Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rogatchover on the validity of a forced get Rambam 2:20

Hebrew Books
The following was sent to me regarding the issue of a forced get. The item of interest is in the right column and it is the end of a discussion from the previous page.

Rabbi Safran: Broken Marriage Must Divorce - Rebuttal by Rav Dovid Eidensohn

Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship

FOR MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY.see also Dr. John Gottman
This talk addresses one of the major reasons for divorce today - including the Charedi community. The husband or wife feels that they do not have a satisfying relationship and are sure that they can get it with someone else. What they need is not a new spouse but rather to understand the dynamic of relationships.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah sponsors: Exploring New Halachic Solutions to the Agunot Crisis

Considering the sponsor I found it important to note that ORA's Rabbi Stern is a featured speaker. Obviously my posting should not be considered an endorsement of the conference, its speakers or the proposed solutions.

Yom Iyun: Exploring New Halachic Solutions to the Agunot Crisis

Sponsored by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

Beginning February 01st, Ending February 02nd
Special_Event - Daily
Time - 9:30am till 11:40am
Location - OSTNS

Mark your calendars! Ohev Sholom will be hosting a significant Yom Iyun on Sunday, February 2. The speakers will be Rabbi David Bigman of Yeshivat Maale Gilboa in Israel, Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh Yeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, and Yaakov Roth of Jones Day. Our speakers will share their experiences working to help agunot, and present new solutions to the crisis plaguing the international Jewish community.

We will also have a Shabbaton that Shabbat, February 1, with Rabbi Jeremy Stern, who is the Executive Director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot. Rabbi Stern will give the Dvar Torah on Shabbat morning, on "Hearing the Cry: The Role of the Community in Combating Abuse," and give a shiur during Seuda Shelishit, titled "Breaking the Chain: A Roadmap to Resolving the Agunah Crisis."

Schedule9:15 AM Bagel Breakfast9:30 - 10:15 AM Rabbi David Bigman10:20 - 11:05 AM Rabbi Dov Linzer11:10 - 11:40 AM Yaakov Roth

About our SpeakersRABBI DAVID BIGMAN
"Getting Out Without the Get: New Halachic Frontiers in Addressing the Agunah Crisis"
Rav David Bigman moved from suburban Detroit, Michigan to Israel to work the land in the spirit of the Zionist pioneers and to make it his home. Soon after his arrival, the leadership of the Religious Kibbutz movement took note of his prodigious knowledge, his open-mind, and his moral sensitivity and appointed him to head the movement's most important educational institutions. Rav Bigman was a founder of Midreshet Ein Hanatziv (one of Israel's first women's yeshivot), Rosh Yeshiva at Ein Tzurim, and for the last 17 years has served as Rosh Yeshiva at Ma'ale Gilboa. The combination of his classical Talmudic training as a student of Rav Israel Zev Gustman and Rav Aryeh Leib Bakst with Rav Bigman's intellectual curiosity and breadth makes for a fascinating approach to Torah study. In Rav Bigman's Beit Midrash, Rav Nachman of Bratzlav, Yishayau Leibowitz, Martin Luther King Junior and David Grossman -- to name just a few -- are all in dialogue. The creativity and innovation of Rav Bigman's teaching has drawn hundreds of students searching for a sophisticated and intellectually honest path in Torah. Rav Bigman currently resides on Kibbutz Maale Gilboa with his wife Ariella and family.

"The Threefold Cord is Not Easily Broken: Bringing the Proposed Solutions Together"
Rabbi Dov Linzer is the Rosh HaYeshiva and Dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, a groundbreaking Orthodox smicha program. Rabbi Linzer spearheaded the development of YCT to create an innovative four year smicha program which provides its students with rigorous Talmud Torah and halakhic study and sophisticated professional training in the context of a religious atmosphere which cultivates openness and inclusiveness.
Rabbi Linzer has published Halakha and machshava articles in Torah journals and lectures widely at synagogues and conferences on topics relating to Halakha, Orthodoxy, and modernity. Rabbi Linzer writes a weekly parasha sheet, and teaches a Daf Yomi shiur which is widely watched and listened to on YouTube and iTunes. He is most recently the awardee of the prestigious Avi Chai Fellowship and was the convener of the 2012 Modern Orthodox Siyyum HaShas.

"Agunot and the Role of Secular Courts"
Yaakov Roth graduated summa cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007, and subsequently clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. He is currently an Associate in the Issues & Appeals group at Jones Day, where he has worked on a number of matters relating to religious freedom and the First Amendment, including a pending challenge to New York City's regulation of ritual circumcision and an appeal on behalf of Kentucky prisoners seeking to exercise religious liberties. He and his wife, Arielle, are members of Ohev Sholom.

(Shabbaton Speaker)
Rabbi Jeremy Stern serves as the Executive Director of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), an international nonprofit organization which advocates against the abuse of the get (Jewish divorce) process. Rabbi Stern received a B.A., a Master's in Jewish Education, and rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University, and a Master's in Public Administration specializing in Nonprofit Administration from Baruch College. With ORA, Rabbi Stern has been instrumental in resolving over 100 contentious Jewish divorce cases and in leading community-wide initiatives to assist women who are victims of get-refusal. Rabbi Stern lectures frequently on issues of domestic abuse, the interplay between the Jewish and American legal systems, and the role of the Jewish community in preventing and counteracting get-refusal.

