Friday, December 31, 2010

Blizzard of '10 Brooklyn

Weak-Kneed Willpower Faces Temptation’s Lure


If you want a little insurance to help keep those New Year's resolutions, you might consider turning to Started by two Yale professors and a graduate student in 2008, the Web site provides a binding contract to help you meet a particular goal, whether it is shedding pounds, quitting smoking or finishing Proust. Fail to live up to your end of the deal, and you have to pay a person or charity that you have designated in advance. You can even increase the incentive by choosing an anti-charity, a cause that you would normally oppose. Gun-control advocates, for example, could decide to forfeit their money to the National Rifle Association if they falter, while anti-abortion advocates might choose NARAL Pro-Choice America. [...]

Rabbi arrested on rape charges


A rabbi who runs a number of schools in northern Israel has been arrested on suspicion he sexually assaulted three minors, the court cleared for publication Friday.

Ynet has learned that the rabbi is suspected of raping a 14-year old girl and performing indecent acts on a boy of the same age, as well as sexually assaulting another girl, also 14.

He has denied the allegations, claiming they are the product of a conspiracy against him by the schools he heads.[...]


Rabbi Shafran’s Hechsher On Obama - latest response & counterresponse


By Yoel Lorberbaum

In the latest issue of Ami Magazine, noted author Rabbi Avi Shafran wrote a piece ("Our Not-So-Humble Opinions") that is, in this author's opinion, mind-bogglingly deceptive in scope, breadth, and audacity in its portrayal of President Obama's record on Israel. It is rather shocking because generally Rabbi Shafran is a perceptive and on-the-mark columnist. The structure of this editorial, with due respect, seems to have been penned in the style of classic propaganda literature.

It is hoped that both the reader and Rabbi Shafran will forgive the sharp tone employed here, but it seems a necessity in light of the content of the op-ed—forewarned is forearmed. Generally, there are four components to have in mind when attempting this type of writing: [...]


Rabbi Shafran's Reply in Five Towns Jewish Times

What We Think We Know But Don't

Last week's Five Towns Jewish Times featured an opinion piece that judged a recent essay of mine in Ami Magazine "mind-bogglingly deceptive" and that characterized me as assuming readers are "half-witted" and accused me of inflicting on them "slick propaganda" on behalf of President Obama and of "abandon[ing] Israel." The writer, going by the name of Yoel Lorberbaum, apologizes for his "sharp tone" which he laments is "a necessity in light of the content" of my article.

His apology is accepted—at least with regard to his tone. He didn't offer an apology for misleading readers, though, and so forgiveness on that front will have to remain in reserve for now.

What seemed to particularly exercise the writer was my "manipulation" of readers with a presentation of laudable moves by a president regarding Israel and religious rights before identifying the mover as our current commander-in-chief. That, Mr. Lorberbaum contends, is "the technique" of "tricking the reader," a "ruse" that enticed people to actually read further. I thought it was creative and effective writing. Propaganda, I suppose, is in the eye—no matter how jaundiced—of the beholder. [...]
Five Towns Jewish Times

Rabbi Shafran's Hechsher on Obama

Written by Yoel Lorberbaum   

Before we get to an analysis of the "facts" as presented by Rabbi Avi Shafran concerning both the Obama administration's behind-the-scenes jousting regarding Israel and its general record on Israel, a short introduction may be in order.

Rabbi Shafran speaks of wisdom—of knowing what one does not know. When exploring wisdom, however, it behooves us to begin with what we do know. And what we do know is that in regard to Israel, the conversation is slowly but surely changing.

Those of us old enough to remember, recall a time when murderers of innocent children and civilians were not welcome in polite circles. No longer. Now they are welcomed with open arms. [...]

Rabbi Shafran's interpretation of Pres. Obama - Strikeout

Our Not-So-Humble Opinions By Rabbi Shafran

Miss the good old days?

When, that is, we had a President who refused to allow the US to participate in the UN’s Durban Review Conference because he believed Israel would be unfairly criticized.

A President who rejected the Goldstone report, and refused to participate in joint military exercises with Turkey when Ankara insisted Israel be excluded.

A President who asked Congress to approve a $205 million package to help Israel build a new anti-missile defense system. [...]

Homerun or Strikeout: A Reply to Rabbi Shafran

Critique by Jonathan Rosenblum

Every columnist aspires to write — at least occasionally — something of such originality that he will be quickly distinguished from the common herd of scriveners. In that respect, “Our Not-So-Humble Opinions” by my erstwhile colleague and long-time friend Rabbi Avi Shafran, in which he attempts to defend the Middle East policies of the Obama administration, is a homerun.

The danger, however, of swinging for the fences is that one is more likely to strikeout. Sometimes the source of one’s originality lies in having said something so strikingly wrong that no one ever thought of it before. That, I will argue, is the case with Rabbi Shafran’s piece. Not that I expect to convince Avi, since I’m reasonably confident that he has read dozens of previous pieces of mine on this topic, without falling sway to the power of my arguments.

Indeed I suspect that I fall into the category of “intelligent and otherwise well-informed frum folks,” whom he considers somewhat deranged on the subject of the Obama administration’s policy to Israel. In that regard, I can only respond that at least I am in sync with the overwhelming majority of my fellow Israeli Jews, about 10% of whom view President Obama’s foreign policy as “pro-Israel” today, despite the great enthusiasm that greeted his election in Israel. My fellow Israelis and I could, admittedly, be wrong in our judgment, but I doubt it is because we are so much less well-informed than Rabbi Shafran. Since it is our lives on the line, we do try to keep reasonably up-to-date on shifts in American foreign policy. [...]

Former President of Israel Is Convicted of Rape


JERUSALEM — An Israeli court convicted the country’s former president, Moshe Katsav, of two counts of forcible rape on Thursday, a verdict that many Israelis described as a low point in the nation’s history, but also redemptive, in that it upheld the value of equality before the law.

“There are no two states of Israel, just one state,” said Shimon Peres, Mr. Katsav’s successor as president. “There are no two kinds of citizens here; citizens of only one kind exist in Israel — and all are equal in the eyes of the law.”

The verdict capped an unusual four-year spectacle that began with accusations of sexual offenses against Mr. Katsav while he was still the head of state. [...]

China: Selling the Talmud as a Business Guide


Jewish visitors to China often receive a snap greeting when they reveal their religion: “Very smart, very clever, and very good at business,” the Chinese person says. Last year’s Google Zeitgeist China rankings listed “why are Jews excellent?” in fourth place in the “why” questions category, just behind “why should I enter the party” and above “why should I get married?” (Google didn’t publish a "why" category in Mandarin this year.) And the apparent affection for Jewishness has led to a surprising trend in publishing over the last few years: books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts.

Titles such as Crack the Talmud: 101 Jewish Business Rules, The Illustrated Jewish Wisdom Book, and Know All of the Money-Making Stories of the Talmud share the shelves with stories of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. There’s even a Talmud hotel in Taiwan inspired by “the Talmud’s concept of success” that features a copy of the book Talmud Business Success Bible in every room. With the increasing interest in business education in China, and a rise in sales of self-help literature, the production of business guides to the Talmud has exploded. The guides are like the Chinese equivalents of books such as Sun Tzu and the Art of Business. [...]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gra: Scientific reality sometimes is used to decide between halachic views

I previously posted the view of the Klausenberger that we today don't go back to the underlying facts to decide a dispute between Rishonim or to dispute an assertion made by a rishon. In the following quote from the Gra - that is exactly what he is doing. In dealing with the dispute between the Geonim and Tosfos he resolves the issue by saying that Tosfos' position does not fit into observable reality.

