Tuesday, June 9, 2009

R' Broyde - Informing & other articles

Pikauch nefesh - reading tshuvos accurately

I just came across a discusion of a teshuva in the Igros Moshe by Rav Zilberstein - and he seems to cite it inaccurately First I'll quote his discussion of the issue - and then the relevant excerpt from the Igros Moshe. This is a caution that even such a great talmid chachom occacionly makes errors. It doesn't necessary invalidate the halachic conclusion but it does show that his conclusion can not be learned from the statement of Rav Moshe that he cites. He says that it deals with a married couple that would need to divorce. Rav Moshe in fact is dealing with two people who want to marry and he says that it is significant whether they are married or only contemplating marriage. Secondly the issue involves whether there is a heter for birth control - when there are lenient and stringent view among the rabbis for this situation. Because of danger to the woman Rav Moshe allows the use of the lenient in their case. Thus it would seem that even if it were a condition of pikuach nefesh - if there weren't lenient views - Rav Moshe would not permit birth control. But in his conclusion he prohibits the use of birth control because with total bed rest pregnancy is not dangerous for her condition. The fact that total bedrest for nine months is a very stressful thing does not enter into the evaluation. Thus Rav Zilberstein's statement that pikuach nefesh overrules the entire Torah - is not the view expressed in the Igros Moshe where he doesn't even use the word pikuach nefesh and he gives leniencies only on a very circumscribed basis.

Rav Zilberstein( Assia Nissan 5747): In the Igros Moshe (1:67) concerning a young couple who are so much in love that if their marriage would be ended the woman would be in danger because of her severe upset which is equivalent to a condition of pikuach nefesh. It is also know that a woman who doesn’t have children for 10 years that according to the law of the Torah it is permitted for the husband to divorce her so that he can marry another woman and fulfill the obligation to have children. Nevetheless if there is a real concern that because of being divorced the woman will go into severe depression and danger – then this is pikuach nefesh which overrules the entire Torah.

Igros Moshe(E.H. 1:67):This concerns a 40 year old man who has never had children and he wants to marry a young woman whom he finds attractive and she is Torah observant. This is something which is difficult for him to find. However unfortunately she has kidney disease and therefore according to the doctors it would be dangerous for her to become pregnant at the present time. However at a later time when her condition has improved it would not be dangerous to become pregnant. The question is whether they can get married and have permission to use birth control methods to prevent pregnancy?… However nevertheless if you see that they are so much in love until it would possibly be a danger to one of them if they didn’t get married. In particular the concern is for the sick and weak young lady - who besides that she would not be able to marry him but also there is concern because of her condition that she would be prohibited to marry everyone and thus be in an very unfortunate situation – there is a basis to permit them to marry with birth control. But this is only on the condition that they are modest and reliable with many warnings not to publicize that they received permission [to follow the lenient opinions]. But on the other hand I have heard that if there is total bedrest during the entire pregnancy – there is no danger to a woman who is sick with kidney disease. Therefore in fact there is no permission to use birth control. Rather they should be advised that if she becomes pregnant that she should have total bedrest.

Obama's reversal on gay soldiers

Time magazine

[...] The endorsement of "Don't ask, don't tell" by the Administration marks the latest rightward tack by Obama. The President denounced many of George W. Bush's national-security policies during the campaign, but in office has adopted more conservative positions, including endorsing military commissions to try purported terrorists, and declining to release a second batch of photographs depicting alleged U.S. maltreatment of Iraqi detainees. His stance on "Don't ask, don't tell" may be more surprising, because Obama aides have made clear the President wants the ban lifted eventually.[...]

Pikuach nefesh from being labeled as abused

The following story illustrates the complexity of abuse. If you want to used the heter of rodef to call the police because the abuser is endangering the victims life - you also need to understand that it is an issue of pikuach nefesh in being labeled as a victim of abuse and having your family labeled as containing an abuse victim. That stigma is also pikuach nefesh.

