Monday, February 29, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: News and Views from Rav Gestetner

Rabbi Gestener's latest shiur on the situation:
951-262-3634 press # 355

Mom who abducted daughter to pay 1 million shekels

A woman who abducted her daughter and disappeared for four years will pay the girl's father 650,000 shekels in damages in addition to extra compensation, a Tel Aviv court ruled.

The father is a citizen of France and Israel, and the mother was born in Turkey to a rich and influential family, reported News1. Their daughter was born in the year 2000 and the family resided in Israel. In 2004, the mother and daughter visited Turkey but never returned.

In court proceedings that reached the Supreme Court in Israel as well as the International Court for Human Rights, it was decided that the girl must be returned to Israel. The mother and daughter were located in 2008, and the girl was returned to Israel. The mother had been disguised as a Muslim. [...]

The judge determined that the mother must pay most of the expenses the father incurred in searching for his daughter as well as legal expenses, and must pay another 340,000 shekels to compensate the father for loss of earnings during the time he searched for his daughter.

In addition, she must pay the father 650,000 shekels to compensate for his pain and suffering during the years he searched for the daughter.[...]

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Daas Torah vs local authority - a letter from Rav Chaim Ozer explaining when local authority is preferred

The following appeared in an article "Daas Torah revisited" by R Yitzchok Blau in Tradition Winter 2015. It is referring to a letter of Rav Chaim Ozer which is found in his collected letters vol 1 page 242-243

In late nineteenth century Germany, the secession controversy broke out in the Orthodox community. For the first time, Orthodox Jewry had the opportunity to secede from the larger Jewish community and maintain an independent financial and political relationship with the German government. R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch favored secession whereas R. Yitshak Dov Bamberger opposed it. When the question reappeared in 1912, a German Jew wrote to R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzinski, the illustrious Rav of Vilna, for guidance. R Hayyim Ozer responded with a very significant letter and it is worthwhile to cite an extended passage : 

In truth, the foundation of a solution regarding this important question is, in my opinion, different from all rulings about issur va-hetter or questions of agunot, whose roots are clear in shas and poskim, and the respondent must focus on clarifying the rishonim and ahroinim, decide based on the canons of legal decision making, and find a solution to the complicated question. This is not the case regarding the solution to this question. Its unique foundation is based in a comprehensive understanding and a clear outlook, in order to recognize the correct way to make a fence and stand in the breach to strengthen religion. There is no doubt in my mind that the righteous rabbis, R. S. R Hirsch and R. Y. D. Bamberger were not arguing about Jewish law. Rather, their world outlook was different, each one according to his holy way for the sake of heaven. This outlook is especially illuminated for a sage who knows the area, who lives in that location and community, and who knows the traits or the people of the community and their particulars, is attached to them in all the binds that tie, oversees their needs, he has the discerning eye to properly investigate religious questions, and he can see the impact for the next generation. Therefore, it would seem, they did not ask for a decision on this serious questions from the great lights of the exile, the genonim R. M. L. Malbim, R. Yisrael Salanter, R. Y. L. Diskin, or R. Y. E. Spektor, may their memory be for a blessing, because this decision cannot be reached through Talmudic sources or the posekim but only based on quality reasoning and the correct and illuminating outlook. Those working from a distance cannot become involved and they did not find outlook strong enough to make a determination. They relied on the rabbis who dwell in that place.

Brooklyn rabbi charged with teen sex assault gets 60 days in jail; DA ripped for offering light plea deal

NY Daily News   A Brooklyn rabbi charged with sexually abusing four teenage boys in a hotel was sentenced to just 60 days in jail and six years of probation.

Yoel Malik, 33, a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, was given the generous plea deal after the victims were extremely reluctant to testify publicly, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the case.

In 2013, Malik was charged with 28 criminal counts and shamelessly blamed his underage victims for trying to seduce him, police sources said. [...]

Friday, February 26, 2016

Washington area rabbis have shunned Aharon Friedman - against the halacha - but with encouragement of R Herschel Schacter

R Shmuel Herzfeld
Aharon Friedman is still being shunned by the Silver Spring community - by both rabbis and congregants as a Get refuser. Their distortion and ignorance of elementary halacha - or perhaps their preference for secular values over Torah - is problematic for a number of reason 

1) Tamar claims she doesn't need a Get because she says she was never married to Aharon. None the less the "wise" rabbis and their "wiser" congregants will not let him attend shul until he gives her a get! 2) The Baltimore Beis din has long stated that Aharon Friedman is not obligated to give his wife a Get - and they are the only beis din authorized to deal with the case because of a signed agreement from Aharon and Tamar. 3) While the Washington Beis Din originally demanded that Aharon give a Get - they rescinded that demand 6 years ago with the acknowledgement that they had no jurisdiction in the case which was already being dealt with by the Baltimore Beis Din.

Despite this explicit ruling in 2010 that only the Baltimore Beis Din is authorized to make ruling regarding this case - the ban has continued and is force today.

