Friday, October 16, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Is Rabbi Hersehl Schachter making a farce of his own halachic positions?

Guest Post

Epstein-Flesicher, a coerced get, (and also kiddushai ta'us?): Is Rabbi Hershel Schachter making a farce of his own halachic positions?

An earlier post explained how Rabbi Hershel Schachter’s actions in the Epstein-Friedman case are contrary to halacha.  Daas Torah Blog

But Rabbi Schachter's actions in the case are also completely contrary to his own publicly stated halachic positions on the matters involved in the case. Rabbi Schachter encouraged public pressure and demonstrations against Friedman even though the Baltimore Beis Din to which the parties brought the matter and which held hearings with the participation of both parties refused Epstein's demands for a get. Rabbi Schachter and ORA, of which he serves as posek, insisted on demonstrating against Friedman despite the Baltimore Beis Din's statement that such demonstrations were wrong. For good measure, they also demonstrated against the Washington Beis Din for refusing to intervene against Friedman. Rabbi Schachter even went so far as to call for violence against Friedman to obtain a get. But a get obtained through public presssure or coercion not sanctioned by the beis din with jurisdiciton would be inavlid.

Eventually Rabbi Schachter and his accomplices in the matter signed a purported "seruv" against Friedman.

On Tisha Ba'av in 2012, Friedman was attacked and beaten, in an attempted kidnapping as he dropped off the child at Epstein's house, an attack that endangered the lives of both Friedman and the young child. One of Rabbi Schachter's co-signatories on the “seruv” was Rabbi Mordechai Wolmark, who was alleged by the FBI to lead a so-called beis din together with Rabbi Mendel Epstein, that was actually a criminal gang which, amongst other criminal activities, attempted a kidnapping and beating of a non-existent man in order to obtain a get with regard to a non-existent marriage. Rabbi Wolmark and several co-conspirators pled guilty. Other co-conspirators, including Rabbi Epstein, were found guilty at a trial at which the attack on Friedman was alleged to be part of the Epstein-Wolmark gang’s criminal conspiracy. At least two of Rabbi Schachter's other co- signatories were alleged by the FBI to be part of the Epstein-Wolmark gang's criminal conspiracy, but, along with Rabbi Schachter, have not yet been charged.

Although Epstein consistently engaged in outrageous behavior, including abducting the parties' child, violating the orders of the Baltimore Beis Din in order to have her abduction of the child treated as a fait accompli in civil court, getting most of the child's time with Friedman rendered moot because he is shomer shabbos, and filing a contempt motion seeking to limit the child's time with Friedman to "supervised visitation," Rabbi Schachter and ORA did not just argue that Epstein should be given a get. Instead, ORA specifically argued that Epstein had acted completely properly throughout the entire matter. Furthermore, Rabbi Schachter himself appeared with Tamar at an ORA panel, at which Tamar was hailed as a heroine.

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

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

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


Rabbi Schachter has not made public his position on Epstein's annulment and remarriage, although ORA, of which Rabbi Schachter serves as posek, declared that Epstien is free. Although the use of kiddushei ta'us in this case would be contrary to halacha according to Rabbi Schachter, his endorsing the annulment and remarriage of Epstein-Fliescher would be consistent with his actions in the Epstein-Friedman matter thus far in consistently contradicting, and thus making a farce of, of his own halachic positions.

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