Friday, February 12, 2016

The Real Failure of Failed Messiah by RaP

Guest Post by RaP

I have not come to praise Failed Messiah (FM) but to bury him, to quote the famous words in Shakespeare about the ignoble demise of Julius Caesar after his assassination by his own former friends. The entire Jewish blogosphere and beyond is grappling with the sudden end of the Failed Messiah blog. People who tracked FM had a love-hate relationship with it. For some it was almost pure hate and zero love, for others it was a mixed bag. FM was not a lovable person and made sure to let you know it.

But what was the force behind the FM blog that made it the center of so much attention and controversy? Even if one did not agree with a word it said, it was still a place to get a measure of things in the Frum world. Many on this blog have quoted things that were researched well on FM. In many instances FM had parallel interests with all the other pro-active Jewish blogs, fighting child sex abuse, the various scandals like the Tropper and Hersh cases that this blog and others dealt with in depth. Pulling the facade away that "all is well" in Chabad. Hence the name "failed moshiach" as someone put it, and exposing corruption in various Charedi, Israeli, Modern Orthodox and Chasidic circles who were fighting over money, power, fame and fortune.

But behind it all was a very angry man, who by the time he allowed his FM to be shut down and taken over was a depleted ex Baal Teshuva in his late 50s who had reportedly never married, had no children, no known family and no one who can be called his friends, not getting enough money to keep going even from his readers, living in a far off city in a cramped room, where he worked as a one man news operation that often appeared like a news conglomerate but it was just coming from one driven ex Baal Teshuva who had had it with the Frum world.

The failure of FM is a failure in Kiruv!

It is a failure to close the circle by those who Mekareved him because for Kiruv to be successful it must succeed "from womb to tomb" and not just of the one who is Mekareved, but the spouse of the BT often also a BT, and their children, at the end of the day, must all be raised and remain Frum for it to be a Kiruv success story, and this did not happen with FM, because he broke down along the way of being a loyal Chabad BT to becoming its deadly foe. How so?

Classical BTs are by nature truth seekers and questioners, if they would not be then they would never be drawn to Yiddishkeit and become Frum in the first place, something FFBs do not grasp or understand because FFBs are born into the world of being Frum they do not understand or relate to the unique mental and emotional and intellectual and psychic and spiritual processes of questioning and deep grappling with issues and always demanding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help them God.

To make this dichotomy between BTs and FFBs clearer one need not look further than the difference between Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu. They are both the Avos, but what a difference. According to the RAMBAM Avram as he was first called at a very young age started to question everything in a world from which the God of Creation had been banished, and he questioned and questioned and challenged and challenged and defied and defied everyone, until he was satisfied that he found God! Not so his son Yitzchok, the "ershter geboirener" who was born as the first FFB, he did not question because he was born into the faith. Even at the Akeidah he did not question, it was not his Test, it was Avraham's test because as a questioner he did not question God on that, and that is why Avraham passes the litmus test of belief while FM fails, or at least has failed thus far.

Someone wise recently posted a comment about him that is so true on another blog that is worth repeating:

""...We loved the muckraking. The sordid truth. The raw emotion. We loved his struggle. We were a part of something. That cannot be rehabilitated or started anew..."

That quote is what got me thinking about writing this post. What FM was, was a work in process or rather the public unraveling of a work in progress. FM was once a staunch Chabad BT he worked for them, but then he became embittered with them over reasons that anyone who has spent even a little time in Kiruv Rechokim working with formerly secular Jews knows happens all the time. An issue important to them from their past lives comes to them anew as a life's challenge, it is their challenge and Test from Above, like the Akeidah came to Avraham Avinu from Above as an unexpected challenge directly from God and what did he do? He accepted the bitter Divine Decree that went beyond his reasoning and turned his world upside down, while Avraham Avinu passed his test, FM failed his big test. It could have been about the Jewish status of Falashas or it could have been about any one of hundreds of different issues, but for FM it was a catalyst to keep his passions and fires burning now in out of control fashion, questioning, thinking, a rebellious streak running now evidently with great anger that boiled over just at the time when the Internet was exploding and FM like tens of millions of others could then "share" his anger and questions, angst, inner turmoils, and deeper thoughts with the world on his blog.

And people came by the millions to read him, not out of a hate or love for this or that and not out of hate or love for anything really, but because FM was now putting his own struggle on display as symbol of his peers who have these struggles, he did not invent the issues as some allege, he struggled with them in ways that FFBs cannot fathom but that is the typical way of BTs who are conscious of the struggles and will not cover things up just because some people don't like it, expressing himself on a huge cyber-canvas like a frustrated artist for the world to judge.

The FFBs that have bought out and shut down FM have gained a phyric hollow victory, they have bought a shell and FM is having the last laugh, he has done his thing and now he is gone, in typical controversial iconoclastic fashion with disregard for the world even for his supposed "followers" he has spit in their face, because he is an angry man to the core, something FFBs do not do and now they are holding a shadow, like when you try to catch a lizard and you think you caught it but all you are holding is its detached tail while the lizard scampers off to its hiding hole, because they can never shut down the raw questioning and anger and frustration that so many people feel. For a questioning secular Jew becoming Frum, staying Frum, marrying Frum, and raising Frum family and that all of them will remain Frum to their last day on Earth is a huge Nisoyon that FFBs cannot even begin to appreciate.

So FM was a case in point of a failure in Kiruv, it is a reminder of how the Frum world has many lessons to learn before it can win over all the hearts and minds of secular Jews becoming Frum and keep them Frum. We are still in the middle of that bitter struggle and we cannot wish away nor can anyone buy it out and shut down, because life is not that simple.

