Sunday, March 31, 2013

Faith in L.A. kosher butcher is shaken in wake of video

LA Times   For five decades, Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market has been one of California's preeminent suppliers of food that meets the requirements of Jewish law, offering staples such as brisket and chicken as well as bison, prime steak and grass-fed beef.

But on Friday, the esteemed butcher was at the center of an angry debate that had spread across L.A.'s Jewish community. The owner of Doheny faces accusations of selling meat that was not properly certified under kosher rules. Longtime customers doing their shopping before Shabbat were forced to decide how much they trusted their butcher.

Earlier this week, a council of rabbis pulled Doheny's kosher certification and, in a statement Friday, raised the possibility of "legal action," a recourse to secular courts that would be rare. Other prominent rabbis have stood by the meat shop.

Charges of fraud on the one side have been met with accusations of favoritism on the other, with some of Doheny's defenders suggesting that the shop has been under attack by disgruntled competitors.

In a letter emailed to congregants Friday, the chief rabbi of one of the city's largest synagogues, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am, urged continued patronage of Doheny "because by doing so we can make a statement that kashrut" — Jewish dietary law — "should be about kashrut ... and not monopolies or power plays or raising suspicions." [...]

The controversy started Sunday when a video taken by a private investigator surfaced, purporting to show Doheny workers bringing in boxes of meat late at night without the required supervision of the independent inspector, known as a mashgiach, tasked with overseeing the store. The video later aired on KTLA-TV Channel 5.

After viewing the videotape, the Rabbinical Council of California pulled Doheny's kosher certification.

A group of rabbis also met with Michael Engelman, Doheny's owner. According to the council, Engelman initially denied any wrongdoing but later "admitted to bringing unauthorized products to the store on two to three occasions."

Friday, March 29, 2013

FBI arrests Gershon Barkany for $50 million Ponzi scheme

FBI  Earlier today, FBI agents arrested Gershon Barkany based on a criminal complaint alleging that the Far Rockaway man defrauded investors by promising to use their money in “risk-free” deals to purchase and then immediately re-sell at a profit large real estate properties located in New York City and New Jersey. In fact, the complaint alleges that no such deals existed and the defendant defrauded victims of more than $50 million.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), New York Field Office. The defendant’s initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson at the United States Courthouse in Central Islip, New York.

According to the criminal complaint that was unsealed this morning, Barkany induced at least five investors to wire transfer large sums of money supposedly to purchase real estate in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. According to one of the investor victims, Barkany claimed that the sellers of these properties would only close on the real estate sales contracts after Barkany had located a purchaser who would be willing to buy the property from Barkany at a higher price. In that way, Barkany assured the victim that the real estate deals would be “risk free.” [...]

Shavei Israel appoints emissary to discover 'hidden Jews' in Italy

Arutz 7   Rabbi Pinchas Punturello, 36, has been appointed to serve as the new emissary for the Shavei Israel organization in southern Italy and Sicily. In his new position, Rabbi Punturello will serve as the area’s chief rabbi, and will work to strengthen the local Jewish community in regions such as Puglia, Campania, Sicily, and Calabria, while also reaching out to the Bnei Anousim (whom historians refer to by the derogatory term Marranos) throughout the area, many of whom are looking to reconnect with the Jewish people.

Shavei Israel, which reaches out to communities of “hidden Jews” and helps them to reconnect with the Jewish People and State of Israel, is undertaking this project in conjunction with the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the official umbrella organization of Italian Jewry. It marks the first time that a rabbi has been appointed to work specifically with the Bnei Anousim of southern Italy and Sicily.

“We are pleased that Rabbi Pinchas Punturello has joined the ranks of Shavei Israel. This is a direct result of the expansion of our activity throughout southern Italy in light of the growing desire of Bnei Anousim to reconnect with Jewish life,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “In recent years, a growing number of Bnei Anousim in southern Italy have begun rediscovering their Jewish roots and expressing a desire to draw closer to Israel and the Jewish people. It is incumbent upon us to reach out to them and help them to do so,” he said.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chol haMoed: Rav Meir Triebitz will discuss Empathy & Yiddishkeit

 Reminder - We are meeting tonight

update: Date is Thursday March 28 at 9 p.m. in Har Nof. At home of Dr. Baruch Shulem.  Those who will wish to attend send me an email and I'll send you the address and material that we will be discussing.  

Also read the previous posting here
I was discussing the issue of my post on Empathy and Yiddishkeit today with Rav Meir Triebitz and he agreed with me. When I mentioned that this issue has been a major point of contention on my blog, he said he would like to lead a group discussion on this topic during Chol haMoed Pesach.

If  you will be in Jerusalem and would like to participate - please send me an email regarding day and time you would be available. The location has not been finalized except that it will be in Jerusalem perhaps in Har Nof. Group will be limited to about 10 participants.

contact me at

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rav Moshe Sternbuch: Concerning the dreadful draft decree

Rav Moshe Sternbuch recently wrote the following letter criticizing the Israeli government's decrees against Chareidi Jews.  I have verified that it is genuine and it was posted on  the blog   בעולמם של  חרדים
 Update March 25: I posted Rav Sternbuch's letter after receiving the following criticism. Donniel, the person who criticized me just requested that I add our exchange to the post

Rav Eidensohn,
I find it hard to believe that you have not published on your blog your Rav's recent comments on the coalition agreement. I believe the comments expose Rav Sternboch as being highly unreasonable and even intellectually dishonest by claiming that the agreement punishes chareidim when it explicitly does not. there are no criminal consequences for evading the draft -  only  a withdrawal of unearned state subsidies for housing and child care.

