Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lesbian couple awarded NIS 60,000 after turned away from wedding hall

Haaretz  The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court has ordered the owners of an Israeli reception hall to pay damages to a lesbian couple after refusing to host their wedding for ideological reasons. 

Following the precedent-setting ruling, the Moshav Yad Hashmona events hall must now pay the couple, Tal Ya'akovovich and Yael Biran, NIS 60,000 in damages.

The court has also ordered the owners of the reception hall to pay NIS 20,000 in legal and court fees. According to the judge, the fines are meant to teach the public a lesson about the value of equality and tolerance, in addition to compensating the same-sex couple.

The plaintiffs were married in England in 2008 in a civil ceremony, and wished to host a wedding party for their families and friends in Israel. The couple approached the reception hall in Yad Hashmona, and reached a deal with ownership to hold the event. When the reception hall owners realized that the wedding party was for a lesbian couple, they informed Ya'akovoich and Biran that the hall does not hold events for same-sex couples, and canceled their reservation. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kadosh (i.e., like angels) - men but not women?

Maharal (Nesiv Pirushus 1): discusses the idea of kedusha as a distancing from gashmiyus based on Yevamos (20a) where Rava says that a person should sanctify himself by restricting things where are permitted. The Maharal adds that someone who works on avoiding or minimizing gashmiyus not only has the attribute of kedusha but is called a kadosh. He notes that being a kadosh is being like an angel who has no connection to gashmiyus. Kedusha comes from  minimizing such material activities as eating or sexual involvement 

I  couldn't find the concept of kadosh applied to women but it seems exclusive to men. On these lines is the fact that a man wears a kitel on Yom Kippur to be like an angel - but not a woman because the Magen Avraham (610:10) says that women can not be like angels.
Magen Avraham[1](O.C. 610:5): To be like angels – according to this women should not wear white on Yom Kippur because they can’t be like angels as it states in Misheli (21:22) A wise man scales the city of the mighty men. [This refers to Moshe going to heaven to be with the angels] It refers to the Heaven as the  “city of the mighty men”. Thus only men are capable of being like angels

[1] מגן אברהם (תרי:ה): דוגמת מלאכי - ולפ"ז אין הנשים לובשין לבנים דאין יכולים להיות כמלאכים דעיר גברי' כתיב כמ"ש מט"מ גבי טבילה ומ"מ הקיט"ל יכולים ללבוש שיכנע לבם, אפי' מי שלובש שק מחמת תשובה אסור ללבשו ביה"כ (ס"ח תרט"ו ר"ש הלוי סימן ו'), איתא בילקוט שופטים דף ט' ע"א לעשות פתילות עבות בבה"כ

Vayikra Rabbah[1](31:5): R. Joshua of Siknin in the name of R. Aha cited, A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty--gibborim (Prov. XXI, 22).1 The written form is gebarim (men), for all of them are males; there are no females among them.

[1] ויקרא פרשה (לא:ה): ר' יהושע דסכנין בשם ר' אחא אמר (משלי כא) עיר גבורים עלה חכם גברים כתיב שכלם גברים ואין בהם
 It seems clear from Bereishis (6:2) which discusses fallen angels as being male and sexually active - that fallen angels are men. So just as men can elevate themselves to be a kadosh i.e., angel, Angels can degrade themselves to be men.

This seems rather strange to me since I don't know of any other mida which doesn't apply both to men and women. It points to a very fundamental concern when trying to understand the distinction between  men and women.

I would appreciate any references to this matter - either in showing me that being a kadosh applies also to women or in showing me sources that reinforce this distinction. Alternative showing that women can reach the level of angels or show additional sources that they can't.

Charedi couples fuel Israel's real estate boost

Haaretz   Who says young couples don’t have money to buy apartments? They flooded back into the market in the second quarter of the year, purchasing 19% more apartments than they did in the second quarter of 2011, and 8% more than in the first quarter of this year, according to data published by the State Revenue Administration. Investors also came back into the market, and purchases of investment apartments have been on the increase for six months running now, for the first time since 2009. 

