Thursday, January 5, 2017

Intelligence Chiefs 'Stand More Resolutely' Behind Finding Of Russia Election Hacking

Intelligence agency leaders repeated their determination Thursday that only "the senior most officials" in Russia could have authorized recent hacks into the U.S. electoral and political system.

The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, affirmed an Oct. 7 joint statement from 17 intelligence agencies that the Russian government directed the election interference — and went further.

"We stand more resolutely on that statement," Clapper said during a Senate Armed Services hearing with the intelligence chiefs into the politically charged issue.

Clapper noted that the intelligence officials would not dive into many more details at this hearing, deferring to a broader, unclassified report on the election interference to be released next week.[...]

In addition to Clapper, testifying before the committee were Defense Undersecretary Marcel Lettre and Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command of the National Security Agency. All three will be leaving their positions at the end of the Obama administration.[...]

Assange has denied the Russian government gave Wikileaks the emails. McCain asked Clapper if Assange had any credibility.

"Not in my view," Clapper said.

President-elect Trump, however, has openly questioned whether Russia was involved in the hacking, pointed to errors the intelligence community made over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and has appeared to back Assange in tweets.

Clapper also said there is a difference "between skepticism and disparagement" of the intelligence community. Trump has taken to Twitter, referring to "Intelligence" and its officials in quotations.[...]

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann - Tzniyus

Rabbi Moshe Heinemann - Tzniyus from Kollel Beth HaTalmud on Vimeo.

Trump’s criticism of intelligence on Russia is dividing Hill GOP

President-elect Donald Trump’s broadside against the intelligence community is dividing Capitol Hill Republicans, with some ready to pounce on Trump’s skepticism that Russia interfered with the U.S. elections and others urging a more cautious approach.

The resulting schism could widen as Congress begins probing the CIA’s charges that Russia intervened in the November elections in an attempt to help Trump, potentially becoming one of the first significant intraparty breaches of the Trump presidency.

U.S. critics of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), want to go full-bore on holding Russia to account for its suspected election interference. But they may be slowed by GOP senators who prefer to wait to hear the intelligence community’s evidence and for Trump to be installed in the White House.

When asked whether he would be influenced by Trump’s Tuesday tweet about a supposedly delayed “Intelligence” briefing on ­“so-called” Russian hacking, McCain said flatly, “No.”

McCain will hold a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday on “foreign cyber threats” that is expected to center on Russia. Intelligence officials — including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcel J. Lettre II and U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers — will testify, and some Republicans are hoping they will present evidence that Russia meddled in the elections.

“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce, from their point of view, that the Russians did this,” Graham said. “You seem to have two choices now — some guy living in an embassy, on the run from the law for rape, who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us. I’m going with them.”

Graham was referring to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused of helping Russia leak emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee. He has few fans in Congress — on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) called Assange a “sycophant for Russia.”

Assange has denied he received leaked emails from the Russians. Trump echoed Assange in a tweet Tuesday in which he said “a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta,” referring to Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta. Trump also tweeted support for Assange’s comment that the media is “dishonest.”

Assange’s first claim may be narrowly accurate — Russia’s intelligence services used middlemen to deliver the purloined files, said senior U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. But U.S. spy agencies are in full agreement that Russia directed the hacking and orchestrated email dumps to WikiLeaks to help Trump win — a finding at the heart of a classified assessment completed this week.

Trump’s online endorsement of Assange is his latest insult to the U.S. intelligence community and is likely to intensify the antagonism between the president-elect and U.S. spy agencies. He has repeatedly disparaged their work and skipped most of the daily briefings prepared for a future White House occupant.

CIA veterans said the level of open hostility is extraordinary. “I can’t think of any transition during my career as seemingly fraught as this one,” said John Rizzo, the CIA’s former acting general counsel.[...]

The bipartisan heads of the Senate’s Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees met Wednesday to coordinate how to conduct the Russian-hacking investigation over the next weeks and months. After the meeting, Democrats expressed hope that Trump’s attacks on the intelligence community would not complicate their efforts.

“The most important role of the intelligence community is to speak truth to power,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), lead Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, noting that Trump’s “rather dismissive attitude of the intelligence community” concerns him. “There is broad-based bipartisan concern that we’ve got to do this investigation in an appropriate manner as quickly as possible,” Warner added.

