Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Emunas Chachomim- accepting advice of chachom - is learned from Moshe

Tiferes Shlomo (Beshalach): The foundation of emunas chachomim is to believe in the words of the righteous of the generation (which are permeated with G‑d’s spirit) and everything they speak about and advise – even in issues not connected with mitzvos or sins(devar reshus). They are to be believed even if what they say is against commonsense and even if they say that their words are not from G‑d – in other words are not prophetic. That is because in this point a wise man is greater than a prophet. That is because concerning a prophet who speaks in G‑d’s name, faith in him is not relevant. All that matters for a prophet is that he be believed as being the messenger for conveying G‑d’s word. In contrast, emunas chachomim means faith in the chachom’s own words – even if they are against commonsense and are not from G‑d. Nevertheless the chachom’s advice is beneficial and it should be followed exactly as he says - even in material matters such as personal advice for business and in other issues. By following the words of the chachom, it will bring the final redemption…Someone who doesn’t belief in all of this is in fact delaying the redemption and causing the exile to be prolonged…Therefore when it was necessary for the Jews to cross…and to merit redemption by means of emuna – G‑d gave them a test through Moshe which didn’t make sense. G‑d commanded the escaping Jews to return and camp before their enemies. Obviously it was very strange to them to approach rather than avoid their pursuers. Despite the absurdity of the request, they nevertheless remained faithful to Moshe. In other words, they had faith in him even if he hadn’t been the foremost prophet and even if he told them to do something on his own which was not a message from G‑d and they obeyed him. That is what the Torah means when it said that the Jews believed in G‑d and Moshe His servant. It was with this double faith that they crossed and merited the Splitting of the Sea. This great miracle which was connected to the acceptance of the Torah where it said (Shemos 19:9), “And they will also believe in you forever. This is the path of the acquisition of Torah with emunas chachomim.

Kosher Switch:Rabbi Rabinowitz reportedly denies giving haskoma

Shalom, Rav Eidensohn,

A rabbinic colleague here in Israel, Rabbi Ohad Fixler, sent me the following information about the purported "haskamah" by Rabbi Rabinowitz for the "kosherswitch". He tells me that his brother, Rabbi Dror Fixler, agrees to publicizing his testimony. Please see below.

ketiva vachatima tova,

David Mescheloff

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: אוהד פיקסלר
Date: 2011/9/27
Subject: Re: מפסק חשמל כשר לשבת - ביטול ההוה אמינא

אחי דרור בירר אצל הרב רבינוביץ מה דעתו לגבי המתג חשמלי שהוזכר כאן לפני
מספר שבועות, שלכאורה נתן לו הסכמה.:

"אז הוא אמר לי שלא הראו לו את המתג הזה ואינו יודע כיצד הוא עובד,
וממילא גם לא הסכים לדבר.
אלא לפני זמן רב דיברו עימו בכלליות שיש להם רעיון, והוא רק איחל להם
בכתב: ברכה והצלחה. וכפי שמאחלים לכל מי שיש לו יוזמה, והם פירסמו ציטוט
זה כאילו הוא מסכים להם."


Protecting Children in Shul- Message from Rabbi Y. Horowitz of Project Yes

Dear Readers: 

With the Yomim Noraim upon us and the Yom Tov of Succos shortly thereafter, we would like to remind all parents to make sure that your children are supervised by a responsible adult at all times -- including the times when the adults are davening in Shul or resting in the afternoon. 

One Shabbos morning earlier this month, walking through the heart of Boro Park while many Shuls were still davening, I observed dozens of children playing in front of various shuls with no adults in sight. This may potentially be a recipe for disaster. We therefore, strongly encourage all parents to raise their awareness level regarding child safety.    

The Yomim Noraim and Yomim Tovim are a special time when children have the opportunity to interact with many different people. It is an opportune time to review with them the important lessons of personal safety. These include:

1) Your body belongs to you and you alone. 
2) No one can ever tell you secrets to keep from your parents
3) Good-touch -- bad-touch: No one may touch you in a spot normally covered by a bathing suit.
4) No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable. You should shout and run away if someone does that to you.  

If you are unfamiliar with these messages, please take the time to watch this video about teaching your children about personal safety,

Project YES has been sponsoring a "Take a Child to Shul" campaign for the past few years before Yom Tov, asking community members to help the children of single mothers, especially the boys, by taking them to Shul. We continue to encourage this practice and similar acts of chesed. 

On behalf of our staff and the families who reach out to us for help year-round, we wish our supporters and our readers a K'siva V'chasima Tova, a year filled with joy and nachas, and a year of Shalom for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel and around the world.

Yakov Horowitz    
Director, Project YES

Kosher Switch requests correction of the authorship of its defense

R' Menashe Kalata wrote:

Rabbi Eidensohn,
Rabbi Student has already updated his article ( based on this request.  I ask that you please make the same correction on your site(s).
Thank you.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

The author of our response (, to which you are replying in your new post, is not "R. Menashe Kalati" but KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. ("KSTI"), and not me personally.  Additionally, there is another person who is a Rabbi with the same name as me, and who has nothing to do with KosherSwitch or KSTI.  Please correct the authorship attribution immediately, before more damage is done.
Thank you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hirhurim responds to Kosher Switch's harsh criticism

The Kosher Switch saga continues. KosherSwitch Technologies, Inc. (“KSTI”), the maker of this clever device (discussed in this post: link), has published a response to the critiques his invention has received (link). He deserves the right to speak in his defense and raises many important points for consideration. However, in his understandable frustration he has also lamentably lashed out personally at some of his critics.

 I am honored that KSTI felt this blog sufficiently important to be the subject of one of the sections of his response. He offers a number of criticisms of my essay. He lists a few inaccuracies in my technical description of the device’s function, important points that, I believe, fail to move the halakhic dial but are worthy of mention. As I wrote in my original post and KSTI seems to agree, his device is built on the misnamed “Gerama switch” but breaks new ground with added features. While the Kosher Switch satisfies some of the criticisms facing the “Gerama switch,” it fails to answer some of the most important concerns and is therefore forbidden according to many significant hakakhic authorities. [...]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kosher Switch attacks its critics & defends its position

 Kosher Switch
Clearly the poskim gave written statements.  The vicious attacks by bloggers and others have caused some poskim to back pedal.  Some have disavowed any knowledge, while some others have qualified their previously issued written statements.  Others have not disavowed a thing.  However, the actions of the accusers have made some rabbanim appear irresolute and others appear inconsistent or forgetfully incompetent.  Yes – the first rev of the KosherSwitch web site had some problems in that links to all poskim’s written statements did not operate, so users could not immediately see that some poskim had given qualified approbations or mere blessings.  Rather than contacting us for correction of the link and review of the actual written statements from the poskim, the accusers ran to the poskim and sought their wholesale repudiations of KosherSwitch.  In some cases, these accusers successfully persuaded or intimidated the authors to revoke or revise their prior written statements.  The accusers have thus cast their mentors into the shadows of incredibility, memory lapse, or worse.  Is this the Torah way? [...]