An example of a rabbi incorrectly claiming that halacha requires banning Aharon - despite the clear ruling of both the Washington and the Baltimore Beis Din  - is found in this post from 3 years ago of the view of Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld. He and Rav Schacter clearly hold that a man can be pressured to give a Get - on the demand of the wife - even without going to beis din - and even if the beis din says otherwise!
So from the perspective of Jewish law the matter is clear: If a person is not giving his wife a Get and is using it as leverage, one can (and depending on the circumstances, should) embarrass him publicly even to the point of threatening his livelihood.  
While this is never a pleasant thing to do; it is also not pleasant to live with the pain of not being able to remarry or go out on a date by virtue of the fact that you are being chained to a recalcitrant spouse.
Although, the halacha is clear I still felt trepidation in this area.  Perhaps I was misreading the sources or perhaps there were other factors that I did not consider.  So I personally discussed this case with Rav Hershel Schachter, a leading authority at Yeshiva University, who is directly involved in this exact case.  He encouraged me to continue on this path.  I specifically asked Rav Schachter if I should let all of Aharon’s colleagues on the Hill know about his behavior and he said, “yes.”
Subsequent to our conversation, Rav Schachter wrote a psak on this matter where he wrote: “Limnoa mei-habaal she-lo ye-agen et ishto—inyan zeh eino tzarikh pesak beit din, upeshita desaggi behoraat chacham, to work to prevent the husband from chaining his wife—this matter does not require a ruling from a Beit Din, and it is obvious that all that is required is a ruling from a single Torah scholar.”  He further noted that the great Rabbi Akiva Eiger also ruled that if we know a man is planning on making his wife an Agunah we can even throw him into jail on the Shabbat itself.  So in this case specifically it is appropriate to convince Aharon to give a Get.
The Halakhah on this matter is clear: Aharon should give the Get immediately and not hold it as leverage.  Until he does that it is permissible to embarrass him into doing so.
Of course, at the end of the day it is not just Aharon who is embarrassed publicly.  The New York Times article did not just embarrass Aharon, it also embarrassed the Torah; it is a Chilul Hashem to see such behavior being conducted under the auspices of the Torah.
But that is not the fault of the New York Times.  That is the fault of our own community for not being strong enough in this area.  
Aharon still has many supporters who are encouraging him in his recalcitrance either explicitly or implicitly through smoke screens and redirected, irrelevant complaints about his ex-wife.  And so Tamar Epstein’s status as an Agunah continues, and for that we should all be embarrassed.

Ki Sisa; What Moshe Rabbeinu And Betzalel Were Thinking by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

The Gemarah in Brochos (55a) and Rashi (Shemos 38:22) tell us, that Betzalel was told by Moshe Rebbeinu to first make the Aron and "keilim" and then the Mishkon, ....

However, Hashem had instructed Moshe to make the Mishkon FIRST!! Betzalel thought the Mishkon should be made first, and Moshe Rabbeinu agreed- that that was in fact the order that Hashem said is should be....

Why did Moshe Rabbeinu think that the Aron must be made first, and how do we understand Betzalel's reasoning..

For questions and comments, please email

Why do good people do evil things in divorce cases? A lesson from Shlomo HaMelech

Dear Rabbi Eidensohn,

In several divorce case that you have covered, there has been some serious unbecoming behavior that some of the divorcing parties have perpetrated. To those of us who have had interactions with these people, it often does not make any sense. People who generally act with kindness, consideration and fairness act in self-centered and mean-spirited ways. How does this come about? How do good people go so wrong? The Gemara relates, that the stories mentioned in Tanach are instructive to each and every generation. While there were many more stories and prophecies that were not recorded in Tanach, only those that are relevant to all generation were transcribed. We may find an interesting answer there.

King Solomon was only twelve years old when he succeeded his father as the king of Israel. At that point, Hashem appeared to him in a dream and gave him a blank check offer. Hashem told Shlomo Hamelech that he can have whatever he would like. With awareness and recognition of his youthfulness and inexperience, Shlomo asked Hashem to provide him with the wisdom to be able to understand how to properly lead the Jewish people. More importantly, he asked for the wisdom to be able to properly differentiate between right and wrong. Being that Shlomo’s request was completely selfless, Hashem told Shlomo that He will give him the wisdom to be the wisest man ever – in addition to other gifts.

Immediately thereafter, the young Shlomo was put to the test. The Radak explains that the case that he was asked to rule upon was to show all of us his great wisdom. Indeed, the whole nation was watching him and eyeing this case to see Shlomo’s ability to rule. There were two single mothers who shared a room. Both had given birth to baby boys. However, unfortunately, during the third night one baby died beside her mother. Sad, upset, hurt and distraught at having lost her precious child, she quietly switched her dead child with her roommate’s sleeping child. She intended to raise this child as her own. She was going to shower the baby with love, warmth and motherly care. When her roommate awoke to take care of her baby, she saw the other mother's dead child beside her. She immediately realized that this was not her child! Her child was alive and well at the other side of the room. Naturally, a custody battle ensued. They took their battle to King Solomon. The nation would now witness Shlomo Hamelech’s – the wisest of all men – wisdom.

Listening to both mothers, Shlomo wisely declared that “We must split it evenly. Cut up both children – the one who and the one was alive! - in half!” It worked! The mother of the dead child agreed to cut both children up. However, the mother of the living child begged Shlomo to keep her child alive. She would rather her child live, even with a woman who had kidnapped him, rather than her child being killed. It now became obvious who the rightful mother was. It was self-understood to all observers that the real mother was the one who wanted to keep her child alive.

The Novie relates that now, through his ruse and ruling, the whole nation saw Shlomo Hamelech’s amazing wisdom.

In one of his famously inspiring shmoozen, Rav Chaim Shmulevitz asked: “Shlomo! How did you know?! How did you know that this woman would be willing to cause the murder of this child – a child she wanted to raise as her own? Just because she was willing to kidnap this child should not mean that she was willing to murder the child! Had your ruse not worked, you would have looked childish and foolish.”

It is apparent that the reasoning in this case is one that is applicable to people in all generations – otherwise it would not have been transcribed.

Obviously, Shlomo Hamelech in his great wisdom understood with absolute certainty, that once a person is willing to wrongfully take a child away from their parent – even if it is to satisfy a deep emotional hurt – at that point, they have become willing to murder the child. Indeed, depriving a child from their parent is emotional destruction of the child.