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer responds to Dr. Marc Shapiro ir regards to dealing with Open Orthodoxy

Dr. Marc Shapiro recently published criticism of Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer regarding this writings against Open Orthodoxy. Seforim Blog

I posted for a day - an anonyomous response that was highly critical of Dr. Shapiro's analysis. However I removed it because it was seen as counterproductive by my readers here and Dr. Shapiro also asked it be removed.  Rabbi Gordimer published a detailed response to Dr. Shapiro's article 

What is important - aside from the issues raised - is that on a personal level Dr Marc Shapiro and Rabbi Gordimer have reached out to each other to make sure that it is understood that this exhcange is not a personal attack. Here are Rabbi Gordimer's latest comments 

How to Disagree – My Exchange with Dr. Marc Shapiro by Avrohom Gordimer 

Yesterday was tense. It was uncomfortable. It was a day of squeezing in a lengthy reply to Dr. Marc Shapiro’s post about some of my writings, between loads of regular work and with almost no sleep the night beforehand. (I had actually drafted my entire reply overnight, anticipating a very hectic workday, only to have accidentally deleted the entire draft at 2:30 AM, and then spending close to an hour in an unsuccessful attempt to find the draft in the online black hole. It was not fun…)

I anticipated a prolonged and unpleasant back-and-forth, which would be fruitless and only cause more strife.

But last evening, when I finally again got to my email, rays of light were shining, for Dr. Shapiro had sent several kind comments and messages clarifying that the issues were not personal, graciously (and unnecessarily) apologizing for any hard feelings, and also explaining his work and his goals. I apologized for any overstatement of his identification with controversial views, and we proceeded to share our hopes that our public exchange not be perceived as reflective of any type of sinah or personal affront. Our exchange was about ideas only. My communications with Dr. Shapiro were really refreshing.

Recently, a friend suggested that I change my image and post about more positive things. I replied that I had just posted two articles about noncontroversial topics, plus two divrei Torah on the parsha, as well as four articles on Halacha – but that these articles were given little attention, they received fewer clicks and “likes”, and that people are unfortunately focused on articles that deal with controversy.

But even when dealing with controversy, and even when the discourse is heated, let it not be perceived as sinah or personal clash. It is about ideas only. My exchange with Dr. Shapiro, and his kind and classy reaching out to clarify, are a deep lesson to all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: Rav Dovid Feinstein is convening a meeting today to try and resolve the matter

I was told by a number of reliable sources that Rav Dovid Feinstein is meeting today with Rav Hillel David and Rav Senderovic (a talmid of Rav Nota from Milwaukee) [just informed he is not a talmid of R' Nota. Never learned by him, did not get shimush from him] to try and find a solution to the horrible situation of two major talmidei chachomim producing a "heter" for a woman to remarry without a Get. I was told that it was at the instigation of the Novominsker Rebbe. 

It is not necessarily functioning as a beis din but as an ad hoc group to find the best solution  of redeeming the reputations of Rav Kaminetsky and Rav Greenblatt. As a minimum the hope is that they will provide a means to allow Rav Greenblatt to officially say he is retracting the heter and that Rav Kaminetsky will agree. The scenario basically being similar to that described in the second paragraph of the letter from Rav Aharon Schecter when Rav Belsky withdrew his heter – not because he felt it was wrong but out of respect for Rav Eliashiv. Here too, Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky already stated in his letter to Rav Weiss of the Eida Charedis that the matter should be turned over to Rav Dovid Feinstein. 

Thus neither of the two rabbis are likely to acknowledge that they made a mistake but will simply say that they defer to the judgment of Rav Dovid Feinstein.

However the above scenario is not necessarily going to happen because they are open to hearing alternatives and gathering information that will shed light on what happened and why. Rav Nota Greenblatt Rav Feldman and Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky have said they will speak to the group as well as Rav Shuchatowitz of the Baltimore Beis Din.

 However at the present time – Aharon Friedman has not been asked to speak with them

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Commentary and update on the 1992 interview with Rav Landesman and Rav Malinowitz

Guest post

I think the interview should have been introduced that it is an old article, of which much may be relevant, but that there are likely updates to this.  Here’s my angle.

