Volume 14 Number 95
                       Produced: Tue Aug 23  7:33:38 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

AOJS Convention
         [Sam Juni]
Dating and Dr. Juni
         [Matis Roberts]
Dating and Marriage
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 1994 13:56:55 -0400
Subject: AOJS Convention

    I just returned from the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists
Convention at the Homowack, and have some impressions which I will share
in several postings as they come to me in the next few days.

    The registration, I was told, showed over 500 folks. The sessions
dealt with:

      1. Steve Tenen's (MERU Foundation) linkage of physics, topology,
         and letter sequence analysis of Breishis.
      2. Psychotherapy and religiosity of the therapist.
      3. Freudian vs. Talmudic principles in Dream Interpretation.
      4. Abuse within the Family.
      5. End of Life Isuues.
      6. Smoking in Health and Hallacha.
      7. Computer-based Decision Making in Medicine.
      8. Argument-based data analysis of Machlokes in Talmud.
      9. Genetic Screening & Therapy.
     10. Donor Gametes & Surrogate Wombs in Infertility Intervention.
     11. Hallachic Ramification of the Clinton Health Plan.
     12. Infectious Disease & Hallacha.
     13. An Expose of the recent Milk debacle.
     14. The Holocaust and Contemporary Germans / Germany
     15. Marital Intimacy
     16. Pregnancy Reduction

     I bounced around Joe Abeles' ideas re AOJS (posted in 14/76). No
 doubt, many of the attendeed are not scientists.  If we see science as
 implying a commitment to be data based, a good deal of the sessions fell
 nicely into the empirical orientation, but very often with the applied
 twist at the end: what do the data say re Hallacha.

     I think some of the sessions are in fact designed and down-sized so
 as to appeal to the non-scientists and especially to the family members
 of the "primary attendees."  I had no difficulties steering clear of
 these sessions.  I also found, as always, that I managed to explore some
 ideas with experts in the sciences whose access is limited otherwise.

    The Divrei Torah which were delivered were effective in highlighting
 key issues of the Hallach/Science interface.  These were formulated,
 thankfully, toward the academics in the crowd and did not feature apolo-
 getics or soothsayings.

    I enjoyed most the informal discussions.  Some of these metastesized
 into sizeable roundtables broaching peripheral topics which one will
 not find on the Hallachic or Scientific menus.

     Dr. Sam Juni                  Fax (212) 995-3474
     New York University           Tel (212) 998-5548
     400 East
     New York, N.Y.  10003


From: Matis Roberts <ny000645@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 94 19:16:35 -0400
Subject: Dating and Dr. Juni

I only recently subscribed to MailJewish, and I have been watching the
"Sam Juni - Yeshivish dating controversy" with some interest. Permit me
to throw in some of my own twopence.

1) The basic issue is clearly not a simple one. Every "mating" system
has its advantages and pitfalls, its successes and failures, and the
shidduch system is no different. Much has already been stated about its
plusses and minuses in general. I would just like to add that no two
people are perfectly matched and very few are absolutely
incompatible. As such, the quality of orientation received by chasanim
and kallahs after they are engaged is really much more important than
how many times they see each other before they make their
decision. Nevertheless, I must admit that I would be quite concerned if
my daughter were to agree to marry someone after only four dates.

2) I find this "bashert" business even more disturbing than the number
of dates. Our part of the job is "hishtadlus" - the rational, balanced
endeavor to find a suitable mate. Putting together "basherts" is - the
last I heard - the Almighty's bailiwick. If we are to view every feeling
of romantic elation and "certainty that this is the one" as a signal
from Heaven, we might as well all move to Hollywood. In any case, they
must have quite a busy switchboard up there, with all of the falling in
and out of love that takes place down in this world. Hasn't anyone heard
of Amnon and Tamar?

3) "I assume there is a litany of Da'as Torah's about this (defined as
the ruminations of Roshei Yeshiva who are experts in Talmudic Law), and
I'd be most curious about the reasoning for this atrocity."  This was
the line that caused so much uproar. I, too, find this line disturbing,
but apparently for a different reason than does everyone else. If
Dr. Juni's concern for the well-being of his fellow Jews causes him to
view as an atrocity what - to his mind - is detrimental to their marital
health, what is so terrible? We seem to be getting caught up in

However, sarcasm about Talmidei Chachamim is a different matter
altogether. I don't know who these Roshei Yeshiva are that he dismisses
so casually, but the ones I know are wisened by years of intense Torah
study and filled with concern and compassion for their fellow-Jews,
maybe even as much as Dr. Juni.  Are you claiming that expertise in
talmudic law is not a basis for moral leadership? Then you are on very
shaky grounds historically. Who do you think guided our people in all
areas of communal life throughout the generations?  To demean the honor
of Talmidei Chachamim is very definitely an atrocity.  Check out
Sanhedrin 99b, where it states that this costs a person his share in
Olam Habah.

