Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tamar Epstein and the Scarlet Letter: The Kaminetskys and Rabbinic sanctioned adultery

Jewish society is faced with a major crisis - how to deal with a case of rabbinic sanctioned adultery. On the one hand we have adultery - which is one of the worst sins and one which is based on betrayal of the most important human - that of husband and wife. This betrayal aspect is why it is used as a metaphor for betrayal in the relationship of G-d and the Jewish people. There is a primal revulsion towards the betrayal of  a wife who has an affair with another man. It also is one of the most defiling of sins - because of its violation of the sanctity of marriage.

At the same time we are faced with another theme - loyalty to rabbinic authority and gedolim. There is no higher praise than to say one has emunas chachomim i.e., obeys the decisions and views of G-d representatives - the rabbis. In this case Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rav Nota Greenblatt are American gedolim who have the stature of being of the select group of transmitters of G-d's Torah and Mesorah.

The halacha is very clear - Tamar Epstein is a married woman who is married to a man not her husband - the definition of adultery. But she did it with the guidance and encouragement of two major rabbinic figures. However the rabbis who sanctioned this adulterous relations refuse to justify their actions. By their silence they are demanding acceptance of their activities simply because of their status and authority as gedolim - not because they are experts in the halacha - or are correct.

From the point of view of the Kaminetskys and Greenblatts they are saying they have no need to justify anything they do - no matter how horrific in appearance - because they are gedolim. They are hoping that the perceived obscenity of what they are doing will eventually be forgotten and they will succeed in getting away with distorting the Torah. Thus they are not only giving the appearance of violating the Torah by facilitating apparent adultery but they are violating a specific requirement of halacha - that decisions which appear wrong - need to explained in detail to the public.

What about the other rabbis who know that R Greenblatt and the Kamenetskys are wrong? Why haven't there been loud cries of outrage from our rabbinic leaders? The answer is that the rabbis are very uncomfortable with being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Thus they are dodging the question with a technicality. They acknowledge that it is highly unlikely that there is a valid justification for the marriage without a get. However they say that they can not judge whether this is truly a case of adultery - unless they see a written justification for the act to which they can agree or disagree. Without this written justification - they feel they need to assume that what great rabbis have done - must be correct. The fact that the failure to provide a written justification is a violation of halacha - while puzzling - is also something which they say must be given the benefit of doubt.

So the crisis continues - a blatant act of adultery, a brazen concealing of justification,  demands of "trust me I am a gadol", timidity and fear of rabbinic leaders in addressing the issue - and the accelerated loss of emunas chachomim and growth of cynicism by the masses.


  1. All fine and dandy, but what will you do with "Harotse leshaker yarchik eduso", uma tehe aleha? The sounds of silence are deafening.

  2. What if they claim to base it on days Torah?

  3. Correct me if I am wrong, but reading between the lines it sounds like that letter is not on its way.

  4. What sources state that a poseik is obliged to explain his reasoning?

  5. Since it is not seen as such and since they have an obligation to explain themselves - the defense of Daas Torah doesn't help

  6. IsraelReader has repeated provided this source

    You may have missed the halacha in Shulchan Aruch (YD 242:10)
    that a rabbi is not allowed to permit something that people
    perceive as being prohibited, unless the rabbi provides a clear rationalization for his ruling (Shach, s.v. 17)

  7. What is that supposed to mean? Even the most extreme advocates of the concept of da'as Torah would apply it only to extra-halakhic matters, e.g., who to vote for. Halakhic matters must be decided according to halakhic reasoning and sources. Even prophecy is not relevant in deciding a matter of halakha.

  8. Please explain that basis to your suggestion that 'daas torah' can contradict halacha

  9. Yelamdenu na rebeinu, meheichan Dantani.

  10. Thank you RDE for saving me the trouble of reminding the public about this explicit halacha in Shulchan Aruch.

  11. I don't think the Shach and Shulchan Uruch is a Raya at all. It's obvious why the Heter is not being publicized. You don't see in Halacha that when there's a real need to keep it quiet that it's assur.

