Monday, October 7, 2013

Serious halachic deterioration in the Weiss-Dodelson divorce battle

[my brother just updated his letter below 10/07/13] I recently received the following letter regarding new developments in the Weiss Dodelson divorce battle. It first notes a significant deterioration in regards to the elementary halachic issues that in a case of ma'os alei - the husband can not be pressured to give a get.

The second item is that the Dodelson family has finally organized their defense and is apparently no longer relying on nonsense fluff pieces in the Jewish Week as they have in the past.see commentary on the Jewish Week article

If beis din has determined that the wife has clear justification for wanting a divorce - such as abuse - then pressure such as embarrassment can be applied according to some poskim. Apparently in this case there has not been a ruling of beis din that  this is more than a case of ma'os alei.

See the following links for background

kol_koreh_-_april_30 against Weiss


==Ma'os alei - if wife simply doesn't want  to remain married - no pressure is allowed====
 Rav Eliashiv Ma'os Alei Kovetz teshuvos 1 174

See Rav Eliashiv - original teshuva from Piskei Din vol 2 (curtesy of Rav Michael Tzadok)

Rav Eliashiv  maos alei  - get not required (translation)
Rav Ovadia Yosef maus alei forced only if disgusting
Rav Ovadia Yosef - ma'os alei without factors such as abuse - is not forced
Rabbeinu Yonah-maus-alei-mitzva and Rav Ovadia Yosef - additional factors
Rav Sternbuch  - ma'os alei without factors such as abuse - is not forced
Rav Sternbuch moredes without clear reason plus went to secular court
R Daniel,
2 things.

1) a friend who lives in that area tells me that the Dodelson's neighbors and shul community, apparently tired that there is still no movement on the Get front, staged an impromptu protest when Weiss came to pick up his child on Yom Tov. I'm told that Although there was no violence, Weiss fled, having apparently never had to face this kind of reception head on. This seems to have energized the protesters who are now thinking of different ways to apparently accost Weiss in public, making him more uncomfortable- seeing that just yelling at him in front of other people absolutely has an effect. My friend says that one of the members of the shul, while not especially close to the Dodelson's, having tagged along to this protest, said that he now sees as his mission making sure Weiss can not walk in the street with any menucha.
2) He forwards me this link: as the Dodelson's response to the Weiss statement. While he has no answer why they hadn't shared this information earlier, the content seems very compelling.
In response to the above letter my brother has written the following. [letter updated 10/8/13]

Another alleged Melbourne Yeshivah perpetrator – a current teacher

Tzedek     We are now in a position to release publicly the following limited information.

Some time ago serious allegations against a current teacher within the Yeshivah College in Melbourne were made and a formal statement has been given to the police. There is an ongoing investigation currently underway. This abuse is alleged to have happened some time ago.

We urge other victims from Yeshivah (past and present) to come forward as this may assist in this case. We similarly urge anyone with information regarding abuse (or cover-up) within Yeshivah to come forward. Of course we encourage anyone with information regarding any other cases of abuse/cover-up to also come forward. You may contact Tzedek for support, guidance or assistance. You may also contact the police directly.

We would like to emphasise that while we have identified the institution involved in this alleged case, the community should refrain from speculating and/or accusing anyone. The right thing to do is to come forward with credible information so that justice may prevail and for our children to be safer. The main reasons we have decided to make this allegation public is because this:

(a) alleged perpetrator is currently teaching children;

(b) institution has a significant record of employing perpetrators/alleged perpetrators (some of whom have already been convicted) and covering up abuse; and

(c) may cause additional victims (or other people with information) to come forward (this has been the trend until now).

