Friday, February 28, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: Manchester Beis Din supports Beth's campaign

update - 2nd page of above letter  Help Beth - Manchester Beth Din Letter
Whilst, as stated above, our influence on the judicial system in Austria is extremely limited, we do feel however that there needs to be a wakeup call to the Jewish Community in Vienna who have abandoned Beth and shattered her expectations of what a community ought to provide for those experiencing difficulties. I knew Beth prior to her marriage and know that her hopes and desires were to set up a Torah true Jewish home. The fact that this was not possible with Dr Schlesinger is hard enough for her to bear, but the fact that she equally hoped to be a staunch member of an Orthodox community and now feels totally bereft and lacking any meaningful support, is something which she finds even more concerning.
It is the sincere hope of Manchester Beth Din that the community will see Beth for what she is, a true heroine and devoted mother, who could bring so much happiness to her children and ensure their proper development. The community is asked to support her in every conceivable way and to ensure that the obvious miscarriage of justice is rectified at the earliest opportunity thereby enabling her to relate properly and meaningfully with her children.

Yours sincerely

Y Brodie


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Schlesinger Twins: An aspect of the debate between Rabbi Kennard and Rabbi Schochet

Guest Post:

There is currently a debate taking place from opposite sides of the globe between Rabbi Kennard ( ), the Principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College in Melbourne, Australia, and Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet ( ), Rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue in London.

The discussion started when Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence announced his returning to London thereby leaving his post at the Great Synagogue in Sydney, the largest of its kind and one of the biggest shuls in Australia. Rabbi Kennard wrote a piece in the Australian Jewish News encouraging the decision-makers the Great Synagogue to consider non-Chabad Modern Orthodox Rabbis for this position.

Rabbi Schochet took it upon himself to respond to this article and wrote how Chabad Rabbis take on their community "akin to marriage":
This prompted Rabbi Kennard to respond with his article titled "Chabad is not the only way" and noted the silence from every Chabad Rabbi around the world with regard to the "custody case in a European city where the Chabad director insists on remaining neutral in a conflict that pits good against evil" (The Schlesinger twins in Vienna).

Rabbi Schochet in turn responded with an accusation of misinterpreting the facts, which Rabbi Kennard denies and provides the sources. It is interesting to note that Rabbi Schochet omitted to refer to the aforementioned custody case.< The debate has reached a standstill in that Rabbi Schochet has refused to contribute to the AJN because he accuses them of bias ( ), yet I have tried to comment on the colive debate but have been moderated. Looking at the one-sided nature of the comments on both of those articles, it looks like many other people have been moderated on colive too.< I encourage Daas Torah to bring this discussion to the fore and for everyone to read both sides of this discussion at:

I believe the Daas Torah blog to be totally unbiased in its moderation of comments and look forward to reading people's thoughts.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pursuing goyim with possible Jewish ancestors Michael Freund

JPost   It behooves Israel to take notice of this and to consider making its own historic gestures, particularly to the Bnei Anusim, the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were compelled to convert to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries.

At great risk to themselves and their families, many of the Bnei Anusim continued to practice Judaism covertly despite the Inquisition, carefully passing down their hidden identity from one generation to the next. Their descendants can be found in every corner of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world, and their numbers are estimated to be in the millions.

At Shavei Israel, the organization I chair, we have seen a huge increase in recent years in the number of Bnei Anusim looking to reaffirm or reclaim their Jewish identity, in places as far afield as northern Portugal, Chile, El Salvador, Sicily and Colombia.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, in a recent speech in Ashdod, took note of this phenomenon, correctly arguing that it is time for the State of Israel to “ease the way for their return.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The Bnei Anusim are our brethren and, through no fault of their own, their ancestors were torn away from us under duress. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to strengthen the bonds between us and bring back to the Jewish people as many of them as possible.

Steps should be taken to address the myriad bureaucratic and religious issues that stand in their way so that the door of return for the Bnei Anusim can finally swing open.

After all, if Spain, which cast their ancestors out, is seeking ways to reconcile with the descendants of Iberian Jewry, then isn’t it time for Israel to do the same?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A proposal for childless couples who want children named after them and for kadish to be said after 120 years

The following was sent to me as a serious proposal by someone I know. It is clearly acceptable according to halacha as well as the spiritual and psychological dimensions. Being childless is a very difficult situation to live with in our community, but the lack of children to carry on one's name as well as to say kaddish is at least as distressing.
People are constantly looking for chessed opportunities while others are preoccupied with the shidduch crisis. I believe I have an idea which is ,as they say,a win/win situation that can address both issues simultaneously. 
Unfortunately there are people ,especially those who have devoted their lives to chinuch,who are simply overwhelmed by the costs of marrying off their children. This is particularly stressful (if not worse) for those who live in Israel and must deal with the reality of funding an apartment. While one may criticize the system  it is not a changin’ and one muust do what they need to do. As they say in Yiddish A Breira Hust Du (do you have a choice? 
I propose that a creative soul might want to search for couples who unfortunately  do not have children (and are of the age that probably won’t) but who have the means to help parents who lack the means. In return the young couple will name some of their children after the magnanimous benefactors and will see that Kaddish is recited after their 120.
I believe this is an example of a 360 degree chessed for all involved. 
Would love to hear some thoughts on this and hearty souls willing to shadchan such a partnership.

Montessori Schools infiltrate Jewish education

NY Times   In the boys’ classroom at Lamplighters Yeshivah in the Hasidic Jewish stronghold of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Montessori number-counting boards and decimal beads share space with Hebrew-learning materials. A colorful timeline on the wall shows two strands of world history in parallel: secular on the left, Jewish on the right. A photo of the grand rabbi of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement hangs above a list of tasks that children perform individually: make a fractions poster, practice cursive, learn about the moon’s phases.

Into the classroom on a recent morning came Rivkah Schack, one of the school’s principals, holding a tool whose form, if not its content, would be familiar to any Montessori teacher: a small nomenclature booklet in which the students were to write words from the Bible by hand and illustrate them. In secular Montessori, the booklets might be used to teach botanical terms; here, they were for Hebrew.
“Not to mix our metaphors, but that’s our holy grail,” said Ami Petter-Lipstein, the director of the Jewish Montessori Society, based in Highland Park, N.J., as Ms. Schack gathered a few pupils around her on the rug for a group Hebrew lesson.

For an educational movement trying to use a century-old pedagogical method developed by an Italian Catholic, Maria Montessori, to teach Jewish tenets, mixing metaphors is the point. Arguing that the traditional Jewish day-school model they grew up with is outmoded and too clannish for 21st-century Judaism, a new generation of parents and educators are flocking to Montessori preschools and elementary schools that combine secular studies with Torah and Hebrew lessons.

Daniel Septimus, who attended a modern Orthodox school but now identifies as a traditional egalitarian Jew, said the schools he had attended were “purposely insular.”

“We knew there was a big, wide world out there where people did different things, but it was kind of scary, and we were supposed to have limited contact with it,” he said.

His son Lev, 3, attends Luria Academy in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, a Montessori school that proudly advertises the religious diversity of its students. “I think this is just more realistic,” Mr. Septimus said. “Ultimately, our kids are going to live in diverse and multicultural communities.”

In Brooklyn, whose more than 600,000 Jews include secular Jews in brownstone Brooklyn and Hasidic Jews in Borough Park and Williamsburg, four Montessori schools have opened in the last decade. Each is tailored to a different group: one is for Hasidic girls in Borough Park, another for Hasidic boys in Midwood; Lamplighters’ students are mainly Chabad-Lubavitchers, while Luria’s students range from secular to Hasidic. [...]

Meeting in Lakewood regarding the Torah Approach to Marriage

WHAT? Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn, a Talmid of Gedolim HaGaon Amiti HaRav Aharon Kotler zt”l, Posek HaDor HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, and Posek HaDor HaGaon HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, will speak to a group of men about marriage.