Shidduchim: Does a victim of incestual rape need to reveal it?

This question has been raised a number of times. Thought it would be helpful to indicate my understanding of how this should be handled.

The description is not of a particular individual - but this is a description of a not uncommonly encountered problem - especially in large families where parents are too busy to properly supervise.

Question: A 19 year old woman had been raped by her teen-age brother for a number of years before she was 12. Her parents were never willing to acknowledge that their son – who is now married and doing well in kollel - had a long term incestuous relationship with their daughter. Therefore even though they did send her to a therapist because of the severe psychological problems that resulted – she feels betrayed not only by her brother but by her parents and other authority figures. However she feels that she has gotten passed her brother's abuse and she says that she understands her parent's failure to acknowledge what was happening and lack of emotional support and forgives them.

She is now involved in shidduchim – and wants to know whether she needs to say anything about the rape?

Answer: 1) If there was penetration she cannot marry a Cohen 2) If the therapist feels that there will be minimal impact on marriage and relationship to her husband and if she will never reveal the information and it won't come from other sources – Rav Triebitz said that she does not have to say anything. Rav Sternbuch, however, indicated that it is unlikely that the information will remain a secret and therefore she should say something before marriage. 3) On the other hand if a competent therapist thinks that her abuse will have an impact on marriage – she should not keep it a secret and she needs to reveal it before marriage. 4) She should not say anything unless it seems that the relationship is becoming serious (as noted below from Igros Moshe). Rav Moshe Feinstein's view is that for serious matters that would probably destroy the shidduch - if there is no direct question, there is no need to volunteer the information before marriage. However the future spouse needs to be informed prior to marriage – even though Rav Moshe Feinstein allows waiting until after engagement. 5) Regarding the kesuba – if she is a baal teshuva then there is no need to inform the chasan that she is not a besulah. However if he assumes that she is a besulah than Rav Sternbuch said she needs to inform him – but does not need to give the reason. If the chasan is aware that she is not a besula it is still permitted to write in the kesuba that she is (see the following Igros Moshe).

שו"ת אגרות משה אורח חיים חלק ד סימן קיח

ובדבר אם צריכה את להגיד להבחור שירצה לישא אותך לאשה, ודאי את צריכה לגלות לו, אבל אינך צריכה להגיד לו בראיה והכרה דפעם ראשונה שעדיין לא ידוע אם ירצה בכלל השידוך וממילא אסור אז להגיד לו, ורק אחרי שתדעי שרוצה לישא אותך בברור שכבר אמר לך ודבר בדבר הנישואין, צריכה את לומר רק בזה שנזדמן איזה פעם בשעה שלא היה לך כובד ראש כל כך לעמוד נגד המפתה בדברי רצוי ופתוי הרבה ותיכף נתחרטת ומצטערת על זה שאירע דבר כזה עד שיכיר מדבריך שאין לו לחוש שיארע גם כשתהא נשואה לו, ואז מאחר שהוא רוצה בך מפני שהכיר המעלות שלך לא יחזור בו בשביל זה שאירע איזה פעם מאחר שיכיר אותך לנערה שומרת תורה ומצותיה שיש להאמין שלא חשודה את שוב בזה ותהי' אשה מסורה לבעלה כדין התורה.

בדבר כתיבת הכתובה אין צורך להגיד למסדר הקידושין, כי מאחר שהחתן יחתום על הכתובה הרי הסכים לכתובת בתולה ושוב ליכא קפידא ומחוייב בכתובת בתולה אף אם באמת אינה בתולה אם לא הטעתה אותו, מאחר דרצה להתחייב בכתובת בתולה לא גרע מתוספת כתובה, וכשניסת להבועל עצמו יותר נכון לכתוב כתובת בתולה ולכתוב בתולתא והטעם מבואר בתשובותי באגרות משה חלק אה"ע סימן ק"א ויפה עשה הרב ההוא, אך גם בבעולה מאחר אם נבעלה מישראל כשר שכשרה לכהונה שאינו נוגע לענין איסור אלא לענין סך הממון אם החתן יודע ורוצה בכתובת בתולה יכולים לכתוב כתובת בתולה, וממילא אין לגלות זה להמסדר קידושין ולא לשום אדם כדכתבתי לעיל.

Did Hamodia err by writing "Ariel Sharon z"l " ?

Cross-Currents   by Rav Yitzchok Adlerstein

Whoever the “Letters” editor of Hamodia may be, I prefer to think that he/she is more clever than obtuse. It is the only way I could understand the reaction to a reader other than wimpy silliness.

The reader took offense at some reference in the paper’s coverage of the passing of Ariel Sharon. Apparently, the article’s author lost all of his religious bearings, and made reference to the former Prime Minister as z”l – of blessed memory. 

What could this author have been thinking? We know that Sharon made no pretense of halachic observance. If he was not frum, there should be no reason why we should find any berachah in his remembrance at all! Therefore, the reader took Hamodia to task: “Even though the writer attempts to describe him as a very proud Jew, it seems to be quite irrelevant when the proud one is actually not practicing what he’s proud of. Hamodia, being an orthodox paper with Torah values should of (sic) not honoured an unorthodox person with this title.”