Brisker Rav (Rav Zilberstein Assia Nissan 5747): There was a case of a sick person who requested that the doctor allow him to fast on Yom Kippur. This was because his condition had significantly improved and his life was no longer in danger. The Brisker Rav told the doctor that pikuach nefesh doesn’t mean that right now there is a danger that might cause death. Rather even if fasting influences him so that when he has a recurrence of the illness - that he will die before his time – that is also considered pikuach nefesh. Therefore the sick person is obligated to eat rather than fast on Yom Kippur. The doctor replied that the aggravation that is caused to the sick person by his awareness that he is categorized as being in a fragile condition is liable to endanger his life. The Brisker Rav accepted the doctor’s words and replied, “If so we have to think very carefully how to act.”

Eternal Jewish Family - denies proselytizing


Monday, June 8, 2009

Abuse - "teshuva" & cover-ups

Guest post:

I will share with you how I think about cover-ups. Every single society has had sexual abuse of children since the dawn of Civilization, and covering up sexual abuse has been the norm and not the exception for most of history. When rabbonim distort halakhic categories (teshuva, Chillul HaShem), I take this to be evidence that they are having a hard time coping, themselves, with the horrors that there are adults in our midst who have a ta'avah to do these things to children. Sexual abuse provokes this more than physical abuse by the way, probably because of the great shame that sexual deviancy stirs up in all of us.

So, it is significant to identify when Batei Dinim or posekim deviate from their usually correct stance in halakhic matters--they become more "lenient" in accepting someone's statement as a sign of "teshuva" and more strict in protecting against loshon hora or chillul HaShem than the would, for example, in a case involving theft, damage to property, or fraud.

Maybe just identifying cases where proper halahkic procedures are not followed - and trying to adopt a sympathetic understanding of why accomplished and knowledgeable poskim might find these situations to be very difficult - would be an approach you could take on this in your book.

I know that the concept of teshuva implies the person won't do this again, but I am pointing out that it is implausible to assert that the perpetrator has done teshuva when there has been

1. no apology to the victim
2. no payment for damages or attempt to pay for damages.
3. a "confession" which was not in the presence of the victim or victim's family but rather in front of the rabbonim, which allows the perpetrator to minimize or change the facts

In nezikin, a person cannot stam do teshuva with mere words. I know of a case where the rabbonim protected someone because he did teshuva. However, that perpetrator never even admitted wrongdoing in several of the cases--he continued to deny it! You will not be surprised to hear that he continued to molest sodomize boys despite the Rosh Kollel claiming he would keep an eye on him.

So, yes, we can all be appalled at this bad judgment. However, on technical halakhic grounds I am challenging the notion that such a person can be said to have done "teshuva" when there is no confession, no restitution, no attempt at restitution--not even a din Torah where the victim is heard! I should think that these are power halaklhic arguments against the "teshuva" concept.

Since the rabbonim who are claiming that "teshuva" is a reason for them not to worry about further episodes are in general much more knowledgeable about the halakha than I do, I assume that they know very well that there is no halakhic basis to claim that "teshuva" has been done, that it is fact just a ploy to help with a cover-up.

Abuse - calling police

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Hillary Clinton's double talk


When Hillary Clinton was New York's junior US senator from 2001 to 2009, she was a vocal supporter of Israel. She was especially strong on Jerusalem, stating in a September 2007 position paper that she believed "Israel's right to exist in safety as a Jewish state, with defensible borders and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital, must never be questioned." Her spokesman even said "this paper is a reflection of her consistent policy... that hasn't changed." In June 2004, Clinton voted for the Senate resolution endorsing president George W. Bush's letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon that envisaged Israel retaining "major Israeli population centers" in Judea and Samaria and "defensible borders" in any final peace agreement.

Clinton also repeatedly warned of the monumental dangers of Palestinian incitement to hatred and murder of Jews in their schools, media and mosques as having "dire consequences for peace for generations to come." Clinton even said, "It is clear that the Palestinian Authority, as we see on PA TV, is complicit" in terrorist attacks and that we should condition US aid to the PA on a "cessation of Palestinian propaganda and hateful rhetoric." It has taken only a matter of months to confirm that Secretary of State Clinton bears little resemblance to Senator Clinton on Israel issues.