Gra (O.C. 261:2): … All of this is according to the view of Tosfos. However it is not so, because that would mean that the time from alos hashachar until netz would be equal to the time from shkiah until tzais hakokovim. In truth it is not  - as we wrote before. Sensory perception rejects this assertion - for all those who see  - because in fact the time from alos hashachar is a much greater time than tzais after shkiah. …

Emunas Chachomim - debate between Breslaver & Litvaks 1822

This was taken from Prof Dovid Assaf's article regarding the issue of
the status of the Ohr HaChaim amongst the Chassidim

Rav Sternbuch: A Recipe for Salvation

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Daas Torah: Ramchal - knowledge obtained through ruach hakodesh is infallible

I was asked to show sources which make the claim that gedolim are infallible or at least make infallible pronouncements. There are in fact many.  Some of which I have published - such as Rav Eybshuetz's statement that the Shulchan Aruch was written with ruach hakodesh. There are two steps 1) gedolim have ruach hakodesh - from prophecy or intellect 2) knowlege obtained through ruach hakodesh is without error - is stated clearly by the Ramchal below.

Of course - this means that theoretically that gedolim can make mistakes - however it also clearly means that at least some of their statements are infallible. It is because of this claim that gedolim have ruach hakodesh - that is is considered presumption for a non-gadol to question the statements or deeds of a gadol.  It is obvious that while this is a wide spread contemporay belief - it is hand has not been universal. For example the Ravad asserted that he was correct in a halachic dispute because he had ruach hakodesh. This did not stop the Ramban and others from disagreeing with him. In fact the Chasam Sofer says that the basis of all knowledge is ruach hakodesh and that is why we make a beracha on a wise non-Jewish intellectual.

Ramchal (Mamar HaIkkarim): Below the level of prophecy there is a level known as ruach hakodesh. It  is a state in which G﷓d provides an emanation to a man’s intellect which fixes knowledge in his  mind without error and with which he is absolutely certainty.  As a consequence he knows this information totally with its causes and effects on every level. Through the inspiration of this ruach hakodesh it is possible to understand matters which are also known by ordinary human intelligence. However there is a distinct advantage of learning these matters through ruach hakodesh instead of natural intelligence. Learning through ruach hakodesh is effortless, without error and without doubts – something which is not characteristic of knowledge acquired by natural human intellect. Furthermore it is possible to obtain knowledge through ruach hakodesh that transcends the capabilities of normal human intellect e.g., hidden secrets as  well as  what will happen in the future. Another characteristic of ruach hakodesh is that the recipient is aware without any doubt that he is receiving the emanation. However, there are times when a person has a spontaneous inspiration in which he grasp fully some concept without his being aware of an emanation. This is sometimes inaccurately also called ruach hakodesh.

A Pinpoint Beam Strays Invisibly, Harming Instead of Healing


The initial accident report offered few details, except to say that an unidentified hospital had administered radiation overdoses to three patients during identical medical procedures.

It was not until many months later that the full import of what had happened in the hospital last year began to surface in urgent nationwide warnings, which advised doctors to be extra vigilant when using a particular device that delivers high-intensity, pinpoint radiation to vulnerable parts of the body.

Marci Faber was one of the three patients. She had gone to Evanston Hospital in Illinois seeking treatment for pain emanating from a nerve deep inside her head. Today, she is in a nursing home, nearly comatose, unable to speak, eat or walk, leaving her husband to care for their three young daughters. [...]

Gedolim are not infallible - and this should be obvious but unfortunately is not

This is a continuation of the issue that was raised by my translation of the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. #105) in which  the Divrei Chaim asserts that gedolim were possibly mislead by someone he regards as a heretic. An objection was raised to my translation because of the concern for asserting that gedolim  might  have been deceived. Ben Torah said the Divrei Chaim means that the heretic misrepresented the gedolim and falsely claimed support from them. However the Divrei Chaim says he was a deceiver - not a liar and he didn't know what was presented to the gedolim.

Regarding the possibility of deceiving gedolim and the fact that they are not infallible - this should be obvious. In fact this was stated by the spokesman for the Aguda - Rabbi Shafran available on Wikipedia and other places

Rabbi Avi Shafran, the spokesman for the American Hareidi organization Agudath Israel of America, explains the concept as follows:

Da'at Torah is not some Jewish equivalent to the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. Not only can rabbis make mistakes of judgment, there is an entire tractate of the Talmud, Horiut, predicated on the assumption that they can, that even the Sanhedrin is capable of erring, even in halachic matters.

What Da'at Torah means, simply put, is that those most imbued with Torah-knowledge and who have internalized a large degree of the perfection of values and refinement of character that the Torah idealizes are thereby rendered particularly, indeed extraordinarily, qualified to offer an authentic Jewish perspective on matters of import to Jews - just as expert doctors are those most qualified (though still fallible, to be sure) to offer medical advice.[1]

Rabbi Bechhofer has written a fascinating article regarding the deception of gedolim concerning a forgery of the Yerushalmi.

available here
The Talmud Yerushalmi on Kodashim

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer, Editor Or Shmuel, Rosh Kollel, Frumi Noble Night Kollel of Hebrew Theological College.

It seems clear from the Rishonim that they had access to the Talmud Yerushalmi on Seder Kodashim, In the introduction to his commentary on the Mishnah, the Rambam states explicitly that on the first five sedarim, both the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi are extant. During the course of time, however, the Yerushalmi on the entire seder of Kodashim was lost, and for several hundred years no manuscript on this seder was known to exist. (See the introduction of Rabbi Mordechai Zev Segal of Lvov to the Zhitomer [1866] edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi.)

In the year 1907, however, a mysterious person suddenly appeared in Hungary, calling himself Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Algazi-Friedlander. Rabbi Algazi-Friedlander j published what he claimed to be the Yerushalmi on tractates Chullin and Bechoros, thus instigating a battle royal amongst the Gedolei Hador. A personal account of this chapter in the history of the Talmud was written by Rabbi Yekusiel Yehuda Greenwald of Columbus, Ohio, and printed in the Sefer Hayovel of HaPardes (1953), Here is a synopsis of the story,

Prohibition of leaving Babylonia for Israel during the Exile

Kesubos (111a):
Rab Judah stated in the name of Samuel: As it is forbidden to leave the Land of Israel for Babylon so it is forbidden to leave Babylon34 for other countries. Both Rabbah and R. Joseph said: Even from Pumbeditha35 to Be Kubi.36  A man once moved from Pumbeditha to [settle in] Be Kubi and R. Joseph placed him under the ban.  A man once left Pumbeditha to [take up his abode at] Astunia,37 and he died.38 Said Abaye: ‘If this young scholar wanted it, he could still have been alive’.

Rambam(Melachim 5:12):... the prohibition is even to leave Babylonia for Israel

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daas Torah: Divrei Chaim claimed heretic mislead gedolim to write that they agreed with him

One of the important and relevant problems when dealing with Daas Torah - is the reality of the possibility of Gedolim being misled by information fed to them. In an important tshuva in which the Divrei Chaim insists that ruach hakodesh of wisdom which enables gedolim in each generation to know the truth - he makes the ironic statement when his opponent asserts that in fact there are gedolim who have  written him that there is no longer any ruach hakodesh -  that these gedolim were deceived by this heretic

Divrei Chaim (Y.D. #105)
... Thus we see that ruach hakodesh and the agreement with G﷓d never stopped from the sages who were deserving of this ability. This is also clear from the statement of Rav Pinchas ben Yair (Avoda Zara 20b). And this that is says in Sotah (48b) that after the days of the Prophets that ruach hakodesh was taken away – that means the ruach hakodesh of prophesy but not the ruach hakodesh of intellect and the ability to have one’s intellect be in agreement with the halacha that was given to Moshe at Sinai or Rav Avesar - that never stopped. Only a heretic denies this. And this that he claims that contemporary gedolim have written that ruach hakodesh has totally stopped – I don’t believe that such a statement would be issued by our gedolim. Who knows what this disgusting deceiver wrote them. The truth is that even in our days there is to sages of the truth - who are not influenced in the slightest by the material – ruach hakodesh as is explained in Moreh Nevuchim (2:36) and the Ramban explicitly.

