Tuesday, June 30, 2009

EJF - recent Jerusalem conference

Yeshiva World News

It was by all accounts an unprecedented gathering of leading kiruv rabbonim from around the world, as well as rabbonim in cities and towns throughout Israel. The event took place from June 15 -17 at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. The sponsor was the Eternal Jewish Family International, which is in the midst of a major global expansion of its activities to support rabbanim and batei din involved with intermarried couples who genuinely strive for a halachic conversion. It also assists kiruv organizations that are on the front lines in the fight against assimilation, such as the co-sponsors of the event: Arachim, Ohr Somayach, Hidabroot, Lev L’achim, Shuvu, and Nefesh Yehudi. In the U.S., it also includes the Gateways organization. [...]

Sunday, June 28, 2009

EJF - attracting non-Jews to proselytize - is permitted

The self (?) appointed spokesman for R' Tropper - Roni has left a new comment on "EJF - Halachic justification/ / Roni": I am making it into a post because of what it reveals about the true nature of Eternal Jewish Family. What Roni is asserting here - and I received a letter from R' Tropper to the same effect - There is nothing wrong with proselytizing as long as one does not walk up to a non-Jew and try and convert him. However putting out come-on notices on the internet, ads in the newspapers, or offering all-expenses paid vacations in swank resorts to listen to top speakers promoting conversion is allowed since the non-Jew is attracted to come and you don't go to him. Furthermore it is asserted that Rav Reuven Feinstein - the posek for Eternal Jewish Family - permits this. They also insist that this is not proselytizing but merely kiruv. (You might also notice Roni's liberal use of ad hominem arguments - something which R' Tropper vehemently protests when they come from his critics). In sum the position of Eternal Jewish Family (with the apparent backing of Rav Reuven Feinstein ) is that encouraging non-Jew (especially intermarried couples) to convert is not halachically prohibited - as long as they accept the obligation to keep all the mitzvos in the chareidi way. Thus attracting non-Jews and then pressuring them to convert is not problematic - as long as in the end they agree to keep all the mitzvos as a chareidi Jew. It is also clear from their advertisements that they don't restrict their activities to intermarried couples. I would suggest R' Tropper find a less embarrassing defender.

RAp, talking like a real am hooretz, can you start answering the question "Where in Shulchan Oruch is there aN ISSUR to encourage an intermarried person to convert",

You are unable to start any conversation. You and Dt (and the third stooge) cannot even begin to have a rational discussion over this matter, you do not know where to being so you start with the new testament of

"You are not Rav Yosef Karo writing the Shulchan Oruch and interpreting it definitively nor are you the only one who says "where does it say in the shulchan oruch this and that" like a beginner. Some things are so pushut that the shulchan oruch doesn't have to spell them out,",

like a real am hooretz....you and your colleagues shout from the top of your longues for years about this terrible tragedy and issur and after your introduction of false sources (like a real ignoramus that you are) you now state that this is "so poshut the the SO does not have to spell it out", yet the SO does not find it so poshut to spell out that you are not allowed to convert for the sake of marriage?!?!

All your questions do NOT HAVE ONE HALACHIK SOURCE, BUT YOUR NEW TESTAMENT! You are such a boor that you cannot even begin to bring some halachik points mentioned by Rav Sternbuchwhose points were STRONGLY REJECTED BY RAV MOSHE FEINSTEIN, RAV HENKIN, RAV SZ AURBACH, RAV Y KAMENETZKY AND MORE!


So that people do not forgeth the content: The question posed to RAP. DT and the third stooge was: Where is the source in HALACHA that it is ossur to encourage intermarried cpules to covnert???

THese fellow twist and turn but are unable to talk about the issue...

Friday, June 26, 2009

CR Amar bars R' Sherman from conversion cases


In a move that pits him against the haredi rabbinical establishment and endears him to thousands of converts to Judaism, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar issued a written order that effectively bars a controversial haredi rabbinical judge from adjudicating in conversion cases.

"Recently, conversion cases have become the focus of public scrutiny," wrote Amar in a letter to Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the Rabbinical Courts. "Groups have taken advantage of the controversy surrounding these cases to attempt to limit the jurisdiction of the Rabbinical Courts. As a result, I am exercising my power... to personally choose panels of judges that will rule on conversion cases."

Amar's directive would allow him to remove from a conversion case any judge - but it is seen as being directed, in particular, at Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a judge on the High Rabbinical Court who one week ago issued his second highly controversial halachic opinion on a divorce case involving a woman who converted to Judaism.[...]