Joseph Goldman arrested for child sexual abuse, charged with rape, perverted practice, assault

Update  Justice Department

Baltimore Man Facing Federal Charges for Illegal Possession of Guns and Silencer

Joseph Goldman, age 35, of Baltimore has been charged by federal criminal complaint for possessing unregistered firearms and for making a firearm. Goldman had an initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. DiGirolamo in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, and was ordered to be detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for January 3, 2017, at 10:30 a.m.[...]

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on December 19, 2016, Baltimore City Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division Child Abuse Unit executed a search warrant at Goldman’s home as part of an investigation into possible sexual abuse of a minor. Goldman is facing state charges in connection with that investigation. During the search law enforcement discovered a cache of suspected illegal firearms and contacted ATF for assistance.

The following firearms were recovered from Goldman’s residence and seized by law enforcement: from behind the couch in the first floor living room, a 556 short barrel AR-15 long gun with a silver 6.5 inch silencer attached; from Goldman’s bedroom, a 12 gauge short barrel shotgun and two semi-automatic pistols; and 20 rounds of ammunition, a machine vice, miscellaneous gun parts and tools. Law enforcement determined that the AR-15, short barrel shotgun and silencer are firearms that are required to be registered under the law, but were not.

If convicted, Goldman faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of unregistered firearms, and for illegally making a firearm. [...]

Fox Baltimore

Baltimore City Police arrested a 35-year-old suspect for child sexual abuse, rape, perverted practice and more on Monday morning at his Northwest Baltimore home.

Around 8:15 a.m. detectives arrested Joseph Goldman at his house on Taney Rd. by Wallis Ave. Officers recovered suspected marijuana, two handguns, one shotgun with an altered barrel, one rifle and a homemade silencer.

Goldman was taken to Central Booking and was charged with first and second-degree rape, second, third and fourth-degree sex offense, first and second-degree assault, perverted practice and related charges. An investigation into the guns will continue.[...]

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tznius - Halacha versus Values and pseudo-Halacha

update see here under heading האם קיימים "דיני צניעות" where there's a big argument on the topic.

I am working on a future post showing that the area of sexual morality is governed by values which are presented as if they are clear cut halacha. Part of the nature of viewing values as halacha is describing the observance and transgression of these values in extreme and hyperbolic ways. A consequence of this is the obsession over small details and the inability to differentiate small and large transgressions of these values. Also there is the implicit mistaken assumption that there is one right way to do things - as expressed by Rabbi Falk's magnum opus. [see Dr. Benny Brown's article on the subject] and the issue of to'eles]

The following article captures the phenomenon well. I am not saying that there are no requirements to be modest clearly there should be and there are requirements. Nor am I saying that the standards of modesty are wrong. However I want to focus on the dynamics of observing modesty  and eventually compare that to the dynamics of such clearly halachic issues as stealing or keeping Shabbos. Modesty is a value just as avoiding lashon harah.

In both cases we have a contemporary reality of a similar dynamic of focusing on the terrible consequences of violating these values because they are mistakenly viewed as cut and dry halacha - and therefore losing the nuanced sensitive perception that is inherent with a value. A skirt that is a little short is viewed as adultery. A concern for sexual pleasure with one's wife is regarded as adultery.

Perhaps the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt fiasco promoting adultery is being tolerated because of this distortion of realty. Revealing the truth and thus embarrassing the gedolim responsible has been described as worse than adultery. As the Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel Rav Weinberg told me - with this type of description - words lose all meaning. Or put another ways - words can mean anything you are told they are supposed to mean.

Welcome to a culture that no one outside will ever understand—that of the yeshiva girl. It’s an insular, narrow space, where the outside world is demonized en masse; where religion becomes a competition in which everything is tallied up, right against wrong, and every additional stringency that is taken on instantly earns communal admiration. (One of my few relatively modern teachers in high school dubbed this “Orthodox Compulsive Disorder.”)

When choosing to be Orthodox, I sought authenticity and reason, passionate spirituality, closeness with God and with history. I love my religion, traditions, law, community, the small politics, the debates over the Shabbat table about the heights of the mechitzah in shul. But the widespread neuroticism, the vehement zeal: This is something new. This isn’t the brand of Orthodoxy that I embraced and emulated growing up, and it’s not the religion for which my parents defied our Russian family’s avowed secularism.