I suspect that the growth of the frum population has resulted in a greater incidence of divorce, even if the percentage never changed.  I also believe that marriage requires סייעתא דשמיא.  Having noted this, I also believe that there are more reasons for divorce today, and that there is a rise in the rates in terms of percentage.  I lack the scientific data to support this, and my observation is biased in being one of the turn-to people when a marriage is failing and likely beyond repair.
·    Poor preparation.  The true preparation for marriage begins at birth, and consists of role modeling by parents and extended family.  As community patterns change, this is also affected.  Yeshivos and schools include way too little guidance in character development, and the bits of mussar that are transmitted academically are wholly inadequate to satisfy the fundamental need.  Madrichim for chassanim and kallahs tend to avoid the most important aspects of training for the relationship aspects of marriage.
·       Cultural trends.  There are patterns that have developed that have become “norms”, most of which are of dubious value to the integrity of a marriage and young family.  These include the foolishness of mandating or expecting the kollel lifestyle to be universal.  The multiple angles on this include the dependency patterns (on family, programs, etc.), the conflict ridden expectations of the working wife as the homemaker and young mother.  Locations to live being related to the kollel or the parents often exert unneeded stress on a fragile, developing relationship.  Even expecting to marry because peers are getting married is of very questionable price to the potential of forming a true relationship.
·   Dependency.  Most young marrieds are incapable of being financially independent.  The supporters, usually parents and in-laws, tend to have expectations of the young couple, most of which are not focused on the needs of their children but rather their own desires.
·       Throw away society.  Oft blamed for the deterioration of the marriage, it is unquestionably true, but it is insidious and usually under disguise.  There are many ways to address the earliest challenges in marriage.  Faulty behavior is frequently mislabeled as indicative of a flawed personality.  The latter implies hopelessness.
·       Bad advice.  This is one of the greater causes for marriage failures.  In the frum community, there is a pattern of seeking guidance of rabbonim, roshei yeshivos, roshei kollel, and chosson/kallah teachers for intervention and advice whenthe going gets rough.  These individuals are probably capable of much, but helping the couple in crisis is rarely one of the skills for which they trained.  There is also a belief that the professionally trained person is corrupted with foreign, secular values, and should be avoided.
·       Certain people’s parnosoh depends on it.  There is an entire industry built on divorce.  There are askanim (to be fair, most do their work without monetary compensation), toanim, lawyers, batei din, mediators, and some professionals who profit from the terminating marriages.
·     Personal image.  This always existed.  However, the preoccupation with how one appears to others is undeniably greater than ever before.  This is worthy of exploration and analysis.  Regardless, when a marriage fails, each side tends to seek the attribution of blame to the other side.  Accusations abound, and the breakups in which the extreme demands, even the denying of support or visitation rights are hardly exceptions to the rule.  The bitterness lingers for a long time, affecting everyone.  What was once (or should have been) love turns into hate and revenge.  The greatest motivational factor in this is the desperate need to be seen as the victim who succeeded in escaping the claws of the evil other side.   And all this is to be considered by others as the tzaddik.
·       Children are not nachas machines.  The expectation of parents is that their married children be a service to them.  This is not about the Torah prescribed mitzvah of kibud av v’em.  This is about the parents being on the receiving end of the nachas.  Anything that is perceived to interfere with this is target for intervention.  How many young people marry to provide nachas to their parents?  The nachas is a good thing, but it is the sidebar to a marriage in which the chosson and kallah create a home that is a nachas to HKB”H.  The parents can become a seriously divisive force in their children’s lives.  This may be more prevalent today than in the past.
·      Being right is not always effective.  With exception to halacha, which is not negotiable, there are many instances in which a couple who disagree on a matter that does not lend itself to compromise.  Only one can be right, and the other is wrong.  Must the one who is right insist on being the “winner” of the argument?  While this may sound correct, it is often not effective.  This more than learning to “give in” or be mevater.  It is about focusing on the outcome of staying close instead of constricting barriers, obstacles, and wedges to divide the couple.  The advisor who lacks training often tries to settle an argument by examining who is right.  This becomes more harmful than helpful.
·    Beis din has always been limited in its ability to render a psak but no authority to enforce its conclusions.  Having the court system verify a psak and agreements is almost standard practice.  It is likely that the level of Yir’as Shomayim of previous generations was such that the issuing of a psak halacha meant compliance.  The conflict of carrying this into additional proceedings is probably one of the developments of the recent generation.
·     Divorce is expensive.  But some individuals view it as a money making venture.  Sometimes it is the wives who seek far more in their settlement than they should have.  Sometimes it is the men who are too miserly to support their children adequately.  It is way too common for one party to demand a cash payment to give or receive a get.  This is viewed as extortion by outsiders.  It is a hard sell to convince most people that this is moral, and not simply holding the get as hostage for a demand of ransom.
Media has expanded, but not always in positive directions.  Years ago, one typically sought to keep these issues of personal conflict private.  The common use of technology and communication has made everything, from the most mundane to the most intimate fodder for blasting to the world. Social networking, the ease of having direct communications, the convenience of multiple sources of input, and the tendency for people who are bitter to provide “support” (more accurately “incitement”) are all features of the new world.  Agunos (the real kind and the modern versions who adopted the word) have always existed.  But they were rarely, if ever, the chatter of everyone.  Not any more.  There now many hundreds of opinions from people who have no connection to a case, and from those without a shred of experience to make opinions based on knowledge.  And all these diagnoses and pronouncements are majorly based on a single side of the story.  This is sad, but pervasive.
Our generation has not universally adopted the mussar message of Rav Yisroel Salanter and others, in which academic mussar is only useful in its implementation in the lives of Yidden.  If it looks respectable, it must be really so.  Personal change, character refinement, working on the imperfections of midos, and the like make great discussion topics.  The greatest mashgichim, baalei mussar, darshonim, and others have made careers of such discussion.  If the community listened and put all these words into action, there would hardly be any divorces, and batei din would be unutilized.  Meanwhile, there are few families that have never encountered a failed marriage, a divorce, or the bitter conflict that ensues when a marriage is dissolved.  The incidence may well be on the rise.  But the magnitude of the pain and conflict have accelerated to alarming levels.

The unpleasant details of how Tamar Epstein deliberately destroyed her marriage with the encouragement of the Kaminetskys (part 2)

guest post

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, Federal capital crimes, and a capital crime under halacha.

Part 1 described what happened before the parties went to the Baltimore Beis Din.
The following describes what happened next:

The parties agreed to postpone the Court trial scheduled for December 2008 until January 2009 and then until June 2009 (at further prejudice to Aharon) in order for the Beis Din to hear and decide the case.  Until the Beis Din issued an interim custody schedule in March, Tamar generally refused to let C spend time with Aharon (such as on holidays) other than the time explicitly required by the August 2008 Order, except for a brief period covered by the mediation agreement.

Beis Din heard the child custody issue in March, and said that the next step in the process was that Beis Din would issue a custody decision immediately after Pesach [Passover] in April 2009; Beis Din issued an interim custody schedule to cover the period before Beis Din was to issue a custody decision.  Under this schedule, C was with Aharon four out of the six weekends (and starting on Thursday instead of Friday) covered by the schedule. Tamar opposed this custody schedule, arguing that it provided C too much time with Aharon. 

Tamar later wrote Beis Din she had a settlement proposal that she would present in five days. Then, Tamar wrote Beis Din that she had a proposal and wanted to mediate. Aharon agreed to consider any proposal but said he would not enter into mediation if it seemed unlikely to work because he did not want the ruling of Beis Din to be delayed. Tamar took four weeks to submit a proposal, which Aharon believed indicated the parties were too far apart to reach agreement.  Aharon wrote Beis Din that there was no agreement regarding C’s schedule, and asked Beis Din to rule that C return to Silver Spring. Tamar wrote Beis Din that she still wanted to mediate and falsely accused Aharon of lying as to whether the parties had an agreement regarding C’s schedule. Aharon again wrote Beis Din to rule that C return to Silver Spring again noting the urgency of Beis Din issuing a decision on the matter.  Tamar wrote the Beis Din demanding a get, correspondence that was not then shared with Aharon.  The Beis Din refused Tamar’s demand to order a get because there were no grounds upon which to tell Aharon to give a get.