Enough! No more silence.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

If Lashon Harah is a Character issue- not Issur - then Motivation is paramount not Actions

[update - finished translations] There are a number of critical differences whether lashon harah is primarily a moral issue or primarily an issur. Precise definitions are not needed for moral definitions - people recognize what is right and wrong. In contrast issur requires clear cut parameters and definitions. Perhaps even more important is that moral issues focus on motivation while issur is mainly concerned with the deed. If lashon harah is primarily moral, that would explain why a person who unwittingly said derogatory statements has not committed the sin of lashon harah. If a person speaks derogatory statements for a good purpose he is exempt. In contrast a person is not exempt from transgressing Shabbos or killing simply because he was not thinking of sinning. Rav Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher Vayikra 19:16) brings an example of exemption from the sin of lashon harah because there was no intent to harm.
    Mo''ed Koton (16a): Is it not a fact that R. Simeon, Rabbi's son, and Bar Kappara were once sitting rehearsing the lesson together when a difficulty arose about a certain passage and R. Simeon said to Bar Kappara, ‘This [matter] needs Rabbi [to explain it]’, and Bar Kappara replied: ‘And what forsooth can Rabbi [have to] say on this?’ He went and repeated it to his father, [at which] the latter was vexed, and [when] Bar Kappara next presented himself before Rabbi, he said: ‘Bar Kappara, I have never known you! He realized that he [Rabbi] had taken the matter to heart and submitted himself to the [disability of a] ‘reproof’ for thirty days.
Rashi (Mo'ed Koton 16a) says Rav Shimon repeated Bar Kappara's statement innocently to his father and not as loshon harrah. Rav Weiss says, "Rashi is saying that when one innocently states something without intent of saying something negative - then it is not considered as loshon harah. Thus it appears that the explanation for this is that even though lashon harah is a very serious sin - but it's basis is concern for character perfection. Therefore whatever is not said with a negative intent for another or to harm him - but is said innocently - is not considered a sin at all. It is not even considered shogeg. That is because the underlying principle of this sin is concern for imperfect character traits - and that is dependent on motivation. I give a similar explanation concerning the view of Ramban that the prohibition of fraudulent commercial transaction is only if it is intentionally fraudulent. 

"However Chofetz Chaim (Hilchos Lashon HaRah 7 in Be'er Mayim Chaim 18) says that in fact one is guilty of lashon harah when it is said innocently. The Chofetz Chaim explains that  Rashi doesn't mean that he said it without intent to harm but rather he was not paying attention to what he was saying. He notes that the Rambam(Hilchos Lashon Harah 7:4) poskens that even if one said lashon harah as a joke or as levity that he is guilty of lashon harah. However the Chofetz Chaim's explanation is problematic. Aside from the fact that the explanation does not fit with Rashi's words - it is difficult to accept the assertion that Bar Kapara sinned beshogeg and wasn't paying attention to what he was saying." 

"Furthermore the Rambam is understood by the Chofetz Chaim to mean that even when there is no intention of saying something negative it is still lashon harah. However the Rambam meant something different.  When a person makes a joke out of derogatory material it is still  the sin of lashon harah since his words are still inherently derogatory in themselves. It is the nature of jokes and levity to be abusive and thus he transgresses – even though he doesn't intend to degrade another person. In contrast concerning words that are not inherently derogatory in themselves – such as Bar Kapara – who only meant that Rabbi Yehuda wasn't in a position to know how to resolve this  particular question. In addition Rav Shimon when he repeated Bar Kapara's words to his father had not intended to convey anything negative about Bar Kapara but he was merely asking for a clarification. In such a case the prohibition of lashon harah is not violated since the information was said innocently and the words themselves were not inherently derogatory. Thus negative words said as a joke are different than ambiguous words which were said innocently and thus there is no support for the Chofetz Chaim from this Rambam.  In contrast a person who intends to hurt another transgresses the prohibition of lashon harah no matter what words he uses. This in my opinion is the proper understanding of Rashi and the fundamental principle of what constitutes lashon harah.

We see then that lashon harah is a concern of character and therefore the speaker's intent is critical in determining whether his words constitute lashon harah. With this principle we can understand the rule that whatever is spoken beneficially does not violate the prohibition of lashon harah – as stated by the Chofetz Chaim (Lashon Harah 3:3). In general we know that there are times when Torah prohibitions are set aside e.g., a positive commandment sets aside a negative one and more severe mitzvos displace lesser mitzvos etc. However this is different because lashon harah is not being displaced when the words are said beneficially. As we stated the prohibition of lashon harah is dependent upon whether it is a bad character trait. Therefore whenever the speaker's motivation is for the good and for benefit of his fellow man and not to hurt him – there is absolutely no issur of lashon harah. It is not that is is being displaced – it doesn't exist! If you examine the matter well it is clearly the correct explanation.