The reader has a point. When Sharon ignored orders and led his troops across the Suez Canal within striking distance of Cairo, thereby singlehandedly turning the course of the Yom Kippur War back in favor of Israel, he could not have been acting as a proud Jew. Chances are, he was just in the mood for some treif pizza, and Cairo seemed like a good place to pick it up. 

When he saved the life of a young soldier whom others had given up as too seriously wounded to warrant further care, there could not have been any Jewish pride in that. Probably, he wasn’t thinking at all, which we know to be the way all non-observant Jews live their silly and useless lives. (The soldier later became a rav and a leader of the settler movement. It may have been R. Yoel ben Nun, who took strong issue with Sharon in later years, but remained grateful to him for saving his life. Our audience can corroborate or correct this.) ....

As for me, I will continue to find blessing in the memory of even the poshei Yisrael of a previous generation who devoted their lives to creating the Jewish State.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Schlesinger twins: Beth’s tragic tale is the stuff of fiction

Jewish Telegraph by Paul Harris  The tragic case of Beth Schlesinger (Alexander) continues to play out in Vienna.

It is a human tragedy of the first degree, involving a young Manchester mother scarcely being allowed any access to her four-year- old twins, who quite obviously need her love and attention.

Beth, who is separated from her Austrian husband but divorced only in Jewish law, has been denied custody by the Austrian Supreme Court.

As we have continually reported, the original decision to grant full custody to her husband, Michael, was based on a flawed psychologist’s report.

It suggested that she was mentally unstable — a conclusion reached mainly because she was unable to respond rapidly enough to questions fired at her in German, which is not her native language, and because the court accepted the rumour, falsely propagated by a former friend, that she was suffering from post-natal depression.

This is also a tale of intrigue, private detectives who have swapped sides, a Jewish judge who was not involved in the case allegedly discussing it with the presiding judge (according to Graham Stringer MP, who raised the matter in the Commons last week) and lawyers summarily dropping Beth as a client.

It is also a story of friends suddenly wanting nothing further to do with her, and the apparent intransigence — even heartlessness — of the Austrian legal system, which will not allow a young mother the opportunity to present her side of the case.

The story thus far, when related by Beth, sounds like the stuff of the most far-fetched novels.
And those hearing it from her could be forgiven for accepting that she is deluded at the least and seriously disturbed at worst.

She is neither! Having researched the story extensively in Vienna and met or spoken to most of the key players, I am shocked by what has gone on and continues in the name of so-called Austrian justice.

I have covered tragic news stories and injustices of all types in decades as a journalist, but never have I encountered a miscarriage of justice on this scale, which is why I have become personally involved in the case of Beth Alexander, with the full weight of the Jewish Telegraph behind her campaign, until her beloved twins are returned to her.

Those who have met her sons Sammy and Benjy confirm Beth’s assessment that their educational development has been retarded by at least a year. Apparently, at not short of five years old, they are unable to communicate other than in disjointed words.

Both have lost a number of front teeth. Beth knows not how. Those who have seen Beth with her twins report the youngsters’ sheer joy when they are reunited on their oft-cancelled six-hourly Tuesday visits or fortnightly Sunday reunions.

Beth has been forced by the Austrian system to pay nearly £50 each time for a supervised handover. The access centre is closing next week and so far no other facility has been agreed.
Her husband will not accept the offer of Chief Rabbi Paul Eisenberg to facilitate access visits free of charge. Beth is presently faced with not seeing the twins at all.[...]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weiss Dodelson: What happened to the New York Times article and NPR broadcast?

update from Pursuit of Honesty:   For all those that thought this may never come, and/or thought the Dodelsons make any sense, Check out 'Act Two. Sunrise, Sun-Get.' from This American Life episode 516: 'Stuck In The Middle.' http://tal.fm/516/2 At about 27 minutes in.... Note: This is after the letter from R' Shmuel demanding that this stops! 
===========================NPR announcement =======================
 Sunrise, Sun-Get.

    Mark Oppenheimer reports on agunah in the Orthodox Jewish community. An agunah is a woman whose husband refuses to give her a divorce – in Hebrew it means "chained wife." If you're an Orthodox Jew, strictly following Jewish law, the only real way to get divorced is if your husband agrees to hand you a piece of paper called a get. Without the get, women who want out of their marriages can stay chained to their husbands for years. In New York, a couple of rabbis were recently accused of using violence to force men to give their wives a get. Mark writes the Beliefs column for The New York Times.
    =================================Original Post =====================

    What happened to the as of yet unbroadcast material that Shira Dicker generated in her massive PR attack on the Weiss/Feinstein family?

    Hopefully the material was cancelled and won't undermine the negotiations that have been going on. However I keep hearing rumors that both are still coming out in the not too distant future.

    Times of Israel    November 8 2013 reported
    On Rosh Hashanah, Dicker sent out an e-blast with an image of an apple in chains. And instead of sending out conventional press releases, Dicker wrote personalized memos to specific reporters.

    The combination of these targeted missives, together with viral marketing of the anti-agunah message, has reaped (as of yet unpublished) interviews of Dodelson by a New York Times reporter and for NPR’s “This American Life” program.