Further , he  calls people who are supporting the agreement "total goyim" which is not only completely halachically inaccurate and s perversion of halacha but such verbiage is mean spirited and creates its own chillul hashem
[DT this is a gross mistranslation. Rav Sternbuch never said such a thing. The goyim he was referring to are converts who don't accept the obligation of mitzvos. Before opening ones mouth to strongly criticize someone - especially of the stature of Rav Sternbuch -  it is important to get the facts straight]. I would have thought that you had enough integrity to let your readers make their own decision. I suspect that you believe many readers would agree with me which is why you've omitted any post about Rav Sternbochs comments. I think you should let readers decide for themselves. I also think your ravs hashkafas are not befitting of your own hashkafas and it may be time to consider finding a new Rav.  I would really appreciate a response. most importantly,i think you should publish his comments and let your readers decide for themselves.

appreciate a themselves.
thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns.

To which I replied:
I have not seen Rav Sternbuch's views on the matter nor have I discussed the issue with him. If you have the comments in the original language I would be interested in seeing them.

You seem to assume a lot about Rav Sternbuch and myself which perhaps would be better worded as questions about what you heard second hand or conjecture.

Rav Sternbuch is not  my Rav  in the sense of him being my only and final authority on all matters. He is someone who I greatly respect and have consulted with him on many matters. I usually agree with his views - but not always. Something which isn't surprising or unusual. There are other rabbinical authorities I consult with.

Most of what Rav Sternbuch says or writes is not included on this blog. I am not Rav Sternbuch's spokesman. It is true concerning the Tropper affair he gave me specific guidance which I followed. He also strongly encouraged me regarding writing about child abuse. There was also a time where I was sent articles of his which had been published in the Yated to be republished - but that stopped several years ago.

It is important to be careful with hasty judgments - and I appreciate that you took the time to clarify the matter.
Donniel replied:
 I greatly appreciate your thoughtful response. My apologies for assumptions that I made that proved to be inaccurate. Thank you for posting our exchange. I would like to add that your response was honorable, articulate,&well thought out. I agree with you that I made assumptions that proved not to be accurate. I apologize for doing so and request Mechila. Thank you for your transparency and integrity in how you conduct the dialogue with myself and others. If you want to post the above, I think it befitting your honor to do so, but obviously that is your judgment call.
 Translation by RaP    Rav Moshe Sternbuch: Concerning the dreadful draft decree” (March 24, 2013)

Da’as Torah from the Ra’avad of the “Eidah HaChareidis” – Jerusalem

The Gaon, Rebbi Moshe Shternbuch, SHLIT``A

BS”D                                                                                                                                      7 Nisan 5773  [March 18, `13]

Concerning the terrible decree to conscript yeshiva students [bnai hayeshivos], it calls for Da’as Torah about the severity of the matter.

And the matter is clear that their goal is not just to decrease the number of Torah scholars, G-d forbid [chas vesholom], but to uproot and change [the Jewish] faith and its adherents in Eretz Yisroel. And since they have announced that they intend to mix into our educational systems, into Jewish religious courts [batei din], and to insert into the Jewish nation converts who do not accept upon themselves the yoke of Torah and of its commandments [mitzvos] who by virtue of Torah law are pure gentiles [goyim gemurim] , and to increase Sabbath desecration in the cities of Israel, and other decrees, all mainly to damage the world of Torah [olam haTorah] to bring about a decrease in those who study Torah and observe it.

According to the Halachah it is forbidden to conscript the Bnai Torah because they are the “army [tz’va] of Hashem” and in all the generations were always a large community [tzibbur]  among the Jewish nation, for they are the “Tribe of Levi” and likewise all those that have accepted upon themselves the yoke of Torah were not conscripted and they thereby provided [Divine] protection for the Jewish nation as a shield with their Torah, as explained by the RAMBAM [Maimonides] at the end of the laws of Shmittah and Yovel [in the Mishneh Torah]. Those who dare to decrease the Torah scholars place into danger the entire settlement [of Jews] in Eretz Yisroel.

And in the army here [i.e. the Israeli army], they defile with what the Torah regards as [forbidden] mingling [between men and women], and with [forbidden] lusts, and those who are in it regularly hear heretical talk and use of foul language, and those in charge over there constantly try to cause religious soldiers in it to transgress the Jewish faith, as is known. And from experience it is proven that many [religious soldiers] have rejected the entire yoke [of Torah and Mitzvah observance], so that their goal is obvious: To ruin the Chareidim from their observances of their religion and faith [midasam ve’emunasam].

Eretz Yisroel is the Holy Land and many have come here to live a life of holiness and purity in the “Palace of the King” [paltron shel melech], to raise sons and daughters in the paths of Torah and fear [of God], and davka [precisely] here the authorities want to interfere in the pure Torah educational systems and [with those who wish] to live a Torah lifestyle, while in all the countries of the world it is accepted that theological students are free from conscription, yet here they want to force upon the Chareidim weaknesses to educate their sons and daughters against their pure will.

We view the decree of conscription as one more [link] in the twisted chain of their attempts to change the Chareidim and to thereby cause them to reject their Jewish faith [leh’avirim al das], but it is impossible to force us to do this even by means of punishments and increased penalties, and even if they try to [and do] hurt us and our children, they will never succeed in making us transgress from the faith of the Holy Torah.

And it is fitting to publicize that the [government] authorities in Eretz Yisroel who have guaranteed freedom of religion [to all] are instead actively forcing us to transgress our Jewish faith, and that the only place in the world that [Chareidi] Jews are hated and persecuted on account of their religion is in Eretz Yisroel. And we hope that they will be ashamed in front of all the nations of the world, and that they will leave us alone. And we will thereby save all the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel from the dangers of God’s fury [charon af Hashem].