I don’t want to be that girl: the aspiring writer who has broken free of the tightly knit Orthodox community or school system and then proceeds to write about her love-hate relationship with said background. Because the truth is, I’m not that girl who’s broken away. I pray daily, recite benedictions before and after food, study Torah (but not Talmud). I still feel uncomfortable reading Aramaic texts traditionally limited to men. Friday afternoons find me running around the house, covering bathroom lights with special Shabbat covers, choosing tablecloths, filling the hot-water urn. And if it matters, which I suppose it does these days, I dress the part, too, despite being taught otherwise by secular grandparents: I wear modest skirts that reach my knees, sleeves that cover my elbows, and I refrain from any physical contact with males.

But I also wear stilettos. I also study Tennyson, Nabokov, and Joyce; I read the New York Times avidly, attend film screenings and art galleries. In the past few years, after leaving the comforts of my high school, where everything had been carefully dictated and prescribed, I’ve been trying to balance Torah u-Madda, religious studies with science or secular studies.

So much so have I entered the world of Torah u-Madda that I’d almost completely forgotten about the world I left behind. It took a conversation about hosiery to remind me why I am where I am today.

My friend’s query about that prospective bride’s tights floods my mind, for a half-second, with memories of the all-girls Orthodox high school we attended together. Kind teachers encouraging us to understand that our long sleeves might be a bit too tight. Running past teachers down the stairwell before they noticed that I wasn’t wearing tights in my ballerina flats. While my friend had gone on to seminary in Israel and chosen to be more stringent, I had chosen to go to Yeshiva University, bastion of modern Orthodoxy. To the outsider, the two seem indiscernibly similar, but to the insider in the Orthodox Jewish community, the two worlds couldn’t be more different.

My younger sisters, who still attend that all-girls high school, have been alluding to problems with particular teachers in vague text messages and sighing phone calls. When I came home one weekend, we went to a local coffee shop to discuss their issues in depth. One sister began to cry as told me how her rabbi had told the class that one who transgresses the boundaries of forbidden physical contact, even in the most casual and unaffectionate of manners, a mere handshake, is considered adulterous and thus is deserving of death, according to biblical law. “That just makes me want to go to the Gap and buy a pair of skinny jeans,” she told me, pulling her denim skirt to cover her knees as she sat down.

Another teacher announced proudly that the walls of her house have never seen her hair, just like the righteous mothers of the Talmud. “I sleep with my head covered, girls. Always.”

Yet another teacher brought in an article from the ultra-Orthodox magazine Mishpacha. The story followed a Jew in 1950s Soviet Russia who expressed an interest in studying Judaism but never did so because of the danger involved. The teacher explained: “Girls, what do we learn from this? That this man clearly sinned! One should always follow through with one’s intentions!”

My sister tried to argue; as the daughter of Soviet immigrants, she grew up with an understanding of what it meant to be Jewish in the USSR. “He was risking his life—” my sister began. The teacher dismissed her: “Yes, but one must risk one’s life for the sake of Torah.” [...]

Looking back, I wondered at the hold this education and lifestyle had over me, the fearful guilt with which everything had been infused. The second I had secretly questioned a stringency or attitude, I would rush to hush my doubts. This is your evil inclination speaking. They are clearly right, they are clearly holier, you know nothing because your family isn’t religious.

It disturbs me that a shred of this irrational guilt still remains, no matter how modern and progressive I claim to be.

It plagued me last summer in Israel. My first day in Jerusalem, I stepped out of the Western Wall plaza, half-dizzy from elation, and was immediately approached by an old, pious-looking woman. She was shaking her finger, screeching, “Erva!” and pointing to my hair, which was partially covered with a scarf. “Nakedness! How dare you not dress as a daughter of Israel, in the holiest of places? Where is the respect? How dare you not respect your husband, and the holiness of this place?” I was at such a loss for words that I didn’t know how to explain that I’m not even married, I’m not required to cover my hair—and I wondered why I’ve grown defensive. Why did I feel a need to explain myself to this woman? Where was the respect from her end?

