Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is a talmid chachom/tzadik beyond criticism because he is presumed that he doesn't sin or because he certainly repented immediately?

One of the interesting issues that I found in researching the concept of judging others favorably - is the question of how to relate to the a talmid chachom/tzadik versus an average type person.

Judging favorably typically means that one gives someone the benefit of the doubt. If the act he did or the words he uttered could be understood as bad - then we are to judge him favorably. If the deeds are not ambiguous but are closer to being certainly bad - then judging him favorably is a pious act but is not required.

 We see from the following Rabbeinu Yonah that the tzadik or talmid chachom is judged differently. Even if the evidence is highly likely that he sinned - his is not to be judged as sinning.  The assumption is that it is so highly unlikely that he sinned. Thus Rabbeinu Yonah says this is not called giving him the benefit of the doubt - it is just not in the realm of likelihood - even if we have strong - but not conclusive evidence that he sinned.
 Rabbeinu Yonah(Shaarei Teshuva 3:218): In a situation that a person says something or does something and it is possible to judge his words or his actions either as being good or bad. 1) If he is a G-d fearing man then truth demands that he be judged innocent even if his words or actions are reasonably closer and inclined to being bad. 2) However if he is an average man who tries to be careful not to sin - even though he occasionally does sin - then you should push aside the doubt and judge him favorably. This is in accord with Shabbos (127b), "One who judges his fellow favorably then G-d will judge him favorably." Doing so is a positive command from the Torah as it says in Vayikra (19:15), "With righteousness you shall judge your neighbor." And even if the action seems more likely bad than good – it should remain a doubt – but don't decide that he is guilty. 3) Nonetheless if most of the man's deeds are bad or if you have established that he lacks fear of G-d in his heart – in such a case then in the case of doubt you should assume that his words and deeds are evil as it says, "The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked to their ruin" (Proverbs 21: 12). We have already interpreted this verse.

But what if he actually sinned and there is clear evidence that he sinned. Rabbeinu Yonah uses a different principle. It is not longer that he has a chezkash kashrus that is so strong that it is highly unlikely that he actually sinned - but that it is now highly unlikely he hasn't repented and thus the sin is not to be held against him. He bases himself on Berachos (19a).

Rabbeinu Yonah(Avos 1:6): Judge everyone favorably – This is talking about a case of a man who it is not known whether he is righteous or wicked or that he is known as an average person who sometimes does evil and sometimes does good. Therefore if he does something which could be evaluated as being either sinful or as good – or even if it seems more likely to be sinful – but since it is possible to understand it as good it should be believed that he intended it for the good. However this rule does not apply to either the truly righteous or the truly evil. A truly righteous person even if he does something which is totally bad  - he should be judged as innocent by saying that it was an accident and that he has repented for the sin. This is stated in Berachos (19a), "If you see a talmid chachom at night doing a sin one should not suspect him of being sinful the next day because he has definitely repented."... Thus we see that a talmid chachom is never to be viewed as a sinner and therefore there is no need to say that he should be judged favorably. Similarly a truly wicked person is not judged favorably   - even when he does something totally good that there is no basis to question – he should still be viewed as an evil person and that he is a hypocrite for acting as if he were good. This is stated in Mishlei 26:25),

Rabbeinu Yonah(Mishlei 24:28): Don’t be a gratuitous witness of your fellow man – ...This principle is stated in Berachos (19a), If you see a talmid chachom sinning at night, do not suspect of him of sinning anymore by the day because he will surely have repented by then. Since he has the reputation of a person who is fearful of sinning and he is upset and regrets that his lust overcame him. However if the talmid chachom is in fact a wicked person who is mistakenly thought by the people to be righteous – he is not only to be criticized to those who know how to keep quiet – but in fact it is a mitzva to publicize his deeds until they are well known to the public. That is because severe harm occurs when wicked people are honored because he will turn many away from the proper path and denigrate the honor of the righteous and encourages sinning. There is in fact profanation of G‑d’s name by honoring the wicked because some people will be aware of the sins the wicked do and will concluded that there is nothing wrong with sinning and that it doesn’t lower one’s stature (Yoma 86b)…

The obvious problem with this Rabbeinu Yonah is that the gemora makes a clear distinction and says that the presumption of immediate teshuva is only for sexual sins - but not for monetary ones. Why doesn't Rabbeinu Yonah makes this distinction. A second problem is that we see clearly in our generation that talmdidei chachom commit sexual crimes they don't repent immediate and in fact we have seen recent cases where there sinning has continued over many years? The answer to these questions is that the Chavis Yair (62) and others say simply that the status of talmid chachom for these issues hasn't been relevant for hundreds of years.