Yes, there may be organizations, movements and good friends who may encourage divorcing parents to use their children as leverage, as a weapon of war and deny their children their other parent. It may be bring about interesting results.The downside is, that at that point they have become willing to completely destroy their child. They have chosen the other objective over the well-being of their child. This may very well be the underlying cause of how good people fall into behaving so wrongly in divorces.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The unpleasant details of how Tamar Epstein destroyed her marriage with the encouragement of the Kaminetskys (part 3)

How Rabbi Schachter’s conferring papal infallibility upon Rabbi Kamenetsky led Rabbi Kamenetsky to believe he could annul a marriage: Part 3

The terrible travesty of justice in this case is not just that Tamar decided to have custody litigated in court instead of in Beis Din – although this decision by itself is extremely troubling and contrary to halacha. The terrible travesty in this case is that the destruction of a family with a young child could have been avoided. And even if divorce was going to occur, it could have been settled amicably and quietly. 

Instead of pursuing either of these two outcomes, the Kamenetskys encouraged the Epstein family to engage in no-holds barred warfare against Aharon, the Baltimore Beis Din, and even the very notion of halacha, and a Jewish community. This has included kidnapping the parties’ child and then getting that kidnapping to be treated as a fait accompli by violating several agreements between the parties, tricking Aharon into canceling a pendete lite civil court trial in which it was likely that the child would be returned in order to bring the case to Beis Din, committing perjury in court and the Baltimore Beis Din, violating the Baltimore Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the civil court case, and then successfully arguing in civil court that Aharon couldn’t contest the kidnapping because he had voluntarily cancelled the pendete lite trial to bring the case to Beis Din. 

There is no low to which this campaign would not stoop or any level of crime in which they would not engage, including a vicious Tisha Ba’av assault (in which Cheryl Epstein [Tamar’s mother] signaled her henchmen to attack by telling the child to give Aharon a kiss) that endangered the life of the child and constituted Federal capital crimes, and a capital crime under halacha.  Instead of protesting against the Kamenetskys’ horrible abuses, other rabbis [with the notable exception of Rabbis Eidensohn] were generally silent or cheered them on, with Rabbi Schachter bestowing Rabbi Kamenetsky with papal infallibility.

Parts 1 and 2 described what happened before 2010.

The following describes what happened next:

Tamar again filed for absolute divorce and obtained a divorce on April 12, 2010, pursuant to Maryland’s no-fault divorce law.

The Baltimore Beis Din refused demands by Tamar and the Kamenetskys that the Beis Din order that a get be given.  The Beis Din had held several hearings with the participation of both parties and ruled that there was no obligation to give a get. 

In an attempt to override the Baltimore Beis Din, on May 12, 2010, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky wrote a public letter purporting to rule that Tamar is an agunah, and urging the public to pressure Aharon.  It has been reported in both the secular and mainstream media that Rabbi Kamenetsky has longstanding financial and personal ties to Tamar’s family.  [  “Dr. Epstein [Tamar’s father] was an active supporter of Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, a religious school for Orthodox Jewish boys and young men in Overbrook. He volunteered his medical services to the school and was on call to care for the students 24/7, said a close friend, Rick Goldfein [Tamar’s lawyer].”  Rabbi Kamenetsky is founder and dean of the school. "Dr. Dovid Epstein, z’l," Yated Ne’eman, May 4, 21012 (noting how close Dr. Epstein was to Rabbi Kamenetsky and featuring a picture of the two, and Dr. Epstein’s involvement in the Philadelphia Orthodox community). The letter was written on the letterhead of the Philadelphia yeshiva of which Rabbi Kametesky serves as rosh yeshiva. 

This letter by Rabbi Kamenetsky was an outrageous attack on the legitimacy of Beis Din.  The letter by Rabbi Kamenetsky was a clear declaration that very wealthy families who are significant financial contributors to yeshivos and other community organizations have a right to get the rabbis to whom the wealthy families contribute money to override any Beis Din decision if the wealthy family doesn’t like the way that the Beis Din rules.

In June 2010, the Washington Beis Din sent another hazmana [summons] to Aharon, claiming that because Tamar had shown them a copy of a civil divorce decree and court ordered financial settlements and custody arrangements [making most of C’s time with Aharon impossible because of Shabbos] that the Washington Beis Din claimed “seem prima facie to be in line with common divorce settlements” thus indicating that the “court has settled all issues” and that Aharon had refused to give a get, the Washington Beis Din would be “forced to publicize [Aharon’s] wrongdoing” unless Aharon appears before the Washington Beis Din and proves (1) the court documents to be invalid, (2) that a get was given or (3) a “grievously extraordinary reason” that would justify Aharon’s action.   The letter was signed by Rabbis Winter and Klavan.

In August 2010, Rabbi Kamenetsky wrote another letter purporting to rule that Tamar is an agunah and urging the public to put pressure against not only Aharon, but also his family.  The letter was written on the letterhead of the Philadelphia yeshiva.

In August 2010 the ORA organization, of which Rabbi Hershel Schachter serves as posek, publicly denounced Aharon, even before trying to contact him to obtain his side of the story – contrary to ORA’s claim that it attempts to obtain information from both sides before publicly intervening against one party.  ORA publicly distributed defamatory letters with Aharon’s picture and that of his mother and uncle.  They demonstrated against Aharon’s mother, his uncle, and the shul of which Aharon’s uncle is rav.  The demonstrations continued for several years, and included a physical assault against a family member of Aharon.  These attacks against Aharon and his family directly contradict statements by ORA and Rabbi Schachter that action can only be taken with regard to a get pursuant to a ruling of a beis din.

In August 2010, Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum, who became rabbi of the Young Israel of Greater Washington upon the passing of Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer, told Aharon that he was forbidden from getting an aliyah in shul.

In September 2010, the Washington Beis Din ruled that it had no right to get involved in the case, as Aharon had argued to the Washington Beis Din.