There were other moments. Like being shoved into the back of a bus leaving from the Kotel on Saturday night. Women to the back! Young men (boys! children!) hooted and sneered into megaphones by the bus stop that there ought to be a separation of seating. And at first, I accepted it, without thought—of course, this is where a woman belongs.

Even during a Shabbat spent in a Jerusalem suburb with a Chardal (Zionist ultra-Orthodox) family. In front of her guests, my hostess scolded her 16-year-old daughter, “I see your collarbone, Leah. If you wear that shirt one more time, I swear I’ll take it away from you.” The hostess then turned to me, glanced at my coincidentally floor-length skirt, and commented, “You see Avital’s skirt? Girls, you should wear something like that. It’s so tznius.”

I wish I could have shown her the shorter and tighter pencil skirts that I left behind in my closet. Instead I quipped, “Yes, have you seen the Ramat Bet Shemesh women? They’ve taken to wearing burqas. Now, those are really tznius.”

My sarcasm went undetected. “Yes, indeed,” the hostess said, taking her glasses off with a sigh. “Those women are so modest. We can’t judge them, they’re on a much higher level than we are.”

It was just like the world of my high-school days, a world where so much is fueled by guilt—but also by exhibitionism, where it’s fashionable to publicize one’s piety, determined by the denier count of one’s stockings and the looseness of one’s sweater. Mention a restaurant you ate at yesterday, and the girl sitting next to you might raise her eyebrows and say, “Really? You eat there? Because I’m not sure about that kashrus certification. It’s not so reliable.” Your classmate might come into school one day, holding a tube of sewing glue, and whisper in your ear, “It’s for the slit in the back of your skirt. I can see the back of your knee.”

So much, it seemed, depended on covering ourselves—and in some circles, it still does. One young woman recently apologized to me that her husband doesn’t know any modern Orthodox young men to introduce me to, and that perhaps if I wore tights it would be a different situation. Soon afterward, I found out that she’s having an extramarital affair with a yeshiva student and is pregnant with his child. “Well,” I thought, “at least she wears tights.”

Back in high school, when we girls would ask our teachers for the source of the laws of modesty, the classic answer was to turn to Micah 6:8. Yet now it dawns on me that the same text has been misread, poorly taught. When Micah enjoins Israel to “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk modestly with thy God,” his final verb is to walk with God. Modestly is simply the adverb.

He essentially is asking that our piety, our walks with God, be done modestly—he’s not asking us to hide our women. Nor to confine them to specific streets, nor to the back of the bus.

Perhaps, rather, he is asking us to keep our piety modest. No one needs to know how many pages of Talmud you’ve learned today, what kosher certification you don’t trust, how intensely you sway during prayer—or how thick your tights are.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Trump’s never-ending quest for adoration

Washington Post by Jennifer Rubin

President-elect Donald Trump is so obsessed with reaffirming his own victory that he seems bent on ignoring a real national security threat and making common cause with a foe of the United States against our own intelligence community and the consensus of the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. His dutiful mouthpiece Sean Spicer demonstrated on Sunday just how irrational the Trump team will become when Trump’s frail ego is involved:
KARL: But what’s the bottom line. Just a yes or no answer. Does President Trump, President-elect Trump, now accept the fact that Russia was behind the DNC hack?
SPICER: Well I think that there’s a report that came out the other day, that got issued on the 29th, that the intelligence community has put out, and while the media played it up as this report about the hacking, what it actually is, if you look through it, and its available online, is a series of recommendations that should be taken, like changing passwords, changing administrative rights.
What it shows is that by all measures the Democratic National Committee had a very lax IT support. Now hacking is wrong by any standards. No one supports anyone hacking into any other entity, legal, domestically, or foreign, or anyone interfering with anything, but the fact of the matter is, what this report really does show is that there’s a need for them to go back in and look at their, what they’re doing IT wise to protect their system.

