Thursday, December 25, 2008

Responding to abuse - fight back or ignore?

One of the important questions is response to verbal abuse. Should one fight back verbally or physically? Should he ignore the insults? A related issue which is relevant also for physical or sexual abuse - should he/she forgive the assailant? The following quote from the Sefer Chinuch illustrates some of the tension.

Chinuch (#338)...However it would appear that it is not realistic to expect that if a Jew intentionally speaks badly about another person that the victim doesn’t respond. It is simply impossible that a person be like an immovable rock. Furthermore if the victim is silent in the face of the verbal abuse it is appears as if he agrees to the validity of the insult. In truth the Torah does not command that a person be as insensitive as a stone and be silent in the face of one who is insulting him - as he is to one who is giving him blessing.

Nevertheless the Torah has commanded us to distance ourselves from this situation and not to start to fight back and to insult others. We should simply avoid all of this. That is because someone who doesn’t fight will not be embarrassed by others – except by total fools and one should simply ignore fools.

On the other hand if someone is forced by the abuse to respond to his attacker – it is proper for a wise person to respond with temperance and not get overly angry. That is because anger is more appropriate for the uncultured. In this manner he will save himself from hearing insults and this will place the onus on the insulter. This is the good way for people to act.

It would seem that we could learn that it is permitted to respond to attack from the fact that the Torah permits one whose life is endangered to attack first and kill the one who threatens his life. There is no doubt that a person is not required to suffer physical harm at the hand of another person – everyone has the right to self defense. In a similar fashion he can save himself from verbal attack by replying in kind.

Nevertheless there is a type of man whose piety is so strong that he doesn’t want to be involved in this permitted activity of replying to insults. That is because he is concerned that their anger will get out of hand and they will get involved more than is appropriate. Concerning these pious people it says in Shabbos (88b): They are insulted but they don’t insult back. They hear the insults but do not reply. It about them in Shoftim (5:31): But they who love Him are as the sun when he goes forth in his might.

R' Tropper - proselytizing non-Jewish spouse is necessary for Jewish spouse to be observant

Regarding R' Tropper's rationale for what he is doing - please refer to my post from last January in which I translated an interivew with R' Tropper which had been published in Mishpacha Magazine.

Anonymous comments are rejected

I have just rejected a number of comments because they were anonymous. Make sure you pick a name and don't use the default setting of anonymous.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bernie Madoff - Inspired faith - not scepticism

Globes - Laura Goldman writes:

When the first news of Bernard Madoff’s arrest hit me, I experienced a cacophony of emotions. For sure, I was not gloating. Anyone who has been in the brokerage industry for a long time has been preyed upon by one or more con artists. They are always the most charming guy in the room and seem to pounce on you at the exact moment that your guard is down. My main sentiment was relief that I had dodged this bullet.

I met Uncle Bernie in Palm Beach over 10 years ago. We both scoured Palm Beach for business. Bernie’s “office” was the Palm Beach Country Club which he drove to in his late model Mercedes. My workplace was more down market, the lunch counter at Green’s drugstore or the Breaker’s Hotel’s swimming pool, where I arrived on my bike.

I wish that I could say that I am totally brilliant and knew instantly that Bernie Madoff was a fraud. Being young and arrogant at the time, I can only claim that he rubbed me the wrong way. When we got together to discuss business, he told me that I was lucky he was considering letting me and my clients invest with him. The alarms bells immediately went off in my head.

Pocketbooks, perfume, and cars are sold on the whiff of exclusivity - not stocks. There was not any legitimate reason that Bernie needed to limit his portfolio size because he was trading large capitalization stocks by computer. While I tried to steer the discussion to stocks, Bernie, the former chairman of NASDAQ, went mute. He only grudgingly disclosed that he used a split conversion strategy that employed options.

Like everyone else, I was suspicious of the consistency of returns of Madoff’s fund and the structure of the investment, but they were not the ultimate deal breaker for me. Since my office was previously in the same building as the Philadelphia Options Exchange, I called some of the biggest option market makers and employees of the exchange. I asked them about Bernie. All of them knew Bernie, but none of them were handling his trades. That seemed strange to me so I passed on the investment after 45 minutes of detective work.