It appears that the social protests of last summer are fading from the public consciousness, and the housing sector − one of the protests’ main targets − is back at the sales volume observed during the peak years of 2009 and 2010. The price of new homes decreased in the second quarter by 0.8% versus the first quarter. [...]

Haredim pushing up prices

The report makes note of one of the most important factors affecting the market − who the buyers are − and less on how prices changed. There was a 12% increase in transactions in the second quarter, after four consecutive quarters of decreases, it noted.

In total 24,500 apartments were purchased in the second quarter. The most significant increase based on region was in and around Jerusalem, where 807 new homes were purchased, most of them in ultra-Orthodox developments in Beit Shemesh.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bishop tolerates pedophile priest, "It was only pornography!"

NYTimes   On the surface, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan was just the kind of dynamic new priest that any Roman Catholic bishop would have been happy to put in a parish. He rode a motorcycle, organized summer mission trips to Guatemala and joined Bishop Robert W. Finn and dozens of students on a bus trek to Washington for the “March for Life,” a big annual anti-abortion rally. 

 But in December 2010, Bishop Finn got some disturbing news: Father Ratigan had just tried to commit suicide by running his motorcycle in a closed garage. The day before, a computer technician had discovered sexually explicit photographs of young girls on Father Ratigan’s laptop, including one of a toddler with her diaper pulled away to expose her genitals. 

 The decisions that Bishop Finn and his second-in-command in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Msgr. Robert Murphy, made about Father Ratigan over the next five months ultimately led to the conviction of the bishop in circuit court on Thursday on one misdemeanor count of failing to report suspected child abuse. It was the first time a Catholic bishop in the United States had been held accountable in criminal court in the nearly three decades since the priest sexual abuse scandals first came to light. 

Both Bishop Finn and Monsignor Murphy, as ministers, were required by law to report suspected child abuse to the civil authorities. But they were also required to report under policies that the American bishops put in place 10 years ago at the height of the scandal — policies that now hold the force of canon law.[...]

After Father Ratigan was arrested, Bishop Finn met with his priests. Asked why Father Ratigan was not removed earlier, the bishop replied, according to the testimony, that he had wanted “to save Father Ratigan’s priesthood” and that he had understood that Father Ratigan’s problem was “only pornography.”

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gay couple turns to rabbis for divorce

YNet  The judges at Israel's rabbinical courts have seen many divorce cases in their lives, but none of them were prepared for what happened last week, when a gay couple arrived at the Tel Aviv Rabbinate and filed for divorce. The two are Prof. Uzi Even, the first openly gay Knesset member, and Dr. Amit Kama. They had a civil marriage ceremony in Canada eight years ago, becoming the first Jewish Israeli male couple to marry each other. [...]

Following the historic decision, the Interior Ministry registered the marriages of additional male couples married abroad. But the couple which paved the way experienced marital problems and split three years ago.

After the separation, Prof. Uzi Even met another man and the two decided to get married abroad. But before being able to remarry, he must get a divorce – a procedure which appears to be quite difficult for a gay couple in the Jewish state.

According to Israeli law, the rabbinical court is the only body authorized to annul the marriage of Jewish citizens in Israel. However, the rabbinical court has never recognized same-sex marriages.

Even and Kama cannot divorce in Canada either, as Canadian citizens are the only ones allowed to file for divorce there.[...]

Dinah went out: Meaning of Yatz'anit in Rashi's commentary

This is a continuation of a previous post regarding our Sage's  attitude towards Leah. It is clear that there are two opposing and conflicting views whether Leah was a model of modesty or whether she was too assertive and free in her behavior. This attitude is clearly reflected in their attitude towards her daughter Dinah and how they discuss her rape and the context which is presented in detail in the Torah - and the two are linked.

