Friday, February 27, 2009

Abuse - A morning of chizuk/ Hikind

5TownsJewish Times

On Sunday, March 1, New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn is scheduled to host a community-wide event entitled “A Morning of Chizuk” to show solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community and to provide information to concerned citizens. The program includes inspirational speeches and the recitation of Tehillim.

Addressing the audience will be Dr. Benzion Twerski; Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, director of Iggud HaRabbanim; Shmelke Klein of Eitzah; and Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein, executive vice-president of Project Chazon, among others. “We are all guilty of not doing more to address sexual abuse in our community,” Hikind said. “The time has come to ask forgiveness from the victims and to pray for continued strength from G-d to combat this issue. I urge the community to join in this unprecedented event.” A Morning of Chizuk will be held at the Boro Park Y, 4912 14th Avenue, at 11:00 a.m. Separate seating for men and women will be available.

In furtherance of Hikind’s mission to educate the public about sexual abuse in the Orthodox community, Hikind is dedicating two radio shows, on February 21 and 28, to interviewing sex-abuse victims from the Orthodox Jewish community. During the course of the shows, Hikind intends to announce that the multifaceted plan created by his task force to tackle sexual abuse is nearing completion. “We are putting the final touches on our plan to implement education, prevention, and intervention systems in homes, schools, camps, and the general community,” remarked Hikind. “Education and awareness are the only way to protect our children from predators.”

Hikind invites listeners to share their opinions by calling 718-436-1700. The Dov Hikind Show airs Saturday nights at 11:00 p.m. on WMCA 570 AM.

Chasam Sofer - Beracha on the Sun

חתם סופר (אורח חיים א:נו): וראיתי בס' שכה"ג שמקדם לא נהגו כלל בברכה זו כן משמע בתשו' משאת בנימין, אולי הוא מטעם הנ"ל, ומ"מ אחרי דנהיגי בה עלמא עפ"י הגאונים הנ"ל וגם הרי"ף מייתי להא דאביי בפשיטות ורמב"ם ורא"ש וטור וקבעו הרב"י בש"ע ממנו אין לזוז. ובאמת לא ידעתי מ"ט לא נהגו נשים לברך ברכה זו ג"כ ולא שייך הכא הטעם שכ' [מג"א רסי' תכ"ו] בברכת הירח שהנשים גורמים מיעוט הירח וזה לא שייך הכא, ומ"מ מה דנהיג נהיג ומה דלא נהיג הבו דלא לוסיף עלה, ועדיין צ"ע:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Conversion - fight over Israeli standards

Recipients and Publicity
comment on your post "Conversion and the new government":

Israel to raise standards of conversion by increasing requirements. Conservative/Masorti leaders object and are joined by ultra-Modern Orthodox Rabbis Seth Farber, Marc Angel and Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (the latter had also opposed his own RCA and went to a national church service in honor of Obama) who worry more about conditions outside of Israel than realities of gentiles coming into the Jewish state. Note that article refers to the "stringent standards" of Chief Rabbinate avoiding use of the euphemism "universally standards" while a Reform rabbi worries that converts are asked "theological questions" (my, what should they be asked instead, how many Jewish actors or politicians they heard of?)

From The New York Jewish

"Fresh Rift Seen Over New Israeli Conversion Rules

Jerusalem — In a potentially divisive flare-up in the ongoing Who is a Jew struggle, Israel’s Interior Ministry is poised to institute new, stricter guidelines for diaspora converts wishing to immigrate to Israel, The Jewish Week has learned.

According to the new guidelines, spelled out in a two-page draft document in the works since 2005, potential converts from all religious streams seeking to make aliyah must study Judaism a minimum of 350 hours in “a recognized” Jewish community.

They must also spend a total of 18 months in the community where they are converting (at least nine months following the conversion), in order to prove their sincere commitment to Judaism.

Until now, the ministry has never dictated the number of hours a convert must study.

The 18-month requirement is six months longer than the ministry’s long-standing criterion, which the Supreme Court deemed illegal in 2005. [...]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

US to give $900 million to Gaza

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month, administration officials said Monday.

In an early sign of how the administration plans to deal with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, an official said that the aid would not go to Hamas but that it would be funneled through nongovernmental organizations.

By seeking to aid Gazans but not Hamas, the administration is following the lead of the Bush administration, which sent money to Gaza through nongovernmental organizations. In December, it said it would give $85 million to the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. [...]

EJF - Trojan horse proselytizing

Since the 18th century, the Jewish religion has been open to enlightenment that enabled new interpretation of some of the laws and traditions of the Jewish people. With this enlightenment came different movements or denominations of Judaism, and these different sects hold different ideas and values as well as different interpretations of Jewish law.

Orthodox Jews: Orthodox Jews believe that the 613 commandments that are contained in the Torah are binding to all Jews. They strictly observe all of the laws and traditions of the Jewish people and still are members of everyday society. Those Orthodox Jews that do not integrate with society are called Chasidic Jews, and can be identified by their distinct dress and separate living situations.

Conservative Jews: Conservative Jews believe in observing the laws and commandments of the Torah, while still believing the law is adaptable to modern culture while still staying true to the concept of a eternal Jewish family.

Reform Jews: Reform Jews basically believe that the Torah was written by men, rather than God, yet they still embrace many of the traditions and laws contained therein. While they don’t believe the laws are binding, they follow them loosely to maintain tradition.

by Phil

Jewish Guidelines for Modesty

They way we dress, look and carry ourselves are the first things people notice about us. Jewish law dictates care and modesty in every day dress, as your clothes present much about who you are and what you stand for. Here are some basic modesty guidelines for women of the Jewish faith to follow and teach their eternal Jewish family about.

Skirts should fall to 4 inches above the knee, and styles such as skirts that feature slits or wraparound styles should not be worn. The most acceptable type of skirt is an a-line that doesn’t allow any gaping.

Shirts should be conservative and the sleeves should fall to three quarters length and no shorter. You may be permitted to wearing short sleeves, as long as they fall three inches from the shoulder.

Necklines should be modest and not show the collarbone. Again, you may be permitted to wear shirts that expose three inches below the neckline, but other wise should not show any more of the chest.

