Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rav Nochum Eisenstein on the Tamar Epstein "Heter Nisuin"

Guest Post by MiMedinat HaYam

Wednesday nite on a local NY / NJ radio program by R Dovid Lichtenstein (a Lakewood real estate gvir, who wrote a book and gives a Lakewood shiur on current topics in halacha) R Nochum Eisenstein was interviewed regarding the Memphis "hafkaat kiddushin" case. (the program will probably be rebroadcast in NY metro area at 11PM motzei Shabbat on 570AM radio, and online at Nachum Segal. check their for schedules, other stations, and podcasts.)

The format of this program, as one can see at, is leading poskim and rabbonim on issues of the day.

Rav Eisenstein was "mesharet baKodesh" to Rav Yosef Shlomo Elyashiv for thirty years, specializing in kiddushin and giyur matters, and is currently the av bet din for Rav Elyashiv's bet din on this matter.

Rav Lichtenstein's office sent me a link to the program's recording at dropbox

Rav Eisenstein begins at approximately 38:30.

Some highlights:

Rav Elyashiv was very insistent that there is no hakfkaat kiddushin today. perhaps by a godol like Rav Moshe Feinstein, but that’s it.

Everything must be done "befanav" (in front of him) husband and wife, before a "proper bet din"

Rav Lichtenstein said he spoke with Rav Greenblatt, who told him he did this twice in sixty years, this is the second time (meaning Rav Greenblatt did the "hafakaah" and the subsequent kiddushin.)

Rav Eisenstein said that Rav Greenblatt is from the "gedolei america", but he added that "transparency will be the answer for everything" "there is no 'makor' (source) (in this case) for 'mekach taut' since they were living together and had a child together."

The discussion then turned to the issue of prenuptuals. "Rav Elyashiv was against any type of prenup" because of "asmachta" (though Rav Lichtenstein said there are solutions, but to Rav Elyashiv, they were "no good.") that was a halachic opposition. he Rav Elyashiv also had a hashkafic opposition that they were " not the derech of yisrael sabbah . . . not the way kiddushin is done."

Rav Eisenstein had an extensive discussion with Rav Dovid Feinstein this past summer on various issues, and he is authorized to quote Rav Dovid that "Rav Moshe was against all prenuptuals" halachically and hashkafically. 

He also quoted Rav Dovid that the "agunah problem is entirely out of proportion". and Rav Eisenstein goes on to say that he has handled numerous gitten, and they can always be solved, but once the parties get bad advice from bad sources, they are much more difficult to solve, and only then does one have problem solving them.

Friday, October 30, 2015

An Agunah's Story: Adina Porat

As there are always 2 sides to a dispute, I welcome any comments by Eli Shur - including a guest post - that explain why he hasn't given his wife a Get after 8 years.

In Dayton, Ohio’s Jewish community of approximately 4,000, few beyond the dozen or so Orthodox families here are familiar with the word agunot, let alone its ramifications.

But the issue of agunot — the plight of women in the Orthodox world whose husbands refuse to provide them with a get, a religious bill of divorce — is now squarely focused on this Midwest community. The New York-based Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) will hold a rally on Sunday, November 8 near the home of Dovid Porat, known locally by the name Eli Shur.

Shur and his wife, Adina Porat, were married in Israel in 1990. According to ORA, in 2007, Shur left his wife and their five children; he moved to the United States a year later. Since then, he has refused to provide his wife with a get. According to halacha (Jewish law), a divorce isn’t final until a husband provides his wife with a get. Without one, an agunah is unable to remarry.

Despite ORA’s private attempts over several years to obtain a get from Shur, he has refused. On October 21, ORA opened the website to announce the rally, along with a video interview of Adina Porat that has gone viral.

ORA anticipates supporters from Orthodox communities in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus will converge on Kettering, a city just south of Dayton, at 11:30 a.m. on November 8 to publicly ostracize Shur, raise awareness about the case, and to pressure him to sign a get.

“In my life, I’m stuck in a prison,” Adina Porat says in ORA’s video. “I can’t move on, I can’t continue. The kids never had a chance to have a stepfather, a new family, and to continue on with their lives.” [...]

In 2010, Shur arrived in Dayton to serve as ritual director of Beth Jacob Congregation. He had presented himself as a single man with no children. Nearly six months later, volunteers with ORA showed up at one of Shur’s evening classes at the synagogue and urged him to sign a get for his wife. He refused. The congregation fired him when it learned he had falsified his identity.

Despite repeated attempts, Shur declined to be interviewed for this article.

In agunot cases, it’s not unusual for husbands to attempt to extort wives and their families for money or property in exchange for a get. In Adina’s video, she says Shur hasn’t asked for anything.

According to ORA, in 2009, the Israeli Rabbinate ruled that Shur must give his wife a get. [...]

“I also made attempts to reach out to him,” Klayman says. “He did return one of my emails. He had no real context. He said they ruined his life, but he won’t tell you what they did, why they did it, or what he wanted to do to try and resolve it. Just a lot of ranting and cursing me. I made other attempts to reach out to him. He never responded again.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Intermarriage: Just Say “No”, and Mean It! by Rabbi Gordimer

Intermarriage is probably the reddest line that exists for Orthodox Jews. There are Jews who identify as Orthodox yet are not fully careful about kashrus, about certain aspects of Shabbos observance, and so forth – but to marry out is a non-starter. It is not on the radar, it is not done, and it is unthinkable.

The few Orthodox-affiliated Jews who do marry out are assured to be a few and not more, due to the utter ban and uncompromising rejection of intermarriage by the totality of the Orthodox community. This stance, which has become part of Jewish tradition and is not a new, reactionary position (not that new, reactionary positions are always bad – they are sometimes needed), has worked, except in times of mass public sh’mad (assimilation), when even the highest of barbed wire fences will not help. But under normal circumstances, the system is accepted without question and seems to be doing the job fairly well.