Difference Is the Norm on These Dating Sites


Sherry Nevius, single and 52, is looking for a mate with all the important adjectives — caring, sincere, intelligent, funny. Oh, and one more thing: disabled.

Born with cerebral palsy, Ms. Nevius uses a wheelchair. She is independent and mobile, but would prefer to meet a man who could roll alongside her.

“That way we’re on equal ground,” she said.

Ms. Nevius has dated several perfectly nice able-bodied men, but none seemed willing to start a serious relationship.

“I think they were a little bit scared because they didn’t know how to treat me,” she said. She lives in Normal, Ill., a town with few single men around her age, let alone familiar and comfortable with disability. [...]

פילוסופיה והעיר הקדושה


אברהם הוא אברך שמתגורר בירושלים. הוא נראה בדיוק כמו עוד אחד מאלפי החרדים שחיים בבירה - כולל הכובע והחליפה. שום דבר לא מסגיר את העובדה שהוא בעצם משהו אחר. בין לימוד בבבא קמא לסוגיה בסנהדרין, הוא לומד בסתר עם החברותא גם את אריסטו, קנט ושיפנוזה. חומרים שמוגדרים בעגה הישיבתית כ"מינוּת", כפירה.

אפיקורסים שמאמינים

מתוך כ-30 אברכים בכולל של אברהם, שבעה מתוכם הם, כפי שהוא שמגדיר, "בעניין". אברהם, כמו כל חרדי בעל דעות "לא קונבנציונליות", זהיר מאוד. אך במגרש הביתי, מול קהל מאזינים סקרן וצמא, מתגלגלים הטיעונים לוויכוחים לוהטים, ודעות מהפכניות ביחס לחשיבה החרדית יתכתשו אלה באלה, הרחק מעין הממסד השמרני.

 "הפילוסופיה מאז ומעולם הייתה בתוך עולם הישיבות", הוא אומר, ומבהיר שחיים נחמן ביאליק, והחבורה מוולוז'ין לא המציאו את קיומו של "הספר הנוסף" המוסתר תחת ספרי הגמרא. לדבריו, בישיבות כמו פונוביז' וחברון, השכבה האינטלקטואלית התעניינה בפילוסופיה מאז ומתמיד, בסתר כמובן.

Placebos Work Even if You Know They're Fake: But How?

Time Magazine

Physicians have long believed that some form of deception is essential to the placebo effect:  after all, if you tell people that you're giving them a fake drug, why would they respond by getting better? But new research suggests that it may one day be possible to use placebos in everyday medicine without misleading patients into thinking they might get active treatment.The study, which was published in the journal PloS One, included 80 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes abdominal pain, bloating and frequent bouts of either constipation, diarrhea or cycling between the two. There is no specific treatment other than managing symptoms, which can range from mild to severe.

Participants — who were mainly on the severe end of the spectrum — were randomized to receive either a placebo or no treatment. Those given the placebo were told that they would be taking “placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes.”

They were instructed that taking the medication at the times and doses prescribed was “critical.” In essence, the researchers revealed that they were using placebos — but, unlike the approach used in typical trials, they told patients that the pills work. The no-treatment group simply interacted with the medical staff in appointments of the same length as those given the placebo. All patients stayed on medication schedules or diets they were already following — no changes were allowed during treatment. [...]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pope's statement - Paedophillia was acceptable in the 1970's - outrages victims

IrishCentral  December 22, 2010

Clerical abuse victims around the world have reacted in fury to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that as recently as the 1970s pedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil”.

During his traditional Christmas address last Monday to cardinals and other religious officials in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also said that child pornography was considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children," the Pope said. "It was maintained -- even within the realm of Catholic theology -- that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a 'better than' and a 'worse than'. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”[...]

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rav Sternbuch: Blaming Torah

Rav Sternbuch: Ephraim or Menashe?

Poskim today can not claim that earlier sources didn't know the metziius (reality)

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Klausenberger Rebbe (Divrei Yatziv O.C. 113): Concerning the view of Rabbeinu Tam and reality. Our holy faith is that Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his (Rosh HaShanna 25b) and   that rule applies to all generations. Look at the Divrei Chai (Y.D. #105) in his discussion of the status of the Ohr HaChaim as well as the Beis Shlomo (O.C. 2:112). See also the language of one of the great contemporary gedolim in the Letters of the Chazon Ish (32), “What difference does it make if the angel Gavriel or Michoel tells me – in fact weren’t all the Rishonim fiery angels?… and it was through the holy spirit which appeared in them that they knew how to decide issues – whether to push aside a gemora and establish the tradition of the Geonim or whether to push aside the tradition of the Geonim because of the decision of the gemora… We relate to the Gra in the line of Moshe Rabbeinu, Ezra, Rabbinu Hakadosh, Rav Ashi, the Gra…” Consequently it is known that all poskim whose words are accepted which were given to Moshe on Sinai as the Talmud. Therefore if someone, G﷓d forbid, should express himself against one of the poskim it is that he is criticizing a Tanna or denying the Torah of Moshe – G﷓d forbid! This is the root of heresy. Just as we saw the Karaites who believed only in the Written Torah so there are heretic that believe in the Talmud but G﷓d forbid – not in the poskim. But we view a continuous line from Ravina and Rav Ashi to the Chasam Sofer and the Divrei Chaim and other major poskim. One who is dismissive of a posek is included in what was written by the Divrei Chaim (2:33). Therefore when the poskim themselves disagree – we with dim eyes and for whom bribery and lust blind the eyes even of the wise – we simply can not see the underlying reality of the debate that enables us to decide the issue ourselves. For example, we can not decide on elementary kashrus issues such as “tato gavar” based on the scientific understanding of chemists…  even though we can attempt to analyse their holy words from sources in the gemora. At best one who has great ability is able with his greatness in Torah to bring proofs from our Sages and to ascertain what the majority of poskim rule in this particular halacha. Look at the Divrei Chaim (Y.D. 2:45) where he is very upset about the disrespect against the prince of Torah – Rashi. He says, “Even though his words are occasionally difficult for us to understand with our dense brains, nevertheless that which is distant from you is that way only because of our limited intellect. But the main point is, Who in our generation would we say are able to make halachic decisions against the great Rishonim such as these. We have only the ability to accept their words with love and to follow after the majority view – as was done by the Shulchan Aruch itself. Therefore we can not deviate from the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch just because we have some question since we are well aware of of how lowly we are in recent generations..”  And since the words of the Rabbeinu Tam and the Geonim are the words of the Living G﷓d – they are able to disagree with each other regarding the appearance of which stars defines the beginning of night and what is the definition of night. Therefore if someone in our day comes says that one of the poskim erred in the definition of night – he is considered a heretic who has attacked the holiness of the poskim who have said otherwise. We are allowed, however, to say that the customs of which places follows which posekim. For example Shabbos (130a) states that in the place of R’ Eliezer they would cut wood to make charcoal.. However, G﷓d forbid to say that the custom in one place was different in this place from the other poskim because the reality that we see with our bleary eyes is different i.e., that the poskim erred in understanding the underlying facts. That is because obviously the Beis Yosef, the Pri Chodesh… saw the reality of the stars in Yerushalyim, Tzfas, and Tevirya and they ruled what they ruled…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Child abuse - Rabbis & Calling the Police: A common misunderstanding

I just received the following comment from David Morris who wrote a review of my book - Child & Domestic Abuse - that he published on his blog Tzedek-Tzedek . It raises a very important issue - i.e., what are the parameters of consulting with a rabbi in these matters. I am posting the question - which expresses a misunderstanding of Rav Sternbuch's views - and my answer to the comment. My comment also appears on David Morris's blog Tzedek-Tzedek . This comment clearly indicates the dangerous ignorance and distortions that exist on this topic -  and why it is important to read my book.