Let us strengthen each other and be strengthened. And our Father Who Is In Heaven [Avinu shebashamayim] when He sees our protests on behalf of the Honor of His Name, and as we strengthen ourselves in Torah learning and prayer, will hasten our Redemption, and we will shortly be able to greet our righteous Moshiach.


Bitul Chometz – A Brief History by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

Five Towns Jewish Times  According to Torah law, we can dispose of our Chometz before Pesach either by Biur—destruction or by Bitul—negation. By Rabbinic law, we must do both. We are all familiar with the text, we recite it in the evening after the search for Chometz, and again in the morning while we burn it.

What is perhaps shocking is that no where in the Babylonian Talmud is this formulation found. There is certainly an obligation to annul the Chometz, but it seems from the Gemorah (See Psachim 6b) that this is a thinking process that did not necessarily have to be verbalized. The Ramban actually rules that one does not require a verbal declaration (See Ramban, Psachim 7a, 31b[1]). The Jerusalem Talmud (Psachim 2:2), however, states just the opposite. There, Rav is quoted as ruling that one must recite the formula “All Chometz that is in my house that I am not aware of shall be annulled.”

The Rosh and the Rif, however, explain our Gemorah as stating that the annulment does require an actual verbal formulation. They differ slightly as to the verbal formula. There are actually four changes: [...]

Another question that exists in regard to the annulment is whether the Bitul can be annulled through a Shliach, through a messenger[3]. The Baal HaIttur holds that since a messenger is like the person throughout the entire Torah, a messenger can annul the Chometz of someone who sent him. The Rashba, the Ritva and the Nimukei Yoseph disagree and write that the actual owner of the Chometz must be the one who annuls it. The TaZ rules in accordance with the lenient opinion and states that someone who does utlize a messenger to annul, in all probability, has a reason for it. He is concerned that he may become busy or simply forget to annul it. His father-in-law, the Bach, however, was stringent. [...]

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Breslover leader R' Eliezer Berland: Allegations of sexual assault

Haaretz  Nonetheless, the testimony against Berland that is now coming to light has the Haredi world, and in particular the Shuvu Banim community, in an uproar. No less shocking than the criminal aspect of the matter is the fact that sexual asceticism is one of the main spiritual foundations that Berland preaches - and in this case he was apparently caught red-handed. 

This scandal comes on the heels of a stormy series of events that has been ongoing since late 2010; indeed, it turns out that allegations of sexual assault by him were already being made back then. Berland previously staged a sort of "coup" against his wife, son and members of his court, when he allowed publication of his claim that they were confining him against his will, seeking to have him committed, and denying him contact with his disciples. 

The rabbi, as part of his revolt, managed to elude, with the aid of a handful of loyalists, the security guards keeping watch over his house, and announced that he had escaped from captivity. Meanwhile, video clips came to light in which his son and grandson are documented in conversations acknowledging that they were exploiting him. A while later, the rabbi reconciled with his family, but the community was left traumatized and divided. Many left, the rabbi fell into debt, and about a year ago several of his senior disciples, including businessman Eran Hochberg (a former youth chess champion ) and Binyamin Ze'evi (son of the late politician and government minister Rehavam Ze'evi ), also jumped ship. 

The speculation within the community is that the allegations of sexual harassment reached his wife, Tehila Berland, and son Nachman even before they became public knowledge. For that reason, sources say, the pair sought to keep him out of the public eye, as Eliezer Berland himself has charged.

Friday, March 22, 2013

At what age is a child obligated in mitzvos or Can you sell your Chametz to a child?

Five Towns JewishTimes  by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The Sefer HaChinuch explains that these seven laws are, in fact, categories of laws. These categories are the injunctions against murder, stealing, worshiping false gods, engaging in forbidden liaisons, eating the flesh of a live animal, and cursing Hashem, as well as the responsibility of setting up a system of justice whereby these laws are enforced.

Why then don’t they have bar mitzvah and bas mitzvah ceremonies?

Not a bad question, in fact. Jewish boys and girls have bar and bas mitzvahs when they reach the age at which they are obligated in observing the 613 mitzvos. What about their non-Jewish contemporaries, Chris and Kathy, for example? Perhaps the most pressing question is, when exactly is a gentile obligated in his or her mitzvos? And, more to our point, can the rabbi theoretically sell the community chametz to a mature eleven-year-old gentile?

It seems that there are three opinions among the Acharonim as to when our theoretical gentile would celebrate this milestone. The Chelkas Yoav (Vol. 1, s.v. “Aval”) indicates that the designated age would be the same as the age at which a Jewish child becomes a bar mitzvah. Thus, according to the Chelkas Yoav, “Chris” would celebrate his bar mitzvah at thirteen, while “Kathy” would celebrate hers at twelve. [...]

This brings us, however, to another question. Where did the age of thirteen come from in the first place? Also, is this figure a d’Oraisah (Biblical) ruling or is it a rabbinic ruling? If it is rabbinic in nature, then would it also apply to gentiles? (Gentiles, we recall, generally do not have to follow rabbinic laws.) [...]

Searching for the Historical Pharoah: Is it Obligatory?

5 Towns JewishTimes  By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The Gemorah in Psachim (116b) informs us that, in each generation, we are obligated to view ourselves as if we actually left Mitzrayim. Indeed, in Michtav MeEliyahu, Rav Dessler writes that since time does not progress linearly, but rather travels in a carousel like circle, the 15th of Nissan of the year 2448 is actually the very same 15th of Nissan of our own year now.

This is one of our obligations on the night of Pesach. This being the case, that halachically we must view ourselves as actually leaving Mitzrayim, in our mind’s eye we should envision and picture the escape.