It is also interesting that this explanation seems unique to Rabbeinu Yonah

Rambam(Avos 1:6): Judge all people as innocent. This means that if there is a man that you don't know whether he is righteous or wicked and you see him do something or say something that can be interpreted either as good or bad – you should understand it as good and not bad. However if you know the person to be an established tzadik and his deeds are good and he apparently does something that is bad and only by using a far-fetched explanation can it be justified – then it is proper to assume that in fact it was good and do not suspect him of evil.... On the other hand a person well established as evil then it is best to avoid such a person and not to believe he is capable of doing anything good – if there is anyway of interpreting it as evil behavior. Finally if the person is not known to you and his deeds have not been determined to be good or bad – then it is necessary as an act of piety to judge him favorably.
This takes us to another issue - the principle of judging favorably is apparently going against truth. In other words we are to judge favorably even when it is reasonable that a person actually sinned. An additional problem is that turning off our critical awareness - is harmful to society. While it is true based on Nidah (61a) that one should take defensive actions - but it still highly increases the likelihood of erring when the person is actually sinning - then if we didn't have this principle. There are many examples of this dealing with sexual abuse and financial misconduct. [to be continued]

Friday, November 28, 2014

MK Miri Regev notes that women can be victimizers and not just victims.

Arutz 7    Israel marked the UN's International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women this week, but one Knesset Committee took the opportunity to note that women can be victimizers and not just victims.

The Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection Committee devoted a special session week to the subject of domestic violence, as part of the Knesset's activities marking November 25, the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women, which was declared by the UN in 1999.

The day was also marked by the Knesset's Committee for Advancement of Women's Status, but Internal Affairs Committee Chairwoman MK Miri Regev (Likud) took a more inclusive approach than the one exhibited in the Committee for Advancement of Women's Status. The Internal Affairs Committee is charged, among other things, with supervising the Israel Police.
MK Regev remarked to the committee that domestic violence is also perpetrated by women, and that its victims include children and men. In this, she departed from the “politically correct” line that is usually heard in the Knesset on November 25. [...]

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Consequences of easy divorce: Divorced Mothers Turning to Prostitution

Arutz 7   Dozens of divorced Israeli mothers have joined the prostitution trade in Eilat, as divorce rates skyrocket.

Dozens of divorced and separated Israeli mothers have joined the sex trade in the southern city of Eilat, according to a report on Channel 2 News's website.

The new trend can be seen as a byproduct of Israel's growing divorce rate, which studies say has reached 40% in just the first ten years of marriage.

According to the report, Eilat brothels disguised as massage parlors used to employ women brought into Israel for prostitution from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, but after the security fence was built along the border with Sinai, Bedouin smugglers are no longer able to bring these women into Israel. 

Their place has been taken, in large part, by Israeli women, many of whom are divorced or recently separated mothers. The report quotes several of them as saying that they are able to make 20,000 shekels (over $5,000) or more a month in prostitution, while their former jobs earned them a quarter of that amount. [...]

Under pressure from radical women's groups, Israel has adopted a plethora of policies that encourage women to divorce - including meaningful financial benefits that are offered to separated and divorced women regardless of the circumstances of the divorce.

Fighting Child Trafficking

Here is a letter to me from Rob Morris, just back from a recent trip on behalf of his child trafficking rescue organization, Love 146.

Dear Alec,

Just got in from my trip to the Philippines and it was amazing. I think people too often only talk about the horror and despair surrounding child trafficking and exploitation (which is a reality), but not enough about the hope, empowerment and change that is also just as much of a reality.
As I mentioned in my email, while in the Philippines I had the privilege of being part of two weddings for girls who were rescued years ago, were brought to our safe home, went through our program and were reintegrated back into a community. They came back to our safe home because they wanted to have their weddings there. It was amazing and beautiful. It was so humbling and such an honor to be a part of it.