Cancer treatment becoming unaffordable in many developed countries

An explosion of new technologies and treatments for cancer coupled with a rapid rise in cases of the disease worldwide mean cancer care is rapidly becoming unaffordable in many developed countries, oncology experts said on Monday. 

With costs ballooning, a radical shift in thinking is needed to ensure fairer access to medicines and address tricky questions like balancing extra months of life for patients against costs of a new drug, technology or care plan, they said. [...]

The Lancet report pointed to Dendreon's Provenge prostate cancer treatment -- which costs more than $100,000 for a three-dose course and was found in trials to improve survival by several months in patients with few other options. [...]

Economic terrorism of gay rights advocates

A handful of advocates, armed with nothing more than their keyboards, have put many of the country’s largest retailers, including Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Wal-Mart, on the spot over their indirect and, until recently, unnoticed roles in funneling money to Christian groups that are vocal in opposing homosexuality. 

 The advocates are demanding that the retailers end their association with an Internet marketer that gets a commission from the retailers for each online customer it gives them. It is a routine arrangement on hundreds of e-commerce sites, but with a twist here: a share of the commission that retailers pay is donated to a Christian charity of the buyer’s choice, from a list that includes prominent conservative evangelical groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family

The marketer and the Christian groups are fighting back, saying that the hundred or so companies that have dropped the marketer were misled and that the charities are being slandered for their religious beliefs.[...]

The interdependence of faith in G-d and faith in Sages

Sefas Emes (Vayikra Pesach): And they believed in G‑d and His servant Moshe –It is known from seforim that by means of faith in the sages (emunas chachomim) a person can come to have faith in G‑d. That is because faith in G‑d is a higher level than faith in man. However this is from the perspective that “I am first and I am the last.” That is because in reality, faith in G‑d both precedes and causes faith in the Sages. But it is only after having faith in the Sages that a person is able to have true faith in G‑d. This order is what we see here. The Torah first says that they believed in G‑d and then afterwards they believed in Moshe. After that they sang “az yashir…” Thus we see by their singing the praises of G‑d by the sea, they were brought to true faith.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chassidus: The Shpoler Zayde's Seuda - Saving the rebbe by dying in his place

The Shpoler Zayde, traveling in a sled, safely crossed the Ros River on his way to the Bris. However, upon his return, the ice broke, endangering the lives of everyone riding in the sled. At this moment, the Zayde saw, that in Heaven, a terrible decree was proclaimed against him. He cried out to all the Chassidim present: “Whoever wishes to replace me, I promise him ”Olam Haba“ (the world to come)!” Whoever would give his life for the Shpoler Zayde would be guaranteed a place in the world to come.

“I wish to replace the Zayde!”, shouted his “Gabbai” (beadle) Yollek. And so it was; his “Gabbai” Yollek drowned and the Shpoler Zayde was spared.

KosherSwitch removed false assertion that Rav Sternbuch gave haskoma

In apparent response to my posting that Rav Sternbuch had not given a verbal haskoma to Kosher Switch - their false claim to the contrary has been removed. 

kosher switch endorsements

Contrary to what had been cited on their page of endorsements - Rav Sternbuch did not say that their switch was better than gramma. In fact a rabbi who was present at the meeting said that Rav Sternbuch said that it was worse than gramma.  Thus this was not a case of Rav Sternbuch reversing his position because of pressure or misunderstanding the question or giving approval for a narrower domain than the Kosher Swtich claimed. Rather it is a clear misunderstanding on the part of Kosher Switch. Baruch HaShem they have removed their claim regarding Rav Sternbuch.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Abuse: Person is responsible if he did something clearly wrong - even if told by rabbi

Rav Moshe Sternbuch told me that when dealing with child abuse - that if a rav tells you not to go to the police when it is obvious that one needs to - you should not listen to the rav but to ask another rabbi (if there is no danger to the children by the delay). A clear support for this idea of each individual needing to be responsible to do that which is obviously correct - even if told the opposite by a rabbi - is the following Ba'al HaMa'or. This broadens the obligation to use your seichel and knowledge and focus on doing the right thing. When something is a dvar mishna - clear and obvious - you can not use the excuse that an authority told you not to do the right thing. This is clearly opposed to the idea of blind obedience to authority.

Ba’al ha-Ma’or(Sanhedrin (p. 12a in the Rif:):“If you were to ask: We hold [the prevailing view] that cases of garmi (damages resulting from direct and predictable cause) are liable for court adjudication. Why then do we say that when a judge errs in something stated explicitly in a Mishnah, he simply reverses his ruling but is not responsible for any losses, even if the damage incurred by the litigant due to his error is irrevocable? [For example,] the case of the cow of Bet Menaḥem whose meat can not be returned because R. Tarfon [the judge] had already [caused it to be] fed to the dogs [by those who followed his ruling]. “The answer is: The litigant was negligent. Since the error is in that which is stated explicitly in a Mishnah, the error is obvious, and the litigant should not have relied upon him and should not have acted upon what he was told. He should have questioned [the judge] and demonstrated the error, for this was as obvious as an explicit Mishnah. Therefore it is the litigant who was negligent; the judge’s ruling is superfluous. This is what is meant by: It is as if the judge never issued the ruling; he did nothing at all [to the litigant].”[Translation Rav Nachum Rabinowitz Chakira Magazine #5]

Computers can see (almost) what you are thinking

Time Magazine

That's a video of the process up top. A test subject is undergoing an MRI while watching random video clips from Hollywood movies. On the left side, you see clips from what the subject viewed. On the right, you see the fMRI results of "quantitative modeling" using "a new motion-energy encoding model," essentially a matchup of brain activity with the viewed images. As you can see, at worst, it's capable of reconstructing what was viewed in terms of the video image's elemental geometry, e.g. broad shapes, lights and darks, etc. And at best, you can make out identifiable human forms and even vague facial features. (Interestingly, the human-related images seem the least abstruse, which, perhaps—wild speculation on my part here—says something about species-related bias in our recognition patterns.)