Let’s give it a try. Before us, standing at the water’s edge about to enter it, stands Nachshon Ben Aminadav. Behind us, on a chariot, Pharoah is leading his hordes of well-trained soldiers. They are rapidly catching up. Yes, it is Pharoah – the short, obnoxious leader of the Egyptians that dared to present himself as a god.

But who exactly was he? What was his name? What do we know about him? [...]

The halacha of envisioning us being there is not just theoretical. It involves physical action as well. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Chometz UhMatzah 7:6) based upon the verse in Dvarim 5, “And you shall remember that you were a slave in Mitzrayim” as follows: “In other words, as if you yourself were a slave and you left to freedom and you were redeemed.” The juxtaposition of this Rambam with the next halacha gives us remarkable insight. The Rambam writes, “Therefore when a person eats and drinks on this night he must lean in the manner of free men.” In other words, it seems that the obligation of leaning is a manifestation of this biblical obligation of imagining and visioning that it was actually us. So this Pesach let us go through the extra effort of picturing it with even more detail. A short, ugly Pharoah named Adikam Ahuz chasing us in a chariot.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Special Education Provider Stole Millions, State Audit Says

NY Times   One of New York City’s largest providers of special education services to preschoolers with disabilities illegally diverted millions in taxpayer financing to a girls’ religious school, summer camps and a kosher supermarket owned by the group’s officers and board members, state auditors said on Monday. 

The auditors were unable to confirm that any of the hundreds of children who were supposed to get one-on-one instruction from the agency, Island Child Development Center, ever actually did, said the office of the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli. 

After subpoenaing more than 13,000 checks from the agency’s bank, auditors said they gave up counting after the first 1,549 checks they reviewed turned up $5.8 million in what they said was fraudulent spending over a six-year period when Island Child billed the state and the city more than $27 million.[...]

As of last April, Island Child was billing taxpayers for providing one-on-one teachers to nearly 200 disabled children ages 3 to 5, records show. 

Yet Island Child, in Far Rockaway, Queens, paid nearly $2 million to Bnos Bais Yaakov, a nearby school for Orthodox Jewish girls, of which the auditors said Rabbi Samuel Hiller, the assistant executive director of Island Child, is both dean and an owner. Another $877,000 went to various Jewish summer camps, two of them tied to Mr. Hiller, and more than $330,000 in nonpayroll checks went to Mr. Hiller himself, the auditors said.[...]

Auditors said Island Child also bought $344,000 in food, including $73,000 from Super Sol, a kosher supermarket whose founder, Laurence Garber, led Island Child’s board. The special education prekindergarten program prohibits purchases of food. 

Auditors cited what they said were many other improper or fraudulent expenses, including $200,000 in construction, $12,000 to two jewelers, $235,000 to credit-card companies, $44,000 to “cash,” and nearly $200,000 to five fictitious workers.

Woman - abused as child - more likely to have autistic children

Time   The results are the first to suggest a trans-generational contributor to the developmental disorder.

The study, published in the  journal JAMA Psychiatry, is the first to examine the potential legacy that a mother’s experience with childhood abuse could have on the health of her own children. The findings are especially sobering given the latest statistics released from the Centers for Disease Control, which found a significantly higher rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) — one in 50 compared to one in 88 from a report released in 2012 — among school-aged children than previously thought.

The authors of the JAMA Psychiatry paper studied more than 50,000 women enrolled in the Nurse’s Health Study II, who were asked about any history of abuse before they were 12. The questions delved into both physical and emotional abuse, as the women evaluated whether they had been hit hard enough to leave bruises, as well as whether adults or caregivers had insulted, screamed or yelled at them. They also filled out questionnaires about whether their own children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The scientists also had access to the nurses’ health records, so they could adjust for other maternal health factors known to influence autism risk, including nine pregnancy-related conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, alcohol consumption and smoking.

Women who reported physical, emotional, or sexual abuse when they were young were more likely to have a child with autism compared to women who were not abused. The more severely the women were abused, the higher their chances of having a child with autism; compared to women who weren’t abused, those who endured the most serious mistreatment were 60% as likely to have an autistic child.[...]

How? The researchers believe that some of the lifestyle circumstances associated with abuse, such as poor nutrition, could be responsible for some of the association. It’s also possible that abuse causes biological changes in a woman’s immune system, including disruption of the stress response, that could lead to harmful effects on a developing fetus. Studies have shown that autistic children showed abnormal stress responses, and it’s possible that a mother’s altered stress reaction could be passed on to her child. “Maternal inflammation affects the developing brain, and maternal inflammation and immune function have been hypothesized to be causes of autism,” the researchers write.

The researchers also speculate that childhood abuse can leave women in a state of chronic stress; the constant release of stress-related hormones could also increase a developing child’s chances of developing autism, since such androgens have been associated with autistic symptoms. Finally, a mother’s childhood abuse could be an indicator of a genetic risk for mental illness, which is often associated with abuse of youngsters. Studies showed that mental illness and autism may share genetic risk factors, “therefore, the perpetration of child abuse by grandparents and experience of abuse in childhood by the mother may be indicators of genetic risk for autism in the child,” the study authors write.

American Academy of Pediatrics declares support for same-sex marriage

NY Times   The American Academy of Pediatrics declared its support for same-sex marriage for the first time on Thursday, saying that allowing gay and lesbian parents to marry if they so choose is in the best interests of their children. 

The academy’s new policy statement says same-sex marriage helps guarantee rights, benefits and long-term security for children, while acknowledging that it does not now ensure access to federal benefits. When marriage is not an option, the academy said, children should not be deprived of foster care or adoption by single parents or couples, whatever their sexual orientation.

The academy’s review of scientific literature began more than four years ago, and the result is a 10-page report with 60 citations. 

“If the studies are different in their design and sample but the results continue to be similar, that gives scientists and consumers more faith in the result,” said Dr. Ellen Perrin, a co-author of the new policy and a professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine. 

