Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hospitals and Halacha - new free halachic guide

Cross Currents   By , on December 23rd, 2012
Rabbi Jason Wiener is a young rov who has done an outstanding job as the senior Jewish chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Hospital Center in Los Angeles. His penchant for serious treatment of halacha is obvious in the great public service he has performed by putting together an extremely useful chibur on issues relating to hospital stays. This monograph was supervised and looked over by some of the most impressive names in psak halacha in Los Angeles. It includes the single best treatment of the use of elevators on Shabbos that I recall seeing.

The kuntrus is available as a free download. The author solicits and encourages feedback, with an eye on the second edition. Contact him at

Chaos in Israeli Chareidi world - no one in charge

Haaretz  A confused listener called in this week to a political talk show on the Shas-affiliated radio station Kol Barama. The listener is a student of Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak, the founder of the new political party Koah Lehashpia, which is targeting the same voters as Shas. He was distraught by an interview Yitzhak had given the day before in which he said he would not take into consideration the views of the spiritual leader of the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. 

"I don't know anymore what to believe," the listener complained on air. 

The call was just the latest sign that even the sacred cows of the ultra-Orthodox are being taken out for the slaughter this election season, sowing confusion among voters and signaling a possible reduction in parliamentary power for the Haredi parties. 

Instead of continuing to be treated as a sage who should be obeyed without question, Yosef has become a punching bag. At the same time, the rivalry between two ultra-Orthodox leaders is threatening to split the non-Hasidic Ashkenazi Haredim, while small political movements are attacking rabbis from both the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties. The infighting is expected to cost the more established parties, especially UTJ, dearly at the polls, though the extent to which they will be affected remains to be seen.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Grapefruit - with some medications can kill

NY Times  The patient didn’t overdose on medication. She overdosed on grapefruit juice.

The 42-year-old was barely responding when her husband brought her to the emergency room. Her heart rate was slowing, and her blood pressure was falling. Doctors had to insert a breathing tube, and then a pacemaker, to revive her.

They were mystified: The patient’s husband said she suffered from migraines and was taking a blood pressure drug called verapamil to help prevent the headaches. But blood tests showed she had an alarming amount of the drug in her system, five times the safe level.

Did she overdose? Was she trying to commit suicide? It was only after she recovered that doctors were able to piece the story together.

“The culprit was grapefruit juice,” said Dr. Unni Pillai, a nephrologist in St. Louis, Mo., who treated the woman several years ago and later published a case report. “She loved grapefruit juice, and she had such a bad migraine, with nausea and vomiting, that she could not tolerate anything else.” [...]

Abuse - if victim is not aware of being abused?

 I received the following question and thought it would be helpful to post it for reader input - rather than simply give an answer. What do you think?

Dear Dr. Eidensohn, 

I am taking a course in college on Psychology and Halacha and am currently researching child abuse and halacha and have found your blog and books extremely helpful.
I would like to ask you a question regarding child sexual abuse and would be very thankful if you can provide some insight.
If a Rebbe or caregiver has sexual gratification from having a child sit on his lap but the child has no knowledge of it and is not affected in any way, is there any action required?

              Thank you for your time

Y.U. abuse accuser tells his story

Forward   The author claims to have been sodomized by Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former teacher at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, while a student at the school in the late 1970s and early ’80s. His was one of the accusations reported in the Forward’s December 21 issue, in “Student Claims of Abuse Not Reported by Y.U. Leader.”

I am Macy Gordon’s accuser. My allegations are true, yet I understand why some people may doubt my claims. I wish now to respond to some of the comments I have read in the wake of the Forward’s revelations and to make a few statements of my own.

To those who say that pedophiles exploit more than one child and that there must be other victims — you are correct. There was at least one more victim but he has not come forward. I cannot speak for him, but for me the exposing of this abuse has evoked nightmares and forced me to relive traumatic events that I had put behind me. Although I have asked to be anonymous, there is no guarantee that my identity will remain protected, and that is a risk I take. If other victims decide to remain silent out of fear or otherwise, that is their right, but it does not make me a liar.