While there, I was also able to spend time with girls who are currently in the safe home as well as several who had graduated from the home and are now living in communities and holding down good jobs. One of the girls I met with is Amanda. Amanda's past of abuse and exploitation began when she was eight. She was eventually trafficked throughout different provinces and even sold on the Internet. She was rescued when she was 14 and then moved from institution to institution. Her greatest desire was to go to school. Because she was unable to attend school in these institutions she ran away and began working in bars and ended up being exploited again.

Rescued again, she came into Love146's care. We lost no time putting Amanda in a home study program in our safe home that would allow her to learn at her own pace. At age 17 she began at a fourth grade level. After just one year, she passed exams that allowed her to skip high school and go on to college. During college we continued to support her with private tutoring. She has now finished her courses and passed qualifying exams to become a professional caregiver. She is now able to work in hospitals, schools, and other facilities with children, adults and the elderly. 

How many times does a girl need to be rescued before she is free? For Amanda, the answer was until she was given access to education. [...]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How do responsible Jewish organizations respond to abuse allegations?

The Jewish Week     The revelation that one of the most respected rabbis in our community is alleged to be an abusive Peeping Tom has come as a shock. Unfortunately, the allegations against Rabbi Barry Freundel in Washington, D.C., are but the latest in a long string of abuse cases that have come to light over the past few decades. The one thing that they all have in common is that they all had warning signs. There were always things that did not seem right or behavior that was bizarre. Many people were holding pieces of the puzzle but there was no one to put them all together. This is the crux of the crisis facing our community. How do we protect our children and institutions from those who seek to abuse others? [...]

In the wake of the 2000 Jewish Week expose by Gary Rosenblatt on the decades’-long abusive behavior by Rabbi Lanner, who was NCSY’s director of regions, the OU formed a commission to investigate. It became clear very quickly that many lay and professional leaders knew about the abusive behavior, but everyone claimed they only knew a piece of the puzzle. No one was putting it all together. Thus was born the NCSY ombudsman. A position was created so that all complaints would be filtered through one person, independent of the organization and therefore unbiased.

Fast forward to January 2005. That was when I became the international director of NCSY and assumed responsibility for the ombudsman. At the time the system was in place but left much to be desired in terms of accomplishing its goals. I realized that when I was handed a folder full of ombudsman complaints. Unfortunately, the files were generally incomplete. The complaints mostly consisted of emails that had been put in a file. There was no systematic filing system for abuse complaints. More importantly, there was no conclusion ascribed to the complaints. It was impossible to know what had happened and how each issue was resolved. This is not uncommon in the Jewish community, where there is much turnover of staff and little institutional memory.

Aside from the filing issues, another pressing matter was brought to my attention. When the NCSY ombudsman was put into place, there were no guidelines in terms of what fell within the discretion of the overseer. Often, after an employee was let go from the organization, inevitable anonymous complaints would be submitted to the ombudsman complaining about that person’s supervisor. This wasted a lot of time and effort on things that should have been handled by the human resources department. [...]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson grand jury's extraordinary efforts to establish truth - but does it matter?

NY Times  Officer Wilson’s version of events was just one part of a vast catalog of testimony and other evidence that the grand jurors absorbed during the three months that they heard the case. Yet it appeared to have helped convince the jurors, a group of nine whites and three African-Americans, that the officer had committed no crime when he killed Mr. Brown. On Monday, the announcement that there was no indictment set off violent protests, burning and looting throughout the beleaguered St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Most grand jury proceedings are swift and simple: a few witnesses are called, the prosecutor makes the case for an indictment and the jurors vote.

But the grand jury in the Wilson case met for an extraordinarily long session, hearing what the prosecutor said was “absolutely everything” that could be considered testimony or evidence in the case. While what happens in the grand jury room is almost always kept secret, Mr. McCulloch insisted on making the transcripts of the proceedings available to the public immediately after the session concluded. Unlike most defendants, Officer Wilson testified before the grand jury.

The grand jurors in the Wilson case met in a St. Louis County courthouse on 25 separate days. They heard 70 hours of testimony from roughly 60 witnesses. And they confronted a jumble of forensics reports, police radio logs, medical documents and tapes of F. B. I interviews with bystanders. [...]