Given that Beis Din had previously said that it would issue a custody decision shortly after Pesach and that it would hold no further hearings on custody, Beis Din’s decision on custody seemed to be imminent.

Without Beis Din’s permission, Tamar filed a motion and then a supplemental motion to postpone the June 2009 civil Court trial.  Tamar’s grounds for postponement were that she needed more time to prepare for the civil Court trial and wanted a court-ordered custody evaluation (both of which were irrelevant if Beis Din was to decide the matter).  Tamar specifically told the Court that the Court – not Beis Din – would decide the case.  In filing these motions, Tamar violated the parties’ mediation agreement for Beis Din to decide the case, as well as the binding arbitration agreement.  For Aharon to agree to this motion would have been to show his acquiescence in Tamar’s decision to disregard the Beis Din and have the court try the case.  In addition, should Beis Din have decided that C return to Silver Spring, postponement of the civil trial would have made it much more unlikely that the Court would effectively uphold such a decision, given the further time that C would have spent in PA.  Thus, Aharon refused Tamar’s request that he agree to postpone the trial so that Tamar could have more time to prepare for trial in civil Court and so that the Court could conduct a custody evaluation because the Court, not Beis Din, would decide the case.  Tamar also filed suit in civil court for absolute divorce, in which she also demanded sole physical custody, without permission from Beis Din.  

Tamar’s to’ain, Frederic Goldfein, a medical practice trial lawyer, was able to fool the Beis Din as to what Tamar was doing in civil court, which resulted in the Beis Din ordering Aharon to postpone the Court trial, even though Tamar had told the Court that the Court, not Beis Din would decide the case.

Aharon filed a motion to postpone the Court trial, despite the further legal prejudice (as explained above), in order to give Beis Din time to issue its decision.  At that point, the Court had before it Tamar’s motions to postpone the trial so that she could prepare for a court trial and so that the court could order a custody evaluation so that the Court, not Beis Din, could decide the case, and Aharon’s motion to postpone the trial so that the Beis Din could decide the case.  The Court denied the motion to postpone the trial.

Before the civil trial occurred, Aharon agreed to the Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the MD case before it went to trial.  Tamar refused to abide by the Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the MD case before it went to trial.

The civil trial on custody and Tamar’s motion for divorce was held in June 2009. Tamar complained that the temporary custody schedule from the Beis Din provided C too much time with Aharon.  Tamar’s sister and brother-in-law and Yael and Rabbi Ranan Cortell testified and harshly criticized Aharon’s parenting skills.  But on cross-examination, both admitted that they had not spent significant time with Aharon and C (then nineteen months) for well over a year.  Their testimony was so lacking in credibility that Tamar’s closing argument acknowledged that Aharon was a good parent, thus disavowing their testimony.  Instead, Tamar claimed that the fact that Aharon generally davened with a minyan while the parties lived together showed that he wasn’t that interested in spending time with C.  Tamar urged the Court to rule that C should remain in PA because Tamar had already kept her there for so long – in violation of the parties’ Reconciliation and Mediation Agreements.  Tamar specifically argued that C should remain in PA because Aharon had agreed to postpone the civil Court trial from October 2008 to June 2009 (to take the case to Beis Din). 

Tamar deliberately asked the Court to impose a custody schedule that would render moot most of C’s monthly time with Aharon because he is Shomer Shabbos [Sabbath observant].  Tamar requested that C be with Aharon on alternate weekends starting at 6pm on Fridays (instead of Thursdays) and that C and Aharon be restricted during such times to the vicinity of Tamar’s house in PA.  Tamar also said that she should bring C to Aharon in Silver Spring for one additional Sunday each month.  Tamar recognized very well that these alternate weekends would actually be limited to Sundays, as Tamar knew Aharon could not generally leave work early enough on Fridays to pick C up from Tamar’s house before Shabbos, even when sundown is late.  In addition, Aharon would not generally be able to pick C up on Saturday night as he would not be able to leave Silver Spring early enough to arrive at Tamar’s house before C’s bedtime.

At trial, Aharon opposed Tamar’s motion for divorce.  After the court heard evidence on whether Tamar had grounds for divorce under civil law at the trial, Tamar acknowledged that there were no grounds for divorce.

Goldfein again lied to the Beis Din as to how the matter came to be tried in civil court, correspondence that was not then shared with Aharon. After the civil Court trial, but before the Court issued a ruling, Beis Din ordered the parties to jointly dismiss the civil court case.  Aharon agreed to follow Beis Din’s order and dismiss the civil case but Tamar violated the Beis Din’s order and refused to dismiss the civil case.

As Tamar had urged, that C had already been in PA for fourteen months at the time of the trial was largely the basis for the Court’s decision that C should remain in PA [“At this time, the child has spent fourteen months of her life in Pennsylvania with Defendant and her maternal grandparents and is undisputedly thriving.  Uprooting the child from her current environment at this time is likely to have a detrimental impact upon her”], even though the Court concluded “both parties are fit and proper to have physical custody of the child” and that “Defendant has made minimal efforts to foster the relationship between Plaintiff and his daughter.  The Court further finds that Defendant’s indifferent approach to C having a mutually awarding relationship with her father is rooted in spite and is not beneficial to the child.”  The Court also criticized Aharon for davening with a minyan while the parties lived together.

The Court largely adopted the general custody schedule suggested by Tamar: C to be with Aharon every other weekend in the vicinity of Tamar’s house starting on Fridays at 6pm and one additional weekend per month.

On July 15, 2009, Tamar filed in court a motion to amend or alter, asking that the court even further limit C’s time with Aharon.  The court denied Tamar’s motion.  Aharon filed an appeal by way of an in banc review.

As Shabbos often starts before 6 pm and Aharon generally couldn’t leave work in Washington D.C. early enough to get to Philadelphia before Shabbos starts, that meant Aharon generally couldn’t pick up C until Sunday morning.  Thus, every other weekend, that generally meant Aharon leaving Silver Spring at 5am (usually too early to daven) to pick up C and davening with tallis and tefillin at a rest stop on I-95.  No matter the weather, Aharon and C generally spent the day at parks and shopping malls -- because they had no place else to go – until Aharon brought C back, not returning to Silver Spring until 11pm.  Although Aharon eventually found a family to whose home in the general Philadelphia area he and C could come, Rabbi Sholom Kametnetsky put extreme pressure on that family to stop doing so.  Rabbi Kamenetsky eventually forced that family to withdraw their hospitality.