    Epigenetic link between child abuse and suicide

    Dr. Moshe Szyf video   Dr. Szyf talks about studies that looked at epigenetic tags in the brains of suicide victims. He describes some of the laboratory methods scientists use to study epigenetics, and goes over some of the evidence that shows an association between certain epigenetic patterns, suicide, and child abuse

    Throughout our lives, the brain remains flexible and responsive to the outside world. In addition to receiving signals from the outside world, the brain allows us to form memories and learn from our experiences. Many brain functions are accompanied at the cellular level by changes in gene expression. Epigenetic mechanisms such as histone modification and DNA methylation stabilize gene expression, which is important for long-term storage of information. 

    Not surprisingly, epigenetic changes are also a part of brain diseases such as mental illness and addiction. Understanding the role of epigenetics in brain disease may open the door to being able to influence it. This may lead to the development of new and more effective treatments for brain diseases.

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love a Kosher Prison Meal

    NY Times    Captive diners know that a good meal is hard to find.

    Airplane passengers, for instance, have been known to order kosher meals, even if they are not Jewish, in the hope of getting a fresher, tastier, more tolerable tray of food. It turns out that prison inmates are no different.

    Florida is now under a court order to begin serving kosher food to eligible inmates, a routine and court-tested practice in most states. But state prison officials expressed alarm recently over the surge in prisoners, many of them gentiles, who have stated an interest in going kosher.

    Their concern: The cost of religious meals is four times as much as the standard fare, said Michael D. Crews, who is expected to be confirmed as secretary of the Department of Corrections in March.

    “The last number I saw Monday was 4,417,” Mr. Crews said of inmate requests at his recent confirmation hearing before a State Senate committee. “Once they start having the meals, we could see the number balloon.”

    To which, Senator Greg Evers, the Republican chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee remarked: “Is bread and water considered kosher? Just a thought. Just a thought.”

    Florida, a state with a substantial Jewish population and the third-largest prison system, stopped serving a religious diet to inmates in 2007, saying it cost too much and was unfair to other prisoners. Several inmates have challenged the move with little success. Last year, though, the United States Department of Justice sued Florida for violating a 2000 law intended to protect inmates’ religious freedom. The federal judge in the case issued a temporary injunction in December, forcing the state to begin serving kosher meals by July until the issue is decided at trial. Florida is one of only 15 states that do not offer inmates a kosher diet systemwide.[...]

    Rav Mayer Twersky - We're Better Than They Are, Right? Examining Our Attitude Towards Other Segments of the Frum Community

    Rav Mayer Twersky - We're Better Than They Are, Right? Examining Our Attitude Towards Other Segments of the Frum Community

    Steve Garr - counter terrorism specialist

    THE SPEECH- Steve Garr from Project Inspire on Vimeo.

    The MInd of a Pedophile - scientific finds

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    Twin DNA test: Why identical criminals may no longer be safe

    BBC   It's well known that identical twins are not totally identical - they can, usually, be told apart, after all. But up to now it has been almost impossible to distinguish their DNA. It's claimed that a new test can do it quickly and affordably, however - and this could help police solve a number of crimes. 

    At the end of 2012, six women were raped in Marseille, in the south of France. Evidence, including DNA, led police to not one, but two suspects - identical twins Elwin and Yohan. Their surname was not revealed. When asked to identify the attacker, victims recognised the twins but couldn't say which one had assaulted them. 

    Police are struggling to work out which one to prosecute. They have been holding the brothers in custody since February - each twin says he didn't carry out the attacks, but neither is blaming the other.

    When the twins were arrested, media reports said tests to determine who to charge with the crimes would be prohibitively expensive, but that looks set to change. Scientists specialising in genomic research at the Eurofins laboratory in Ebersberg, Germany, say they can now help in cases like this.

    "The human genome consists of a three-billion-letter code," says Georg Gradl, their next-generation sequencing expert. "If the body is growing, or an embryo is developing, then all the three billion letters have to be copied.

    "During this copying process in the body there are 'typos' happening," says Gradl, referring to slight mutations.

    In standard DNA tests only a tiny fraction of the code is analysed - enough to differentiate between two average people, but not identical twins.

    Gradl and his team took samples from a pair of male twins and looked at the entire three-billion-letter sequence, and they found a few dozen differences in their DNA.

    The scientists also tested the son of one of the men, and found he had inherited five of the mutations from his father. Having analysed the results, they are confident that they can now tell any twin from another, and from their children.

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    British MPs label case of Schlesinger twins ‘Kafaesque’, ‘a miscarriage of justice’

    Jerusalem Post   British Members of Parliament have accused the Austrian judicial system of corruption, and alleged that a conspiracy has taken place, in relation to the case of a UK-born woman who has lost custody of her twin sons in Austria. [...]

    Schlesinger, a Jewish woman from Manchester in the UK, married an Austrian man in October 2006 and subsequently moved to Vienna with him.

    The marriage quickly broke down and both parents applied for sole custody of the children in 2009. At one stage, Schlesinger’s husband, a doctor, tried to have her committed to a mental institute by bringing paramedics to their home to sedate her, although this attempt failed, and her husband was subsequently evicted from their home by the police for this action.