Monday, November 24, 2014

'Vanished' Millionaire Guma Aguiar's Estate Divided among Heirs

Arutz 7    Two years after Aguiar mysteriously disappeared, 9 Jerusalem properties worth $44 million to be split between his mother, sisters and wife.

The estate of Guma Aguiar, the Jewish philanthropist who disappeared off Fort Lauderdale in June, 2012, has been divided among his heirs by a Florida court, reports Yediot Aharonot.

The court approved a compromise agreed upon by Aguiar's wife, Jamie, and his mother, Ellen, along with his sisters Adriana and Angelika.

The sides had been in conflict over the estate, with each side claiming all of the estate for itself, and Jamie insisting at first that her husband was still alive. Jamie accused her mother-in-law of wanting to drive a wedge between her and Guma, while Ellen said that the reason Guma went out to sea on the day he disappeared was that he was distraught after Jamie told him she wants to divorce him. Jamie completely denies this version of events.

Rav Belsky as a teacher of Torah and as a role model after a series of problematic events?

For many of us, Rav Belsky has been a role model for many years. He is a giant in Torah knowledge. He has been selflessly and readily available for halachic questions and advice. He is one of the leading experts on kashrus in the world and the basis for the reputation of OU Kashrus. He is also an independent thinker - even going against the accepted wisdom for that which he views as true.

Unfortunately events in recent years have raised major question about his judgment. His strong defense of Kolko of Torah Temima, Kolko of New Jersey where he also strongly attacked the abuse victim's father and falsely accused him of being a moser and a molester. The revelation of his role in the torture of husbands in get cases. Gedolim have denounced him in other divorce cases for questionable tactics. What does that mean about his being a role model and gadol? Why does the OU continue to employ him when his values clearly are inconsistent with theirs?

I have received enough emails that have convinced me that I am not the only one who is strongly bothered by the question. More importantly why this is the elephant in the room that everybody tries not to see? Is he simply too big to fail? See Chazon Ish: Lashon Harah about gedolim

RCA acknowledges R Belsky's views on abuse are problematic

R Belsky's contradictory statements about not going to police for abuse 

Rabbi Goldin president of RCA discusses Rav Belsky's views

Rav Aharaon Schecter and Rav Miller criticize Rav Belsky

Rav Belsky, Mendel Epstein and torturing husbands

Abduction and torture of Rabbi Rubin

Rav Belsky accuses father of being a moser and molester

Torture of Rabbi Avraham Rubin to give a get

Rav Belsky's support of child molesters

Support for Lakewood Kolko

Rav Sternbuch's psak to report Kolko to police

Involvement in the Friedman Epstein divorce case
Friedman case - See page 3 of Rav Gestetner bitul seruv

Burying objects with the deceased - what is the source of the practice?

Someone just asked me about the appropriateness of burying objects with the deceased. Below is a description of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's wife being buried with a ring. Similarly Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld was buried with some of the wood of his dining room table as a zechus for the tremendous kiruv work he accomplished at his Shabbos table. Does anyone have a source for the practice?

 From Telushkin, Joseph (2014-06-10). Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History (Kindle Locations 6683-6687). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Per Chabad custom, no eulogies were delivered. A twenty-member motorcycle police guard escorted the procession from Crown Heights. Also accompanying the Rebbetzin was a ring given to her by her sister Sheina, who was murdered in Treblinka; the Rebbe instructed that the ring be interred with her. The last line on the Rebbetzin’s matzevah (monument), after various honorifics about Chaya Mushka and her parents, mentions her sister, “the righteous Rebbetzin Sheina.

Multiple Personality Hoax - or How psychiatrists messed up the lives of thousands

NY Times   The notion that a person might embody several personalities, each of them distinct, is hardly new. The ancient Romans had a sense of this and came up with Janus, a two-faced god. In the 1880s, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a novella that provided us with an enduring metaphor for good and evil corporeally bound. Modern comic books are awash in divided personalities like the Hulk and Two-Face in the Batman series. Even heroic Superman has his alternating personas.