Additional support that lashon harah is primarily a prohibition of faulty character comes from the Chofetz Chaim. He writes that the heter to speak lashon harah for benefit only applies if the speaker doesn't intend to debase his fellow man – but if he means to speak negatively then it is prohibited even if is beneficial. He also writes that if he speaks negatively about a sinner and he himself is guilty of that sin – he does not have a heter to speak. These two halachos seem to contradict the principle that negative speech said for benefit is permitted because it isn't lashon harah. Why should it make a difference what the speaker's intent is and whether he is righteous or not? These apparent contraditions are removed if it accepted that the foundation of the prohibition of lashon harah is because of concern for the speaker's character. 

[Whether in fact motivation for saying something beneficial determines if there is a heter - involves the  machlokes of the Sma and Taz which will be discussed in another post]

Lashon harah can be false according to Chazal:Sde Chemed

The Sde Chemed below shows that both true and false derogatory statements are also called lashon harah by Chazal. In contrast the Rambam and others say that lashon harah is true while false statements are called motzi shem rah. This  lack of concern for precise definitions by Chazal seems to imply that  they were primarily concerned with stopping harmful speech - rather than defining its parameters as they did for violating Shabbos or stealing (I have mentioned this issue in previous posts 1 ). This focus on the moral imperative rather than the legal dimensions might also explain why the even the Rambam was not careful in formulating the definition of rechilus according to the Kesef Mishna and Chofetz Chaim. It also explains why there was no Shulchan Aruch of the issur of lashon harah/rechilus before the Choftez Chaim.

Are online mugshot sites extortion/lashon harah?

NY Times    [...] But once he is done, Mr. Birnbaum’s record will be clean. Which means that by the time he graduates from the University of Texas at Austin, he can start his working life without taint.

At least in the eyes of the law. In the eyes of anyone who searches for Mr. Birnbaum online, the taint could last a very long time. That’s because the mug shot from his arrest is posted on a handful of for-profit Web sites, with names like Mugshots, BustedMugshots and JustMugshots. These companies routinely show up high in Google searches; a week ago, the top four results for “Maxwell Birnbaum” were mug-shot sites. 

The ostensible point of these sites is to give the public a quick way to glean the unsavory history of a neighbor, a potential date or anyone else. That sounds civic-minded, until you consider one way most of these sites make money: by charging a fee to remove the image. That fee can be anywhere from $30 to $400, or even higher. Pay up, in other words, and the picture is deleted, at least from the site that was paid. 

To Mr. Birnbaum, and millions of other Americans now captured on one or more of these sites, this sounds like extortion. Mug shots are merely artifacts of an arrest, not proof of a conviction, and many people whose images are now on display were never found guilty, or the charges against them were dropped. But these pictures can cause serious reputational damage, as Mr. Birnbaum learned in his sophomore year, when he applied to be an intern for a state representative in Austin. Mr. Birnbaum heard about the job through a friend.“The assistant to this state rep called my friend back and said, ‘We’d like to hire him, but we Google every potential employee, and the first thing that came up when we searched for Maxwell was a mug shot for a drug arrest,’ ” Mr. Birnbaum said. “I know what I did was wrong, and I understand the punishment,” he continued. “But these Web sites are punishing me, and because I don’t have the money it would take to get my photo off them all, there is nothing I can do about it.” [...]

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hynes to Run for District Attorney as a Republican

NY Times The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, will campaign for re-election to a seventh term as a Republican despite having said earlier that he would not do so and despite losing the Democratic primary in September by a wide margin, his campaign said on Thursday. 

Mr. Hynes is a lifelong Democrat, but secured spots on the Republican and Conservative Party lines of the ballot for this year’s election. He had said he would not actively campaign as the candidate of those parties and promised a smooth transition to the man who defeated him, Kenneth P. Thompson, but changed his mind and decided to run this week after Republican leaders and longtime supporters urged him to campaign, said his spokesman, Jerry Schmetterer. 