It is therefore with shock that I read Orthodox Rabbis Confront Intermarriage, by Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky of Big Tent Judaism and Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

For those who don’t know about Big Tent Judaism, one look at its website says it all. Featuring celebratory photos of intermarried families, we read things such as:
The Jewish people have been a global people, a “mixed multitude,” for thousands of years. Today we’re more diverse than ever, and that’s something to celebrate. Our families are all colors and include members from all other religious and cultural backgrounds. Together we strive to add meaning to our lives and to better the world, informed by our rich heritage.
We also read:
The Torah and the rest of the Jewish sacred literature contain both admonitions against intermarriage and positive examples of intermarriage. In Deuteronomy7: 1-3, the Torah says, “You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For you will turn you children away from Me to worship other gods….” This reference against intermarriage is based on the notion that intermarriage will lead the individual to another religion.
Despite this, the Torah also portrays positive examples of intermarriage. Moses married Tziporra, who was the daughter of a Midianite priest. Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, was a convert. Queen Esther, who saved the Jews from Haman in the Purim story, was married to the Persian, non-Jewish King Ahashverus.
The prohibition against intermarriage sought to preserve Judaism by maintaining exclusivity. The laws of kashrut (keeping kosher) try to accomplish this indirectly. If you have a special diet, you are less likely to eat with non-kosher, non-Jews, and therefore, you have less opportunity to socialize, and consequently, marry them.
That being said, it is evident that intermarriage is not only a modern phenomenon; it occurred in the Bible as well. Intermarriage is inevitable, especially in a society where Jews and non-Jews work together and socialize with one another with few barriers. Prohibiting it has not stopped the trend. Realizing the realities of Jewish society, the Jewish Outreach Institute works with the intermarried, promoting an inclusive Jewish community.
Big Tent Judaism refers people contemplating intermarriage to rabbis who will officiate at their intermarriages, and its message is one of total inclusion.

Of course, Big Tent Judaism is not purposefully promoting intermarriage, and its goal is, rather, the perpetuation of Judaism:
The Jewish Outreach Institute seeks to insure Jewish continuity. By providing an inclusive Jewish community, JOI believes that children of interfaith families will develop a Jewish identity. Instead of excluding interfaith families from the Jewish community, JOI believes that it is necessary to welcome them and educate them about Judaism.
Nonetheless, when the message sent is one of acceptance of intermarriage, it is clear that danger is lurking.

It was thus quite disturbing to read Rabbi Olitzky and Rabbi Lopatin jointly write:
Some people might think that facing the challenging reality of intermarriage and being fully committed to Orthodox Judaism is an oxymoron. Yet, two weeks ago, 20 Orthodox rabbis accepted an invitation by Big Tent Judaism and the Lindenbaum Center for Halachic Studies at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah to join together for a behind-closed-doors, daylong symposium focused on the nexus of the two issues.
We promised no media coverage out of respect for the rabbis’ willingness to participate. Sponsored by the Marion and Norman Tanzman Charitable Foundation, this was a historic meeting for Orthodox rabbis — the first of its kind — since the focus was not on so-called prevention. Rather, it was about understanding intermarried couples and their families. The conversation was frank. There were no pulled punches. Yet the pervasive question taken up by these rabbis was: How do I connect with people whose life choice I disagree with — and keep them engaged in the Jewish community?
…The rabbis also struggled with issues of patrilineal descent and the idea that the children of intermarriage (when the father is Jewish and the other partner is not) could be considered Jewish, even if not Jewish according to halacha. This topic also emerged while debating the validity of conversions by non-Orthodox rabbis.
….This symposium showed that Orthodoxy could maintain its fidelity to halacha and tradition while being sensitive to the complexities and realities of the diverse Jewish community. In fact, the Orthodox community might be critical in enabling intermarriage to not be “the end of the line,” but, rather, a challenge leading to a deeper relationship to Judaism and the Jewish community.
If the idea of the Big Tent Judaism-YCT symposium was to prevent intermarriage, or to try to work toward Orthodox conversion of intermarried families (something that is not practical), that is one thing. But by teaming up with Big Tent Judaism and entertaining engagement and acceptance of intermarried families, the central authority of Open Orthodoxy has crossed yet another bright red line.

A few weeks ago, YCT graduate Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz posted in favor of embracing intermarrieds. I just hope that this changed stance toward that which tradition has heretofore unequivocally shunned and excluded without exception will not be yet another major trend and fault line that divides Open Orthodoxy from the rest of the community.

Imagine sending a message that Orthodox Judaism does not allow intermarriage, yet if one intermarries, he is still welcome and can still even be “frum”. Imagine setting precedent for people to be intermarried yet “Orthodox”. Open Orthodoxy must urgently consider the very real dangers at hand.

Agudah Convention: Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky will explain leadership

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vayera 74 -The Art of Hospitality is in the ' Escorting'

Guest post by Allan Katz
Parashat Va'yeira opens up with Abraham being confined to his home after undergoing surgery – brit milah = circumcision. He still wants to have guests in his home, so he sits at the entrance of his tent despite the intense heat in the hope of inviting travelers passing by into his home. Abraham served God by being kind to people, inviting them into his home and drawing them into his orbit so he could inspire them with his example to learn about and serve God. Further on in the Parasha – chapter 21:33, the verse says that Abraham planted an 'Eshel' in Be'eir Sheva and proclaimed the name of God. The Sages talk about Abraham building an inn or planting an orchard for the benefit of his guests.

The word ' eshel ' is made up of the 3 Hebrew letters - Alef, shin and lamed. This is an acrostic for the 3 basic services a host should provide for his guests. The Alef stands for a'chilah = eating , shin = shti'yah = drinking and lamed = li'viyah = escorting.