Rav Amnon Yitzchok versus Neturei Karta

100 rabbis[headed by Skulener Rebbe & Rav M. Solomon] meet to solve the Internet Problem


רבנים קבעו: יש למצוא פיתרון לאינטרנט

בארה"ב הוקם 'איחוד הקהילות לטוהר המחנה' • המטרה: למצוא פיתרון לסכנות הרוחניות הטמונות בטכנולוגיה • בחודשים הקרובים - כנס הסברה ענק • ויש תמונות 

בניו-ג'רזי שבארה"ב התקיים אתמול (ד') כינוס היסטורי, בו נטלו חלק רבנים ואדמו"רים מכל החוגים.

מטרת הכינוס היתה הקמת 'איחוד הקהילות לטוהר המחנה', שיפקח וימצא פיתרונות לסכנות שמציבה ההתפתחות הטכנולוגית בימינו - ובראשה האינטרנט הלא מפוקח.

עוד בנושא:
שיתוף פעולה חסידי-ליטאי: כך נכשיר את האינטרנט

בראש הכינוס עמדו האדמו"ר מסקולען והגאון רבי מתתיהו סלומון, משגיח ישיבת לייקווד, והשתתפו בו ונשאו דברים, בין היתר, האדמו"ר מנובמינסק, הגאון רבי שמואל קמינצקי ראש ישיבת פילדלפיה, הגאון רבי משה גרין ראש ישיבת מונסי, הגאון רבי אליהו ברודני ועוד. 

Texas School Punishes Boy for Opposing Homosexuality

An honors student in Fort Worth, Texas, was sent to the principal’s office and punished for telling a classmate that he believes homosexuality is wrong.

Dakota was in a German class at the high school when the conversation shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. At some point during the conversation, he turned to a friend and said that he was a Christian and “being a homosexual is wrong.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Were Egyptians the Perpetrators of Last Month's Terror Attack?


Yedioth Ahronoth reported:

"The IDF's investigation of the incident was recently completed and its findings indicate that the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza sponsored the terror attack, but the terrorists who executed the attack were Egyptians," reporter Alex Fishman wrote.  "The Egyptian terrorists were responsible for the sniper fire from within Egyptian territory, and the three squads of suicide bombers who went onto Route 12 to attack the Israeli vehicles were also comprised of Egyptian citizens." Fishman reports that the operational cell numbered 20 people, including the Palestinian handlers. One, the story says, was an Egyptian police officer on active duty.

Kosherswitch:Falsely indicating that Rav Moshe Sternbuch endorses product

A company selling grama switch for Shabbos is claiming an endorsement from Rav Moshe Sternbuch.


HaGaon R’ Moishe Sternbuch shlit’aChief Rabbi/Ra'avad of the Eidah HaChareidis Yerushalayim. “Not gramma, better than gramma; Brocha that you should get the good to stay good, and get the bad to become good!” (1/5/2010 at his home)JerusalemVerbalWiki

 I received the following letter from Rav Sternbuch's gabbai

I asked the Rav about this, he told me that he was asked about it, he wrote  a letter via Rabbi Sigler on the issue, the Rav holds that it is not only chilul shaboss, but "akiras shaboss" to use this switch, the rav asked for his opinion to be publicized since he has been asked recently about this from numerous sources.

Discussion of Kosher Switch - problem of zilzul Shabbos

YU Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Liebowitz  Listen at the end where he discusses zilzul Shabbos

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kosher Switch & the problematic haskomas - Rabbi Rosen of Tzomet

Chareidi extremists demonstrate in Beit Shemesh

Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox residents of Beit Shemesh staged a demonstration Tuesday evening outside a religious girls' school in the city, in protest of the Education Ministry's decision to open the school near haredi neighborhoods.  [...]

In spite of the organizers' hopes that the protest would be attended by all haredi factions in Beit Shemesh, the only ones who arrived were the "extremists" identified with the struggle, as well as dozens of haredi children. [...]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baal HaTanya: Success is not determined by rational planning so don't ask advice from a gadol for personal matters

An interesting point is made by the Baal HaTanya. Personal advice such as finances were never asked of a talmid chachom but only a prophet. This is clearly stated in Koheles (9:11). This is perhaps a reflection of believing that everything is determined by Providence as opposed to the view that talented people with intelligent plans are more like to be successful  Thus he seems to be asserting that  a person's success is always determined individually by hashgocha protis - and not by rational planning. The role of a gadol is to give advice in avodas HaShem and spiritual matters. This is related to my previous question as to whether a person should monitor outcome and modify his behavior to increase success. This seems to be consistent with the Chovas HaLevavos that hishtadlus is only a precondition for success but doesn't determine it. Therefore there is no need to modify ones efforts or change jobs because there is no causal relationship between specific type of effort and success.

Koheles(9:11):[Shlomo said] I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not always won by the swift, the strong don’t always win the battle, the wise don’t always have bread, the men of understanding aren’t always wealthy, and the talented aren’t always favored. In fact they will only sometimes be more successful than others but all of them will find that at times their successes or failures are apparently random.

Baal HaTanya(Igros Kodesh #22): My dear friend… Has there ever been anything like this since the beginning of creation? Where can you find in any one of the books of Jewish sages – whether of the earlier period or later period - to have an established practice of asking advice concerning secular matters such as what to do regarding some mundane issue. [This wasn’t done] even from the greatest of the ancient Jewish sages such as the Tannaim and Amoraim -- from whom no secret escaped and for whom the pathways of heaven were clear. In fact asking advice was only done from the genuine prophets such as those that used to exist amongst the Jewish people. For example  Shmuel the Seer was asked by Shaul about the donkeys his father had lost. That is because in truth all matters pertaining to a person – except those having to do with Torah learning or fear of heaven – are not comprehended except through prophecy. As it says, “And the sage has no bread”(Koheles 9:11). Our Rabbis have taught, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except for fear of heaven.” They also say that 7 thing are concealed…and that no man no knows how he will profit… and when the House of Dovid will return… You should note that these are equated to each other. And this that is says in Yeshaya, “A counselor and a sage who silences all,” and also, the statement of our Sages that people “benefit from [a talmid chachom] by his advice and sound wisdom” – that is referring to his words of Torah which are called “sound wisdom.”…

Can the Palestinian Authority survive the U.N. vote?


The U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood is a moment of truth, what it will reveal is that the promise on which the Palestinian Authority itself has been built -- that it is the administrative and security infrastructure of a state that will establish Palestinian sovereignty on the lands conquered by Israel in 1967, and will end the occupation -- is unlikely to be fulfilled either by a largely symbolic U.N. vote or by ongoing talks with the Israelis under U.S. auspices. The dangerous epiphany predicted by Dayton will likely coincide with a growing discontent on the ground as a result of economic pressure, an escalation of aggressive provocations by Israeli settlers, and a recognition that security forces suppressing protest actions are preserving a status quo that does not, in fact, lead to an end of the occupation.

