Monday, April 18, 2011

The Santa Monica bomber test - halachic clarity vs confusion

I recently discovered a very simple test of whether a person will report child abuse. Or rather whether he is so tied up in knots about the complexities of halacha and the horror of mesira that he would not call the police unless a godol gave him permission.

The test is the story of the confused Jewish individual who exploded a bomb at the Santa Monica shul and then escaped to Denver where he was recognized by a rabbi who then called his rabbi for permission to call the police.
The test consists of "What would you do if you recognized the Santa Monica bomber - would you call the police or call your rabbi for permission to call the police."

One answer I got - "You can't really trust the police - after all look at the harsh sentence that Rubashkin got. You have to consider all sides of the issue and a godol would know best what to do. Perhaps the guy just needed some therapy and understanding."

The test illustrates the need for our educational system and rabbonim to educate the community in the laws of pikuach nefesh and rodef. Issues which often do not allow time for a telephone call. This is no different than teaching the issue of pikuach nefesh for Shabbos. One case I heard was of a avreich whose baby developed a fever of 105 over Shabbos. He read through Shmiras Shabbos and concluded that it was permitted but didn't feel comfortable about calling the doctor. After Shabbos he went to the doctor and was told that his child was brain damaged. In a state of shock and depression he went to speak to Rav Moshe Feinstein - "How can this happen? I just wanted to sure to avoid avoid chilul Shabbos. Rav Moshe was very upset and told him - "the halacha is very clear that this was a life threatening situation - there was no heter of being frum at the expense of your child."


  1. The test illustrates the need for our educational system and rabbonim to educate the community in the laws of pikuach nefesh and rodef.

    Our educational system and rabbonim already do educate the community in these laws. Their verdict is that more often than not a shaila indeed must be first asked. You disagree. Nevertheless the rabbonim are not going to change the educational system to conform to your view.

  2. you speak with unjustified confidence that the system is working fine
    - in fact the rabbonim and the school system is moving in the direction that I described.
    The pamphet published by the conference of Jewish camps is clear evidence of this as well as the directives that are being given to principals by Torah u Mesorah and the directives that are in turn given to teachers.

    The Agudah is also working in this direction

  3. Actually Frank, had you read the book, you would know that it's R Sternbuch who disagrees with what you (sourcelessly) assert "the rabbonim" advise. In truth, the rabbanim are not of one voice on this topic. And had you actually asked, I'm not sure your assumption would stand up to the words of your own poseiq.

    Anyway... I'm bothered by someone who thinks one can judge his own city's police by what a judge sentenced Rubashkin to. It's not the same jurisdiction, it's not even about police altogether! So, what you're hearing is people, in ignorance, hearing a generic us-vs-them message. So of course cooperation when our goals do overlap is made impossible.


  4. I haven't in fact addressed the issue of whether "the system is working fine" or not, in my preceding comment.

    And in fact the system is not moving in the direction you would like it to, for the reason I indicated. The Torah U'Mesorah pamphlet in fact indicated a shaila should be asked before reporting anyone to the authorities.

  5. When you find the bomber, the first concern is that he might bomb more people, and this time succeed in hurting them where he failed last time, so the only way to stop him is to call the police and get the situation taken care of. That is the first concern of a normal person who is not of warped mind and misplaced priorities.

    Why would you put all the Jews in your community at risk by not stopping this criminal? The rabbi who did this makes me sick!

    Thinking about it, the same is true about all the molesters. When a molester is on the loose, every single Jewish child is at risk to be destroyed by him. What kind of wimpy, worthless, pip squeak, self-hating, self-loathing, emasculated piece of filth would mess around with halachic minutia and pilpulim rather than saving all those kids from harm and putting down the animal (or at least calling the police so they can put him down)? When Jews behave like this, it makes me feel very small to be part of this people.