The crisis of divorce and broken families will also be addressed. Rabbi Eidensohn will also present his program of Shalom Bayis Beth Dins, which could greatly reduce the number of broken marriages, agunoth, and coerced Gittin. This program has already been approved by leading Poskim in Gittin and experts in family law.

WHEN? Thursday, March 6, 2014 @ 2:10 PM.

Lakewood Township Municipal Building, 231 3rd Street, Second Floor Room C. Parking available at Municipal Parking Lot.

No cost.

One who seeks solutions for the above.

What marriage or KIDDUSHIN means and why we must not destroy it. How a Shalom Bayis Beth Din can improve and save marriages. The halochos of coercing a GET when the husband refuses to give a GET. Why the vast majority of coerced Gittin are invalid.

You may call Rabbi Eidensohn at 1-845-578-19171-845-578-1917

 HaGadol HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt”l wrote in his haskomo for Rabbi Eidensohn’s first sefer in halacha, “The Rav HaGaon is already known to me for many years as one who delves deeply to clarify complex halochos.” YB”L HaGadol HaGaon HaRav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner of Bnei Braq wrote in his haskomo, “A Talmid Chochom deserves very much credit. Words of truth are recognized, and words proceed from the heart and are written lishmo.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Men also suffer from Sexism

Atlantic    Can men be victims of sexism? 

An NPR Morning Edition report this week suggests strongly that the answer is "yes." As Jennifer Ludden reports, after divorce men can face burdensome alimony payments even in situations where their ex-wives are capable of working and earning a substantial income. Even in cases where temporary alimony makes sense—as when a spouse has quit a job to raise the children—it's hard to understand the need for lifetime alimony payments, given women's current levels of workforce participation. As one alimony-paying ex-husband says, "The theory behind this was fine back in the '50s, when everybody was a housewife and stayed home." But today, it looks like an antiquated perpetuation of retrograde gender roles—a perpetuation which, disproportionately, harms men.

This isn't the only case in which men can suffer from gender discrimination. David Benatar, in his 2012 monograph The Second Sexism discusses a whole range of other ways in which men as men are disadvantaged. Men, for example, receive custody of children in only about 10 percent of divorce cases in the United States. Men also, as Benatar writes, are subject to "a long history of social and legal fight in war" —pressures which women do not generally experience in the same way. Along the same lines, physical violence against men is often minimized or seen as normal. Benatar refers to the history of corporal punishment, which has much more often been inflicted on boys than girls. Society's scandalous tolerance of rape in prison seems like it is also related to a general indifference to, or even amusement at, sexual violence committed against men. [...]

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shorshei HaYam- Beriat Olam and Sod Elokut by Rav Yaakov Hillel

Is Lack of Intellectual Honesty causing a crisis in Chareidi world?

There has been an intensive and heated discussion going on in the comments section to the post -  Psychology of everyday life
I am moving part of it here so it gets the attention it deserves. I picked the comments of Ploni as the starting point. Katche-lab's cogent rebuttal is in the comments section
Ploni writes:
Eddie - I think the issue of intellectual dishonesty that seems to bother you IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. I’ll go as far as to say that you haven’t been vociferous enough in advancing THIS issue.

You write: “not only did the Gra hold that a student can argue with his Rebbe, he can also be right”.

I have some news for you – the source isn’t the Gr”a – it’s the Gemara in סנהדרין ז, among many other places…

אמר ר' יהושע בן לוי עשרה שיושבין בדין קולר תלוי בצואר כולן פשיטא לא צריכא אלא לתלמיד היושב לפני רבו
פרש"י: קולר תלוי. עונשה של הטייה: לתלמיד היושב לפני רבו. ובא דין לפני רבו והוא לא נזקק לדבר. נענש אם שתק והוא מבין ברבו שטועה:

SHULCHAN ARUCH also clearly states the talmid’s obligation:
יו"ד רמ"ב-כ"ב רָאָה רַבּוֹ עוֹבֵר עַל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה, אוֹמֵר לוֹ: לִמַּדְתַּנִי רַבֵּנוּ כָּךְ וְכָךְ. הגה: וְאִם רָצָה לַעֲבֹר רַק עַל אִסּוּר דְּרַבָּנָן, אֲפִלּוּ הָכֵי צָרִיךְ לִמְחוֹת בְּיָדוֹ. (ת''ה סִימָן מ''ג) . הָרוֹאֶה רַבּוֹ עוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֶׂה, וְיֵשׁ לוֹ לְהַקְשׁוֹת עַל זֶה, אִם הוּא אִסּוּר דְּאוֹרַיְתָא יַקְשֶׁה לוֹ קֹדֶם הַמַּעֲשֶׂה, וְאִם הוּא אִסּוּר דְּרַבָּנָן, יַנִּיחוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת הַמַּעֲשֶׂה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יַקְשֶׁה לוֹ, הוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ וַדַּאי שֶׁעוֹבֵר, אֶלָּא שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ לְהַקְשׁוֹת עַל זֶה (תא''ו נָתִיב ב') .

Likewise, SHULCHAN ARUCH also clearly states the Rebbe’s obligation to SUPPLY REASONS for his Psak:

יו"ד רמ"ב-י' יֵשׁ מִי שֶׁכָּתַב שֶׁאָסוּר לְחָכָם לְהַתִּיר דָּבָר (יב) הַתָּמוּהַּ שֶׁנִּרְאֶה לָרַבִּים שֶׁהִתִּיר אֶת הָאָסוּר. באר היטב (יב) התמוה. כתב הש''ך נראה דהיינו דוקא אם מתיר בסתם אבל אם אומר לשואל טעם בדבר ומראה לו פנים או שמביא ראיות מתוך הספר מותר:

But why do I think THESE סעיפים in S”A are SO important; after all, aren’t there unfortunately so many neglected סעיפים in שלחן ערוך???


I’ll try to iy”h explain why in my next post

Katche - What I think is Eddie's REAL issue, in which he has a strong argument, is THE LACK OF INTELLECTUAL HONESTY SO RAMPANT IN OUR CIRCLES. In my last post I mentioned a little bit about the sources stating that TRUTH is of paramount importance in Judaism. Here I want to try to elaborate a bit on WHY:

I think practically every Jew agrees that the core beliefs of our religion are encapsulated in Kria Shema. These are the Pesukim that every Jew says several times every single day … these are the Pasukim that countless Jews have said in the last few moments of their worldly existence, as they stood ready to sacrifice their lives – regardless of whether they were Chareidi or MO .. Sefardi or Ashkenazi …..

What are our intentions supposed to be, when we utter these hallowed words … again and again? Listen to what the רשב"א says in ח"ה ס' נ"ה (while I’m only quoting a small piece, I think the entire תשובה should be required reading for everybody).

In essence, the Rashba seems to advance several startling concepts: a) We are OBLIGATED to engage in what he calls חקירה – which is typically assumed to be one and the same as searching for TRUTH and also the same as INTELLECTUAL HONESTY, b) this חקירה includes השמיעה והלימוד וחיקור היטב אם יש ראיה סותרת ח"ו – searching for contradictions to our beliefs, c) we need to continue to engage in such חקירה until we reach the point of what we might call “moral absolutism” - the OPPOSITE of moral relativism - שהחקירה תביא לדעת שאין עוד זולתו אדון בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד – certitude in our beliefs.

The Rashba doesn’t mince words on WHY this is so important: He says that we are obligated to engage in introspection so as to understand that our religion is not based on habit - מצות אנשים מלומדה שהלימוד שלימדהו והרגילוהו עליו יביאהו להאמין ככה שלא הונח על חקירת דעתו. Our religion is NOT something that contradicts and / or discredits the most intelligent person’s sensibilities - וחכמתו יחויב בהפך. And although it’s not proper to say in our politically correct world of tolerance where everybody is free to believe in anything but nobody has a right to REALLY believe in anything – we stand apart from other religions, which וחכמתו יחויב בהפך כאשר יקרה לרוב האמונות. (An example of PC’ess – the recent decision in the “enlightened” Danish govt. that “animal rights come before religion”. (Just google it for more).