On November 18, 2010, Tamar filed a contempt motion against Aharon in Court, demanding that C’s relationship with Aharon be limited to “supervised visits” – that is, C could not be alone with Aharon.  Tamar alleged that she had used tracking devices [hidden, amongst other places, in C’s diaper wipes and stuffed teddy bear] to prove that Aharon and C were outside the vicinity of her house. Aharon then filed a contempt motion alleging that Tamar had repeatedly refused to let C be with him during times they were to be together under the Order and asking that the Order be modified to remove the vicinity restriction. Aharon argued that Tamar and her family had made the Philadelphia area dangerous for Aharon and C to spend time in.  Tamar argued that the vicinity restriction should stay in place, and denied that there was any danger to Aharon or C.

On December 9, 2010, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky wrote another public letter attacking Aharon and claiming that Aharon is “mechuyav” [obligated] to give a get, and also noting with approval a public demonstration against Aharon, scheduled for December 19, 2010.  The letter was written on the letterhead of the Philadelphia yeshiva.  Rabbi Schachter added his signature to this letter.

On December 17, 2010, the Washington Vaad released a public letter: “We, the members of the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington, are fully cognizant and aware of the communal concern and polarization of opinions surrounding the dissolution of the marriage of Tamar Epstein and Aharon Friedman. While we truly empathize and understand the feelings on both sides we must follow the objectivity of Torah values and halakhic principles as our guide if we are not simply to react to the powerful emotions of the moment. These emotions, though legitimate, may or may not lead us in the proper direction, while halakhah can always serve as our roadmap in times of trouble.” The letter acknowledged that “First, at this time there is no Bet Din order for Mr. Friedman to give a get. Second, there is no Bet Din statement indicating a refusal to comply with a Bet Din’s order to give a get (a siruv) that exists at this time. …” 

Later that afternoon, a group deeming itself “Concerned Members of the Greater Washington Jewish Community,” including the leaders of the Orthodox Union’s Washington D.C. office, responded to the Washington Vaad’s letter by supporting the ORA rally, and demanding that the Washington Vaad backtrack from its position and pressure Aharon to immediately give a get.

On December 22, 2010, the Baltimore Beis Din stated in the Washington Jewish Week: ”Currently, the Epstein-Friedman case remains open but dormant, as “neither party has approached” the Baltimore beit din, requesting that it reconvene, according to Rabbi Mordechai Shuchatowitz, a rabbi on the court. “Right now,” he said, “the ball is in [Epstein’s] court” because, as the party seeking the get, she is responsible for reinitiating proceedings. Since the court has yet officially to order a get, Shuchatowitz said, it’s “a bit premature” to be holding rallies and other events meant “to pressure [Friedman] because he’s not been given his day in court.” After all, “you can’t disobey something you’ve not been told to do.”

The Baltimore Beis Din made this statement based on its understanding of the case at the time.  This was even though Tamar’s to’ain Goldfein had repeatedly and successfully lied to the Baltimore Beis Din and fooled them about the circumstances under which Tamar had violated the Beis Din’s order regarding dismissing the case from civil court.  The Baltimore Beis Din would later issue a letter apologizing to Aharon regarding the Baltimore Beis Din’s misunderstanding regarding what happened in civil court.  But it is important to note that even with that misunderstanding, the Baltimore Beis Din’s position all along was that it was wrong to demonstrate against Aharon and that the ball was in Tamar’s court if she wanted a get.

On December 23, 2010, ORA responded by circulating a letter written by its posek, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, claiming that because Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky had purported to rule that Tamar was an agunah and that Aharon was obligated to give a get, the fact that no beis din had issued any such ruling was irrelevant.  Rabbi Schachter wrote that Aharon must be pressured to give a get because Rabbi Kamenetsky had said so.  Rabbi Schachter explained that the basis of his ruling to follow Rabbi Kamenetsky was “sod hashem le’ruv” and “kvar horah zaken,” essentially meaning that Rabbi Kamenetsky’s word must be treated as the word of G-d.  Rabbi Schachter wrote that Aharon's situation is the same as "a slave whose master provides for him a Canaanite maidservant, that until now it is has been permissible, and now it is forbidden" who should be beaten until death. Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter specifically wrote that any person can take the law into his own hands to beat Aharon to death. 

Rabbi Schachter's actions in the case so directly contradict his earlier statement on the halachic aspects of these matters that it almost appears as if his earlier statement was specifically intended to protest against the very actions in which Rabbi Schachter himself and ORA would later engage.

“What is important to keep in mind is that whoever is chalashing for [wants]... a get must consult with rabbonim... with respect to issues of pressuring the other to give the get. You have to go to batai dinim and everything has to be done with a legitimate beis din. Sometimes people will go to criminals. Unfortunately there are criminals in every field. There are rabbis that are criminals also. Unfortunately, the husband or the wife will go to a Beis Din that has an awful reputation, and they will recommend things that are against halacha. You have to go to a reputable Beis Din and the Beis Din should give proper advice....

The Batai Dinim have a special obligation, the role of the Beis Din b'zman haze, is to maintain law and order. That people shouldn’t skin each other alive and that people should act decently towards each other.”

This letter from Rabbi Schachter and intense intimidation from the Kamenetskys and others was successful in silencing the Baltimore Beis Din.  For many years, they were too afraid to again publicly defend Aharon even though their position was that demonstrations against him were wrong.  The Baltimore Beis Din explained that the Kamenetskys and the other rabbis attacking Aharon were in another league, and that therefore the Beis Din would not publicly contest them.

However, to their great credit the Baltimore Beis Din refused to be bullied by the Kamenetskys into issuing any ruling of any sort against Aharon that the Beis Din knew would be without any halachic basis whatsoever, such as ordering that a get be given.