In part, the decision was also driven by reports that Clarence Norman, a former chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and former assemblyman who was convicted of accepting illegal campaign contributions, had helped Mr. Thompson’s get-out-the-vote efforts on Primary Day, Mr. Schmetterer said. Mr. Thompson has emphatically denied working with Mr. Norman.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Aguda's twisted path regarding abuse & calling police

There have been a number of anonymous individuals who have repeatedly insisted - without offering any evidence  - that the Aguda's policy on reporting child abuse is identical with Rav Eliashiv's written teshuva on the matter. For someone who has patience and a strong stomach - I would suggest rereading the posts linked below. 1) Rav Eliashiv deals with the issue of tikun olam as a justification for allowing things such as reporting molesters to the police. He mentions the issue of mandated reporting but then says that he is dealing with the issue of tikun olam. 2) He clearly states that if it is definitely a case of molesting that the police can be called. 3) He says the police can be called if there is raglayim ledavar ( reasonable evidence). The Aguda claims that only a rabbi can determine whether the level of raglayim ledavar exists (Rav Eliashiv does not write that). 4) He does say if there is no raglayim ledavar then the police can not be called. 5) The Aguda claims there is no conflict between having a rabbi decide whether you can go to the police and the requirements of mandated reporting. Rav Eliashiv does not say that and says that if there is justification from tikun olam to call the police one does not need the heter that the king ordered it (mandated reporting) in order to call the police. He indicates based on the Ritva that it is necessary to obey the mandated reporting law if it exists which is also the position of Rav Moshe Feinstein based on BM 83

Rav Eliashiv's position

Rav Eliashiv(Kovetz Teshuvos 3:231): We learn from the Rashba’s words that when action is needed for the well being of society (tikun olam), that the Jewish sages have the ability in every generation to act to preserve the society and to repair breaches – even when there isn’t a specific order from the king. The Ritva (Bava Metzia 83b) has stated that this order of the king is “if the king says to capture certain criminals, even though the government will judge without witnesses and warning [as required by Torah law] and there is no functioning Sanhedrin [as required by Torah law] – it is still permitted since he is acting as the agent of the king. Since it is the law of the land to execute criminals without the testimony of witnesses and warning - as it states [Shmuel 2’ 1:5-16] that Dovid killed the Amalekite ger who had acceded to Shaul’s request to kill him -the agent of the king is like him.”  However according to what has been said, in a matter which is needed for the well being of society

Rav Eliashiv(Kovetz Teshuvos 3:231): It is permitted to notify the government authorities only in the case which it is certain that the accused has been sexually abusing children. Informing the authorities in such a case is clearly something for the well being of the society (tikun olam). … However in a case where there is no proof that this activity is happening but it is merely a conjecture or suspicion, if we permit the calling of the authorities - not only would it not be an improvement (tikun olam) - but it would destroy society. That is because it is possible that allegations are being made solely because of some bitterness the student has against his teacher or because of some unfounded fantasy. As a result of these false allegations the accused will be placed in a situation for which death is better than life – even though he is innocent. Therefore I do not see any justification for calling the authorities in such circumstances.

Rav Eliashiv(Nishmas Avraham 4:208-211): Rav Eliashiv told me that there is in fact no difference in halacha between a teacher who is molesting boys or girls since in both cases we are talking about severe mental damages and danger to the public. He cited the Beis Yosef who cites the Rashba regarding R’ Eliezar ben Rav Shimon (Bava Metzia 83a) who reported thieves to the government… Regarding this Rav Eliashiv said that we learn from this that surely in the case of child abuse which is more severe then theft that it would be permitted to first report it to the principal of the school and if he doesn’t do anything to report the matter to the police even in the Diaspora.

Rav Eliashiv(Nishmas Avraham 4:208-211): Rav Eliashiv told me that it is permitted for a doctor to report the life threatening abuse to the authorities even when there is a possibility [in the Diaspora] that the child will be sent to a non‑Jewish family or institution. However the doctor is then required to the best of his ability to see that the child is transferred to a Jewish family or institution.