EJF backer Tom Kaplan loses lawsuit


[....] Thomas S. Kaplan, claims to have donated "tens of millions of dollars," according to official court documents. In the lawsuit, Kaplan challenged **** ability and right to manage the foundation, but the judge, Robert Rosenberg of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Broward County, Florida, threw out the case, finding Kaplan's claims had no merit. Kaplan objected to the more than $7 million he says his nephew spent in 2008 to advance what the lawsuit called his "claim that he is the Messiah and to promote his messianic mission," according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reported about the lawsuit when it was filed in January. According to the paper, the family feud is likely rooted in a separate lawsuit involving the two. The second case involves the company the two founded, Leor Exploration & Production, which was sold for about $2.5 billion after discovering vast natural gas reserves in Texas, and which is the foundation of *** newfound wealth.[....]

Rav Sternbuch - Role of Shevet Levi

Protest against Gay Parade - 5 p.m.

Today there will be a peaceful protest - authorized by the police - at Kikar Shabbat at 5 p.m - against the parade.

HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita and other rabbonon will speak.

There are reports that HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita will also be there.

JPost reports:

The Jerusalem gay pride parade, which regularly riles up religious and haredi city residents, is scheduled to take place Thursday under tight security, as haredi-secular tensions are already running high in the capital over the municipality's plan to open a parking lot on Shabbat.

The annual march, which is organized by Open House, Jerusalem's small gay and lesbian center and is expected to draw a few thousand people, has stirred repeated controversy in the past. This year, however, the haredi community has decided to avoid public protests in an effort to avoid giving the event additional publicity.

The parade is viewed by most religious Jews - as well as by many traditional Jews and by Christian and Muslim religious leaders - as an abomination and an anathema to biblical values and the holiness of Jerusalem. A public opinion poll has found that two-thirds of Jerusalem residents were opposed to holding such an event in the city.[...]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

EJF - Halachic justification/ / Roni

After two years of repeated requests - our chaver Roni has succeeded in providing us with two critical pieces of information regarding Eternal Jewish Family. 1) The teshuva of Rav Reuven Feinstein, shlita - which provides the halachic rationale for EJF's kiruv (proselytization) of the non-Jewish spouse in mixed marriages 2) the explanation presented below of why there are no written haskomas from the many gedolei Torah who are actively associated with the organization or at least attend their conferences.

I would like to publicly thank Roni for his tenacity and desire to present the truth as he sees it and the countless hours he has spent trying to explain and defend R' Tropper's activies. It has obviously been an unpleasant experience for him to constantly face and explain to those of us who are less than sympathetic to what is going on. I will also reiterate what I have said a number of times before - I think that R' Tropper and his associates are working leshem Shamayim. However that doesn't preclude the possibility that their approach can be harmful and fail as Roni admits below. I will be transferring a number of comments from the previous posting that are relevant to this thread. Please keep your comments to the point, respectful and avoid personal attacks.

With these pieces of information I think it is possible to have a more productive discussion of these issues. I would like to note that Roni seems to feel Rav Reuven's interpretation of his father's position and other statement as Daas Torah. I apologize if I misunderstood this and I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong. I just want to reiterate a conversation I had with Rav Dovid Feinstein regarding this issue of his father's authority. He said, "I never heard my father justify his psak by saying that it was Daas Torah." Rav Moshe clearly states this in his introduction to Igros Moshe, the essence of his rulings are sevoras. His rulings are to be judged by the perceived validity of his sevoras. He also acknowledges that he is capable of error but that since he has put so much time and effort in arriving at the conclusion which he thinks is correct - one should not be hasty to dismiss it but to seriously analyze his opinion. I don't think that his son's views should be approached with a higher level of authority than that of his father.

[Roni asked that I add the following]
Before I respond to your recent post: I must reiterate and please post this as an addendum to your head post: That the*TESHUVA* IS Rav Reuven's; but the second issue the (the explanation why there are no written haskomos to the *organization* (not that there are not *halachik teshuvas* and discussions, BECAUSE THERE CERTAINLY ARE! PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE WHAT i SAID), ARE MINE ONLY AND MAY NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE REAL REASONING BEHIND THAT! BUT MY FEELING IS THAT THESE (AND MAYBE THERE ARE OTHERS) ARE THE REASONS WHY THEY WOULD NOT GIVE A *HASKAMAh* TO A INDIVIDUAL ORGANIZATION! (AS PROBABLY HAPPENS IN *SOME* OTHER ORGANIZATIONS ABOUT A DIFFERENT NATURE).


Roni wrote in response to Mekubal:
( I have made a number of corrections in to the original post)

4) the most important question: Why does he not get haskamot?

