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Esti Weinstein: Channel 10 Reporter says that the Secular Media has maligned Chareidim with false accusations and reporting

Arutz 7   Channel 10 news reporter Avishai Ben-Haim, who works very closely with the haredi community (but is not haredi himself), thinks the press has committed a grave injustice in its coverage of the suicide of Esti Weinstein, saying that "basically everything you've heard about haredi wickedness in this matter is untrue."

Weinstein was found dead in her car on Sunday after years of estrangement from her Gerrer hassidic family, and her story continues to make waves in Israeli public discourse. The circumstances surrounding the tragic event have sparked debate about the Gerrer hassidic community, its social norms and practices (especially as pertains to the treatment of women), and attitudes within religious circles to those who leave religious observance.

Weinstein left a will explaining her reasons for taking her own life and a tell-all book about her life story. She accuses the Gerrer community of forbidding her children from having any contact with her once she left religious observance, and cites the disconnect from her family as the main cause of her emotional suffering, leading to her suicide. Many in the press have put the blame for the tragedy squarely on Weinstein's family and the Gerrer hassidic and wider haredi community in general. The veteran channel 10 reporter thinks this is grossly unfair.[...]

Ben-Haim opens with his impressions from the funeral itself:

"This is what injustice looks like. We came to Esti Weinstein's funeral today expecting to meet her evil and cold-hearted family and instead met a noble and sensitive family, we heard a eulogy from a loving haredi father and an explanation and request for forgiveness from a hurting haredi daughter.

"All of this means that we need to rewrite the entire story of the past 48 hours and tell the truth: everything you heard about the wickedness of the haredi side was a lie."

The Channel 10 reporter then goes into detail, discussing individual claims made in the press, going point by point through the events, in chronological order:

"Something about this seemed fishy to me from the beginning. First it was claimed that the haredi family members were going to snatch the body to bury it on their own terms. I called and spoke with the family. They were shocked by the idea, 'Of course not! Heaven forbid!'. I don't need to tell you that no one actually tried to snatch the body.

"Next they said that Weinstein's daughters broke off contact from their mother because of a cruel order from the Admor [leader of a hassidic community]. I called again, I spoke with the family, and they swore that there was no directive from the Admor and explained that this was not a religious issue at all, merely a human one. The girls were angry at their beloved mother who simply up and left them one day 7 years ago. Hence the estrangement.

"Afterwards they said that the haredim are demanding she be buried outside of the cemetery walls. I called, spoke with the family, and they were shocked by the idea, 'she was a good mother, we love her. We never had any such plans.'

"Then they said that they don't intend to sit Shiva [week-long mourning period in Jewish law] for Esti. I called, spoke with the family, they were shocked by that idea too. No such thing had ever crossed their minds.

"Next, they said that the family is demanding a small and quick haredi funeral that will demean Esti's memory. I called. Spoke with the family. They said this was untrue and that they had every intention of honoring their late mother's wishes, having already made clear that they have no problem with there being flowers and songs at the funeral [as per Weinstein's instructions in her will].

"Then the courts were petitioned to make sure that the funeral will be held with a secular atmosphere (not that songs and flowers really make a funeral 'secular'), and it was reported that the secular side won as the court ruled against the haredi family. But the haredi family never sent anyone to the hearing to contest any of this and wasn't even part of any fight. They didn't want to fight about this and there was no need to 'beat them' in court, for as I've already written, the family wanted to honor Esti's non-haredi wishes.

"After that, it was claimed that the family was boycotting the funeral, which would indeed be the height of cruelty. But then... well, then we saw a large group of haredi Gerrer hassidic women arriving at the funeral, sobbing, and sad Gerrer hassidic men, all standing to the side, quietly and politely, and waiting for the time when they will be able to take part in the proceedings. We heard the father eulogizing his daughter, and the eldest daughter Raheli eulogizing her mother. No haredi told Raheli that she wasn't allowed to speak in this kind of forum because she's a girl.

"It was then that I understood that this week, a grave injustice was committed among the Jewish people." [...]
Ben-Haim's post ends with a quote of the full text of Weinstein's eldest daughter's eulogy, excerpts from which were available before the funeral and were published by Arutz Sheva.

Rav Yitzchok Isaac Sher's view of marriage - the importance of human love (regarding criticism of Gerrer Takanos/Esti Weinstein)

I first published this on 3/30/15. I am republishing this because of the current discussion of the Gerrer Takanos in connection to Esti Weinstein. The criticism of the Takanos is discussed in detail in the following article by Prof. Brown
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The following is from   Kedushah: SEXUAL ABSTINENCE IN HASIDIC GROUPS by Prof Benny Brown. The pamphlet from Rav Scher is found on Hebrew Books
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The Hazon Ish probably wrote this letter in Bnei Brak in the early 1950s. At approximately the same time and in the same place, another Litvish rabbi, R. Yitshak Isaac Sher (1881–1952), the head of the prestigious Slobodka yeshivah, wrote an article entitled Kedushat yisra’el [the Holiness of the Jewish People], which dealt somewhat more bluntly with the same sensitive issue.[...]

Rabbi Sher begins by drawing attention to an apparent controversy between Maimonides and Nahmanides, the former condemning sexual desire and the latter condoning it as holy. Rabbi Sher concludes that there is no real disagreement between them: sexual desire, like all other physical desires, is natural and should be condemned only if it is indulged by way of excessive pleasures, but it is holy when it functions within the boundaries set by the Torah, namely, in order to fulfill the commandment of onah. He proceeds to analyze the views of Rashi and Nahmanides on the matter, concluding as follows:
One does not observe the mitsvah [of onah] properly if one performs it only in order to fulfill one’s obligation. [. . .] In truth, he who performs coition without ardor violates [the commandment] “her duty of marriage [= onah] shall he not diminish” (Ex. 21:10).78 [. . .] Just as it is prohibited to abstain altogether from the act itself, which is the husband’s duty of onah in respect of his wife, so it is prohibited to refrain from physical intimacy with her, which is what the wife craves—to enjoy her physical intimacy with her husband. This entails desire that goes beyond what is required for [the performance of] the act itself. The husband is commanded to satisfy her desire as she pleases. And see [B.] YevamotOne does not observe the mitsvah [of onah] properly if one performs it only in order to fulfill one’s obligation. [. . .] In truth, he who performs coition without ardor violates [the  commandment] “her duty of marriage [= onah] shall he not diminish” (Ex.21:10).78 [. . .] Just as it is prohibited to abstain altogether from the act itself, which is the husband’s duty of onah in respect of  his wife, so it is prohibited to refrain from physical intimacy with her, which is what the wife craves—to enjoy her physical intimacywith her husband. This entails desire that goes beyond what is required for [the performance of] the act itself. The husband is commanded to satisfy her desire as she pleases. And see [B.] YevamotOne does not observe the mitsvah [of onah] properly if one performs it only in order to fulfill one’s obligation. [. . .]