KARL: Absolutely, but you do see, I have the report too, you do see the headline, Russian malicious cyber activity. It makes it clear, and it names Russia, gives the IP addresses…
SPICER: And then it says, actions take, back up the system. Staff training…
KARL: Absolutely. But does he accept that Russia was behind this?
SPICER: Well I think, like I said, he has to have the briefing first from the intelligence community next week.
KARL: So he’s still not there yet?
SPICER: It’s not a question of not there yet, Jonathan, it’s a question of getting the information. Everyone in the media wants to jump forward and make a conclusion based off other sourced information, you know anonymous sources that are coming out of the intelligence community, he’s going to do this right.
KARL: This is no longer anonymous, this is
SPICER: It is…
KARL: This is a public statement.
SPICER: What this says is that the DNC had a problem with their IT security and people tried to hack it and they need to do a better job of protecting it…
KARL: The Russians succeeding in hacking… SPICER: But the fact of the matter is, but we’re having part of a conversation. Why aren’t we talking about the influence, other influences on the election? Why aren’t we talking about Hillary Clinton getting debate questions ahead of time? That’s a pretty valid attempt to influence an election. Somebody giving her the debate questions and the answers of an election. No, no, no. It’s not hey. We haven’t, no one’s asking those questions. And the fact is is that everyone wants to talk, make Donald Trump admit to certain things. When are we going to start talking about the other side of this. Which is what did Hillary Clinton do to influence the election? Is she being punished in any way? What are we doing to make sure that people don’t get the debate questions ahead of time, because I can tell you this, if my boss at the time, Reince Priebus, had gotten the debate questions, and handed them off, he would have been driven out of this town on a stake, and Donald Trump would have been vilified. No one wants to ask those questions now.

This is about national security and Spicer is talking about Clinton’s campaign. For Trump the two are linked, and anyone pursuing Russian cyberattacks on the United States is attacking him, his victory. This is disturbing to say the least.

There is something more than a little pathetic in reverting to false talking points about Trump “saving” Sprint jobs (that were “saved” before the election) when asked about Trump’s peculiar relationship with Putin:

KARL: Okay. So I want to ask you something, Donald Trump has had a lot to say about Russia over the past couple of weeks.
SPICER: Right.
KARL: In particular about Vladimir Putin. First he praised Putin for sending him a quote very nice letter saying he thought Putin’s thoughts were quote so correct. Then he agreed with Putin’s mocking of Hillary Clinton, saying it was, so true. And now we saw, most recently, praising Putin’s muted response to these new sanctions saying I always knew he was very smart. Sean, you’re a longtime Republican, party of Reagan, is there something a little strange to you to hear the incoming president offering so many words of praise to the Russian…
SPICER: Well let’s look at what happened, right? The United States says were going to impose these sanctions. Expel people, close down sites, et cetera, call out people by name. The Russian government says were going to retaliate in the equal sense. And then Vladimir Putin says, you know what, I’m actually going to wait until Donald Trump goes. That’s actually good for our country.

So the idea is everyone wants to talk about the tweets he sent. But I would actually focus on the action he’s getting. Donald Trump is not president yet and he’s getting action, successes and wins, both abroad and here at home.

Everything he does right now, he gets — he speaks for the head of Sprint, gets 5,000 jobs moved from abroad. And everyone starts to mock him. Oh, those jobs were already announced. They weren’t. The sales jobs have been a previous announce. These jobs were coming from abroad to America.

And instead of trying to mock him or undermine him, it’s time that people started to give him credit for actually getting things done.

Again, for Trump’s team the concern is about Trump being “mocked,” not about threats to the country. Spicer went on to give a convoluted explanation of Trump’s approach to Russia: The reset failed so Trump will do something new. That something new is being even more deferential to Russia? This is akin to President Obama’s mindset with Iran — predecessors failed to get along, so he would have a new relationship. Unfortunately, that new relationship meant never directly confronting Iran and deluding oneself that Iran wanted normal relations with the United States. Put in Trump terms, instead of “losing” to Russia, Trump would concede the match, for the sake of preserving his gigantic and frail ego.[...]

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Seridei Aish: Prohibition of Women Wearing Provocative Modern Fashions