Here’s the Rashba, see it for yourself:

אודות החיוב לחקור - דברי הרשב"א בשו"ת ח"ה ס' נ"ה: ענין פרשת קר"ש... יש לכל בעל דעה לדעת כי היא פרשה מיוחדת לנו כוללת ... יסודות כל הבנין אשר בית ישראל נכון עליהם ... ועוד צריכין אנו להתבונן שאין אמונתו וייחודו מצות אנשים מלומדה שהלימוד שלימדהו והרגילוהו עליו יביאהו להאמין ככה שלא הונח על חקירת דעתו, וחכמתו יחויב בהפך כאשר יקרה לרוב האמונות, רק אנחנו חייבים לשמוע ולחקור אחר השמיעה והחקירה שהחקירה האמיתית תחויב ותכריע על ככה, והוא אומרו שמע ישראל שמלת שמע כולל ג' ענינים ... שמיעת האזן... והושאלה לדעת... והושאלה גם לקבלה והאמונה... וכאן ר"ל ... (ו)אחרי השמיעה והלימוד וחיקור היטב אם יש ראיה סותרת ח"ו, ... תביאנו החקירה ותכריחנו הכרח אמתי לקבל ולהאמין כי הוא יתברך נמצא וכן הוא משגיח על פרטי מעשנו ... שהחקירה תביא לדעת שאין עוד זולתו אדון בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד, ואחר שנדע ונסכים על זה אז באמת ראוי לאהוב אותו בכל לבבנו ובכל נפשנו ובכל מאודנו כי משלו הכל ומשלו נתן לו ... ע"כ.

The Rashba is far from the only one who endorses this stance. I think it’s pretty much universal among Rishonim like the חובת הלבבות (הקדמה, שער עבודת אלקים פ"ג), רבינו בחיי (עה"פ אשר לא ידעת אתה ואבותיך דברים י"ג-ד), רבינו סעדיה גאון באמונת ודעות (הקדמה), etc. It just seems more surprising for the Rashba, when one notes that this is the same Rashba who was in the FOREFRONT of the חרם AGAINST חכמות חיצוניות – see ח"א ס' תי"ג וכו'.

Part 2:

So far, we know that the benefit of this חקירה is “moral absolutism”. Rav Saadya Gaon elaborates on the benefits of the search for TRUTH, when he explains why he wrote his Sefer. He seems to say that besides the obvious “religious” benefits obtained by having the CERTITUDE of truth - namely the necessary confidence while successfully engaging non-believers, grace of G-d, etc. – there are many other potential gains: a) Happiness, b) authenticity, c) heartfelt prayer, d) honest business dealings, e) less envy, jealousy & resentment of others.

Here’s the רב סעדי' גאון, see it for yourself:

(הקדמת הרב סעדי' גאון לספר האמונה והדעות, פרק א-ב): הריני מקדים לספר זה אשר בכוונתי לחברו: הודעת גורמי השיבושים לבני אדם ... ועל דרכי סילוקן ... ויגיע בו דורשו אל הצדק והאמת ... מפני שראיתי ... מי שכבר הגיע אל האמת ויש לו בו ספקות ואינו ברור לו ואינו מחזיק בו, ... ומהם מי שכבר אימת את השווא מתוך דמיון שהוא האמת, והרי הוא מחזיק בשווא ועוזב את הישר, ... ומהם מי [ש]נבוך בתהפוכות כל ימיו ... ותהמה נפשי לאומתנו בני ישראל ... ואין אמודאי שיעלם ממעמקיהם ... וביכולתי ממה שחננני מה שאסמכם בו, וראיתי שחובה עלי לעזרם בכך ... וכאשר ינהג החכם והתלמיד בספר בדרך זו, יוסיף דורש האמת להגיע אל האמת, ויוסר מן המסופק ספקו, ומי שהיה סומך על אחרים באמונתו יהיה מאמין מתוך עיון ותבונה, וייאלם המטעה מהטעאותיו, ויבוש המתנגד העקש, וישמחו הצדיקים והישרים ... ובכך יוכשרו מצפוני בני אדם כברם, ותהיה תפלתם בלב שלם כאשר יהיה להם בלבם דבר המרתיעם מן החטא, והמעוררם אל הנכון, וכמו שאמר החסיד: בלבי צפנתי אמרתך למען לא אחטא לך. ותהיה נאמנותם שלמה במשאם ומתנם, ותמעט קנאתם זה בזה על עניני העולם, ותהיה מגמת פני כולם אל בעל החכמה, ולא יסורו אל זולתו, ויהיה להם לישע ורחמים וטובה ...

I found this to be a REAL eye-opener, since Rav Saadya’s list of benefits seems to point to a solution to many of the major issues that our communities currently suffer from, as his list of benefits is pretty much the diametrical opposite of many of the contemporary “hot button” issues: Depression, anxiety, empty aimless & wasted lives, dishonesty & the resultant Chilul Hashem, envy, jealousy & resentment……

I think that it’s fair to say that the MO crowd can accept the concept of חקירה much more easily than we Chareidim….

Correct me if I’m wrong, Eddie – does this mesh with your condemnation of Chareidim as unthinking and unpractical folks?< However, this post SUPPORTING what seems to be a positive aspect of the MO lifestyle over that Chareidi one is NOT so simple… (I’m sure you knew this would be coming – after all, I’m biased, right)?< Eddie wrote: “I think Saadya, Rambam, and apparently Ibn Ezra take a very rational approach to this - which is simply neglected today”. This is precisely the subject I’d like to touch on, IY”H beginning from this post. The issue of חקירה also seems to breed lots of confusion. In our Chareidi circles, being a חקרן is akin to being a “freethinker” – a word usually said in the same breath as some VERY negative terms, such as; Atheists, Secularists, Freethinkers, Rationalists and Humanists. Is this just one of Chareidiasm’s biases? Or is there any valid reason to attach a negative connotation to the terms חקירה and חקרן?< Putting aside contemporary Chareidi sensibilities for a minute, the positive exhortation to engage in חקירה and השמיעה והלימוד וחיקור היטב אם יש ראיה סותרת ח"ו raises some important questions of its own…. How could the Rashba obligate חקירה, when even the Rambam, מחבר of the Moreh, etc. writes in הל' ע"ז פ"ב ה"ג that we are PROHIBITED to “bring up” or focus on any thought that could cause us to weaken any of the עיקרי התורה, as he writes: רמב"ם פ"ג ה"ג: ... שלא יפנה אחר עבודת כוכבים ... ולא עבודת כוכבים בלבד הוא שאסור להפנות אחריה במחשבה אלא כל מחשבה שהוא גורם לו לאדם לעקור עיקר מעיקרי התורה מוזהרין אנו שלא להעלותה על לבנו ולא נסיח דעתנו לכך ונחשוב ונמשך אחר הרהורי הלב ... פעמים יתור אחר עבודת כוכבים ופעמים יחשוב ביחוד הבורא שמא הוא שמא אינו. מה למעלה ומה למטה מה לפנים ומה לאחור. ופעמים בנבואה שמא היא אמת שמא היא אינה. ופעמים בתורה שמא היא מן השמים שמא אינה. ... ועל ענין זה הזהירה תורה ונאמר בה (במדבר טו-לט) ''ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זונים''. .... כך אמרו חכמים (גמרא ברכות יב-ב) ''אחרי לבבכם זו מינות'' ואחרי עיניכם זו זנות. ולאו זה אע''פ שהוא גורם לאדם לטרדו מן העולם הבא אין בו מלקות:< So the Rashba - who led the Cherem against חכמות חיצוניות - is telling us to search השמיעה והלימוד וחיקור היטב אם יש ראיה סותרת ח"ו, while the RAMBAM – author of the מורה נבוכים – is telling us כל מחשבה שהוא גורם לו לאדם לעקור עיקר מעיקרי התורה מוזהרין אנו שלא להעלותה על לבנו. Huh????? But even worse – how are we supposed to reach the CERTITUDE that רב סעדיה גאון tells us is so important and beneficial, if we can’t even THINK of the possibility of the different options??? The answer can be found in רב סעדיה גאון –הקדמה, פרק ו', where he himself raises the issue that חז"ל seem to PROHIBIT חקירה, while he is encouraging the same…

Rav Saadya Gaon makes it clear that the חקירה he is endorsing does NOT START with rationality (def: based on or in accordance with reason or logic), and he also explains WHY it CAN NOT.