 In truth, he who performs coition without ardor violates [the commandment] “her duty of marriage [= onah] shall he not diminish” (Ex.21:10).78 [. . .] Just as it is prohibited to abstain altogether from the act itself, which is the husband’s duty of onah in respect of his wife, so it is prohibited to refrain from physical intimacy with her, which is what the wife craves—to enjoy her physical intimacy with her husband. This entails desire that goes beyond what is required for [the performance of] the act itself. The husband is commanded to satisfy her desire as she pleases. And see [B.] Yevamot 62 and Pesahim 72, where it is stated explicitly that whenever she desires and yearns for her husband—this is her [rightful] onah, even if it exceeds the prescribed minimum.
Rabbi Sher goes on to attack the hasidic understanding of kedushah:
I have heard that some pretended God-fearing and pious men [mithasedim] take great care to fulfill this mitsvah for the sake of Heaven, without any desire.80 Such a person would busy himself half the night with Torah and prayer [. . .] and only then, aftermidnight, would he come home and wake up his wife, prattle to her placatingly in order to fulfill this mitsvah. [Naturally,] she allows him to do with her as he pleases, and he is proud of having managed to fulfill this commandment without [succumbing to] the evil inclination, [namely], without any impure lust. He later wonders why the sons he has produced in this way have turned out to be wicked or stupid!81 Surely, the reason is the false belief that it is wrong to perform the commandment [of onah] with desire, whereas [the truth is that] a son conceived without desire turns out to be foolish, as is well known, and when intercourse takes place without the wife’s full consent or desire, that is, when she would rather be asleep and is angry with her husband for disturbing her and doing with her as he pleases rather than as she pleases, then he violates a Torah prohibition, and his sons will possess the nine evil traits82 of the rebellious and sinful.
The Children of Israel, he contends, are so holy that they are able to “delight themselves in the Lord”84 through eating and coitus, just as Adam had done before the Sin of Eden.85 For the Lord wishes his children to “delight themselves in His goodness.” This is why they are able to perform physical acts “for the sake of Heaven,” while those who endeavor to shun the physical pleasure of sexual intercourse end up diminished mentally and spiritually. For even if they declare in advance that they intend to perform the sexual act only in order to fulfill the commandment of onah, they know all too well that when it comes to the act itself, they are bound to be distracted from their purpose by the inevitable stirring of their natural desire, and they end up performing the whole act lustfully.86 To convince the hasidim that his understanding of the matter is correct, Rabbi Sher appeals to their view of themselves as heirs to the kabbalistic tradition by adducing a series of quotations from the Zohar to corroborate his position.[...]

As an adherent of the Musar movement (musarnik), which developed in the Lithuanian yeshivot in the late nineteenth century and called for ethical self-improvement, R. Sher acknowledges that the couple achieve sanctification by ensuring that during coitus they focus on nothing other than the ethical and religious significance of the act. He takes this significance to be (a) the creation of a new human being, which resembles the work of God; (b) the union of male and female in the image of God, by which, “through the power of desire,” they come to resemble Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; and (c) a means of enhancing their love for each other, which is not only a virtue in itself but also serves to enhance their love of God and of their fellow human beings. He admits, however, that the virtue of love “is not properly developed among us [the haredim]. Those who have claimed in their learned books that marital love is contingent on transient factors (ahavah hateluyah badavar)”88 are wrong. “For surely, this love is natural, and it is a mitsvah to enhance and develop it properly,” which includes the husband’s obligation to satisfy his wife whenever she desires him.

It is for this reason, Rabbi Sher contends, that when the couple come together, the husband must address his wife in a way that conveys not only “awe, piety, and chastity,” but also tenderness, affection, and erotic love (agavim). He clearly anticipates the reader’s astonishment at the latter: “The
point of erotic love seems difficult to understand,” but he quotes the Zohar and Maimonides to bolster his argument that the husband must speak to his wife explicitly even “about her [physical] beauty.”

It is for this reason, Rabbi Sher contends, that when the couple come together, the husband must address his wife in a way that conveys not only “awe, piety, and chastity,” but also tenderness, affection, and erotic love (agavim). He clearly anticipates the reader’s astonishment at the latter: “The
point of erotic love seems difficult to understand,” but he quotes the Zohar and Maimonides to bolster his argument that the husband must speak to his wife explicitly even “about her [physical] beauty.”

Without expressly mentioning the Gerer hasidim, he condemns what he calls the bad habits arising from a common misunderstanding of the ideal of kedushah:
As for the bad habits that many of them have adopted in error, believing that in order to maintain themselves in holiness they must  refrain from talking to their wives—the rabbis must strive to make them realize that this kind of holiness is the very essence of impurity [. . .] and that the husband must speak to his wife, addressing her with wondrously affectionate words of placation. [...]

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Esti Weinstein - formerly religious Gerrer chasid - commits suicide because of the loss of her daughters she abandoned

Arutz 7   As ever more reactions pour in throughout the haredi world in the wake of the suicide of Esti Weinstein--who was found dead in her car in Ashdod after a week-long search--in a tragedy that has garnered much attention in the wider Israeli public due to its backstory, a more important perspective, that of Weinstein's estranged children, has now been offered.

Weinstein left the Gerrer hassidic community and religious observance several years ago, leading to a complete break of contact with 6 of her 7 daughters, in an estrangement allegedly enforced by Gerrer community leaders.

The late mother left a note and a will on her computer, explaining that the cause of her decision to commit suicide was the estrangement from her children. She also left a book detailing her entire life story in which she makes severe allegations against Gerrer leaders and norms, and asked that it be disseminated in every way possible, mentioning in the will that she wants "as many "Dossim" [slang term for religious or haredi people] to read it." [...]

The husband of one of Weinstein's daughters had the following to say: "You can't blame little girls who get angry at their mother in this kind of situation. It's a normal thing, a human story, something that happens the world over. I don't think it's anything that should be brought in support of any one side's agenda."

In response to the question of whether the daughters broke off contact with their mother for religious reasons, the son-in-law said that "they broke off contact because of this unsolved mystery: a mother who abandons her children. It's very possible she had right on her side, it's very possible that no one was right here, the bottom line is you can't blame the angry reaction of daughters abandoned by their mother."