A man once came to the Vilna Ga'on and said that his home had been destroyed by fire. He wanted to know on what he should repent and do Te'shuvah. The Vilna Ga'on said that the man was not particular about ' escorting his guests ', the 3rd element of hospitality. He gave his guests food and drink, so there was the eating and drinking - the first 2 letters of 'eshel'. The first 2 letters – alef and shin produce the word ' esh' which means fire. So eshel without the lamed is esh= fire. This is the reason why the home was destroyed by fire.

So if you entertain guests, give them food and drink but you don't escort them, you are playing with fire. The obvious conclusion is that it is better and safer not to have guests in your home than to have guests whom you provide food and drink but don't escort.

Rabbi David Lapin offers the following explanation. If we want to have a party we need food, drink and most important guests. So the guests actually serve the host. Without guests there is no party. The same goes for the food and the drink – their presence serves the host. When the guests leave the home, they no longer serve any function in the party for the hosts. When the host honors and 'escorts' the guests - who now no longer serve a purpose- , the true intentions of the host are revealed. This tells us that the food and drink were not for the host and his party but there to provide and serve the guests.

I am sure that most of us have experienced what it feels like to escort oneself out of the host's home or function. I can understand the host who is occupied with attending to other guests apologizing for not be able to escort me a ' couple of meters'. But when that does not happen one feels used, like a tradesman being invited to serve the host and then let himself out. One feels that the only reason you were invited was to fill the hall and make sure that there are guests for the party- without guests there is no party.

The quality of the hospitality therefore is dependent and hinges on the 3rd element – 'escorting the guests.' 

The Rambam in the laws Of Avel chapter 14 gives a lists of mitzvoth – good deeds that a person does to others as an expression of loving one's neighbor as oneself. He talks about visiting the sick, comforting the mourners, burying the dead, making weddings and ' escorting guests'.

We usually talk about the mitzvah of hospitality = hach'na'sat or'chim, why does the Rambam call the mitvah as escorting guests, and not use the language that we use. ? People talk about the importance of inviting guests and not ' escorting guests'.

From the story about the Vilna Ga'on we learn that inviting guests without escorting them is destructive and not a mitzvah. It is playing with fire- eshel without the lamed is esh=fire. The mitzvah of inviting guests – hachna'sat orchim is dependent and hinges on the quality of the escorting of the guests. This explains why the Rambam defines the mitzvah as escorting guests and not inviting guests.

As parents we should not only model hospitality , but allow kids to participate in the decison making, generating choices and solutions. Responsibility is learned by making decisions not by following instructions. We should reflect with our kids on the importance making guests feel comfortable , showing an interest in them , putting food and drink on the table and also reflect how a guest would feel if he has to show himself out of the home.

Obtaining a Get by Shaming husband on the Internet

kikar HaShabbat

תופעת השיימינג גבתה לא מעט קורבנות בנפש בעולם וגם בישראל. אין ספק כי מדובר בתופעה שלילית עם השלכות הרסניות על החברה, אך לעתים התופעה גם עוזרת לאנשים.

כזה למשל היה סיפורה של אישה מהתנחלות בגוש עציון שביקשה להתגרש מבעלה, אך זה לא הסכים להעניק לה גט כדת וכדין. על פי הדיווח באתר "חורים ברשת", הבעל נכנע רק לאחר שחווה על בשרו את תופעת השיימינג במלוא עוזה.

על פי הדיווח, הבעל ומשפחתו הפעילו סחבת ולא הסכימו להעניק לאישה את הגט. בשל כך, חבר של משפחת האישה פרסם סטטוס ברשת כנגד הבעל, בו פרסם את הסיפור במלואו. 4 שעות בלבד לאחר מכן הסכים הבעל להעניק לאשתו גט, והשבוע היא אכן קיבלה אותו.

הסטטוס הוסר אמנם מהרשת בשל ההסכמות שהושגו, אבל רק אחרי שרשם 300 אלף צפיות, 2,000 שיתופים ומספר דומה של לייקים.

Tamar Epstein:Rav Shlomo Miller's view which is circulating Lakewood

Just verified that this is Rav Miller's view on the matter

New Square Firebomber resentenced as youthful offender - to go free afer 3.5 years of 7 year sentence

lohud  [see also bhol]
Shaul Spitzer convinced Judge William Kelly Tuesday to give him youthful offender status and release him after serving 3 1/2 years in prison for seriously burning a New Square dissident while trying to torch the man's house in 2011.

Kelly told the packed courtroom — including more than 40 New Square supporters and victim Aron Rottenberg — that he started the day thinking he would deny Spitzer early release from a seven-year prison term.

But Kelly said he thought over what Spitzer had told him in court Tuesday morning and changed his mind during the lunch break in the resentencing proceedings.

Kelly said he came away convinced that prison life had matured Spitzer and his attack on the Rottenberg family spurred from immaturity, being naive  and a bid to impress the New Square Hasidic Jewish leadership and grand rabbi David Twersky. Spitzer was working and living in Twersky's home as a butler at the time. [..]

Rottenberg asked Kelly on Tuesday to keep Spitzer in jail, saying he can't use his right arm effectively after skin grafts and other operations to treat his burns. He said his family, which was inside the home at the time, still suffers from the pain of the attack.