  12. What is the so-called "compelling reason" to keep the reason quiet?

  13. My dear brother,
    I think the time has come to settle our accounts. You know that one who does a mitsvah that nobody else does gets great reward. And you know that one who fights against Chilul HaShem gets great reward. Since you and I are the only ones in the world who are telling it like it is with the mamzer producers, we are going to have a juicy reward.

    Now, the question is, how much do I get and how much do you get? I will make it easy for you. If you can guarantee me that in Gan Eden I will have a property with no rabbis, Rosh Yeshiva and Dayanim, all of the people who were silent about this, you can have the rest. (But I may change my mind, that is, every day where people keep quiet, the reward gets more and more, and maybe I won't forgive all of it!) Anyway, I'll keep you in suspense.

    Now speaking seriously, if things are as they are, it shows that the entire system of Torah has broken down, badly. The major Rosh Yeshivas are...anyway, a major Rov has written a letter on the Internet backing ORA. I heard from gedolim of the past and present generation that the Yeshiva system is a failure. The exact words from Reb Shalom Schwadron were "A Yeshiva is hashchoso." (When you deal with divorces and family problems you understand this. Another major Gadol agreed to this when I told him about it, and he recently said that the system is headed for a breakdown. Of course, people will doven and eat kosher food. But when you see who are the Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbonim and Poskim, and you see the silence at the hideous wickedness of remarrying wthout a GET, you see where things are going. Now is the time to tell is like it is. The "Gedolim" are the problem, not the solution. And besides me and maybe you, who would say a thing like that.

    I spoke to a major posek who congratulated me for calling them bad names. I had the chutspah to respond to this by saying, "Me and my brother are the only ones who fight these things. We don't have jobs in the Torah industry. We are independent financially and on't worry about getting fired by the Mafia. He said nothing. What could he say?

  14. How in the world can somebody who makes mamzerim talk about Daas Torah?

  15. Common sense dictates that in a earthshaking ruling like this, establishing new precedents, a reason should be given

  16. How about the statement that is often brought, which says when the chachamim say left is right and right is left, u must follow them.

  17. The question to ask is who has the right to issue such psak that looks nothing other than a false heter tailored for a wealthy woman and at the same time make immense chillul hashem.

    The obvious reason that you indicate would not deter Tamar and her partners. They hired thugs to beat him up.

  18. The publication of the heter would shame AF and as you know they would not do anything that caused pain to another person...

  19. That has nothing to do with da'as Torah. That is said about a ruling of the Beis Din Hagadol.

  20. What compelling reason are you talking about? It's obvious? To who? I really don't know what you're talking about.

    Are you referring to privacy concerns? Whose? There is no privacy in this case! The woman has put herself into the public eye, including the private thoughts of her diary, which have become public information. She also has no qualms about making mud of her husband's name.

    The only compelling reason that I can think of, is that its publication will reveal to one and all that "the
    Emperor has no clothes". The alleged psak has no legs to stand on, and the woman is unequivocally an Eishes Ish.

    Moreover, if the psak is based on untruths, then they also open themselves to a major lawsuit.

  21. lol

    Like not beating him up in front of his child; not kidnapping his child from him; not seeking to take his job away; not getting him negatively written up in the Washington Post etc.; not putting out silly "siruvim against him etc. etc etc.

  22. Besides for "common sense", it's enshrined in Jewish law. No one (even a so-called "gadol") is permitted to make a halachic "pronouncement" without showing the source in halacha.

    See Shulchan Aruch (YD 242:10) and Shach (ibid., s.v. 17) that not only SHOULD a reason be given, it MUST be given! Otherwise the rabbi is prohibited from making such a pronouncement.