  6. I also noticed, with initial astonishment, this aspect of the story. The wanted man was noticed in an Agudath Israel shul in Cleveland Hts., Ohio, by a rabbi who had seen his photo on Vos Iz Neias. This rabbi then called the shul rabbi and asked him the "shaila". The shul rabbi advised him to contact the police.

    This might be a case where the rabbi who called the cops might deserve the benefit of, dan k'kaf z'chus. Look at all the z'chusim. He is a rabbi. He is in shul. He doesn't believe in the ban, and he reads Vos Iz Neias. He wants to call the police so that the bomber is captured. If we're dan l'kaf z'chus, we believe he's smart enough to know the bomber is a rodef, and a shailah isn't required. So why call the shul rabbi? To shut the mouths of the am ha'aretzim who would otherwise call him a moser. Now he can say, I called a rabbi.

  7. Micha: Rav Shternbuch specifically said it may only be reported to the authorities in a case where we can determine with certainty that the accused is guilty prior to such reporting.

  8. Frank, review vol I, pp 109-111. As far as I can tell, you're a victim of erroneous rumors.

    RMS says (as reported by our host) one must report as soon as one has a realistic objective reason to suspect him. Not proof. The role of a rav is to help make sure you're not responding to panic, rumor, a vindictive student, etc... And thus the important thing is to find a rav who has connections with therapists, social workers, experience with communal leadership, and other tools to help clarify the metzi'us.

    But waiting until you're sure??? Are you reading the same words I am?

    Would you wait until you're sure before reporting an abandoned package you find at a bus terminal?


  9. Frank you simply don't know what you are talking about. Did you speak to Rav Sternbuch? That is not what he told me.

    You might also want to look at the discussion by Rav Yehuda Silman in Yeschrun vol 15 concerning sofek rodef which he says you are allowed to kill

  10. Yes, I have it first hand from Rav Shternbuch. You can ask him directly if you seek to truth.

  11. Frank,

    Our host not only already did ask R' Sternbuch, but did so with RMS's knowledge that his comments would be repeated in print.

    Did you misunderstand R Sternbuch? Or are you simply one of those people who maliciously distort the words of our gedolim, hiding behind a name that hides your identity?


  12. Perhaps you are projecting yourself Micha.

    Our host only indicated above that he was not told what I related. That simply may be a result of him not having asked. I suggested he, or you, ask specifically as did I.

  13. Frank, it is possible I'm projecting -- psychoanalyzing oneself isn't easy.

    However, I'm not hiding behind a pseudonym. I, Micha Berger, have a well-established identity on the internet, and a few minutes with Google could get you from my "-micha" signature tag (which has been online for over a 26 years) to my name, my email address, and more direct ways of reaching me.

    If you really believe what you claim, why aren't you similarly willing to stand behind your words?

    Also, I'm not claiming something unverifiable. I gave you the page numbers in RDE's book where R' Sternbuch agreed to be cited in print as saying something different than you claim he said to you in private.

    I should also point out that our host, R' Daniel Eidensohn, speaks with Rav Sternbuch regularly. It's odd for you to tell him to ask, when he did already did so and went to print with the answer (which I already told you). It is also odd for you to make it sound like a big deal when speaking to someone anyone looking at this blog would know he doesn't need any special occasion to ask.

    So, between some anonymous poster and someone who knows RMS well, who already published two works found in most batei medrash (Yad Moshe and Yad Yisrael) and two more that should be, it is pretty trivial to know whose veracity is suspect.


  14. I, Micha Berger, have a well-established identity on the internet

    Micha, and since I am not a well known internet-meister who has been incessantly occupying the hallowed fibers of this sacred network, therefore what I relate is of lesser value than one who spends many man-hours of his lifetime, over multiple decades, on the internet?

    Should I call you? Post my e-mail? What must I do to satisfy you?

    As far as the rest of your comment, please read R' DE newest post here, where what I've been citing regarding RMS all along is borne out.

  15. More to comment upon, there.



please use either your real name or a pseudonym.