Spitzer told Kelly that "I know what I did was inexcusable. I know that 3 1/2 years ago I was immature."[...[

Charedim as Catalysts for Political Change in Israel: The Coming Collapse of the Latest Netanyahu Government

Guest Post by RaP
Israel is in a very precarious situation at the present time. Beset by surrounding Arab "states" that either no longer exist or are held together by threads as chaos and civil war reign in their midst, with foreign military intervention by Russia and its allies near Israel's borders, and by a widespread internal insurrection by Israeli Arabs, and with a governing coalition with only a 61 seat majority in a Knesset of 120, if one looks very closely, one sees the cracks in the unstable governing coalition opening up.
The last two plus years of Israeli political life have revolved around the huge growing Charedi population. The prior government was an outright anti-Charedi coalition that set about to change the "status quo" between the religious and secular worlds in Israel. Openly rejecting any Charedi parties from sitting in it, the government went on a "war-footing" against the Charedim. Decrees were promulgated against Charedi Jews cutting off funding to their institutions and communities, threatening them to forcibly sign up for army service, undermining traditional Torah education and institutions, destruction of rabbinical courts and financially strangling the yeshivas.
At the same time, the Arabs seemed to "sense blood" and started a campaign of terrorizing unarmed Israeli citizens who wore any type of Kippa or Yarmulka. Who can forget the kidnapping and murder of the three religious Israel teens that sparked an Israeli invasion of Gaza against Hamas recently, and then the brutal attack against the Charedi rabbis praying at the Har Nof synagogue in the heart of a Jerusalem Charedi neighborhood that sparked so much anger among all Israeli Jews, and many other such acts of terrorism and barbarism directed at any Jews caught off guard.
Soon thereafter, the anti-religious governing coalition collapsed, and quickly in its stead a new governing coalition was put together with all the Charedi parties being included in the new government, commencing a roll-back of the anti-Charedi decrees and edicts. The three major Charedi political parties SHAS, AGUDA, and DEGEL, all got important posts.
But then, recently over this past Sukkos at the end of September, barely six months into its new term, the latest coalition seems to be in trouble judging by current events, although tentative, but clearly indicating the first rumbles before an earthquake
What seems to have triggered this latest political unease and evident in-fighting again likely revolves around the fate of religious Jews in Israel stemming from the preponderance of religious and Charedi Jewish victims of the latest round of Arab violence. Stabbings, stonings and terror are seemingly being directed at the Jewish religious populations in Israel with Charedim fearing for their lives more than most as word leaks out that they are obvious easy targets being that they stand out and are unarmed and do not have military training.

There is also a dimension to the Arab uprising that is evidently directed at the Jewish religious sites such as the Kosel, with the Kosel area now becoming a "fear zone", Kever Rochel is under increased armed guard, Kever Yosef burned down yet again, while Jewish holy places are being claimed as belonging to the Muslims "only" with Israel now on the defensive, all yet again.
There are more political rumblings, as a leading SHAS minister resigns from his position as Minister of Economics, without citing good enough reasons, and in this climate indicating perhaps an act of protest. Another Minister from a non-religious party declares he is willing to resign to make way for the Labor leader to join in, and the Labor leader issues a statement, no not about the "matzav" but rather criticizing the Jewish religious sector!
Jews are being knifed and bombed in the streets of Israel, and its obvious the people are angry and want to be protected and want action, but the government responds by talking about "revoking citizenship" and building more walls which is already a disaster because it makes Israel look like one long "DMZ" line as in North Korea or the hated Berlin Wall. All this is not good and there is a somber mood as if the next big step is being contemplated.
Jews are now under siege and many are nervous to venture outdoors for fear of sudden stabbings. This is no way to live and will have serious political and other consequences as the Jewish public's fear and frustration will force change to happen one way or another.
A house divided against itself cannot stand long and likewise a government that includes Charedim in it but does not swing into action to protect not just Charedi and religious Jews but all Israeli Jews cannot go on for much longer as it loses the faith of its citizens in it to protect them from harm.
And sadly, it would seem that it is not to the Rabbinical or Charedi or Orthodox voices that Netanyahu is turning but yet again he is being pulled in the direction of bringing in members from the Left to prop up his coalition. This cannot go on for much longer as Jewish blood runs in the streets of Israel and one can only conclude that change is coming soon, hopefully for the better, it is only a question of how soon and who will lead it.

May we hear only good news and may the Geulah Sheleimah come very soon!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rav Sadiya Gaon: Mistaken imperative to surrender to love for personal growth and to serve G-d

We have discussed the issue of marriages breaking up because the husband or wife has fallen in love with someone else or has fallen out of love with one's spouse. We have discussed the issue of extramarital affairs, pedophila, pedastry, bestiality and homosexual relations. In modern times all these are justified by the imperative to follow one's heart as the supreme value.

There is a mistaken notion that the idea that love conquers all and that it justifies all - originated with Hollywood. Some think it originated in the Middle Ages. In fact it goes back to the Greeks. In the following essay from Rav Sadiya Gaon, he attacks those who feel that submitting to  love is the royal road to spiritual refinement as well as a necessity in learning to serve G-d. It also seems to be an attack on marriage based on a predestined - beshert or knowing it's the right person because you are in love.

Rav Saadia Gaon (Emuna v’De’os 10:7.4 –Cheshech/romantic love):Even though it is repulsive to discuss sexual desire [outside of marriage] - the topic of this chapter - but it is not more repulsive than discussing the views of kofrim (those who deny Judaism). So just as we discussed the views of kofrim in order to refute them and protect people from having doubts – therefore we will discuss extramarital sexual desire in order to refute improper views and to protect people from error. 

There are people who view sexual desire and love – without regard to its object - as the most important activity that man can be involved in. They mistakenly believe that any strong love refines the spirit and improves the personality until it becomes exquisitely sensitive and responsive from this great refinement.

They claim that this refinement process of love is extremely delicate as a result of the natural processes. It involves a substance which is created by the look of the eyes which is poured into the heart which arouses desire which becomes strengthened with the addition of other elements until it becomes firmly established.

They reinforce their view of the power of love by claiming that it involves the influence of the stars. Thus they claim that if two people were born under certain astrological events it is inevitable that there should be love and affection between them. 