But few instances of the phenomenon captured Americans’ collective imagination quite like “Sybil,” the study of a woman said to have had not two, not three (like the troubled figure in the 1950s’ “Three Faces of Eve”), but 16 different personalities. Alters, psychiatrists call them, short for alternates. As a mass-market book published in 1973, “Sybil” sold in the millions. Tens of millions watched a 1976 television movie version. The story had enough juice left in it for still another television film in 2007.

Sybil Dorsett, a pseudonym, became the paradigm of a psychiatric diagnosis once known as multiple personality disorder. These days, it goes by a more anodyne label: dissociative identity disorder. Either way, the strange case of the woman whose real name was Shirley Ardell Mason made itself felt in psychiatrists’ offices across the country. Pre-"Sybil,” the diagnosis was rare, with only about 100 cases ever having been reported in medical journals. Less than a decade after “Sybil” made its appearance, in 1980, the American Psychiatric Association formally recognized the disorder, and the numbers soared into the thousands. [...]

As retold in this latest video documentary from Retro Report, part of a series exploring past news stories and their consequences, the phenomenon burned most intensely for roughly a decade, from the mid-1980s to the mid-'90s. Then it faded from public view, partly the result of lawsuits brought successfully against some psychiatrists, who were found by the courts to have used dubious methods to lead their patients down the path of false memories.[...]

Dr. Wilbur did not write up her findings in some dry professional journal. Instead, she went looking for a large audience, and enlisted a writer, Flora Rheta Schreiber, to produce what became a blockbuster. But as the years passed, challengers began to speak up. One was Herbert Spiegel, a New York psychiatrist who said that he had treated Ms. Mason when Dr. Wilbur was on vacation. Dr. Spiegel described his patient not as a sufferer of multiple personality disorder but, rather, as a readily suggestible “hysteric.” A harsher judgment was rendered in the 1990s by Robert Rieber, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a New York City school where Ms. Schreiber taught English. After listening to tape recordings that he said Ms. Schreiber had given him, he concluded that “it is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be.” Debbie Nathan, a writer interviewed for this Retro Report documentary, piled on still more skepticism in her 2011 book, “Sybil Exposed.” Perhaps inevitably in a dispute of this sort, counter-revisionists then emerged to denounce the doubters and to defend “Sybil” as rooted in reality.

Overwhelmingly, those receiving a diagnosis of the disorder have been women. They typically had rough childhoods. A pattern to their stories — Ms. Mason fell squarely within it — was that they endured horrific physical and sexual abuse when they were little. More than a few claimed to have been the victims of torture at the hands of satanic cults. In many cases, their memories were brought to the surface through hypnotism or with injections of so-called truth serums like sodium pentothal. But were those recollections real? The “Sybil” phenomenon went arm in arm with a reassessment of certain psychiatric techniques. Some studies concluded that people may have become less inhibited with pharmacological intervention, but not necessarily more truthful. Other research found that hypnosis sometimes creates false memories. Those who dismiss Dr. Wilbur’s work as hokum say that induced false memories lay at the heart of her work with Ms. Mason. [...]

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Har Nof Massacre: Survivor describes his miraculous escape

Arutz 7   Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein describes his 'miraculous' escape from the brutal massacre at Har Nof synagogue - after tackling a terrorist.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, one of several people seriously wounded in last week's horrific attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, has described his "miraculous" survival to journalists for the first time.

Speaking with some difficulty from a wheelchair at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem where he is being treated for his wounds, Rabbi Goldstein recounted the terrifying moment two terrorists burst in during morning prayers at Har Nof's Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue.

He said the attack happened during the Amida - the central prayer of the service - and recalled how he suddenly heard gunshot and saw people fall to the floor "ducking for cover."

Rabbi Goldstein described how one of the two terrorists struck him three times with a meat-cleaver, twice in the head and once in the back, leaving him for dead on the ground.[...]

Religious affairs minister:Jailed Israeli Get refusers should be denied mehadrin food


הפתרון שישחרר עגונות? סגן שר הדתות מציע חוק שישלול מסרבני גט את האפשרות לקבלת אוכל 'מהדרין


הצהריים (א) הופיע סגן השר לשירותי דת הרב אלי בן דהן בפני ועדת השרים לענייני חקיקה וביקש מחברי הועדה לתמוך בחוק אשר שולל מסרבני גט שמרצים מאסר בבית סוהר, אפשרות לקבלת אוכל מהדרין.