Shmarya Rosenberg ( has left a new comment on your post "Child & Domestic Abuse":

What Rabbi Shternbuch actually says is that if there is "clear evidence" of child abuse, one should disregard any rabbi who instructed him not to go to police. But what about when there is evidence, but it isn't "clear" – meaning overwhelmingly certain – the person is guilty? Then you have to listen to the rabbi.

In other words, according to Rabbi Shternbuch, it is rabbis who should decide whether or not police should be called. And this is a big problem when rabbis have played key roles in so many coverups of sexual abuse.

Now why is it, David, that you don't mention this?

Posted by Shmarya Rosenberg to at 23 December 2010 03:14
On Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 5:37 PM, Daniel Eidensohn <> wrote:

    It is obvious that the commenter has not read the book or he would know that what he is asserting simply not true. He is making a misleading comment and it ignores the complex reality of abuse cases as well as overestimates the value of the police in being able to help. While there is no question that there have been cases and there are still cases where rabbis have insisted that a child not be helped even when in danger - that is not what Rav Sternbuch said as can clearly be seen from what he wrote and what he approved in my book - as well as what he told me and permitted to be publicized in his name. He said that you are to decide whether to listen to the rabbi and whether his response endangers the welfare of a child. He clearly said you do not listen to a rabbi if you feel there is a possibility that he is giving you bad advice.

      1) If it is clearly a immediate danger to the child and there is no time to speak to anyone - call the police. 2) If it is uncertain if there is abuse but if the child is in danger than he can only be protected by the police - than call the police. 3) If it is certain but you know that a complaint won't be filed and therefore the police won't do anything - then it is important to contact a rabbi who is experienced in these matters and  consults with experienced therapists and community leaders and the police. 4) If you have a suspicion - i.e., you saw a man hugging children or being very friendly with them  - then go to the experienced rabbi. If you are not satisfied with his response than ask another rabbi (the responsibility is not the rabbi's but yours). 5) If you have a child in your class that is withdrawn - but there is no complaint but it might be the result of abuse - then go to your experienced rabbi. You should also consult with a mental health worker who might advise what the next step is. 5) If there is mandatory reporting - then you obey that law and go to the police.

    In sum - the rabbi is not a substitute for your good judgment but is a consultant to help bring clarity and objectivity as well as protecting the rights of others. If he tells you not to do anything and you think that might be a danger to the child - than go ask another rabbi. At no time are you to allow a child to be in danger (according to your evaluation) nor are you to violate mandatory reporting laws. The rabbi is there to represent the community, provide objectivity and prevent against mob rule -  and protect others against false accusation. He is not a dictator that requires total submission - either in deed or thought. You are not to listen to him if you feel he is telling you to do something which is endangering a child or even possibly endangering a child.

Shulchan Aruch was written with divine inspiration & guidance

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Kitzur Takfo Kohen (Choshen Mishpat 25:124): … When a law is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch in which both Rav Yosef Karo and the Rema omit the dissenting minority view – I have a tradition and I have seen this done by expert judges and I myself do it  - that a claim of “kim li” [utilizing a minority view to defend against monetary loss] is not accepted. It is well established and accepted by the sages over the generations to observe and do precisely what it says in the terse language of the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema. There is no doubt in my mind that it was all written from G﷓d Who guided their hands. This can be seen from the many questions of the Achronim on the Shulchan Aruch and the resulting sharp and brilliant answers. And thus within its sweet and terse language are many laws. There is absolutely no question that [Rav Yosef Karo Aruch and Rema] did not consciously write it that way. Because how would it be possible that they be conscious of every detail of their writing - given the awesome task required of them in this work for heaven. Who is capable of writing a book on the entire Torah based on the Rishonim and Achronim and not be overwhelmed by producing this work for heaven. It is obvious that it was only accomplished because they were infused with the spirit of G﷓d so that their language would precisely express the halacha – even though they had no awareness of this when they wrote it. That which G﷓d desired was successfully done through them. Therefore  - G﷓d forbid to say “kim li” against the halachic decisions of the Shulchan Aruch and Rema…

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Philosophers for Kung Fu: A Response


Thanks to all the readers who have commented on my previous article in the Stone “Kung Fu for Philosophers.” I found many comments thoughtful and inspiring, for which I am deeply grateful. Instead of trying to respond to all, as it is obviously impractical, I would like to offer some additional remarks to supplement my previous article as my response.

Several years ago, I was invited for lunch by a man named Wu Bing, who was the former martial arts coach of the kung fu movie star Jet Li. Mr. Wu and I did not know each other, and I had no idea why he invited me for lunch. I was more puzzled when I got there — Mr. Wu insisted that I be seated in the most prominent spot, and placed himself and all his associates at the table in lesser positions. With the ritual setting in order, he then humbly presented me a classic martial arts manual, and asked if I could explain the introduction of the book for him. “It is full of philosophical terms,” he said. “I have trouble understanding it.” [...]

Rav Dessler - Daas Torah means not only total obedience but an inability to judge gedolim

from Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Michtav M’Eliyahu (1:75): Our Sages have already told us to listen to the words of gedolim - “Even if they tell you that left is right.” Furthermore a person should not think, G﷓d forbid!, that they have certainly erred just because someone so insignificant as himself has perceived that they erred. In fact it is important to know that one’s perception of reality is totally null and void as the dust of the earth in comparison to the clarity of intellect and Divine assistance that they have. We have an important halachic principle that one beis din can not nullify the ruling of another beis din unless it is greater than the first in wisdom and number. Otherwise it is likely that that which he thought that he perceived is merely an illusion and distorted understanding of reality. This is what is meant by Daas Torah - which is an aspect of Emunas Chachomim (faith in the sages).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Child & Domestic Abuse Book: Review by David Morris

Blog has a review of my book by David Morris who is also one of the contributors.

Baal HaTanya - Don't ask a rebbe for secular advise

Baal HaTanya (Igros Kodesh #22): My dear friend...."Remember the days of old, understand the years of every generation" – has there ever been anything like this since the beginning of time?! Where, in all the books of the scholars of Israel, whether the earlier or later ones, have you ever seen such a custom instituted, to ask about a secular question, such as what to do in some mundane matter, even from the greatest of the early wise men of Israel, such as the tannaim and amoraim...but rather [people would turn to] actual prophets, such as there used to be, such as Shmuel the Seer, to whom Saul went to ask about the donkeys which his father had lost. But in truth, all matters relating to a person, other than something having to do with Torah or fear of  heaven, are not apprehended other than through prophecy, and not by a wise man. As our rabbis have taught, "Everything is in the hands of heaven other than fear of heaven..." And when our rabbis zt"l said that people "derive benefit from him [from a talmid chacham] by advice and sound wisdom," this refers to words of Torah, which is called "sound wisdom" [Translation from Rabbi Alfred Cohen in his article on Daas Torah]

Cancer drugs costing billions annually - are worthless


In the wake of the FDA’s decision start the process to revoke Avastin’s approval in breast cancer last week, patients are puzzled and angry over how a drug once touted as a breakthrough  now can be branded as ineffective.  The controversy illustrates just how much the much-vaunted revolution in cancer therapy is driven by hype and high prices.