    Nevertheless, a judge in the Austrian family courts awarded the father full custody, despite the recommendations of the social services for the district where the family lived, and despite the previous ruling of an appeal court which had denied the father’s appeal against  an earlier custody award to Beth.

    Before the July 2011 ruling, the court heard evidence from police, paramedics and a police psychiatrist all confirming that Schlesinger was mentally stable. However, the judge relied on a report of a court psychologist who wrote that she was mentally ill, although this assessment was subsequently refuted in November 2011 by a court psychiatrist who said that she had never suffered from mental illness in the past or currently.

    The family court judge also ignored the demands of the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court ordering new assessments on her children and the father, despite significant developmental problems experienced by them, while the father has to date not been psychiatrically evaluated by the court, despite worrying evidence about his behavior.

    Parliamentarians in the UK brought the case to the attention of the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, with MP Graham Stringer describing the case as “Kafkaesque,” and asked that the government take action on the matter.

    “What has happened to Beth Schlesinger belies understanding,” said Stringer. “Authorities have taken decisions about her life and her children’s lives which are inexplicable and certainly unjust,” the MP continued [...]

    “I don’t usually believe in conspiracies but in this case the decisions that were taken were so strange that one has to suspect that undue influence and conspiracy were taking place,” MP Stringer told the House of Commons.

    “Brought to its bare bones, this case is about a violent father who has been violent towards the mother of his children and other members of the family and who has been given custody of two children,” Stringer concluded.[...]

    Schools, Yeshivos, and Cell Phone Policies by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

    5 Towns Jewish Times   The conversation has probably come up in every household in America. What is the school’s policy regarding cell phones? Some schools require that a student’s cell phone be deposited with the school at the beginning of the day. Others completely forbid cell phones at school. Yet others forbid their use only during class time. Within the New York City public-school system, Chancellor’s Regulation A-412 §V prohibits all electronic devices in school. It is also a violation of the Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures (discipline code B05).

    How does halachah weigh in here? May a school confiscate a phone from a student? May the school dump the phone in the dreaded “fish tank”? May a principal look at the phone and determine whom the student has been texting in class and act upon this information? May a student possess and use a “decoy phone,” and when caught with a phone in hand after a text, deftly switch the real phone with the decoy phone, or is this a further violation of geneivas da’as—practicing deceit? (Legend has it that one enterprising young lady had six decoy phones taken away, only to have been ultimately caught when the bus driver texted her that he was planning on picking up the entire busload of students early—and she forwarded the information to her fellow students.) Also, what happens if the school principal or teacher confiscates the phone and loses it? Is there financial responsibility on the school’s part?

    The Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 245:10) discusses the exact parameters of corporal punishment, saying that a teacher may not use a rod to discipline a student but may only use a small retzuah (strap), so that it not be cruel or excessive. The same idea is cited in Choshen Mishpat (421:13), that if a child is placed under the guidance or supervision of another, that person may invoke disciplinary measures without resorting to a beis din. This idea is first found in the Terumas HaDeshen (#218). It would thus follow that a teacher or school would certainly be permitted to confiscate an item that is disruptive to the student’s education, and particularly when it may affect others.

    However, just as there are limitations on the conduct of the teacher in terms of the degree of punishment that may be meted out, it would follow that there are also limitations on what may or may not be taken away (permanently) or destroyed. Modern poskim have ruled that a school may not permanently take away an item from a student, and that their responsibilities vis-à-vis the item in question are equivalent to that of a shomer chinam—an unpaid watchman (see Kisaos l’Beis Dovid, siman 90). Thus a “fish tank” policy may have some serious halachic (and legal) issues.

    There may also be limitations on whether the school may search the violator’s phone as well, from both a legal and halachic point of view. Legally, for a public school to search a student’s phone is probably a violation of the Fourth Amendment (see New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 1985). Halachically, it may be a serious problem as well.

    Many people might point to the cherem d’Rabbeinu Gershom (Rabbeinu Gershom ben Yehudah, 960–1040) that banned the reading of people’s private letters as the source for a halachic prohibition. There is actually another source as well. The Rama in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat (154:7) rules that it is forbidden to look through a window inside someone else’s courtyard on account of the damage that one can do to him. It is clear from this ruling that even without the issue of the cherem d’Rabbeinu Gershom on reading the letters of others, there is a right to privacy in halachah as well. [....]

    In conclusion, we must realize that even though schools practically stand in the place of parents in regard to educating our children, from a halachic point of view it is not so simple that the school has unlimited authority. The school certainly has the right to confiscate the phone and to punish the student by not giving it back for a while, but it seems clear that the phone must ultimately be returned. Looking at the contents of the phone is also quite problematic from a halachic point of view. Of course, the student should not violate the rules of the school, nor should a decoy phone be used.