I'll give you possible answers which do not mean that they do not agree with him. a) Being that it is a novel approach. Practically speaking this method was not used especially with such an intensity therefore any respected RESPONSIBLE POSSEK would not necessarily want to to put his paper to endorse an organization if Chas Vesholom it does not succeeded to reach the hopeful goals.

b) Maybe others may follow suit and misuse the idea of the organization to take it a step further and perform these conversions without kabbalat hamitzvot. He does not want to take this public step to put his name on paper to that level.

c) and no Rabbi puts his name to sign on an organization which may in the future stumble on occasion and do something that is not correct and then people might mistake that this particular action had the approval of the Rabbi as he signed on the organization.

But on the other hand Rav Reuven partakes himself as member of the Organization. He is involved in guiding them in the Halachik Shaylos and so on. You can see the Teshuva that I posted earlier (and I"ll try BLN to scan it to Dt) as the teshuva Rav Reuven wrote to EJF where he rules on the focal question of the blog to Rav Tropper and he cites that his father the Posek HaDor HaRAv Moshe Feinstein of B"m permitted the issue in certain conditions (which is exaclty what EJF attempts to follow).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rav Reuven Feinstein: Kiruv and intermarriage

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski(Achiezer 3:28): Concerning the common practice of converting women who are married to Jews - according to the straight halacha it is not corrrect to convert them. That is because they are converting for the sake of marriage. Therefore even after marriage she is prohibited to him as is clear from the Rashba (#1205). While previously I had written to be lenient in these cases and I based myself on the Rambam (Pe’er HaDor 132) and Rav Shlomo Kluger also paskened leniently in an actual case. Nevertheless the fact is that there is not genuine acceptance of mitzvos in these cases. It is quite obvious that their hearts are not with the Jewish people since they do not observe Shabbos or niddah and they eat unkosher food as I wrote in the previous letter. This problem has already been noted by by the Beis Yitzchok who concluded that a proper beis din would not be involved in this. And regarding the issue of governing the non‑Jewish children…However the writer is correct that a good beis din should not be involved in this type of conversion. Nevertheless I don’t see that it is proper that the rabbis of the generation should make an open protest against conversion. That is because in the eyes of the masses it would be viewed as a chilul HaShem to prevent the women to convert and in particular their children since according to the straight halacha it is possible to convert them.

Mekubal's translation/analysis of Rav Eliashiv's teshuva (3:140)cited below by Rav Reuven Feinstein


First a translation italics are my own comments in the translation:
From all of this it seems obviously we are missing parts already please provide those Roni that a mixed marriage, by means of this the non-Jewish spouse takes part literally they join themselves to or with in shiurim there is a good probability that it will enter into their hear to convert, and by means of this it causes the Jewish man or woman to be saved to return in repentance, there is to see in this b'diavad circumstance that there is to take hold of the understanding that it is permitted to teach Torah to a Goy if his mind is to convert. But in a situation that that this reason is not relevant, there is no place for a heter, this is Ossur.

Let us enumerate the conditions of the above heter:
1) Intermarriage 2) The Non-Jew seeks out and joins shiurim 3) It is permitted to allow them to take part b'diavad 4) Since there is a heter to teach torah to a non-Jew who is converting we can extend that to this case.

To be clear, R' Eliashiv makes a chumra(that one should not teach a person in the the process of Geirut Torah), as this opposes what is written in the Sh"A, but that is OK one can be Chumradik.

Then he removes his own Chumra in the case of an intermarried couple. If the non-Jewish spouse seeks out Jewish learning. His reason for this is that they may be convinced to convert, and thus in a round about way cause the Teshuva of their Jewish spouse.

What this leaves out is any mention of encouraging. Nowhere does R' Elishiv say לאמץ להתגייר he simply says that by them deciding to take part in Jewish learning there is a good chance that they will decide to convert, and we should not stop them.

To sum up. You brought an incomplete Teshuva, and presumably only the part that you thought supported your opinion. Examination of the language and grammar shows that this clearly does not support your position of actively seeking out or encouraging conversion. This is a heter to allow non-Jews in intermarriages who wander into shiurim, to sit those shiurim, that's all.
Rav Eliashiv's view on kiruv to intermarried couples as reported by Rav Efrati

Rav Reuven Feinstein

Homosexuality & Judaism / R' Freundel

Jonah website


Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.

Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.

Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.

Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime.

Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)

Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sen. Menendez - Israel not created by Holocaust

Sen. Menendez - a fellow Democrat - corrects Obama's mistaken Arab view of the role of the Holocaust in the creation of the State of Israel.

Conversion dilemma in Latin America


[...] It all began seven years ago when Vargas, now 51, became part of a movement in Bogota of religious seekers.

“As I did, most of the people involved came from Christian roots,” he said. “And we found in Judaism an answer to our inquiries.”

But Vargas’ conversion hit a key snag: Jews.

First, Orthodox Jews in Colombia refused to accept Vargas and 200 or so others as would-be Jews, vehemently disavowing association with them and refusing them access to the community’s mikvahs for conversion.