ואם יאמר הרי גדולי חכמי ישראל הזהירו מזה ... והוא אמרם כל המסתכל בארבעה דברים רתוי לו כאלו לא בא לעולם, מה למטה מה למעלה מה לפנים מה לאחור? נאמר בעזרת הרחמן, כי העיון האמיתי לא יתכן שימנעונו ממנו, והרי בוראנו כבר צוונו עליו עם המסורת האמיתית. כאומרו: ... הלא הבינותם מוסדות הארץ, ואמרו החסידים זה לזה: משפט נבחרה לצו נדעה בינינו מה טוב ... אבל מנעו מלהניח ספרי הנביאים בצד, ולהחזיק במה שייראה לכל אחד ואחד מדעת עצמו, בהעלותו במחשבתו עניני ראשית המקום והזמן ... אבל חוקרים אנו קהל בני ישראל ומעיינים שלא בדרך הזו, והיא אשר אזכירה ואבארה בעזרת הרחמן ... כי מה שאנחנו חוקרים ומעיינים בענייני אמונתנו הוא ... כדי שיתאמת לנו בפועל מה שידענו מפי נביאי ה' בידיעה ... כי ה' יתברך ויתעלה לימדנו כל מה שנחוץ לנו בענייני אמונתנו באמצעות נביאיו ... צונו שנדע אותם העניינים ונשמרם. והודיעם כי כאשר אנו מעיינים וחוקרים, יוציא לנו העיון האמיתי השלם בכל דבר ככל אשר הודיענו בדברי שליחיו, ונתן לנו בטחון שלא יתכן שתהא נגדנו הוכחה מצד המכחישים את דתנו, ולא טענה מצד המפקפקים באמונתנו ... ועל דרך זו ... אנו מעיינים וחוקרים כדי להוציא אל הפועל את אשר הודיענו בוראנו בדרך הודעה.

He doesn’t leave any doubts about the point that חקירה does NOT start with rationality, reason & logic. He repeats it over and over - I think FIVE times - in this piece alone:

א) מנעו מלהניח ספרי הנביאים בצד, ב) שאנחנו חוקרים ומעיינים ... כדי שיתאמת לנו בפועל מה שידענו מפי נביאי ה' בידיעה ... ג) ה' יתברך ויתעלה לימדנו כל מה שנחוץ לנו בענייני אמונתנו באמצעות נביאיו ... ד) יוציא לנו העיון האמיתי השלם בכל דבר ככל אשר הודיענו בדברי שליחיו ... ה) אנו מעיינים וחוקרים כדי להוציא אל הפועל את אשר הודיענו בוראנו בדרך הודעה.

וכשם שיש לכל מלאכה מן המלאכות חלקים אשר אם יחדלו מלעשותם לפני השלמת המלאכה לא תיעשה אותה המלאכה, כגון הזריעה והבניין והאריגה ושאר המלאכות אשר אינן נשלמות אלא בסבלנות עושיהם עד סופם, כך מלאכת החכמה צריך להתחילה מראשיתה, וללכת בה פרק אחרי פרק עד סופה ... שהמעיין החל בדברים רבים מעורבבים, ולא חדל מלנפותם תשעה מתוך עשרה, ואחר כך שמונה מתשעה, ואחר כך שבעה משמונה, עד אשר זוקקו מן הבלבולים והספקות, ונשאר לו הצרוף המוחלט. ואם הפסיק מלעיין כאשר הגיע אל המצב החמישי או הרביעי או איזה שלב שהוא, הרי נסתלקו ממנו מן ספקות בשיעור השלבים אשר הניח מאחריו, ונשאר לו מהן שעור מה שנותר מן השלבים שעודם לפניו.

Therefore, he says, our חקירה ends up only SOMETIMES accurately reflecting truth, and but we often end up making mistakes. 2) Even if we DO eventually reach truth, the process is lengthy, leaving us without proper beliefs until that point in time. 3) Even after reaching truth we can “lose” it, because of a new false belief that pops up.

כי מי שמעיין בצופן זה, אפשר שיכווין אל האמת ואפשר שיטעה. ועד אשר ישיג את האמת הרי הוא ללא אמונה. ואפילו אם יגיע אל האמונה, אין בטחון שלא תעקר ממנו בגלל איזו טעות שתיראה לו ותפסיד לו דעותיו,

Part 5:

Furthermore, Rav Saadya (הקדמה-פ"ז) mentions eight beliefs & behaviors that hold people back from reaching the truth: 1) Admitting to the truth often results in certain obligations, and people don’t like obligations. 2) Foolishness often overwhelms reason. 3) Prurient biases cause us to avoid proper analyzation. 4) People tend to despise properly scrutinizing & deliberating matters. 5) Haughtiness causes people to assume expertise in matters that they don’t have sufficient knowledge about, 6) People are emotionally swayed by heresy that they heard, 7) In the past, they became accustomed to hearing weak arguments to defend faith, so they erroneously believe that stronger arguments don’t exist. 8) Somebody carries hatred towards a certain religious person, and therefore blames the religion.

He also points out that none of these beliefs & behaviors would ever be acceptable in matters pertaining to עוה"ז “worldly matters”.

So what we see now is that the basis for חקירה has to be Torah, because otherwise we’d never “make it” to truth on our own, and even if we do “make it”, we could easily “lose it”.

But this seems to bring up an obvious shortcoming in reaching the stated goal of חקירה – which is certitude. [...]

Part 6:

I see I’ve been badly misunderstood as to my comment about חקירה. I was actually heading in the OPPOSITE direction – my point is that the term חקירה used in the Rishonim is NOT the same as what many people think it is.

חקירה that the Rishonim talk about is NOT meant to be the REASON for why we are ready to put our lives on the line for Judaism. As the חסיד יעבץ writes, the philosophers in the period of the Spanish Inquisition had much less courage than the simple folk.

The חקירה that the Rishonim was meant to ADD CERTITUDE to the belief that we have in Torah, and WHICH PRECEDES it. The Rishonim obligate us to BE SURE about our religious beliefs, THEIR חקירה had this SOLE purpose.

The חובות הלבבות who wrote שער היחוד didn’t believe BECAUSE of שער היחוד, or he’d be contradicting what he himself writes in שער עבודת אלקים that ההערת התוריה MUST come first. The רס"ג and other Rishonim still OBLIGATE us to be עוסק in what THEY CALL חקירה – so that we become DEDICATED & PASSIONATE JEWS.

My point is – Torah and Truth are ONE & THE SAME. The minute we know that something is Torah – it IS true. We have CERTITUDE that our life is meaningful, because we are CERTAIN that we’re working for the Creator of the “whole wide world”. As the רס"ג says – this gives us שמחה, keeps us honest, etc. For the process to work - We MUST BE CERTAIN!

But often we DON’T know if something is Torah, or not, or we CAN’T be certain … what to do?

For this purpose, we need בעלי מסורה to explain Torah, since the Torah’s meanings are often חתום וסתום. The Gedolim of every generation are enlisted. They “give” us CERTAINTY.

However, as mentioned from ס' רמ"ב, these בעלי מסורה DON’T OWN TORAH, unless they follow the “due process” that is necessary for “finding” truth – only THEN are we CERTAIN.

In other words, the Gedolim’s mandate is limited to EXPLAIN Torah, by using the “due process” of how “Torah Truth” is to be found. Once they follow this mandate and we follow them, we are once again certain that our life is meaningful, because we are CERTAIN that we’re working for the Creator of the “whole wide world”.