NOW, SHE enthusiastically supports an unconditional increase in US aid to the PA and Gaza, of $900 million annually, a significant increase. She also demands a total freeze on all Jewish building in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Interviewed on Al-Jazeera TV on May 19, Clinton said, "We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity. We made that very clear. I reinforced that last night at a dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu." She reiterated this even more strongly on May 27 in Egypt: "not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions... And we intend to press that point."

She also states publicly that the Obama administration will condition at least some of its efforts to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear power on Israel's willingness to bow to pressure to make concessions to the same PA she once described as "complicit" in terrorism and incitement. Speaking in April before the House Appropriations Committee, Clinton said that "for Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran it can't stay on the sideline with respect to the Palestinian and the peace efforts, that they go hand-in-hand.

Also, already in March, Clinton demanded Israel allow illegally built Palestinian Arab homes in eastern Jerusalem and prohibit legal building of Israeli/Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem. Such Jewish construction, she said, was "unhelpful." Suddenly, parts of an "undivided Jerusalem" are places where Jews may not move or build, even though Jews were a majority in eastern Jerusalem from the mid-1800s until 1948, when Jordan forced Jewish residents to flee, and are now a majority once again.[...]

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dr. N. Klafter - Impact of Sexual Abuse

Posted with permission
Klafter AB, Impact of Sexual Abuse (Jewish Version)-1

EJF - proselytizing intermarried couples /RaP

For quite a long time now, the Agudist politically correct American YATED NEEMAN has avoided any mention of EJF and Tropper and has not published any infomercials obviously designed by paid EJF publicists.

"Eternal Jewish Family Addresses Conversion Crisis" "The Jewish Press Friday, June 5, 2009 Page 61

RaP: Only EJF is addressing this crisis? Every last Orthodox rabbi in Israel, Europe and America is grappling with it! The articles reads as a paternalistic and infantilizing event for those who were paid to show up. Who they were and the numbers are not given in the article.

[Continued at this link]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Conversion of intermarried couples/ R' Eliashiv's view?

JPost Jonathan Rosenblum

[...] But conversion is a commitment to mitzvah observance. That little detail rendered the Ne'eman Commission proposals inherently incoherent. How could those trained by teachers who themselves might have no commitment to mitzvah observance be expected to make such a commitment themselves?

THE UNHAPPY TRUTH IS that there is no solution for the current situation, within the ambit of halacha. And that has nothing to do with the recalcitrance of the rabbinic establishment to accept converts. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, widely viewed as the preeminent living posek (halachic decisor), has ruled that the traditional rule that we push away would-be converts does not apply in the case of intermarried couples or children of Jewish fathers. Following Rabbi Elyashiv's directives, Eternal Jewish Family is currently spending millions of dollars in Israel working with intermarried couples.

But not pushing away certain converts does not mean that the ultimate standard for conversion - a full acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot - can be waived. That standard is not a haredi invention, as some have alleged. Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik, leading decisor of the World Mizrachi movement, described it as axiomatic in his famous article Kol Dodi Dofek. Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky, one of the most respected dayanim in the national religious world, declared at a Mossad HaRav Kook symposium last year that there is unanimous agreement on the requirement of a full acceptance of mitzvot. Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, former head of the Conversion Authority, recently reiterated that requirement.

Acceptance of mitzvot is not just a pro forma declaration by the would-be convert. The beit din has a duty to ascertain that he or she is sincere in that acceptance. Perhaps 350 years ago, when mitzva observance was the norm, it could be assumed that the prospective convert understood that joining the Jewish people entailed mitzva observance. And given the circumstances of the Jewish people then, it could also be assumed that the convert was not motivated by ulterior motives. But in modern times, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog pointed out, neither assumption obtains, and a beit din must assure itself of the sincerity of the convert.