Agudah's Position















Update from Zephaniah Waks: Major rabbi refuses to protect children against known pedophile

I recently received a call from Zephaniah Waks to discuss his experiences in trying to get a senior Chabad rabbi in Israel to protect communities against child molesters. He just sent me an email requesting that I post these links to his Facebook account where he describes  what happened. 
Last week, in Israel, I got a high-level toxic dose of reality. I can now share the story publicly because former Melbourne Yeshivah teacher and repeat convicted paedophile David Kramer's plans have changed: in court at his sentencing hearing in Melbourne a few months ago, for numerous child sexual abuse (CSA) charges committed against several children to which he pleaded guilty and is now sitting in jail, he announced that he would return to Israel upon release. Apparently now that is not the case – it seems that he will be returned to the US from where he was extradited, so this is what transpired in Israel last week:

Before coming to Australia around 20 years ago, apparently Kramer offended in the US. As far as I know, he was not apprehended, the matter was not reported, and Australia, where he came next, was not warned. He offended in Australia, with vastly more than the four victims for whom he was jailed (estimates range from 30 to over 80), and actually include rape (a rape victim many community members know is still too traumatised to press charges – it has also been alleged that his rabbi has prohibited him from reporting the rape to police). Yeshivah Centre Melbourne sent Kramer off to Israel, neglecting to notify authorities in Melbourne, forbidding others from going to the police themselves, and neglecting to notify anyone in Emanuel, Israel, where Kramer became a respected member of the local Chabad community, and was very active, among other things, with...youth. As he was a dual Israeli/US citizen, after several years in Israel, he returned to the US. Kramer was jailed for sodomy there, where Rabbi Ze'ev Smason, on the International Advisory Board of Tzedek, of which my son Manny is CEO, went against the normal and widely accepted trend and helped the victim and his family (as opposed to the actions of Yeshivah). Upon release on parole in the US, he was re-arrested and extradited to Australia, where he is currently in jail.

Since he had said in court that he wished to return to Israel, I took it upon myself to warn the leaders in Emanuel that he was coming (based on past experience, I didn't rely on others to do this). My reasons were two-fold: so the country could be warned that a monster was returning and hence protect themselves, and that past victims could be encouraged to go to the police, hence ensuring that Kramer would not be able to offend for quite a few more years. As is par for the course in many ultra-Orthodox communities all over the world, the leaders were having none of this: they became deaf-blind-mutes - nobody claimed to know anything regarding Kramer’s past. The father of an alleged rape victim claimed he didn't even know Kramer, falsely claiming that he had arrived in Emanuel only after Kramer had already left for the US.

So I approached one of the most senior Chabad rabbis in Israel for help. He is in fact one of the most senior and well-known rabbis in Israel in general. I told him the public facts above, as well as the fact that I knew of a rape victim in Israel. I pointed out to him that he was convicted and jailed for CSA in two countries, and that it was almost inconceivable that he had not offended in Israel where he resided for a few years between those two other countries. The rabbi became very angry with me, saying he was not going to "bury" someone without having two (kosher) witnesses coming to testify in his Beth Din (religious court). I reiterated that Kramer was not an innocent person whose unblemished character he was coming to besmirch, but he was currently in jail etc. Still angry with me, he asked what I wanted from him. I said that since nobody in Emanuel was taking it seriously, all I asked was that he would speak to the leaders there, that they should warn their congregants and encourage them to go to the police with any information, that he had the religious duty of "al ta'amod al dam re’acho...", not to stand idly by where others would be injured. He again fumed at me that he would do nothing without two (kosher) witnesses testifying before his Beth Din. He was explicit that the fact that Kramer had been convicted in two western democratic countries with well-functioning legal systems meant nothing to him, and that was the end of the conversation.

People that know me may think I spoke harshly or not clearly with the rabbi, but my wife was next to me and heard the entire conversation, and confirmed that I was calm but firm, and explained the matter very clearly. I was so stunned by the conversation that I rang Rabbi Yosef Blau in NY, and spoke to other rabbis and people active in confronting CSA in Israel, and the reaction of all of them was the same: no surprise, but some expressed disappointment that this particular senior rabbi went that far, since this would have been an easy case for him to be less demanding than usual, based on the background, and the fact that all that was being asked was warning about obvious danger, and a request for people to cooperate with the police.

Very depressing, and this story clearly demonstrates how dangerously CSA is still being mismanaged in many quarters within the ultra-orthodox world: any protestations to the contrary, this attitude and (in)action is the norm, where even a repeatedly convicted perpetrator's well-being trumps any consideration at all for past or possible future victims. The ultra-Orthodox world has a major problem, and I will be putting this very strongly to the Royal Commission when I appear before them next week. Just as Australia led the way in the past
"Women are also granted the right to stand for parliament, making South Australia the first in the world to do so", maybe "with a little help from our friends" (the Royal Commission) we will push this matter along also.