The group, which calls itself Maim Haim -- Hebrew for “living waters” -- turned to religious authorities in Israel for training and, they hoped, eventual conversion, but it was stymied when Colombia’s Orthodox Jewish leadership contacted rabbinic authorities in Israel and warned them against accepting the would-be converts.

Main Haim eventually found a rabbi in Israel willing to teach its members, and in 2007 the rabbi and two colleagues convened a Jewish religious court, or bet din, and converted 104 of them, including Vargas.

Still, many Jewish institutions in Colombia refuse to accept them as members. [...]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rav Sternbuch - the Abomination Parade

Missing in Tel Aviv - Avraham Lemberger

Police have called off the search for 69-year-old Avraham Lemberger from Netanya, an Alzheimer's patient who has been missing for about 10 days. Nonetheless, officials believe that the missing man is still alive and is in Tel Aviv.

However, Lemberger's son, Nitai, told Ynet Tuesday that he is not optimistic, saying that "the situation isn't looking very good."

Israel's PR - Twitter


An Israeli envoy to the U.S. said on Tuesday that Twitter, the short messaging website, has revolutionized Israeli diplomacy and become a leading advocacy apparatus.

David Saranga, the Consul for Media and Public Affairs, said that in the past the diplomatic service had to wait until someone published an article presenting Israel's standpoint, whereas today, they use Twitter to spread Israel's message to thousands of followers at a fast pace. [...]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Arabs self-defeating reaction to Netanyahu's speech

JPost Khaled Abu Toameh

The Palestinian Authority leadership's hysterical, hasty and clearly miscalculated response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday night is likely to boomerang because it makes the Palestinians appear as "peace rejectionists."

The PA, perhaps, has every right to be angry with Netanyahu's statements. However, its leaders should have been more careful in choosing the right words to express their sentiments.

Even before he completed his speech, several PA officials and spokesmen used every available platform to declare their total rejection of Netanyahu's ideas, especially with regards to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Some went as far as hurling personal insults at Netanyahu, branding him a liar, a fraud and a swindler. Others hinted at the possibility that, in the wake of his strategy, the Palestinians would now have to resort to another intifada.

PA representatives are now saying that Netanyahu "cannot even dream of finding one Palestinian to talk to."

One senior official in Ramallah announced shortly after the prime minister finished his address that the Palestinians won't resume peace talks with Israel for at least a thousand years.

The harsh response of the PA is the direct result of high hopes that its leaders have pinned on the administration of US President Barack Obama.[...]

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama upsets Amercian Jewish leaders


There is growing concern among the American Jewish community over Obama's Mideast initiatives, this according to the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein.

"President Obama's strongest supporters among Jewish leaders are deeply troubled by his recent Middle East initiatives, and some are questioning what he really believes," Hoenlein, said in an interview published Monday.

Reacting to Obama's Cairo speech, Hoenlein said "I have no problem with addressing the Muslim world... But the question is, what is the message they get?"

"There was no reference to the 3,000 years of Jewish connection to this land," Hoenlein says. "And that is again one of the propaganda lines that the Arabs have used: that the Jews are interlopers, that the two temples never existed, that there was never any Jewish history in the land of Israel." [...]

Israel losing PR war


The war that Israel keeps losing is the war of world opinion, the war for individual hearts and minds. Consider recent stumbles.

Israel's military campaign in Gaza should have been named "8,000 is enough!" This would have communicated a determination to stop the barrage of missiles from Hamas, using surgical precision to destroy its arsenal, but destroying all of it, not just a part. Enough was enough: 8,000 missiles launched on the nation's civilian population would no longer be tolerated.

Unfortunately the operation was dubbed, "Cast Lead." The resulting image in the English-speaking world was not helpful. Lead is a soft metal associated with poison. The implication, then, was an unprofessional plan with ambivalent determination, biased motives and toxic methods.[...]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

EJF - higher standards isn't enough

Racheli wrote:

Roni said...

It is indeed something that is really bothersome. as you write about those who are less committed. Actually R' Tropper's approach attempts to remedy that, by raising the standards of commitment of the convert. This is the reason why many Rabbis (like Rav Reuven Feinstein or Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky support his efforts).In such cases, one can understand that they earn to some degree respect, as (those who) transform their lives with some difficulty.

It happens that the Beis Din which I converted through is a well respected, accepted Beis Din with very high standards (Bli Ayin Hara). However, creating higher standards does not necessarily bear a stronger connection, commitment, and love of Torah within the individual conversion candidate.