So, while I am sympathetic to Dr. Juni's opinion and even share his
concern, I find his attitude towards Roshei Yeshiva to be
repugnant. Certainly comments of that nature have no place on an
exchange of sincere and respectful questions and opinions.


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 1994 19:27:31 -0400
Subject: Dating and Marriage

     The large number of reactions to Dr. Juni's initial posting on
dating in the yeshiva world is very welcome, and shows that people are
justly concerned over this very important aspect of Jewish life. I wish
to thank Avi for his prompt posting of the replies, and would like to
reply again, this time to Naomi Graetz and to Yossi Halberstadt.

     Naomi writes as follows in reply to my previous posting:

>> the total absence of Jewish marriage manuals before R. Eliyahu
>> Kitov's pioneering "Ish U-Veito" ("A Man and His House") of about
>> 30 years ago seems to testify to the lack of need for such books
>> and to general marital happiness among traditional Jews.
>Perhaps it means the opposite:  it took a long time to recognize that
>there was a need for such books.  ...

     No, I don't think this is correct. R. Kitov ZS"L was only the first
to devote a whole book to the subject of the Jewish family.  However,
the Jewish marriage and its problems are treated openly in our sources,
going all the way back to the Torah itself - for example, in this week's
Parasha (Ki Teze). Our tradition does not pass over the marital problems
even of the greatest of our people. Thus, the Torah tells us of the
problems that all three of the Patriarchs had with their wives. The
Midrash even tells us that Ya`aqov Avinu wanted to divorce Leah, but
changed his mind after she bore him children ("Shall I divorce the
mother of these?"). The Talmud is likewise full of advice to both
husbands and wives. Almost every Ben Torah knows what Rabbi Yossi
Ha-Galili, Rabbi Hiyya, Rav and Rav Nahman went through in their
marriages. Not even the most intimate details are left out, such as Rav
Kahana's exploit at the end of Berakhot. And in Gittin we have Rabbi
Meir telling his students to warn him... The tragedy of his wife
Beruria, as told by Rashi in Avoda Zara, is just one example of things
that could and did happen even to the most saintly of our ancestors.

     As Naomi herself pointed out, the responsa literature from the
Gaonic period to our day is likewise filled with real life cases of
marital discord. Thus, a letter of the Rambam, written in his own hand
and found in the Cairo Genizah, rebukes a cruel husband, and several of
his responsa deal with problems that arose when women taught Torah for a
living while their husbands were away on business. The Rambam is also
famous for his ruling, following precedents in the Babylonian yeshivot,
that forced a man to divorce his wife when she could not tolerate him.

     Some of the most popular Jewish books on ethics, such as Menorat
Ha-Ma'or, Reshit Hokhma, Shevet Musar and Pele Yo`ez, have chapters or
sections that deal with a man and his wife.

     However, it does not follow that the large number of detailed
Jewish marriage manuals in our generation fills a need that always
existed in the past. Former generations were just as human as we are,
but they had different standards and priorities in life. Furthermore,
they were able to suffer more and tolerate a greater degree of
imperfection in their lives. In other words, people were content with a
lesser amount of perfection in their marriages, and couples were better
able to adjust to each other.

      It is my impression that the affluence of the postwar generation
is the single most important factor that has led to the breakdown of the
family. Thus it was found, for example, that college students of the
Vietnam era suffered from an unusually high rate of depression.  This
was attributed to the fact that, unlike their parents who lived through
the Great Depression, they grew up in the affluent 1950's and 1960's
with no economic problems to handle. This sheltered upbringing taught
them to expect that everything in life must go smoothly. The injustice
which they saw in the Vietnam War and their inability to satisfy their
raised expectations for perfection led to frustrations and
disappointments which they were unable to cope with.

     Our Jewish educators today, such as R. Yoel Schwartz and R.  Shlomo
Wolbe, have similarly noted the greater inability of the postwar
generation to cope with adversity, as compared with their
parents. Anyone involved in marriage counselling today will readily note
how often major conflicts arise from such trivial matters that would
hardly have mattered to our ancestors. Thus the spate of new books
reflects, in my opinion, a real need today which did not exist in
previous generations.