As Tamar, her family, Frederic Goldfein and the Kametnetskys could not bully either the Baltimore Beis Din or the Washington Beis Din to do as they demanded, that is issue a ruling against Aharon that would have been without any basis, they shopped around for yet another beis din to intervene.  In January 2011, Tamar asked the Beis Din of America (BDA) to issue a hazmana [summons] to Aharon.  Rabbi Weissmann, the administrator of the BDA called the Baltimore BD, which told Rabbi Weissmann that the parties had signed a shtar beirurim with the Baltimore BD.  The BDA concluded that it had no right to intervene in the case and refused to issue a hazmana to Aharon.

It is not known how many other batai din Tamar, Goldfein and the Kamenetskys shopped around. 

In February 2011, Tamar’s lawyer and to’ain, Frederic Goldfein asked the criminal Rabbi Mordechai Martin Wolmark to get involved in the case – according to Goldfein’s testimony at the Mendel Epstein trial in Federal district court in Trenton.  Goldfein was forced to testify when he was given immunity.  The United States Justice Department had declared in a court affidavit that if Goldfein was not given immunity he would likely invoke his Fifth Amendment right against seld-incrimination and refuse to testify.

According to Goldfein’s testimony, Goldfein and Cheryl Epstein (Tamar’s mother) met with Wolmark in February 2011.  According to Goldfein’s testimony, Goldfein and Wolmark exchanged dozens of emails.

According to Goldfein’s testimony, in June 2011, Wolmark arranged for a criminal enterprise, known as the Agudas Harabanim,  to issue a so-called hasra’a achrona [final warning] to Aharon, ruling that Tamar was an agunah.

Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky at Project Inspire Feb 27

Attempted abduction case in Brooklyn falls apart after suspect, a man from a prominent Orthodox family, comes forward - Sex abuse is only a crime for non-Jewish assailants

NY Daily News     An investigation into an attempted abduction of a 14-year-old girl in Brooklyn fell apart after it was learned that the suspect comes from a prominent Orthodox family, law enforcement sources said Wednesday.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Orthodox man, showed up at the 61st Precinct with his attorney Tuesday — a day after the NYPD released an enhanced photo of him as a suspect in the crime.

But when investigators contacted the victim after the suspect came forward the family "stopped cooperating with the cops," a police source said.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said the girl changed her mind about talking to authorities after receiving pressure from the community.

The suspect's father is the principal of a yeshiva and his grandfather is an "influential rabbi," the source said.

The victim was with her mother when the suspect — initially described as a white or Hispanic man — approached her on E. 7th St. in Midwood about 4:30 p.m. Feb. 16.

"Come here," the man demanded of the teen.

When the girl refused, he grabbed her by the shoulder and wouldn't let go until the victim's former teacher intervened, officials said.

"The case and the investigation is closed," an NYPD spokesman said Wednesday. "No one is charged." [...]

Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt voluntarily steps down as community rabbi

Times of Israel     Following a tumultuous year of sexual misconduct allegations and a community effort to bring about his ouster, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt told his New York synagogue Wednesday that he would step down as community rabbi. 

The decision was announced in a letter sent to the members of the Riverdale Jewish Center by its president, Samson Fine. 

“Rabbi Rosenblatt has today informed RJC’s leadership that he intends to step aside from the Senior Rabbinate of the RJC,” the email read. “The Shul’s Board of Trustees was informed at this evening Board meeting and we anticipate discussing transition details the Board in the next two weeks.”

The Riverdale Jewish Center had decided to keep Rosenblatt in place despite protests over reports of sauna chats with naked boys revealed in an exposé in The New York Times in May 2014.

Rosenblatt, who denied any criminal wrongdoing but apologized for inappropriate behavior, had been fighting efforts by some in his Orthodox congregation to buy out the remaining three years on his contract.

Despite the controversy stirred by the article about Rosenblatt’s practice for years of inviting teenage boys and young men for naked heart-to-hearts in the sauna after racquetball games, he retained the support of community leaders. [...]

Rosenblatt’s determination to stay was bolstered by the warm reception he received after a dramatic public apology in front of hundreds of congregants at a synagogue gathering in late June 2015.

“This is a crisis created by my own lapses of judgment,” Rosenblatt said, according to a recording of the speech transcribed by a synagogue member and cited in the Times. “I have brought pain to people, shame to my family and I have caused a desecration of the divine name.” [...]

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The real ‘Mandate’ of Rav Dovid Feinstein and the Gedolim (Agudah)

guest post

The real ‘Mandate’ of Rav Dovid Feinstein and the Gedolim (Agudah)

If the situation were only as severe, as twisted as Rabbi Eidensohn reports, that Rabbi Dovid Feinstein may rule that there is sufficient halachic basis to allow the Greenblatt/Kaminetsky heter, regardless if the heter is true, due to his mandate to save RSK’s reputation. This is mere political corruption. 

However, I have credible information regarding the ‘Mandate’ that posits another motivation, one that reveals the disrespect, disregard, and I dare say disdain the American Gedolim have for their flock, the people. My sources report that the real ‘mandate’ is to save Yiddishkeit! R' Dovid and the Gedolim (Agudah) believe that we, the people, cannot handle the truth that a Gadol Yisroel has failed, has made a mistake, is not infallible. In plain words, they think that we are no better than brainwashed cult followers, robots, mindless followers who would leave Hashem, leave Yiddishkeit, because of mistaken or corrupt Gedolim. This is a canard, in essence, a motzi sham ra against klal Yisroel.

