Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Conjecture on how Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Aharon Friedman was not fit to be a husband?

Tamar Epstein has gotten remarried without a Get - the question is how? I would like to offer some conjecture on the matter since Rabbi Greenblatt has refused to explain the matter -  as has Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rabbi Shalom Kaminetsky. I repeat that this is conjecture - and I welcome evidence that either supports or refutes it.

It is clearly on the basis of unknown rabbis paskening  - kiddushei ta'us - that her marriage to Aharon Friedman was viewed by them as a mistake and thus had no validity and she was therefore not an eishis ish. The question is on what basis did they determine this. The gemora does not provide such a solution nor does Shulchan Aruch. 

In recent years some rabbis have claimed to rely on the psak of Rav Moshe Feinstein to declare marriages to be non-existent. The most notorious of these rabbis was Rabbi Rackman - whose beis din and heterim were widely despised and discredited. As Rabbi Bleich wrote in his critique, according to Rabbi Rackman the mere fact that a husband refused to give a get was a sign that he was a cruel person and if the wife had known he was so cruel she would never have married him. Thus the marriage is a mistake. Thus any marriage where the husband refuses to give a Get is considered a mistake and there is no need for a get!

In general Reb Moshe requires the establishment of 3 factors. 1) The husband has a serious condition that preexisted the marriage that the wife did not know about- such as homosexuality or schizophrenia. 2) The condition has to be so severe that most women would not be able to deal with it 3) As soon as the wife discovered this condition she left her husband. 

Obvious number 3 is the most easy to establish. Did Tamar Epstein leave her husband upon finding that he had an impossible condition? For the sake of argument let us assume that at some point a rabbi or psychologist or friend or family member told her that he was never going to be capable of being the person she wanted. Upon hearing this she left him. That should be sufficient to fulfill this condition. She clearly did leave him - though it has not been established that that was the motivating factor. But let's assume it was fulfilled.

The difficult problem is establishing condition 1 and 2. We do have a list from Tamar about the good and bad points that she saw in her husband [Tamar's diary entry]. None of them fit the description of an impossible condition - not even the claim that her parents didn't like him. At most they can be described as disappointment that while he was a good man he was not as good as she had hoped and that she thought she could do better. Clearly implying that if she didn't think she had a choice she could have learned to live with him - and been happy. She obviously was getting feedback from her parents and others that she was still young and she could find someone better to spend the rest of her life with.

It thus seems clear that awareness of this impossible condition did not come spontaneously from Tamar - but it is something that an outside source must have told her. Otherwise she would have left him sooner. I was told by Aharon that he and his wife went to two different therapists. Were they the cause? One clearly stated that he thought the marriage could be saved. Perhaps the second therapist thought it couldn't.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the second therapist told Tamar that he thought that Aharon had a personality disorder or mental health issue that he didn't think was amenable to change or that the change would not be great enough to make him the man she wanted. Is that enough? The answer is clearly no unless it was very severe - such as bipolar or schizophrenia - that was not amenable to psychotherapy or drugs. It is important to note that Tamar never mentioned such psychopathology in her complaints about Aharon. It was primarily that he was shy and introverted.  Thus if he in fact had such a severe diagnosis - it was not likely that it prexisted the marriage and not likely that it preexisted the visit to this therapist.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that one therapist did in fact tell Tamar privately that he thought Aharon was suffering from an incurable and unpleasant mental health condition. Is that enough according to Reb Moshe Feinstein to declare the marriage a mistake? The answer is no - because there are many married couples in which one of the spouses has such a diagnosis - and they remain married. It has to be determined that most women would not be able to put up with such a condition - and from Tamar's own description of Aharon - that is clearly not true.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that she did accept the diagnosis of the therapist and changed her perception of her husband and that henceforth she decided she could not live with him and in fact left. Is that enough to invalidate the marriage? The answer again is no. She would need to convince a beis din that in fact that is why she left and they would have to agree with her.

It is clear from the Baltimore Beis Din - which is the only beis din to be authorized to deal with the case - that Aharaon manifested no such condition in their extensive and intensive dealings with him and his wife. So such a psak obviously did not come from them. 

So who issued such a psak. It clearly wasn't Rabbi Greenblatt who never spoke with Aharon because he says he relied on gedolim that Tamar was not married. So who is the source for paskening that Aharon was not marriageable? It most have been Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Sholom Kaminetsky. But considering their considerable bias (because her father was a major supporter of the yeshiva as well as its doctor) in favor of Tamar getting a divorce - it would be rather unethical - though not against halacha - for them to issue such a statement.
It is reasonable that they tried being fair and consulted with therapists regarding the matter. But such therapists never spoke with Aharon and needed to rely entirely on the views of Tamar and the one therapist who had dealt with Aharon as well as the Kaminetskys. It is highly likely that such therapists were close with the Philly Yeshiva and wanted to please the Kaminetsky's. It is also quite possible that the therapists were friends of the Epstein family. 

Thus it is highly unlikely that that an unbiased professional with full knowledge of the the situation actually declared Aharon to be unmarriageable and that such a condition preexisted his marriage to Tamar. Without an unbiased authority - such an opinion in worthless. Finding a single therapist or therapists to make such a ruling is also worthless unless it can be established that most therapists would agree - something which is highly unlikely. In addition having spent significant time talking with Aharon as well as having many email exchanges - I as a psychologist do not see any evidence of a mental health problem that would preclude being a good husband.

To summarize. My conjecture - and that is all it is at this point - is that  Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Tamar could remarry based on  the psak of the Kaminetskys which was serverely biased because they were looking for a way to free Tamar from marriage. They have functioned from the beginning as her advocates and thus should not also serve as poskim. The psak was clearly not an objective evaluation of the full range of opinions of professionals in this matter but was a target drawn around the arrow after it had been shot. It is also not clear that whatever the blemish that they claim Aharon suffers from - is something that most women could not live with. It is also clear that Tamar would have been able to live with it - if her parents and friends had encouraged her to stay in the marriage - rather than to try for something better. In short - Tamar has no valid basis for viewing her marriage to Aharon as a mistake - and she is committing adultery in her second marriage.

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