Those feelings and commitments are something which exist in the person or do not, can be roused or can’t be – but in my opinion they cannot be forced upon the person or implanted in them. You could say that higher standards weed-out people who are less committed and serious, who are lacking these internal convictions, and perhaps this is true in some cases. However, if someone has an ulterior motive that is strong enough, it also could push them through a rigorous geirus process.

I do not believe (at least from what I have witnessed from the people I have seen go through conversions) that higher standards make for a better Ger. There is a lot of change involved in a conversion. It is not as simple as learning how to keep Shabbos and kashrus…. A Ger needs to completely resocialize themself to a different culture and lifestyle. You don’t learn all the social norms and nuances which make the Jewish people as a community so unique and JEWISH by taking a shiur on Kashrus.

Conversion should be viewed as a holistic change for the person. It is not just a change in halachic status from non-Jew to Jew; from not keeping Shabbos, to keeping Shabbos. In my opinion it takes a high commitment and drive for an individual to properly integrate and join the Jewish people successfully, and holistically.

All I am trying to say is that higher standards, although necessary, should not be viewed as some sort of panacea for preventing poorly integrated, insincere or wayward converts. It’s not a year or two year course in Orthodox Judaism that create well integrated, committed Jews; it’s an internal conviction and drive toward living a life dedicated toward Avodas Hashem which continues to drive that individual long past the geirus process is finished.

Abuse - Sex and Kiruv/Being friendly

Kiddushin(70a): He said, “Let my daughter Donag serve drinks.” He replied, “But Shmuel said that one may not make use of a woman.” “But she is only a child!”“But Shmuel said explicitly not to make use of a woman at all whether she is and adult or a child.”

Kiddushin(81b):Rav Acha went to visit Rav Chisda his son‑in‑law. He took his young granddaughter and put her on his lap. Rav Chisda asked: Don’t you know she is betrothed [and thus you not show affection because she is a married woman – Rashi]? Rav Acha said: Then you have violated Rav ruling that one should not betroth a child while she is still a minor but should wait until she has grown up and say who she wants to marry. Rav Chisda said: But you have transgressed Shmuel ruling - by placing her on your lap – that one should not utilize a woman. Rav Acha said: I am following a different ruling of Shmuel that all is to be done for the sake of Heaven [and my intent was not love of a woman but rather to show affection for my granddaughter and make my daughter happy when she see me being affectionate - Rashi]

Beis Shmuel(E.H. 21:11): Only their intent should be for the sake of Heaven – to make it pleasant for her father and mother and other such things. Because of this there is a custom to dance with the kallah in order to make her more beloved of the chasan or to honor or father. However it is appropriate for a talmid chachom to be strict. The Bach writes that in our land the practice is to be lenient and not to prohibit it. It is apparent from Tosfos that all that is not for the sake of love but for the sake of Heaven is permitted.

Beis Shmuel(E.H. 21:12): To examine her scalp – for lice…It would appear that there is a distinction between examination of his wife – which is not to be done in the presence of others because they will come to sexual fantasy because they will remember their own personal intimacies but concerning his daughter or his sister and granddaughter there is no memories stirred of indelicacies and therefore it is permitted before others.

Rambam(Hilchos Ishus 21:5): It is prohibited to make use of a woman at all – whether she is an adult or a child or whether she is a slave or a free woman – because it might lead to sexual fantasy. What type of service are we talking about? It is washing his face and feet, making his bed before him, filling up his cup – all of these things are only to be done by his wife. Furthermore one should not ask after the welfare of a woman at all – even by means of an intermediary.

Shulchan Aruch(E.H. 21:5): It is prohibited to utilize a woman at all. It doesn’t matter whether she is an adult or child or whether she is a slave or a free woman – because this might lead to sexual fantasy. What utilization are we talking about? It is the washing of his face, hands and feet. Even to pour the water to wash his face, hands and feet even with out touching him is prohibited. Making his bed before him and pouring his cup. Rema Some say that it is also prohibited with all prohibited relations to eat from a common dish – just as when his wife is a nidah. Some are lenient with all these because they are only prohibited when his wife is a nidah. Others say that all of this is only in private but in a location where many people are present such as a bath – it is permitted to wash from non-Jewish slaves. And that is the way we are accustomed. Others say that all actions which are not done in a loving manner but his intent is for the sake of heaven is permitted. Therefore we are accustomed to be lenient with these things. Some people say that we are not to act even with one’s wife in acts of loving affections – such as to examine the scalp for lice – in the presence of others.

Tosfos(Kiddushin 82a): Everything is to be done for the sake of heaven - We rely on this now to permit utilizing women.

Abuse - Sex and Kiruv III

Rav Sternbuch has a teshuva 5:278 regarding the incident described before. It is part of a larger discussion about men teaching Torah in girls seminary.