Ben-Chaim also published a eulogy written by one of the daughters:

"Mother, we will remember and never forget the years in which you raised us. We well always remember the way you walked with us glowing with pride, seven amazing girls."

"We will remember and never forget the sudden, bitter day when you abandoned us. We begged for explanations, we asked to come with you, but you turned your back on our feelings. Little girls who were just abandoned one day and have no mother to explain things to them and pick up the pieces."

"Mother, mother, we will always remember and not forget. I understand there are things we couldn't take back, but now you can watch us from above, listen, and understand everything that the people around us didn't. But the most important thing is that you forgive us now."

What One Rape Cost Our Family

NY Times   WHEN people hear about campus sexual assaults, they rarely understand the true impact such an attack has on the survivor and her family. But I do.

In the spring of 2013, my daughter, Willa, was raped by a fellow student at her college in Washington, D.C. A freshman at the time, she did not tell anyone until a year later. Meanwhile, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression and an addiction to alcohol. And while she chose not to file criminal charges — out of fear of being traumatized again — she struggled so much after the attack that ultimately she had to leave school.

It would be impossible for me to describe in the space of a newspaper article the emotional toll this took on Willa and our family: the grief we felt that our child’s body (and soul) had been violated; the anger that we (and the college) could not protect her; the fear that our once spirited, ambitious daughter might never be more than a shell of herself. But I can offer, by way of illustration, a financial reckoning — collateral damage that demonstrates the devastation, and that rarely comes up in the national discussion on campus sexual assaults.

The financial burdens of an attack can be overwhelming. A 2014 White House report noted that the cost to survivors (of all types, not just college students) can range from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape. While the numbers are staggering, they seem abstract until your family is the one paying the bills. In our case, they were on the higher end of the range, and included the following:[...]

There were other expenses too, but the ones I’ve listed add up to $100,573.63 out of pocket, and approximately $145,000 in lost wages, for a total of $245,573.63. That’s roughly the same as the cost of four years at one of the nation’s top colleges.

I should be clear: I would have done anything, made any financial sacrifices, to see the light again in my daughter’s eyes (which is there now, thanks to Willa’s hard work and the many caring professionals who helped her). I recently went through a divorce, however, and my former husband and I are writers, not investment bankers. These are big costs for us; at times, we had to borrow from family or retirement funds, or use proceeds from the sale of the house we gave up in the divorce.

We’re fortunate to have top-tier health insurance, which helped defray many of the costs. But this is still an extraordinary amount of money, and I often wonder how survivors from less privileged backgrounds recover from these attacks. It’s not a hypothetical question.

According to a 2015 survey at 27 universities by the Association of American Universities, 11.7 percent of all students (including men) reported experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact, by force or incapacitation, since enrolling at their university, and the incidence among undergraduate females was 23 percent.

These costs are enormous for any rape survivor, not just those who suffered a campus sexual assault. For our family, they continue to accrue. [...]

Monday, June 27, 2016

Oh Boy: Was A National Security Position Given As Payback To A Clinton Foundation Donor?

Townhall   This is a very strange article since it is based on reporting done  by the "leftwing newsmedia" ABC which several commentators have stated have ignored anything negative about Hillary.
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It seems as if anything is up for sale if you give enough money to the Clinton Foundation, even positions on a national security intelligence board that has access to top-secret information. Meet Rajiv K. Fernando, a big donor to Clinton, Democrats, and the family foundation, was given a spot on the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board in 2011, even though he had zero experience in the field. He has since resigned from the board after ABC News launched an inquiry into his appointment. The first thing that they asked for from the State Department was his resume. Emails obtained by Citizens United after a 2-year Freedom of Information Act battle with the State Department showed that Clinton’s staffers were instructed to “stall” and “protect the name” of Mrs. Clinton from the news organization’s review of this appointment. One member told ABC, “We had no idea who he was.”

ABC News’ Brian Ross was threatened with arrest for merely asking Fernando about his appointment during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He added that Clinton promised Foundation donors would not be given special treatment during her confirmation hearings to become secretary of state (via ABC News) [...]

Trump campaign falsely claims that State Department gave $55.2 million to Laureate Education after hiring Bill Clinton

Washington Post   “As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton laundered money to Bill Clinton through Laureate Education, while Bill Clinton was an honorary chairman of the group. Clinton’s State Department provided $55.2 million in grants to Laureate Education from 2010-2012. Laureate thanked Bill for providing unbelievable access to the Secretary of State by paying him off $16.5 million. This is yet another example of how Clinton treated the State Department as her own personal hedge fund, and sold out the American public to fund her lavish lifestyle.”   –Donald Trump campaign, email response to Hillary Clinton’s speech, June 21, 2016
The Trump campaign sent out a series of email and Twitter responses during Hillary Clinton’s speech attacking his business record, and among them was this claim that came to our attention. As usual, the Trump campaign did not respond to our request for supporting information. During his speech the next day attacking Clinton’s record as secretary of state, Trump repeated the charge that Clinton treated the State Department as her “personal hedge fund” with no evidence to back it up, either.

This talking point traces back to information from Peter Schweizer’s book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” In one chapter, in discussing Bill Clinton’s role with Laureate Education, Inc., Schweizer describes a “Clinton blur” between the activities of Bill Clinton, the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. But critics, including Schweizer, have not been able to prove quid pro quo.

The short answer here is: Laureate Education Inc. did not receive $55.2 million in grants from the State Department while Bill Clinton was being paid by the company. This talking point actually conflates two organizations that are independent of each other, and is worth unraveling for our readers. So we explored it.[...]

Why do some blame rape victims while others blame the rapist?- Why do some people shoot the messenger and protect the transgressor?

The following article offers an interesting explanation of why there are diverse reactions in a wide ranger of situations in labeling who the good guy is and who is the bad guy. Why are some rape victims supported and others are harshly attacked for causing problems for the rapist. Likewise - why do someone people attack the messenger when it is pointed out that some rabbis and even gedolim have committed significant crimes and others view it as a acting according to what halacha and thus G-d wants? The authors argue that it depends largely on whether the prime value is group unity or the focus on the well being of the individual



IF you are mugged on a midnight stroll through the park, some people will feel compassion for you, while others will admonish you for being there in the first place. If you are raped by an acquaintance after getting drunk at a party, some will be moved by your misfortune, while others will ask why you put yourself in such a situation.

What determines whether someone feels sympathy or scorn for the victim of a crime? Is it a function of political affiliation? Of gender? Of the nature of the crime?

In a recent series of studies, we found that the critical factor lies in a particular set of moral values. Our findings, published on Thursday in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, show that the more strongly you privilege loyalty, obedience and purity — as opposed to values such as care and fairness — the more likely you are to blame the victim.