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

    Allan Katz Honoring Parents and CPS- collaborative problem solving approach

    Parenting by the Book    A frequent question that parents ask me concerning the CPS – collaborative problem solving approach is – are we not  undermining  our authority as parents if the  focus is  on cooperation and not Kibud Av ve'Eim = complying with and respecting the wishes of parents?
    I don't think it is our purpose to raise kids who will jump through our hoops, but rather we should ask , what do they need from us , how can meet their basic needs of (a) autonomy = being connected to their inner beings and core values , feeling self –directed, (b) competence ( c) and relatedness = a feeling of belonging and connectedness. In this way we can raise God fearing, compotent , caring and responsible children.
    The following is a story, an incident - which a Bnei Brak Rabbi and speaker shared with his audience.
     I was sitting on my porch one afternoon , when my neighbor called out to me and said – Reb Dovid -  your son is climbing the very dangerously high tree next to our apartment block. I said -  that's  OK , he has  got my permission. The neighbor thought Reb Dovid was out of his mind – climbing   that  tree  was dangerous!  Reb Dovid then shared with his neighbor the   CPS  dialogue,  he had with his son about climbing the tree.
     A: Empathy + info gathering stage
    Dad: ( neutral   language )  I have noticed that you and your friends have been climbing that big tree , what's up ?
    Son:  We all love climbing the tree, it is great fun, also there is not so much to do around here.
    Dad – reflective listening – I understand it is fun and not much around for you to do -  I  am just worried – here the dad puts his concern on the table and we have  B:  Define the problem stage . You guys are climbing pretty high, sometimes till the 3rd floor and without any ropes for protection. It is pretty dangerous, one small slip and you understand what will be the result ? I am concerned about your safety.
    Invitation stage : I was wondering if we could brain storm a solution together where you could still climb the tree and enjoy it , and still be acceptably safe if something might happen ?
    Son: Maybe someone could stand with a rope on the balcony of the 3rd floor and the boy climbing would be tied to it ?
    Dad. I like the idea but I don't think it is realistic. We need a plan that would work all the time, even when you are alone.
    Dad: I was wondering if you could still have fun climbing just up to the first floor. I am OK with this.
    Son: I hear your concern and I can appreciate the danger, I am willing to give it a try.[...]

    Schlesinger twins: BBC NorthWest News 14th January 2014

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    Chofetz Chaim: Speaking lashon harah when angry at assailant?

    This post got started in the comments to a previous post  about lashon harah.

    The sefer Chofetz Chaim is widely assumed to be the definitive Shulchan Aruch for knowing the halachic parameters of the prohibition of  lashon harah. The Chofetz Chaim himself was largely responsible for creating single handedly the halachos of lashon harah.  Thus contrary to most other halachos there is no clear development of discussion, analyis and psak over time from Talmud to Rishonim to Achronim. In fact aside from some mention in the Talmud and a sparse listing of 7 halachos in Hilchos De'os of the Rambam , there is no mention in the Tur or Shulchan Aruch. The Chofetz Chaim created a new category of halacha by transforming what was previously viewed as ethical prinicples discussed by Rabbeinu Yonah and other mussar seforim – into clear cut prohibitions. In addition he spent much effort showing that what was commonly presumed to be permitted speech was in fact prohibited (e.g., the heter of speaking before three described in the Talmud and Rishonim is reinterpreted and severely restricted by the Chofetz Chaim so as to be largely irrelevant). In sum, he created many halachos of lashon harah which were previously viewed as ethical values and he restricted previously heterim for speaking lashon harah.

    As the Klausenberger Rebbe stated, the Chofetz Chaim viewed lashon harah as a poison gas which under no circumstance can be allowed to escape into the air. Thus he is focused not only in describing lashon harah but he also creates restrictions to minimize the possiblity of even mistakenly speaking lashon harah. In contrast the Shem m'Shmuel presents a more balanced model where not only is speaking lashon harah evil but so is not saying negative things when it is needed (to'eles) to protect others from harm. The view of the Shem m'Shmuel is apparently presumed in the responsa literature dealing with lashon harah because the added restrictions of the Chofetz Chaim are not mentioned. This is also clear from the Pischei Teshuva (O.C. 156) where he notes that the mussar seforim are strongly focused with the prohibition of speaking lashon harah but there is a worse sin – not speaking up to prevent harm to others

    The sefer Chofetz Chaim is complicated and not easy to read. It is divided into two major section (lashon harah and rechilus) because he viewed these two prohibitions as being significantly different - even though there is considerable overlap and repetition in their elucidation. Both of these sections  are clarified by his commentary Be'er Mayim Chaim - to which there are also addition notes appended. Within the discussion of the halachos he frequently provides cross references to discussion in other places in the sefer which provide significant modifications and limitations to the original discussion and contributes significantly  to the complexity of the presentation. 

    The question I want to address is what exactly is the sefer Chofetz Chaim? To approach this question, I will present a discussion concerning one clear and unambigious case. Is it permitted to speak for to'eles when there is at the same time their is anger or hatred towards the person being talked about? This is a very common situation which can happen when a person has been cheated, beaten up or sexually abused by another person. Does the Chofetz Chaim permit informing people about the abuser - if the victim is also angry?

    An examination of the lashon harah section reveals in clall 10 the following words [Chofetz Chaim Foundation Translation]

    Clall 10:1  If "someone" saw a person  commit a "crime" \ sin against a fellow Jew, for example, he stole something from him or withheld wages from him or harmed him, whether the victim was aware of it or not aware of it or if he humiliated the victim or caused him anguish or verbally abused him, and this "someone" knows about the incident with certainty and that the stolen object was not returned or that he did not compensate him for the harm he  caused, and that this person did not approach the victim (14) to  apologize and ask forgiveness for his sin. Even if this "someone"  was the only person who was aware of the incident, he is permitted  to tell other people what happened in order to help the victim (to  restore his loss) and to publicy denigrate the evil actions of this  person (in order that people would stay away from him and not  learn and copy his evil behavior). But all this is on condition that  this "someone" adheres to the following seven rules (listed in the  next halacha, clall 10:2).