Clothes should be loose and comfortable, with no tight fitting or sheer fabrics. A faithful Jew should consciously dress modestly no matter where she is; whether it is at synagogue or on vacation, the rules for modesty are the same. She should be an example to her eternal Jewish family by dressing modestly because she wants to.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Conversion and the new government

Recipients and Publicity

The looming battles over conversions in the new Knesset and new Israeli government as reported in the recent weekend English HAMODIAH:

UTJ Raises Conversion Issue in Coalition Talks

Last years's High Rabbinical Court decision to invalidate thousands of conversions could become a major issue in coalition talks.

Members of United Torah Judaism asked the Likud Sunday to clarify its position on the matter after Yisrael Beiteinu requested recognition of conversions and accelerated activity in the special conversion courts, which are not recognized by Gedolei Yisrael.

UTJ has said its coalition talks with Likud are contingent on the party's rejection of Yisrael Beiteinu's requests. UTJ Chairman Yaakov Litzman met with Likud's Reuven Rivlin Sunday, but they did not appear to have reached an agreement."

Chareidim & Economic crisis

Haaretz reports

B., an ultra-Orthodox resident of Jerusalem in his twenties, was fired a year ago and has since been unable to find work. For years, he combined yeshiva studies with a job editing religious books for publication. He had even seriously considered abandoning the yeshiva to work full-time at the institute that employed him. But then he was fired.

In fact, more than half the institute's employees were fired over a two-month period. "People are buying fewer books," B. explained. "They're cutting back."

Even more importantly, however, most such institutes - of which there are dozens in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community - depend on donations, as it takes years of sales to cover the initial cost of producing the books. And in the current economic climate, donations are plunging.

B. said the salary was good. But he received no social benefits, and was even forced to sign a contract waiving the severance he is due by law. He has not considered suing; "it's not done." Thus he, his wife and two children are now living off his stipend from the yeshiva plus his wife's earnings from doing office work at home - both of which are meager. He has found some freelance work to supplement his income, but these jobs, too, are disappearing.

Shmuel Kamil, 26, is so far in a better situation. Until October, he was learning full-time in yeshiva. But then he decided he wanted to combine Torah study with work, so he registered at the Haredi College in Jerusalem to obtain a bachelor's degree in computer science. Now, he is studying five afternoons and evenings a week in the college's academic preparatory program, while continuing to study in the yeshiva during the mornings. [...]

Anusim - An insider's protest

What follows is a Ben Anusim's explanation of their position. It is saying judge us by our interpretation of halacha - because yours is wrong. Such an approach is doomed to failure. I am posting it to provide a better understanding of what the problem is.

Nathaniel comment to "Rabbi Manny Vinas objects to criticism and explain...":

This is great, a whole bunch of Kassars, trying to say who is a Jew. At the end the real Jews are the Sephardic Jews, you talk about discrimination in Germany but you are triying to do Shoach to the Jewish soul of Bnei Anousim.

Read this

By all means what is to follow requires further study, and it is an exercise to find truth. This, I hope, will serve to alleviate some anguish that Israel is suffering, which by no means needs to be suffered.

First and foremost, we have spoken about the issues on how the Anusim subject has been treated, both in the Academia and among the common people. 21st century Anusim have been subjected to understand themselves through the mythos of the “marrano”, as “crypto-Judaism” is understood in common parlance. When going to the actual sources – those who actually lived in their own historical periods – one will find the ground levels of how rabbis and Anusim behaved, and how the whole matter was treated. Hardly anyone today has made any efforts to understand the Anusim in their own historical and halakhic contexts. Almost everything as spoken today is disjointed and lacks of tremendous profundity.

At that level, I must agree with Mr. Peretz and Ms. Cohen on the almost annoying misrepresentation that we have experienced; however, it is not the Anusim's fault. The lack of seriousness and proper projection has invaded this matter, and to clear these nuances, one must study, analyze and interpret them in the most favorable way; in no way attack them.
If Judaism represents the unbroken tradition of that awesome event at Sinai – the theophany when God Almighty came down to Earth and established an irrevocable contract (berit) with his people – then by virtue of that contract every Israelite cannot ever loose his / her citizenship.

With the issue to “conversion”, one must clear up what it represents. A convert in Hebrew is translated as “ger”, that is a “naturalized citizen” of Israel. In common parlance, he / she is a proselyte. A ger – in halakhic literature – is an alien who adopts the Jewish Constitution (the Torah) in its entirety. A conversion in Hebrew is called a “giur”, and the strict way of conversion is called a “giur l’humra”, which to my knowledge is applied when the person grew up in the non-traditional frames of Judaism, and with a non-Jewish mother in the matrilineal line. Both are given the name of “ben Abraham” or “bat Sarah”, implying that they are adopted within the Abrahamic family, since Abraham is the father of all Hebrews and the first to explicitly recognize the One God. On all this, I stand to be corrected. However, a ger, though he / she is considered a Jew through the process of naturalization, he / she is forbidden to marry a Kohanim (in case of women). In some communities, people hold reservations about marrying a “ger”, though they should not have any. (Yes Ladies and Gentlemen, this is discrimination). I am not sure of other limitations, but at the outset this is the most prominent I can think about.

The only road that is officially being offered to Anusim today is that of the “giur”, or “giur l’humra” at best. Now, can anyone explain to the Anusim how does this procedure at the metaphysical and traditional levels does not violate the Berit at Sinai, and does uphold the sanctity of His name?

Nowhere, absolutely nowhere, we see from the Sages of Israel – much less from God Almighty – declaring an apostate Israelite a “gentile,” or “worse than gentiles.” One must show four sign post:

 [go to comments to "Rabbi Manny Vinas objects to criticism and explain...": for rest of post]

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein - Regarding her father

I was recently called by a relative of Rav Soloveitchik questioning the preciseness of my recall of Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein's view of her father - Rav Soloveitchik. I acknowledged the quote was from memory. In order to set the record straight I am publishing the link to the original video of the Van Leer Institute discussion of Rav Soloveitchik. It is to the final session - but it is worth while to see the other videos. The link requires Microsoft explorer to be seen properly

17:30-19:00 – Final Session
Chair: Dr. Avinoam Rosenak
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, Three Doors Rabbi Soloveitchik Opened But Did Not Walk Through: The Future of Modern Orthodoxy
Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein, The Rav from a Distance: Retrospective Reflections (Hebrew)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chareidim vs. Egged - #2 Bus dispute

YNet reports:

Jerusalem haredi group launches alternative bus line from religious neighborhoods to Western Wall, put pressure on Egged to accept initiative by protesting in streets, throwing stones at bus.