These two sets of values have been the object of much scholarly attention. Psychologists have found that when it comes to morality, some people privilege promoting the care of others and preventing unfair behaviors. These are “individualizing values,” as they can apply to any individual. Other people privilege loyalty, obedience and purity. These are “binding values,” as they promote the cohesion of your particular group or clan.

Binding and individualizing values are not mutually exclusive, and people have varying degrees of both. But psychologists have discovered that the extent to which you favor one relative to the other predicts various things about you. For example, the more strongly you identify with individualizing values, the more likely you are to be politically progressive; the more strongly you identify with binding values, the more likely you are to be politically conservative.

Our animating insight was that these two clusters of values entail different conceptions of victims. Proponents of individualizing values tend to see a dyad of victim and perpetrator (a victim is hurt, a perpetrator does the hurting). Proponents of binding values, however, may see behaviors as immoral even when there is no obvious victim — for example, the “impure” act of premarital sex or the “disloyal” act of flag burning — and may even feel that doing the right thing sometimes requires hurting others (as with honor killings, to pick an extreme example). So we hypothesized that support for binding values would correlate with a greater tendency to blame victims. [...]

Consistent with our previous findings, the more participants endorsed binding values, the more blame they assigned to victims and the less blame they assigned to perpetrators. But we also found that focusing their attention on the perpetrator led to reduced ratings of victim blame, victim responsibility and references to victims’ actions, whereas a focus on victims led to greater victim blaming. This was surprising: You might assume that focusing on victims elicits more sympathy for them, but our results suggest that it may have the opposite effect.

Victim blaming appears to be deep-seated, rooted in core moral values, but also somewhat malleable, susceptible to subtle changes in language. For those looking to increase sympathy for victims, a practical first step may be to change how we talk: Focusing less on victims and more on perpetrators — “Why did he think he had license to rape?” rather than “Imagine what she must be going through” — may be a more effective way of serving justice.

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter and the sins of Gedolim - have their roots in Korach and his associates

Update: SEE posts about Breslov

http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2016/06/senior-breslav-rabbis-protest-sefer.html

http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2016/06/breslov-hashkofa-you-cant-be-saved.html

update: See my previous post
Rambam(Hilchos De'os 6:8): Therefore, a person should be careful not to embarrass a colleague - whether of great or lesser stature - in public, and not to call him a name which embarrasses him or to relate a matter that brings him shame in his presence.
When does the above apply? In regard to matters between one man and another. However, in regard to Heavenly matters if [a transgressor] does not repent [after being admonished] in private, he may be put to shame in public and his sin may be publicized. He may be subjected to abuse, scorn, and curses until he repents, as was the practice of all the prophets of Israel.

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People (especially their families and students) criticize me - how can you say they have sinned? How can you insult gedolim (which a rosh yeshiva claimed is a sin worse than adultery)?  My critics claim that what I say is impossible because they are great tzadikim! They are the gedolei hador. They have been responsible for decades of Torah development and countless talmidim? They are such nice people with exemplary midos.

How can you say that they are responsible for not only the severe distortion and corruption of the Torah and the rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein and severe public degradation of an innocent man - but they have caused a man and woman to commit adultery! Perhaps even worse -that they have caused severe damage to emunas chochomim.

Unfortunately it is true and they have expressed no regret for their actions and have not done teshuva and apologized. Nor have they even said they have made a mistake. And apparently the adulterous relation still exists. [I am willing to publish a cogent defense of the Heter and the failure to denounce it and the failure to tell the adulterous couple to separate.]

To understand this reality one needs to not lose sight of an elementary truism - there is no man that does not sin (Koheles 7:20). However, not all men and not all sins are equal. The sins of an ordinary man are not that of a gadol nor are their consequences. The yetzer harah is very smart. An ordinary man can be readily seduced to sin by basic lusts such as money or women. For a person on a high spiritual level - the yetzer harah needs to be more creative. One of the sources for sinning unique to gedolim is in fact their high spiritual level. Starting with Adam, the most superior man of all times - sinned the first sin - in order to be like G-d. 

Korach's sins were also in the spiritual dimension. He decided with his superior intellect and logic that the Torah of Moshe was wrong and that he knew better.  Being on an elevated level he in fact had ruach hakodesh and with it he saw that Shmuel would be his descendant. That gave him additional support that his spiritual ideas were correct. However he was grossly mistaken and  he sinned in his effort to elevate the spirituality of the Jewish people and save them from what he thought were the distortions and fraud of the Torah that Moshe presented to the people.

We have also the case of Zimri who openly had sexual relations with a Midianite princess - not chas v'shalom because of mere lust - but because he wanted to accomplish the same spiritual tikun that Moshe had done with his wife. In fact when he confronted Moshe with this idea - Moshe could not reject the idea because he had in fact accomplished that which Korach wanted to do.
Rav Tzadok(Takanas HaShavim #6): Dina was incarnated in Kosbi whose father was the source of evil of Midian who wanted to destroy the Jews so that they would be like all the other nations. But Kosbi didn’t listen to her father and wanted to convert if Zimri was interested. This is the meaning of Zimri’s claim, “Who permitted Tzipora to you?” Zimri grabbed Kosbi by her hair in the manner of the Amorites while she was still a non‑Jew because he was the incarnation of Shechem and he sensed that there are souls of non‑Jews that come into to Jews and non‑Jews who have Jewish souls. He thought that by having intercourse with Kosbi he would collect the holy sparks that were in her while she was still a non‑Jew.
Rav Tzadok(Likutei Amarim #16): Zimri went to Moshe with the defense, “And who permitted the daughter of Yisro to you?” That is when Moshe married Tzipora she had not yet converted since she was under the control of her father Yisro to the degree that the Mechilta says that Yisro insisted to Moshe that his first son should be for idolatry – conversion came later…
Rav Tzadok(Takanas HaShavim #15): Zimri meant by his defense to Moshe, “And who permitted the daughter of Yisro to you?” that the children he had with Kosbi would be considered Jews. Thus he was doing a sin for the sake of Heaven which is like a mitzva not for the sake of Heaven (Nazir 23b)…
Finally we need to mention Shabtsai Tzvi and Jesus who also sinned because of their greatness. Here are the words of Rav Tzadok.
Rav Tzadok (Machavos Charutz #1):...Therefore the Torah has to command us "Be Holy" You might mistakenly think that means as holy as G-d...[See Vayikra Rabba 24:9]. When a person has reached perfection in holiness until he is comparable to the angels through his free will - the Yetzer HaRah does not leave him alone ever and seduces him with the thought that he can be as holy as G-d literally (mamash). Because of this a person can fall from the greatest heights to the lowest depths c.v. This is in fact what happened to Jesus and Shabsai Tzvi - the name of the wicked should rot. Because of their excessive asceticism their imaginative faculty grew and they thought that they could compare themselves to G-d. This all came about because they saw themselves as holy people....
The Baal Shem Tov also noted the problem
Shivchei haBesht(#66) Rabbi Joel told me… that Shabbtai Zvi came to the Besht to ask for redemption. Rabbi Joel said in these words: “The tikkun is done through the connection of soul with soul, spirit with spirit and breath with breath” The Besht began to establish the connection moderately. He was afraid as Shabbtai Zvi was a terribly wicked man. Once the Besht was asleep and Shabbtai Zvi may his name be blotted out, came and attempted to tempt him again, G-d forbid. With a mighty thrust the Besht hurled him to the bottom of hell. The Besht peered down and saw that he landed on the same pallet with Yeshu. Rabbi Joel said that the Besht said that Shabbetai Tzevi had a spark of holiness in him but that Satan caught him in his snare, G‑d forbid. The Besht heard that his fall came through pride and anger. I was reluctant to write it down, but nevertheless I did so to show to what exent pride can be dangerous. [in Praise of Baal Shem page 86-87