At this point it is important to note that in recent times that kiruv (religious outreach) has become widespread. They have succeeded in bringing back many souls to the life of Torah. However it is often a mitzva habah b'aveira (a mitza associated with sin) because of the close association of teachers or rabbonim to the girls in private conversation. This brings many tragedies and causes chillul HaShem (profanation of G-d's name). (There have already been a number of cases that have come before us at the Bedatz concerning kiruv workers who deal with girls and women which have resulted in tragedy.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Obama hovers from on high

Washington Post Charles Krauthammer

When President Obama returned from his first European trip, I observed that while over there he had been "acting the philosopher-king who hovers above the fray mediating" between America and the world. Now that Obama has returned from his "Muslim world" pilgrimage, even the left agrees. "Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world. He's sort of God," Newsweek's Evan Thomas said to a concurring Chris Matthews, reflecting on Obama's lofty perception of himself as the great transcender.

Not that Obama considers himself divine. (He sees himself as merely messianic, or, at worst, apostolic.) But he does position himself as hovering above mere mortals, mere country, to gaze benignly upon the darkling plain beneath him where ignorant armies clash by night, blind to the common humanity that only he can see. Traveling the world, he brings the gospel of understanding and godly forbearance. We have all sinned against each other. We must now look beyond that and walk together to the sunny uplands of comity and understanding. He shall guide you. Thus:

(A) He told Iran that, on the one hand, America once helped overthrow an Iranian government, while on the other hand "Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians." (Played a role?!) We have both sinned; let us bury the past and begin anew.

(B) On religious tolerance, he gently referenced the Christians of Lebanon and Egypt, then lamented that the "divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence" (note the use of the passive voice). He then criticized (in the active voice) Western religious intolerance for regulating the wearing of the hijab -- after citing America for making it difficult for Muslims to give to charity.

(C) Obama offered Muslims a careful admonition about women's rights, noting how denying women education impoverishes a country -- balanced, of course, with this: "Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam." Example? "The struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life."[...]

Rav Sternbuch - G-d provides


Abuse - Sex and Kiruv II

I made a comment in the previous posting that, " The first recorded case was in fact Zimri - who was the first kiruv rabbi who fell in the line of duty - trying to convert the non-Jewish princess." RaP questioned by noting that Avraham was the first kiruv rabbi. The answer is simply that Zimri was the first kiruv rabbi who died because of his kiruv techniques.

Below are some of the discussion of Rav Tzadok of the problem of confusing lust with holiness. It is a major theme of his and he brings in such topics as Amalek and Esther's relationship with Achashveros as well as Rabbi Akiva and why ultimately the Oral Torah is from converts.

Rav Tzadok also notes that sexual lust is a major problem for those studying kabbala because there are many sexual concepts. In fact a number of years ago there was a kabbalist in the Old City who had a study group with women and it was discovered he was having intimate relations with a number of them.

Rav Tzadok[1](Machshavos Charutz #4): Zimri went to Moshe with the defense, “And who permitted the daughter of Yisro to you?” In other words Zimri was defending his sexual activity with Kosbi as being permitted to him as being a spiritual activity in the same way that Tzipora was permitted to Moshe. This is according to the explanation of the Arizal that Kosbi had the soul of Dina and Zimri was convinced that all his lusts were genuine spiritual desires in accord with the Torah…

Rav Tzadok[2](Likutei Amarim #16): Zimri went to Moshe with the defense, “And who permitted the daughter of Yisro to you?” That is when Moshe married Tzipora she had not yet converted since she was under the control of her father Yisro to the degree that the Mechilta says that Yisro insisted to Moshe that his first son should be for idolatry – conversion came later…

Rav Tzadok[3](Takanas HaShavim #6): Dina was incarnated in Kosbi whose father was the source of evil of Midian who wanted to destroy the Jews so that they would be like all the other nations. But Kosbi didn’t listen to her father and wanted to convert if Zimri was interested. This is the meaning of Zimri’s claim, “Who permitted Tzipora to you?” Zimri grabbed Kosbi by her hair in the manner of the Amorites while she was still a non‑Jew because he was the incarnation of Shechem and he sensed that there are souls of non‑Jews that come into to Jews and non‑Jews who have Jewish souls. He thought that by having intercourse with Kosbi he would collect the holy sparks that were in her while she was still a non‑Jew.

Rav Tzadok[4](Takanas HaShavim #15): Zimri meant by his defense to Moshe, “And who permitted the daughter of Yisro to you?” that the children he had with Kosbi would be considered Jews. Thus he was doing a sin for the sake of Heaven which is like a mitzva not for the sake of Heaven (Nazir 23b)…

[1] רב צדוק (מחשבות חרוץ - אות ד ע' ז:): וזמרי בא למשה רבינו ע"ה בטענת בת יתרו מי התיר לך שפירשו בו קמאי דבא בטענה שמכיר שגם היא ראויה לו כצפורה למשה רבינו ע"ה, וכנודע מטעם האריז"ל שהיה בה נשמת דינה וחשב שגם הוא כל תאוות שלו על פי התורה, ובירור התאוה הוא על ידי הקנאה שהוא היפך התאוה וקנאים פגעו בו...