Abbas has called for popular demonstrations to back his U.N. representations, in the way that U.S. politicians bring flag-waving crowds to campaign stops as a visual backdrop for their speeches. The Palestinian leader expects them to express support for his U.N. mission; no more. But Palestinians are far less interested in the status of their delegation at the U.N. than they are about the occupation. And if, inspired by the examples of the Arab Spring, they decide to use the opportunity to wage peaceful protests against the occupation, the prospects for the PA itself to survive will dim.

Riots erupted after police arrested 2 notorious figures in Mea Shearim

Police arrested two prominent Eda Haredit and Neturi Karta activists in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Also arrested were Yoel Kraus, a prominent Eda Haredit figure and Mordechai Hirsch, the son of Moshe Hirsch, who served as a cabinet minister in the Palestinian government. Local residents responded by hurling stones at the police officers.

Officers and Jerusalem municipal inspectors arrived in Mea Shearim to shut down a slaughterhouse, which was recently opened after previously being closed. The slaughterhouse owner was detained for questioning. Police also arrested one of the leaders of the Sicarii faction. [...]

A Reform Jew tries out being frum for a week

For the past week, my alarm has gone off every morning at seven—the click of the radio calling me to another day of altered consciousness. I have risen and washed my hands, recited b’rachot, and—covering my elbows, knees, collar bones—snuck out of the sleepy silence of my bedroom into the briskness of an autumn dawn.

For seven days, I have davened (worshiped) shacharit, mincha, and maariv. I have categorized my food, separating meat and dairy, and offered thanks after meals. Most of all, I have kept close watch on myself, pausing to take the pulse of my religious identity, as I’ve tried, for a week only, to experience a different way of being a Jew.

Having been raised in a committed Reform household, I’ve long known that being a Reform Jew allows me a great deal of personal autonomy in Jewish practice. But…with freedom comes the responsibility of choice. To fulfill myself in a Reform context, I don’t need to observe every commandment, but I do need to know the answer to a very important question: Why? Why do I choose to observe one ritual or commandment and not another? [....]

In Small Towns, Gossip Moves to the Web, and Turns Vicious

But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another.

And in Dee’s Place, people are not happy. A waitress, Pheobe Best, said that the site had provoked fights and caused divorces. The diner’s owner, Jim Deverell, called Topix a “cesspool of character assassination.” And hearing the conversation, Shane James, the cook, wandered out of the kitchen tense with anger.

His wife, Jennifer, had been the target in a post titled “freak,” he said, which described the mother of two as, among other things, “a methed-out, doped-out whore with AIDS.” Not a word was true, Mr. and Ms. James said, but the consequences were real enough.

Friends and relatives stopped speaking to them. Trips to the grocery store brought a crushing barrage of knowing glances. She wept constantly and even considered suicide. Now, the couple has resolved to move.

9/11 Boat Rescue of Manhattan "You've got to do what you have to do"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Study: Child abuse rose during recession

An increase in child abuse, mostly in infants, is linked with the recent recession in new research that raises fresh concerns about the impact of the nation's economic woes.

The results are in a study of 422 abused children from mostly lower-income families, known to face greater risks for being abused, and the research involved just 74 counties in four states.

But lead author Dr. Rachel Berger of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh said the results confirm anecdotal reports from many pediatricians who've seen increasing numbers of shaken baby cases and other forms of brain-injuring abuse.[...]

Mind-Body: The impact of intestinal bacteria on our minds

Wired /Wall Street Journal by Jonah Lehrer

One of the deepest mysteries of the human mind is that it doesn't feel like part of the body. Our consciousness seems to exist in an immaterial realm, distinct from the meat on our bones. We feel like the ghost, not like the machine.

This ancient paradox—it's known as the mind-body problem—has long perplexed philosophers. It has also interested neuroscientists, who have traditionally argued that the three pounds of our brain are a sufficient explanation for the so-called soul. There is no mystery, just anatomy.

In recent years, however, a spate of research has put an interesting twist on this old conundrum. The problem is even more bewildering than we thought, for it's not just the coiled cortex that gives rise to the mind—it's the entire body. As the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes, "The mind is embodied, not just embrained."

The latest evidence comes from a new study of probiotic bacteria, the microorganisms typically found in yogurt and dairy products. While most investigations of probiotics have focused on their gastrointestinal benefits—the bacteria reduce the symptoms of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome—this new research explored the effect of probiotics on the brain. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Iris prime minister denounces Church & asserts that child protection is paramount


His remarks were a ringing declaration of the supremacy of state over church, in words of outrage and indignation that had never before been used publicly by an Irish leader.

“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.

Reiterating the report’s claim that the church had encouraged bishops to ignore child-protection guidelines the bishops themselves had adopted, the prime minister attacked “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism” that he said “dominate the culture of the Vatican.”

He continued: “The rape and torture of children were downplayed, or ‘managed,’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution — its power, its standing and its reputation.” Instead of listening with humility to the heartbreaking evidence of “humiliation and betrayal,” he said, “the Vatican’s response was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.” [...]

“You can talk about the finesse of diplomatic ties and maneuverings, but what Kenny was actually saying was that you have to prioritize the victims of abuse, and you have to assert very loudly that this is a republic and civil law has to take precedence over canon law,” said Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to protect your children against abusers that the police & rabbis won't deal with

I recently received a request for how to deal with a person who abuses children by inappropriate touch - but there is not sufficient proof for the police to arrest him. The person thus is a danger - but falls through the cracks of the system. Neither the police or the rabbis want to deal with it. What is needed is a way for communities to be able to share information about such people both for protection and possibly building sufficient evidence for arrest. It is also helpful if such people could be pressured to go to therapy.
 Concerned Parent wrote:

What does one do when a parent (or a number of parents) know of an abuser but do not have sufficient evidence for the rabbanim or police to pursue the issue?  On one hand, there is clearly a need for the community to awaken to this issue and be much more proactive.  On the other hand, a "wild west" type of justice is also not going to work.  We are dealing with this situation now, having already been declined by both the police and area rabbinic leaders. We have notified certain parents with young children to be wary of the suspect.  Is there anything else that can be done?  He is not a teacher or hold another position that allows him access to children.  He is something of wanderer nebach type that naturally engenders rachmanus which gets him invited into people's homes.

Thanks for any feedback

Backlash in Chareidi community against extremely modest "Taliban women"

An internal haredi battle is taking place these days against "Taliban women", a radical sect of women wearing cloaks and observing strict modesty rules.

Ads posted in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh are announcing the establishment of a special committee against the sect's members. [...]