They further reinforce this theory of love by claiming that the love is ultimately caused by G d. They claim that when G-d created the souls, He made them as spheres which He divided into two. He then placed the 2 halves into two people. Because of this division of the soul into two parts, when the soul of one person finds its missing half in another person, the first person becomes strongly attracted to the second person. 

They further reinforce the power of this theory of absolute love by claiming that it is an obligation to surrender to passion and its consequences. They claim that surrendering to the attraction of love to all others is a test to teach submission to G d and serving Him.

[Prof Rosenblatt translation]

Now the advocates of all that has been mentioned above are really thoughtless and without intelligence. I, therefore, deem it proper in this chapter, first of all, effectively to refute the spurious doctrines propounded by them. After that, I shall demonstrate the very opposite  of the theories to which they cling to be true. 

I say then, that so far as the thing they ascribe to our Lord, magnified and exalted be He, is concerned, it is inconceivable that He should use as a means of trial something that has been prohibited by Him. Indeed, it is as Scripture has said: God imputeth not 31 unseemliness (Job 24: 12), and also: For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; evil shall not sojourn with Thee (Ps. 5: 5). As for the doctrine of the division of the spheres to which they cling so tenaciously, since we have already refuted that in our refutation of the theory of uncreated spiritual <296> beings,32 making it clear that the soul of every human being is created simultaneously with the perfection of his form33 this theory has become completely null and void. 

As for their allegation in regard to the influence of the stars and the tallying of the two parts of the love-match, as well as of the constellations, if it were really as they say, it could never happen that Zeid should love Arnr without Arnr's reciprocation, seeing that they are both equal. We do not, however, find the matter to be so. 

As for their assertion, again, that this emotion originates from a look, after which desire is generated in the heart, I say that it was precisely on that account that our Lord, exalted and magnified be He, commanded us to devote both our eyes and our hearts to His service, as Scripture says: My son, give me thy heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Prov. 23: 26). He also forbade us to employ them in rebellion against him, when He said: And go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray (Num. I5: 39). 

This latter warning was issued against the consolidation of this state in the heart to the point where it would hold the subject in its grip and have such dominance over him that he would cut down on his eating and drinking and all other functions basic to his well-being. The consequence [of such a course] would be that his flesh would waste away and his body fall off and maladies would make their inroads on him in all their severity. And what about the inflammation and the fainting and the heart throbs and the worry and the excitement and the agitation, of which Scripture says: For they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait? (Hos. 7: 6.) 

These effects are sometimes carried to the brain, weakening the faculties of imagination, reflection, and memory, and sometimes even destroying the powers of sensation and motion. It m:Iy also happen that, upon catching sight of his beloved, the lover should swoon away and fall into a dead faint, his spirit leaving his body for twenty-four hours,34 so that he would be thought dead and be carried out and buried.f" Again it is possible that upon seeing his beloved or hearing him mentioned, the lover might emit a rattle and really die, thus proving the truth of the parable coined by the proverbist: For she hath cast down many wounded; yea, a mighty host are all her slain (Prov. 7: 26). 

How now can a person allow himself and his reason to be taken prisoner [by his passion] to the point where he will not know that he has a Master, nor any strength, nor <297> this world nor the next, outside of that passion, as Scripture has put it: But they that are godless in heart lay up anger; they cry not for help when He bin detli them? (Job 36: I3.) And what about the slavish submissiveness to the object of one's passion and to his retinue, and the sitting at the gates and waiting upon him everywhere, as Scripture expresses it: Lift up thine eyes unto the high hills, and see: Where hast thou not been lain with? By the ways hast thou sat for them? (Ier .. 1: 2.) And what about the vigils at night and the rising at dawn and the secrecy practiced so as not to be surprised in the act, and the deaths one dies whenever one is discovered in one's shame?

It is just as Scripture has expressed it: The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying: "No eye shall see me"; and he putteth a covering on his face (Job 24: 15)' And what about the murder of the lover or the beloved or of one of their retinue or of both them and those attached to them and of a great many human beings together with them that often results from being madly in love, as Scripture says: Because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands? (Ezek. 23: 45.) 

Again, if he should one day be successful in attaining the object of his quest and realize in adequate measure that for which his soul has made such strenuous efforts, he might be filled with remorse and hate what he had loved to an even greater degree than he had loved it, as Scripture remarks: And Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred; for the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved /W' (II Sam. 13: 15)

It should, therefore, be clear to a person that he has sold his soul and his religion and all his senses, as well as his reason, once this arrow has been released that cannot be taken back by him any more, as has also been expressed by Scripture in its remark: Till an arrow strike through his liver; as II bird hasteneth to the snare (Prov. 7: 23). This emotional state, therefore, has its appropriate place only in the relationship between husband and wife. They should be affectionate to each other for the sake of the maintenance of the world, as Scripture says: A lovely hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; with her love be thou ravished always (Prov. 5: J9). A husband should give vent to his desire for his wife in accordance with the dictates of reason and religion and to the extent required in order to bind them closely together but restrain it vigorously and forcefully beyond that point. 

Lech Lecha; Milah & Periah- What are they? & How should they be done?

 Caution - some might find the video too graphic. A number of years ago a friend of mine was teaching mila in a yeshiva for baalei teshuva (i.e., they all had college backgrounds). One day the rosh yeshiva came to him and told him he had gotten complaints about his teaching because of number of the students complained about it being too graphic. When he asked what exactly was the problem since this was a class about mila - the rosh yeshiva said "You use the word penis".

 by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

The Subject is...

"To perform the Mitzvah of Milah, we have to do two parts, Milah & Periah (מילה ופריעה).

What is Milah? and what is Periah?  How should it be done?...