It was with great regret that I did not invest with Bernie. I knew that I could have made bucket-loads of money with him. The product that he “designed” was perfect for his clients. Those groups do not care about superior returns. They just do not want to lose money. I also would have had an easy time in my job. There is nothing worse than having to call clients and tell them that you lost money.

That was not the end of Bernie in my life. In prospecting for new clients, I often ran across Madoff clients. Though I urged diversification, all of them insisted on increasing their stake with Madoff. Trying to lure clients from Madoff was difficult and frustrating. I could not promise the same things.

Finally, in 2001, both Barron's and MAR/Hedge wrote articles sounding the alarm and trashing Madoff’s track record and operation. Barron's and Mar/Hedge are not tabloids reporting on Jennifer Aniston’s pregnancy, but examples of responsible financial journalism at its best. It piqued my curiosity that 2 publications raised questions about Bernie at the same time. These articles should have raised the suspicions of everyone but the illiterate.[...]

HaRav Eliashiv, shilta - Kiruv of intermarried couples

The following is an except of a letter that Rav Efrati wrote regarding Rav Eliashiv's views regarding kiruv where part of the audience consists of non-Jews. This is the beginning paragraph and the ending paragraph of the letter.
“According to the facts that I have received - the community being discussed here is one that is far from observing the mitzvos according to halacha. Recently talmidei chachomim have come to the community in order to encourage their observance. However they discovered that some of the members of the community are actually goyim who mistakenly think that they are Jews. However the entire community thinks that they are in fact Jews. It is very difficult to treat them differently than the rest of the community. Even concerning Torah lectures which these avreichim give to the community, these goyim are in the audience. According to the information that has been given, trying to separate out these goyim from the rest of the community at this stage and keeping them from attending the Torah classes will result in the cancellation of all the classes....

Rav Eliashiv, shlita has repeatedly said that those living as intermarried couples cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Furthermore he holds that we are obligated to distance ourselves from them and their society and to cut off all connection with them. However this community is different because its members mistakenly think that the non‑Jewish spouses are Jewish. Therefore it is permitted to maintain ties with the Jewish spouses in order to draw them closer through ties of love and to bring them under the wings of the Shechina.”

Genetic Testing - Conceal Information?

Jewish Week [referred by RaP]

A national medical expert charged this week that the head of the leading organization screening for Jewish genetic diseases is “playing God” by withholding information from people who have tested positive for Gaucher’s disease, a serious and often painful illness that effects one in 450 to 500 Ashkenazim, making it the most common of Jewish genetic diseases.

Dr. Stuart Ditchek, director of the Jewish Genetic Diseases Consortium, a nonprofit organization founded two years ago to increase education and awareness, and encourage genetic testing, told The Jewish Week that Rabbi Joseph Eckstein, the founder and director of Dor Yeshorim (Generation of the Righteous), the largest screening program of its kind, dissuades people from testing for Gaucher’s so as not to discourage young men and women who may be carriers from marrying each other.

What’s more, Ditchek charges that Rabbi Eckstein has acknowledged that he has not informed people who have tested positive for Gaucher’s that they have the disease.

“He is playing God,” Ditchek said of Rabbi Eckstein, asserting that there is no ethical or alachic basis for depriving such medical information from a patient.

Due to medical advances over the last two decades, enzyme replacement therapy has proven quite successful in treating and controlling Gaucher, with the best results occurring when it is detected before the patient reaches his or her late teens.

“Several medical experts and I have met with the rabbi and shown him the research, and explained that we can save these people from a life of suffering,” said Ditchek, a Brooklyn-based pediatrician. “We told him we know he has the information and that he needs to inform these people [of the results], but he resisted.” [...]
Rav Moshe Feinstein psak concerning Dor Yeshorim

שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק ד סימן י

אם יש לבדוק למחלת טיי סאכס קודם הנישואין.

י"ח אדר השני תשל"ג. למע"כ חתני כבני הרב הגאון מוהר"ר משה דוד טענדלער שליט"א.