Enough is well and truly enough.

Rav Eliashiv: Ma'os alei - Kovetz Tshuvos vol 1 #174

The following is a systematic discussion of the status of a woman who claims ma'os alei (he disgusts me) even when it is clear that she is fully justified.

See also Rav Eliashiv Ma'os alei get not required (translation)

See Rav Eliashiv - original teshuva from Piskei Din vol 2 (curtesy of Rav Michael Tzadok)

Serious halachic deterioriation in Weiss Dodelson divorce battle

The Open Orthodox Race to the Edge and Beyond: When Will It Stop?

Cross-Currents    The Open Orthodox rush to reshape traditional Judaism has become incrementally manifest in terms of both The Open Orthodox rush to reshape traditional Judaism has become incrementally manifest in terms of both practice and belief, with Open Orthodox leadership actively promoting substantial modification of Torah observance and the creation of rituals that are foreign to normative Orthodoxy, while concomitantly asserting that one no longer needs to believe in the faith tenets of Orthodoxy in order for his or her Judaism to be Orthodox. While previous Cross-Currents articles and addressed many of these concerns, Open Orthodoxy has pushed full steam ahead with a new progression of breaches over the past few months, widening the base of those involved and deepening the degree of the changes being made to Orthodoxy. It is critical for the Orthodox public to be aware of this and to understand the underpinnings of these new seismic and startling Open Orthodox efforts to reshape and Reform.practice and belief, with Open Orthodox leadership actively promoting substantial modification of Torah observance and the creation of rituals that are foreign to normative Orthodoxy, while concomitantly asserting that one no longer needs to believe in the faith tenets of Orthodoxy in order for his or her Judaism to be Orthodox. While previous Cross-Currents articles and addressed many of these concerns, Open Orthodoxy has pushed full steam ahead with a new progression of breaches over the past few months, widening the base of those involved and deepening the degree of the changes being made to Orthodoxy. It is critical for the Orthodox public to be aware of this and to understand the underpinnings of these new seismic and startling Open Orthodox efforts to reshape and Reform.

I. Open Orthodox Changes to Practice

“Making it up as you go along” is usually not a recommended approach when doing anything serious. When it comes to Torah, such an approach is fatal.

This is exactly what came to mind when viewing the new Ohev Sholom/The National Synagogue 2013 Gala Celebration video regaling the feminizing of services in that congregation, including women reading the Torah and the Megillah, women serving as chazzan and reciting the “Mi She-Beirach” prayer (a feminized nusach thereof) at the bimah, and a woman serving as the Makri for Teki’as Shofar – all for general male/female services in the main sanctuary.

The congregation’s rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who is an Honorary Alumnus of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) and a protégé of Rabbi Avi Weiss (Rabbi Herzfeld served under Rabbi Weiss for five years as assistant rabbi at Hebrew Institute of Riverdale and considers Rabbi Weiss his mentor), gives his blessings to the innovations, as elated, near teary-eyed congregants express their feelings of arrival in the Promised Land of Orthodox feminism. Rabbi Herzfeld, toward the end of this revealing video, declares his quest to continue to make further progressive modifications to his shul’s ritual practices. The most recent such action taken by Rabbi Herzfeld to make Ohev Sholom more progressive was the hiring of a female “Maharat” to fulfill some rabbinic duties at the synagogue. [...]

Lakewood Rabbis: Pikuach nefesh to save a Jewish child only if assailant is a Goy!

The messages in the following proclamations by Lakewood rabbis illustrate a critical problem with Lakewood's ability to protect the welfare of children.

The first proclamation prohibits reporting a suspected Jewish child molester to the police. These rabbis allow no reporting to the police without a clear psak from "an accepted beis din" - and that takes a lot of time and effort and might never happen. The second proclamation requires reporting a suspected non-Jewish child molester to the police. In that case they say that one must call the police immediately.

The reason for the differential response according to these rabbis - is that calling the police to protect against a Jewish child molester is mesira. Mesira is not a problem for reporting goyim. However these rabbis seem to have forgotten about the din of rodef or even sofek rodef - which doesn't require a psak. Or perhaps they don't understand that a child molester is a rodef.