The following is a vort regarding the following verse from Shir HaYam, “This is my G-d and I will beautify Him, the G-d of my fathers and I will exult Him.” I was fortunate to learn this when my children were very young; I drilled this into their hearts and minds. “This is my G-d” refers to the chozrim b'teshuvah. They find Hashem, in essence, immediately; their challenge is to come to the mesora, the “G-d of my fathers”, to come face to face with the likes of Yehuda HaNasi, the Rambam, the Chofetz Chaim, and this struggle is the work of a lifetime. Conversely, the FFB was given the “G-d of my fathers” as an inheritance; their challenge is to come to a true revelation that, “This is my G-d”, and they face a lifelong struggle to see that their Avoda Hashem not become stale and rote. This vort is drash; pshat is that BT’s and FFB’s face both challenges. All Jews strive to know Hashem and His Torah, to beautify and exalt Him, regardless of the perfection or imperfection of their leaders. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt’l, pointed out, ‘Gedolim come and go’.

The Maskilim, Reformists, Bundists, and Zionists destroyed European Jewry spiritually before WW2. A few embers, a few Great Men, were plucked from the flames that engulfed our People during the War, including the fathers of Rabbis Dovid Feinstein and Shmuel Kaminetsky. These men were able to rebuild Yiddishkeit in America and Eretz Yisroel due to the fact that they would not sacrifice or compromise emmes. Also, the great majority of frum Yidden would not compromise. The children and grandchildren from that generation are demanding higher standards of kashrus, seeking higher standards of Torah study, etc. 

R’ Shmuel Kaminetsky, just by admitting that he was mistaken, can rise to be the Rabbenu Yona of our Generation.  

R’ Dovid, Gedolim (Agudah), your flock is strong. All we want is that you...; no, we demand the emmes!

Rav Yitzchok Isaac Sher: the Importance, nature and holiness of sexual relations

Kuntres Kedushas Yisroel (Introduction): The Ravad wrote in Baal Nefesh at the beginng of Sha'ar HaKedusha, "I wish to write at length and in detail in this section because there is benefit in being expansive. That is because in these matters the majority of people err in their understanding and therefore make mistakes in what they do. Therefore I saw fit to expound on this topic until it becomes simple and clearly understood to all those who are interested."

We see that this genuinely pious person (Ravad) said that he knows that in these matters most people err. Because he is concerned about these people, he wanted to teach them the proper understanding to deal with these matters and the proper conduct to lead a proper life. However in our lowly times, it seems to me the G-d fearing scholars do not know these matters and there are many talmidei chachomim who simply rely on their knowledge based on studying this Sha'aar HaKedusha of the Ravad. However the truth is that the Sha'ar HaKedusha is a closed document for people like us and is not properly understood. The Ravad with his deep understanding thought that his brief words were sufficiently clear for proper understanding and he even apologized in his introduction for being so expansive in this matter. He did this so that what he wrote should be simple and understandable to all those who studied it. However for those who don't have extensive knowledge, these words are often merely unclear allusions which require much elaborations and explanations in order to understand their profoundity properly

After the Ravad (1125-1198) we merited to have the Igros Kodesh attributed to the Ramban (1194-1270). Even though the Ramban saw the words of the Ravad, he nevertheless decided it would be proper to expand the material into 6 chapters. He explained the material in an impressive manner with principles and detail as to what to do. However due to our poor comprehension even the Ramban’s expansions are too terse and they themselves now need to be expanded and clarified. I will try with G-d’s help to explain the depth of his words and remove the difficulties to those who study them that prevent proper understanding.

In the first chapter I will discuss the topic in general – that these issues determine the sanctity of the Chosen Jewish People and whether they are able to be holy to G-d as the Torah says, “You should sanctify yourselves and be holy because I the L-rd am holy. Just as He is holy so should you be holy. Given that the material that man is made of and his nature are the causes of being good or bad based on his temperment and this is determined by the nature of the drop from which he developed – it follows that sexual intercourse of a man and woman is the cause of the holiness of the Jewish people and the holiness of G-d or mundaneness according to the children that are born since they constitute the nation. Therefore we are commanded to sanctify ourselves at the time of intercourse since that is the cause of giving birth to tzadikim who sanctify G-d’s name or evil people who profane G-d’s name. Therefore it is a holy obligation to know what is this sanctification. In explaining this holiness there are five aspects which are explained in these chapters – the nature of intercourse, the appropriate time, the food that is appropriate to eat, the intent and motivation for intercourse and the quality of intercourse. [to be continued]

Vaccination is unquestionably a parental responsiblity: Review article by Rav Bleich

 Rabbi  J. David Bleich Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Liturature  Tradition Summer 2015 p55

Childhood vaccinations are not accompanied by any significant danger. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, autism is not at all associated with M.M.R. inoculation. That misinformation gained currency and became widespread because of a spurious article based upon fraudulent research that appeared in a British medical journal. The principal author's malfeasance was subsequently exposed and his license to practice medicine was revoked. Possible connections between autism and M.M.R vaccine were rigorously investigated and in 2004, in a publication entitled "Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism," the Institute of Medicine reported that epidemiological evidence failed to establish a causal relationship. Other dangers attendant upon various forms of inoculation are infinitesimal.28 The dangers that do exist are well within the parameters of shomer peta'im as defined by Binyan Zion. For Shem Aryeh and Imrei Shefer they are far below the threshold level requiring even invocation of shomer peta'im. 

Even assuming a higher degree of danger, as earlier argued, a parent is nevertheless charged with assumption of a minimal danger on behalf of a child in order to ward off more serious danger, as evidenced by a father's obligation to teach his sons to swim. 