The Baltimore Beis Din refused the demands of Tamar to rule that Aharon was obligated to give a get.  The Baltimore Beis Din even refused to state that it was appropriate for Aharon to give a get.  This was despite the Baltimore Beis Din being fooled by Tamar’s to’ain Goldfein as to how the case came to be tried in Court. The Beis Din had held three hearings into the case with the participation of both parties, and determined that there were no grounds to rule that a get must be given.

At Tamar’s request, the Washington Beis Din sent two hazmanos [summonses] to Aharon in September and October 2009.  The summonses were signed by Rabbi Kalman Winter, brother-in-law of Shimon Glick, Tamar’s brother’s father-in-law.  The head of the Washington Beis Din at the time was Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer, longtime leader of the Washington D.C. area Orthodox community.  Aharon responded that Tamar had no right to involve another Beis Din given that the parties had brought the case to the Baltimore Beis Din whose orders Tamar had violated, causing severe damage to Aharon and C.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rav Landesman and Rav Malinowitz on the Aguna Crisis

EDITOR'S NOTE: Rabbi Leib Landesman is the rosh beit din of the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din, in Monsey, NY. His beit din has presided over cases involving some of the most complicated halachic issues, specially in the field of matrimonial law. Rabbi Landesman has been invovled with thousands of divorce cases, and has personally administertd approximately 500 gittin, In an interview with the Jewish Homemaker's managing editor, Avraham, M. Goldstein. Rabbi Landesman responded to a variety of points raised by the directors of Agunah. Inc. in their article.[October 1992]

Agunah Inc's primary contention is that a "crisis" exists today regarding matter of Jewish divorce. Rabbi Landesman disputed this claim. He challenged the statistic printed by the Jerusalem Report that there are 10,000 agunot in Israel, and the extrapolation from that figure by Agunah, Inc. to the effect that there are thousands in the U.S as well. [The Jerusalem Report's figure comes from a film by the Israel Women's Network-Ed.]

Rabbi Landesman questioned the premise that there are more agunot today than say  twenty years ago. He attributed this perception to "individuals and organizations that have made all this into an issue, so there's more  exposure. It doesn't necessarily mean there are more cases now."

A critical area at issue, he noted, is how to define an agunah "It's a colloquial phrase," Rabbi Landesman said, "that's used  today for someone who wants a get but doesn't have a get.But it's  used in very broad terms. It's used to describe someone who has followed the proper procedures and after a certain amount of time still doesn't have a get. But it's used as well for someone who hasn't done things right. It also is used for someone who wants a get on demand and it's not forthcoming instantly. She decided last wee: that she wants a get, and she doesn't have it within a day or a week."

   Pressed regarding the figure given by the Jerusalem Report, Rabbi Landesman pointed out that there is a great difference between the Israeli system and ours. In Israel, batei din have jurisdiction over matrimonial matters. If the problem between the couple is limited to financial support, the batei din are on an equal footing with the secular court system. If a get is involved, then the beit din has sole jurisdiction over all matters, however ancillary, which are related to the get, including but not limited to custody, child support, and property. 

   He continued that, just as with the secular courts in the U.S., the beit din system in Israel suffers from overload, which has created a backlog. A contested divorce may take from two to five years. Rabbi Landesman added that lawyers and to'anim (client representatives before a beit din) often have no desire to expedite their cases, since the more time is spent, the greater is their fee. 

   Rabbi Landesman stated that, if there is any truth to the 10,000 figure, it refers to all cases currently within the beit din system, regardless of their status, and that it is improper to categorize a woman whose case is going through the process as an "agunah. 

   He added: "In almost every case I've known about, when there are major issues at stake, where they're really fighting, it takes a few years until it's resolved· But once everything is resolved, the issue of the get is resolved too. The get is one of twenty issues that have to be resolved." 

Rabbi Landesman said that he would be very surprised if one could compile a list of 50 women in the U.S. at any given time who have followed the proper procedures and not received a get.

According to the rabbi, a critical error is the failure to follow these procedure at the outset. It often takes a long time until the wife takes her estranged partner to belt din. While she may consider herself an agunoh even before instituting a get proceeding, he believes this is an inaccurate appraisal.

As an example, he says that he once remarked to an agun (a man whose wife refused to accept a get), ''Whose fault was it that your problems of eight years have first been brought to the beit din's attention twenty minutes ago?"

  Rabbi Landesman emphasized that he holds in great esteem organizations which exist for the purpose of helping agunot. "Even if they help one person who is truly in need, it is worth all their efforts,"he noted. Moreover, "The fact that these organizations exist does at times speed things up. For example, . instead of taking a year or two until the recalcitrant spouse realizes it's over, it may speed things up by a few months." He said that the number of agunah cases may have decreased in  recent years because of the efforts of groups such as Agunah, Inc.

Rabbi Landesman took strong exception to the allegation that batei din are unfair to women. He emphasized that, at least in his own beit din, both parties are treated equally. He rejected the idea that the woman is made to reel uncomfortable or cannot compete on an equal footing in the halachic arena, and stated that a female to to'en would be welcomed at the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din. (There are, to his knowledge, no female to'anim in the U.S. His beit din generally disdains to'anim, believing they do little to advance the case of the party they are representing, and that they will often resort to impressive-sounding but halachically vacuous arguments in order to justify their fee.)

  Rabbi Landesman also took strong issue with Agunah, Inc.'s insinuations that the secular courts are fairer than batei din. He said: "The article gives a very rosy picture of the court system and a very shoddy picture of the beit din system. This is very misleading. People think the court system is the epitome of righteousness, but being privy to many confidential matters, I can clearly state that I know more than one judge who belongs in jail. And I know of cases which have been 'fixed' between the judge and one of the lawyers."