To those who knew or know Rabbi Gordon and respect him, shock and denial is a reasonable response; however, surely they know that this was the reaction in the cases of Jerry Sandusky and many Catholic clergy. It is that very veneer of respect that might enable some of these infamous pedophiles to commit serial crimes. If it were the janitor, he would be reported immediately. But when a revered member of society commits these crimes, victims are confused and are frightened of the perpetrator’s authority. Their stature also grants these pedophiles a lesser degree of suspicion. That, too, intimidates victims.
To those who are outraged that these individuals are being tried in the press, this was the last — and only — resort. Rabbi Norman Lamm, Y.U,’s former president, admitted that staff who had improper sexual activity were let go, especially if it was what he called a “cut-and-dry case.” In my case we reported the activity to Y.U. and as far as I know they did not investigate further, although I gave them the name of another victim. That also means they did not try to evaluate or assist that other student. After so many years, the statute of limitations has expired. Others have previously pleaded with Y.U. to investigate past sex abuses but were ignored. The only way this has gotten any attention was through the media. Whatever you think of the Forward, the paper’s staffers are not stupid. Trust me that they did their due diligence, interviewed me a number of times and still took great risks to publish my account. [....]

Friday, December 21, 2012

There is no statute of limitation for crimes in halacha!

When one flips a light switch there is an immediate appearance of light. The cause and effect is obvious. If someone steals money and the next week he  is caught and jailed - we say justice is done. 

However if someone robbed a bank as a twenty year old. And has lived as model citizen in his community for 30 years, happily married and has family  - there is a feeling that somehow the past should be forgotten. (There is a bit more problem of a concentration guard who killed and tortured hundreds of people - we don't forgive so fast even if he has lived an exemplary life for 40 years.)

If a person committed crimes but he was never caught and then he died  - should the discovery of his criminal past be mentioned or allowed to be forgotten.

 All this is leading up to the question of sexual abuse. It is not rare but rather typical that there is a significant passage of time between the crime and the complaint and punishment. This is primarily due to the psychological trauma resulting from the crime.

We typically hear, "Why did it take so long before they complained?" "What good is it to put an 80 year old grandfather in jail for raping kids when he was 25 years old." There is much that can be said to explain the psychodynamics but that is really not relevant to the question.

It is generally perceived that by having a delay of years or decades between the crime and reporting and punishment - is inappropriate or even immoral.  However there is no such idea in halacha. 

What about the claim that the person has done teshuva and thus doesn't have to be further punished? The simple answer is that teshuva is not complete without punishment. There is no concept that teshuva erases a crime - whether it is theft or murder.

In sum, a passage of time - no matter how long between crime and reporting - has absolutely no relevance in halacha. If you have any sources that contradict this conclusion I would appreciate being enlightened.

Will eating Worms instead of Meat save the Planet?

Live Science   The wriggly beetle larvae known as mealworms could one day dominate supermarket shelves as a more sustainable alternative to chicken, beef, pork and milk, researchers in the Netherlands say.

Currently, livestock use about 70 percent of all farmland. In addition, the demand for animal protein continues to rise globally, and is expected to grow by up to 80 percent between 2012 and 2050.
The act of clearing land for livestock is one that damages the environments on which people and other life depend. For instance, it helps release global warming gases.[...]

The researchers found that growing mealworms released less greenhouse gases than producing cow milk, chicken, pork and beef. They also discovered that growing mealworms takes up only about 10 percent of the land used for production of beef, 30 percent of the land used for pork and 40 percent of the land needed for chickens to generate similar amounts of protein. The researchers note that optimizing mealworm growth might lead to even more land savings. [Save the Planet? 10 Bizarre Solutions]

"Since the population of our planet keeps growing, and the amount of land on this Earth is limited, a more efficient, and more sustainable system of food production is needed," Oonincx said in a statement. "Now, for the first time it has been shown that mealworms, and possibly other edible insects, can aid in achieving such a system."

More accusers come forward in YU abuse scandal

Forward   After the Forward published an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against two former staff members at a high school for boys run by Yeshiva University, Y.U. issued an immediate statement and said that it would investigate. Later that day, Modern Orthodoxy’s official rabbinic association, the Rabbinical Council of America, said it was “deeply troubled” by the report and confident that the university was “equal to the task” of confronting “improprieties.”