This is the Medrash that Rashi utilized in his commentary
רש"י בראשית (לד:א) בת לאה - ולא בת יעקב, אלא על שם יציאתה נקראת בת לאה, שאף היא יצאנית היתה, שנאמר (ל טז) ותצא לאה לקראתו (ועליה משלו המשל (יחזקאל טז מד) כאמה כבתה

    Bereishis Rabbah (80:1):    1. AND DINAH THE DAUGHTER OF LEAH WENT OUT (XXXIV, 1). Behold,everyone that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying: As the mother, so her daughter (Ezek. XVI, 44). Jose of Maon1 expounded in the synagogue of Maon: Hear this, O ye priests, and attend, ye house of Israel, and give ear, O house of the king, for unto you pertaineth the judgment  (Hosea V, 1). Said he: In the future the Holy One, blessed he He, will make the priests stand in judgment, saying to them, ‘Why did ye not toil in the Torah: did ye not enjoy from My children the twenty-four priestly dues?2 To which they will reply, ' They gave us nothing.’ Then ' " Attend, ye house of Israel ": why did ye not give them the twenty-four priestly dues, as I prescribed for you in the Torah? ' To which they will answer: ‘Because the members of the house of the Nasi3 took away everything.’ Thereupon, Give ear, O house of the king,’ for unto you pertaineth the judgment: [were those privileges] yours, [which I intimated in the verse], And this shall be the priests’ due [lit. ‘judgment’] from the people (Deut. XVIII, 3)? Therefore against you will judgment be turned. When Rabbi heard of this, he became enraged.5 Toward evening Resh Lakish went up to pay his respects to him and to pacify him. Said he: ‘Rabbi, we ought to be thankful to the heathens who bring clowns into their theatres and circuses and amuse themselves with them, so that they should not converse with each other; yet Jose of Maon spoke words of Torah, and you become angry with him!’ ‘Does he then know [anything of the Torah]?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ was the reply. ' Has his instruction been transmitted to him [by proper teachers]? ' ' Yes.’ ' And if I question him, will he be able to answer? ' ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If so, let him come here.’ So he went up to him, and he asked him: ' What is meant by the verse."Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying: As the mother, so the daughter "? ’ Said he: ‘Like the daughter so is the mother, like the generation so is its leader (nasi), like the altar so are its priests.’ Kahana saysl: According to the garden so is its gardener. ‘You have not yet completely appeased him for the first,’ Resh Lakish exclaimed, ‘and you are already bringing him another! What is really the meaning of this verse? ' ' A cow does not gore unless her calf kicks; a woman is not immoral until her daughter is immoral,’ he replied.2 ‘If so,’ said he, ‘then our mother Leah was a harlot! ‘3 ' Even so,’ he replied; ‘because it says, And Leah went out to meet him  (Gen. XXX,16), which means that she went out to meet him adorned like a harlot’; therefore AND DINAH THE DAUGHTER OF LEAH WENT OUT. 

In contrast to this Rashi & Medrash, Abarbanel and Malbim insist that Leah & Dinah were both the epitome of modesty.  

This is an article written by R' GILAD J. GEVARYAHU which appeared in JEWISH BIBLE QUARTERLY

Bishop convicted of shielding pedophile priest

NYTimes   KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Roman Catholic bishop was found guilty on Thursday of failing to report suspected child abuse, becoming the first American bishop in the decades-long sexual abuse scandal to be convicted of shielding a pedophile priest. 

In a hastily announced bench trial that lasted a little over an hour, a judge found the bishop, Robert W. Finn, guilty on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls. The counts each carried a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, but Bishop Finn was sentenced to two years of court-supervised probation. 

The verdict is a watershed moment in the priest sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the church since the 1980s. Bishops have been eager to turn the page on this era and have put in place extensive abuse prevention policies, which include reporting suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities. But the Kansas City case has served as a wake-up call to Catholics that the policies cannot be effective if the bishops do not follow them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Exonerated charedi soldiers to receive compensation

YNet  A military appeals court in the Kirya base in Tel Aviv ruled this week that the military would compensate two troops in the Netzah Yehuda haredi battalion with a total sum of NIS 24,000 ($5,980) who were falsely accused of assaulting a Palestinian police officer in 2008.