[2] רב צדוק (ליקוטי אמרים - אות טז): והוא טען בת יתרו מי התיר לך היינו דבעת נשואין עדיין לא גיירה שהיה תחת ידי יתרו עד שאמרו ז"ל (מכילתא יתרו א') דהתנה עמו בן ראשון וכו' רק דסופה להתגייר, וגם הם ראו אז במדינים דסופן הטף בנשים החיו לכם דנדבקו בישראל והשאר נהרגו כולם וחשב דעתידין לידבק הכל ולהתגייר ועל ידי זה נצמח עיקר תאוה זו בהם:

[3] רב צדוק (תקנת השבין - אות ו): ועל כן דינה נתגלגלה בכזבי בת נשיא מדין שכזבה באביה שהיה נשיא ושורש כח הרע שבמדין ורצה להכשיל ישראל ולהמשיכם למקום שאין להם שייכות ולהיות ככל הגוים, אבל היא לא שמעה לו ודבקה רק במקום שהיה לה שייכות והיא היתה מתרצית להתגייר גם כן אילו רצה זמרי, וזהו טעם טענתו בת יתרו מי התיר לך כי גם היא דוגמתה חפצה לידבק בישראל לא להמשיך ישראל להם, אלא שהוא תפשה בבלוריתה שהוא דרכי האמורי וכאשר היא עדיין בגיותה כי הוא גלגול שכם והרגיש בדבר זה שיש נפשות גוים מתגלגלות בישראל ודישראל בגוים, ודימה מזה דאפשר להיות גם כן קליטה לניצוצות קדושות גם בעודן בגיותן ובפרט במדין שסמוך לעמלק:

[4] רב צדוק (תקנת השבין - אות טו): וכן זמרי שטען בת יתרו מי התיר לך חשב שגם הנולדים מאלו יחשבו על זרע ישראל והוא בא להכניס גם מהם תחת כנפי שכינה, ועבירה לשמה היא כמצוה שלא לשמה כמו שאמרו בנזיר (כג:) ובישראל אזלינן בתר המחשבה טובה ובאומות אחר מעשה הרע היפך במצוה שלא לשמה,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Abuse - children are valid witnesses I

Sho’el U’Me’shiv(1:185):... And here, in [the week of] Parashas Va’era, a letter reached me with testimony signed by three respected men, and one man who recognizes the signatures, and two young men testified, one who is now 15 years old and one who is today 13 years old or more, that in their youth when they learned from him, boys of around 9 years or less, he would defile them with homosexual intercourse, for they would sleep with him in a bed in the room where he lived, and the things came with much elaboration that is disgusting to put into writing. And this is what I responded: in truth, I already went on at length about this in a responsum, that to disqualify a person it is necessary that there be two kosher witnesses, and I brought the words of the Pri Chadash and the Ritva that to disqualify a person it requires two kosher witnesses, and that it is like capital matters. And if so, in this case, where they were minors at the time of the act and they are only believed to testify in their adulthood about what they saw in their childhood for questions of rabbinic law [not biblical], as elaborated in Choshen Mishpat siman 35, and here to disqualify a person they are certainly not believed. However, according to what the Mahari”k and the Terumas Ha-Deshen wrote, and the Rem”a set in the Shulchan Aruch, that in a situation where kosher witnesses are not necessary, even a woman and a minor child are believed. And if so, in this matter, where it is definitely impossible for there to be adult men, and it is impossible for there to be testimony in the matter, for without a doubt this man even if he is wicked and corrupt, but his acts are in secret and he only amuses himself with young children, and he is like one who (mislahleha be-zikim?) and says “I am only playing.” If so, it is obvious that they are believed to testify, and are we also [not - GS] coming to disqualify him from testimony and oaths but only say that perhaps he did this. And they already said in Niddah (61), this bad talk [i.e. lashon ha-ra], even though to accept it is not required, to be concerned however is required. And in Moed Kattan (18) they said that this bad talk—in any event some bit of it is true. And if so, however, woe unto us that in our days such a thing arose, that a man like this would be a teacher of young children of the study house, the breath of whose mouth is pure, and there is a concern that the breath of his unclean mouth will defile them. And therefore, in my opinion it is appropriate to remove the crown of education from his head, and they should worry for their lives until he fully repents with afflictions as appropriate, and then he will return to accept the status of a full community member and it will be for him atonement for his sins. And as long as he does not admit his sins repentance is inapplicable, as the Tevu'os Shor wrote in siman 2. And I went on at length about this in a responsum to Dravitch… And here, regarding what was written above from this bad talk, even though to accept it is not required, to be concerned however is required, I found afterward in the Mahari”k shoresh 188, that he wrote that this is specifically to save them that it is permitted to desist [based on the lashon ha-ra], but not to punish them with any punishment, and to embarrass them is prohibited based on bad talk. However, this is specific to the case there, where there was only bad talk. But here there was a testimony, even if there are no kosher witnesses it is worth more than (mere) bad talk, and it is obvious that one should desist from giving him students.

