Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tamar Epstein: R Sholom Kaminetsky repackaged this from a normal shalom bayis case into annulment

In order to fully appreciate the corruption of the halachic process involved in the Tamar Epstein case - it is important to understand that it started out as a normal shalom bayis case.

1) As noted before there is nothing in Tamar's diary description of Aharon that indicates any inherent mental health problem - and surely nothing serious enough to warrant annulling the marriage because nobody could stand living with him (Rav Moshe Feinstein's requirement).

2) In addition to Tamar we have the Baltimore Beis Din - the only beis din authorized to deal with the case - they also viewed it as a run of the mill "she wants out of the marriage case."

Beis din can categorize a case as being one of four levels of dysfunction  1) nothing serious but one party wants out and the other doesn't 2) One or both party is irritating or abusive to the other - but nothing that counselling and good will can't fix 3) One party has serious problems such as being physically abusive or suffers from mental health or physical issues which make the marriage very unpleasant. In such a case the beis din can order the husband to give a divorce. 4) the existence of a pre-existing condition that was not known to the spouse which makes marriage impossible for most people such as severe mental illness. It is not fixable and as soon as the spouse found out about it - left the marriage. This is the basis for annulment of the marriage because it was a mistake - according to the rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein.

For 5 years Tamar Epstein demanded a Get to end her marriage to Aharon Friedman. She became the number 1 Agnua. She was featured in the media including the NY Times. She appeared with Rav Herschel Schecter in a video about the problems of Agunas. She was supported strongly by ORA with public demonstrations against Aharon and his family. A campaign was mounted to have Aharon fired from his job. And finally her lawyer admits transferring $60, 000 to Mendel Epstein to take care of Aharon. Subsequently Aharon was physically attacked by several men as he returned his daughter to Tamar's family home.

However during these many rallies, interviews etc - there was never any mention made that Aharon was deeply flawed mentally or physically. For 5 years there was no mention that this was an example of kiddushei ta'os (a mistaken marriage) and that therefore no Get was needed. Why did Tamar and her supporters waste all this time and energy - if they could have simply pulled the plug with an annulment?

It is important to remember that during all this time - Tamar was strongly supported by the Kaminetsky's. Her father was the yeshiva doctor and one of its strongest supporters. There was no effort that was spared to obtain a Get for her. This included letters from Reb Shmuel against Aharon demanding that he give a Get. This included support of ORA's demonstrations to force a Get - even though the only authorized beis din said a Get should not be forced or pressured. Rav Herschel Schacter even wrote a letter saying he bowed to the authority of Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky in Tamar's case. In short the Kaminetsky's marshaled all the forces in Heaven and Hell to obtain a Get. But there was one exception - there was never a mention of an annulment.

The following is a letter I received from a reliable source regarding the view of the Kaminetsky's for 5 years as they battled for a Get for Tamar.
Both parties agreed to have the Baltimore Beis Din adjudicate the case under binding arbitration.   The Baltimore Beis Din held three sessions on the case with the participation of both parties.  The Baltimore Beis Din refused to order that a get be given. 
Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky testified (by phone) at one of the sessions held by the Baltimore Beis Din.  He argued that the marriage was over and that the beis din should not try to encourage reconciliation because Tamar had no feelings towards Aharon to make the marriage work.  He argued that there were basic issues between them and that the two were incompatible.  Upon questioning, he acknowledged that he had previously told Aharon that he thought the marriage could and should be saved.  However, he said that after talking further to Tamar he believed the marriage couldn't be saved because she had no feelings for the marriage from her perspective. 
When the Beis Din asked whether the marriage could be saved if Tamar would try to make it work, he said he couldn't tell.

At no point did Rabbi Kamenetsky even make the claim that there was some underlying physical or mental issue regarding Aharon such that Aharon was not marriageable.

Suddenly after 5 years of battle, Tamar and the Kaminetsky's changed tactics and used those of Senator Aiken regarding the ending of the Vietnam War. When America was hopelessly mired in a losing war in Vietnam - one which they could not afford to lose but had no way of winning - Senator Aiken proposed that the US simply declare that it had won the war and withdraw its troops.

That the Kaminetsky's followed this approach can be seen when Tamar suddenly announced - after 5 years of a war of attrition against Aharon - that she was free of the marriage. That she didn't need a Get. The Kaminetskys not only approved of this approach they were the driving force behind it. They drew up a suggested psak and solicited poskim to agree - without actually investigating the case - that the marriage was annulled as a mistaken marriage.

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