Residents of the haredi neighborhoods in Jerusalem are going to war against Egged, an Israeli bus company. Dozens of people demonstrated Wednesday afternoon in the Ge'ula and Mea Shaarim neighborhoods, blocking through traffic to Egged buses.

The protestors are taking action against the bus company after a complaint was submitted by the Transportation Ministry against the operation of private "kosher" within the public transportation framework without a license. According to police reports, haredim threw stones at an Egged bus traveling through the neighborhood. No injuries were reported, but damage was caused to the bus' windshield. Police forces were summoned to the location to maintain the peace. However, it was reported to Ynet that bus traffic to Mea Shaarim will be terminated until order is restored.[...]

Rav Sternbuch - Living with Sinai

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rescue of Yemenite Jews

Haaretz reports

A small group of Yemenite Jews arrived in Israel on Thursday in a covert operation carried out by the Jewish Agency.

The Agency's Spokesman Michael Jankelowitz refused to say how the 10 people were rescued, citing security concerns, but said they had been threatened by al-Qaida.

The Ben Yisrael family was extricated from the city of Raida, after suffering from anti-Semitic attacks and repeated death threats.

A few weeks ago, a grenade was thrown into the courtyard of the family's home in Raida, possibly by al Qaida-affiliated extremists.

Said Ben Yisrael, who heads the Raida Jewish community, and his family are due to take up Israeli citizenship upon their arrival. They will be taken to Beit Shemesh, accompanied by a Jewish Agency team.

There are approximately 280 Jews left today In Yemen, 230 of whom live in Raida in the Omran province, and another 50 Jews live in the capital city of Sana'a.[...]

Child abuse - Difficult to prove accusations

Parents waited anxiously Wednesday for Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to respond to an appeal that he reopen an investigation against a Jerusalem-area pre-school teacher who allegedly abused their children.

The parents issued their appeal in the form of a letter they delivered to Mazuz's office at the Justice Ministry on Tuesday following a decision by prosecutors not to indict the teacher.

Some staged a protest in front of the ministry, bringing battered dolls to emphasize that "children are not rag dolls and cannot be serially abused."

The case began in June 2007 when parents discovered what they described as serious cases of abuse against their children, who had been enrolled at a pre-school in Givat Ze'ev, just outside Jerusalem. After questioning the children as to the source of various scratches and bruises, the youngsters blamed their pre-school teacher.

A number of the parents filed complaints with the police, municipal government and Education Ministry. One said her daughter had been "thrown across the room and then locked in the bathroom."

With a police investigation under way, the Education Ministry transferred the teacher to a pre-school in Jerusalem's Kiryat Menahem neighborhood. The ministry explained that it was standard procedure to transfer an employee following a complaint so as not to interfere with the investigation.

Within a few months, parents at the Kiryat Menahem pre-school also discovered signs of child abuse. The parents of a three-year-old girl who found multiple contusions on her body were concerned enough to take her to the hospital. According to the National Council for the Child, the girl said it had been the pre-school teacher under investigation who caused the injuries.

The organization argued Tuesday that evidence pointed to the fact that the teacher was a serial child abuser and constituted a danger to small children.[...]

Vatican lifts excommunication of anti-Semitic society

Haaretz reports:

In lifting the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson who has been accused of Holocaust denial last month, the Catholic Church also readmitted a priestly society that openly propagates virulent anti-Semitism, according to a probe by a Belgian Jewish newspaper.

The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated The Society of St. Pius X in 1988 along with Williamson and three other member priests, declaring their consecrations were "unlawful" and "schismatic."

In January of this year the Vatican lifted the excommunication. On the same day, a Swedish television station aired an interview with Williamson in which he denied the existence of gas chambers during the Holocaust.

In a research performed after the readmittance, a team of journalists from Joods Actueel, an Antwerp-based Jewish news publication, found what they describe as "a slew of anti-Semitic content" on the society's Web sites in five languages.

The probe whose results were made public on Thursday, found that the society's official U.S. Web site described Jews as "the enemy of man, whose secret weapon is the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy," adding that "heads of Jewry have for centuries conspired methodically and out of an undying hatred against the Catholic name."

The South African site said that "Jews have come closer and closer to fulfilling their substitute-Messianic drive towards world dominion." The Irish site asks whether "the Jews are guilty of Deicide," answering: "We must say yes."

The site from Germany, a country with strict limitations on anti-Semitic speech, clarifies that "contemporary Jews are for sure guilty of the murder of God, as long as they don't recognize Christ as God."

The Belgian site accuses Jews of "still believing they are the chosen people" while "awaiting world domination." The Austrian site warns that the Jewish organization B'nai Brith is "found everywhere" and "commands the entire world." [...]

EJF family - fishing for non-Jewish souls   has the following article. It is interesting that term "eternal Jewish family" is used as bait. The links lead you to another page and then finally to EJF's home page.

Judaism is one of the oldest and most ancient religions in the world, and it can be said that many people can trace their roots back to the original Jews; the children of Israel. But for whatever reason, many of those who have Jewish ancestry are no longer Jewish today, yet are curious about the religion of their heritage. Furthermore, more and more are converting to Judaism, whether because of family ties, spouses, or simply of their own accord, to create their own eternal Jewish family.

If a person wishes to convert to Judaism, there are a few steps they need to take. Most often, an individual’s intent to convert will be reviewed by a rabbi before any ceremony can take place. Once the rabbi believes a convert to be worthy and ready for conversion, they will face a three person religious court to be tested on their knowledge and intent of the religion.