Cameras are being put in Jerusalem mikvehs to stop abuse: Increasing transparency at what price?

Kikar HaShabbat

בשל החשש מאירועי תקיפות אכזריות של ילדים ונערים בחדרי המקוואות בירושלים, החליטו במשמרת הצניעות להתקין מצלמות אבטחה במספר מקוואות בעיר.
את הצילומים של מצלמות האבטחה יכולים לראות שלושה רבנים בלבד וזאת תחת מעטה כבד של אבטחה.
על פי הדיווח ב'ידיעות ירושלים', מצלמות האבטחה הותקנו בסמוך לבורות הטבילה, המקלחות וחדרי ההלבשה והסאונה.
המקווה הראשון והמפורסם בעיר בו הותקנו מצלמות האבטחה הוא מקווה 'שומרי החומות'. מי שרשאים לצפות בצילומים הם שלושה רבנים שצריכים להתכנס יחד במקרה שהוגשה תלונה על פגיעה בילד. השלושה יצטרכו להיכנס אל המערכת באמצעות 'טביעת אצבע'.


Breslov Hashkofa: You can't be saved unless you accept Rav Nachman!

See specifically:
The beginning




Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Coming Constitutional Crisis Over Hillary Clinton’s EmailGate

Observer   Suddenly things were aligning perfectly for Hillary Clinton in her quest for the presidency. After months of embarrassing inability to vanquish Senator Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old socialist who represents a state with just two-tenths of a percent of the American population, she wrapped up her party’s nomination for the White House. The Democratic convention in Philadelphia next month will be a formality, no matter how loudly Bernie Bros stomp their feet.

To cap that triumph last week, President Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton as their party’s nominee for 2016. While this, too, was a formality, since Mr. Obama was eventually going to endorse her—no matter how much bad blood lingers between them from the 2008 race—it was satisfying to her supporters, if perhaps overdue.

The president’s praising assessment of Clinton, including “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” should go a long way toward unifying their party as she faces her Republican opponent, presumably Donald Trump, this autumn.

Obama’s praise was salve on the wounds Clinton recently suffered at the hands of the State Department over EmailGate. The long-awaited report by the Office of the Inspector General at Foggy Bottom can be fairly termed scathing and, as I assessed in this column, it leaves no doubt that Hillary Clinton systematically dodged a raft of laws and regulations on the keeping of Federal records and the handling of classified information.

Worse, the IG report leaves no doubt that Clinton has lied profligately about EmailGate from the moment the scandal broke over a year ago. Since the State Department, which Clinton headed during President Obama’s first term, cannot plausibly be painted as part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that Team Clinton sees lurking behind every piece of bad press, this report caused real damage to Hillary’s presidential campaign.

True to form, she began punching back herself and through surrogates. Their main talking point—that EmailGate remains a nothing-burger, a figment of the overheated FoxNews imagination more than a bona fide story—continues to be peddled daily. As she confidently said to the cameras last week, there’s “zero chance” she will be indicted over EmailGate, no matter what the FBI finds in its still-active investigation of the matter.

For good measure, Clinton stated for the umpteenth time, “nothing I sent or received at the time was marked classified.” This dodge has been employed for a year as cover by Team Clinton to explain how so much classified information, including at least two dozen emails classified top secret or higher, among them enormously sensitive special access programs from both CIA and NSA, wound up in Clinton’s “unclassified” private email. [...]

To make matters worse for Hillary, it recently emerged that at least one of the emails she handed over to investigators under subpoena in fact did contain classified information that was marked as such. The April 2012 email chain discusses an impending phone call with Malawi’s new president. The important part is an email from Monica Hanley, an aide, to Clinton, including the “call sheet” for the secretary. In layman’s terms, this was a note for Secretary Clinton telling her what she needed to discuss during her scheduled phone conversation with a foreign head of state.[...]

In reality, nobody goes to jail for mishandling classified information at the Confidential level. However, the Hanley email proves that Hillary’s staff was emailing her classified information in unclassified channels, that it was marked classified, and that it was transiting Clinton’s personal email server. It’s difficult to believe that a mere aide like Monica Hanley decided to break the law like this, as she surely knew she was, on her own initiative.[...]

Last week the Associated Press broke a big story about how Clinton’s “unclassified” emails included the true names of CIA personnel serving overseas under cover. This was hardly news, in fact I broke the same story four months ago in this column. However, the AP account adds detail to what Clinton and her staff did, actions that placed the lives of CIA clandestine personnel at risk. It also may be a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, a 1982 law that featured prominently in the mid-aughts scandal surrounding CIA officer Valerie Plame, which so captivated the mainstream media. More recently, former CIA officer John Kiriakou spent two years in Federal prison for violating this law.

To make matters worse for Team Clinton, last week it emerged that several of the classified emails under investigation involved discussions of impending CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Clinton aides were careful to avoid hot-button words like “CIA” and “drone” in these “unclassified” emails, engaging in a practice that spies term “talking around” an issue.[....]

How the FBI can look at all this and not recommend prosecution of someone for something in EmailGate strains the imagination. Yet President Obama has clearly signaled that it’s all no big deal. Director James Comey has a tough job before him when he takes the FBI’s official recommendations regarding EmailGate to Attorney General Lynch for action, probably sometime this summer. Since Comey is now under a cloud over the FBI’s embarrassing mishandling of Omar Mateen, the Orlando jihadist mass murderer, perhaps his resignation over that matter would be welcome in the White House, which then could find a new director more willing to bend to Obama’s wishes.