הנה בדבר הילדים שנולדו שלפי הטבע חיים זמן קצר כשנתים ושלש ומתים הנקרא טיי - סאכס והם נולדים מאב ואם ששניהם יש להם סבה זו שאף שאין זה חסרון להם בעצמם אירע שנולדין מזה ילדים כאלו, ואם יש זה רק לאחד מהם לא אירע זה, ויש לידע זה מבדיקה בהדם של האיש והאשה, אשר אז כשידע הבחור או הבתולה שיש להם חסרון זה יראה ליקח לאשה בתולה כזו שאין בה חסרון זה, והבתולה שיש בה חסרון זה תראה להנשא לבחור שאין בו חסרון זה, ורוצים לידע דעתי העניה אם מן הראוי להבחור או להבתולה להשתדל לידע זה, ואם טוב לידע בזה אם לעשות בדיקה זו בקטנותם או רק כשיגיע זמנם להנשא, ואם לעשות זה באופן פרסום או בצנעא, עיינתי בזה וזהו הנראה לע"ד כי אף שהוא מיעוט קטן ילדים נולדים כאלו ושייך לומר על זה הקרא דתמים תהיה עם ה' אלקיך וכפרש"י בחומש שם שכתב התהלך עמו בתמימות ותצפה לו ולא תחקור אחר העתידות, מ"מ כיון שעתה נעשה זה באופן קל לבדוק יש לדון שאם אינו בודק את עצמו הוא כסגירת העינים לראות מה שאפשר לראות, ומכיון שאם ח"ו אירע דבר כזה הוא להורי הילד צער גדול מאד מן הראוי למי שצריך לישא אשה לבדוק את עצמו. ולכן טוב לפרסם הדבר ע"י עתונים ואופנים שידעו העולם שאיכא בדיקה כזו.

אבל ברור ופשוט שצריך להעשות הדבר בצנעא שלא ידע בחור אחד מחברו ובתולה אחת מחברתה, וגם הרופא אשר יעשה אצלו הבדיקה לא יגלה לשום איש כי אף שהרופאים מעידין שאם יקח אשה שאין בה חסרון זה וכן כשהיא תקח איש שאין בו חסרון זה אינו כלום לא יאמינו הרבה בני אדם ולא יוכלו להשיג שידוך שלכן צריך הדבר להיות בצנעא, ולכן לא טוב הדבר לעשות בקבוץ רב כמו בישיבות ובתי ספר וכדומה.

וגם כפי שידוע כחות הנפש שרוב בני אדם סובלין הרבה מהעצבים שלהם שנקראו נערוון שמצייר להאדם דבר קטן לגדול וחשש קטן לחשש גדול בפרט במדינה הזאת כידוע, שלכן ח"ו לעשות בדיקה זו לבחורים צעירים שעדיין אין חושבין בענין נישואין והרוב הוא שעד עשרים אין חושבין בזה ואין לדבר אליהם כלל בענין זה. וגם לבד זה מכיון שהדבר צריך להיות בצנעא שלא ידעו אחרים מזה, הוא דבר קשה מאד לפני בחורים צעירים להיות בעלי סוד וזה יזיק לעצמן ולאחרים. ובתולות שדרכן להנשא כשהן צעירות אין לעשות בדיקה זו לפחות מבת שמונה עשרה שנה, ואם יזדמן בבחור אחד או בתולה אחת ירצו להנשא קודם הרי הוא מיעוטא דמיעוטא שאין לחוש לזה וגם מכיון שהדבר נתפרסם הרי יותר נוטה שיודעין מזה.

ובענין הקרן (פאנד) לזה שהוא מנכרים ומיהודים שאינם שומרי תורה שיש להם שיטה אחרת שעושין הפלה להעובר שנבדק והוא ולד כזה, שזה הוא דבר אסור שרופאים שומרי תורה לא יעשו דבר אסור כזה איני רואה צורך ותועלת לרופאים שומרי תורה שיהיו ג"כ שייכין לקרן, ואם יש צורך ותועלת לענין דברים המותרים ליכא בזה איסור, אך יזהרו שלא יראה שגם הרופאים שומרי תורה מסכימים להתיר הפלת עוברים, אבל כל מה שאפשר שהרופאים שומרי תורה לא יהיו שייכין להם הוא טוב ביותר.

חותנך כאביך, אוהבך בלו"נ, משה פיינשטיין

Chabad - G-d erred in India / Chas v'shalom

שולחן ערוך חושן משפט סימן רכח סעיף ד

אם היו יסורין באים עליו, לא יאמר לו כדרך שאמרו חביריו לאיוב: הלא יראתך כסלתך זכר נא מי הוא נקי אבד (איוב ד, ו).