Other scientists called the evidence lackluster and said the academy’s endorsement was premature. Loren Marks, an associate professor of child and family studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, said there was not enough national data to support the pediatric association’s position on same-sex marriage. “National policy should be informed by nationally representative data,” he said. “We are moving in the direction of higher-quality national data, but it’s slow.”[...]

The research on same-sex marriage has limitations, experts note, including the relatively small sample sizes of gay or lesbian parents even in long-term studies. Many studies have relied on parental assessments of their children’s well-being, and there is relatively little data about the well-being of children raised by gay men compared with lesbians. 

“Many studies compare wealthy, well-educated lesbian mothers to single heterosexual mothers instead of married couples,” Dr. Marks said. “This matters, because children from married families do better on numerous outcomes including psychological and physical health and avoidance of high-risk behaviors than children of single-parent families.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

America’s Forgotten Posek – Rav Yoseph Eliyahu Henkin zt”l.

Five Towns Jewish Times   by Rabbi Yair Hoffman He was the Gadol haDor in the United States prior to Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l. And, unfortunately, his rulings and his seforim have, by and large, been completely forgotten.

Walk into any shul or Seforim store and you will be hard-pressed to find a sefer written by Rav Yoseph Eliyahu Henkin zt”l. Open up a contemporary Halachic work and you will rarely find a ruling quoted in his name.

Rav Henkin studied in Yeshiva Etz Chaim in Slutzk, Russia under Rav Isser Zalman Melter zt”l. He received Smicha from Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, the Ridbaz, and the Aruch HaShulchan and served as a Rav in Russia. He arrived in this country in 1923, and eventually founded and headed the organization called Ezras Torah. Rav Henkin issued tens of thousands of rulings and wrote responsa to Rabbonim across America and beyond. He published three Seforim.

Yet somehow, Rav Henkin has become “America’s Forgotten Posek.”
How did it happen? How did America’s leading Posek fall into such halachic obscurity? This author’s theory is that there were three factors. Firstly, Rav Henkin spent most of his time dedicating himself to others, through the vehicle of his remarkable organization Ezras Torah. He did not make photo offset copies of his letters or rulings or write them again for posterity because he gave every spare moment to raising much needed funds for Torah scholars. Secondly, Rav Henkin lived in a time quite different from ours. Then, the Torah scholars were refugees, suffering in misery and distress. They could barely put food on the table. Who thought to put out Seforim? Even those that eventually were issued rarely had the name of the recipient of the letter. Finally, Rav Henkin did not have a Yeshiva or an official Rabbinic Shteller like other great Rabbis and Torah leaders. He was the Gadol HaDor and headed Ezras Torah true, but without a natural constituency demanding the Seforim, it was difficult to bring them to the printing house again.  [,,,]

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obama, the New Chareidim and a world without "Daas Torah"

I just was in the area of the King David Hotel where Obama will be staying tomorrow. I was surprised how Israel is genuinely excited and curious regarding Obama's trip. This cautious optimism tinged with uncertainty and curiosity is a microcosm of what is going on in Israeli society now in all areas.

With the passing of Rav Eliashiv - there really is no more "Daas Torah" - even as a formality. There is a growing number of New Chareidim who are officially considered part of the Chareidi world - but who are looked at with grave fear from the mainstream. They work, read Mishpacha magazine and yet are committed to the values of the Yeshiva World. My niece who attends a Chareidi seminary for American girls here in Jerusalem -  was recently told in all seriousness by a teacher that the New Chareidim constitute a serious threat to the Chareidi way of life and authority. My niece wasn't sure what New Chareidim are and why they are so dangerous - as she leads a very sheltered chareidi life - typical of many American chareidim.  She couldn't understand why Israeli chareidim are so afraid of a way of life which is typical in America.

With the exclusion of the Charedim from government - there is no more "protexia".  There is a growing concern about young men being drafted into the army - or at least being threatened with that possibility -  as well as concerns for where the money to continue the Chareidi lifestye is coming from. There is a palpable fear that Lapid is looking to destroy Torah institutions - but also a clear awareness that the realities of Israel politics might result  in him be a very positive and constructive force for the Chareidim. There is no question that the old model for existence is increasing impossible as the Chareidi population balloons. What was good for a small minority 50 years ago - can no longer provide a viable structure for what we have today. But the so-called leaders are not providing an alternative - but are themselves waiting to see what develops.

Obama really doesn't have an agenda  anymore. Without a peace plan or a possibility of one with the Palestinian camp, he is coming to explore what the relationship with Israel will be. It definitely will be one which both sides join to fight against terrorism and Iran. But neither side knows what the relationship will look like in the near future or even can imagine what it should be.

Netanyahu has formed a government of his nightmares - but realistically it might be the best thing that has happened to him - and Israel. There is great possibility for change - both good and bad - that didn't exist even a month ago.

Thus Israeli and in particular the Chareidi society is facing a New World - without a road map or even clear leadership. In essence the whole society has been thrown up into the air and no one really knows what it will look like or even what it could look like in the near future of several months - as it comes down to earth. There is no question that G-d runs the world - but we would be happier to have some idea of what this world will look like by Rosh HaShanna of this year.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nissim Pines gets 15 years for raping 12 year disabled girl

 YNet  The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Nissim Pines to 15-years in prison on Monday, after he was convicted and pleaded guilty to rape and sodomy of a 12-year-old disabled girl in the bathroom of a Jerusalem Aroma café in February 2011.

The plea bargain was based on a revised indictment submitted by attorney Shlomit Ben-Yitzhak from the Jerusalem Prosecutor’s Office and was approved by the court in December 2011. Pines was also convicted of indecent acts on a 13-year-old girl.