    It is clear from the above text that the permission to speak about an assailant is totally dependent on whether the seven conditions are met and if they are not fulfilled it is not permitted. I want to focus on the 5th rule that one "may not make his remarks as a result of some prior hatred that he had for this person."

    Clall 10:2: These are the seven rules:
    1. The speaker must be a first-hand observer  to the incident  and what he is reporting cannot be something he heard from  someone else unless it was later confirmed as being absolutely true ;
    2. The speaker must be extremely careful not to immediately  conclude that the incident had to have been a case of theft or  cheating or damages or something comparable. Instead he must  carefully consider the circumstances of the incident and then  decide whether or not the law defines the incident as theft or damages;
    3. The speaker must first rebuke the sinner using language  that is gentle and non-confrontational (8). Perhaps this first  approach will be useful and will result in the sinner rectifying  his actions. If the sinner still will not listen to him, then it is  permitted to publicize the sinner's crime and the wrong that he  did to a fellow Jew. (But if this speaker knows that his rebuke  would be useless, with G‑d's help, I will explain what he must  do further on in the 7th halacha of this Kelal);
    4. The speaker may not exaggerate the details o(this "crime" \ sin  any more than they actually are;
    5. The speaker's remarks can only be made if his intention is to  achieve a useful outcome as we will explain further on in  the 4th halacha of this Kelal. Moreover, the speaker may not  benefit at all, G-d forbid, in discrediting this sinner, nor may he  make his remarks as a result of some prior hatred that he had for  this person;
    6. If the speaker is able to achieve a useful outcome by some other  strategy that would circumvent the need to use Lashon Hara  against this sinner, then in any circumstance it is forbidden to  use Lashon Hara:
    7. The speaker's remarks may not cause any additional harm  _ (to this sinner) over and beyond the punishment he would  have received had he appeared in court, been convicted by its  judges and punished to the level that the law required. Please  see a definition of these terms further on in the 9th Kelal of the  Laws of Esurei Rechilut (the 5th & 6th halachot) as that is the  appropriate place to explain these details.

    The Chofetz Chaim reiterates that all 7 conditions must be fulfilled to permit speaking lashon harah.
    Clall 10:5.... Understand clearly that within the context of these seven rules it makes no difference if the victimized Jew (who was robbed or  cheated or humiliated) asked the speaker to disclose the damages or  the shame that was done to him or ifhe did not ask (and the speaker  made the disclosure of his own accord), the disclosure would be  permitted. But if the speaker did not comply with the seven listed  rules, then even if he was asked to make the disclosure it would  not help (19) and the remarks would be forbidden. Even if the  speaker was a relative of the victimized Jew, the remarks would be  forbidden.

    We see clearly that the Chofetz Chaim poskens that if a person's motivation is not because of desire to help others – he is not allowed to describe the bad things another has done. Therefore not only if his motivation is because of his anger at the assailant the Chofetz Chaim does not permit speaking and but even if it is anger mixed with a desire to help others.

    Another proof that the Chofetz Chaim requires proper motivation to say lashon harah - even when it is beneficial is

    In 10:3 the Chofetz Chaim notes
    . And all of this is if the speaker is more virtuous than the offender, and does not commit the sins he is observing (and subsequently reporting). But if he (this observer) is a sinner just like him (13) and he suffers from the same sickness, meaning, he commits the same sins as the victim, then this observer is forbidden to publicize the victim's sins. Because this type of person, in publicizing the sins of the victim has no intention to do good and is not motivated by a sense of "Yir ' at Shamayim" \ a fear of Heaven. Instead this person is driven by a passion to be gleeful at the expense of someone else's suffering and degradation. The prophet Hoshea
    addressed this mindset when he said (1 :4) "and I have remembered the blood of Yizre.'el shed by the House of Yehu." Even though Yehu was fulfilling Hashem's will to annihilate the monarchy of Achav in the Valley of Yizre'el, and he was complying with the prophet's instructions, and as a reward G-d granted four generations ofYehu and his descendents kingship over the ten tribes of Israel," nevertheless, ultimately the blood he shed in killing the House of
    Achav was remembered and counted against him because Yehu himself was a blatant sinner.

    Be'er Mayim Chayim

    (KIO/3/1)-(13) 00 ifhe is a sinner just like him: This is a quote from Rabbeinu Yonah in the 3rd sha'ar of Shaare Teshuvah at the end of section #219. Even though he wrote this law in the context of someone who is outside the category of "your brother" because of the many sins committed between himself and G-d, it is obvious that this same rule also applies here in this subject. Rabbeinu Yonah writes that this person's remarks are forbidden because his entire motivation was to rejoice at someone else's pain and degradation. We have already explained this above at the end of the 10th notation specifically from the words of Rabbeinu Yonah, that
    even in matters of interpersonal "crimes" if the speaker's motivation is to rejoice at someone else's suffering, then the remarks arc forbidden. 