The Palestinian police officer who filed the original complaint testified during the trial that the two soldiers were "unquestionably and resolvedly" not the two that assaulted him. Yet in spite of his testimony, the military prosecution chose to go ahead with the indictment.

The two, now civilians, decided to demand compensation from the IDF after they were incarcerated in military prison for nearly two months after the launch of the investigation against them and their subsequent indictment.

The two were accused of aggravated assault and if convicted they faced a long sentence in military prison. They were also accused of conduct unbecoming due to claims that they assaulted the Palestinian police officer when they were on duty at the Bekaot checkpoint.  

Ultimately the charges were dropped by the deputy Military Advocate General. The soldiers claimed during the trial that saw them exonerated that "we were severely hurt (by the case), our reputation and liberty and the fact that we were suspended from our duties as combat soldiers." 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Rav Steinman says to shun secular studies

Haaretz   "What is education today? Education is Torah! And more Torah! Whoever seeks happiness should teach his son Torah." This statement was made earlier in the week by Israeli Haredi leader Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman during a brief visit to France. Israelis might be accustomed to hearing such sentiments from the Lithuanian religious authority of Bnei Brak, but in France the declaration took on heightened significance, and was seen as a Haredi challenge to the French law mandating study of core subjects such as mathematics, science, language and history in all private schools.[...]

Shteinman's visit came at a time when the French public is engaging in a sensitive discussion about private education. France's Jewish community is also embroiled in a debate over whether Haredi institutions should teach core secular subjects. Most Orthodox Jewish institutions in France integrate general studies in the curriculum, but as many as 10 Haredi institutions reject core studies, and are financed entirely by private donations. The object of Shteinman's visit was to strengthen these institutions. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Children's Book on Child Abuse sells out

Haaretz   The success of a new book aimed at helping ultra-Orthodox parents teach their children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse is a strong indication that a community once reluctant to acknowledge the crime is now beginning to face reality. 

The book, "Mutav Lehizaher K'dei lo Lehitzta'er" (which translates roughly as "Better Safe Than Sorry" ), published privately by Ella Bargai and Nitai Melamed, appears to be making significant progress in making the issue less of a taboo topic within the Haredi world. 

The book has the backing of rabbis across the Haredi spectrum - Hasidic, Lithuanian and Sephardi leaders alike - and copies were snapped up as word of it spread. The book has sold out its first printing and will be reissued soon. 

"In this book we want to talk about your body's private areas. Do you know what your private areas are?" the book asks. "Your private areas of your body are those that are supposed to be covered when you are dressed. Nobody has any right to touch your body's private areas and you are not supposed to touch those areas on anyone else."

The book's biggest accomplishment, according to Melamed, is that it gives parents and teachers a language with which to discuss issues that the Haredi community generally ignores. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Heard from the Shomer Emunim Rebbe

About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to spend a number of hours with the Shomer Emunim Rebbe. The following are samples of our conversations. 

I asked him what it was like being a rebbe? He replied, "In the old days when the chassidim needed the rebbe it was good. But now the rebbe needs the chassidim and it is not so good."

He mentioned a well known rebbe in Europe who had one daughter but many sons. The rebbe made all his son's rebbes but not his son-in-law. His daughter was hurt by this and asked her father why he didn't make her husband a rebbe also. The father replied, "Your husband is a tremendous talmid chacom. A talented leader - he will have no trouble with parnosa. Unfortunately your brothers are not so smart or talented - at least they can be rebbes.

I have a son who at that time was a strong kanoi. I asked the Rebbe what I should do about it. He told me to bring my son to him. The Rebbe talked with him - and my son criticized one group after another as not being "proper Jews". The Rebbe pulled out a sefer - Derech Mitzvosecha" and pointed out a paragraph. It said, "You can not be a kanoi if you enjoy it. Being a zealot is only for those who find it distasteful." My son lost all interest in criticizing other Jews at that meeting and totally changed his perspective for the good.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wife & mother-in-law fight - who has to leave?