  23. This is simply :AKIRAS HADAAS of the worst order
    The Philadelphia Yeshiva Kamenetskies Should be reprimanded By All Serous Batei Din.
    When discussing this grave matter The Word 'Heter' Be avoided by all means .
    They cant ever be a 'Heter' its plain impossible in Daas Moshe viyisroel.
    According to Daas Moshe ViYisroel There can Never v be a Heter for Kedushin only a GET.
    any thin other dissolution than a Get is False
    The Boys should Demonstrate at their Yeshiva

    Any Rov is required to come out Now , not to quietly wait until he know that all the other insecure fearful rabbis are in agreement.and no danger.
    Why do they sleep?
    Where are the $500 dollar an hour( Schar bitailh!cough cough!) Dayanim?
    The holy hisachdus?
    Kedushas Klal yisroel is at stake .

  24. Eddie must have picked it in a pre-election campaign in E. Israel where the phrase was used extensively

  25. Oh - that is a valid statement you make. However, if we go back to the period of the late 80s and 90s, when the Hareidi ideology of Daas Torah was very prominent (I think more than it is today), this Sifri was used for authority even after the BD Hagadol.
    To be clear, I am not supporting any annulment, or anyone involved in this case. I am just seeing how far the parameters of halacha can be stretched and still be within the confines of the Sifri, which says left /right etc.

  26. Actually it is in the Sifri. It has been the mainstay of the hareidi Daas Torah ideology. Those who disagreed with it, such as the MO would cite the Yerushalmi, which took issue with the Sifri.

  27. good question indeed - has to be posed to those who make the mamzerim.

  28. Regardless of the circumstances of this case, what you are saying is flat-out wrong. As noted on this blog many times, R' Moshe clearly rules that there is a concept of kiddushei ta'us. Whether that applies to this situation is obviously not at all clear (or it is clear that it does not), but writing
    "According to Daas Moshe ViYisroel There can Never v be a Heter for Kedushin only a GET.

    any thin other dissolution than a Get is False" (sic)

    is being motzi la'az on the greatest posek in late 20th century America, if not the world.

  29. I am not familiar with anyone using it for halakhic pronouncements not made by the Beis Din HaGadol. As I noted above, it is used by some concerning matters like voting in elections, but not to determine questions of halakha.

  30. any thin other dissolution than a Get is False" (sic)is being motzi la'az..

    Surly Reb Moshe was not Matir if there was Kidushin. He implied that Mekach taus meant that there WAS NOT kidushin

    AF and Tamar are married and she will be free to remarry only with a GET

  31. Actually, R' Yaakov Kaminetsky (!), zt"l, explained that chachomim would never ever peddle an untruth nor a distortion. Particularly significant in the Sifiri's most careful choice of words (chaza"l always took extreme care in their delicate choice of words) is their being relative and not absolute. The point is not blind acceptance of their distortion of reality, but rather their clarifying that the person is approaching the issue from a 180 degree incorrect perspective, looking at it in reverse. This turning around, as in two people facing each other, reverses the positions of right and left.

  32. Divrei Chayim on machine matzos (a very important issue) made a halachic "pronouncement" without showing the source in halacha. And it's followed till today.

  33. I learned under Reb Aharon Kotler, and I realized that considering my age and his age, only pure brazen chutspah would work. So, I gradually, began pestering him more and more. Finally, I worked up the chutspah to bother him while he ate supper, the one time in the day that he had a few minutes of peace.

    One day, I was talking to him, and suddenly three rabbis or askonim charged into the room, really angry at something. Reb Aharon jumped up and they were talking together full blast, and it went on and on. I couldn't figure out what was going on, except that if I was a mensh, I would leave. But I decided that if I was here in the first place out of pure chutspah, I might as well stay.

    I noticed they put down a book on the table. I went over and looked at it. I was stunned. For this they are flaming fire with fury? I turned and left. But I learned something. Reb Aharon saved the world because he went wild at the slightest threat to Torah. But today? Well, at least I do my share by writing on blogs.