He did acknowledge that in many batei din -although not in the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din - there is a lack of decorum, which may lead to the perception that batei din are not as meticulous as the secular courts. Yet this a "a Problem of color, not of substance," he declared, saying that batei din are much more scrupulous than secular judges, and that 'judges and lawyers are much more corrupt than any beit din or dayan can be subjectively perceived to be, even in the worst possible case." The rabbi agreed with Agunah, Inc. that different batei din have different halachic standards. He stressed that it is up to the litigants to do their homework before selecting a particular beit din.

Rabbi Landesman pointed out that American batei din do not have the power to force compliance with their decisions. Therefore, what Agunah, Inc. sees as beit din problems are almost all implementation problems. For example he insisted that the fact that it is the husband who has to give the get does not put the wife at a disadvantage as far as the psak is concerned. He declared that a beit din decides its cases based solely on halachic criteria. It is in cases of noncompliance (which, he says, when taking all differences, not just the get, into account, happens about equally between husbands and wives) where implementation of the psak becomes difficult. He said that almost all recalcitrants eventually comply, and that in many cases the husband's tactic is merely to wait the wife out, hoping she will compromise on some of the areas where the psak was favorable to her.

While this is certainly an example of the get being used as a weapon, Rabbi Landesman explained that, if a woman is patient and is unwilling to be defeated by the husband's tactic, the entire psak will eventually be implemented in almost every case.

Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz. who sits on the Kollel Horabonim Beit Din, opined that, if all methods short of physical coercion were properly applied. any husband in his right mind would give a get. These methods include ostracism from the community and using all legal devices available to make the husband support his estranged wife financially. as he must do according to halacha. According to Rabbi Malinowitz. the financial strain alone is usually enough to bring about compliance.

Commenting on Agunah. lnc.'s assertion that a man has the option of a heter me'ah rabbanim, Rabbi Landesman said that such a heter is rarely issued. Therefore. the husband is just as stuck by the lack of a get as the wife The exception to this is, he said, where the parties are not strict about religious observance. Since the woman's sin would be much greater than the man's, the lack of a get may not prevent the husband from finding an outlet for his desires. This, however, is a commentary not on Jewish law. but on the lack of observance in some circles.

Rabbi Landesman noted that he knew of one case where the husband had to pay over a million dollars to convince his wife to accept a get. No heter me'ah rabbanim was granted him.

 Rabbi Landesman said that a matter often glossed over is the difficult some husbands find in exercising the visitation rights which have been accorded them. He said, "I would be inclined to think that there are as many problems with fathers' visitation rights as there are with gittin for women." He cited cases where ex-husbands have rarely or never seen their offspring after having given a get, including a case where a man spent $32,000 in court in an unsuccessful attempt to have his rights enforced. Asked what can be done, he replied, "I don't know; I am baffled. Most people don't have the thousands of dollars it costs to go to court, or they don't have the mental endurance needed."

Are Orthodox divorces rising in number? And what can be done to avoid divorce?

Rabbi Landesman disputed recently published statistics that say divorce in the Orthodox community is rising. He said that. at least in proportional terms, the incidence of divorce has declined over the last two decades.

   In his opinion, the primary reason for this trend is that "people now realize divorced life is not all that rosy, especially for the woman. The second tine around, it's basically a man's market. Women have friends who are divorced. They speak with them and see that it's difficult financially and in other respects." According to the rabbi, people today "don't rush for a get like they used to," a phenomenon he applauds. He said: "If there is an unbearable situation involving health, religion. or physical abuse, where objectively one just cannot remain in the marriage. divorce is an alternative. But if there's a personality clash, including disliking one's character or just not liking the person, these are subjective tastes. and they are things one can learn to change ...

   Rabbi Landesman said that women who come to him seeking a divorce are encouraged to first speak with divorcees and remarrieds so that they will have a better understanding of divorced life. He asserted that women have to decide whether it may be better to remain in a non-ideal marriage. and that if there are children, the nachas derived from them often makes the marriage worth saving.

   Rabbi Landesman had other suggestions for reducing divorce among Orthodox Jews. He said that, in over half of divorce cases involving Modern Orthodox couples with which he has been involved, the parents of the woman were opposed to the match in the first place. He told one such wife:

"When you go to buy a fur coat, you first ask the opinion of someone else. But with something as important as marriage. you have the attitude that you don't need to inquire."

   The rabbi emphasized that potential mates frequently do not understand the commitment involved in a marriage. Were they to recognize that marriage is not a game," they would be more careful when selecting a partner.  He said that this deficiency can be found in all kinds of Orthodox shidduchim

Furthermore he noted that the Steipler Rav, Rabbi Yaakov Kanievsky zt"l voiced concern for the fact that yeshiva. students often have nor learned how to interact with others. Rabbi Landesman said that early problems in a marriage often occur because the husband needs time to learn how to act towards his wife - a difficulty that can be ironed out with time. patience. and hard work.

A further step toward reducing divorce, he said , would be if people realized that the beit din system can be used to resolve problems short of divorce.  The husband especially has certain obligations to his wife. and she can take him to beit din if he is not meeting those obligations. Were a small issue nipped in the bud, it might not become a larger one. leading to a divorce which, the Talmud says. the altar sheds tears.

The Ground Rules
When is a get called for? Is one entitled to a get upon demand? These and related questions were put to Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz. who sits on the Kollel Horabonim beit din with Rabbi Landesman. The following is a summary of his response.

According to the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), even when a get is desirable, there are varying ways in which the beit din's decision may be expressed. The kind of psak which will be issued depends upon the circumstances of each particular case.

At one extreme, the beit din will direct that there must be a get, and that the husband may be coerced, even physically. to divorce his wife. Grounds for this kind of psak may include physical abuse, financial non-support by the husband, and refusal to have marital relations.

At the other extreme, the beit din may advise the parties that a get is desirable, but will not declare that the husband is obligated to grant the get or that the wife is obligated to accept it.