Selling cancer drugs has become big business, with $52 billion in sales last year, according to IMS.  Some $6 billion of it goes right to Roche’s Avastin, the biggest selling of the new drugs. No wonder companies like Merck and Pfizer are  racing to develop new cancer drugs.

But even as sales reach new heights, and prices keep going up–pretty much any cancer drug now costs $50,000 a year–the results from many trials are getting less and less impressive. Tarceva from Roche extends the life of pancreatic cancer patients by two weeks. Avastin has now failed to extend the lives of breast cancer patients in three giant trials.[...]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cancer-Causing Hexavalent Chromium In Tap Water Of 89% Of US Sampled Cities

Medical News

Carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, the "Erin Brockovich chemical" was found in the tap water of 31 cities out of a total of 35 tested by The Environmental Working Group. The scientists estimate that at least 74 million people in the USA in 42 states regularly drink chromium-tainted water, and a considerable proportion of it is in the carcinogenic hexavalent form.

Hexavalent chromium is recognized as a human carcinogen. Some workers are exposed to the chemical, and exposure is known to sometimes occur among those who handle chromate-containing products, as well as those who arc weld stainless steel. The European Union has the world's strictest laws regarding hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium use in the European Union in electronic equipment, for example, is largely prohibited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.

Highest levels of hexavalent chromium in tap water were found in Norman; Oklahoma, Riverside; California, and Honolulu; Hawaii. Safety limits proposed by California regulators were exceeded in samples from 25 US cities, the scientists revealed.[...]

Israel's Security Barrier Presents Irony for Palestinian Workers

Voice of America

As U.S. mediators work to restart Mideast peace negotiations, Israel is continuing work on a security barrier that has been under construction for years. Israel's aim is to save Israeli lives by keeping out Palestinian bombers.

The result has been a sharp reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in recent years.  At the same time, Palestinians complain the barrier - consisting of both chain link fences and concrete walls - has created hardship by restricting their movement. Some, however, have benefited from it.  [...]

,Jerusalem Breslov leader was held ‘captive for years’


A scandal that is rocking the Breslov community of Shuvu Banim has taken another twist, with its spiritual leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland's return to his Jerusalem home from his hiding place in the North on Saturday night, after breaking away from 10 years of captivity, during which he says he was little more than a marionette controlled by his son and grandson.

Some two weeks ago, prominent members of the small Jerusalem-based community found a DVD outside their homes, containing videos and documents proving that the 73- year-old Berland was in fact being controlled by his son, Rabbi Nachman Berland, and grandson Nathan Berland, who for years prevented direct access to the older man and dictated his every move and action.

Shortly afterward, Eliezer staged his kidnapping to flee to the North, where he took refuge in Moshav Amirim, initially not disclosing his whereabouts. In a phone call with some 20 of his closest hassidim, Eliezer recalled the torment he underwent.[...]

The Gift of Endless Memory - Superior Autobiographical Memory

CBS News

It is often said that we are our memories - that web of experiences, relationships, thoughts, and feelings that make us who we are. We don't remember it all of course. That would be impossible. Or would it?

There has been a discovery in the field of memory recently, so new you won't find it in any textbook. It's so hard to fathom, there are some who remain unconvinced.

For the moment, the scientists studying it are simply calling it "superior autobiographical memory." And unless you happen to know one of the handful of people discovered so far who have it, get ready to be amazed. [...]

Serious Mental Health Needs Seen Growing at Colleges


Rushing a student to a psychiatric emergency room is never routine, but when Stony Brook University logged three trips in three days, it did not surprise Jenny Hwang, the director of counseling.

It was deep into the fall semester, a time of mounting stress with finals looming and the holiday break not far off, an anxiety all its own.

On a Thursday afternoon, a freshman who had been scraping bottom academically posted thoughts about suicide on Facebook. If I were gone, he wrote, would anybody notice? An alarmed student told staff members in the dorm, who called Dr. Hwang after hours, who contacted the campus police. Officers escorted the student to the county psychiatric hospital. [...]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Difficutly in proving sexual assault


At 17 years old, Preston Hill is known around the Fresno area as an accomplished wrestler, a leader of his high school team, the Buchanan Bears, and a potential candidate for a college scholarship in the sport he loves.

But over the past several months, Preston has been battling another opponent, the Fresno County district attorney, who has charged him with a bizarre crime: using a wrestling move to sexually assault a teammate.

According to a police report, during a July practice Preston used a maneuver informally known as a “butt drag” — which involves grabbing the haunch of an opponent to gain leverage — to roughly and intimately assault a smaller, younger wrestler on his team in retaliation for a supposed affront. [...]

Cabinet approves bill excusing ultra-Orthodox from IDF service


The cabinet approved on Sunday two recommendations affecting the ultra-Orthodox community, one of which will release most of them from mandatiory military service in exchange for alternative work in a civilian service.

The second proposal was to accept the recommendations of an interministerial committee to limit to five years the time yeshiva students can receive stipends. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced that 50 million additional shekels would be given to aid other students in need in conjunction with the proposals dealing with yeshiva students. [...]

Body of U.S. tourist found near Jerusalem; police suspect terror attack


Israeli security forces early Sunday found the body of Christine Logan, an American tourist woman feared kidnapped by Arab assailants while hiking with a friend near Jerusalem the day before.

Logan's friend, 46-year-old Kaye Susan Wilson, was hospitalized after she managed to escape her attackers despite multiple stab wounds and her hands tied behind her back. [...]

Medical science reverses itself on carbohydrates

Los Angeles Times

Most people can count calories. Many have a clue about where fat lurks in their diets. However, fewer give carbohydrates much thought, or know why they should.

But a growing number of top nutritional scientists blame excessive carbohydrates — not fat — for America's ills. They say cutting carbohydrates is the key to reversing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

"Fat is not the problem," says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. "If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases." [...]

Bloody Muslim ritual in Lebanon

Caution graphic bloody scenes


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Humans, Like Animals, Are Fearless Without Amygdala


In the 1930s, researchers discovered that when a certain part of monkeys’ brains was removed, the animals became fearless. They approached snakes, started batting them around like sticks and played with their hissing tongues.

This experiment has been repeated in animals numerous times, and the scientific consensus is that when the amygdala is removed, an animal loses any sense of fear.

Now, scientists have confirmed that a missing amygdala results in similar behavior in humans, according to a study in the journal Current Biology. [...]

Somber Farewell Melava Malka For Spinka Rebbe Before Being Sent To Prison |

Queens Jewish Community to host child safety program on January 2

In an effort to educate people about protecting children from improper
behavior, the Queens Jewish community is hosting a critical program for
parents, teachers, and rabbonim that will focus on prevention, awareness
and action strategies. The program, which is entitled "Keep Kids Safe
from Inappropriate Behavior at School and in the Neighborhood," will
take place on Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM at the Young Israel of
Kew Gardens Hills, which is located at 150-05 70th Road in Kew Gardens
Hills, New York.

This program is provided free of charge as a community service and is
being sponsored by the National Council of Young Israel, the Queens
Jewish Community Council, the Queens County District Attorney's Office,
the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and JBFCS' UJA-Federation's Partners in
Caring @Pride of Judea.

Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, the Mara D'asra of Congregation Nachlas
Yitzchak in Queens, New York, will discuss halachic perspectives; Dr.
Shloimie Zimmerman, Psy.D, a psychologist in private practice in
Brooklyn, New York, will discuss psychological perspectives; and Lois
Raff, Esq., Counsel to the Queens County District Attorney, will discuss
legal perspectives. The communal response will be discussed by Rabbi Zvi
Y. Gluck, Clergy/Liaison to the Community Affairs Division, NYPD/Queens
South; Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, the Mara D'asra of the Young Israel of
Kew Gardens Hills; and Daniel Maurer, the President of the Young Israel
of Kew Gardens Hills.