Divrei Rivos (Simon 140): Question:  Rachel is married to Reuven and his mother Leah lives with them in the same house. Every day Rachel has a fight with her mother-in-law Leah. Because of this Rachel claims that she doesn’t want to live with her mother-in-law Leah who she claims is the cause of all the fights and this causes her to have arguments with her husband. Does Rachel have the right to prevent Leah from living with them or not? Answer:  The Rambam (Hilchos Ishus 13:14) writes, “One who says to his wife that he doesn’t want her to bring her parents or siblings into his house – he is to be obeyed. If she wants to see them she must go to them when there is an event or once a month and every Yom Tov but they cannot go visit her unless something happens to her such as sickness or birth. That is because a person cannot be forced to allow others into his domain. Similarly if she says that she doesn’t want his parents or siblings in their home or that she doesn’t want them to live in the same courtyard because they make life unpleasant for her and bother her – she is to be obeyed. That is because we don’t force a person to live without others in his domain.” Thus we see that if they make things bad for her or bother her that she has the right to protest and prevent them from coming into her domain. This is also the ruling of the Tur (E.H. 74) and also of Rav Yerucham (#23). He adds that the Gaon wrote in a teshuva that she must be listened to and if not - she is divorced and must receive her kesuba.  Therefore in our case, if the cause of the fighting is Leah the mother-in-law then it is certain that Rachel the daughter-in-law has the right to eject her from her house and beis din will listen to her. This is so even though the Ravad wrote, “When is this so? - when they come into her domain. However if she comes into their domain they are not removed for her sake from their domain even though the home belongs to her husband and they have no rights in it. That is because her husband wants their presence. “Similarly in our case it would seem that since Reuven wants his mother in his house and Rachel his wife has come into their domain – Leah is not banished for the sake of her daughter-in-law Rachel. However this view of the Ravad is not accepted because the Magid Mishneh says about the Ravad, I say that a man does not live together with a snake. Therefore the halacha is as follows. If it appears to beis din that the relatives are bothering her and causing her to have fights with her husband – then she is right. But if not the husband’s position takes precedence over hers since it is his home and not hers. Therefore she has no right to protest except if she has a legitimate claim. This view is implied by the words of the Rambam that I mentioned before. In the part describing the husband’s rights it doesn’t mentioned any reason why he wants her family to stay away and yet he is to be listened to. In contrast in the part describing her objecting to his family coming it says because they make life unpleasant for her. Thus the Rambam is rejecting the view of the Ravad and even if Rachel is coming into their domain, if it appears to beis din that Leah the mother-in-law is causing the fights then Leah is expelled from her daughter-in-laws house. Thus we rely on the view of the Magid Mishneh since he was the most recent authority and he also saw the Ravad and yet rejected his view... Furthermore in our case if it is determined or if beis din sees that the mother-in-law Leah is the cause of the fights then the law is in accord with Rachel the daughter-in-law and we eject Leah from Rachel’s house....

כיצד הסביר הרב אלישיב את כהונתו בהיכל שלמה

Rav Nosson Kamenetsky discusses various incidents of Jewish History

Trauma doesn't cause PTSD in all cultures

One of the real problems when  dealing with trauma such as child abuse or rape or war - is the assumption that there is a universal scientific model of psychological trauma. "Trauma in - PTSD out." The traumatized individual is assumed to have been betrayed, his/ her personal boundaries crossed, felt helpless, experienced depression, lost self-esteem and ability to trust others. The intrapsychic needs to be dealt with, understood and repaired when a wide variety of trauma occurs. In fact, however, in non-Western societies trauma might be not even be experienced or is manifest primarily in somatic symptoms or rejection by family and society resulting more in shame than personal degradation. Torture in some communities is best understood by reference to political or social concepts rather than psychological ones. This is I believe the major cause of dissatisfaction of Modern Western educated observant Jews who are embarrassed to find that the "obvious" traumas of child abuse, rape and other indignities - are apparently not a significant concern in the traditional Jewish literature. They readily assume that there is a coverup and ignoring or ignorance of PTSD resulting from various traumatic situation- or that G-d or rabbis don't care. In fact it seems that much of the trauma in traditional Jewish society was damage to social status or betrayal of religious norms of either the victim or perpetrator - rather than to the psyche. This is a major topic and one that Western mental health workers have trouble accepting or even understanding.