But interviews with current and former staff members of Y.U. and with high-ranking RCA officials, as well as with several former high school students who say they were abused, indicate that Y.U. and the RCA have known about some of the allegations against at least one of the alleged abusers, Rabbi George Finkelstein, for a decade or longer.

The Forward has spoken to 14 men who say that Finkelstein abused them while he was employed at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, in Manhattan, from 1968 to 1995.

From the mid 1980s until today, however, Y.U. officials and RCA rabbis have dismissed claims or kept them quiet. Some of these officials allowed Finkelstein to leave the Y.U. system and find a new position as dean of a Florida day school without disclosing the abuse allegations. Later, an RCA rabbi and a Y.U. rabbi warned the Florida school that Finkelstein could be a threat. And when Finkelstein’s next employer, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, asked whether the allegations that dogged him were true, Y.U. assured the synagogue that there was nothing to worry about. [...]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Weberman case & abuse:Yiddish letter (RaP's translation)

This is an important guest post by RaP providing a translation of Yiddish letter posted on Daas Torah about Weberman case.

Click for original Yiddish letter
Translation of Yiddish Letter About Weberman Case

Must husband be informed of wife's adultery III - Tosfos Yom Tov

[See post III]    The starting point for the halacha of a wife who confesses being prohibited to her husband for adultery (or rape in the case of a cohen's wife) - is the Mishna (Nedarim 90b). This Mishna records that historically the normative halacha was that women were believed when they made such claims and thus the husband was required to divorce them and give them their kesuboa. However at some point in history, the halacha was changed because it was assumed that they might be lying in order to obtain an automatic divorce as well as the kesuba - because they wanted to marry someone else. The Rosh explains that the generations deteriorated and women now had no qualms about lying in order to get divorced and marry someone else. These sources clearly indicate the nature of marriage and divorce as well as the change of halacha in the face of social and psychogical changes in society. There is obviously much more - but this is the foundation that everything else is built upon.
Nedarim (90b/Yevamos 112a): Mishna:  Originally it was ruled that there are three situations  in which the wife must be divorced and also receive her kesuba. 1) When she said, "I am defiled to you" [i.e., she is prohibited to have sexual relations with her cohen husband  because she had been raped - Rashi] 2) "Heaven is between you and me" [i.e., she claims he is impotent which is something private that is known only to them and G‑d - Ran]. 3) "May I be removed from Jews" [i.e., she took an oath not to have sexual relations with any Jew because it is difficult for her- Ran]. However later the because of concern that whoever made such assertions was not telling the truth and was interested in another man and could be assumed to be causing damage to her husband – the Rabbis changed these rules to the following. 1) If she asserted, “I am defiled to you” – then she must bring proof before her husband would give her kesuba and divorce her. 2) If she asserted, “Heaven is between you and me” – then it was suggested that  persuasion be used to reach a mutual decision. [He should be persuaded not forced (Rashi), or prayer to have children (Rabbeinu Tam) or a banquet to placate her to stay or that he should give a get (Yerushalmi).] 3) If she said, “May I be removed from Jews” – the husband was now told to nullify the oath in regards to him [view of Rabbi Yossi while Chachom hold that it should entirely be nullified] and she could stay married and take care of him while remaining removed from Jews.