For more information about "Keep Kids Safe from Inappropriate Behavior
at School and in the Neighborhood," call the National Council of Young
Israel's Director of Programming, Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, at
212-929-1525, or send an e-mail to

Massive hunt for US woman feared snatched near J'lem


A huge police and IDF search was under way on Saturday night for a woman feared kidnapped in the Beit Shemesh-Jerusalem area, in what police think could be a nationalistically motivated incident.

The search, which was joined by volunteers, was launched after another Kaye Susan Wilson, found with her hands bound and several stab wounds in her chest and back, reported being attacked by two Arab men in a forest near Mata, located outside Jerusalem, within the Green Line. [...]

Convictions upheld in murder of French Jew Halimi


A French appeals court has upheld the convictions of 16 people for their roles in the 2006 kidnapping, torture and murder of a young French Jew - handing down sentences of up to 18 years in prison.

The appeals court in Creteil was hearing the appeals of defendants already convicted by a lower court into the slaying of Ilan Halimi, who was lured into their custody by a young woman, then sequestered and killed.

The ringleader, Youssouf Fofana, was not on trial in the proceedings that began Oct. 25: He chose not to appeal his conviction and life sentence. Fofana, a 28 year-old of Ivoirian origin, expressed no remorse and expressed defiance throughout his trial. On various occasions, he smirked at Halimi’s relatives, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and at one point threw shoes at lawyers. [...]

Lieberman leads Senate Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’


The Senate on Saturday struck down the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, bringing to a close a 17-year struggle over a policy that forced thousands of Americans from the ranks and caused others to keep secret their sexual orientation. [...]In a last-ditch effort, Mr. Lieberman and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a key Republican opponent of the ban, encouraged Democratic Congressional leaders to instead pursue a vote on simply repealing it. The House passed the measure earlier in the week. [...]

New York priest defrocked for child sex abuse


A high-ranking New York priest has been found guilty by a church tribunal of sexually abusing a minor in the 1970s, according to a statement obtained Saturday from the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.

Monsignor Charles M. Kavanagh was dismissed from the priesthood following the decision Wednesday by the tribunal, which was acting on authority from the Vatican.

The accuser, a former seminary student of Kavanagh's, brought the case to the Manhattan district attorney in 2002. He then wrote to Edward Cardinal Egan, the former Archbishop of New York, informing him of his claim, according to the Office of Communications for the Archdiocese. [...]

Beneath the Dead Sea, Scientists Are Drilling for Natural History


 Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.

The preliminary evidence and clues found halfway through the 40-day project are more than the team could have hoped for. The scientists did not expect to pull up a wood fragment that was roughly 400,000 years old. Nor did they expect to come across a layer of gravel from a mere 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. That finding would seem to indicate that what is now the middle of the Dead Sea — which is really a big salt lake — was once a shore, and that the water level had managed to recover naturally. [...]

Astronomer Sues University, Claiming Religion Cost Him a Job


In 2007, C. Martin Gaskell, an astronomer at the University of Nebraska, was a leading candidate for a job running an observatory at the University of Kentucky. But then somebody did what one does nowadays: an Internet search.

That search turned up evidence of Dr. Gaskell’s evangelical Christian faith.

The University of Kentucky hired someone else. And Dr. Gaskell sued the institution.

Whether his faith cost him the job and whether certain religious beliefs may legally render people unfit for certain jobs are among the questions raised by the case, Gaskell v. University of Kentucky. [...]

Transplants cut in Arizona justified by incorrect data


First, it was distraught patients awaiting organ transplants who protested Arizona’s decision to no longer cover such operations under its Medicaid program.

Now, Arizonans who received such transplants, and are alive and well as a result of them, are questioning the data that lawmakers relied on to make their controversial benefit cuts.

“They say it’s too expensive,” said Star Boelter, 52, who had a stem cell transplant that was paid for by Arizona’s Medicaid program in 2009 after suffering from leukemia. “Well, how much is life worth? They say most people die. Well, I’m alive because of my transplant.” [...]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Scientist alleges religious discrimination in Ky.

Fox News

 An astronomer argues that his Christian faith and his peers' belief that he is an evolution skeptic kept him from getting a prestigious job as the director of a new student observatory at the University of Kentucky.

Martin Gaskell quickly rose to the top of a list of applicants being considered by the university's search committee. One member said he was "breathtakingly above the other applicants."

Others openly worried his Christian faith could conflict with his duties as a scientist, calling him "something close to a creationist" and "potentially evangelical." [...

Laws fail to keep sex offenders from working in schools, federal report finds

Washington Post

People with a record of sexual misconduct are often able to land positions in public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers or contractors, slipping through a system of background checks meant to thwart them, federal investigators reported Thursday.

Among the 15 cases the Government Accountability Office reviewed was that of former Manassas teacher Kevin Ricks, who pleaded guilty this year to abusing a male student and faces other sex and pornography charges related to his long career in education. The Washington Post in July disclosed questions about Ricks, his school employment record, and allegations against him of sexual advances toward several students in Maryland and Virginia.

Eleven of the 15 cases, the GAO reported, showed that offenders who had previously targeted children were able to obtain positions in schools.

"Even more disturbing," the report concluded, they were able in at least six cases to use those positions to abuse more children. The report found: [...]

Maharal: The dangers of universal education and access of the masses to clear texts

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Maharal (Tiferes Yisroel #69): It is not proper that the words of the Torah, which are words of wisdom, should be in the hands of fools so that each person can think they are just as competent as anyone else to say what is in the Torah. I discussed this in my sefer Be’er HaGolah. I explained that our sages have deliberately concealed their words in many places in order that fools should not have ready access to them. Therefore if the Torah had been written clearly and explicitly – it would be difficult to distinguish who is truly wise from one who is lacking in wisdom. As a consequence it would produce great disputes. This is the opposite of the intent of the Torah that everything in it should make connection, order and unity in creation. It is in order to prevent dispute and schisms that the Torah says that a rebelious elder is deserving of capital punishment (Sanhedrin 88a).  Therefore it is proper that the Torah be in the hands of the few in order that they be listened to. This would prevent the many disputes that we have our day in which everyone imagines that they are a scholar and outstanding religious authority. They believe this because they say, “I can also read seforim.” This causes a number of bad thing which I don’t want to write about. Therefore the Torah is written in a manner that only the elite will comprehend it and so it will be inaccessible to the masses. This universal access to Torah was the cause that the Sanhedrin was not utilized and everyone built a private sanctuary for himself and there was no connection or unity. Thus Devarim (17:11) commands us that when there is a difficult matter it should be dealt with by the Sanhedrin. Thus we see that not writing down the Oral Torah and that it be given to the Sages (rather than the masses) is something inherently necessary for our well﷓being.

Incident on Lakewood bus: 4 teen boys accused of bias intimidation of their school bus driver

Asbury Park Press

Four teenagers were arrested Tuesday night and charged with bias intimidation of their bus driver after praising the Ku Klux Klan during the ride home from school, township police confirmed.

The four boys, all about 15 years old, are accused of crowding behind their black female school bus driver after she objected to their conversation, during which they used racial slurs about the KKK's violence against blacks, Lt. Paul Daly of the Lakewood police said.

"They stood behind her instead of being seated," Daly said Thursday. "She felt intimidated."

They boys were arrested on the bus and released later into the custody of their parents.[...]