Seridei Aish(Vol II 49:2): Concerning the clothing modern women wear -; as you have described it is definitely prohibited to stare at a women wearing this type of clothing. And even though Avoda Zara (20b) states that it is only prohibited to stare at the colored clothing of a woman if you know who owns them – however that is applicable only to clothing which is hanging on a wall. However if you stare at the woman herself who is wearing these clothes then it is definitely prohibited even if you don’t know her. And Avoda Zara (20a) already stated that one should not stare at a beautiful women even if she is unmarried. Despite the fact that Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 21) only states that it is prohibited for a man to stare at a woman [and says nothing about prohibiting a woman to dress a certain way]. [However the gemora describes the punishment of women who behave in a sexually provocative manner]
Shabbos (62b) states,    Raba son of R. Ilai lectured: What is meant by, Moreover the Lord said, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty? That means that they walked with haughty bearing. And walk with outstretched necks — they walked heel by toe. And wanton [mesakrothh] eyes: they filled their eyes with stibium and beckoned. Walking and mincing: they walked, a tall woman by the side of a short one. And making a tinkling [te'akasnah] with their feet: R. Isaac of the School of R. Ammi said: This teaches that they placed myrrh and balsam in their shoes and walked through the market-places of Jerusalem , and on coming near to the young men of Israel, they kicked their feet and spurted it on them, thus instilling them with passionate desire like with serpent's poison.  And what is their punishment? — As Rabbah b. ‘Ulla lectured: And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices [bosem] there shall be rottenness: the place where they perfumed themselves [mithbasmoth] shall be decaying sores. And instead of a girdle a rope [nikpeh]: the place where they were girded with a girdle shall become full of bruises [nekafim]. And instead of well-set hair baldness: the place where they adorned themselves shall be filled with bald patches. And instead of a stomacher [pethigil] a girding of sackcloth: the openings that lead to [sensual] joy shall be for a girding of sackcloth. Branding [ki] instead of beauty: Said Raba, Thus men say, Ulcers instead of beauty. Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab [wesipah] the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion. R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: This teaches that leprosy broke out in them: here is written wesipah; whilst elsewhere it is written, [This is the law for all manner of plagues of leprosy ...] and for a rising and for a scab [sapahath]. And the Lord will lay bare [ye'areh] their secret parts: Rab and Samuel — one maintained: This means that they were poured out like a cruse; while the other said: Their openings became like a forest. Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The men of Jerusalem were vulgar. One would say to his neighbour, On what did you dine to-day: on well-kneaded bread or on bread that is not well kneaded; on white wine or on dark [i.e., mustard-coloured] wine; on a broad couch or on a narrow couch; with a good companion or with a poor companion? R. Hisda observed: And all these are in reference to immorality.

And the daughter of Rabbi Chaninya ben Tradyon was punished because she walked in a provactive manner.
Avoda Zara (18a): His daughter was consigned to a brothel, for R. Johanan related that once that daughter of his was walking in front of some great men of Rome who remarked, ‘How beautiful are the steps of this maiden!’ Whereupon she took particular care of her step. Which confirms the following words of R. Simeon b. Lakish: What is the meaning of the verse, The iniquity of my heel compasseth me about?5 — Sins which one treads under heel6 in this world compass him about on the Day of Judgment.)
So concerning the prohibition [of wearing such clothing] there is absolutely no question. And all religious and moral people are greatly bothered by this. And concerning the battle against offensive fashions amongst Jewish women – this is a major issue. In practice it is important to produce the best moral results while at the same time not to arouse conflict and to distance women from shuls.

Former Chief Rabbi Metzger going to jail in NIS 10m. fraud case

Former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yona Metzger has reportedly reached a plea agreement with state prosecutors over a slew of corruption and bribery charges involving some NIS 10 million ($2.5 million).

Metzger will plead guilty to fraud, theft, conspiracy, breach of trust, money laundering, tax offenses and accepting bribes, in exchange for a reduced jail sentence, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.

The plea deal was offered after months of negotiations between Metzger’s attorneys and senior officials in the State Attorney’s Office, the report said.

The report did not provide details on the length of the prison sentence the former chief rabbi would receive under the agreement.

Last year, the Jerusalem District Court charged Metzger with accepting some NIS 10 million ($2.58 million) in bribes. He is accused of keeping NIS 7 million ($1.8 million) for himself. [...]

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Obama's shameful farewell message to Israel

Secretary of State John Kerry’s rebuke of the Israeli government on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from lawmakers in both parties. Republicans denounced what they said was the Obama administration’s harsh treatment of a steadfast ally and Democrats signaled that they were uneasy with Mr. Kerry’s pressure on Israel, even as they praised the effort to promote Middle East peace.