For generations,  the two were done in two separate steps...

A number of years ago, a new method  was introduced, whereby both the Milah and Periah are done simultaneously.."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mamzer: Maharsham's solution of annuling the proxy by Rabbi J. David Bleich

  The following is an excerpt from an article which appeared in Tradition. Go to the Tradition website to read the full article.  Tradition

Rabbinic authorities have always  sought ways and means of alleviating the plight of unfortunate individuals stigmatized by mamzerut in order to permit such individuals to marry within "the community of God." Their efforts consisted of examining the loopholes which would have the effect of removing the onus of bastardy. Perhaps the most famous of these proposed remedies is a tentative suggestion advanced by Rabbi Shalom Mordecai Schwadron in his Teshuvot Maharsham, I, no. 9.

The Mishnah, Gittin 32a, states that in former times a husband could appoint a proxy to deliver a bil of divorce to his wife and yet retain the prerogative of annuling the proxy and thereby invalidating the divorce. Originally the husband was not required to inform the proxy of his change of heart. This practice was later banned by Rabban  Rabban Gamaliel the Elder in order to promote "the better ordering of society" (tikkun ha-olam). In defining the concept of tikkun haolam, R. Yochanan maintained that the measure was designed to prevent the proliferation of mamzerim. A messenger, unaware of the fact that his authority to deliver the bill of divorce had been nullfied, might in good faith present the bil of divorce to the woman in question. The woman, equally unaware that the proxy had been annulled and her divorce nullifed would feel free to remarry. Under such circumstances any issue of a subsequent union would be momzerim in the eyes of Jewish law.

R. Yochanan states that it was to prevent such unfortunate occurrences that Rabban Gamaliel forbade annulment of the proxy other than in the presence of the messenger. In the event that the husband transgresses the injunction of Rabban Gamaliel and annuls the proxy other than in the presence of the messenger, R. Simeon b. Gamaliel ordained that the act of annulment itself be null and void so that the bil of divorce may retain its validity. In discussing Rabban Gamaliel's decree the Gemara raises an obvious objection. It is axiomatic that a bil of divorce which is invalid according to Biblical law cannot be validated by rabbinic decree. In response to this objection the Gemara enunciates the well known dictum: "Everyone who betroths (a wife J does so in accordance with the intention of the Sages, and they annulled his betrothal."

The import of this statement is that while the Sages have no power to validate a bil of divorce which is not valid under biblical law they do have the power to annul the marriage itself retroactively. Since they do not acquiesce to the marriage under such circumstances the stipulated condition has not been fulfilled and the marriage itself is null and void. The status of the woman in these circumstances is not that of a divorcee but that of a single woman who had been consorting with a male without benefit of a nuptial ceremony.

Accordingly, as a result of Rabban Gamaliel's decree, annulment of a proxy other than in the presence of the messenger and sub. sequent delivery of the get to the wife become the occasion for the retroactive annulment of the marriage. Tosafot points out that Rabban Gamaliel's decree could be utilied in furthering certain ends which Rabban Gamaliel would certainly not have sought to promote. By invoking this decree acts of adultery could be legitimized with the cooperation of the husband and both the adulterer and the adultress might be enabled to escape punishment.

This could be effected by having the husband draw up a bil of divorce, appoint a proxy to deliver it to his wife and subsequently annul the proxy other than in the presence of his messenger. The resultant effect would be annulment of the marriage ab initio which would then mean that subsequent intercourse with another male was in the nature of fornication rather  than adultery. Ri, cited by Tosafot, maintains that this procedure is perfectly legal.

Maharsham, quoting Tosafot, points out that a mamzer could also be legitimized retroactively in precisely the same manner. If the husband is yet living and willng to cooperate he could simply appoint a proxy to deliver a bil of divorce to his wife and then proceed to annul the proxy other than is the presence of the messenger. Since the marriage is annulled retroactively the liaison between his wife and another man does not constitute adultery and hence the issue of that union are not mamzerim.

The innovative suggestion of Maharsham has been the subject of several recent articles of note. The proposal was brought to the atten. tion of readers of TRADITION by Rabbi Dr. Louis Rabinowitz, Spring 1971, pp. 5.15. Moriah (Elul 5730-Tishri 5731) featured an article by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, eminent Israeli halakhic authority, containing a lengthy and exhaustive analysis of Maharsham's position. In Panim el Panim of Shevat 2 and I Adar 13, 5733 the Israeli sèholar and jurist Professor M. Silberg discusses practical proposals to eliminate inci. dences of mamzerut. Professor Silberg's views are challenged by Rabbi Judah Dick (Panim el Panim, I Adar 13, 5733), a New York at. torney and Talmudic scholar who has espoused the cause of the agunah both in legal proceedings before civil courts and . in a determined effort to find halakhic redress for her unfortunate plight. 

Maharsham's language, "Had you consulted me before the bil of divorce was executed by the first husband I would have made a suggestion le-halakhah vo-lo le-ma'Qseh (according to theoretical halakhah but not for practical application)" clearly indicates that Maharsham viewed his innovative proposal as relegated to the realm of theory and not for actual implementation. Maharsham's use of the subjunctive phrase "had you consulted me" demonstrates that his answer even at that time would not have been intended for practical application. Rabbi Auerbach presents numerous reasons, many highly technical, in explaining why practical implementation of this proposal is precluded. The most salient of these considerations are the following:

1. The major argument against implementation of Maharsham's proposal is that Ramban, Shita Mekubetzet and Me'iri, in their commentaries on Ketubot 3a state , clearly that any children born of an adultrous relationship prior to the retroactive annulment of the marriage are mamzerim by virtue of rabbinic decree. According to these authorities the rabbinic decree providing for annulment of the marriage was accompanied by a de. cree declaring such issue to be legitimate precisely because the Sages did not want the decree regarding retroactive annulment of the marriage to serve as a tool in the hands of evildoers. This opinion is followed by many latter-day authorities. (See Ketab Sofer, Even ha- Ezer, no. 51; Oneg Yom Tov, no. 169; and R. Shlomo Kluger,H a- Elef Lekha Shlomo, Even ha-Ezer, no. 34. Pitchei T eshuvah, Even ha- Ezer 144: 1 also cites Berit Avra. ham, Even ha-Ezer, no. 49, sec. 5. See also Rashba, Ketubot 3a and Isaac Elchanan Spektor, Ein Yitzchak, I, Orach Chaim, no. 28, sec. 23.) Oneg Yom Tov states explicitly that "It is for this reason that this solution is not mentioned by any authority."