What happens when our Gedolim DON’T seem to following “due process”?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Avoid saying NO by Allan Katz

Allan Katz [....] Parents often use the argument  -'  des pashts nishts ' with kids – it is not appropriate or our family does not do this type of thing. Generally, if parents show a passionate belief in what they say and offer explanations it might help, but sometimes the parents are forbidding something which is allowed according to the halacha – law ,but they hold by higher standards and the kid is not there with them.  And here Ha'rav Osher Weiss in an answer to a question from an  overseas  'anglo-saxon'  audience concerning certain  English literature for kids said -  sometimes saying NO has a worse impact than allowing a kid his request . It is not the message we teach - …..  , but the message kids learn is that their concerns are not taken seriously by us and ignored. This is the down side to the advice parents are given -  tell your kids NO a few times a day so they get used to hearing NO.

I prefer to avoid saying No . Saying No is essentially only one solution to a concern . Because the solution only addresses the parents concern we are using Plan A. – imposing Adult will.  I recommend 'Don’t stick your no’s in unnecessarily, try to say yes and don’t be rigid.'

I like the phrase - ' I am not saying No '

Of course this does not mean I am saying yes , it means ' I just want to hear your concerns , can you tell me more ?' Our purpose is to get a conversation going with the child mainly speaking and  we  listening. We need to gather information about the child's  concerns.

When our concerns are put on the table, we are in fact setting a limit, because our concerns will be addressed by the mutually satisfying solution.

Any solution must be mutually satisfactory addressing both concerns of the parent and child. Of course there will be times that a parent will insist on his way but the kid who has had his concerns taken seriously in the past is more likely to trust his parents when they insist on  their solution.

Try to talk things through and help your child connect with his true inner core so that the mutually satisfying solution is one that he feels is his own, meets his needs and an expression of who he is. The CPS - collaborative problem solving process Cp builds relationship , promotes life skills that will be needed when he goes out into the world and especially help with important relationships including marriage. The process also  supports his autonomy in a healthy way.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The All or Nothing Marriage: When it is good it is very good but when it is bad it is horrid

NY Times   ARE marriages today better or worse than they used to be?

This vexing question is usually answered in one of two ways. According to the marital decline camp, marriage has weakened: Higher divorce rates reflect a lack of commitment and a decline of moral character that have harmed adults, children and society in general. But according to the marital resilience camp, though marriage has experienced disruptive changes like higher divorce rates, such developments are a sign that the institution has evolved to better respect individual autonomy, particularly for women. The true harm, by these lights, would have been for marriage to remain as confining as it was half a century ago.

As a psychological researcher who studies human relationships, I would like to offer a third view. Over the past year I immersed myself in the scholarly literature on marriage: not just the psychological studies but also work from sociologists, economists and historians. Perhaps the most striking thing I learned is that the answer to whether today’s marriages are better or worse is “both”: The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.[...]

How and why did this divergence occur? In answering this question, I worked with the psychologists Chin Ming Hui, Kathleen L. Carswell and Grace M. Larson to develop a new theory of marriage, which we will publish later this year in a pair of articles in the journal Psychological Inquiry. Our central claim is that Americans today have elevated their expectations of marriage and can in fact achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality — but only if they are able to invest a great deal of time and energy in their partnership. If they are not able to do so, their marriage will likely fall short of these new expectations. Indeed, it will fall further short of people’s expectations than at any time in the past.

Marriage, then, has increasingly become an “all or nothing” proposition. This conclusion not only challenges the conventional opposition between marital decline and marital resilience; but it also has implications for policy makers looking to bolster the institution of marriage — and for individual Americans seeking to strengthen their own relationships.[...]

HERE lie both the great successes and great disappointments of modern marriage. Those individuals who can invest enough time and energy in their partnership are seeing unprecedented benefits. The sociologists Jeffrey Dew and W. Bradford Wilcox have demonstrated that spouses who spent “time alone with each other, talking, or sharing an activity” at least once per week were 3.5 times more likely to be very happy in their marriage than spouses who did so less frequently. The sociologist Paul R. Amato and colleagues have shown that spouses with a larger percentage of shared friends spent more time together and had better marriages.

But on average Americans are investing less in their marriages — to the detriment of those relationships. Professor Dew has shown that relative to Americans in 1975, Americans in 2003 spent much less time alone with their spouses. Among spouses without children, weekly spousal time declined to 26 hours per week from 35 hours, and much of this decline resulted from an increase in hours spent at work. Among spouses with children at home, spousal time declined to 9 hours per week from 13, and much of this decline resulted from an increase in time-intensive parenting.[...]

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Israelis write notes to traffic cops - and it helps sometimes

PRI    Valentine’s Day isn’t widely celebrated in Israel. But Israelis do write love notes year-round — and leave them on their cars.

They’re scribbled on scraps of paper and wedged in windows. Or, they’re typed out and propped up on dashboards. [...]

Since 2011, I have been taking pictures of what I call "Love Notes to Traffic Cops." So I showed Avraham some photos in my collection to see how he would respond to the notes if he were to see them on the job.

When a driver writes “I’m dropping off my kids at kindergarten, please don’t give me a ticket,” he doesn’t. Avraham said it’s not fair to ticket a parent when everyone’s dropping off kids and taking up all the parking spots.

But there are times, he said, when people try to pull rank, writing notes like, “I’m the pharmacist at such-and-such pharmacy.” Subtext: I’m important. Don’t give me a ticket. Avraham said he does.

Then there are the kinds of notes you can only find in Israel: Honorable cop, We are sitting shiva [mourning for someone who has died] at so-and-so’s house. Here’s the address. Please don’t give us a ticket.

“In a situation like this, we do not give a ticket,” Avraham said.

Every day, parking cops get a list of where families are observing the Jewish week of mourning, Avraham said. When parking spaces run out, and visitors park illegally, they don’t get ticketed.

So, there you have it. In Israel, you can, in fact, convince parking cops not to give you a ticket. But why are Israelis prone to negotiate their traffic violations?

Maharal's criticism of dayanim who only hear one side

Bluesteed wrote:

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

I  wanted to bring the following Maharal to the audience's attention, referring to dayanim who hear one side's story ex parte, and then write "conditional" one-sided piskei din based on their testimony, warning that the petitioner falls into "rasha arum" status and the dayan is responsible as his enabler: והנה איזה דיינים שעושים דבר במשפט ובדין ונראה בעיניהם the rest can be found here: Hebrew Books

Mendel Fish 'n beiner added:

Perhaps someone should send a few copies to some so-called "Gedolim", and also paste copies on the walls of their shuls & neighborhoods... For good measure, how about this other one: Maharal in גור ארי' on - Parshas Mishpotim Gur Aryeh thru Gur Aryeh