      Naomi goes on to bring up the subject of wife-beating, which does
not appear to me to be strictly relevant to the issue of marital
stability that was being discussed. I can only guess that my mention of
the stability of marriages among Yemenite Jews brought it up in her mind
as a protest against the status of women in this society in our day, as
well as in general in medieval times. Nevertheless, since she brought it
up, I think it deserves a reply.

     It would be folly to deny that wife-beating has happened among
Jews. In Israel today, for example, there are centers for beaten women,
and it is estimated that about one sixth of all Jewish women are beaten
by their husbands (The proportion among Palestinians was reported to be
much higher).

      However, I am not aware that Yemenite Jewish women believe that
they "deserve" it, although a study in Israel showed recently that this
belief persists among Palestinian women.

      Moreover, R. Qafeh comments on it in his book, and said roughly
that it was unheard of among Yemenite Jews, and if it did happen, then
it was condemned. From this language it seems that it did occasionally
happen. But he adds in this context that the woman was regarded as
defenseless, and for her husband to turn into her enemy was most

      Among other communities, such as Moroccan Jews, wife-beating might
have been regarded as more normal. In some of the books quoted above, it
is mentioned in sections addressed to the wife, with the understanding
that it would be a natural reaction of her husband if she disobeyed
him. But at the same time, the husband is warned not to strike his wife,
as this is something that reflects very poorly on him.

     In halacha there are varying opinions on the matter. R. Yosef Qaro,
in his Beit Yosef on the Tur, permits a man to strike his wife in order
to chastise her for wrong behavior. But his colleague R.  Moshe
Isserles, in his gloss on the Shulhan Arukh, agreed with those who
outlawed it, as Naomi brought from the responsum of Rabbeinu Perez.  If
I remember correctly, there are likewise differences of opinion whether
wife-beating is valid grounds for divorce.

     The attitude of the Pele Yo`ez (R. Eliezer Papo, early 19th century
Bulgaria) seems to be typical of traditional Sephardic Jewry.  To the
best of my memory, he warns the husband not to strike his wife, in
strong language. But at the same time, he counsels the wife not to react
against him if he does it, since this would just worsen the quarrel, but
to suffer quietly without revealing it to others, in order to protect
her honor.

     In general, I agree with the general tone of Yossi Halberstadt's
remarks. In particular, his disturbing observation about the recent
trend in divorces in the UK seems to support my contention that
something special is happening in our day that justifies the attention
that is being given in the new books.

     One of his comments seems to be directed against my comparison of
our generation with prewar, traditional East European Jewry, and I would
like to reply to it separately:

>2) I don't think that comparing the situation nowadays to the pre-war
>   East European community is correct. We have totally different
>   expectations from a marriage - a husband and wife are expected to
>   love each other, be companions for each other and spend a lot of a
>   time together. I don't believe that this was always the case.

     Indeed, this is precisely the point I was trying to make - that our
attitudes today towards marriage are different from those of our
ancestors, and that this is the reason for the troubles we are having.

     What Yossi says is correct and, together with the spoiling effect
of our affluence and materialism, accounts in great measure for our
difficulties today, in my opinion.

     Perhaps I can illustrate with a story I heard from another
prominent Yemenite rabbi. In Yemen, it once happened that a man had
found a girl for one of his sons. Both parties consented to the match,
and final preparations were made for the marriage. But just before the
date arrived, the groom's mother passed away. After the mourning, the
father came to the son and said, "My son, you know how many children I
have to take care of now. Hashem will provide you with your match.  But
now I come first." And sure enough, the bride consented to marry her
intended groom's father and to take care of his children.

     What my rabbi was trying to tell me was this. Marriage, with all
the happiness and delights it offers, is not and end in itself whose
success determines one's level of achievement in life. Rather, it is but
one means man has of attaining wholesomeness in order to serve Hashem in
fulfilling His Torah and commandments. If one keeps this in mind, if his
search for gratification in marriage is motivated by a desire to do
Hashem's will alone, then he will indeed have a happy marriage, and the
problems that do arise will be readily solved and will not hinder him in
his quest to keep the Torah and the commandments.

     This, I think is the real crux of the matter. Our affluence has
corrupted us today so that we tend to think more about ourselves and our
own desires than ever before. If we could strive for just a little of
the selflessness of our ancestors and their devotion to Hashem, I think
we would be more content with ourselves and with our marriages.




End of Volume 14 Issue 95