Make no mistake, there are more than a few senior intelligence officials in Washington, DC, who are livid about Hillary Clinton’s willful disregard of clearly defined laws on the handling of classified information. Her misconduct endangered sensitive intelligence programs—and lives. Even if Comey is a sacrificial lamb here, there are high-ranking spies who are perfectly willing to leak the sordid details of EmailGate to the media if the president pulls a Dick Nixon and tries to subvert our Constitution to protect himself and his designated successor.[...]






Trump: The braggart with the ducktail who would be president

Chicago Tribune   by Garrison Keillor

It is the most famous ducktail in America today, the hairdo of wayward youth of a bygone era, and it's astonishing to imagine it under the spotlight in Cleveland, being cheered by Republican dignitaries. The class hood, the bully and braggart, the guy revving his pink Chevy to make the pipes rumble, presiding over the student council. This is the C-minus guy who sat behind you in history and poked you with his pencil and smirked when you asked him to stop. That smirk is now on every front page in America. It is not what anybody — left, right or center — looks for in a president. There's no philosophy here, just an attitude.

He is a little old for a ducktail. By the age of 70, most ducks have moved on, but not Donald Trump. He is apparently still fond of the sidewalls and the duck's ass in back and he is proud as can be of his great feat, the first punk candidate to get this close to the White House. He says the country is run by a bunch of clowns and that he is going to make things great again and beat up on the outsiders who are coming into our neighborhood. His followers don't necessarily believe that — what they love about him is what kids loved about Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, the fact that he horrifies the powers that be and when you are pro-duck you are giving the finger to Congress, the press, clergy, lawyers, teachers, cake-eaters, big muckety-mucks, VIPs, all those people who think they're better than you — you have the power to scare the pants off them, and that's what this candidate does better than anybody else.

After the worst mass shooting in modern American history on Sunday, 50 persons dead in Orlando, the bodies still being carted from the building, the faces of horror-stricken cops and EMTs on TV, the gentleman issued a statement on Twitter thanking his followers for their congratulations, that the tragedy showed that he had been "right" in calling for America to get "tough."

Anyone else would have expressed sorrow. The gentleman expressed what was in his heart, which was personal pride.

We had a dozen or so ducktails in my high school class and they were all about looks. The hooded eyes, the sculpted swoop of the hair, the curled lip. They emulated Elvis but only the look, not the talent. Their sole ambition was to make an impression, to slouch gracefully and exhale in an artful manner. In the natural course of things, they struggled after graduation. Some tried law enforcement for the prestige of it, others became barflies. If they were drafted, the Army got them shaped up in a month or two. Eventually, they all calmed down, got hitched up to a mortgage, worried about their blood pressure, lost the chippiness, let their hair down. But if his dad was rich and if he was born before you were, then the ducktail could inherit enough wealth to be practically impervious to public opinion. This has happened in New York City. A man who could never be elected city comptroller is running for president. [...]

Joeseph Hirt confesses he is an imposter and lied for years claiming to have been in Auschwitz

CBS News    A 91-year-old Pennsylvania man who has for years lectured to school groups and others about what he said were his experiences at Auschwitz now says he was never a prisoner at the German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Joseph Hirt, of Adamstown, made the admission in a letter to LNP newspaper Wednesday. He said he used poor judgment and faulty reasoning in trying to tell the story of those affected by the Nazis.

"I am writing today to apologize publicly for harm caused to anyone because of my inserting myself into the descriptions of life in Auschwitz," Hirt wrote. "I was not a prisoner there. I did not intend to lessen or overshadow the events which truly happened there by falsely claiming to have been personally involved."

Hirt's admission came weeks after his story of escaping from Auschwitz was questioned by Andrew Reid, a history teacher in Turin, New York. Reid and several students attended an April presentation by Hirt and the educator concluded that many of the speaker's claims didn't add up.[...]

In his letter, Hirt recounted a visit he made to Auschwitz several years after World War II and said he was determined "at that moment to prevent the loss of the truth" about life and death at the concentration camp.

He said he was wrong to lie to discuss the "the important truth of the suffering and death of so many" at the hands of the Nazis. Hirt said he was wrong and asked for forgiveness.

Meir Pogrow: Why wasn't he stopped by people who clearly knew he was a danger years ago?

A common complaint in some quarters as well as from some the comments on this blog is why the rabbis did nothing until now about Meir Pogrow. In particular why they didn't stop his teaching career. I have responded, Why only the rabbis ones are being criticized are rabbis - and not the bloggers and pscyhologists and others who knew about it but did not publicize the matter?

 The simple answer is there was not any solid evidence against him and that apparently none of his victims was willing to file a complaint against him. Furthermore he apparently was careful to only seduce adult women and this was not a crime until after the Motti Elon accusations a number of years ago when it was made a crime in Israel for a teacher to have sexual relations with a student. It is only a crime in some states for a teacher or rabbis or other senior figure to have sex with a subordinate. It is also clear that in fact his teaching career was severely curtailed and that eventually no one wanted to hire him.

Question remains as to what mechanism is available for publicizing such predators. You might recall that I was recently threatened with criminal charges  by a pedophile for merely reporting the public information that he had been convicted, served a jail term and is currently listed on the sex offenders registry in America. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz was in fact sued by the same pedophile for the same reason.

===================================================
Unorthodox Jew    Paul Mendlowitz  June 23, 2016

I was informed Meir Pogrow, allegedly, was a sexual predator many years ago, and asked to post about him...The issue was, at the time, I could not get written and signed testimony from at least 2 women/girls that were willing to put their names on the allegations. I did all I could do in private communications with various people to stop Pogrow from remaining a teacher. I believed them, people do not make these things up. I am happy that they found the strength to come forward with their stories. I wish them all the very best in their healing process and the best life has to offer.

=================================
Times of Israel by Dr. Michael Salamon June 24, 2016


Pogrow, often referred to as a brilliant and charismatic Torah, scholar taught at Yeshiva University High Schools in Los Angeles, Michlahlah seminary in Jerusalem, and at the Kollel of Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem and Austin, Texas. He first appeared on my radar about eight years ago when Riva (not her real name) a woman in her early twenties came to therapy following some time at the seminary in Israel. She was anxious, depressed, and afraid that she could never get married or ever trust men. She described a relationship with a rabbi at the seminary who was challenging but also extremely demanding. She complained, “He got into my head somehow and it messed me up.” As we worked through Riva’s anguish and concerns, she described how a man of prominence used his position and his intellect to groom her, manipulate her, and ultimately have her do his bidding. With time, she told me his name.