מהר"ל (ספר נתיבות עולם א - נתיב הדין - פרק ב( והנה איזה דיינים שעושים דבר במשפט ובדין ונראה בעיניהם שהוא דבר קל והוא דבר גדול מאוד מאוד, וזה כי מביא לו אחד מן בעלי דין משפטו ומסדר לו טענות שלו והרב יכתוב ויחתום לו באם כן הדברים, וכל זה חטא ואשמה גדולה מאד כדכתיב שמוע בין אחיכם, ואמרי' בפ' דיני ממונות שמוע בין אחיכם ושפטתם צדק אמר רבי חנינא אזהרה לדיין שלא ישמע דברי בעל דין קודם שיבא בעל דין חבירו ואזהרה לבעל דין שלא יטעים דבריו לדיין קודם שיבא בעל דין חבירו קרי ביה נמי שמע בין אחיכם, רב כהנא מלא תשא לא תשיא נפקא. ואין לומר דטעמא הוי משום שמשקר לו בעל דין וכדמשמע מפירש"י ז"ל, שאפילו היכא דמסדר לפניו דברים של אמת ואינו משקר כיון שמטעים דבריו לדיין נכנסו דבריו בדעתו לזכותו ומחפש לו זכותו, ואף אם ישיב אחר כך חבירו על דבריו כיון שדבריו כבר נכנסו באזני הדיין אינו מסלק דעתו מהם. ומכל שכן כאשר יכתוב פסק דין על פי דברי אחד מן בעלי דינין ואע"ג שיכתוב בא"כ, סוף סוף כיון שבעל דין היה מטעים דבריו לדיין אינו רואה זכות האחר כלל ומחפש תמיד למצא זכותו של זה שהיה מטעים דבריו אליו. ודבר זה אין צריך ראיה, והרי אמרו בסוטה איזה רשע ערום זה המטעים דבריו לדיין קודם שיבא בעל דין חבירו ע"כ. והרי אין לך מטעים דבריו לדיין יותר מזה ואיך יעשה לו דבר זה שיתן לו פסק דין והרי מכשיל את בעל הדין עד שהוא רשע ערום ועובר בלאו והדיין עובר בלאו. ואם היה מקבל ממון בשביל זה, דבר זה באיסור לא תקח שוחד כי איך לא יהיה דעתו נוטה אחריו מאחר שאינו מקבל רק מאחד, דקרנא הוי שקיל אסתרא מזכאי ואסתרא מחייב ודאין להו דינא והיה אגר בטילה דמוכח זה שרי, אבל בכהאי גוונא דשקיל מאחד ולא שייך לומר דהוה אגר בטילה דמוכח דכיון דאינו מקבל משניהם בשוה, ומכל שכן דאגר בטילה אי אפשר שיהיה הרבה אלא דבר מועט, אבל אם לוקח הרבה וכי שייך בזה אגר בטילה דמוכח אין זה רק באיסור לא תקח שוחד, וכדאי הוא דבר זה בלבד להעמיד ירושלים בחורבתה וישראל בגלותם:

;גור אריה שמות כא

כשאויבינו פלילים כו'. דקרא (ר' דברים לב, כט) הכי קאמר "לו חכמו יבינו לאחריתם" שלא מידם היתה זאת מה שהם מושלים בנו, אלא מה' היתה זאת, כי ה' מכרם וה' הסגירם (שם שם ל), שהרי האומות מודים ש"לא כצורנו צורם" (שם שם לא), שאינו שוה צורם לצורינו, ואפילו הכי "אויבינו פלילים" (שם), ולמה היה זה, אלא כי צורם מכרם. ומזה תשמע אם היה צורם שוה חס ושלום לצורינו, ראוי שיהיו אויבינו פלילים, כי בדין כך הוא, אחר שצורם שוה לצורינו, ראוי שיהיו אויבינו פלילים. ואם כן המביא דין בערכאות שלהם מייקר שם עבודה זרה, לומר חס ושלום כי צורם וכו'. וטעם זה ידוע, כי המשפט הוא לאלהים, כדכתיב (דברים א, יז) "כי המשפט לאלהים הוא". ועוד כתיב (ר' מ"ב יז, פו) "ולא ידעו משפט אלהי הארץ", הרי כי המשפט תולה באלהות. ועוד, כי עובדי עבודה זרה אומרים כי המשפטים הוא לאלהות שלהם, כי כל אלהות יש לו משפט, ולעולם הולכין אחר בית דין יפה וחשוב יותר (סנהדרין לב:), נמצא ההולך לפני דין שלהם מייקר שם עבודה זרה להחשיב משפט אלהיהם.
ובקצת ארצות ובקצת קהילות שמים ללענה משפט ראשונה, הקימו להם מציבות למנות להם מקצת ראשים בורים, לא ידעו לשון משפט ומהו הדין, ודרשו המקרא לגנאי לפני הדיוטות דווקא, שלא די שמנו ראשים בורים מכל, אלא נטלו המשפט מיודעי דבר המשפט ונתנו אותו לבורים, עד שהיודעים ותלמידים - בעיניהם רואים עוות משפט ודין גזל ועושק על מקצת ראשים בורים, ואין לאל ידיהם להושיע אף ליתום ולאלמנה. והנה עוברים כל שעה על "לא תטע לך אשירה אצל מזבח ה' אלהיך" (ר' דברים טז, כא), כמו שאמרו חז"ל (סנהדרין ז:) הממנה דיין שאינו הגון כאילו נוטע אשרה אצל מזבח ה'. ואולי רמז עליו בתורה "לא תטע לך אשרה אשר שנא ה' אלהיך" (ר' דברים טז, כא), כי אותיות "אשרה" 'הראש', "אשר שנא ה'" קאי על האשרה, הוא הראש ששנא ה' אלהיך, ואלהיך שונא אותו גם כן. וחכמי הדור אין להם להתאונן על כבוד התורה, כי דיו לעבד שיהיה כמו רבו (ברכות נח:), הרי הם מחללים שם שמים ומייקרים שם עבודה זרה, עבירה גוררת עבירה (אבות פ"ד מ"ב), דורשים 'לפני הדיוטות' דוקא, עד שבאו לדרוש 'לפני ערכאות' דוקא, עד שאין פונים עוד למשפטי התורה. ואין לך דבר אהוב לפני השם יתברך כמו משפט אמת, וכמו שאמרו ז"ל (שבת י.) היושב ודן דין אמת לאמתו נעשה שותף להקב"ה במעשה בראשית. והם משליכים אמת ארצה, עד כי אין משפטי אמת. ונמשך עוד כמעט חס ושלום שאין תורה ודת, כי אין ביד החכמים לגדור פרצות הדור, כי יאמר הראש וחביריו, והדומה לו, אין אתה אב בית דין לנו שאנחנו חייבים לשמוע לך. ויותר קשה לסבול עולם מעול מלכות, שמפני שאין הכבוד נאה לו, והוא אינו נאה לכבוד, [ו] כאשר יחשוב שאין אחד נוהג כבוד בו, ולא ירצה להיות כפוף תחתיו - מכניע אותו ומציר לו ורודף אותו בכל הרדפה, וכן לשפלותו הוא מגרה באנשים חשובים ותלמידי חכמים, שיסבור כי אין החשובים והתלמידי חכמים רוצים להיות נכנעים תחתיו, ולכן הוא דורך על במתי החשובים והנכבדים ביותר להשפיל אותם. אוי ואבוי להם מאותה חרפה ומאותה בושה ומאותה כלימה. אך נתקררה רוחי ונכבה אש יקוד לבי הבוערת, כי דבר בם ראיתי כי אין יוצא מאתם לא נין ולא נכד, עד שהעניות שולטת, [ואין להם] זרע שיהיה לו שם בחכמים ושאר בתלמידים.

ואני אומר כי ירא אלהים יחוש לו ואל יעמוד לפניהם למשפט, והרי אמרו ז"ל (סנהדרין ז:) "לא תעשו אתי אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב" (ר' לעיל כ, כ), זה דיין הבא בשביל כסף וזהב. ולפיכך נאמר "לא תעשו אתי", כי הדיין הוא עם השם יתברך, כדכתיב (תהלים פב, א) "אלהים נצב בעדת אל", ומי שהוא עומד לדין לפני דיין הממונה בעבור עשרו, הרי עושה אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב עם השם יתברך, אשר "נצב בעדת אל בקרב אלהים ישפוט" (שם). ומצוה להקל בכבודם, כמו שכתב בחושן משפט. ובירושלמי בסוף ביכורים (פ"ג ה"ג) רבי מני מקיל לאילין דמתמנין בכסף. רבי אמי קרי עליהן "אלהי כסף". ובאלו שנתמנו בשביל עשרם יש בהם הכל ועל הכל, כי הידים ידי עשו סמכו אותם. אמנם נמצאו גם כן בקצת קהילות נאמני רוח, כונתם לשם שמים, לא להשתורר על הציבור בגאוה, על אלו נאמר העוסקים עם הצבור לשם שמים צדקתם עומדת לעד, ועל האחרים נאמר (ישעיה א, כה - כו) "ואשיבה ידי עליך ואצרוף כבור סיגיך ואסירה כל בדיליך ואשיבה שופטיך כבראשונה

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn

As a follow up to the chilling Maharal you shared with your readers, I would also like to point out the following Peirush HaGR"A on Esther 1:7, in the "al derech remez" portion on the left. There, the Vilna Gaon writes regarding the famous Gemara in Sotah that in the days leading to Mashiach there will be an abundance of chutzpa, " בעקבות משיחא חוצפא יסגי," because the dayanim appointed will be corrupt and "einam mehuganim," therefore "nearim pney zekeynim yalbinu," the young will embarass and challenge the elders-- and the Vilna Gaon concludes that chutzpah will be so prevalent that it will exist even in the elders, "in all of them including the gedoley hador."