Questioning the validty of a convert or Jew

This post was originally about Reform rabbis who were intermarried. The comment was made that there are also intermarried Orthodox Rabbis. This resulted in the following question: While it is true that if someone converts for the sake of marriage but they promise to keep mitzvos - the conversion is valid. However if someone questions the sincerity of a conversion for marriage - are they to be cursed? Have they committed an aveira? Rav Sherman said that Rabbi Druckman's converts were questionable. Did he have the right or ability to make such a statement? In our case - in which the future wives of Orthodox rabbis converted and the mikve ladies refused to supervise the tevila - it was reported that Rav O. Yosef and Rav Shmueli both cursed the mikve ladies. What prohibitions were these women accused of violating?

In sum, to what degree do people have the right or ability to question the validity of converts or even Jews? What manifestations of this doubt are legitimate. For example do you have the right to refuse to eat the food the converts prepare? Do you have to count them for a minyan?

You might remember a while back there was a Lakewood avreich whose Judaism was questioned - and it turned out he wasn't Jewish. Apparently those who raised the question committed no sin. I recently heard of a case where a woman was married as a Jew - not a convert and she lived for a number of years in the community had several kids and then her Jewish status was questioned by members of the community including a rabbi. Latest I heard the beis din asked to certify her as Jewish - has not found sufficient evidence that she is a Jew. None of the rabbis that I talked with have said that it was prohibited to question her status as a Jew.

Because these are current concerns - I am making this a separate post

Pikuach nefesh - is depression?/R' Moshe Feinstein

In my comments to a previous post, I made the assertion that Rav Moshe Feinstein is cited incorrectly by Rav Zilberstein. While it is true that both say that depression can endanger life - it seems that they do not agree as to how. The following seems to suggest that Rav Moshe labels pikuach nefesh as something which leads to suicide or clearly diminishes ones life while Rav Zilberstein seems to feel that any major psychological pressure itself decreases life.

Igros Moshe(O.H. 5:18): Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 306:9): “It is prohibited to ask a non‑Jew to travel outside of the techum on Shabbos to notify the relatives of the deceased to come and to eulogize him. However concerning a terminally ill person who asks that his relatives be notified it is definitely permitted.” The Levushei Serad says that it is permitted to pay a non‑Jew to travel so that the sick person won’t become severely agitated (tiruf daas) since this is included in the category of pikuach nefesh which permits violation of Shabbos. However I have not found any basis to permit this for the sake of a terminally ill person to prevent him from getting severely agitated (tiruf daas) – except for a rabbinic prohibition. I am astounded that the Levushei Serad said that it is permitted because of pikuach nefesh. His explanation that tiruf daas (severe agitation) is a sickness which endangers the person. That is only so for a healthy person who might come to commit suicide because of his agitation. However for a terminally ill person (shechiv m’rah) there is no basis to be concerned for this and therefore this is not considered pikuach nefesh. However more thought is needed as to what the actual halacha is in this case.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Turkey and abused wives


In a landmark case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Turkish authorities failed to protect a woman from her abusive ex-husband, effectively allowing his pattern of domestic violence to lead to the killing of her mother at gunpoint.

Judges unanimously ruled that the Turkish state violated three articles prohibiting torture and discrimination, and ensuring the right to life of the victim.

Legal experts said the ruling sets a precedent throughout Turkey and Europe for governments to protect women from domestic abuse. [...]

According to a Turkish government study released in February, four out of 10 Turkish women are beaten by their husbands. The European Union-funded poll concluded that "one out of 10 women has reported to have been beaten during her pregnancy."[...]

Tuskan cited polls that indicate up to 40 percent of Turkish women believe they deserve to be beaten by their husbands.[...]

R' Broyde - Informing & other articles

Pikauch nefesh - reading tshuvos accurately

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

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

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

Obama's reversal on gay soldiers

Time magazine

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

Pikuach nefesh from being labeled as abused

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

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

Eternal Jewish Family - denies proselytizing


Monday, June 8, 2009

Abuse - "teshuva" & cover-ups

Guest post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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