I checked back with other young women I had worked with who attended the same schools. None had been willing to provide his name in the past, but when I asked if it was he, they all said yes. I asked Riva to report him. She felt that she could not because on the one occasion that she had tried, the administrator she went to did not believe her. In fact, Riva said that she felt “belittled” by the person to whom she tried to report him.

With Riva’s permission, I called someone I had contact with to report Pogrow. I was told, “He is a problem, but because the women are adults there is nothing that can be done.” I tried another person. “He is a bad guy,” I was told with little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

This situation is unfortunately no different from far too many others. Abusers are often smart, manipulative professional liars who choose victims carefully and deliberately and abuse victims repeatedly. Overwhelmingly, when someone finally gets the courage to overcome the resistance to make a complaint, it must be treated as a fact. Unfortunately, reports of abuse are still minimized. If someone reports having being abused, it is a fact that they are telling the truth.People in position of power do not want to deal with bad news particularly if it may harm their institution.

This hesitancy allowed Pogrow and others like him to get away with their evil. Even in cases where a director or board acts against an abuser and dismisses him, there is no attempt to alert other organizations and protect other potential victims. Ultimately, this gives the perpetrator license to keep at his evil.

The Beit Din ruling addresses some of these errors, albeit late. The call for restricting contact with this abuser should apply to all abusers and we should not have to wait 20 years for an abusers name to be broadcast.

Frum Follies Yerachmiel Lopin  June 20, 2016

Pogrow’s misconduct was known for many years by many parties. In 2001 he was forced out of employment by the Michlala Seminary in Jerusalem because of sexual exploitation of students. His wife was kept on and she kept bringing home students and she was kept on for quite a few years. But nobody else was publicly warned.

After six years of working for Aish Hatorah including one running their kollel in Austin, Texas, he was forced out around 2006 for sexual misconduct with women.

He formed Master Torah in 2007 because nobody would hire him. Over the years he had fewer and fewer speaking engagements in mainstream orthodox settings because word kept spreading about him and he was largely confined, if hired, to work with males. The last significant engagement I can find was 2011 with Chabad. Yet the broader public was not warned.




Yerachmiel, sounds like you are well acquainted with the whole history. So I am left wondering why we had to wait for Tamara Schoor? Why didn’t you come out with something before she had to stick her neck out publicly?
Keep up your great work




Considerations that I am not free to disclose. I did in fact investigate extensively hoping for this moment. You will notice that my recent post on Pogrow had a lot, and there is a lot more coming out, most of it gained through research I did two years ago.



I guess those considerations must be very serious. It must be a difficult balance to strike, between keeping confidences on the one hand, and on the other hand knowing that more innocents could fall victim at any time. Maybe you could write about that balance…
Rbsze

06/23/2016 AT 8:47 PM
We lived in the Pogrow’s neighborhood. 17 years ago, Pogrow was arrested for inappropriate sexual misconduct with a 10 year old boy who took a ride with him as did other kids to school each day in the Old City. He was released on bale and four years later the case was closed. Two of the minors who witnessed the abuse on several occasions and even a rabbi who travelled in the,car daily who admitted that Pogrow’s verbal banter in the car was inappropriate and that he himself would not have wanted his child to be in the car with Pogrow, refused to give evidence. They were friends of Pogrow and even though they knew his crime, they preferred to protect the pervert rather than protect future victims. Imagine how many destroyed lives could have been saved if people who knew of his sick perverse side had done the responsible thing and acted upon צדק צדק תרדוף.

Dr. Natan Slifkin   June 23, 2016

I first heard reports about Meir's inappropriate behavior over a decade ago. That itself, however, obviously raises a question. While these cases are complicated, and there are all kinds of factors to consider, there remains to be more light shed on why it took so long for the condemnation to appear, and how last week he could be perfectly acceptable as a maggid shiur but this week he is a rasha with whom one must not associate. (I am not saying that there aren't any good answers to this question - there may well be. But I think that, if there are good answers, they should be made known, rather than leaving it up to people to speculate.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Senior Breslav rabbis protest sefer defending the alleged sexual misconduct of Eliezar Berland. It claims that tzadikim can violate the Torah


Kikar HaShabbat


על רקע חשיפת "כיכר השבת" כי משפיעים ורבנים בחסידות ברסלב החלו להתבטא באופן חריף נגד הספרים "אמונת חכמים כהלכתה"  ו"הכתב מבין האילנות" שכתבו חתנו ותלמידיו של הרב אליעזר ברלנד, היום (שישי) יוצאים גדולי הרבנים בברסלב נגד הספר ומכנים אותם "דברי כפירה ומינות". הספרים עוררו סערה לאחר שכללו תוכן שניתן היה לראות בו הצדקה למעשים המיוחסים לרב ברלנד.

במכתב שהגיע לידי "כיכר השבת" עליו חתומים הרב יעקב מאיר שכטר, הרב שמואל משה קרמר, הרב נתן ליברמנטש, הרב שמעון שפירא והרב אליעזר מרדכי קניג, מחשובי רבני ברסלב, נכתב: "נזדעזנו לראות כבלע את הקודש בדברי הבל ורעות רוח שנכתבו בספר "אמונת חכמים כהלכתה" ובספר "הכתב שבין האילנות", שכביכול יש היתר לצדיקים לעבור על דברי תורה ואפילו על איסורים שהם ב"יהרג ואל יעבור"רח"ל מהאי דעתא שבשתא".

Will smart phones and tablets make your kids dumb and hyperactive?


Jessica’s tiny fingers dart around the iPad, swiping through photos to get to a particularly entertaining video: a 12-second clip of her dancing clumsily to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies. The 18-month-old taps “play” and emits a squeal of delight.

After watching the video twice, she navigates back to the home screen and opens up the YouTube app to watch an episode of the colourful animation Billy Bam Bam. Halfway through, she moves onto a Yo Gabba Gabba! game, which involves anthropomorphized fruits making their way into a character’s belly.

When Jessica’s mom, Sandy, tries to take away the iPad, there’s a tantrum that threatens to go nuclear: wobbly lip, tears, hands balled into fists and a high-pitched wail. “She does this a lot,” says Sandy. “She seems to prefer the iPad to everything else. Sometimes it’s the only thing that will keep her quiet,” she adds, frantically waving a pink fluffy unicorn in an attempt to appease her daughter.
Like many parents, she’s worried about her child’s obsession with screens. She wants to know which activities are best, and how much time spent on screens is too much. [...]