Five men arrested for sexually abusing minors in J'lem

Police arrested five men in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahlaot over the past six weeks for sexually abusing dozens of minors in the neighborhood starting as early as 2006, though the abuse got significantly worse in the past two years.

The men, all in their 40s and 50s, knew each other through the neighborhood but were not acting in an organized fashion to abuse the children.

One of the men arrested recently was also arrested in February for similar sexual abuse of minors. Police requested he be imprisoned, but he was released to house arrest with an electronic bracelet to track his whereabouts.

Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben Ruby said that the man continued abusing children while on house arrest. [...]

Paradox: In order to retain moral sensitivity we must block out news of scandals - But to be a moral people we need to know about scandal and react with outrage.

 Excerpts from "Can our Homes stay Holy in the Age of Scandals." by Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg Mishpacha, Sept 7 2011 page 14-15.
Today, in a world dominated by nonstop newsfeeds, instant messaging, social networking, and the immense overall power of the Internet, creating a healthy and moral environment for our children is that much more difficult. And lately there seems to be one scandal after another, each more shameful than the next, involving a long list of high-profile personalities, including, not so long ago, the president himself. Some may follow every tawdry detail of every story. Others try their best to ignore it. But not for one moment should anyone believe we are immune to the effects of these sordid scandals and the breaches they make in the very walls we’ve built to protect our pure Torah environment. Not matter where we live.

…Rav Mattisyahu Salomon, the venerated mashgiach of Lakewood, said, “All these types of public scandals have removed the bushah from Klal Yisrael. We are no longer a nation of baishanim. We may abhor these types of activities, we may even be troubled by them, but we are no longer simply embarrassed by them. The powerful force of the Internet has removed the bushah from us and from our homes, and as a result, our homes have allowed the immorality of the world to penetrate their walls and enter into our spiritual fortresses. We must bring bushah back into our homes.”[…] 

[Rav Mattisyahu Salomon said], … “Every day when I wake up, besides saying Modeh ani, I add a special tefillah to Hashem for allowing me to be born in an earlier generation. For if I had grown up in today’s Internet world, I would not be able to withstand the many nisyonos and challenges that come come along with being a Torah Jew and a G‑d fearing Jew.”

Former Correction Department rabbi charged in $200,000 housing fraud

A former city Correction Department rabbi who landed in hot water for arranging a lavish Bar Mitzvah party for a Rikers Island inmate was charged Wednesday in a massive tenant-fraud scheme.

Leib Glanz, 53, faces 15 years in prison on charges of conspiracy and theft for pocketing $200,000 in federal housing grants, according to a criminal complaint in Manhattan Federal Court.

The alleged scheme involved Glanz using his United Talmudical Academy, a prominent Williamsburg yeshiva. His brother, Menashe Glanz, 49, was also charged for taking money for living in a low-income apartment in Brooklyn that he didn't live in, the complaint says.

"Leib and Menashe Glanz engaged in a years-long subterfuge to take criminal advantage of federal housing subsidies," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "Especially in these trying economic times, we cannot tolerate stealing from the public."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Main goal of education - Competence or Character?

For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”[....] 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Obama's Israeli problem

The Zionist Organization of America issued a press release last week noting some curious omissions from the Obama administration’s communications. Candidate Obama omitted any Israeli city from an enumeration of cities victimized by terrorism in his much touted Berlin speech as a candidate in 2008. (Amman did make it so it cannot be that candidate Obama had placed an embargo on mention of the Middle East.) Perhaps he shrewdly estimated that his European audience would likely be more sympathetic to the perpetrators than the victims of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

And recently, the administration’s talking points on the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11 did not recall any Israeli city when praising the resilience of “individuals, families and communities… whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” I guess they could not think of another city whose name begins with the same first letter as Sderot or Jerusalem. [...]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rav Moshe Feinstein's view of Daas Torah

I would appreciate information as to the source of the following quote from the Artscroll biography (revised edition) that was recently published.  I have found nothing comparable to it in his published writings. I cite below a discussion I had with Rav Dovid Feinstein as well as the Introduction to the Igros Moshe and a teshuva which says there is no such thing as a gadol today that one can not disagree with. I added  a comment from the introductory essay from the 8th volume of the Igros which seems to directly contradict the Artscroll statement
 Igros Moshe (Reb Moshe - Artscroll biography 2nd edition 2011): There are people who maintain that talmidei chachom are not qualified to decide political matters that gedolei Yisroel should limit themselves to Torah and Halacha. Such people cannot be considered within the Torah camp. One might well say disregarding the advice of a talmid chachom is far worse than violating a commandment. One who violates a commandment because he is too weak to resist temptation at least knows that his action is wrong. By contrast, one who ignores the advice of a talmid chachom denies that a Torah scholar’s wisdom is superior. This is a far more serious breach (page 224).
Rav Dovid Feinstein (personal communication): In response to the question of whether his father ever justified his halachic decisions Rav Feinstein told me the following, “I never heard my father claim that his authority was from Daas Torah. He always insisted that the authority of his rulings was because they involved correct reasoning.”

Igros Moshe(Introduction): And therefore I also found it appropriate to publish my teshuvos,  since I am merely clarifying the halacha and every talmid chachom and posek is able to examine my words and decide for himself whether to make halachic rulings in accord with my views. They can see that I did not blindly rely even on the writings of our great rabbis. I analyzed them with all my strength to understand their correctness - as we find stated by Rabbi Akiva Eiger. Similarly I request that all those who read my writings that they should carefully examine my words and only then [if they are acceptable] to make practical rulings in accord with them

Igros Moshe(O.C. 1:109): This that you apologize for disagreeing with me in a halachic issue – this is totally unnecessary. That is because this is the way of Torah that it is necessary to establish the truth. Chas v’shalom to silence one who disagrees with you – whether he is being more lenient or more strict. [While there is a discussion about disagreeing in a formal court session Sanhedrin 36 where the court is deciding on the guilt or innocence…] it is not a problem to disagree with the gadol (greatest scholar) when he is saying something in the course of teaching the material or even if he is making a practical halachic ruling but he is not part of a formal court. We see this in many places in the gemora where students question their teacher’s view. … It is obvious in these cases the rulings were not part of a formal court session. Furthermore it is apparent that there is no one today who has the status of gadol for this law that no one can disagree with him… Therefore even if you consider me to be a gadol – it is permitted to disagree with me and consequently it is required that you express your opinion and there is no need to apologize. Nevertheless regarding the halachic question that was raised, my view -that I wrote that it is prohibited - is the correct one.