    Concerning the issue of being motivated by anger, the Chofetz Chaim notes in his discussion of rechilus that there is a major dispute between the Taz and the Sma whether one can defend another person by hitting the assailant when your motivation is from anger. The Sma say you can not while the Taz says it is obvious when helping another it doesn't matter what the motivation is. The Chofetz Chaim concludes that there is a dispute regarding hitting but for lashon harah even the Taz would agree that you can't speak lashon harah to benefit others if you do it from anger. He notes that is because it prevents the fullfilment of the conditions - in particular the sin will be exaggerated when the speaker is angry.
    (ספר באר מים חיים - הלכות רכילות - כלל ט
    [הגה"ה - ודע דמה שכתבתי בפנים שלא יחסרו הפרטים הנ"ל, לכאורה הפרט הג', והוא שלא יעשה זה הדבר מצד שנאה, לא שייך רק לדברי הסמ"ע בח"מ בסי' תכ"א סקכ"ח, ע"ש שכתב דהיכא שהוא מצד שנאה אין נפטר במה שהוא מציל עי"ז את חברו, אבל לדברי הט"ז שם בד"ה כדי, שכתב כיון דהוא עושה מצוה בזה אין נפקא מינה בכונתו, לכאורה לא שייך הפרט הזה. אולם באמת כד דייקת גם הט"ז מודה דצריך כאן גם הפרט הזה, דאם יעשה הדבר מצד שנאה לא יושלמו גם שאר הפרטים, דבודאי יחשוב הדבר תיכף לענין רע ויגדיל העולה, ולא יסתכל גם כן אם יצא על ידי סיפורו יותר מכפי הדין, משא"כ בענין דמיירי הט"ז שם

    However concerning rechilus the Chofetz Chaim does add a leniency that it is enough that the person tries to force himself to do it for benefit. In that case even though he can't remove the anger from his heart it is permitted to speak rechilus because of the need to fulfill the mitzva of not standing idly by the blood of another. Since the Chofetz Chaim states this leniency only in regards to rechilus and not lashon harah - it must be that it only applies to rechilus. Furthermore it is clear that if the person does not try to remove the anger - that it would be forbidden to speak lashon harah - even for beneficial reasons.

    רכילות כלל ט' במ"ח ג''
    ג) רק לתועלת. ה...ואין כוונתנו בפרט זה, דאם איננו מכוין לתועלת הוא פטור ממילא מלספר מחמת חשש איסור רכילות, דהלא לא תעמוד על דם רעך כתיב, ואף בענין ממון .... אך כונתנו שיכריח את עצמו בעת הסיפור לכוון לתועלת, ולא מצד שנאה, כי על ידי זה יגנדר על עצמו ממילא איסור רכילות.

    In sum, the Chofetz Chaim says lashon harah even for helping others is not permitted unless 7 conditions are fulfilled. One of them is that the motivation needs to benefit others and not because be out of anger. (And in 10:3 the person speaker can not have transgressed the same sins as the perpetrator because his motivation would be wrong) If lashon harah - even if it serves a benefit but it is spoken out of anger or motivation other than being helpful - it is forbidden according to the Chofetz Chaim. Furthermore in the responsa literature these seven conditions of the Chofetz Chaim are not mentioned. Rather it says that speaking lashon harah for benefit (to'eles) is permitted. Thus it would seem that the view of the Chofetz Chaim is not accepted for halacha - despite his assertion to the contrary. It seems to serve primarily as mussar regarding desirable goals to strive for - but not whether particular cases are permitted or not.[ see Dr. Benny Brown's essay on the halachicization of mussar.]

    Minchas Asher (Vayikra 19:16) is bothered by a similar question. He concludes
    see also lashon harah is character issue not issur
    We see then that lashon harah is a concern of character and therefore the speaker's intent is critical in determining whether his words constitute lashon harah. With this principle we can understand the rule that whatever is spoken beneficially does not violate the prohibition of lashon harah – as stated by the Chofetz Chaim (Lashon Harah 3:3). In general we know that there are times when Torah prohibitions are set aside e.g., a positive commandment sets aside a negative one and more severe mitzvos displace lesser mitzvos etc. However this is different because lashon harah is not being displaced when the words are said beneficially. As we stated the prohibition of lashon harah is dependent upon whether it is a bad character trait. Therefore whenever the speaker's motivation is for the good and for benefit of his fellow man and not to hurt him – there is absolutely no issur of lashon harah. It is not that is is being displaced – it doesn't exist! If you examine the matter well it is clearly the correct explanation.
    Additional support that lashon harah is primarily a prohibition of faulty character comes from the Chofetz Chaim. He writes that the heter to speak lashon harah for benefit only applies if the speaker doesn't intend to debase his fellow man – but if he means to speak negatively then it is prohibited even if is beneficial. He also writes that if he speaks negatively about a sinner and he himself is guilty of that sin – he does not have a heter to speak. These two halachos seem to contradict the principle that negative speech said for benefit is permitted because it isn't lashon harah. Why should it make a difference what the speaker's intent is and whether he is righteous or not? These apparent contraditions are removed if it accepted that the foundation of the prohibition of lashon harah is because of concern for the speaker's character.