 The issue is what is the trauma? If it primarily comes because of psychological damage- then an event such as abuse or rape will have a wide range of consequences in different cultures - especially ones in which the psychological dimension is relatively small.

See Victor Frankl who was shocked to discover that the impact of being in a concentration camp varied greatly - depending on how the events were perceived. See Gail Sheehy's book  Spirit of Survival (1987) about her adopted Cambodian daughter - who experienced the horror of the "killing fields" and yet didn't seem to have been traumatized by the events.

The article is saying to stop viewing certain events as if they were objective and clearly defined forces. The impact of these events is mediated by the victims perception and it is not a mechanical cause and effect paradigm. This is a major theme in Jewish writings about suffering

To put it another way - should rape and war be viewed as being equivalent to being beaten. Depending upon where the blows fall and the person's strength - a particular blow will have varying effects. However  for the same blow in the same spot and the same personal strength - there will be a high degree of consistency of damage.

This other model says that the impact of rape or abuse is largely determined by how it is viewed in a particular culture by a particular individual. For some it will be totally devastating but for others the impact will be minimal.

There is also a consequence for therapy. A mechanical model says that all traumatic events produce serious damage. Therefore the therapy looks for and encourages acknowledgement of this damage - catharsis.

The other model says that the main focus should be on developing cognitive frames that minimize the impact of these events and that it is possible that little or no damage has actually occurred and therefore encourage catharsis or talking about these events actually is more damaging than the original events.

There is evidence that the cathartic focus in catastrophe counselling is actually counterproductive - even in Western society.

The following article just provides a brief - but very intelligent - introduction to the topic.

Psychotherapy, as practiced in western countries, largely takes the form of an individual client consulting a therapist. In Africa and other Third World settings most therapy directly involves other family members and sometimes the wider community. When it comes to responding to the effects of violence western style psychotherapy can have the effect of 'individualising' the suffering of the person involved. Psychotherapy of this mode might be inappropriate and indeed harmful in more "sociocentric" societies where the individual's recovery is intimately bound up with the recovery of the wider community. This is true for individuals and communities still living in the Third World but also for refugees who are living in western countries. 

Thus it is apparent that what will be effective healing healing for victims of violence, will be largely determined by the cultural and social context. Such factors will also determine what types of healing are available. Indeed Herman makes the point that the therapeutic strategies associated with the western discourse on trauma have only become available because of particular political developments during the past 20 years:

The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement. Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question. The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war. The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children 

All scientific approaches to understanding use metaphors at a very basic level. Certain metaphors underlie the approaches of modern biomedicine and psychiatry. Even though these metaphors may be the source of problems for the conceptualisation of psychiatric illness in the West, at least in this part of the world they are metaphors widely used and endorsed by society. In parts of the world where such forms of understanding are not the norm the introducing of concepts such as PTSD based as it is on a likening of the mind to an 'information processing instrument' may be at best confusing. Fear and suffering are facts of human life that belie simple explanatory models, and attempts to account for them in terms of such models have to be, at most, tentative.

If we ignore these problems, we are at risk of introducing inappropriate treatment models and strategies in our attempt to help the rehabilitation of individuals and communities who are the victims of violence and trauma. In addition, because such models of therapy involve expertise, training and a new 'language', the possibility of creating a new 'expert syndrome' arises and with it the possibility of undermining already existing medical and non-medical approaches to the alleviation of distress caused by organised violence. This in turn may have the effect of undermining local community structures, the very forces which act as 'protective' elements with regard to the effects of trauma and the very structures which need to bear testimony in their own terms.