  34. Berel,
    I'm with you in spirit, but when you use your spirit,you have to know the small letters. If you say that there can never be a heter for Kiddushin you are forgetting an open mishneh that if people make conditions they can cancel Kiddushin. If they don't make conditions, it is still possible that in certain circumstances we can insist on a GET but only as a question that it may be important.

    I have a lengthy discussion of this on my blog about the Philly case called Unit One. I just posted it today so it it or will be one of the first posts and it has the sources. But I am working on Unit Two and hopefully more. We cannot talk about marriage and divorce in emotional terms. We have to have the exact chapter and verse. This agony took place because today even rabbis don't know these things.

  35. Yehoshua,
    I am a close Talmid and Musmach of Reb Moshe, but we have to be careful when we talk about these things. If we talk about twentieth century America I would not assume that Reb Moshe was the greatest one. Reb Moshe held that Rav Henkin was his senior, and he was. Rav Henkin left no Teshuva seforim only a few small books whereas Reb Moshe had many volumes of teshuvose. That makes a big difference. But don't decide who is greater in the past hundred years. Don't forget the twentieth century includes many gedolim who were surely greater than Reb Moshe. The Steipler once said that today we don't have people who know what goes on in heaven with the possible exception of Reb Baruch Ber who died at the beginning of WWII. Even the gentile soldiers treated him with awe. The Chofetz Chaim and Reb Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld and many other very great giants lived then. It is not our job to determine who was greater than the other one. We must be inspired and amazed by all of them and try our best to survive in a world without them.

  36. He didn't go against precedent

  37. Divrei Chayim on machine matzos (a very important issue) made a halachic "pronouncement"

    Please cite the exact source. Read it very carefully.

    And it's followed till today.

    No, it is not. Not in the way you have interpreted it. For instance, no one considers machine matzos to be chometz shovar olov haPesach. The simple reason is that he said that it should be perceived like chometz - i.e. do not eat it - not that it is chometz. This was not a halachic pronouncement; it was a pronouncement of behavior - similar to eating fish with a spoon.

    Everyone agrees that Sanzer chasidim who would not eat fish with a fork do not do it due to halacha. They do it due to hanahga. Hanhaga does not necessarily have to be properly justified to a chosid. Halacha must be explained and justified.

  38. You are playing semantic games. The purpose of the post of "Berel" was to say that what was done in this case has no basis in halakha. The mechanism employed in this case is the exact same one R' Moshe used. The issue here is not whether this mechanism is legitimate, but whether it can be applied to this circumstance.

  39. This is how the Yerushalmi in Horiot explains it!

  40. Hahahaha "Rav Nota Greenblatt" is now one of the "Gedolim"??? A good Purim joke. Seems Halloween has come early to this blog!

    Rabbi Greenblatt is a nice rabbi that did Shimush by Rav Moshe Feinstein once upon a time, but has long gone his own way, who proves that "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"!!!

    Give us a break, okay?

    As for Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky he sits on the MOetzes Gedolie HaTorah, and only his OWN colleagues and contemporaries can pass judgment on him. What do Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Yaakov Perlow, Rav Aaron Feldman have to say, and of course the main one who runs the show, Rav Aron Schechter? After all RAS had no problem condemning Rav Yisroel Belsky in WRITING not so long ago over a case of Kidushei Ta'us, but now he is silent and is content that some far off blogger in Israel does his bidding managed by his trollish minions.

    Nowadays, there seems to be a rapprochement of sorts between Rav Aron Schechter and Rav Belsky since their names appears together prominently on top of ads promoting upcoming "the Shabbos Project" and of all things, Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz (Rav Belsky's billionaire son in law) is listed on the main dinner committee of Chaim Berlin yeshiva's upcoming annual dinner.