There are varying degrees which lie between these extremes. A common on is a psak which obligates the husband to give a get and permits all forms of pressure, short of acts which would constitute coercion, for the purpose from implementing the psak. The types of pressure include total ostracism from the community and forcing the husband to financially support his estranged  wife.

    Grounds for this sort of psak are looser than for a decision which permits coercion. Examples are a lesser degree of financial non-support by the husband or a lesser degree of the wife being unable  to live with him.

Generally, if the beit din considers a marriage "dead", as determined through the rules set out by the Shulchan Aruch. a psak will be issued obligating the husband to give his wife a get and obligating her to accept it.

 Rabbi Malinowitz says he is convinced that in "99 out of 100 cases" proper implementation of steps such as ostracism and forcing the husband support his wife would result in a get. He says that "anyone in his right mind would give a get rather than paying thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to a woman with whom he is not living. Rabbi Malinowitz feels that the problem lies in the unwillingness of Jewish society to totally ostracize the recalcitrant husbands. and the difficulty of implementing a psak of financial support in a society where church and state are separate.

Rabbi Malinowitz sums up: "Not always when a woman decides she doesn't want to live with this man or vice versa is the marriage dead. The Torah views marriage as an obligation between two parties, and it can't be revoked just because one party wants out: there have to be certain safeguards.

"The Shulchan Aruch decides what a dead marriage is. If a marriage is practically dead from an objective viewpoint and can be seen by the beit din as being objectively dead, the halacha calls for a psak of obligation, with or without various types of pressure short of actual coercion." [...]

Dr. Marc Shapiro: The Aguna Problem part 2 Is the husband always obligated to give a Get?

Seforim Blog  [...]  Let me make one final point. In matters of divorce my feeling is that when either husband or wife wants a get, and it is obvious that there is no future in the marriage, then neither party should prevent the divorce from taking place. There shouldn’t be any reason to go to a beit din to force a divorce. Adults should be able to see that the marriage isn’t working out and come to a conclusion that it is time to end it. Any husband who chooses to withhold a get when he knows that the marriage is over is acting in a very cruel way, and the full weight of halakhically acceptable communal pressure should be brought on him. Nothing should scandalize us more than a so-called religious person keeping his wife captive as a means of revenge. I would even suggest reading the names of some agunot during the Shabbat prayers, in order to sensitize people to the issue.
I know that many people will regard what I have just written as obvious. What I will now say might anger some, but I think that it too should be obvious. I have often heard it said that a get should never be withheld, and that the get should be given immediately. For example, on ORA’s website it states: “[I]t is never acceptable to refuse to issue a get once the marriage is irreconcilable.” On JOFA’s website it states: “As soon as it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation, the Get should be written and delivered to the woman so that it cannot be used as a bargaining tool in financial or custody negotiations.” 

While in general both these statements are correct, it is not correct that this is always the case. For instance, let’s say the wife runs away to Europe with the kids. Does anyone seriously think that the husband is still obligated to give her a get? In such a circumstance it is entirely appropriate for the husband to insist that she come back to the United States and settle all custody issues before a get is issued. Or let’s say a husband and wife separated, and the wife refuses to let the husband see his children. It could be many months before the secular court rules on the matter of visitation. Why would anyone think that in the meantime the husband is obligated to give his wife a get if she refuses to allow him to see his children? I don’t think that there is any reputable beit din in the world that would side with the woman in these two cases. These are obviously extreme examples, and have nothing to do with the typical agunah case we hear about. Yet we should be aware that there are nuances that sometimes come into play, and every case must be investigated by a reputable beit din before judgments are made.[...]

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter has been rescinded!

The heter has no halachic significance at this point.  Rav Greenblatt does not create reality by his psak. If he paskened that the dead were alive or that we were all healthy wealthy and wise  - it would have the same significance. His psak is universally declared to have been a mistake. Whether Rav Greenblatt or Rav Kaminetsky acknowledges this reality is a psychological issue rather than a halachic issue. Tamar is committing adultery and any children she has from this relationship are mamzerim. 

Each day that goes by without the acknowledgement by Rav Greenblatt and Rav Kaminetsky that the heter is a mistake - causes additional destruction to their well earned reputations and to the emunas chachomim of their followers. The fact that the emperor mistakenly believes he has clothes - doesn't make it so and makes him the subject of ridicule and contempt.

 - 3 : to make void (as an act) by action of the enacting authority or a superior authority :

Torah, Psychiatry and Psychology, and Heterim. (part 1)

Guest post by Jonathan Fishman

Some modern Jews, seek loopholes within what they perceive as the extensive restrictions of Halachah, and psychiatrists and psychologists provide strategies and mechanisms for loopholes - heterim. Because of the credibility and prestige of these professionals as well as the authoritative status of their assertions and judgments and the acceptance of the concept of "mental illness" some Jews allow these assertions to affect the Halachah.

On 24 Sept. 2015 In Memphis Tennessee at an Orthodox shul an eishet ish - married woman - married a second husband without a Get - based on the hearsay report of an anonymous psychiatrist?!

We need to ask;

Does a psychiatrist possess the power to influence the process whereby a married woman without a Get may marry another man because the first marriage should allegedly be annulled on psychological grounds?

Right now, because of this Memphis Tennessee case we have a crisis of credibility and confidence in authority regarding marriage, Gittin - divorce and adultery Halachah.

Psychology appears to have changed the Halachos of adultery and divorce. It seems that a Get is no longer necessary and all we need is a psychiatrist to find some or other 'personality disorder' to render the marriage a mekach taut.

There is something disturbing happening at the core of the integrity of Judaism! Is this going to chas v' shalom set a precedent?

Daas Torah wrote about this heter, they enabled "any woman to invalidate her marriage with a psychologist's report. Even if the therapist never talked to the husband and even if he wrote the report based entirely on the nasty things an estranged wife might say about her husband without hearing the other side at all- and even if he simply made up the report out of his own imagination - the heter says the marriage is invalid"

When the psychiatrist declared that the first husband was mentally insane and unable to be a husband, he destroyed his name and future to remarry – Daas Torah (In actual fact the husband is a competent, well functioning, shomer Mitzvot, nice guy working as an attorney in the US Congress!)