Sefer HaBris: Due to the great stature of the Rambam - theology took a look time to develop

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Sefer HaBris (Section 1 2:6): The Givat HaMoreh wrote in the introduction to his sefer that the reason that it took such a long time for the full development of philosophy was because of the great wisdom of Aristotle and his unprecedented stature. Because of this his views were followed by all the scholars generation after generation in a slavish manner. It was viewed that anybody who disagreed with him was as if he were arguing on self-evident reality. In exactly the same way, the reason that there has been a long delay in the development of our theology is because many think that to disagree with something that the Rambam said is to disagree with something which is self﷓evidently true. The two processes are almost identical because in fact the concepts of the Rambam are those of Aristotle - as is well known. However all men of integrity while they love the Rambam – love the truth more. This is as the philosopher said, “I love Aristotle and I love Socrates but the truth I love more.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Phone-Wielding Shoppers Strike Fear Into Retailers


Tri Tang, a 25-year-old marketer, walked into a Best Buy Co. store in Sunnyvale, Calif., this past weekend and spotted the perfect gift for his girlfriend.

Last year, he might have just dropped the $184.85 Garmin global positioning system into his cart. This time, he took out his Android phone and typed the model number into an app that instantly compared the Best Buy price to those of other retailers. He found that he could get the same item on Inc.'s website for only $106.75, no shipping, no tax.[...]

Vigilante justice when the system fails to protect


The murder of Ken Rex McElroy took place in plain view of dozens of residents of this small farm town, under the glare of the morning sun. But in a dramatic act of solidarity with the gunman, every witness, save the dead man’s wife, denied seeing who had pulled the trigger.

The killing was a shocking end for a notoriously brutal man who had terrorized the area for years with seeming impunity from the law until he was struck down in a moment of vigilante justice. It was also the first major case for a young county prosecutor, not far removed from law school and just months into the job, who said he was confident that the case would be solved soon. [...]

Professor David Epstein charged with incest with his daughter

Columbia Spectator

Political science professor David Epstein, 46, was charged Thursday with having a sexual relationship with his daughter, 24.

He was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with one count of incest in the third degree at an arraignment hearing on Thursday. According to police, the relationship appears to have been consensual. [...]

RAshba: Verses understood allegorically to agree with philosophy

From Daas Torah - translation copyrighted

Rashba (Commentary to Agada Bava Basra 74b pp 102-106): 
You should know that when one of our pious Torah sages reads the words of the philosophers, it is possible that he might agree with them. Even if he finds contradictions between Biblical verses and the philosophers, he can explain those verses in a manner that conforms to philosophy. In other words he can view the verses as metaphoric and not literal - since he isn’t rejecting anything learned from prophecy and he isn’t discarding any mitzvos by doing so.  However when it comes to matters [concerning Biblical verses or our Tradition] that are widely accepted by our Sages as literally true – then the sage will insist on understanding them literally according to our Tradition. He will do this even though he knows that the philosophers strongly reject such a literal understanding. For example, the belief that the dead will be literally resurrected is not unequivocally found in Biblical verse. It is seems reasonable that all the relevant verses might be explainable as being allegorical e.g., such as those in Yechezkeil (Chapter 36). Nevertheless such a metaphorical approach is rejected by the sage in favor of the literal one because our Tradition insists that these verses be taken literally. In such cases, the sage acknowledges that the widely accepted traditional understanding takes precedent over the philosophical﷓rationalist view. He readily admits in such conflicts that we do not pay attention to rational analysis which goes against our Tradition because the wisdom of G﷓d is beyond our intellectual grasp. Of necessity in every instance that we have a clear Tradition from our ancestors, we can not reject this Tradition – unless it is established that the traditional understanding is impossible – G﷓d forbid! Why should we destroy our Tradition since we know that it would not have become wide﷓spread except for the fact that it has been received generation after generation all the way back to Moshe or the Prophets… Consequently while we need to acknowledge that many verses in Bible are allegorical, nonetheless we need to accept the truth that some verses are describing actual miracles and that G-d has the ability to change nature according to His wishes…. Therefore when our Tradition requires a literal understanding why should it be discarded just because it is against a rationalistic philosophical understanding? …

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Marine's top general:Allowing gays to serve openly is dangerous

The Marine Corps' top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose "a distraction."

"When your life hangs on the line," said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, "you don't want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines' lives."

In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" law would harm "unit cohesion" and their tight-knit training for war. [...]

Benefactor for homeless Haitian boys - guilty to child molestation

Fox News

In 1997, while he lived in Connecticut, Perlitz founded the Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT) School for homeless children in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. Four years later, the school had evolved into a 10-acre walled village where more than 200 children could eat, live and attend school, according to the brief.

"Dozens, if not hundreds, of youths who had entered the program 'drugged out' and homeless evolved into respectful, productive students with the help of PPT," the document reads. "With the growth of the program, however, came additional pressures, and additional forces that, coupled with the many other stresses of everyday life in Haiti, took their toll on Doug Perlitz."

Those factors, the document claims, ultimately led Perlitz to "cross the line," along with stress and the "never-ending responsibility" of his job at the school, his struggles with homosexuality, a lack of intimacy and his prior physical and spiritual relationship with a priest at Fairfield, a Jesuit institution [...]

Child & Domestic Abuse Book: Discussed in Hirhurim


A new book by Dr. Daniel Eidensohn, Child & Domestic Abuse: Torah, Psychological, & Legal Perspectives, displays a different balance between thoughtful response and outrage. The first volume contains essays by an assortment of professionals — rabbis, psychologists, social workers, lawyers. Each, in his own way, lashes out at the community’s response to sexual abuse of children and attempts to explain the proper response according to the Torah and/or their professional training and experience.

Dr. Eidensohn writes that we will not change the attitude of our rabbinic leaders by providing Torah sources and arguments, even from someone as respected as R. Moshe Sternbuch, who advised Dr. Eidensohn on the publication and personally reviewed the Synopsis section. The only way to spark change is to dramatically describe victims’ pain. When community leaders recognize the extent of the problem and its effects, they will join the cause. “To the degree that the rabbis and community leaders can be convinced that abused children suffer horrible lifetime wounds, you will discover that the legal objections disappear” (p. 12). The same, I believe, applies to the problem of corrupt and unethical practices. When leaders realize how much this damages the community, how deeply this disrupts the basic functioning of our community, they will respond seriously. [...]

Rav Ovadia Yosef: Obeying Rabbinic authority even when they are wrong?d

The Torah tells us that we must obey the Sanhedrin in the well known
verse in Devarim (17:11) According to the Torah which I will teach you
and the laws which they will tell you, don't turn from that which they
say right or left. Rashi(Devarim 17:11) comments that this requirement
to obey them is, Even if they tell you that "right" is "left" and "left"
is "right" and surely if they tell you that "right" is "right" and
"left" is "left". The Sifre (Devarim 154:11) modifies this a bit, Right
and left - Even if it appears in your eyes that "right" is "left" and
that "left" is "right" – you should obey them. Thus there is a clear
requirement to obey the Sanhedrin or Rabbinic authorities even if they
tell you the opposite of what is or seems to be correct.

On the other hand the Yerushalmi(Horius 1:1) states, You might think
that you must obey the [Sanhedrin or Rabbinic authorities] even when
they tell you that "right" is "left" and that "left" is "right"
–therefore the Torah says that you are to follow after them "right and
left". Thus it is only when they tell you that "right" is "right" and
"left" is "left" that you should obey them. On the surface then it seems
to be simply a dispute between the Babylonian and the Yerushalmi.
However Horious (2b) states that if a person knows the truth and yet
follows the mistaken ruling of the Sanhedrin he must be a korbon as an
act of repentance. Thus clearly the Bavli also requires that you do what
you think is right - even against the Sanhedrin.

An interesting and persuasive explanation is given by Rav Ovadia Yosef.