Judges Zvi Segal, Moshe Yoed Hacohen and Ben-Tzion Greenberger called Pines’ actions “appalling, disgusting and ugly,” and noted that he continued carrying them out for 40 minutes. At the sentencing, it was stated that the girl suffered from a mental illness and had been hospitalized in the past under psychiatric care. 

Convicted child rapist becomes a Rebbe

YNet    Yaakov Yitzhak Rata, who was convicted of rape and sentenced to 16 years at the Maasiyahu Prison's religious wing, was released from jail last week only to become a rebbe – a position he inherited from his father, who died during his imprisonment. [...]

The father of the rapist rabbi was Rabbi Avraham Chaim Rata, who was known as the "Shomrei Emumim Rebbe" and died last summer. He led a small congregation of 200 followers based in Jerusalem. [...]

The report added that Rata was expected to serve as a rebbe in the haredi city of Beitar Illit, where the leader of the Shomrei Emunin community had yet to be appointed.

"The rabbi denied the offenses attributed to him and refused to confess to the acts, and as a result even avoided signing a plea bargain, which worsened his legal situation," reporter Israel Cohen explained in his merciful report. "His father, the Rebbe of blessed memory, had expressed his silent support for him too and believed that he was innocent."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shavei Israel's "miraculous" 2 month conversions for Bnei Menashe

Israel National News   Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with members of his staff, paid a special visit to Shavei Israel’s Absorption Center in Givat Haviva to congratulate the 274 Bnei Menashe immigrants from India who arrived in the Jewish state in recent months as part of a renewed wave of aliyah (immigration).[...]

The organizers say that it was a fitting message for the arrival of a community that traces its roots back 2,700 years to the expulsion of the Ten Lost Tribes by the Assyrians, and that has nevertheless managed to survive – and flourish – in some very distant lands. For Haokip, it was particularly emotional: he has only now been reunited with his parents, who made aliyah from India with Shavei Israel’s help in 2007. [...]

There were also more formal presentations during the meeting with the Chief Rabbi, which lasted an hour and a half. Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund surveyed the various activities Shavei is running to enable both the physical and spiritual absorption of the Bnei Menashe, including classes in Hebrew and Judaism, assistance with Israeli bureaucracy, housing, meals, prayer services and more. He also described the successful pace of the conversion progress. Indeed, just a few days after Rabbi Amar’s visit, the final group of Bnei Menashe completed their formal return to Judaism.

Shavei Israel’s Director of Bnei Menashe Aliyah, Rabbi Hanoch Avitzedek, who was in Givat Haviva last week for the meeting, says that the speed in which the conversions have taken place is nothing short of a “miracle. We finished everything in under two months,” he says. “Normally this can take at least two years.” Rabbi Avitzedek attributes the quick movement to several factors, chief among them that “the Bnei Menashe were already living a religious Jewish life in India and came here very well-prepared..”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rav Hershel Schacter's views on reporting child abuse

Forward   A top rabbinic dean of Yeshiva University has warned rabbis about the dangers of reporting child sex abuse allegations to the police because it could result in a Jew being jailed with a black inmate, or as he put it, “a schvartze,” who might want to kill him.

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, one of the most respected faculty members of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, also said that children can lie and ruin an innocent man’s life.
“It could be that the whole thing is a bubbe-mayse [tall tale],” Schachter said.

Schachter said Jewish communities should establish panels of rabbis who are also psychologists to first hear such allegations and decide if law authorities should be informed.[...]

Schachter told his audience that reporting abuse to the police or family service agency does not constitute mesirah — the traditional Jewish prohibition against informing on a fellow Jew to the secular authorities.

But Schachter emphasized that Jewish communities nevertheless had to first make sure children were telling the truth before going to law enforcement authorities. He cited several instances in America and in Israel in which he said false accusations were made.

Every community, said Schachter, needs a board of “talmida chachamim” —Torah scholars — who are also qualified psychologists who could interview victims to see if there is “raglayim la’davar” — or reasonable suspicion — of abuse.

He added: “Before you go to the police and before you got to family services, every community should have a board…to investigate whether there’s any raglayim la’davar or not.”[...]

Muslim Brotherhood objects to protecting wife from abusive husband

“A woman needs to be confined within a framework that is controlled by the man of the house,” Osama Yehia Abu Salama, a Brotherhood family expert, said of the group’s general approach, speaking in a recent seminar for women training to become marriage counselors. Even if a wife were beaten by her husband, he advised, “Show her how she had a role in what happened to her.”
“If he is to blame,” Mr. Abu Salama added, “she shares 30 percent or 40 percent of the fault.”[...]

In a statement Wednesday on a proposed United Nations declaration to condemn violence against women, the Brotherhood issued a list of objections, which formally laid out its views on women for the first time since it came to power. 

In its statement, the Brotherhood said that wives should not have the right to file legal complaints against their husbands for rape, and husbands should not be subject to the punishments meted out for the rape of a stranger. 

A husband must have “guardianship” over his wife, not an equal “partnership” with her, the group declared. Daughters should not have the same inheritance rights as sons. Nor should the law cancel “the need for a husband’s consent in matters like travel, work or use of contraception” — a reform in traditional Islamic family law that was enacted under former President Hosni Mubarak and credited to his wife, Suzanne.[...]

Asked about the statement’s apparent attempt to shield marital rape from legal prosecution, Ms. Sharkawy brushed off the issue as an irrelevant foreign concern. 

“Marital rape? Is this a big problem that we have?” she said, suggesting that it might be a Western phenomenon, while sexual harassment in the streets was a far greater concern in Egypt.