Computers and automation make us dumb

Wall Street Journal    Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.[...]

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons.

Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”[...]

Late last year, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration task force on cockpit technology documented a growing link between crashes and an overreliance on automation. Pilots have become “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive,” the panel warned. The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to spend more time flying by hand.[...]

The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 2002 that human expertise develops through “experience in a variety of situations, all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions.” In other words, our skills get sharper only through practice, when we use them regularly to overcome different sorts of difficult challenges.

The goal of modern software, by contrast, is to ease our way through such challenges. Arduous, painstaking work is exactly what programmers are most eager to automate—after all, that is where the immediate efficiency gains tend to lie. In other words, a fundamental tension ripples between the interests of the people doing the automation and the interests of the people doing the work. [...]

Harvard Medical School professor Beth Lown, in a 2012 journal article written with her student Dayron Rodriquez, warned that when doctors become “screen-driven,” following a computer’s prompts rather than “the patient’s narrative thread,” their thinking can become constricted. In the worst cases, they may miss important diagnostic signals. [...]

We do not have to resign ourselves to this situation, however. Automation needn’t remove challenges from our work and diminish our skills. Those losses stem from what ergonomists and other scholars call “technology-centered automation,” a design philosophy that has come to dominate the thinking of programmers and engineers. [....]

There is an alternative.

In “human-centered automation,” the talents of people take precedence. Systems are designed to keep the human operator in what engineers call “the decision loop”—the continuing process of action, feedback and judgment-making. That keeps workers attentive and engaged and promotes the kind of challenging practice that strengthens skills.[...]

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Settlement of abuse by popular teacher case to cost L.A. $170 million

Fox News        Once lawyers began digging into Mark Berndt's past, they discovered a three-decade pattern of odd behavior and complaints about the teacher that school administrators either missed or ignored. 

Both students and teachers had complained about the popular elementary school teacher who was eventually convicted of committing numerous lewd acts on his students.

The settlement involving 81 students is believed to be the largest ever for a school sex abuse case, according to victims' lawyers, and increases the public price of the scandal to $170 million when combined with 65 cases settled earlier for $30 million.

"There was a volcano of evidence," attorney John Manly said. "The district settled this case because there as a gun pointed at their head, a legal gun, and it was about to go off and the public was going to find out everything."

Lawyers said none of it would have come to light if it hadn't been for a gutsy pharmacy photo clerk who called police when she discovered the troubling photos and learned Berndt had been processing similar pictures there since 2005.

The 19-year-old woman had only been on the job a month and her supervisors told her not to call police. She did it anyway.

Lawyers for the children said they managed to unearth a dozen incidents involving Berndt between 1983 and 2009 and found that no action was taken to remove him from teaching.

Har Nof massacre: Rav Chaim Kaniefsky and Rav Reuben

Arutz 7

Rabbi Yitzhak Mordechai Hacohen Rubin, rabbi of the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem that was brutally attacked on Tuesday, went to visit hareidi leaders on Thursday to ask their participation in a eulogy for the four Jews murdered in the attack, in which a Druze police officer was also murdered. [...]

The hareidi leader explained that "there needs to be an atonement" for the generation so as to merit the coming of the Mashiach, an atonement he argued the victims of the terror attack partially made.

Rabbi Kraus follows in the footsteps of Rabbi Rackman in "solving" the Aguna problem

Jewish Week    The court, called the International Beit Din, was formed in June and is headed by Rabbi Simcha Krauss, a highly respected former pulpit rabbi in Queens and Religious Zionist of America leader who made aliyah in 2005. It is interpreting Jewish law in new ways — still consistent with tradition, its leaders say — to procure a get, or religious divorce, for agunot, women stuck in marriages with recalcitrant husbands.[...]