And therein lies the rub. The overwhelming majority of non-Jewish immigrants from the FSU do not wish to commit to mitzva observance. And the longer they remain in Israel and integrate into Israeli society without becoming Jewish, the less inclined they are to do so. That - not bottlenecks in the process or overly stringent demands by the rabbis - is the reason that there were less than 1,000 conversions, outside the IDF, last year.[...]

Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama's dream vs. reality

JPost Gerald M. Steinberg

President Barack Obama's Cairo speech was first and foremost an affirmation of the American dream, both in terms of his own story, and also of the broader national ethos.

History, he told his Arab and Muslim audience, was an obstacle to be overcome, and no differences were too great to prevent understanding and cooperation to achieve common objectives. Obama preached the virtues of freedom, religious tolerance, including for persecuted Copts in Egypt, and equal educational opportunities for women - all major problems in Arab societies.

This optimism was also an integral part of his framework for ending the long and violent Arab-Israeli conflict, based on the "land for peace" formula. Here, Obama is on shaky ground. After the lofty words that accompanied the Oslo process ended in mass terror, Israelis are less willing to assume that the gap between rhetoric and reality can be overcome in a few years.

The American president may believe that he has articulated the principles of mutual acceptance that "everyone knows to be true," but this is a stretch. His "everyone" ignores the army of propagandists who promote the anti-Israel narrative, label every act of self-defense a "war crime" and a "human rights violation," and reject the right of Jewish self-determination.

The call for Hamas - the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood - to act responsibly to "put an end to violence" and "recognize Israel's right to exist" is extremely far fetched, even for Obama. Hamas belongs in the first part of the speech, which focused on confronting "violent extremism in all of its forms," including al-Qaida and the Taliban.

In promoting his peace plan, including the demand for a freeze in Israeli settlements, Obama has imagined a false and highly dangerous symmetry. Israelis are far more vulnerable to American pressure than the Palestinian leaders (Hamas and Fatah) or the dictatorships that control Egypt or Syria. No Israeli leader can afford to ignore or reject American coercion, particularly as Iran continues efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. But if Netanyahu accepts Obama's demands, and there is little or no change in the hatred, violence and rejectionism on the Arab side, the "land for peace" exchange will fail, and Israel will have neither.[...]

Rav Eliashiv - Abused child vs. suicidal parent

Rav Yitzchok Silberstein (Zohar #11 2003 pps 221-222): Removing an abused girl from her mother’s custody. Question: A nine-year-old girl is being severely beaten and her mother is suspected. Her mother is a widow who has psychological problems who sometimes gives her daughter sleeping pills because she works until midnight cleaning houses. There are also days where she doesn’t give her hot meals…. The question is whether to take the daughter from her mother’s custody and to put her in a foster home to improve the daughters life in that she will eat properly and have a warm and secure family and she will learn what normal behavior is – or perhaps not since the mother has threatened suicide if her daughter is taken away… It is important to note that the mother is opposed to all alternatives such as a boarding school or receiving help of any type and she threatens suicide. Answer: This is a very difficult question and I asked one of the gedolim who replied, That it was very difficult to avoid the tears of the mother and her threat to commit suicide. He said that it was beyond our ability to properly evaluate and weigh these issues. Thus we can do nothing.”

Let me clarify this psak. On the one hand, the daughter is not actually in mortal danger that we need to be worried that perhaps she will die from lack of food or from the beatings or difficult work. It also seems that the mother is not forcing her to swallow life-threatening pills. On the other hand, the mother has threatened to commit suicide if her daughter is taken from her. While it is true that people sometimes make threats that they don’t carry out (Shavuos 46), but the Chofetz Chaim (Be’er Mayim Chaim Rechilus 9:12) has ruled that concerning life and death issues we need to be concerned about threats. This is seen from the incident with Gedaliya who was told someone threatened to kill him. When it comes to life and death, we need to take seriously even an unlikely danger. Furthermore in our case the doctors have agreed that it is possible that the mother will commit suicide…. In this case where we want to remove her daughter from her custody when the daughter’s life is not actually being threatened – who says that the daughter’s life is more important than the mother’s? Perhaps the life of the mother is more in endangered than that of the daughter? This my explanation of the gadol’s ruling of not removing the daughter from the mother’s custody.