דבעקבות משיחא חוצפא יסגי, והענין של החוצפא ההיא כי מעמידין דיין ופרנס שאינו הגון, ואמרו (סנהדרין ז׳) כל המעמיד דיין שאינו הגון כאילו נוטע אשירה כו׳, ובירושלמי קראם אלהי כסף ואלהי זהב (ע״ש במהרש״א) ולכך נערים פני זקנים ילבינו, אבל זקנים יעמדו מפני נערים מי הכריחן לכך, אלא שגברה החוצפא והוא אף בזקנים ובכולם גם בגדולי הדור.״

Do you have to be Jewish to be a feminist?

Daily Texan    A disproportionately high number of Jewish women influenced the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, according to Daniel Horowitz, an American studies professor from Smith College. [Horowitz, D. (1996). Rethinking Betty Friedan and The Feminine Mystique: Labor union radicalism and feminism in cold war America. American Quarterly, 48(1), 1-42. PDF here.]

“There aren’t many prominent feminist writers of note in that period who weren’t Jewish,” Horowitz said. [...]

According to Horowitz, Friedan did not write about Jewish culture in “The Feminine Mystique,” but instead focused the book on the struggle of middle class white women. Horowitz listed several other Jewish women who were a part of the feminist movement but never wrote about American Jews.

“They come out of a cosmopolitan universalist tradition in which the notion of womanhood or protestor is more important than the notion of Jewishness,” Horowitz said.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kerry, Halachic Israel, and Safety by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

5 Towns Jewish Times   In the past few months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has occupied entire floors of hotels in Jerusalem. In early March, Mr Kerry is expected to present a copy of the so-called framework agreement to Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visits Washington to both visit President Barack Obama and address the AIPAC conference of AIPAC.

The document will propose a peace deal along pre-1967 borders but with land swaps that take account of “demographic changes” on the ground. The document will attempt to influence the Netanyahu government to give up many different areas of Eretz Yisrael. It is therefore be an opportune time to review the halachos of what constitutes Eretz Yisrael. It must be stressed that this discussion does not chalilah condone the giving up of parts of Israel. It is merely a discussion of the status of its various parts.

Although the verse in Bereishis (17:8) tells us that Hashem told Avraham, “And I shall give you and your descendants after you…the entire Land of Canaan as an inheritance forever,” one can divide up Eretz Yisrael into two different types of land:

A. Lands that were captured by our ancestors who arose out of Egypt but were not recaptured by our ancestors who rose out of Babylonia during the time of Ezra; and

B. Lands that were also recaptured by our ancestors who rose out of Babylonia.

For our purposes, we will heretofore designate these two areas as “area A” and “area B.” [...]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Zephaniah & Manny Waks: Paying the price for speaking against abuse

The Australian  See also Complexity of child abuse: Manny Wak's brother TO outsiders, Zephaniah Waks blends in with other bearded orthodox Jewish men dressed in black on the footpaths of the East St Kilda neighbourhood where he has dwelt for almost three decades. 
But to insiders who live, work, gossip and pray here, his presence reminds them of things they’d rather forget. He is a stone in their shoe: uncomfortable, irritating, difficult to extract. For the past two years he has been singled out for the kind of shunning that others not as stubborn or as flinty or as sure of their stand would sooner flee than endure.

He prays on the Sabbath. He walks to the synagogue. He studies the Torah. He observes the rituals of the Chabad. Why has this solid pillar of his community become persona non grata? Waks believes his so-called sin was supporting his eldest son Manny, 37, who went to the media in July 2011 with allegations he was sexually abused as a teenager at the Yeshivah Centre, where school and synagogue squat in the heartland of this tight-knit group of worshippers.

The fears that choke child-abuse victims in every community cast an even darker shadow in orthodox circles, where dirty laundry is typically dealt with in-house. The archaic concept of Mesirah - the prohibition on reporting another Jew’s wrongdoing to non-Jewish authorities - still exerts a powerful hold. Zephaniah began to feel a bristling towards him from the first Sabbath after his son’s disclosures. That Saturday in the synagogue the most senior spiritual leader, Rabbi Zvi Telsner, delivered a stern sermon from the pulpit. “Who gave you permission to talk to anyone? Which rabbi gave you permission?” he thundered, without mentioning any names. Zephaniah and his wife Chaya walked out in a spontaneous protest with six others. Rabbi Telsner insists his remarks were not directed at any individual. “It’s like calling someone fat,” he tells me. “If you think you’re fat that’s up to you.” He had dismissed as “absolute rubbish” any suggestion he sought to discourage witnesses from stepping forward.

Slowly and surely, during the weeks and months that followed, the Waks began to detect slights and snubs in personal and religious forums, making life increasingly fraught. Zephaniah has been denied religious blessings routinely dispensed to others. Men who have accompanied him to religious studies for years now cut him dead. Intimate friends no longer share their table or invite him to family celebrations. Whispering campaigns besmirch him as a “dobber” or “moser” and anonymous bloggers have defamed him.

Never mind the thousands outside the orthodox community who cheer his son’s courage, their gratitude warming him too. These sentiments only serve to make the silences that engulf him even frostier. “If you get ostracised so that you have to leave your community, your whole world disappears,” says Zephaniah, 63, throwing up his hands. “Where are you going to go?” The Waks’ modest family home sits across the street from the Yeshivah Centre’s sprawl of brick buildings fortified by high metal fences and security patrols. [...]

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Proposal for new prenuptial agreement by Rabbi Shalom Spira

Recently received the following letter and proposal for a new prenuptial agreement from Rabbi Shalom Spira with permission to post it here for evaluation by readers. This does not constitute an endorsement. update Click link for background information
Be-chasdei Ha-Kadosh Barukh Hu, Yishtabach Shemo

Shalom Aleikhem Ha-Rav Ha-Ga'on Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, shlit"a, Yevarekh Ha-Shem Cheilo, ve-Yezakenu be-Me'or Torato,

I would like to thank the Rav for the marvelous insights on hilkhot gittin that the Rav has publicized over the past few years, insights that have raised the level of Torah appreciation and harmony within Klal Yisrael, thus constituting a sparkling Kiddush Ha-Shem. The merit of the public will stand to the eternal credit of the Rav.
I have recently completed (Barukh Ha-Shem) a prenuptial agreement proposal which I believe is valid according to the consensus of poskim, and which can potentially avert all future agunah situations for ladies who are not yet married. [I cannot help the ladies who are already married; they are trapped, as the Retzono shel Makom (Yishtabach Shemo) demands, and as explained by the Rav's brother Ha-Rav Ha-Ga'on R. Dovid Eidensohn, shlit"a, at ) Since the words of the Rav's brother were inspiration in the composition of my essay, I credit him (among others) on the final page of my essay, and I am presently sending the link of my essay to the Rav for him to enjoy: 

Complexity of child abuse: Manny Wak's brother's version

update: posted the entire Facebook article
The following appeared on the  Facebook page of Avi Yemini (Manny Waks brother) and it illustrates the complexity of ascertaining the truth.  I am not taking sides. There is obviously a lot that has gone in the family. I have discussed the Facebook posting with his father Zephaniah Waks - with whom I have a good relationship. He disagrees strongly with many of the statements his son has made but he said that it will not serve any useful purpose to publicly reply and discuss the accusations. See - Paying the price for speaking out against abuse

Avi Yemini (Manny Waks brother) writes: 
Enough, no more silence.