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabiah Omer Y.D. 6:7.2): … The Yerushalmi (Horious
1:1) states, that you might think even if they tell you that "right" is
"left" and that "left" is "right" that they must be obeyed. Therefore
the Torah says that you should only obey them if they say that "right"
is "right" and "left" is "left". But this is the opposite of the Sifre
[that you must obey them even if they tell you that "right" is "left"
and "left" is "right"…. However according to the explanation of the
Ramban (Sefer HaMitzvos Shoresh I) and those who support him [Ran
Sanhedrin 87a] there is a reconciliation. According to the Ramban as
long as the dissenting view has not been directly presented to the
Sanhedrin [or Rabbinic authority] then he must refuse to eat that which
the Sanhedrin insists is kosher. [If he eats food that he regards as
unkosher because he is relying on the Sanhedrin he must bring a korbon]
However once he has directly discussed the issue with the Sanhedrin and
they have rejected his view [despite his best efforts] then the halacha
becomes that he must obey them [even if he is still convinced he is right.]

Novel, three nonfiction books on problem in Orthodox community point to growing awareness as cases persist.

Jewish Week    by Hella Winston

[...] The book’s author — a chasidic woman writing under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil (“Woman of Valor”) — told The Jewish Week that “after many suicides and hundreds in the streets, on drugs, in therapy, there is definitely more awareness [of the sexual abuse issue].” But she also cautions that “there is still so much ignorance” in the Orthodox community. “And as I know firsthand,” she said, “practical advice for parents is sorely lacking.”

It is, in part, this ignorance and lack of practical advice for parents that is being addressed by three new nonfiction books on the topic: “Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse and the Jewish Community”(Ktav) edited by David Mandel, the CEO of Ohel Family and Children’s Services, and David Pelcovitz, who teaches psychology and education at Yeshiva University; “Child Abuse and Domestic Abuse, Volume I and II,” edited and self-published by Daniel Eidensohn, a haredi rabbi and author who writes a blog on issues of Jewish identity; and “Abuse: The Communal and Religious Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims” (Urim Publishing, Jerusalem) by Michael J. Salamon, a prominent psychologist in the Orthodox world.[...]

Attention-Deficit (ADHD) is real and not caused by computer games


As recently as 2002, an international group of leading neuroscientists found it necessary to publish a statement arguing passionately that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was a real condition.

In the face of “overwhelming” scientific evidence, they complained, A.D.H.D. was regularly portrayed in the media as “myth, fraud or benign condition” — an artifact of too-strict teachers, perhaps, or too much television.

In recent years, it has been rarer to hear serious doubt that the disorder really exists, and the evidence explaining its neurocircuitry and genetics has become more convincing and more complex. [...]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chasam Sofer: Sanhedrin is not protected against error

From Daas Torah (translation copyrighted)

Chasam Sofer (Choshen Mishpat #191):
The Sifri concludes, “Even if the Sanhedrin tells you that right is left… and surely if they tell you that right is right and left is left [you must obey them].” This doesn’t seem to consistent. What is the second part which starts with, “and surely”? The Zakein Mamre (rebellious judge) is asserting that what he considers right is truly “right” and that the position of the majority of the Sanhedrin is “left” i.e., false. Therefore who is to determine that the second  part is ,”and surely”? This seems to be a major difficulty. In fact, however, the clear explanation is as follows. The Zakein Mamre (rebellious judge) and his colleagues are major scholars who are in dispute with the Sanhedrin. And even though the Sanhedrin is  composed of the leading Jewish authorities - who sit in G-d’s presence in His house (i.e., the Temple) - there is no necessity that their reasoning in this matter is true. In fact it could be that the Zakein Mamre’s understanding of the Torah verse is closer to the truth than theirs is. This is so even if they are more numerous and in general sharper in their thinking. On the other hand it is possible that in fact that the Zakein Mamre and his supporters number in the tens of thousands while the Sanhedrin can not be more than 71 people. Nevertheless G﷓d has decreed we must follow the scriptural understanding of the Sanhedrin in halacha since its source is no longer in Heaven. Therefore we don’t pay attention even to bas kol (voice from Heaven) or a prophet who claims to know the halacha in Heaven. Furthermore a prophet who claims prophetic knowledge of halachic is deserving of the death penalty for this crime of being a false prophet – since G﷓d would never provide a prophet vision of a halachic question. Even when Yehoshua ben Nun forgot thousands of halachos, they weren’t restored through prophecy but rather through the legal reasoning of Ozniel ben Kenaz. Besides who knows for certain that Ozniel ben Kenaz ascertained the truth through his reasoning? The understanding of man is transient in its understanding of Biblical verses as well as the reasoning of kal v’chomer and other midos. The fact is that legal authority is because G﷓d gave the Torah according to man’s understanding in order that there shouldn’t be an every growing number of unresolved disputes – [and not because the truth was necessarily ascertained]. Therefore G﷓d made the provision that if chas v’shalom the majority of Sanhedrin erred and permitted a substance which was actually prohibited and the people ate it  – G﷓d would not count it as a sin. In other words since the Sanhedrin erred, the people did not commit a sin by eating the prohibited substance. Furthermore if the Zakein Mamre himself decided to be stringent and not eat this substance because of his original suspicions – even though in Heaven it is known that he was correct – he is deserving of death as the Rambam rules (Hilchos Maamrim 4). This punishment is deserved even if he merely refrained from eating the disputed substance. This law is very constructive in that it works to prevent unresolved disputes amongst the Jews. Consequently this Zakein Mamre should not have had the slightest concern about eating the substance that Sanhedrin had declared permitted – even if prior to the final ruling of Sanhedrin he was certain it was prohibited. Similarly if Sanhedrin declares a certain type of activity prohibited on Shabbos, he should not be concerned about his initial certainty that it was prohibited. In other words even if the Sanhedrin mistakenly tells you concerning a halacha which it is clear in Heaven [“right”] that it is the opposite of what they say [“left”]  - their ruling is in fact correct [“right”]. That is because G﷓d accepts what they do even though it is mistaken in the objective sense. However there is an alternative explanation of the Sifri. We are to believe that what the Sanhedrin is saying is true [“right”] and that they have not erred. In other words we are to believe that they have ascertained the proper understanding of what G﷓d expressed in the Torah because G﷓d gave the Torah according to their understanding. Thus we see that both side are sincerely motivated to discover the truth. However if the Sanhedrin errs in their rulings then all Jews end up erring also – but it is considered that they had been forced. However this alternative explanation assumes that G﷓d guards his pious ones from erring and thus misleading the Jewish people – since they want to do G﷓d’s will. Now we can properly explain the second part of the Sifri, “and surely they must be obeyed when they say that the truly right is right.” The explanation of the Sifri according to this alternative explanation is that even when they had erred in ascertaining what the Torah mandates, nevertheless they would have discovered what appears to them to be the truth – and G﷓d would accept the validity of their erroneous decision. And surely we are to understand that they have in fact not erred and have correctly told us what the Torah actually mandates. Thus the alternative explanation is based on the assumption that the Sanhedrin is protected from error. However this second explanation is problematic since it is asserting infallibility. In other words the second explanation is saying that by nature man is capable of error, however the sanctity of the Temple prevents it. However this seems to be a violation of Torah not being in Heaven – since even a Bas Kol and even a prophet can not make halachic decisions. Therefore it would seem that the first explanation is better. Thus the Sifri clearly means that even if the Sanhedrin errs, G﷓d will not count it as a sin and thus G﷓d is not allowing the Sanhedrin to cause the people to sin. If you study the comments of the Ramban to Torah you will understand that he is also expressing this view. So while the Sanhedrin is forgiven when it makes an honest mistake, G﷓d forbid to say that they have the power to deliberately alter even the slightest matter. Such a view is that of the Sadducees and early heretics.