Ri'az: Not required to believe G-d has no body

The following is an excerpt from the Riaz in his commentary to Sanhedrin pages 74-78  קונטרוס הריאות

ורבינו משה כתב בפ"ג והלכות תשובה  ה' הן הנקראין מינין, האומר אין שם אלוה ואין לעולם מנהיג, והאומד שיש שם מנהיג אבל הם שנים או יותר משנים, והאומר שיש שם רכון אחד אלא שהוא גוף ובעל תמונה, וכן האומד שאינו לבדר ראשון וצור לכל, רכן העובד אלוהיי זולתו כדי להיות מליץ בינו ונין רכון העולמים.

ודבריו הן חוץ משטת התלמוד ואמנם כי כן הדעת מכרעת, וכן פשוטן של מקראות. שהקדוש ברוך חוא אינו גוף ובעל תמונה כמו שבאמרנו ואל מי תדמיון אל ומה דמות תערבו לו, וכל הדמיונות שראו הנביאים אינן אלא כדרך הנבואה, כמר שנאמד  וביד הנביאים אדמה, שהקדוש ברוך הוא חיה מראה לו דמיון נכבד [כדי שידע] הנביא כי זו הנבואה באה לו מאת הקדוש ברוך הוא, אבל עקר [הקדוש ברוך הוא] אין לו סוף [אולי צ"ל  גוף]. וכן  הדבר ידוע לכל חכמי לב, אבל מי שיטעה בכך ולא ירד לעמקו של דבר, ומבין המקראות כפשוטן וסברו שהקדוש בררך הוא בעל תמונה, לא נקרא מין. שאם כן הוא הדבר, אין לא פרסמה תורה על דבר זה ולא גלו חכמי התלמוד להודיע דבר זה בגלוי' ולהזהיר נשים ועמי הארץ על כן שלא יהוא מינים ויאבוד עולמן. הלא כמה אסורים קלים כגון אסור מוקצה וכיוצא בו' חבור חכמים כמה הלכות והרבו כמה דקדוקין להעמיד כל דבר על מכונו ועל דבר זה שכל האמונה תלויה בו ויש בו כרת בעולם הזה ובעולם הבא, איך לא הורה חכמים על דבר זה בגלוי.

אלא ודאי לא הקפידו לכן אלא יאמין אדם היחוד כפי שכלו ואפילו הנשים כפי מיעוט שכלן שאמר משה ע"ה  שמע ישראל ה' אלהינו ה'  אחד [ושמע] לשון שמועה ולשון קבלה יאמין דבר זה, ולא נתן משה תורה לישראל אלא בדרך אמונה ובדרך קבלה, ‏וכן חכמי המשנה וחכמי התלמוד לא נתעסקו אלא בדרך קבלה ובדרך אמונה, ולא הורו לדרוש ולחקור על ענין [חאלהות] ועל ענין שאר החכמות כלל, ואם היו יחידים שהיו בקיאין בהם לא חיו מורין בהם לרבים. שלא צותה תורה להורות על אלה הדברים.

הנה מה אמר הצדיק והחכמה מאין תמצא וגו', אלהים הבין דרכה והוא ידע את מקומה  ויאמר לאדם חן יראת ה' היא חכמה וסור מרע בינה הא לך בפירוש, שלא גברא האדם אלא לירא מהקדוש בררך הוא ולסור מרע, ולא להתבונן במעשי' הנוראים של הקרוש בדרך חוא, וחכמי ישראל שהיו בקיא באלה החכמות, סתמום וסתרום, ולא רצו לפרסמם לרבים. ולא חששו ללמד לשום אדם. שאין הקדוש ברוך הוא גוף שאין חשש בדבר זה כאשר ביארתי.

ומה שכתוב  ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם כי לא ראיתם כל תמונה, לא בא הכתוב להזהיר אלא שלא לעשות תמונה, כמו שכתוב בסוף חפסוק  פן תשחיתון ועשיתם לכם פסל תמונת כל פסל, אבל אם יחשוב אדם שהקדוש ברוך חוא בעל תמונה, לא הקפידה תורה בכן, וכמה חיו מחכמי התלמוד הקדושים שמהם תצא תורה לישראל שלא נתנו לבם להתבונן בענין האלהות  אלא הבינו המקראות כפשוטם ולפי תומם  חשבו כי הקדוש ברוך בעל גוף ותמונה. וחלילה שנקר' מינים לאשר נאמר עליהם  קדושים אשר בארץ המה וגו'

ואמנם מה שכתב רבינו משה בפרק [א] מהלכות יסודי התורה ופירש שם שהקדוש ברוך הוא אינו בעל גוף ותמונה כלם דברים נכוחים הם.

אבל מה שכתב בסוף הלכות תשובה  צריך האדם לייחד עצמו להבין ולהשכיל בהכמות המודיען לו את קונו , וכן כתב ברוב מקומות, הדברים הללו אינן מדרך תורתינו, שחכמי התורה הזהירו שלא ללמד כמעשה מרכבה ושלא לדרוש במעשה כראשית לרבים, כמפורש כמסכת חגיגה  ולפיכך נזהרו חכמי ישראל הקדמונים מלחבר בהם שום ספר ומה שהוי יודעים בהם, כלו היה על פי הקבלה שהיו מקבלים יחידים. ולא מהספרים שחברו בהם חכמי אומות העולם, שהם נוטים כלן למינות, שאומרים אין תורה מן השמים, וגם חושבים שהעולם קדמוני וכופרין במה שכתוב כראשית ברא אלהים, וכל הענין

 והנה אריסטוטליס, שהוא רבן על כל הפילוסופים ומימיו הם שותים וספריו הם הוגים, ודבריו הם דברי מינות, שהוא אומר שאין הקדוש ברוך הוא משכיח על בני אדם כמו שכתב בשמו רבינו משה במורה נהבוככים בפרק דעות בני אדם בהשגחה. אמר שדעת אירסטו שהשגחת השם תכלה אל גלגל הירח, ועוד כתב שם שכל מה שתראה מענייני בני אדם המתחלפין יחשוב אריסטו שהם במקרה גמור, וזו מינות גמורה, שעוקרת כל התורה כלה ואומ' לית דין ולית דיין,  ועליו אמר דוד ע"ה על מה נאץ רשע אלהים אמר בלבו לא תדרוש,וספריו ספרי מינות, ועליו ועליהם נאמר בתלמוד ההוגה בספרים החצונים אלו ספרי מינים. ור"ע היה אומר ההוגה בהם אין לו חלק לעולם הבא.