סמ"ע סימן רכח ס"ק ו

ו] כדרך שאמרו חביריו לאיוב כו'. והם שאמרו לו כן, מפני שהיה איוב מטיח דברים כלפי השגחת השם יתברך ומדותיו:

Hashem THE source of blessing! said:

I would like to post the words of the Rebbe in his letter where he states the need to put the trust in Hashem more than in a human of flesh and blood (even in a Tzadik like the Rebbe!).

The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote:

עמוד 30 (הערה :נכתבה כז חשון ל"ד אשה שהפילה ר"ל לאחרי שקיבלה מענה וברכת כ"ק אדמור שאם ישמרו טהרת המשפחה לא תחשוש מלתהעבר וכפי דבריהם שמרו בכל הפרטים הפילה עוה"פ והאשה חזרה וכתבה לכ"ק אדמו"ר ולא קיבלה מענה על מכתבה וביקשה לשאול פירש הדבר שאחרי הברכה והמענה היה יכול להיות כזאת ):

“..., ד- הזוג שכחו שהשם הוא מקור הברכה ונותנה וכו' ובטחו רק בבן אדם בשר ואדם, בי...”.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

KosherTube & Rabbi Tropper

Rabbi Tropper is on the rabbinic advisory board of KosherTube KosherTube is the official website of the Electronic Torah Educational Foundation,a nonprofit organization established in 2007 by Michael Kigel and David Ostriker.

Sex offenders - This is justice?

Haaretz reports:

A teacher who molested a student for two and a half years, starting
when the boy was 5, will perform six months of community service and
pay the boy NIS 2,000 in a plea bargain reached Monday.[...]

Monday, December 22, 2008

History - Hitler’s Jewish Prophet

R' Avraham Broide

By writer/editor/illustrator

Hitler and his Nazi henchmen were great believers in astrology. Such as when U.S.A. President, Franklin Roosevelt, passed away towards the end of WW2, on April 5705/1945. Upon hearing the news, Nazi Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, yelled out, “Bring out the best champagne! ...It is written in the stars that the second half of April will be the turning point for us. This is Friday, April the 13th. It is the turning point!” Needless to say, he was wrong.

Early in the Nazi career, the Nazi craze for fortune-telling brought about one of the strangest symbiotic relationships in human history. During the 20's, Herschman-Chaim Steinschneider, had built up a career as a skilled magician and clairvoyant, covering his Jewish tracks by naming himself Hanussen. Suddenly, he reached the climax of his career by becoming one of Hitler's closest confidants.

This happened during March 5692/1932, when Hitler’s political future seemed doomed. The Nazis had lost seats in the Reichstag and their coffers were drained. Then Hanussen predicted that Nazi victory was just around the corner. Hitler would become Reichschancellor within the year. When Hanussen printed his startling “prophecy” in his weekly newspaper, the “Berliner Woshenschau,” Hitler became so excited that he invited the famous clairvoyant to meet privately with him at his headquarters in the Kaiserhof Hotel.

Hanussen met Hitler about a dozen times that year and became his favorite “hellseher” (clairvoyant). Hanussen used the Nazi power to raise his prestige and fame, while Nazi leaders used him as an endless source of private loans. He informed a fellow clairvoyant that his aim was to eventually convince Hitler that not all Jews were that bad.

On February 26, 5693/1933, Hanussen was displaying his fortune telling skills in front of a crowd including Nazi officials and VIPs, when he suddenly leapt to his feet and began screaming that he “saw a great house burning.” Not long afterwards, the Reichstag (German parliament) went up on in smoke. It is highly suspected that the Nazis had started the fire in order to declare a state of emergency and seize extraordinary powers.

Perhaps the Nazis resented Hanussen’s leaking of their secret plans. For one reason or another he was doomed, penning a note in invisible ink to a colleague, “"I always thought that business about the Jews was just an election trick of theirs. It wasn't." On the morning of March 25, 5693/1933, a car stopped next to him and he was ordered to get in. That was the last time anyone saw Hanussen alive. The Nazis seized his assets, IOUs recording debts of over 150,000 marks mysteriously disappeared, and Hanussen is remembered as one of Nazi Germany's first Jewish victims.