Tosfos Yom Tov (Nedarim 11:12): Her claim is not accepted because of the concern that she is interested in another man. – perhaps she will go to another place where she is not known and despite her oath that prohibits all men – she will marry another (Ran). [ Therefore the law was changed so if she said] “I am impure for you”, we don’t believe her unless she brings proof for her claim. We should note that if she claims that she was raped she is in fact prohibited to her cohen husband - as the original psak indicated. The obvious question regarding the changed psak is, what happened to the fact that she is prohibited to him that we require her to stay married to her husband - unless she can bring proof? A possible answer is that whoever gets married does it conditionally according to the understanding of the rabbis. Therefore when she announces she was raped and thus prohibited to him, the rabbis annul the marriage retroactively and thus she was in fact an unmarried woman at the time she was raped. However this answer only makes sense if she claims that she was raped by someone who doesn’t invalidate her for a cohen.  But if she was raped by to someone who invalidates her to a cohen, she would still be prohibited to her husband even if she was unmarried at the time of the rape. Since this mishna makes no distinctions as to who raped her – this suggestion that the marriage was annuled can’t be the answer. An alternative answer as to why there is no prohibition for the cohen husband to be with a wife who claims to have been raped is that the First Teaching was not based on the actual halachic but on a chumra (strigency). That is because according to the strict letter of the law the wife is definitely not believed to cause the marriage to be ended when she says that she was raped. That is because she is subordinate to him. Rather the reason that she was believed when she said she was raped is because it is very embarrasing for her to state such a thing. And the First Teaching says she is to be believed because if it weren’t true she would not degrade herself by saying it. Therefore it is the Second Teaching which says she is not to be believed is according to the strict letter of the law. These two answers are from the Ran (Nedarim 90b). Tosfos writes that since there is concern that the wife might be lying when she says these claims because she wants to marry another man – the Sages have the power to uproot all prohibitions. I also wrote this explanation in their names in the beginning of the 10th chapter of Yevamos. And this is also the language of Rashi in the 4th chapter of Menachos that I cited in the Edyuos 4:10.

Chaim Halpern - new beis din to decide his fate

BHOL  פיתרון לסאגה? בית דין מיוחד שיוקם בקרוב יבדוק את טענות שני הצדדים בפרשת הגר"ח הלפרין - הפרשה שמסעירה את הרחוב היהודי בלונדון.

שלושת הרבנים שירכיבו את בית הדין יהיו, ככל הנראה: הגאון רבי מנחם מנדל שפרן, הגאון רבי מנחם מנדל פוקס, מו"צ ב'עדה החרדית' והגאון רבי פסח אליהו פאלק, דיין בעיר גייטסהד שבאנגליה.

שלושת הרבנים שמרכיבים את בית הדין הם ניטרליים ואינם נוטים לאף צד.

ההחלטה להקים בית דין מיוחד באה לאחר שהצדדים הבינו, כי ללא הכרעה הלכתית, הפרשה לא תרד מסדר היום.

לפי המסתמן, הדיינים יגיעו ללונדון כדי לשמוע את הצדדים בפרשה ולגבות עדויות. לאחר שישה חודשים לפחות, תתקבל ההכרעה בפרשה.

Explaining abuse & Weberman case - Yiddish letter

Explaining abuse and Weberman case

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

School to pay $6.9 million for negligence in abuse case

LA Times   A jury has awarded $6.9 million to a 14-year-old boy who was molested by a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher when he was a fifth-grade student.

The judgment, among the largest ever awarded in a district molestation case, comes at a time when L.A. Unified faces close to 200 pending molestation and lewd conduct claims arising from another teacher's alleged conduct at Miramonte Elementary School.

Tuesday's jury award stems from acts committed by Forrest Stobbe, a veteran teacher at Queen Anne Place Elementary School in the Mid-Wilshire area. In September 2011, Stobbe pleaded no contest to two counts of a lewd act on a child and to continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14. He is currently serving a 16-year sentence in prison.

The case turned on how much responsibility the school system bore, and whether district employees should have recognized warning signs that Stobbe posed a threat to the boy. Attorneys for the school system insisted that district staff acted in a professional and appropriate manner and could not have known what Stobbe was doing.

French Psychiatrist guilty over Murder by Patient

BBC   A French court has found a psychiatrist guilty of involuntary homicide over a murder by one of her patients.

Daniele Canarelli was given a suspended prison sentence of one year, in the first case of its kind in France.

Her patient Joel Gaillard murdered a man in March 2004, 20 days after Gaillard fled a consultation with Canarelli at a hospital in Marseille.

Canarelli's lawyers said the verdict would lead to harsher treatment of patients by psychiatrists.

While accepting that there was no such thing as "zero risk" in such cases and that doctors could not predict the actions of their patients, the court found that Canarelli had made several mistakes in Gaillard's treatment.

In contrast to other medical professionals who have to make quick judgements about their patients, Canarelli had a longer period of time during which she should have realised Gaillard's treatment was failing, the court found. [...]