Once the religious court has verified the convert, he or she will then undergo a process of immersion called a mikveh, which is a symbolic cleansing before entering into the faith. Conversion is an important step to an eternal Jewish family. Those who undertake do not do so lightly, and are warned of their responsibilities to the faith and their families after conversion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rabbi Bomzer's ban signatories - retract

Rabbi Eidensohn,
[This is in reference to this post ]

Although I have studied at yeshiva, I do not consider myself anything close to a chocham; I do, however, feel that I am a rather good judge of character and a more than good analyst of arguments. I have also had personal experiences with conversions and rabbis who perform them. It is for this reason that I am writing to add my support to those who claim that Rabbi Chaim Zev Bomzer has been libeled and slandered in the controversy over the legitimacy of his geirus.

I have been reluctant to write on the matter of R' Tropper and R’ Eisenstein’s charges against Rabbi Bomzer, because I try my best to avoid spreading lashon hora. I admit that because of my own relative lack of talmudic education, I tend to err on the side of caution whenever I am confronted with a situation where my words may be viewed as inappropriate. But this situation demands that all information which can reveal the truth be provided to as many eyes as possible. Having been referred to the blog and having read the many statements supporting and condemning both factions, I have come to the realization that certain obvious questions are being glossed over in the indignation both sides are claiming as a result of this disagreement.

The first issue that has gone undiscussed is the matter of bringing this argument to a din torah for resolution. It is my understanding that R’ Eisenstein has declined to attend a beis din in the US on the grounds that his mentors tell him he need not leave Israel to resolve this matter. Rabbi Bomzer, on the other hand, feels that only in the US can this matter be properly and fairly adjudicated because of numerous adim and other potential expert witnesses who will not or cannot afford to make the trip to Israel. What would it take to have R' Eisenstein come to the US? Would it simply be a matter of the flight? By this letter, I offer to pay R' Eisenstein’s fare if he will agree to come to the US for the beis din.

The other issue is the legitimacy of the letter ostensibly signed by the respected and revered chochomim condemning Rabbi Bomzer and warning against acceptance of his geirus. I have learned that more than one of the signatories has since retracted his support for the contents of that letter. Some have gone so far as to claim that the letter they signed did not contain the same language as the letter which has been circulated, while others have stated that at the very least they do not remember the letter to have stated such things when they signed it, and that they now state unequivocally that they do not support what the letter claims. I am attaching to this email a copy of a statement signed by two of those signatories which I hope you will see fit to place on your blog.

It is not my intention to become involved in any "back and forth" with your other commentators. I have been a contributor to newsgroups and online debates for more than 25 years, and know too well how easily some people allow themselves to behave online in ways they would not dare were they talking to their opponents face to face. So it is my intention bli neder to make this my only statement on the subject in the hope that, by refraining from participation in any inflammatory dialogue, R' Eisenstein will take me up on my offer to assist his participation in the only forum that can settle this matter once and for all.

All the best,

Ben Israel

Why do we need to earn Olam HaBa?

The following interesting question was posed.

Shalom u'vracha! Here's my latest question: Why can't the Creator simply remove the possibility to experience any discomfort/embarrassment that would occur upon being given the "free gift" in the end (olam haba)? In fact, it's not even that much of a free gift at all in the end if the Creator simply removes the potential for evil that causes pain/suffering (because then He wouldn't have to remove much of the possibility to experience any embarrassment in the end). So why is there evil to the extent that there is?

Interestingly, someone I know pointed out that Daas Tevunos explains free will and the associated evil in terms of nahama d'kesufa - but in Derech Hashem Ch. 2 he explains both...WITHOUT ANY REFERENCE WHATSOEVER TO nahama d'kesufa. What do you make of that?

Defense of BMG Hanhala in Beis Feiga dispute

RaP forwarded:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dangers of teaching complex issues publicly

[I am making this a post due to its cogency and relevance]

mekubal comment to "Sexual molestation is absolutely prohibited accord...":

Shoshi wrote: So I learned, that in general, when people start insulting you "You are too ignorant for me to explain you" it really means that the person insulting you does not know the answer and does not want to tell you.

I wonder what you would have said to R' Kaduri Z"L, who would say to people who asked too many questions, "You are not worthy to learn Kabblah, leave." Thus removing them from his Yeshiva. I have heard from students of his when he still taught at Beit E-l that he would do the same there, effectively kicking people out of someone else's Yeshiva. That can be independantly verified from R' Tzadok of Kosher

Or what you would have said to my first Magid Shiur at BMG who started the Zman by saying, "I will gladly answer any question you may have once you know enough to ask a proper question."

The truth is that if one is given too much information before a proper foundation is laid it can lead to confusion and even kefira. I have no intention of insulting you when I say that your level of learning is not on a par where it can easily enter this type of discussion. This is all in the realms of Dayyanim, which is far more learning than most Rabbis will ever do. Most Rabbis never spend any serious amount of time learning these laws, let alone trying to become expert in them. One can only become a Dayyan after become a Rav(a process that takes a number of years) then one has to have the ability(financial) and willingness to devote 10-15 more years to study of these sorts of laws before one can become fluent in them. Most other Semichut the Rabbinute gives a single exam, for Dayyanut there are five consecutive exams that one takes over a course of years when one has prepared appropriately for each. Personally I have taken and passed the first two, that has taken 4 years. So please excuse me or D"T if we tell you that you are swimming in deep waters, and possibly waters that are out of your depth.

I have endeavored to answer each of your questions, asking only that you actually thoroughly read the answers before making assumptions. You seem to want full and complete answers not just sources. The truth is because of the nature of the topic and the amount of information involved a full treatment cannot be done on a blog. Not only would an exhaustive treatment take ample space, it would, because of the public nature of the blog violate the prohibitions of teaching Torah to non-Jews.

I truly don't think that you fully grasp the complexity of your question, if for no other reason than you don't seem to understand the unfounded assumptions that you are basing it on. There are two parts to your question, one is halakhic and the other is haskafic. However, the hashkafa has to be settled before we move on to the halacha.

For instance you want a guilty party to have to make some kind of reparations for mental health care. You are assuming that mental health care is a valid form of healing and that it is in line with Torah values. Take for instance this:

I post that because I know the Rosh Yeshiva he learned that from.

