Monday, November 24, 2014

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


  1. Perhaps a bigger question that can be addressed in a future Daas Torah discussion is whether leading a Torah life is necessarily a more "ethical/moral" life.

    What happens when a respected Torah figure behaves in a manner that is clearly not ethical or moral? Sometimes they may seek to justify such a position by providing sources, and other times it is very clear that they are simply not following Halacha or even the secular law of the country in which they live. How should the rest of us react to this person? How should the rest of us react to those intent on remaining a follower of this person?

    What happens when the Torah's position on a situation appears very clearly unfair to one party? Is there maneuverability to introduce fairness by finding Halachic loopholes?

  2. Torturing husbands is today considered socially acceptable. Why are you arguing against society? (Facetious comment)

    You didn't mention giving a heter for (?non kosher?) Meat that his family had a substantial financial interest in. That's also considered socially acceptable.

  3. when you say "He is a giant in Torah knowledge.", do you mean he is a Gadol?

    If so, then there lies your answer.

  4. There isn't a single rosh yeshiva or rov who hasn't said or done some things which give people pause. But your opinion and long list of complaints is not shared by the vast majority of people here in the US where he is a well respected rosh yeshiva and posek. Your email correspondents are a self-selecting group, as are the commentors on this blog, and don't represent general opinion.

  5. Is he simply too big to fail?

    Unfortunately, that seems to be the way many people see it. The American Yated - which had printed Rav Elyashives scarcely veiled criticism of Rabbi Belsky during the bitul kedushin fiasco - now puts a picture of Rabbi Belsky in its centerfold every single week! I've heard that they do it as a form of "pidyon shvuim", in order to make him appear too big for the FBI to arrest him for his role in the get extortion cases.

    Unfortunately, I know of several case where still-married women are violating gilui arayos according to the majority of poskim, due to his heterim in gitin. Those children are at best, possible legitimates. Nebach. Which just clarifies, that misplaced compassion is in essence cruelty.
    This is cruel to the unsuspecting woman.
    This is cruel to her unsuspecting beau.
    This is horrendously cruel to their child.

  6. Yes, highly problematic to learn hilchos potato chips from someone whose judgment in other areas has been problematic.

    (I joke.)

    Actually, what bothers me more is that the oylam, when presented with the opportunity to hear Torah from a unique genius like Rav Belsky (I acknowledge that his judgement has been highly problematic sometimes) would utilize him for hilchos potato chips rather than something more edifying.

  7. there are stories in the gemara about rabbanim that make your hair stand on edge. the normal thing to do is explain it away (or try to) or say "we don't understand".

  8. !@Ben waxmn - or claim that they did teshuva

    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),

  9. that's a nice quote, would you also apply it in your Belsky post?

  10. when presented with the opportunity to hear Torah from a unique genius

    Rambam, hilchos talmud Torah, perek 4:

    ב. וכן הרב שאינו הולך בדרך טובה--אף על פי שחכם גדול הוא, וכל העם צריכין לו--אין מתלמדין ממנו, עד שיחזור למוטב: שנאמר "כי שפתי כוהן ישמרו דעת, ותורה יבקשו מפיהו: כי מלאך ה' צבאות, הוא" (מלאכי ב,ז). אמרו חכמים, אם דומה הרב למלאך ה' צבאות, תורה יבקשו מפיהו; ואם לאו, אל יבקשו תורה מפיהו.

  11. is not shared by the vast majority of people here in the US

    Really? How do you know this?
    Has he been invited to join the moetzes of Agudath Yisroel? Why not?
    What did Rav Pam, his co-Rosh Yeshiva, think of his actions?
    How about Rav Aron Schechter?
    How about Rabbi Reisman? Etc etc

  12. whether leading a Torah life is necessarily a more "ethical/moral" life.

    Absolutely! It is the height of stupidity to insinuate and claim that a life devoid of Torah will lead one to be more ethical than a life of following the Torah. However, any individual who is following the Torah in certain areas, yet violating its principals in other areas - is still better off than had he not been following the Torah.

  13. Are you familiar with his written support for DW? How the Five Town rabbonim publicly responded to this? I think you should add it to the list.