The concern among some experts is that these devices, if used in particular ways, could be changing children’s brains for the worse—potentially affecting their attention, motor control, language skills and eyesight, especially in under-fives, for whom so much brain development is taking place.[...]

Few technologies, however, have invaded our lives—and those of our children—as stealthily as the mobile computer, most commonly the smartphone or tablet. These devices are the right size for little hands to handle them, and the touchscreens easy for tiny fingers to manipulate. Plus there’s so much you can do on these devices: watch videos, play games, draw pictures and talk to relatives thousands of miles away.[...]

There’s little clarity around the consequences of long-term use of such devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has erred on the side of caution, recommending absolutely no screen time for children under the age of two, and a two-hour daily limit for those older. These restrictions simply don’t tally with how many people are integrating these devices into their children’s lives, nor do they reflect the fact that some interactions with screens might actually be beneficial.

“If your child is under two and is exposed to a screen it’s not going to be toxic to their brain: they won’t be turned into idiots,” says Michael Rich, associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an AAP member. “But there are potential downsides…and parents need to make a series of risk–benefit analyses.” The AAP is now in the process of revising its guidelines, and they are due to be published in late 2016. [...]

Having a video or TV on when a child is doing something else can distract them from play and learning, negatively affecting their development. Hours of background TV has also been found to reduce child–parent interaction, which has an adverse impact on language development. This displacement is a big concern: If kids are left with screen-based babysitters then they are not interacting with caregivers and the physical world. There are only so many hours in a day, and the time spent with screens comes at the expense of other, potentially better, activities.[....]

Many apps are designed to be stimulus-driven, with exciting audiovisual rewards for completing tasks. Christakis refers to this as the “I did it!” response, which triggers the reward pathway in the brain. “The delight a child gets from touching a screen and making something happen is both edifying and potentially addictive,” he says.

Because of this, tablets and smartphones make for excellent pacifiers, particularly on long plane journeys and in restaurants. “The device itself is seen as a pleasurable source of comfort and parents play into that,” says Christakis.

“It’s pretty common,” says Jenny Radesky, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan. “It becomes the go-to, easiest tool the parent is using.” Although helpful in the short term, it’s important for young children to be able to develop internal mechanisms of self-regulation, whether that’s learning without constant rewards or being able to sit patiently without constant digital stimulation.

Christakis says that, anecdotally, he and others are starting to see younger and younger patients using these devices compulsively. “We know there’s such a thing as problematic Internet use in older children and adolescents, and it stands to reason that the same would happen with infants,” he says. And he’s doing research to find out more about this.[...]

In California, Maria Liu heads up the Myopia Control Clinic at UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry. She’s seen a sharp increase in young children with myopia (shortsightedness). “It’s increasing at an alarming rate worldwide and a well-accepted contributing factor is the early introduction of handheld devices to kids.” [...]

The other problematic aspect of screens is that they have been shown to disrupt sleep. The blue light emitted by the super-sharp displays can interfere with our natural bodily rhythms, preventing melatonin, an important sleep hormone, from being released. This in turn can lead to sleep impairments in adults and children alike. Sandy says that if Jessica uses the tablet before bed she gets “noticeably riled up”. So, she says, they try to use books instead. This issue is why the latest version of Apple’s software for iPads and iPhones comes with “Night Shift”, which automatically swaps the blueish light for a warmer hue before bedtime. [...]

Even if apps are found to have educational value, toddlers still learn better from experiences in the real world than they do from equivalent two-dimensional representations on screen. Studies in the U.S. have shown that when dealing with visual–spatial problems, such as finding hidden objects or solving puzzles, toddlers (under around 30 months) perform much better when the problem is presented in real life rather than onscreen.[...]

Instead of banning devices, we should be demanding better apps built on solid research. For children aged between three and five, it’s entirely possible that a well-designed app can help improve vocabulary and basic math skills. “My youngest is speech-delayed, and the videos he watches have definitely helped him learn new words,” says Lisa, a mother of four- and six-year-old sons who have been using mobile technology since they were 18 months old.[...]

All of the pediatricians, child development and education specialists I spoke to agreed that, for children under 30 months, there is no substitute for human interaction. So why not develop apps that act as mediators between infant and caregiver? BedTime Math is one example. The app delivers engaging math story problems for parents and their children. It is one of the few tools that have been shown to make kids smarter; children who used the app even just once a week for a year improved their math by more than a control group did. The impact was particularly strong for children whose parents were anxious about math.


With so much focus on what children are doing, it’s easy for parents to forget about their own screen use. “Tech is designed to really suck you in,” says Radesky, “and digital products are there to promote maximal engagement. It makes it hard to disengage, and leads to a lot of bleed-over into the family routine.”[...]

“The extent to which parents are tied up with these devices in ways that disrupt the interactions with the child has potential for a far bigger impact,” says Heather Kirkorian, who heads up the Cognitive Development & Media Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “If I’m on the floor with a child but checking my phone every five minutes, what message does that send?” How much parents play with and talk to their kids is a very powerful predictor of how the kids will develop, she adds.

Radesky has studied the use of mobile phones and tablets at mealtimes by giving mother–child pairs a food-testing exercise. She found that mothers who used devices during the exercise started 20 percent fewer verbal and 39 percent fewer nonverbal interactions with their children. During a separate observation of 55 caregivers eating with one child or more, she saw that phones became a source of tension in the family. Parents would be looking at their emails while the children would be making excited bids for their attention.

“You would see parents losing it and raising their voices because it’s extremely irritating to be focusing on something and have a child escalate their requests for attention,” she explains, adding that some parents would do things like shove their child’s hand away. Restricting the use of devices at critical family moments such as mealtimes and before bed can help reduce these frictions and encourage more face-to-face conversations.

Infants are wired to look at parents’ faces to try to understand their world, and if those faces are blank and unresponsive—as they often are when absorbed in a device—it can be extremely disconcerting for the children. Radesky cites the “still face experiment”, which was devised by developmental psychologist Ed Tronick in the 1970s. In it, a mother is asked to interact with her child in a normal way before putting on a blank expression and not giving them any visual social feedback. As the video shows, the child becomes increasingly distressed as she tries to capture her mother’s attention.[...]

“As a mum, I put my 18-month-old in front of an HBO baby poetry video,” says Radesky. “It’s cute and calm and I can wash the dishes or do something that’s a reset for me. That’s a benefit, but it’s something parents need to be very honest about. The video is not educating my 18-month-old. It’s a break for me as a parent.”