Then there is the perspective of others such as R' Mordechai Goldstein Shlit"a, who claims that psychology/psychiatry can diagnose accurate problems but is useless to resolve or heal them. He claims that is the shitta of the Yeshiva where he learned(Chafetz Haim), and has passed that on to each of his students at his own Yeshiva. Furthermore each of his former students that have started their own Yeshivas(at least each of the one's I have spent any time at) hold the same opinion. They have passed this on to their students, some of whom are Dayyanim that will hear cases.

On the other side of the spectrum you have R' Twerski(whom I personally agree with) and Nefesh. Each side believes that it is upholding Torah with its view points. Who is right who is wrong, who can decide? Both sides have Gedolim backing them.

Those view points will radically dertermine different paths and different solutions to the problems that you give. For instance if one does not believe in mental illness, but rather that "problems" are simply a lack of emunah, middot development and Torah Study, then for instance their is no such thing as a serial abuser who has a mental problem. Rather it is simply someone who has sinned, or who has not yet mastered the teivot. Thus why should they be imprisoned or punished? They need rather to be taught and helped. They need proper musar, and chizuk. Maybe they need to make a tikun for an aveira in a past life. You don't have to take my word for it, see the move "Trembling Before God." Granted it deals with homosexuality(though one of the individuals claims to have "improper feelings" for his school children) which is not classified as a mental illness, but nevertheless is a deviance according to Torah. You will see the variety of approaches portrayed there.

There are like streams of reasoning dealing with the victims, but because they disgust me I will not share them here. It is enough to say that there are Torah opinions that, because of their view on psychology and other things, essentially blame the victims for their ongoing problems.

Once those issues are sorted one can move on to halachic issues. As if the halacha was not already complex enough, you have to factor in the above into any decision of a B"D. Their Hashkafa will determine their interpretation of halacha. Simply look at the various posts on this blog about conversion to see how that plays out in a different realm of halacha. In general the less quantifiable a problem, the more complex will be the resulting halachic dispute.

[see rest of post as comment to "Sexual molestation is absolutely prohibited accord..."]

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nefesh Conference on abuse

JPost writes:

Abuse of women, children and the elderly in the religious Jewish community was long denied, on the grounds that observance of the Torah and Talmud prevented it. Physical, sexual, emotional, economic and other types of maltreatment of the weak, claimed this sector, occurs among secular Jews, but "not in our camp."

But this has been disproven by infamous cases of child abuse reported recently in the general media, and the opening of shelters for battered women in haredi neighborhoods.

THE RECENT ninth Jerusalem conference of ATEM Nefesh-Israel - an organization of observant social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other therapists - had several sessions devoted to this topic. Although all the 200 or so participants were religious (most of them women), the public nature of the conference at the Bayit Vegan Guesthouse constituted a welcome airing of the religious community's "dirty laundry," though some rabbis still insist on hiding it. The organization of religious therapists was founded by Shaare Zedek Medical Center neuropsychologist Dr. Judith Guedalia and geriatric social worker and Melabev found Leah Abramowitz.

Clearly, most religious Jewish men are good or excellent husbands and fathers. No data were provided on how common abuse is in the religious - especially haredi - community, and how it compares with the secular community, but the fact that it was discussed is a healthy phenomenon.

"Twenty years ago, no one would dream of talking openly about violence in the religious family," said Rabbi Dr. Benjamin (Benny) Lau. The modern Orthodox rabbi - who is director of the Center for Judaism and Society, heads Jerusalem's Institute for Social Justice at Beit Morasha, serves as rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue in the Katamon quarter and lectures on Jewish law and social justice at Bar-Ilan University - delivered a keynote address at the conference. "If a community gives a legitimacy to violence and abuse, these can happen. There are closets in haredi society that are still not open."

AN EYE-OPENING workshop on "Spiritual Abuse" of haredi women opened the closet door a crack. Dr. Nicole Dahan, a social worker at the Ariel University Center and Tzipi Levy, a social worker in the Jerusalem Municipality, have done much to put this subject on the public agenda.

While until recently, men's abuse of their partners was known to involve physical, emotional, sexual and verbal violence, as well as economic abuse and the reduction of freedom, Levy and Dahan discovered that some haredi men use God and the commandments to abuse their wives. [...]

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Subbotnik Jews of Ilyinka are Jews

I saw the post on your blog today regarding the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and was simply astonished at its tone and content. With all due respect - and I do respect talmidei chachamim - I would like to bring to your attention the attached article from the haredi newspaper HaMevaser which appeared last month.

In it, Maran HaGaon HaRav Elyashiv Shlit"a is quoted as ruling that the Subbotnik Jews of the village of Ilyinka in southern Russia are "yehudim kasherim lechol davar". While HaRav Elyashiv's pesak relates specifically to Ilyinka, I humbly suggest that in light of this, your headline to the effect that "Subbotniks are not Jewish" warrants correction.

Michael Freund

Rabbi Triebitz - Development of Talmud

I would like to recommend - for the serious students - Rabbi Triebitz' website Especially of interest is his speculation on the development of the Talmud.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Conversion - Subbotniks are not Jewish

Recipients and Publicity
comment to "Shavei Israel V - Proselytization as kiruv":

Russia's Chabad Chief Rabbinate Regards Subbotniks as Gentiles Requiring Giyur L'Chumra. Chabad Stance Opposes Shavei Israel's Lenient Attitude To Subbotniks That Wants Bring Them To Israel. Israeli Chief Rabbinate Caught In Middle.

The English language MISHPACHA magazine of 1.7.09 (11 Teves 5769) (Pages 12-13) presented a key article about: "Are the Subbotniks Full-Fledged Jews" that ran very much AGAINST the type of pro-Shavei Israel press-release self-congratulatory PR hype that was published in The Jewish Press, as posted above in The Jewish Press story of Friday, December 26, 2008 (Page 36): "Russia’s Subbotnik Jews Get a Rabbi":

An estimated 15,000 Subbotniks living in southern Russia and Siberia wish to return to the traditions of their ancestors and emigrate to Israel. Are they, in fact, Jews? Are they eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return? These questions are currently up before both the Israeli Supreme Court and the Chief Rabbinate. [...]

Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Yisrael organization, says that this part of the group is descended from geirei tzedek who converted in full accordance with halachah before the communist revolution. Many of them even learned in various yeshivos in Eastern Europe and were considered full-fledged Jews. Yet in recent years government clerks have labeled them with the same name as Shabbos-observing Christian group called “Subbotniks,” who are indeed non-Jews who never converted. According to Freund, no rabbinical or halachic authority negates the Judaism of the original group. [...]

Two years ago a delegation representing Israeli’s chief rabbi and president of the Chief rabbinical Court, Rav Shlomo Amar, traveled to Russia to verify the matter. Rabbi Tzion Boaron, who was sent to examine the issue, says that in the village of Illinka, the Subbotniks are indeed geirei tzedek who underwent conversion, and they should be brought to Eretz Yisrael. However, Rav Amar ruled, on being presented with extensive evidence, that the Subbotniks who live in Vysoky are not halachic Jews; they are not registered as Jews, and the answers they gave as to why they are not registered were not sufficient. They have no mikveh and when the members of the delegation asked to meet with the shochet, they gave him evasive excuses.[...]

The Chief Rabbinate adds that “there is no realistic way to single out specific families and definitively determine if they are the direct (daughter after daughter) descendants of converts.

The Rabbinate issued a halachic ruling which states that individual Subbotnikim who could prove their Judaism cannot be used to render a general ruling for the entire group. “It is known that at the end of the 1920s, a Chassidic rabbi named Chaim Liberman arrived in the village of Illinka, in the district of Voronezh, and established a slaughterhouse and the production of tzitzis. He provided kosher meat and talissos throughout Russia during the communist regime,” the beis din ruling states. “But it is understood that he came there because there was a whole community that was willing to help him and had an interest in having a certified rabbi. The rabbi engaged in activities that put his life at risk, and it is understood that he would accept any assistance that could help facilitate his work, but to use that as a proof that the people of Illinka were halachically Jewish is not conclusive. The fact that in the 1930s the villagers tried to register themselves as Jews in their Soviet passports does not alter anything halachically, and anyone who is considered to be the child of a Subbotnik mother must bring proof of Judaism or undergo a stringency conversion.”[...]

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sexual molestation is absolutely prohibited according to halacha.

shoshi said... You see, as far as I understand, there is no clear case in halacha against pedophila, as long as it is directed against non-related girls. In this case, however, or in the case of incest, it is a very heavy issur. So I can not understand why rabbanim would treat this issur more lightly then shmirat shabbat, etc... shoshi said...You see, you made my point: According to halacha, it is permissible to have sexual intercourse with children as young as 10.Now you say that rape is assur. But what happens if? Does he have to pay compensation? Or will he go to jail? PS: As far as the distinction between molestation and rape is concerned: molestation is any form of sexual abuse, even touching. Rape means there was penetration. So what is the halachic stance on oral rape (forced oral sex), for example??? Or on unwanted touching?

Shoshi's question comes down to - Since there does not seem to be a prohibition under the term molestation doesn't that means it is permitted?

There simple answer is that all forms of sexual molestation are prohibited and the assertion that there is no prohibition against molestation is 100% wrong!

1) If it is homosexual it is prohibited under the prohibition of homosexual behavior 2) heterosexual relationships are only permitted in the context of marriage. 3) Sexual contact - such as hugging and kissing - is also prohibited. 4) It is prohibited to do anything which arouses sexual thoughts outside of marital relations. 6) It is prohibited t to disturb another person with unwanted sexual advances. 7) A person can be killed as a rodef in making sexual advances whose punishment is kares or death by beis din. 8) one is obligated to save a person from molestation or any type of unwanted attention 6) The destruction of person psychologically has been deemed by Rav Eliashiv and Rav Sternbuch as pikuach nefesh. 9) It is prohibited to touch another person for sexual gratification. 10) It is prohibited to look at pornography or to show it to other people. 11) Sexual fantasies are prohibited. 12) Most poskim say that seduction of a minor is considered rape - so even if they agree it is prohibited. 13) Rape of a relative is incest 14) Oral sex is prohibited as zera levatala and by the prohibition against precursors of sexual activity as well as against thoughts and contact of a sexual nature. 15) Encouraging another to have sexual fantasies is forbidden.

Most of the above are Torah prohibitions The others are at least rabbinic prohibited according to all poskim. In addition any behavior which disturbs the safety or well being of the community - it is permitted to call the police. In addition the community has the right to protect itself and administer punishment - including death and disfigurement and any and all other punishment that it deems necessary to protect itself from harm.

There is absolutely no one who says that molestation is permitted. The only valid point you seem to make is that there is no prohibition of child marriages. However I haven't noticed that any of the charges of molestation today involve child marriages within the Jewish community. I would assume that it would be quickly banned by all poskim if it occurred.

Sexual Abuse - Czech castration law

CNN reports:

The Czech Republic's practice of surgically castrating convicted sex offenders is "invasive, irreversible and mutilating" and should stop immediately, the Council of Europe's Anti-Torture Committee said in a report made public Thursday.

The central European country castrated at least 94 prisoners in the 10 years up to April 2008, when investigators from the Council of Europe, a human-rights forum, visited the Czech Republic.

The Council of Europe condemned the practice as "degrading." The procedure is being performed even on first-time, non-violent offenders, such as exhibitionists, its investigation revealed.

Prisoners have to request castration under Czech law, but many fear they will be jailed for life if they do not, the investigation found. "In practically all the cases, these patients indicated that their application was at least partially instigated by fear of long-term detention," the report said.

"Some patients claimed that the treating sexologist had explicitly told them that surgical castration was the only available option to them and that refusal would mean lifelong detention." And it warned that some "significantly" mentally retarded people had been castrated. [...]

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Satmar Rebbe asks Obama to help Yemeni Jews

NEW YORK (JTA) -- A leading Satmar rabbi called on President Obama to assist the Yemeni Jewish community.

At a fund-raiser for Torah study last week, Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum, the head of the Chasidic sect in Kiryas Joel, N.Y., made reference to the recent difficulties of the Yemeni Jews, according to Yeshiva World News. In recent months the community has experienced the murder of one of its prominent members, as well as an increase in verbal and physical abuse that escalated during Israel's military operation in Gaza.