It is not only, in the area of married women remarrying without a Get, that therapists produce a heter, but in many other areas of Halacha!

We need to ask the general question: Does hiring therapists or psychiatrists to declare somebody with a mental illness and thus claim heterim - loopholes permitting the previously forbidden - have a regular place in the Torah?

To digress from heterim for a moment, let's look at a related illustrative example. Recently articles appeared just before the Iowa Republican caucus asserting that US presidential candidate Donald Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder!

In fact, there is a tradition of invalidating public figures by means of denigrating labels. The following is only an example;
30 Jan 2016

"Talk radio host Glenn Beck, who is in Iowa with his family and staff campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, took to his Facebook page earlier this week to blast GOP front-runner Donald Trump, calling the New York builder “a pathological narcissistic sociopath” who is “trying to put Megyn Kelly… in his dungeon.”

In a Facebook post this week, Beck wrote:

I have had more than one medical professional warn me that Donald Trump is a pathological narcissistic sociopath.

I do not say that lightly nor to smear him.

Look the terms up and talk to psychiatric professionals.

A few have already written about this and spoken out.

While, I want to be clear as do they, no one can officially diagnose this without private sessions, I have had more than one professional have laugh at me when I suggested in Trumps defense that maybe he “wasn’t a sociopath”."

This is not a "medical diagnosis" from caring "therapists" who wish to "heal the sick" but a derogatory epithet i.e. slander, motsi shem ra, renamed as "medical diagnosis". It happens not only to recalcitrant husbands and presidential candidates, but the man in the street. It is an underhand way of dealing with our fellow Yidden whom we dislike! But this is what "therapists" were used for in the Memphis Tennessee 2nd marriage without a Get.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: Reports of major development



The Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter - A member of the Philadelphia community respectfully requests an explanation

Guest post by a member of the Philadelphia community. She has recently been posting here under the name of Phillywoman. I asked her to write a post about  about how the Kaminetsky-Greenblatt heter has impacted her and her community. She is a product of the Beis Yaakov system and is married to a talmid chachom.

I will open up by saying that I have a tremendous love and admiration for both the Epstein and Kamanetzkys families. Both in different ways have helped me through difficult periods of my life, and helped shape me into a person I am proud of. And it is precisely because of my respect for the two prominent families of my community, that I have taken the time to compose this.

Like most of my peers I initially sided with "my family." I sided with the Epstein because they are an outstanding and prominent family in our city. They were the pioneers, that helped this little town grow into a makom Torah. Like the people around me I never once questioned their desire to do the right thing. And even as I write this, I still don't. I know they are good people who desire to do the right thing.

That preface brings me to my most crucial and main concern:

The poskim of our town.

As I have previously stated, I have a tremendous respect for the Kamanetzkys.

Like most people here, I was happy to hear he was involved in the situation. I trusted him. Most of the world trusted him.

I, like everyone around me supported the "free Tamar" propaganda. I rejoiced when heard she "was freed."

I had unadulterated faith and trust in my leaders.

When the recent tension and controversy surrounding the heter broke out, I defended my leaders like all those around me.

When I heard about this blog, "run by some guy who was out to make the Epsteins' life miserable, and with a personal vendetta against Rav Kamanetzky," I came here just to snoop. Maybe even troll a little. I'm not too entirely sure.

But it's irrelevant now, since what I saw here shocked me. I was shaken out of my slumber. I saw that there was so much more to this picture. For the first time, I realized what "the other side" and hetter issues were all about.

That's when my emunas chachamim was fractured.

But it is the continuous silence from those I trusted that has shattered my world.

The world in which my leaders are perfect and do not error.

I looked up to the Kamanetzkys so much - that I have set them on a pedestal. I expect a Rav to be a person who takes responsibility, has credibility and makes his public wrongs right...

It is human to be misinformed, mistaken, and make bad decisions. I understand that my leaders are flesh and blood like me, and I know that they are not immune to mistakes.

What bothers me most is their silence. The lack of backing, the lack of clarity, and lack of answers.

Their silence fills me with a sense of betrayal, despondence, disappointment, frustration, and most of all hopelessness.

These are not easy emotions to battle. It forces one to introspect and question everything around them.

No wonder people rather blast out those who question their leaders. Now, I understand why people are so quick to point fingers at "the other side."

It is so much easier to stay ignorant then to face the reality that our leaders have errored. Our beloved leaders have made the assur mutar. G-d's holy Torah has been perverted by its entrusted keepers.

Facts have been obscured by a misplaced sense of hakares hatov, perhaps by what some may even call shochad.

It pains me greatly to write this, but I know that silence is even worse.

They say the greatness of the leaders mirrors the generation. What have we as a nation come to?

How much longer will we turn away and stay silent?

I am battling conflicting emotions and have no one to turn to, since everyone is too afraid to acknowledge my questions.

I am immediately deemed wrong for questioning, labeled ignorant, and told I am incapable of understanding.

"This is for the rabbis" they say. "Stay out of it. We don't know enough"

And this is where I'm stuck. What was my Torah education worth, if not to discern between right and wrong? The halacha, Navi, Chumash, parsha, and mussar classes were for what then?

We were taught to think, question, and sharpen our minds. We are not blind sheep, we were taught. We have basic principles and fundamentals that guide us. We were told that asking questions is encouraged as long as we are interested in seeking the truth.

So what changed now?

Why the lack answers? Why am I suddenly unable to understand?

This matter is no longer private.

This matter has become public from the day the public donated money for the buses to traveled to MD to protest.

And now, when the rabbanim in Eretz Yisrael have stood up against my leaders, I want answers. I want to see my rabbis defend themselves.

Yes, I admit I want my community to give answers because I want them to be correct. I'd be lying if I said anything else.

But my Rabbis are silent. Their actions (or lack thereof) is what's driving me away.

I can't dispute black and white with the possibilities of maybes.

I await the day my leaders will step up to the plate.

I await the day when truth will prevail.

I await the day mishpat will no longer be perverted.

May we all merit to see the geula bimhaira biyameinu.