Chasam Sofer: Israel had to be conquered militarily not through miracle

Rashi (Bereishis 1:1) quotes Rabbi Yitzchok – What was the reason that the Torah started with Bereishis and not with the Redemption from Egypt? Rabbi Yitzchok answers that it was to establish that G‑d created the world and thus He can give the land to whomever He wants. Otherwise the goyim are going to claim that the Jews are robbers by conquering the land of Israel from the Seven Nations.

Chasam Sofer (Derasha to Simchas Torah page 57b #11) asks why did the goyim object that the Jews took the land away from the Seven Nations by military conquest. After all isn't this the normal way all people take land away from it current inhabitants. So why should the Jews be considered thieves  more than any other nation? An explanation is that all the ancient people believed that each people had a spiritual representative in Heaven and who provided them with a homeland. The ancient people believed that G-d was just one of the national spiritual representatives and He was the representative of the Jews. They also firmly believed that G-d did not work in the normal natural manner but rather everything that He did was through miracles in a supernatural way. Consequently when they saw that the Jews were conquering the Land of Israel in a natural manner – rather than through miracles – they accused the Jews of unlawful seizure of the land and said that they were no more than thieves. That is because they knew that G-d only worked through miracles. It was to counter this mistaken understanding that the Torah begins with the story of G-d creating the world. This showed that G-d also works in a natural manner. If the Torah started with the Redemption of Egypt, that would serve to reinforce the mistaken view that G‑d only works through miracles. Therefore now that the Torah begins with Bereishis, the Jews were able to explain that they were not thieves. They conquered the Land of Israel in a normal manner through war, because G‑d wanted a natural conquest of the land rather than a miraculous conquest. However in truth this requirement of a natural conquest was not arbitrary but was the result of the sin of the Golden Calf and the breaking of the Tablets as is well known.  
So in fact there were two reasons that the Torah started with Bereishis in order to provide an answer to the Nations of the World. The first was because the Redemption from Egypt was totally miraculous so the Nations of the World mistakenly thought that all of G-d's actions were only through supernatural miracles. The second was that the breaking of the Tablets required that the conquest of land be done in a nature manner through war. [...]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Sukkah fiasco at the Rye Town Hilton by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times     If the facts reported are correct, the events that unfolded this past Sukkos at the Rye Town Hilton are a bit shocking.  Apparently, a few hours before Sukkos began, the Westchester Department of Buildings came down and forbade use of the Sukkah designated for use by over 200 guests.  They then actually confiscated the Schach to ensure that the Sukkah not be used.  Although the tour operators offered to post 24 guards and fire personnel to ensure the safety of the guests, the offer was not accepted.

It seems that some people did get hold of two pop-up sukkos and the three days of Yom Tov were spent with the guests switching off making kiddush in these two smaller sukkos.

There is no doubt that hearing and reading of this incident will cause quite a stir, however, in this article we will deal solely with the halachic aspects of the incident.

The issues can be divided into two parts:  The first is how best to handle the situation from a halachic perspective.  The second issue is how best to try and ameliorate the lack of a Sukkah on Yom Tov.

Regarding the first issue, it would seem that the hotel kitchen staff should prepare mini portions of meat and challah.  Each male guest should wash before entering  one of the two pop-up Sukkos, make Kiddush on wine,  Hamotzi on bread and eat the mini meat portion.  He should then bentch.  The entire process should take between five and seven minutes.  He may have a second meal in the regular hotel and avoid mezonos foods, bread, and wine. [...]

US Jews losing their religion, survey finds

Ynet   Jews in the United States are overwhelmingly proud to be Jewish, yet nearly one in five of them describe themselves as having no religion, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Tuesday.

The gap is generational, with 32% of Jewish Millenials identifying as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture – compared with 93% of Jews born in 1914-27 who identified on the basis of their faith. [...]

"Americans as a whole – not just Jews – increasingly eschew any religious affiliation," with 22% of all Americans identifying with no particular faith, it said.

Nevertheless, 94% of respondents said they were proud to be Jewish, while seven out of 10 felt either very attached or somewhat attached to Israel, a proportion essentially unchanged since the turn of the 21st century, Pew said. [...]