  14. Not that the following applies to rabbi b, but
    A. A sinner Ben Adam lechavero must make whole to the victim. (Yes, i refer to $, besides public apology ( though there are opinions that an adam gadol,not necessarily refering to big in torah, does not have to make it public; not necessarily applies to this case.) (Perhaps a topic for a separate post.)

    B. Someone who commits the same sin regularly is not considered to have done tshuvah, unless we actually know he did tshuvah.

  15. Fine.
    But the oylam wants to learn from him anyway.
    And the topic they chose was Hilchos Potato Chips.

  16. Rav Pam was too peaceful a rav to get involved.

    Rav schechter has his own issues, and rav R is only a junior RY.

  17. I have a question, which is unrelated to this post, but it applies, since someone is quoting Rambam below, and he (Rambam) is quoting the TaNaCh. Since I am not a Talmid Chacham, I wish to know how Rabbanim relate to the Written Torah? Or how they learn Torah SheBal Peh in relation to the written? Is the Torah seen as central, and the Oral Law peripheral, or the other way round? Is the Tenach simply a book to refer to when learning a daf of Gemara, ie a source book for references, but the "essence" of Judaism is really the Talmud?

    Thank you

  18. depends on what you define a Torah life to be. For many hareidim, they do not consider MOs or RZs to be within the "ball park". Then in the hareidi camp, there is an extremist element who say the same about other hareidim. Then in the extremist Eda, they say the same about some of their own Dayanim.
    In the MO world, they say this about some groups within. And then you can look at it from another perspective. Some groups will say that certain "frum" ideas are not according to the Torah. who is right?

  19. Don't leave us hanging, Eddie! Tell us who's right!

  20. I'm sure you have some ideas about this topic - why don't you share them, at length?

  21. Rav Pam was too peaceful a rav to get involved.

    Are you suggesting that they got along well, and that Rav Pam did not have some major complaints on Rabbi B? Please verify this. Thank you

  22. Think of stereo vision, or stereo audio. For those blessed with good hearing and sight, there is a qualitative difference between seeing with one eye, hearing with one ear, and seeing with both eyes, hearing with both ears.

    Now think of your intuitive ability to process information. You look at a complicated scene and you take it all in and it makes sense. The sky, clouds, sun; the trees; the street scene; the wording on the signs; the speech of passersby.

    That is the physical world. Meshed perfectly with the physical world is a spiritual world. Just as you can discern the meaning of the physical world (that tall, brown object with green at the top you immediately recognize as a tree), so someone trained in spirituality can discern the spiritual message (that is an Esrog tree and the fruit from it is essential for my connecting with My Creator).

    A young child has to develop before it can grasp the messages of the physical world. The child eats and breathes and grows. The soul must develop to comprehend the spiritual messages of the spiritual world. The spiritual food, water, and air the soul requires has a name: Torah.

    The student studies the Written Torah in depth for five years. The student then studies the Oral Torah in depth for ten years. His mind and soul mix the two into a coherent message, as the body mixes light from two eyes, sound from two ears, into a rich, deep, meaningful whole.

    I'm sure you have no doubt in your mind that the sun is the sun. The student of the Torah has no doubt he has the right and true Torah passed down from Mount Sinai unchanged from Moshe Rabeinu, generation to generation, down to the student, who passes it on in turn to his students.

    This is not an exact answer to your question, but I think it begins to address it. That's it, typed with one finger. Now go and find a teacher and learn the rest.

  23. in some, many of the stories, there are consequences. someone dies, someone's kids die. that these chachamim did tsheuva is good, but that doesn't mean that the actions are undone.

    the rosh yeshiva of netzarim just gave a class on doing tshuva and one of the points that he made was that tshuva doesn't undo anything. kapara isn't time travel that changes history.

    so my point remains. we learn their torah even though their CVs aren't spotless.

  24. (I guess my previous response didn't go through.)

    Rav Pam was too peaceful a rav to get involved.

    Despite Rav Pam's bending over in every way not to be involved in friction, he did not get along with Rabbi B due to disagreeing with his actions.... Anyone who attended Torah V'daas during those years is well aware of it.