Nor can the principle of shomer peta'im be invoked to justify assumption of a recognized danger that can be readily averted. That is clearly the import of the statement of R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshch, Even ha-Ezer, IV, no. 10, to the effect that, with the development of blood tests to determine whether prospective marriage partners are both carriers of the gene responsible for Tay-Sachs disease, one may no longer rely upon shomer peta'im in assuming the risk of that disease. For precisely the same reason, a danger posed by childhood disease tor which a vaccine is available may not be assumed on the plea of shomer peta'im. That is certainly the import of the statement attributed to the late R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv to the effect that "failure to immunize would amount to ncgligence.” 29
Perfection of vaccines that immunize against disease results in a situation in which failure to vaccinate is tantamount to willfully exposing oneself to Zi1'liWI ptihim, Once divine providence has made a vaccine safely available, any misfortune resulting from failing to avail oneself of immunization is to be attributed to human negligence rather than to divine decree. Exposure to the disease without immunization is equivalent to exposure to the elements without protection. Allowing a child to be exposed to the ravages of communicable disease is no different from exposing the child to zinim pahim. Any resultant harm is not at the hands of Heaven but is derekh ikesh which the parent bears full responsibility. […]

Vaccination of one's children is unquestionably a parental responsibility." Education of parents in their halakhic responsibilities in light of the overwhelming benefits of vaccination and their resultant voluntary compliance would entirely obviate the quandary forced upon dedicated and well-meaning educators.

28 See the website tor the Center for Disease Control, See also, Alice Park, "How Safe Are Vaccines?" Time Magazine ,inc, June 2, 2008.
29 See Akiva Tatz, Dangerous Disease & Dangerous Therapy in Jewish Medical Ethics, (Southfield, Michigan, 2010), p. 48.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Skulener Rebbe: Consequences of avoiding sex education with bachruim

Rabbi Daniel Travis regarding Mishlei 5:19 and Rav Sternbuch's view on Planet X and Moshiach

A yeshiva bachur comments about public discussions of sexuality

Guest post by a Yeshiva Bachur

Relevant to whether these sorts of topics should be discussed publically is the following medrash rabba. 

It's in parshas tazria יט:ג

‎ר' שמואל בר יצחק פתר קריא בפרשיותיה של תורה אע"פ שנראות כאילו הן כעורות ושחורות לאומרן ברבים כגון הלכות זיבה ונגעים נדה ויולדת אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא הרי הן עריבות עלי שנאמר (מלאכי ג) וערבה לה' מנחת יהודה וירושלים וגו' תדע לך שהוא כן שהרי פרשת זב וזבה לא נאמרו כאחת אלא זו בפני עצמה וזו בפ"ע איש איש כי יהיה זב מבשרו ואשה כי יזוב זוב דמה וגו':

This seems to clearly be saying that the attitude of hush hush that we usually have towards these types of "untzniyus" halachos is in fact wrong and just the opposite hashem finds our learning of them most pleasing. So much so that instead of having them all together in the torah he split them up so they'd get "maximum exposure". This reminds me of the gemaras in brachos that say similarly תורה היא וללמוד אני צורך.

So whether or not the a blog is an appropriate place for discussion of these types of issues is a question to debate, but the reaction of some people that these things should only be learnt privately or one on one or with a rav/chassan teacher etc. does not seem to be the approach of chazal.

(Full disclosure I myself am a bachur in yeshiva, but while we wouldn't regularly come across such explicit stuff like what you posted anyone who learns mishnah berurah will eventually get to siman reish mem and anyone who learns Gemara will learn many similar gemaras like the one in shabbos which is probably more explicit than what you posted. And this is besides for what one picks up from just growing up in today's world unless you live in an extremely sheltered community but even there I can tell you many times the parents and rebbeim are living in denial about what their children know. The point is that today if everywhere around we are exposed to these things but when it comes to Torah we suppress them and refuse to talk it sends very bad signals to talmidim. My rebbeim never shied away from discussing these things with us and and one rebbe who I am very close with once told a group of first year bachurim when discussing a similar topic this exact idea."

And I can tell you from personal experience from learning with younger bachurim still in mesivta that not having rebbeim that will talk about these topics with them can have negative consequences.)

Kol tuv and zai gezunt

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Steipler: The correct understanding of the mitzva to love one's wife Igros Kodesh #1

Igros Kodesh (#1): 1) While it is true that asceticism in dealing with the lusts of this world is an important thing [assuming that it is done for the sake of heaven to give pleasure to G-d and not just to be more developed in spirituality] but that is only if it is done after he has already fulfilled is Torah obligations. However if by being ascetic he nullifies the slightest of his Torah obligations then his deeds are credited to the Sitra Acher [evil] - G-d forbid and he doesn’t advance in true spirituality. So even though he views himself as becoming a more elevated being by his asceticism he in fact is burying himself in the grave of pride by considering himself a very spiritual person when in fact his spirituality is seriously defective. And this frequently manifests itself as degradation in that it leads him to committing an actual Torah prohibition and he is not able to restrain himself at all as we know from a actual case where this happened – G-d should preserve us!

Conjugal rights of the wife is a Torah commandment just as serious as eating matzo. And even ignoring it when she is pregnant [when the wife has not truly excused him wholeheartedly from his obligations] makes into a complete sinner. And sins like this which are between two people are not atoned for even by Yom Kippur. He is like a robber or mugger who steals from his wife what is owed to her. This is comparable to killing his wife since it is known that the prime hope of a woman in this world is that she have a husband who loves her. Therefore when she see that he doesn’t love her, it is almost life threatening (pikuach nefesh) because of the great upset and anguish he causes her by making her like a widow while her husband is still alive.