Igros Moshe (Y.D.3:88): Is it permitted to argue with the words of our Sages in public – even in their communities? You are concerned about the permissibility of moving to Bnei Brak because there are times when you will be disagreeing with the Chazon Ish zt”l. I really don’t understand why you are concerned. In fact the opposite is true. [click link for rest of teshuva]

From 8th volume of Igros Moshe (hat tip to Yoni), "Active involvement of gedolei Torah in politics also in Israel aroused his opposition. He used to say that greatness in Torah is not combined with expertise in politics"

Rav Moshe Tendler describes how he met Rav Moshe Feinstein's daughter

End the madness symposium at 37th minute

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler - an interview by Shaul Seidler-Feller

An Interview with Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler

 BY: Shaul Seidler-Feller.

What was Orthodox Judaism like in the early part of the 20th century in America? What were the difficulties and/or opportunities presented to Jews coming over to the U.S. from Europe?
I grew up in a small, isolated, ghettoized European town called the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All the adults were first-generation immigrants. They dressed as they had in Europe, they spoke as they had in Europe, but all lost their children to assimilation. America was a treyfer land (a country unsuited to Jewish religious life), and they knew that going in. They were dying in Europe and did not have any hope of continuing there so they came to the U.S. with the understanding that there would not be Judaism here. On Yom Kippur, people bought kibbudim (honors during the service) and came up wearing leather shoes. On Shabbos, the president of my father’s shul, Mr. Rosen, would get upset if the chazzan for Musaf was kvetching around a little bit because he had to get out of shul and go open up his store on 33rd St. They just gave up on observance. It was a complete defeat.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Daas Torah - 2nd edition -publication date & availability

In response to inquiries - my sefer Daas Torah is or soon will be sold out. Some stores might still have a copy

I am working on a revised 2nd edition which I hope to finish by Chanukah - It will contain signficant new material - especially dealing with the issue of rabbinic authority - as well as being better organized. But it will only contain the English translations - not the Hebrew sources. I am planning on publishing the Hebrew sources as a separate volume. The other difference is that it will be softcover. 

It will be available through Amazon as well as seforim stores.

Rabbi Rakeffet: Rav Hutner - Rabbi Dovid Cohen & Rabbi Hartman

This is a fascinating discussion of Rav Hutner and in particular the incident where Rav Dovid Cohen publicly embarrassed Rav Soloveitchik and was stopped by Rabbi Dovid Hartman The incident with the direct testimony of Rabbi Dovid Cohen starts at 17 minutes

Dr. Marc Shapiro notes note #25

For the haredi world, one of the Rav’s great errors was his description of the differences between the Chazon Ish and the Brisker Rav, as expressed in the eulogy he delivered for the latter. In this eulogy R. Dovid Cohen famously screamed his protest at what he thought was the disrespect shown to the Chazon Ish. The Rav’s wife yelled that he should be taken out, and none other than R. David Hartman physically forced Cohen out of the hall. A few weeks ago R. Rakefet faxed me some pages from a new book on the Brisker Rav. Lo and behold, this hagiography says exactly what the Rav said, to wit, the Chazon Ish was prepared to engage in some flattery vis-à-vis Ben Gurion for the sake of kelal Yisrael, but the Brisker Rav was such an ish emet that no matter how good the cause he couldn’t bring himself to do this.

Does America Have a Future?

NYTimes by David Frum Review of new book by Thomas Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum

 And yet . . . Friedman and Mandelbaum also point out things like this: New military recruits arrive much less physically fit than previous generations because of a lack of exercise, and they come in with what Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calls “a mixed bag of values.” Dempsey goes on: “I am not suggesting they have bad values, but among all the values that define our profession, first and most important is trust. If we could do only one thing with new soldiers, it would be to instill in them trust for one another, for the chain of command and for the nation.” O.K., so that’s alarming.

And so is this point from Arne Duncan, the secretary of education: “Currently about one-fourth of ninth graders fail to graduate high school within four years. Among the O.E.C.D. countries, only Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand have higher dropout rates than the United States.”

How about this statistic from Friedman and Mandelbaum: “Thirty years ago, 10 percent of California’s general revenue fund went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons. Today nearly 11 percent goes to prisons and 8 percent to higher education.”

Or this, which comes from the Nobelist Joseph Stiglitz: “The top 1 percent of Americans now take in roughly one-fourth of America’s total income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, . . . the top 1 percent now controls 40 percent of the total. This is new. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”        

Gedolim say vote for Turner against Weprin

First Haredi conference on "Torah archaeology" held in Jerusalem


In the heart of ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem two weeks ago, an unwritten taboo was shattered in broad daylight: The first Haredi conference on "Torah archaeology" - having been boldly advertised in the Haredi daily Hamodia, and approved by several leading rabbis - drew a packed audience.

The opening speaker, Chabad Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, brought several ancient coins to the conference, held in the Beit Bracha hall near Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood. Deutsch, who flew in from Brooklyn for the event, runs a museum that displays artifacts he acquired on the private market from the time of the Mishna. Also among the artifacts, he displayed an intact scale that he said had been recovered several weeks earlier from a sunken ship in the Mediterranean Sea.           

Going to jail for silence: Is withholding knowledge of a crime mesira

 Two years ago, Rabbi Moshe Zigelman went to prison rather than testify against fellow Jews in a federal tax-evasion case and receive a lesser punishment.

Now, federal prosecutors are threatening him with a return to jail unless the 64-year-old devout Hasid agrees to testify before a grand jury regarding the federal government's ongoing probe of tax evasion in his Orthodox Jewish sect. On Wednesday, they will ask a judge to order him to testify or be found in contempt.

His attorney says Zigelman, a teacher of scripture and son of Holocaust survivors, will again refuse, citing his religious principles.

Zigelman's unyielding religious stance has led to attorneys wrangling in a federal courtroom over the rare intersection of the modern U.S. legal system and the ancient Jewish doctrine of mesira, a prohibition for Jews against informing on other Jews to secular authorities.

Prosecutors have said the rabbi's position is unsupported by Talmudic law, according to court papers filed by Zigelman's attorneys. Defense attorneys contend that he is again being asked to make the obvious choice between heaven and earthly jail cells, and that no prison time will be able to get Zigelman to go against his religion and face ever-lasting punishment.

Manny's Book Store in Meah Shearim terrorized by Sikrikim


A bookstore in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood is struggling against a wave of attacks by a haredi group called Sikrikim (“Sicarii”) that other business-owners have called the “mafia of Mea Sha’arim.”

Since the bookstore, known as Or Hachaim/Manny’s, opened in March 2010, men have smashed its windows several times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil, and dumped bags of human excrement inside.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was harassed and had stones thrown at him while leaving the store last year.