See the full-length story and more at:

Bailout money - no accounting ?!

WASHINGTON – It's something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where's the money going? But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation's largest banks say they can't track exactly how they're spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. "We have not disclosed that to the public. We're declining to."

The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest?

None of the banks provided specific answers.

"We're not providing dollar-in, dollar-out tracking," said Barry Koling, a spokesman for Atlanta, Ga.-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which got $3.5 billion in taxpayer dollars. Some banks said they simply didn't know where the money was going.[...]

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chabad - Matisyahu's Journey

Forward reports: Referred by


“I’ve been through all these different phases in Chabad. Chabad has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. It was very pure in the sense that I totally divested myself from all of the confusion that I was living in. I wasn’t getting high, I wasn’t with women — I was waking up every morning and learning Torah all day. And so, in certain senses it was a pure process,” Matisyahu said.

“But there was a lot of alcoholism going on, in my experience, and a lot of borderline —” He interrupted himself. “I definitely lost myself, as well, in the process, in the sense that I somehow stopped thinking for myself. I became completely dependent on other people for my sense of what was right and wrong. I felt incapable of making my own decisions. I was borderline completely losing my mind.” And then, he said, he pulled himself out of Chabad.

It was during this period that he began working with the now Jerusalem-based therapist Ephraim Rosenstein, whom he now considers his personal friend and religious mentor.

“[Rosenstein] was able to help me come to some realizations that were really ground-breaking, and kept me from where I think I would have lost my mind in the state of being I was in at that time,” Matisyahu said. “After that happened, once my therapy came to a certain place, and I’d gotten pretty healthy, I wanted to continue with my spirituality. I guess the therapy to me was sort of getting to know myself as a valid means of spiritual growth. I wanted to take it from a personal to an intellectual kind of thing, so we started learning together. Instead of therapy, I was paying him to discuss ideas, basically.

“I’ve stopped identifying with any group of Judaism. I would now call myself an Orthodox Jew. I try to keep the tenets of halachic Judaism as strongly as possible, but I don’t identify with any one movement.”

He noted that he has not severed ties with the movement completely: “My kids go to a Lubavitch yeshiva and are named after rebbes. I have Lubavitch friends, and we stay with shlichim [emissaries] around the world. I feel I have some in-depth knowledge of Hasidus and Chabad philosophy, and close ties with Lubavitch. But I don’t feel the need to be any one thing.

“In Chabad, there was always the tendency to deify everything, whether it was the rebbes or the learning,” Matisyahu said. “[There was] this sense that you couldn’t ask questions about any of it, that if you didn’t accept it, you weren’t accepting the Torah. It was as if you weren’t religious, and that this was the one path and the true path and that anything outside of it, even if it was a different kind of Hasidim, was certainly looked down upon.” With Rosenstein, he said, Matisyahu relished a different mode of studying, which focused on placing teachings into historical and social contexts and then comparing them with other Hasidus and philosophies of Judaism. [...]

Psychology of Evil - Milgram study

The following is the video of the actual Milgram Study done in the 1960's.

The Milgram Experiment - Obedience 1/5

CNN reports:

If someone told you to press a button to deliver a 450-volt electrical shock to an innocent person in the next room, would you do it?

Common sense may say no, but decades of research suggests otherwise.

In the early 1960s, a young psychologist at Yale began what became one of the most widely recognized experiments in his field. In the first series, he found that about two-thirds of subjects were willing to inflict what they believed were increasingly painful shocks on an innocent person when the experimenter told them to do so, even when the victim screamed and pleaded.

The legacy of Stanley Milgram, who died 24 years ago on December 20, reaches far beyond that initial round of experiments. Researchers have been working on the questions he posed for decades, and have not settled on a brighter vision of human obedience.

A new study to be published in the January issue of American Psychologist confirmed these results in an experiment that mimics many of Milgram's original conditions. This and other studies have corroborated the startling conclusion that the majority of people, when placed in certain kinds of situations, will follow orders, even if those orders entail harming another person.

"It's situations that make ordinary people into evil monsters, and it's situations that make ordinary people into heroes," said Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford University and author of "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil." [...]

Rav Kaduri zt"l & Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l