    Must be that money speaks louder than past "sins" and RAS is willing to bury the hatchet with Rav Belsky if in exchange he can get to be flown around in Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz's private jet and (obviously) hopes (or maybe is already) to get money from him too. Same for Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, let's hear it from the horse's mouth, does or does not Rav Aron Schechter agree with the opinion that Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky should be condemned for a case of Kiddushei Ta'us just as RAS condemned Rav Belsky in the past but now "forgives" him because Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz has big $$$$$ that RAS and RAF covet for their causes?

    There is another CB angle here that years ago Rav Meir Belsky (no relation to Rav Yirsoel BelskY) who tried to run a Yeshjva of the South was alos at loggerheads with Raqv Greenblatt, the two were always fighting with Rav Greenblatt running to Rav Moshe Feinstein all the time and Rav Meir Belsky turning to Rav Hutner. Eventually there was scandal that forced the closure of the Yeshiva of the South and Rav Meir Belsky moved to Israel where he still resides, and Rav Grenblatt "won" but now, it explains why the CB-trolls on this blog are so "happy" and "gleeful" as they have found a way to "kill two birds with one stone" and try to demolish once and for all both Rav Greenblatt (for his opposition to Rav MEIR Belsky) and against Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky (for his opposition to RAS in the Isaac Hersh kidnapping case). You really HAVE to knjow how cult's work to understand the underlying dynamics and motivations of some folks, and I am NOT referring to Rabbi Eidensohn who has his own sincere motivations but he becomes an unwitting tool in a wider and deeper war UNWITTINGLY. I hope I am helping to shed some new light here. This is not a joke.

    So what up doc?

  41. It amazes me how some posts/comments have no worries about Gehinom. We know what the Chofetz Chaim writes about Lashon Hara. Scary how compounded the sin is when seen by so many people. Every extra word not litoeles contains MANY issurim. WOW! Such gutsy people!!!

  42. Berel is right because if not for the money of Tamar no one would even dream to cook up this garbage heter.

  43. the discussion here is a practical one. there is no basis whatsoever that if RSK indicates of a heter for TAMAR without a proper halachic explanation (once she is assumed to be married) there will not be an alternative justification for such an act. 'Daas torah' would only say the same halacha, in fact, the 2 are the same.
    The relevance of Daas torah (to the extent that it exists) in in matters where the halacha does not state one way or the other, or in cases where halacha cannot be kept because of extdrodenary circimstances but no one suggested that Tamar can remarry even if she is still married (because she cannot reason with her husband). Alternatively no one suggested that RSK or any other person / rabbi / gadon can invalidate marriage based on daas torah.

  44. First of all, the Shulchan Aruch (YD 242:10) is referring to a case where a rabbi makes an unusual *permissive* ruling, where he *permits* something that people perceive as being prohibited.

    This is very different than the case of the Divrei Chaim, who actually *revealed* in his responsa reasons why he sought to *prohibit* machine matza. He then also added that in addition he also had hidden reason that he declined to reveal.

    I also note, that statistically, the vast majority of matzos consumed on Pesach are of the type which are produced by machine. This indicates that the majority of the world has NOT accepted the Divrei Chaim's position. Furthermore, even those choosing to exclusively eat hand matzos, many do so not because of the Divrei Chaim's "טעם הכמוס". They do so because of other concerns.

    In short, this debate is about maintaining the integrity of the halachic process, which has a system of checks
    and balances. If anybody can make halachic "pronouncements" without basing them on halacha, then the entire halachic process is at risk.

    By nature of things, a *prohibition* for which no rationale is given, is unlikely to be followed. Even if it's followed by the person's adherents, there is little harm done. However a *leniency* is more likely to be adopted by the public as halacha, regardless whether or not there is a valid basis to the pronouncement.

  45. As one of more than 25,000 descendants (kain yirbu) of the
    Divrei Chayim and as one who has refrained from machine matzos on Pesach
    because of his responsa, ( by the way, for those who are interested it is in
    Ohrach Chayim Chalek 1, Simon 23 and 24) permit me to clarify the reasoning of
    the Sanzer Rov as I understand it.