While the number of agunot is not known, the problem has gone largely unsolved, pitting traditional Jewish law against those who feel deep empathy for women stuck in loveless marriages. At the root of the issue is the husband’s absolute right when it comes to issuing a get, or Jewish divorce. And while rabbinic authorities offer sympathy for these women, they maintain they are constrained from action in many cases by the boundaries of halacha. The result, at times, has the husband using extortion before granting a divorce, insisting on large sums of money and/or refusing joint custody of children. According to Jewish law, if the agunah marries and has a child, the child is considered a mamzer, illegitimate, and cannot marry a Jew. (This is not true in the husband’s case.)

Concerns about the moral injustice of the “absolute right” principle have led to a myriad of efforts to resolve the agunah problem, or “crisis,” in recent years. In the 1990s, the late Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, a major figure in Modern Orthodoxy and president of Bar-Ilan University, convened a beit din that issued divorces on the basis of kiddushei ta’ot, a Talmudic concept for annulment. The principle reasons that the woman never would have married her husband if she had known he would act in an abusive fashion during the marriage.

While deeply respected on a personal level by his peers, Rabbi Rackman, who died in 2008,was unsuccessful in persuading them to accept his approach, which was considered too lenient. The practical result was that many rabbis refused to officiate at the subsequent weddings of women who had been freed by the rabbi’s bet din.

Rabbi Krauss is introducing the legal concept of get zikui, annulling a marriage based on what is best for both parties. The principle operates on the premise that the divorce will ultimately benefit the husband as well as the wife.

“There is no more relationship — they have gone their separate ways,” explained Rabbi Krauss in an email. “The husband doesn’t want to give the get unless he gets money. It’s not true that he doesn’t want to give a divorce, but he wants money. Deep down, he wants to be free and pursue his life.”

The International Beit Din will not use get zikui to the exclusion of other methods, explained Rabbi Yosef Blau, another of the three judges on the panel and the spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University.

“A number of tools can be used,” he said. “Each case will be evaluated on its own merit. The goal is to free women in a way that the decision will be accepted in the broader community.”[...]

Still, despite support from abroad, the new religious court has already met with resistance here. According to a source close to the court, several leading rabbis at Yeshiva University, including Rabbi Mordechai Willig and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, have already expressed reservations about the court’s methodology. The source wished to remain anonymous in order to avoid “mahchlocet,” public disagreement. [...]

Aside from methodology, the International Beit Din will also implement a new policy of transparency. According to traditional Jewish law, members of the court do not have to give any explanation for their rulings. But Rabbi Ronnie Warburg, director of the International Beit Din and the court’s third judge, explained that “transparency is an imperative.” [...]

Rav Moshe Sternbuch: Har Nof Massacre

  Rav Sternbuch 
Rav Sternbuch's shul at the time of the attack

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haf Nof Massacre: Rav Malinowitz

Practical question: Should I not present the Torah viewpoint because of threats of violence?

Update:see How Debbie Gross "saved" me from being abused at the Convention

I just received this letter from the organizer of the Conference on Abuse where I will be speaking at the beginning of December in Jerusalem. I replied that I still plan to show up. My view on these matters is  the mainstream view of the majority of poskim - no chumros.  Any thoughts?

Rabbi Eidensohn
Shalom u’vracha.
I am writing you concerning your email of a few weeks ago as to whether we will have some form of bodyguards at the conference to protect the speakers against “hecklers”.  Unfortunately, we do not have any funds or way to provide any form of protection to the speaker.  In these difficult security times in Jerusalem, we are hoping just to stay safe from the arab terrorists who seem to be everywhere. 

I would like to alert you to the fact that we have been receiving numerous emails over the past week, from agunot and their families concerning your views and blogs about agunot and the use of the internet.  These emails have been very aggressive and threatening.  I would like to alert you to this fact so that you can reevaluate whether you are prepared both emotionally and physically to deal with what seems to be a large amount of angry participants who are specifically coming to the conference to denounce you and your views.  I am taking their anger quite seriously and relaying such to you.  I hope that you are prepared to deal with their anger and aggression.  I would like you to take all of this into consideration prior to coming to the conference.  I will certainly understand should you decide that this is not the right platform for you at this time.