The bookstore, located on Mea She’arim Street, is popular with Anglo residents and tourists and carries many English- language holy books and Judaica items in addition to Hebrew books. The harassment stems from the bookstore’s refusal to accept demands made by the neighborhood extremist group, which would require all businesses to observe specific “modesty standards.”

At Or Hachaim, the Sikrikim’s demands include putting up a sign asking customers to dress modestly, removing all English-language books, signs and advertisements, and closing its website, which is in English, all so as not to attract tourists, who are not dressed modestly, said Marlene Samuels, one of the three managers of the bookstore, along with her husband, Manny, and Meir Dombey. Manny Samuels previously ran Manny’s Bookstore, which was well-known in the Anglo community.

“These people are very extreme; they terrorize lots of people here, and they are a very insular group,” Marlene Samuels said. She added that despite filing four complaints with the police and providing surveillance footage that clearly identified four of the men who have been vandalizing their shop, the police has not gotten involved.

“In the last few weeks, the police said they just don’t want to get involved in this neighborhood,” she said.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Can Chareidim control their extremists? Throwing blows in Beit Shemesh

The escalation began yesterday with a conflict involving the girls school Orot Lebanot. Orot Lebanot is a religious Zionist school, meaning it is Orthodox but not ultra-Orthodox.

Yesterday, Ultra-Orthodox extremists blocked the path of the Orot Lebanot schoolgirls while they were on their way home. They surrounded the girls and shouted insults at them. Some residents and parents accompanying their children responded, and a fight broke out. It took nearly 45 minutes for the police to restore order, which they did without detaining or arresting any of the troublemakers.

R' Yair Hoffman Reviews new 9th volume of the Igros Moshe

It still must be understood that this volume was put together posthumously, and some of the material does, in fact, reflect that (see, for example, the later comment on responsa OC #5).  Some of the material does not include the Lomdus that has characterized his responsa in the past.  Yet the previous volumes also did include a substantial amount of what can be termed “apodictic” responsa that just discussed Rav Feinstein’s opinions without the Lomdus.  Some people have questioned whether some of the material should actually have been included.  Information told to this author by some insiders also revealed that there was material that was not included too.  Nonetheless, it is a very important work that contributes significantly to Rav Feinstein’s halachic oeuvre.

The Orech Chaim section contains 50 responsa.  In the first he recommends that all shuls follow the timing of the Mogain Avrohom for the recitation of Krias Shma. This is interesting as it seems to be in contrast with his earlier position in Volume I #24 to Rabbi Shalom HaLevi Kugelman. How do we understand or resolve this apparent contradiction? One may view it as a realization by Rav Moshe Feinstein that the pendulum has swung too much in the wrong direction after the publication of Volume I of the Igros Moshe (and not necessarily because of that).  Especially, if one views the purported intent of the publication of the Igros Moshe in the first place.  Not everyone is in agreement that Rav Moshe meant his Igros Moshe to play the role of say, the Mishna Brurah in halacha.  Some would have it that the authorial intent of his halachic magnum opus was to be a running dialogue, a discourse with Torah scholars immersed in a sugyah.  If this is the case, then the contradiction is readily resolved utilizing the “pendulum has swung too far” model.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Community leaders in Australia accused of protecting a child molester

          SENIOR members of a Melbourne Jewish community have been accused of protecting an alleged child sex offender who worked at one of the order's schools.

David Cyprys, 43, a security guard at Yeshivah College in East St Kilda, was today arrested and charged with 29 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency relating to former students.

Cyprys, a father-of-two who also runs a locksmith business, could try to flee to Israel with the help of high-ranking individuals within the Yeshivah community, Detective Senior Constable Lisa Metcher told the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today.

She accused Cyprys's supporters of covering up the alleged offending, which is said to have occurred between 1984 and 1991.

Why Muslims are still mad at America

On the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans are wondering whether the risk of a terrorist attack against America has been reduced.  The picture is mixed. With the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is weaker.  With revolutions in several Arab countries, frustrations with unpopular autocratic governments — a recruiting theme for terrorist groups - have been mitigated.  But one important contributing factor has not improved - widespread anger at America in the Muslim world.  While views have improved in Indonesia, throughout the Middle East and South Asia, hostility toward the United States persists unabated.

This does not mean that most Muslims support terrorist attacks on America. On the contrary, overwhelming majorities reject terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks, as morally wrong.  Al Qaeda is quite unpopular.

However, anger at America does contribute to an environment in which it is easier for anti-American terrorist groups to recruit jihadists, to generate funding and to generally operate with little government interference - witness how bin Laden operated in Pakistan and the widespread anger there when the Pakistani military failed to prevent the United States from taking him out.

Trying to understand Muslims’ feelings toward America has been the focus of a five-year study I recently completed that included conducting focus groups and surveys throughout the Muslim world.  I sat for many hours trying to understand as Muslims explained to me why they are so mad at America.

Muslims have much they do not like about how America treats them. But there is one thing that is the most fundamental: their perception that America seeks to undermine Islam - a perception held by overwhelming majorities.

One Sperm Donor, 150 Offspring

Cynthia Daily and her partner used a sperm donor to conceive a baby seven years ago, and they hoped that one day their son would get to know some of his half siblings — an extended family of sorts for modern times.

 So Ms. Daily searched a Web-based registry for other children fathered by the same donor and helped to create an online group to track them. Over the years, she watched the number of children in her son’s group grow.

And grow.

Today there are 150 children, all conceived with sperm from one donor, in this group of half siblings, and more are on the way. “It’s wild when we see them all together — they all look alike,” said Ms. Daily, 48, a social worker in the Washington area who sometimes vacations with other families in her son’s group. [...]       

Monday, September 5, 2011

13 reasons why rabbis can't solve the sexual abuse problem without the police

Guest Post from Henoch
A friend of mine who is a Rabbi casually told me that a Doctor had called him to warn him that a pedophile was moving into his city.  The sexual predator had worn out his welcome where he lives and the Rabbonim of his town had demanded that he move.  When I asked him what he is doing about it, he responded that he had no idea what to do about it.  The pedophile was unlikely to daven in his shul, so most of his congregants wouldn’t care.  With great effort and a strong campaign, at best he could accomplish that the person would perhaps choose a different city.  He wasn’t even sure how this would be accomplished and at best would only cause the man to relocate elsewhere.  This Rabbi is a great leader and a person with much integrity, yet he doesn’t see it as a cause that needs to take up his full attention for the next few weeks.  It would also cause much fighting, alarm, and strife for all involved. For the following reasons this small story illustrates why Rabbonim may find it hard to solve this problem.