2. Retroactive annulment of the marriage renders all preceding acts of coitus acts of fornication. An individual is not permitted retroactively to transform his actions into transgressions and certainly should not be advised to do so and abetted in such a course of action by a B-it Din.

3. It is not certain that when the husband is counseled by a Bet Din to annul the proxy the marriage itself is in fact annulled retroactively. The phraseology employed by the Gemara in explaining why such annulment was legislated is "He acted with impropriety. . . ." When acting upon the advice of a B.-it Din the husband can hardly be said to have acted with impropriety and hence there are no grounds for annullng the marriage.

4. A number of early authorities, including Ramban, Re'ah and Rashba, maintain that in point of fact the original marriage is never annulled. According to this interpretation, the husband, cognizant of the statutory provision for such annulment, recognizes that annulment of the proxy is of no avail and hence never actually intends to annul the proxy. P'nei Yehoshu'a, Ketubot 3a, offers a different interpretation in agreement with the basic premise that in actuality no annulment takes place. Both Dr. Rabinowitz and Professor Silberg assert that the late Chief Rabbi Herzog did in fact invoke Maharsham's proposal in practice. Rabbi Herzog does indeed discuss Maharsham's responsum in his Heikhal Yitzchak, II, nos. 17- 19. However, Rabbi Herzog's ruling in the specific case brought to his attention was based on different grounds. As is is often the case in halakhic responsa, considerations which are themselves insuffcient to warrant the conclusion advanced are adduced as a usnit" or secondary line of reasoning in order to strengthen the ultimate decision.

Rabbi Auerbach reports that dayyanim in Israel have on numerous occasions refrained from following Maharsham's suggestion precisely because the latter stated explicitly that his words were not intended for practical implementation. Apart from halakhic objections which have been advanced, the proposal as formulated by Maharsham suffers from one practical drawback, viz., it requires the active cooperation of the original husband. Needless to say the cooperation of an estranged husband is often difficult to obtain. [...]

Friday, October 23, 2015

Why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children

Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.

At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene whenever something difficult happened.

From her former position at one of the world’s most prestigious schools, ­Lythcott-Haims came to believe that mothers and fathers in affluent communities have been hobbling their children by trying so hard to make sure they succeed and by working so diligently to protect them from disappointment, failure and hardship.

Such “overhelping” might assist children in developing impressive résumés for college admission, but it also robs them of the chance to learn who they are, what they love and how to navigate the world, Lythcott-Haims argues in her book, “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.”

“We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm,” she writes. “It can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life.” [...]

“Our job as a parent is to put ourselves out of a job,” she said. “We need to know that our children have the wherewithal to get up in the morning and take care of themselves.” [...]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Israeli suspects in court for Eritrean beating

Israeli police say four men will appear in court in connection with the beating of an Eritrean man during an attack by an Arab citizen at a bus station that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded several people.

A private security guard shot the Eritrean, thinking he was an attacker. As the Eritrean lay on the ground, a mob of people cursed him, kicked him and hit him with objects. The Eritrean later died.

Rosenfeld says it is not clear if the men will be charged.

Some 2,000 people, mainly asylum seekers from Eritrea, gathered in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky park on Wednesday for a memorial service for Habtom Zarhum, the Eritrean asylum seeker who died after being shot and assaulted by a mob at the Be’er Sheva bus terminal on Sunday night. [...]

Some of the mourners wept and told Haaretz they did not believe Zarhum was killed accidentally. “I’ve never seen such a thing, only in the Sinai or in the Islamic State,” said Eden, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, referring to the video clips of Zarhum’s killing. “If they had shot him once it might have been a mistake, but shooting him again and again is not a mistake. People trampled on him and threw things at him. The police were there. Why didn’t they stop it?” she said. [...]

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mamzerim: When a woman remarries without a Get from the first husband - Rav Sternbuch

 Rabbi Dovid Katz wrote an important article dealing with attempts to deal with the problem of mamzer by using a shifcha. It is available here     This is page 13 and 30 of the article


 Minchat Yitzchak: V 47: In the aftermath of the Holocaust, many displaced persons were unaware of the fate of their spouses and loved ones. Families had become separated, and in the period immediately following the end of World War II, there were cases where survivors believed that their families had perished when in reality they had survived. It thus happened a number of times that a woman, believing herself to be a widow, married another man after the war, had children by him, and subsequently discovered to her horror that her first husband had never died! The chaotic conditions prevailing in those years, especially in the DP camps and Eastern Europe, led many people to marry without consulting a rav or Bet Din, so many people were not even aware of the ramifications of their status.