This is my personal opinion about the Waks family’s compromised involvement in the child sexual abuse campaign, led by my brother Manny Waks and backed by my father Zephaniah Waks. I am sharing it here in a facebook post in response to the constant attempts to silence me whenever I express an opinion which does not promote or support Manny or the Waks family. Just because somebody is fighting a worthy cause, does not give them free reign to say and do whatever they want while silencing anyone who doesn’t support them. Just because I was born in the Waks family, doesn’t mean I am going to keep pretending what a big happy family we are. < I feel extremely motivated and free to share it now as my father boycotted my wedding and my mother cynically cancelled my Shabbat Chatan behind my back because I refused to apologize for expressing an opinion which does not support Manny. It’s sad to me that it took them attempting to ruin our simcha with their toxic energy to realize this, but it is clear to me now that their sudden and random request to reconcile with us (after years of estrangement) nearly 18 months ago, was purely motivated by a fear of what I would say publicly about their involvement with the campaign against child sexual abuse. 

This is just the first thing I have to get off my chest. Enough, no more silence. I supported Manny in the beginning when he went public about being sexually abused, because I felt strongly that someone going public with something as serious as sexual abuse would need as much support as he could get and I obviously believe in people speaking out about what they’ve experienced in an attempt to help others. I still absolutely support the cause itself, of course. However over the past year and a half I have found it very difficult to continue to support the path Manny is taking in regards to campaigning against child sexual abuse.

This is not and has never been acceptable to my parents. All my life my family has operated on a “you’re either with us or you are against us” approach. I experienced this as a young teen when I didn’t want to be religious. In our family that was not acceptable and myself and many of my brothers were given ultimatums that we had to either tow the line (ie. Be ultra orthodox Lubavitch) or get out. I spent my teenage years in foster care, on the street, in friend’s homes, addicted to heroin, drugs and generally wasting my life until I finally got myself into rehab and joined the army. I spoke of this experience in May 2012 at Mizrachi when I was asked to give a speech about my upbringing and the role it played in turning me away from the religion, as the topic for the evening was “Off the Derech”.

I believe it was this speech which motivated my parents to fake reconciliation with me. Since then, it’s been increasingly clear that the only thing that matters to them is keeping me from expressing my opinions about Manny.

Over the past 18 months my relationship with my parents has been filled with demands to apologize to Manny and as a result we were banned from coming to their house if Manny was going to be there because he refused to be in the same room as us e.g. last Pesach we were meant to go for the first night seder and got told at the last minute not to come because Manny was going. It has been filled with constant obsessive discussion about which community member my father says is accused of child abuse, while sitting at the Shabbat table. My father even asked me about hiring bodyguards so that he could continue to go to shul and act like he felt scared to go there without security.

When my parents recently announced their move to Israel, I was accused of forwarding the email onto someone they didn’t want reading it (I still don’t know which sibling forwarded it) and later discovered it was because it contradicted their big, two page spread in the newspaper that came out that weekend, claiming, among other things, to have been ex-communicated when really, it was all financial and something they have been planning to do for years – my mother told me how her plan was always to move as soon as my youngest sister finished school, which she did in 2013.

When I responded to my younger brother’s brave facebook post condemning the way Manny leaked (he calls it “facilitated” in his blog post) a prominent rabbi’s name to the media in connection to allegations of child sexual abuse with this comment:

“Good on you for saying what many of us are thinking. It must have taken alot of courage to write it, and I for one really appreciate it.

I have thought for a while now that the direction this campaign has gone is disgraceful. The Glick thing just seems to be the final episode in a very sad story.

The saddest thing is that future victims have had their stories hijacked by self serving people and their so called organisations.”

This was enough for my father to boycott my wedding and what pisses me off is not that he didn’t come, but that a father could use their own son’s simcha to try to manipulate them into supporting their dodgy campaign.

As much as that speech scared them into “keeping their enemies close” they’ve obviously forgotten all the other things I know and they’ve obviously not thought their tactics through very carefully. The big issue I have with my father’s involvement in this campaign against child sexual abuse, is that ours was a home full of physical child abuse. My father used to beat all the boys with a belt as punishment. I remember lining up one day to receive the belt after a whole group of us (there are 11 boys in the family) were caught climbing on the mikveh roof. I was the smallest in that group and the last in line, it was terrifying watching my older brothers scream while wondering what would happen to me. I was also the one he eventually broke the belt on and then he stopped using it but there has always been a culture of intimidation and manipulation - emotional, psychological, mental and physical, in our home.

I think it’s disgusting that someone who clearly has his own violent tendencies can go around condemning other abusers – all child abuse ought to be brought to light and the perpetrators brought to justice, even if it isn’t sexual. I might be the only one from the family who will ever have the guts to say it out loud, but no matter how they present themselves in the documentary about the family, Zephaniah isn’t someone whose judgement of others on the matter of protecting children from abuse is one to trust.

I think that initially his intentions were good - when the first newspaper spread was sprung on him in 2011 by Manny, he probably wanted to support my brother out of the terrible guilt he must have felt over not taking proper responsibility when not one, but THREE of my brothers were sexually abused and he did not go to the police. In fact, in a conversation we had, he justified it, explaining that it was the climate at the time (sounding very similar to the explanations from Yeshivah itself), I didn’t understand what it was like for him, there was no way he could report it and besides where would he send the children, it was the only Chabad school in Melbourne. Justifications aside – he was one of the ones who put pressure on the school to send the perpetrator away, so instead of condemning everyone else I think he should be apologizing himself.

I think he raised us in an environment where we learnt some pretty messed up messages. Some of the boys got molested at school, most turned to drugs to some degree and at some point, many got kicked out of home and all were vulnerable as a result of his shocking parenting tactics. His pursuit of sex offenders now is just a misguided attempt to deflect blame away from himself.

Manny is far too damaged himself to be a stable leader, especially not for victims of abuse. I think it’s disturbing that when confronted by one of our sisters, Manny denied that anyone was ever hit in our home. While he joked about being “touched” in personal conversations between us before portraying himself as a victim became his profession, I don’t think that either making light of sexual abuse OR turning it into a sensationalist media campaign is the right thing to do.

My mother literally said to me just months ago “If you don’t have something to say that promotes or supports Manny, don’t say it at all. Better to be quiet”. I refuse to do that about such an important issue. I refuse to just join the crowd in congratulating and thanking him when I have serious doubts about his motives and think that more people should be thinking more deeply about his motives and the ethics of his conduct. He has been after a leadership position for his entire life and starting Tzedek finally gave him that position. Just because they are one of the only Jewish (not the first) organizations to offer support to victims, doesn’t mean they should be blindly supported without being held to the same standards of accountability and transparency that anyone who is paid to lead an organization should be held to.

This is my opinion. I wont be silent about it.

From now on, whenever anyone congratulates me on how wonderful my parents are, because they saw the doco, or they had a Shabbat meal with them, or they are simply impressed by how many children they brought into the world, instead of smiling awkwardly I will tell them my truth about what I experienced in their home.

From now on whenever anyone congratulates me on how fantastic Manny is, I will continue to express my concerns that his motives aren’t as pure as he would have us believe and to express my opinion that he is not the right sort of person to lead this cause.

From now on, whenever anyone wants to use “enough, no more silence!” as their tagline, they’re going to remember that it also applies to them and they can no longer bully their critics into keeping their mouths shut.

I’m sharing this opinion because the issue of child abuse is too important to blindly allow, as a community, any self-serving individual to hi-jack the stories of future victims to suit themselves. I don’t gain anything from writing this, I wont ever gain a cent from talking about child abuse, I just have the satisfaction that those who tried to silence me did not succeed in preventing me from speaking my truth and that anyone who reads this has an opportunity to see things from my perspective and use it to make up their own minds.

If you don’t like the fact that I posted this – too bad, this is my facebook wall, this is my opinion and you don’t have to read it.