1)      Rabbonim don’t have the resources and methodology by which this type of information is gathered. Patterns of behavior which characterize abuse can easily be identified by professionals, but can easily be missed by others. They would find it hard to convene a Bais Din to hear from all related parties and examine all evidence.  The testimony of women, children, psychologists, or DNA would be suspect.
2)      A story told by a victim or his family will very rarely trump the assumption of innocence for a neighbor, friend, or even a stranger.
3)      Assuming that the story is believed, there is not necessarily a mandate on a particular Rabbi to solve the problem.
4)      The Rabbi’s livelihood is dependent on the opinion of others. He will not necessarily jeopardize this, for a controversial cause.
5)      The Rabbi may think that he can control the problem by speaking to the perpetrator or by watching him closely. He may also believe that the criminal has done teshuva. A Rabbi lives by the idea that people can and do grow. The fact that statistics show that this is very unlikely will not prevent him from hoping that this particular man repented.
6)      Centuries of Jewish thought and teachings may lead him to the conclusion that Mesira (turning over criminals to the secular sytem of Justice) is rarely an option.
7)      Although prison is an option even under the rubric of Halacha, the parameters of that option and its’ use in a secular system of law is too controversial to consider.
8)      The possibility of Chillul Hashem and the potential destruction of the pedophile’s family often seems to trump the idea of justice to the victim or safety for the community.
9)      The idea that a child who was a victim of sexual abuse suffers ongoing psychological trauma after the event, is a relatively new discovery, and one which is not referenced in classical Halachic sources.
10)   Moving the perpetrator to another city or job is the best outcome that a shul or city can hope for, but is a zero net gain for Klal Yisroel as a whole.
11)   Great improvements have been brought to the Jewish world in the area of avoiding Lashon Hara. Whisper campaigns, rumors, and accusations run contrary to those improvements. Rabbonim are reluctant to create an atmosphere where relating negative stories about others would be favorably received.
12)   Yeshivas and other Torah institutions are created with great sacrifice and heroism. Rabbonim, who are the guardians of such institutions, cannot impartially judge the weight of an accusation, while adequately guarding the survival of these institutions.  This is a classic case of a conflict of interest. Rabbonim understand that when a community leader is accused of crimes such as these, the continued existence of Yeshivos affiliated with that individual are put in jeopardy.  This may be a price that is too high to pay.
13)   When police and secular courts are used, the outcome is usually accepted, whether the accused is found guilty or not guilty.  When cases of this nature are handled by Rabbonim, the perception of the public is often that a crime was covered up, and that the Rabbonim were the cause.

Due to the above points, there are reasonable questions of how Rabbinic authorities can play a positive role in sexual abuse cases. While cases where Rabbis publicly advocate on behalf of sexual abuse victims are rare or perhaps even non-existent, there may be Rabbis who privately provide advice and advocacy which may be quite beneficial to a victim’s family. It may be important to investigate a Rabbi’s position as to whether he advocates for the involvement of police and the secular court system prior to seeking advice or advocacy. A Rabbi who believes that police and secular courts should never be involved may be more likely to fall into the 13 traps outlined above. A Rabbi who believes that police and secular courts should be involved in certain cases may be able to play a more positive role in this difficult process, and may be more independent and less likely to fall prey to the above mentioned problems. However, many Rabbis project this image publicly, but will hardly ever advise going to authorities. This position of pretending to advocate for a victim yet actually covering up incidents has led to much pain and suffering in our communities over the past few decades. Rabbis who advise going straight to police and authorities when victims of sexual abuse approach them probably recognize their own limitations and understand that there is no other way to solve this problem.

Man arrested for sexually assaulting kids in synagogue

A 65-year-old man was arrested Sunday on suspicion of committing indecent acts on children whom he taught Torah to.

The investigation was launched last week, after a father of three filed a complaint with the Rehovot police. The inquiry found that the suspect promised to give the three children, aged 8-10, money if they answered Jewish law questions correctly. When they followed him into the synagogue, he allegedly committed indecent acts on them.

The kids' father said the suspect, who prays at his synagogue, offered his kids to teach them the Torah. [...]

Barry Schwartz: Using our practical wisdom

Post regarding annulment of geirus was removed at request of Writer

The recent post about annulment of geirus has been removed at the request of the writer. Baruch Hashem the issue has been fully resolved after discussion with a number of rabbis who explained to him that a valid conversion can not be annulled and that the cases in Israel that were annulled involved questionable conversions. The writer fully accepted that reality and will continue living as a fully committed and observant Jew. The issue of marriage has also been completely resolved according to the halacha. He should be zocheh to find his zivug soon. On the other hand, he mentioned that he was very upset that his sincere and innocent request for information should elicit so many harsh and negative comments about him and his motivation. [no critical comments will be accepted for this present post nor any regarding the original letter].
I hope to post a comment about the harsh and uncalled for attacks against Elliot Pasik that appeared amongst the comments to the deleted post. The assumption that anyone who has a critical comment or observation is anti-orthodox is unfortunately a reality. It brings to mind the Maharal's statement that only a weak religion is afraid of questions. It is doubly problematic when Elliot Pasik has spent much time and effort to improve the life and safety of the Orthodox community.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Weprin Clarifies His Position on Marriage

5 Towns Jewish Times

In the upcoming election for Anthony Weiner’s seat in the 9th Congressional District, Jewish voters are faced with a dilemma.  Both candidates are excellent choices both for Israel and for the New York City Jewish community, in general.  Mr. David Weprin has been particularly helpful in the past to orthodox institutions. However, there is some alarm that is spreading throughout the community in terms of his past support of specific legislation that undermines Torah values.

Two staff members of the Five Town Jewish Times spoke out these issues with Mr. Weprin directly on Sunday morning.  The editorial staff members, which included Mr. Larry Gordon, determined that Mr. Weprin viewed his statements as merely in the realm of supporting a civil rights issue.  He stated his belief that, in his view, “the status of state marriage is not viewed as a halachic marriage and is, therefore, not substantively different than a civil union.”

He further stated that “Chas veShalom - he would never do anything that would undermine the Torah’s values or halacha. This legislation is strictly a civil rights issue – nothing more, and nothing less.” [....]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Imam Calls For Release Of Shalit

5 Towns Jewish Times Rabbi Yair Hoffman

We are here with Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim chaplain of Duke University. He is one of the American Islamic leaders who recently wrote a letter to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal asking him in the name of Islam to release Gilad Shalit. He did so with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and a group of “high-profile U.S. Muslims.” Gilad Shalit has been held captive since 2006.

Y.H.: Imam, many Americans were very proud of you for writing and signing the letter to the leader of Hamas regarding Gilad Shalit. Did you have any hesitations about doing so—say, because of possible repercussions from radical Islamists? [...]