    In Simon 23, the Sanzer Rov writes:

    "I have seen the responsa of the Geonim of our times [referring to Rabbi
    Shlomo Kluger of Brod and Rabbi Mordechai Zev of Lemberg] who agree that it (meaning
    machine matzos on Pesach) is prohibited, and their views are well founded. Although
    one might find a way to refute some of their arguments, there are sufficient
    grounds for prohibition simply based on the writings of Rabbi Mordechai Zev (of
    Lemberg). who personally noted the impossibility of properly scouring the dough
    that has adhered to the machine and that many mishaps can occur [if it were
    permitted]. In addition in my view there are many Halachic reasons as to why it
    should be forbidden, but they remain undisclosed by me. I have learned
    from my sainted father-in-law that under circumstances such as these one ought
    not to reveal one’s reasons, but rather pronounce the Halacha as an edict and let
    whoever wishes to accept your authority acquiesce.
    Therefore I unequivocally declare to you that whosoever makes matzohs with
    this machine is [baking] absolute chometz!.”

    Indeed, the Sanzer Rov has here established that there is a
    precedent for making Halachic “pronouncements”. However, he does add the qualifier
    “under circumstances such as these”, suggesting that the authority to make “Halachic
    pronouncements” is limited. What conditions need exist in order for this
    authority to apply is not clear from this responsum, but one may conjecture
    that it is limited to a context similar to the case of machine matzohs. If this
    is so, then the case of the annulment of the Friedman-Epstein marriage for
    unspecified reasons differs from the case discussed by the Sanzer Rov in three material

    First, the Sanzer Rov relied first and foremost on the P’sak
    of other Gedolim whose views he elucidated and agreed with. Secondly, (and this
    distinction is of great import,) the Sanzer Rov so-called pronouncement was a
    ban on something that others may have permitted, but he personally disagreed
    with for undisclosed rationale. It is hardly the same as declaring permissible for
    reasons unknown that which is assumed to be forbidden by most. Lastly, the
    Sanzer’s Rov’s declaration of the impressibility of machine matzohs is hardly
    something that will irrevocably affect future generations. Even if someone were
    to consume something that the Sanzer Rov deemed to be chometz, even if he, the
    Sanzer Rov were to be wrong in his assumptions, it does not render that person’s
    children to be mamzerim. Here in the Friedman-Epstein case, should Rabbi
    Epstein be in the wrong, then the consequences to Klal Yisroel would be catastrophic.
    Surely, it would be incumbent upon Rabbi Greenblatt to provide context to his
    ruling lest he be committing a grave error.

    In regard to the point made by ‘Yehoshua’, that the
    mechanism employed in this case is “exactly” the same one that Rav Moshe Feinstein
    used and that the issue is merely one of the applicability of Rav Moshe’s
    methodology to this case, I humbly beg to differ. The mechanism employed here
    is a gross distortion of the one used by Rav Moshe. As mentioned by Rabbi
    Eidensohn and others, Rav Moshe’s ruling turns on the unequivocal establishment
    of the facts. Where the facts are in dispute as in this case where it is
    certainly arguable that Mr. Friedman was at the time of Kiddushin capable of leading
    a normal married life, the mechanism of Mekach To’us is beyond inapplicable, it
    is patently absurd. As such, much more clarification is needed here than has
    been provided heretofore.

  46. You are misunderstanding what I said. I was responding to a claim that the heter here is by definition wrong because once there has been kiddushin, the only way to enable the woman to remarry is with a get. I was pointing out that that statement is counter to the ruling of R' Moshe, who did permit women based on hafka'as kiddushin due to a mekach ta'us. I am not saying that R' Moshe would rule similarly here, or that there any grounds for mekach ta'us here.


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