Teitelbaum reminded the gathering of the impotence of American Jews to rescue Hungarian Jews during World War II, and he was quoted as saying that the Yemeni Jews' predicament differed because "today we can save them and we must do so."The Satmar leader not only beseeched Obama, in his talk and in aletter, and American Jews to get involved, but made the request toBritish Jewry as well. His reasoning was that immigration restrictionsare a little tighter in the United States following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Teitelbaum did not mention Israel, where 50,000 Yemeni Jews immigrated in 1949 and 1950 as part of Operation Magic Carpet. Critics accuse the Satmar community of dissuading the remaining Yemeni Jews, whose population hovers just above 300, from moving to Israel.

Rav Sternbuch - Change - Yes, you can

R' Tropper - is he good for the Jews?

While we have had some discussions about the validity of R' Tropper's approach, we have not really focused on the consequences.

R' Tropper is using geirus as a tool in kiruv. When he finds that a baal teshuva is stuck because he is married to a non-Jew he switches hats and works to have the non-Jew become a Jew. Thus he reasons it is a win win situation. The Jew becomes fully observant and his wife becomes Jewish. Their children now will add to the Jewish population instead of destroying it. The only down side, he reasons, is that the age old practice of not proselytizing needs to be bent a bit. Any problems with this he reasons are made up for by requiring the convert to adopt an Orthodox life style. Seem like a nice neat package. Why should anyone be upset with it.

Let us list the reasons.

1) He has removed the age old stigma to intermarriage. There is absolutely no consequences of intermarriage. If you ever want to legitimate it he is standing there with open arms. Of course since not all Jews want to be Orthodox - therefore he contributes to the intermarriage rate by allowing everyone to chose a non-Jewish partner without the slightest guilt or consequence. Consequences unknown. But we can reasonably assume that more Jews will intermarry with R' Tropper looking the other way - then will return to Judaism with a converted bride.

2) Let's assume that not everyone that R' Tropper converts will stay frum. Because he has such high standards and is makpid on kabbalos mitzvos - all of his converts will definitely become Jews. However the statistics from the past tell us that at least half will back slide. They will then become irreligious Jews. If he wasn't so meticulous then when the convert goes back they were never Jewish in the first place. If he wasn't so meticulous then the back sliding converts will be genuine non-Jews.

3) The consequences of having converts who are genuine Jews and were married in a genuine marriage - but who give up observance is very simple - mamzerim. Rav Moshe solved the mamzerus problem from the Reform and Conservative by saying their marriages were non valid. Similarly their converts are not valid. Not so R'Tropper's converts. However everyone of R' Tropper's converts is a potential producer of mamzerim.

4) An additional consequences in back sliding will be on the communities and families.

This is similar to the statement about Sedom. They had horrible laws - which weren't enforced until an honest judge Lot came along. It is specifically because he is makpid on keeping the laws that he is causing problems.

In sum. For R' Tropper to come along and introduce a change in the dynamic of the Jewish community he needs to show that what he is doing is beneficial. It is not enough to say that when he converts people they were frum. Rav Chaim Ozer had such a view and then 20 years later radically altered it to say that a decent beis din should not do conversions. Similarly Rav Moshe Feinstein knew all the hetirim but personally had nothing to do with geirus. What are the two, five and ten years statistics on Rabbi Troppers' converts. What is their impact on marriage and children?

Update on EJF and Aguiar - RaP

THE REAL SCANDAL: Revenge against Gumar Aguiar and covering their backs for having sanctioned the taking of tens of millions of dollars from Guma Aguiar for years is why the ten rabbis signed this letter when they realized that Guma had dumped them/EJF to get a conversion for his wife from arch-rival Rabbi Bomzer.

Ever since poster Roni/Tropper has joined the discussions on this blog with his bloodthirsty and vitriolic attacks against anyone who dares to question Tropper/EJF he has unrelentingly made Rabbi Bomzer the source of all evil because he has performed lenient conversions.

Regardless if one agrees with either the Rabbi Tropper's or Rabbi Bomzer's prescription for doing conversions, from the outset this letter of censure against Rabbi Bomzer was presented as a fait accompli without either Rabbi Bomzer being asked to give his side of the story or any other context except that which poster Roni/Tropper and the words in the letter signed by the ten rabbis, that includes Rabbi Tropper's signature on it, to the left. [remainder of post as comment on this post here ]

Abuse - Parents didn't report uncle

Nana reports: YNET

אתמול האריך בית משפט השלום בירושלים את מעצרו של הדוד, תושב מאה שערים, החשוד כי ביצע מעשים מגונים ומעשי סדום באחייניו. היום הוארך גם מעצרם של ההורים, החשודים כי לא דיווחו על ההתעללות שנמשכה שש שנים. האב סיפר בחקירתו: "התייעצתי עם רב, והוא אמר לי לא להסגיר את אחי

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Save the Jews of Yemen

[DT: I would like to see some official haskomas regarding this organization]

Jersey Girl wrote:

There has been a continuous Jewish community in Yemen since the times of the First Temple, more than 2500 years ago, but today the survival of that community is in grave danger. Last December, Rabbi Masha Al-Nahiri, 30, was brutally murdered shot to death, leaving his wife and nine children. A few days later, the home of Masha Yahia was firebombed as well as having a grenade thrown at it. They were home at the time he and his wife and children had to flee for refuge, suddenly homeless. I was personally in his home for a Shabbat as he lives between the two Jewish communities in a remote area. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, who has always treated the Jews as respected Yemenite citizens, announced that he could no longer guarantee the protection of the Jewish community.

The Yemen Times reported that President Saleh had given his directive to protect the Jews and move them to safe places in the district of Sana’a, but those directives have evaporated and there is no longer a promise of government protection. This is due to the tribal nature of a land that has stood still in time! [...]

The people there are now in fear for their lives Al-Anisi added that Yemeni Jews are afraid of the threats they receive from extremists who are protected by sheiks. "A well-known man protected by Kahlan bin Mujahed Abu Shawareb intimidates Jews in Amran,” he said. “He threatens them and he hasn’t been arrested so far despite the President's directives to arrest all those who harm Yemeni Jews. There is something going on in secret which we don’t understand in this respect!"