R. Yitzchak Weiss, author of Minchat Yirzchak, was consulted about such a case. R. Tzvi Elimelech Kalish, Rabbi in Munkatch and subsequently in Bnei Brak, was faced with the situation of an entire group of young men who were the children of mothers who had remarried after the war, only to find out later that their first husbands were still alive. As the offspring of second "marriages" which in the eyes of Jewish law were adulterous, these young men were mamzerim. Two decades after the war, these young men, who had grown up in Hungary, wished to marry. R. Kalish therefore asked whether it was actually possible to convert gentile woman as shefachot kna'aniyot in the twentieth century.
In Teshuvot Vehanhagot I  764, R. Moshe Sternbuch describes how he was faced with a situation in South Africa of a woman who had had an Orthodox marriage, but had remarried without benefit of a get, a halachic divorce. Her husband had been relucant to give her a get, so she remarried in a Reform ceremony. Obviously, the children from her "second marriage" were mamzerim because in the eyes of Jewish law she was still married to her first husband at the time she had children by another man. Some years later, the woman became a ba'alat teshuva (repentant), sought and obtained a get from her first husband, and even sent her children to Orthodox day schools. She was nevertheless faced with the consequences of her second marriage: her children were mamzerim .

In seeking a solution to this tragedy, R. Sternbuch likewise reasoned that it ought to be possible for a gentile woman to become a shifcho even in modern-day South Africa inasmuch as the entire process would be a legal fiction to which the state would not take exception. In the end, however, R. Sternbuch concluded that if such great authorities as the Minchat Yitzchak and Chelkat Yaakov were unable to sanction such a procedure, in the one case on account of halachic objections and in the other on account of a reluctance to rule absent support from other poskim, then such an option was not practicable nowadays. R. Sternbuch had no choice but to advise the mamzerim to marry converts, knowing, however, that their children would also be mamzerim down to the end of time. As he put it: 

ועל כל פנים אין לנו לפרוץ גדרים בייחוס שלא שמענו מאביתינו כן מעולם אף שהיה יכול להציל פסול זרעו לעולם

In any event, we ought not to "break fences" [i.e. make radical innovations] in matters involving family relations. We have never heard of our ancestors [resorting to such a procedure] even though [the mamzer] would be able to save his progeny [from the taint of mamzerut] forever.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Talk Therapy Found to Ease Schizophrenia

NY Times  More than two million people in the United States have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and the treatment for most of them mainly involves strong doses of antipsychotic drugs that blunt hallucinations and delusions but can come with unbearable side effects, like severe weight gain or debilitating tremors.

Now, results of a landmark government-funded study call that approach into question. The findings, from by far the most rigorous trial to date conducted in the United States, concluded that schizophrenia patients who received smaller doses of antipsychotic medication and a bigger emphasis on one-on-one talk therapy and family support made greater strides in recovery over the first two years of treatment than patients who got the usual drug-focused care.

The report, to be published on Tuesday in The American Journal of Psychiatry and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, comes as Congress debates mental health reform and as interest in the effectiveness of treatments grows amid a debate over the possible role of mental illness in mass shootings.

Its findings have already trickled out to government agencies: On Friday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services published in its influential guidelines a strong endorsement of the combined-therapy approach. Mental health reform bills now being circulated in Congress “mention the study by name,” said Dr. Robert K. Heinssen, the director of services and intervention research at the centers, who oversaw the research.[...]

Experts said the findings could help set a new standard of care in an area of medicine that many consider woefully inadequate: the management of so-called first episode psychosis, that first break with reality in which patients (usually people in their late teens or early 20s) become afraid and deeply suspicious. The sooner people started the combined treatment after that first episode, the better they did, the study found. The average time between the first episode and receiving medical care — for those who do get it — is currently about a year and half.[...]

The more holistic approach that the study tested is based in part on programs in Australia, Scandinavia and elsewhere that have improved patients’ lives in those countries for decades. This study is the first test of the approach in this country — in the “real world” as researchers described it, meaning delivered through the existing infrastructure, by community mental health centers.[...]

In the new study, doctors used the medications as part of a package of treatments and worked to keep the doses as low as possible — in some cases 50 percent lower — minimizing their bad effects. The sprawling research team, led by Dr. John M. Kane, chairman of the psychiatry department at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, randomly assigned 34 community care clinics in 21 states to provide either treatment as usual, or the combined package.

The team trained staff members at the selected clinics to deliver that package, and it included three elements in addition to the medication. First, help with work or school such as assistance in deciding which classes or opportunities are most appropriate, given a person’s symptoms. Second, education for family members to increase their understanding of the disorder. And finally, one-on-one talk therapy in which the person with the diagnosis learns tools to build social relationships, reduce substance use and help manage the symptoms, which include mood problems as well as hallucinations and delusions.

For example, some patients can learn to defuse the voices in their head — depending on the severity of the episode — by ignoring them or talking back. The team recruited 404 people with first-episode psychosis, mostly diagnosed in their late teens or 20s. About half got the combined approach and half received treatment as usual. Clinicians monitored both groups using standardized checklists that rate symptom severity and quality of life, like whether a person is working, and how well he or she is getting along with family members.

The group that started on the combined treatment scored, on average, more poorly on both measures at the beginning of the trial. Over two years, both groups showed steady improvement. But by the end, those who had been in the combined program had more symptom relief, and were functioning better as well. They had also been on drug doses that were 20 percent to 50 percent lower, Dr. Kane said.[...]

Public Notice from Ami Magazine regarding a forged letter

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mother of three battling MS takes own life at Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland

A mother of three from Bury who battled a debilitating illness for nearly two decades has ended her life at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.

Rachelle Linz, 50, known as Shelley, fought with multiple sclerosis for nearly 20 years. She died after taking a fatal dose of barbiturate at a Dignitas clinic in Zurich two weeks ago.

She leaves behind husband Jonathan and three children - Joshua, 24, Hannah, 22, and Jason, 20. All four were by her side when she passed away.

Mr Linz, 51, from Whitefield, who was by his wife’s bedside said the family had always hoped a miracle cure for MS could be found, but his wife had feared she would ultimately die from the condition and made the decision after her health badly deteriorated.[...]