  25. I am sure you also have some ideas on this, so why don't you feel free to give them? I recall somebody was attacking rishonim for their independent views, perhaps it was one of the Chaims on here.
    The Torah commentators have differing interpretations of the Torah. For every place I look for interpretation, i usually find some opinions that I agree with, and others that I don't, or rather, some opinions that go against the "official version".
    Another interesting question is whether the Oral Law is an amplification of the written, or something altogether different. And if it is [different], should it be?

  26. But we need YOUR opinion!

  27. Chaim, I don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Sha'S like some on here might do.

    My understanding is that the Sefer Torah is central, and that Torah Law is central. This can be proven in many ways. For example, nobody does Hagbah with a volume of talmud. You cannot rest a mishnah on top of a Chumash but you can vice versa.
    Even regarding Torah Law, we see that in cases of safek d'oraita l'humra, and safek d'rabbanan l'kulo.
    There is also the Ramban on Lo Tosifu, where he brings that the Neviim and hachamim opposed the institution of Purim. So there are plenty of more examples i could bring to support my case.

  28. Eddie, may I ask if you reviewed what I wrote in response to your original question, and if yes, did you think about it? Close one eye, look at the world, now open that eye and close the other and look. Two different pictures of the same scene. Are your eyes "disagreeing"? Yes! Now open both eyes. Is the information you are receiving from your eyes now giving you a greater picture? Yes. Think about what I've written. Torah Scholars are the Eyes of the Nation.

  29. Eddie - sometimes you ask questions in a way that gives the impression that you don't already have a strong opinion on one way of the matter. This makes people who don't know you (like Joe Orlow for example, and once upon a time, me) to view the question as a serious request for information, and to respond accordingly, only to see from your responses that you already have preconceived notions which you didn't want to reveal originally. Couldn't you be a tad more honest and say, "I believe X. Does anyone agree/disagree with me?" Then we would all know where we stand.

    Gut Voch

    Chaim (the real one)

  30. "Couldn't you be a tad more honest" -
    what is dishonest about asking a question?
    My question did not state that I do not have a view, it was asking what Rabbanim themselves think.
    I essentially restated what I heard from my first Gemara teacher, after i had my barmitzvah.
    It is also ironic that you never answer my questions, but only ask me to give my view on the matter.

    Shavua tov!

  31. Joseph, yes I read it once, and now read it again, thank you. I actually have not come across this perspective before. You are kind saying that they are separate, but equal, but work together as a whole.
    I have heard several other perspectives as well.
    many thanks

  32. ChChaim "This makes people who don't know you (like Joe Orlow for example, and once upon a time, me) to view the question as a serious request for
    information, and to respond accordingly, only to see from your responses that you already have preconceived notions which you didn't want to
    reveal originally. "


    Firstly, Chaim you do not know me.

    Secondly, the fact that I have my own perspective does not detract from the question being a serious one.

    to be clear, i have heard a lot of nonsense/kefira from people who consider themselves "talmidei chachamim". One such person, in Golders green, London once said of the Torah, that without the Oral Law it is , chas v'shalom "rubbish". This is frumikorsus. it is also gidduf - blasphemy.

    Joe's response was refreshing, since it does give an interesting viewpoint.

  33. I never said you were dishonest - I just asked you to be a bit <1>more

  34. Vayikra Rabbah 22:1:

    ריב"ל אָמַר וַעֲלֵיהֶם כְּכָל הַדְּבָרִים וּכְתִיב כָּל הַמִּצְוָה
    אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי וְגוֹ' כָּל כְּכָל דְּבָרִים הַדְּבָרִים מִצְוָה
    הַמִּצְוָה מִקְרָא מִשְׁנָה הֲלָכוֹת תַּלְמוּד תּוֹסֶפְתּוֹת אַגָּדוֹת
    וַאֲפִי' מַה שֶּׁתַּלְמִיד וָתִיק עָתִיד לוֹמַר לִפְנֵי רַבּוֹ כֻּלָּן
    נֶאֶמְרוּ לְמֹשֶׁה בְּסִינַי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (קהלת א) יֵשׁ דָּבָר שֶׁיֹּאמַר
    רְאֵה זֶה חָדָשׁ הוּא חֲבֵירוֹ מֵשִׁיב עָלָיו כְּבָר הָיָה לְעוֹלָמִים,

  35. Belsky is a disgrace to the Torah and a huge embarrassment to our community.He should be sacked by the OU and the Yeshiva where he works


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