At this time we are begging for your help we need money desperately to resettle everyone anywhere that they will desire to go. Please make your tax deductible charitable donations out to the Yemenite Jewish Federation of America. The money is needed for shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. Anyone who desires more information on how to help may contact Ruven Schwartz at

The checks can be personally given to Rabbi Sabri at K4 Pizza in Far Rockaway opposite kosher world. Rabbi Sabri he is the son of the Rabbi still in Yemen!

Please mail checks as well to:
Bet Midrash Shalom Teman
2915 Bayswater Ave
Far Rockaway, New York 11691

They can also be me mailed
Ruven Schwartz
1135 Dickens Street
Far Rockaway N.Y. 11691

Guma Aguiar - $500,000 to March of Living

Cloud Computing Journal

JERUSALEM, February 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The International March of the Living today announced one of the largest private donations in the organization's 21-year history, a $500,000 gift from Guma and Jamie Aguiar. The 2009 March of the Living at Auschwitz, the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps, will be held on April 21st, marking the 70th year since the Third Reich launched the Second World War.

Only one week earlier, Mr. Aguiar stirred international headlines through an historic $8 million donation to the aliyah (immigration to Israel) organization, Nefesh B'Nefesh, instantly establishing him as one of the Jewish World's leading philanthropists. [...[

Aguiar, founder of Leor Energy in 2003, was lauded worldwide for his stunning success in identifying one of the largest North American natural gas deposits discovered in decades. "Mr. Aguiar has a prophetic sense of vision and purpose, demonstrated precisely at a time when philanthropy is facing serious challenges," said Dr. David Machlis, Vice Chair of the International MO

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lashon harah?

Reuven sent you a message.

"Hello, as a Rav and a mechaber of seforim, I don't understand how you can run a "blog" that becomes a forum for all types of lashon hara?"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rabbi Bomzer defended

rabbi has left a new comment on your post "R' Bomzer censured by Vaad for Conversion":

I am an Orthodox Rabbi of an Orthodox shul with over 200 families. A year ago I performed a wedding of a wonderful and observant couple who lives in my community. The bride was converted a few years before she met her husband by Rabbi Bomzer. Among her papers of conversion, was a letter where she was asked by the Beis Din to sign a statement accepting upon herself all of the mitzvot including Rabbinic and Torah Mitzvot. I was impressed at the specificity of the listing of the mitzvos and saw that it was obviously an added protection for her that the beis din was responsible enough to ask her questions verbally as she reported to me about the mitzvos and whether or not she accepted all of them and of course she did and to go the extra mile of having her sign it on paper. I asked her about the process of the beis din and I am satisfied that it was completely done according to halacha.

She did not pay $10,000 dollars as was suggested here somewhere and it was obvious to me that this was a serious process. Today, a little more than one year later I know for sure that she is observant, she covers her hair with a tichol and she attends the mikvah regularly and her family is shomer shabbos and kashrus. I have no reservations whatsoever eating at her home and I am absolutely certain that this guir is complete and legitimate.

Additionally other colleagues have told me when I asked about Rabbi Bomzers giur that it is accepted by most and especially by Rabbi Kotlarsky of Lubavitch and many many others. All of them told me that the paperwork they have seen included this formal acceptance of the mitzvos and all of the gerim that we have seen or heard about have been observant Jews.

I do not know why this terrible letter was put out and I do not wish to get involved in the politics of Rabbi Tropper vs Badatz etc. But it should be stated that he does get the kabolos hamitzvos in writing and that many of us in practical Rabbonus do accept his giur and have seen that all the gerim that we have seen have been observant yorei shomayim frum yidden.

Guma Aguiar - RaP's commentary

Recipients and Publicity comment to post "Guma Aguiar of EJF - raised as Christian":

Guma Aguiar of EJF & Nefesh BeNefesh controversy: False messiah or hero?

Clashing media depictions from America and Israel about Guma Aguiar's philanthropy and his agenda

First off, thank you for the good wishes from poster Roni/Tropper and his willingness to debate and be frank about many issues relating the still unfolding EJF-Guma Aguiar saga and his wife Jamie with the doubtful conversion from Rabbi Bomzer and the Chabad rabbi. We have all learned a lot and benefited from Roni's/Tropper's seemingly obvious first-hand knowledge about the Guma-EJF-Jamie-Tropper situation.

But it is now time to move on, not be mired and sit with the old slogans and accusations and the old points that have been repeated a hundred times by now. We need to take stock and move on because from the very bosom and heart of EJF, its still official Co-Chairman, has arisen one named Guma Aguiar who until a few days ago was only an elusive mysterious name and person in the background of the EJF story and controversy, but who now, with his "Aliyah" to Israel and having given a huge donation of a few million dollars to the Nefesh BeNefesh organization (that has support from Christian Evangelicals in America), hyped by the ultra-Zionistic Arutz Sheva media outlet, see Oil Tycoon Cashes In on Spiritual Dividends in Jerusalem (01/28/09) and Aguiar: We've Got to Climb the Ladder(01/29/09), and having declared an agenda of "starting" with bringing 100,000 new "olim" of all stripes to Israel, all this must be noted and analysed. [...]

[Rest of post is in comments section "Guma Aguiar of EJF - raised as Christian":]

Sunday, February 1, 2009

UNRWA admits IDF didn't hit school

Arutz 7 reports:

During the Cast Lead operation in Gaza, IDF tank fire near a United Nations school in Gaza was blamed for the deaths of dozens of civilians who had taken refuge in the building. The incident became one of the most highly publicized attacks in the war, and led to heavy international criticism. However, recent reports suggest that the incident was not accurately portrayed by senior U.N. Officials.

John Ging, the director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, spoke to the Toronto Globe and Mail last week and agreed that no shell had actually struck the school building. Ging said he had never claimed that the school itself was hit, and he blamed Israel for confusion over where the strike took place.

Shortly after the alleged attack, Ging harshly criticized Israel for firing near the school, saying he had given the exact coordinates of the compound to the IDF and suggesting they had failed to avoid hitting the building. While admitting that Israeli fire had not hit the school compound, Ging insisted it made little difference. “Forty-one innocent people were killed in the street... The State of Israel still has to answer for that,” he said. [...]