In Europe, however, Mr. Kerry’s speech was greeted warmly, with officials calling it a courageous and thoughtful effort to salvage the idea of a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians. Still, across the Arab world, his harsh words for Israel were met with a collective shrug, coming at the end of eight years of Obama administration policies that left many in the Middle East frustrated.

On Capitol Hill, hours after Mr. Kerry used what may be his last major address to bluntly inform the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that “friends need to tell each other the hard truths,” he received a reminder of the deep support Israel enjoys in an otherwise sharply divided Congress.

“While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the U.N., has emboldened extremists on both sides,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic leader.

A bipartisan chorus of lawmakers, upset with President Obama’s decision last week to allow the passage of a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s construction of settlements in disputed territory, made clear that they were looking past the departing administration.

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he shared Mr. Kerry’s concerns “with the lack of forward progress on a two-state solution.” But Mr. Cardin also said he was unhappy that Mr. Obama had not vetoed the United Nations resolution, instead abstaining from the vote. He pledged to “explore congressional action that can mitigate the negative implications” of it.

The most ardent supporters of Israel in Congress seemed just as liberated as Mr. Kerry was to let loose.

“Secretary Kerry’s speech today was at best a pointless tirade in the waning days of an outgoing administration,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “At worst, it was another dangerous outburst that will further Israel’s diplomatic isolation and embolden its enemies.”

Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called Mr. Kerry’s speech “gratuitous” and “wrong.” “There doesn’t seem any purpose to this other than to embarrass Israel,” Mr. Engel said. “It just pained me to watch it.”

Democratic members of Congress who are closer to Mr. Kerry, a former senator, and the Obama administration were more measured. Many had been angered by Mr. Netanyahu’s decision last year to accept an invitation from the Republican-led House to deliver a speech in the Capitol, where he confronted the president over the Iran nuclear accord.

Yet even these Democrats — eyeing the arrival of a Republican administration-in-waiting that has vowed strong support for Israel — left little doubt that they were parting ways with Mr. Obama on the substance of the United Nations resolution. [...]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rav Menashe Klein: Does sending girls to collect charity violate "the honor of the princess is to stay nside"

Rav Menashe Klein (4:125):Woe is to the girls school that sent them to collect money for charity Question: You want to know my view as to whether it is correct to send school girls from the higher grade with collection boxes (pushkes) into the stores and streets to collect money for Torah study or other worthy causes. Your view is that this practice violates the principle that the “The honor of the princess is inside” and also there is inappropriate contact with the people who pass by and this causes at times disgusting things. And I want to raise the additional question, “Why should this only be a concern for the higher grades? The question is definitely relevent also for the lower grades. Why should it be different because in both cases the girls are getting used to being amongst men? And the father of Shmuel did not let two sisters to sleep together to prevent them getting used to being physically close to another person. Everything depends on habit as is well known in this matter.

Nonetheless it is difficult to state a clear cut rule because it strongly depends upon the place and the time and the person. There is no question in a case where the girls who normally are in fact in the house the whole day that we say “The honor of the princess is inside”. But that is an unusual case. In such a case there would be no mitzva to send them out to collect charity and in fact it would be a mitzva accomplished through sin. However due to our many sins it seems that these present day girls do not in fact fulfill the verse of “The honor of the princess is inside” and they leave the home regularly for all sorts of things. For example they go to school everyday on the bus with various and strange drivers and joke with them or discuss issues with them or even with an ordinary non-Jew that gets on the bus and they greet them – and this is a problem even with a Jewish driver. They learn English in school with male teachers who might be non-Jews or Jews. And this is true not only for English but also they have male teachers for Torah - and many of the teachers are unmarried.

It was a long time ago that I spoke with one of the principals of a girls high school here concerning why they have unmarried male teachers? We know from Toras Moshe Rabbeinu that an unmarried male should not teach – even boys because of the mothers who come for them. So surely they shouldn’t be teaching older girls who are at the age to cause problems even for married teachers. Surely males teaching girls is not considered a clean and simple profession. In fact our Sages have said that a person should have a job that doesn’t involve interacting with females and surely not to be teaching them every day for the entire day! Can it be that a person will light a fire in his bosom and not be burnt? Who in today’s generation can say that he doesn’t have sexual enticements in these situations?