Har Nof massacre: Widows ask that everyone be more loving and caring

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: "Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish Approach" (2014)

available at Amazon

Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish Approach (2014)
JOEL YEHUDAH RUTMAN  is a graduate of Brandeis and Harvard Medical School with Board certification in Pediatrics and in Neurology with Special Competence in Child Neurology . He has been involved in clinical care and teaching of pediatric neurology for many years . Since graduation from Orthodox Jewish institutions in Cleveland , Ohio , he has had a second career as a professional hazzan ( cantor).
I recently came across this book. It is written by a prominent pediatric neurologist (Harvard Medical School). It is also quite expensive – over $75 on Amazon over $100 on eBay.
He is obviously well acquainted with biology – however I was disappointed about how he dealt with the fundamental questions of  Evolution and Religion. Anybody who disagreed with him - e.g., the Lubavitche Rebbe  he simply dismissed - meaning those who rejected Evolution or those want to keep the two compartmentalized or those who want to reject religion. Thus there is no meaningful discussion about the Scientific issues. He also didn't display a sophisticated level of understanding of the theological issues. He takes for granted that Science is correct and that Evolution is true and that what he explains with Evolution can not be explained otherwise.

His purpose is simply to show that one can reasonably believe in the Torah and Evolution. However he fails to demonstrate why his position of accepting Religion and Evolution should be accepted by someone who rejects either Science or Religion – and in fact he doesn't really try. He is basically taking Rabbi Kelman's approach of Permission to Believe and showing that it is not irrational to accept both Evolution and Religion -  without having to prove the validity of either.
I copied part of his Introduction and his conclusion
This book is organized around three questions:
First Question: How can Judaism insist on a Creator God when evolution informs us that everything out there just happened - with no plan, no purpose? The answer requires an overview, however sketchy, of cosmic and biologic evolution (chapters 2 to 3). This is followed by the main point of the book, which is a proposed way of understanding evolution that is compatible with an intended world (chapters 4 to 6).
Second Question: Where do Genesis and evolution agree or disagree? The answer requires us to look at the Genesis text for its religious, rather than scientific, messages (chapters 7 and 8). Chapter 9 explains the contribution of evolutionary science to Jewish concepts of suffering and death.
Third Question: How does human evolution relate to moral behaviour? The answers will require a brief summary of human evolution and brain development and their contribution to Judaism's ideas of free will (chapters 10, 11 and 12).
1. Among notable works in this area are: N. Slifkin, The Challenge of Creation: Judaism's Encounter with Science, Cosmology and Evolution (http://www. zoororah.corn, Zoo Torah, 2006); G. Cantor and M. Swerlirz (eds), jewish Tradition GIld the Challenge of Darwinism (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2006); ~!'S. Cherry, 'Creation, Evolution and jewi h Thought' (Unpublished PhD dissertation, Brandeis University, 200]); A. Carmel and C. Dornb (eds), Challenge: Torah Views 011 Science and Its Problems (Jerusalem and New York: Feldheim, 1978}. The Catholic Church, relying on its Patristic tradition of biblical interpretation, hJS been increasingly supportive of Darwinian evolution. For instance, the 2009 conference on Catholic teaching and evolution at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute in Rome assumed without protest the validity of biological evolution. Conservative Protestantism has been more wary, as detailed in R.l. Numbers, The Creationists. From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).
2. Slifkin, The Challenge of Creation, p.20.
3, Quoted in D, Hartman, Israelis and Jewish Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), p.95.
4. Tanakh. The Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1985).
5. Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud (London: Soncino, J 990).
6. Daniel Gordis, 'The Shape and Meaning of Biblical History ', Azure, 45 (Summer 5771/201 J), pp.80-1.
The Answers 
First Question: How can God be considered to have created the world when, according to evolution, everything just happened? The answer is that evolution did not just happen. The predictability and progress of evolution mark it as intended (Chapters 1 to 6).
Second Question: How can we believe in the truth of Genesis when it conflicts with the facts of evolution? The answer is that Genesis is a religious text, a source of purpose, meaning and values, rather than a scientific text. Evolution's facts deepen our appreciation of Judaism's truths - as in issues related to suffering and death (Chapters 7 to 9).
Third Question: How does human evolution relate to human moral behaviour? The answer is that even though we evolved, as have all other species, we are nevertheless intended and unique; even though evolution explains much of our moral behaviour, divine law remains necessary; and even though our brain function is heavily determined we retain free will (Chapters 10 to 12).