I presented the facts before Rav Eliashiv and he said the following. “Do not take the child from the custody of the mother who threatens to commit suicide – based entirely on circumstantial evidence of beatings that seem to done by the mother. As long as there are not actual witnesses that testify before us that they saw the mother cruelly beating her – it is impossible to remove the daughter from her custody. That is because it is a case of pikuach nefesh also for the mother – in particular since the daughter has not requested to be removed from her mother’s custody. Similarly it is impossible to remove money from another person based on circumstantial evidence as is explained in Bava Basra (93a)… It would be different if the circumstantial evidence is absolutely clear that the mother is beating her such as if we find that the daughter has bite marks on her back which obviously can not be self-inflicted. The fact that the mother gives her daughter sleeping pills is also not a reason to take the daughter from her custody – since it is not clear that it is dangerous. Therefore we must do everything possible through the neighbors and friends who can speak persuasively with the mother or threaten her. But it is difficult to remove the daughter from the mother.

However if witnesses comes and testify before us that the mother is viciously beating her daughter then we are obligated to remove her from her mother’s custody. This is so even though there is a small possibility that she might commit suicide. That is because it is not the daughter’s fault so why should she have her life endangered because of the concern that her mother might commit suicide. Therefore when there are witnesses the daughter should be removed from her mother’s custody.”

Summary: 1) If it is clear that the mother is viciously beating her daughter, the daughter should be removed from her custody and we are not concerned with the mother’s threat to commit suicide. 2) If no one has actually witnessed the mother beating her daughter but we deduce it from circumstantial evidence – there is no basis of removing the daughter from the mother. That is because the mother’s life is also possibly endangered. Thus we are forced to do nothing (shev v’al taaseh). All we can do is make efforts through talking and deeds to try to stop the mother from beating her daughter. Heaven should be merciful.

Conservative rabbi crusades for Anusim


Of all the rabbis ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary on May 21, few have journeys to the rabbinate quite as unlikely as Juan Mejia.

Raised as a Catholic in Colombia and educated at Christian schools, Mejia was on his way to becoming a monk when he discovered as a teenager that his family had Jewish roots. His grandfather would recall men gathering in darkened corners to place towels on their head and pray from a strange book.

After a torturous journey, which involved his rejection by the tiny Jewish community in Bogota and several years of study in Jerusalem, Mejia converted and began training for the rabbinate. Now Mejia is dedicating his rabbinate to helping Jewish descendants like himself who want to reconnect with their roots.

The plight of descendants of Conversos, those Jews forced to publicly recant their religion under threat of execution by the Inquisition but who continued to practice their religion in secret, has received more attention in recent years. Articles describing stories of Latino immigrants who discover their family’s strange rituals are Jewish in origin have appeared in both the Jewish and mainstream press.

Rabbi Rigoberto Emanuel Vinas, a Cuban-born rabbi who teaches classes in the Bronx for Anusim — as forced converts are known in Hebrew — has been featured in The New York Times.

Mejia promises to take the type of outreach Vinas has pioneered to a new level. With many Conversos shunned when they turn for help to Jewish communities in Latin America — those communities are beset by a “colonial mind-set,” Mejia said, and have contempt for the claims to Jewish ancestry by the locals — Mejia hopes to reach them over the Internet.

“I fight the Inquisatorial frame of mind,” he said. Mejia already runs a Web site that offers online instruction in Jewish topics. And with his rabbinical training now complete, he hopes to relocate with his wife, also ordained in late May at JTS, to the Southwest, where many Conversos are located.

Mejia believes that only in the United States, with its large, secure and welcoming Jewish community, can the Anusim be educated and brought back to their roots.

“The Anusim revolution,” he said, “starts here.” [...]