G-d forbid that I should be blaming holy Jewish girls and I am not not saying they are doing anything wrong because all of them are holy. And also it is certain that the teachers are pure and holy and I with my many sins and am the lowest of the lowest I have not merited to holiness like this. However for someone of lowly value such as myself it is certain that I need to protest. And perhaps in truth you will not find amongst the teachers someone as lowly as me – it should only be so.

The holy and learned Rav Hillel Kalamair occasionally gave talks to women concerning mussar and the halachos that they needed to know. When he entered into they synagogue to speak before them, he would first wrap his head with a talis so he would not look at them and come to sin. Are we greater than he? And I have said that if perhaps I had two other rabbis supporting me I would make a great protest against this practise. [see E. H. 1:3 and Beis Shmeul 1:4. My brother pointed out to me that the Lechem Chamudos said something similar. I am happy to see that I am agreement with such an elevated person.]

So to return to the original question. We see that these girls go into the markets and streets for walks, for jobs, for purchases and for all their needs. If so why should we be concerned specifically for the issue of going to collect charity? Is this worse than what they do for other needs? In fact the opposite is so because there are times when it is good for them to go and collect charity and not go to worse places than that e.g., to watch television or listen to the radio or sometimes they even go to see a movie or other entertainment which I don’t want to mention. So I am not speaking about the girls who in truth do not generally go out and they fulfill, “The honor of the princess is inside” and they are adorned with golden garments. A girl who spends her staying at home and not going out – they should be truly rich and their portion be successful and their forfathers rejoice – because this is true greatness for girls like these not to go out. For such girls the question of collecting charity does not arise.

Rav Menashe Klein (9:250): Question: Concerning the halacha principle that a Jewish woman is considered a princess and therefore it is more respectful for that status that she should remain in the home (kavod bas melech penima) – is it preferable that a wife leave the home for the sake of her husband to a place of immorality [in order to earn a living or other purposes]. Answer: It is difficult to give a clear written response to this question. That is because in modern time this principle that it is best that a Jewish woman should stay in the home is almost nonexistent – because of our many sins. If a woman does remain in her home and doesn’t go out for any reason– even if it causes her husband to lose Torah study - then this is definitely an example of the principle. Traditionally a woman did not go out of her house. However after the Holocaust (because of our many sins) – when we find ourselves a small minority amongst the nations of the world and earning a livelihood is difficult – it has become normative practice for women to leave their homes. However in places outside the home there is the possibility of immorality and no protection against sexual sins – therefore it depends on the nature of the society and the characteristics of the woman. In particular whether she would in fact remain in the house all day if she had the opportunity. (See what I wrote in Mishne Torah 4:125) concerning sending Beis Yaakov girls out to collect money for charity.)

 First we need to clarify whether we actually rule that this principle is the halacha. It seems that in fact that it is a dispute amongst the poskim - as we see from Gittin 12 that apparently we don’t follow such a principle. Similarly Mahari Bruno (#242) was asked regarding a maid servant who did not want to leave the home to do the shopping because of this principle. He responded that we don’t rule in accord with this principle. In contrast we see in Yevamos (77a) that this principle is cited as halacha [from the fact that Amonite and Moabite women were not punished for failing to provide the Jews with bread and water - since all respectable woman remain in the home] .

he Nimukei Yosef say there that the principle is halacha because all Jews are considered royalty. Shulchan Aruch (E.H 4) also rules like Yevamos (77a). See the Levush. Consequently we seem to have contradictory evidence as to whether it is halacha. Furthermore in Shabbos (111a), Rav Shimon says that all Jews are royalty and that is the halacha. On the other hand the Ran says that the Rif says that the halacha that all Jews are not considered royalty. However the BeHag and Rabbeinu Chananel rule like Rav Shimon...Rashi (Shabbos 59) writes that all Jews are royalty. Similarly in Mishna Berachos (1:2) says that they are royalty. However Rabbeinu Yona says normally they are not considered royalty but here we do.

In my chidushim I write that there are three different circumstances. In truth there is no question that the honor of a princess is to stay in the home. However in spite of that, we find with Ruth that she did go out to gather grain amongst the other harvesters – and she is praised for doing so. But look at Rashi and the interpretations of Chazal that say when she went out she sought out the company of proper people. If so we can state that when a person does need to go out of the home this principle requires finding a place where there are proper people. In such circumstances there is no prohibition.