The conjugal obligations of workers is twice a week, for a talmid chachom it is once a week. The Achronim write that in modern times we do not have people who are called talmidei chachomim according to Chazal [that is because in modern times we are not properly careful about not nullifying ourselves from Torah study and there are other reasons], nevertheless the reason why a talmid chachom only has an obligation once a week is because the Torah weakens his physical strength. That reason would therefore apply also a talmid chachom in modern times. However a talmid chachom who knows that he has the strength retains the obligation of having intercourse twice a week. This is how it is explained in the Biur Halacha (O.C. 240). This was the practice of the Chasam Sofer as is known – see the Mishna Berura there. It is also the practise of most talmidei chachomim in modern times ]before they reach old age ] It is obvious that she married with the understanding that her husband would follow the accepted practise. And furthermore the husband is obligated by the kesuba to conduct himself according to normative practise [for those similar to himself]. It is obvious that if he wants to exempt himself by have intercourse only once a week and not twice that this is close to creating a situation of a genuine uncertainty regarding a Torah obligation. Aside from that there is a separate obligation for the husband when he is aware that she desires to have relations – even if she indicates this by very slight hints as is explained in Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 240:1 which is from Pesachim 72 and in a number of other places.

2) The details of sexual intercourse of the mitzva of conjugal obligations are explained in the Siddur of Rav Yaakov Emden in the section of the laws of Shabbos night. It should be studied carefully because these are actual halachic obligations. Because according to the Torah it is prohibited to have intercourse in circumstances where the woman is not interested and therefore it is necessary to get her interested with intimate activities such as hugging and kissing until she is sexual aroused and desires intercourse. Because if this is not done first – it is like placing her before a lion who mauls and eats as is explained in Pesachim (49). [It is a terrible sin to deprive her of her sexual rights even if he is doing it for the sake of piety and asceticism. Taking what belongs to his wife can not be the basis of piety by theft and treating her as a slave]. Furthermore to have sexual intercourse against her will results in having children who are sinners and rejecters of Torah – they are call bnei anusa (children of rape).

A husband who grabs and has intercourse immediately without preliminary intimacy and then separates immediate after ejaculation and leaves her, might think that he is acting like a highly spiritual angel. But in actual truth he has not lowered his lust at all even though he definitely has placated his desires for the time being sine he has in fact obtained full pleasure from this intercourse. In contrast his wife felt no pleasures at all from this abrupt sexual act. In fact she has been hurt and shamed and the tears she sheds in private will not go unanswered. That is because our Sages(Bava Metzia) tell us that the Gate of Tears has not been closed. They say that a man should be very careful with his wife honor because she readily cries. There is no question that such a brutal act arouses Divine judgment against him. Furthermore he does not merit to have Divine help either in spiritual or material issues. And this that he mistakenly thinks he becomes a highly spiritual person by trying to be insensitive to his wife in sexual matters – this is a worthless fantasy and a lie. That is because from sins and transgression, one becomes blemished and spiritually impure – not elevated.

And this is stated in Shulchan Aruch (240:8) that it is done only after his wife is placated and is interested in doing it. Because otherwise it is prohibited to have intercourse without her consent as is explicit there in the Shulchan Aruch (240:3) and as is explained in the Siddur of Rav Yaakov Emden and this is actual Torah halacha. [In particular what is written in Shulchan Aruch (68). We see in Orchos Chaim in the name of Neziros Shimshon who writes that according to the Zohar and the writings of the Arizal – the halacha is in accord with the first explanation [that one should not have intent for the sake of pleasure but only for the sake of doing a mitzva]. However according to the second and third explanations [that they should be dressed during intercourse and that it should be done quickly] the opposite is true and there is a prohibition in doing this according to kabbalah. Nevertheless even according to the view of the Shulchan Aruch this is only if done with the full agreement of the wife. And thus is my understanding.

3) One who is intimate with his wife with hugging and other things for the sake of Heaven because he wants to have mercy on her that she shouldn’t be pained and feel abandoned – this will not cause the slightest weakening of his fear of Heaven or succumbing to lust. The opposite is true – it will bring him to holiness (kedusha) and he will be fulfilling the Torah command of imitating G-d. Just as He is merciful so to you should be merciful. Besides that hugging and kissing or any other act of intimacy is an inherent part of the mitzva of onah (conjugal duties) as is explained by the poskim regarding Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 184:10) concerning the obligation when a man goes on a trip just before the time for his wife’s menstrual period. 

4) While it is true that many talmidei chachomm conduct themselves in an ascetic manner in a number of intimate things – but that is only with the complete agreement of his wife and with her forgiveness with a full heart. And this agreement comes in most cases after it is explained to her that in truth her husband loves her and it is only for the sake of heaven that he is restraining himself. Or alternatively she married someone who is known as a tzadik whose reputation compensates for her loss of intimacy with him. But G-d forbid that the husband should conduct himself as an ascetic when it causes pain to his wife who is dependent upon him and does not forgive him whole heartedly concerning that which he is obligated to do for her.

5) Our Sages (Yevamos 62b) say, One who loves his wife as himself and honors her more than himself…is described by the verse "You should know that you will have peace with your wife…." It is important to note that our Sages are not saying to love one's wife with the natural love that man is attracted to a woman but rather to love her with the love that friends have for each other - as someone he knows and has a covenant with him and that they are partners in many things and each one helps and receives help from the other. In addition the love he feels for her should also come from gratitude. He needs to have the clear image in his mind that if he had not gotten a wife and would have remained alone and isolated - how much suffering and pain he would have from this. But now that he has a wife his life is in place and functioning. The significance of gratitude is immeasurably important. In fact our Sages state in the Mishna Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 7) that all those who lack gratitude to their fellow men will eventually lack gratitude towards G-d. If you look there you will see how extremely stringent they are in this matter. This type of love is what our Sages say a man is obligated to have towards his wife. And again this love does not come from the lust a man has for a woman at all but from one of the good attributes which he is obligated to have. He needs to have this type of love and feeling towards her when he strives to cause her rejoicing at the time of intercourse and well as before and afterwards. Such a relationship is not disgusting – chas v'shalom – but rather it is a mitzva. In fact he should conduct himself in this manner even if he were not obligated by the Torah and surely now that the Torah does obligated it - as we mentioned before.