ואפילו אם ה"ו חבריו חלוקין עליו, יתכן שחולקים במה שאמר אין לו חלק להעולם הבא, אכל מ"מ אסור להגות בהם, מפני שנמשך בהן למינות, ועוד ששטת התלמוד היא כר"ע בפרק ידיעות הטומאה  כאשר אני עתיד לבאר . ועל כאלה הספרים אמורי  על אלישע (ד)אחר שהיו ספרי מינים נושרים מחיקו' ועוד אמרן  ‏ד' נכנסו לפרדס. ולא נכנס אחד ויצא כשלום אלא ר"ע לבדו ( ואם החכמים הקדמונים שהיה לכם רחב כאולם והיו חסידי עליון, לא היו יכולים לעמוד כאלה החכמות ואע"פ שהיו עסוקים בהן על פי הקבלה, כל שכן הדודות האחרונים שדמו לבם לנקב המחטוטות, שאי' יכולים ללמוד בהם אלא מספרי חכמי האומות שהם ספרי מינות, ואפילו דבר טוב אין ראוי ללמוד מהמינים שנאמר הרחק מעליה דרכך י כמר שמפורש בפ"ק דע"ז  הוא שאמר הצדיק  אלהים הבין דרכה וגו', שאין דעתו של אדם משגת כאלו החכמות, ואין לו לעסוק אלא בתורה שהיא יראת ה' וכן אמר  הנביא ליהויקים מלך יהודה דן דין עני ואביון אז טוב לו הלא היא הדעת אותי נאם ה', לפי שהיה יהויקים מקל בתורה ובמצוות והיה מפאר החכמות שיש בהן ידיעת האלוה, וחיתה דעתו כדעת אריסטו, ואמר לו הנביא ידיעת הבורא אינה אלא לעשות צדקה ומשפט ולקיים התורה ורבינו משה שנתעסק באלה החכמות, אולי...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Palestinian mourns death caused by Palestinian rocket - is not news?

 Tablet Magazine    Yesterday, we were treated to another in a series of backpedals, when the Associated Press corrected a caption to the heartbreaking picture above, which faulted an Israeli air strike for killing the infant son of a BBC reporter during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense last November. Here’s what the caption to this picture, which graced the cover of countless papers across the world, has been for the last four months:
“Jihad Masharawi weeps while he holds the body of his 11-month old son Ahmad, at Shifa hospital following an Israeli air strike on their family house, in Gaza City. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants.”
The correction came as a result of a United Nations report yesterday casting doubt on the narrative of Israeli blame, which in addition to marking the first time in history that the Washington Free Beacon and the United Nations have ever agreed, suggested the death was caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket. [...]

Does this seem ridiculous to you yet? It should. In the midst of the findings, Armin Rosen at the Atlantic tweeted this, which sums up how this fits with a horrifying list of highly charged accusations leveled against Israel over the years that were ultimately discredited:
Al Dura. The Jenin Massacre. The Swedish organ-harvesting ring. Forced sterilization of Ethiopian’d think the media would have some humility about discredited anti-Israel stories. You would be wrong.
At a certain point, this stops being about the facile media coverage of extraordinarily polarizing events. The battle for the truth and blame is simply mimicking the conflict itself.

Hi tech CEO pedophile convicted of sexual offenses on children

YNet    The Lod District Court approved a plea agreement Wednesday morning with the 42-year-old CEO of a high tech company from the Sharon area who admitted to committing sexual offenses on young girls. The man made the admissions within the framework of the plea agreement in which he pled guilty to 29 counts. Four counts which appeared in the original charges were erased. 

The man was convicted of indecent acts on a minor, encouraging indecent acts on a minor, sexual harassment of a minor, immoral advertisement, encouraging an act of sodomy on a minor, blackmail with threats, and more. [...]

He succeeded in entrapping young boys and girls on the web, encouraging them to commit rape, sodomy and other indecent acts upon themselves. Using Skype, Messenger, ICQ and Oovoo, after girls would accept his connection request, he would encourage them to perform sexual acts, taking advantage of their young age, curiosity and naivety. [...]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Israel Arab recruiter harrassed by Arabs - demands compensation

YNet   The 30-year-old woman, who lives with her husband and children in the Galilee, began to encourage the enlistment of Israeli Arabs to National Service several months ago .

"I thought this was a good way of integrating into Israeli society, and that it is important to contribute to our community." 

She was praised at work and director of the National-Civil Service Administration Sar-Shalom Jerbi said she "did good work." 

However, a few months later, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared it was against such enlistment. "They called me and my friends 'traitors,'" she recalls. "In one case they physically attacked me and I went to the hospital."  [...]

As a result of the incidents, she hired Attorney Eli Malul from Afula, an expert on the National Insurance Institute and labor laws, to insure that the NII recognizes her.

"My client was emotionally harmed by the difficult chain of events she endured at her place of employment," wrote Malul to the NII. "She is suffering from stress, depression and fits of rage. I request to determine that there is a direct connection between her emotional state and her work."