Volume 16 Number 7
                       Produced: Mon Oct 24 23:11:50 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Wife-Beating (4)
         [Shaul Wallach, Avi Weinstein, Marc Shapiro, Joseph Greenberg]
Wife-Beating Discussion, Discussion, Discussion....
         [Freda B. Birnbaum]
         [Robert Klapper]


From: <sbechhof@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 1994 20:49:13 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Wife-abuse

Some comments on Mail.Jewish Mailing List    Volume 15 Number 97 

>From: Jeffrey Woolf <F12043@...>
Subject: Wife-abuse

1) The Orthodox community IS dismissive of women  (especially  in  the 
Haredi world) 

           This is a gratuitous  swipe  at  a  large  segment  of  our 
           society, including great Ovdei  Hashem  (Divine  Servants), 
           massive Motzi Shem Rah (Slander) and a  terrible  thing  to 
           say at this time of great travail when we  need  unity  and 
           peace in our ranks, not dissension.

>From: Irwin H. Haut <0005446733@...>
Subject: Wife-Beating

He traces this time-honored and most noble institution as far back  as 
the ninth century and to Tzemach Gaon, who calls upon a  man  to  flog 
his wife if she is guilty of assault, "so that she be not in the habit 
of so doing." 

           This sarcastic line referes to one of the Geonim!
           According to Rashi in  Sanhedrin,  Perek  Chelek,  one  who 
           mocks a Talmid Chochom (certainly a Gaon fits that bill) is 
           an Apikores. I would not quote such an "inflammatory" Rashi 
           except that I am by now totally exasperated by the  blatant 
           disdain displayed towards Rishonim in the  course  of  this 
           recent conversation. Enough!

I submit that such should not be the law in an ordered society.

           Did the Rishonim - including, in  Rabbi  Haut's  view  "his 
           Great Rebbe" (?) the Rambam, whom  he  emphatically  places 
           among  the  pro-wifebeaters,  not  strive  for  an  ordered 
           society. Were they less concerend with  "Mishpat  [Justice] 
           u'Tzedaka  [Kindness]"  than  our  more  enlightened   20th 
           century Rabbis?

>From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Subject: Wifebeating, History and Apologetics

           Although Marc calls for a well researched  history  of  the 
           attitude of Judaism towards women, I assume that it  is  in 
           the spirit I called for in my previous post -  to  sanctify 
           G-d's name  with  the  majesty  of  the  brilliant  overall 
           picture, which of course requires good scholarship to prove 

           Once more, the  overriding  drive  of  our  great  Sages  - 
           especially the Rambam, so much the focus of this  thread  - 
           was the achievement  of  sanctity  and  refinement  in  the 
           world. To view them and present them in any other light  is 
           a grave error and terrible Chillul Hashem. I think  in  all 
           of our writings we will do best to remember that and  write 

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 94 12:53:06 IST
Subject: Wife-Beating

     Despite the title of this posting, I am not going to keep up, for
the moment, the discussion of wife beating in halacha. I do not have
the time to check out all the sources right now and others have already
taken up the task. For now I will merely cite the Pisqei Din Rabbaniyyim
of the Israeli Rabbinate, which demonstrate an attitude somewhat
different from the one Rabbi Haut claims to find in traditional halacha.

     However, Rabbi Haut has made some remarks that call for at least a
token response.

     First of all, the general tone of his remarks raises questions in
my mind. An expression like "time-honored and most noble institution"
in the context used makes me wonder whether he is trying to arouse
respect for halacha or ridicule. The same goes for his reference to
Benei Beraq. More seriously, after taking the effort to show that
wife-beating is approved by "giants of Jewish law", and tying it to
an expression of "male domination", he states flatly, "I submit that
such should not be the law in an ordered society." This raises doubts
in my mind as to whether Rabbi Haut accepts the authority of halacha
itself or not. Mail-Jewish was conceived as a forum where the authority
of halacha would not be questioned, and I would be indebted to Rabbi
Haut for a clarification.

     Rabbi Haut makes a lot of my "glaring omission", in his words, of
the wife's duty to wash her husband's feet in my citation of the Rambam
in Ishut 21:7. Apparently he was not content with the "etc." that I put
in to hint at this. He also completely ignores what I stressed at the
outset - that the specific list of duties the Rambam gave is only an
example, and in practice is dependent on the custom of the place, as the
Rambam ruled himself. This likewise leads me to suspect that Rabbi Haut
has a specific agenda to promote; namely to make the Jewish law of
marriage look male dominant and something that must be opposed as such.
On this point as well I would be grateful for an explanation.

     In closing, Rabbi Haut advances the following thesis:

>        It is no answer to say that such was never done, if it could be
>done. As noted by Rivka Haut, it is precisely the attitude of male
>domination which is engendered thereby which poses the greatest danger
>in my opinion to modern Jewish marriage.

     If, as Rabbi Haut argues, Jewish law over the ages has always
engendered an attitude of male domination, why then does this pose the
"greatest danger ... to modern Jewish marriage"? Surely past generations
were no less male-dominant than our own, yet their marriages were more
stable than ours, at least to judge from the trend of the divorce rate
in 20th century America. What makes "modern Jewish marriage" different?



From: Avi Weinstein <0003396650@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 94 11:09 EST
Subject: Wife-Beating

Unlike Marc Shapiro, I find the apologetics in regard to wife
beating--heartening and I find the fact that he finds them
amusing--offensive and arrogant, as I have found the tone of many of his
postings.  This is most disturbing to me because I do agree with many of
his positions but I do not want to be associated with the
pretentiousness of his postings.

The Rema in Torat HaOlah talks about the intuitive dimension of Halachic
decision making.  There comes a time where an individual's predilection
make him emphasize certain words more and other words less.  So, if a
person has a favorable attitude toward western ideas, he can easily see
them in the sources.  We are in the unfortunate position of always
having a position which is influenced by what our individual lives have
taught us.  It is also true that the more hostile the general society
was, the more insular and actively hostile to foreign influence we have
become.  Now, that we have been welcomed into a free society which has
made our lives more threatened on the deeper levels of identity, we are
trying to save ourselves by a new insularity which negates the
widespread acceptance we have experienced.

All ethnic groups seem to define themselves at least partially by
negating others.  It is not a cornerstone of Jewish belief, but it does
happen as a natural consequence of Jewish discomfort with many of the
welcoming dominant culture's values.  This new insularity tends to trust
the counter-intuitive and the arational because they do not reflect the
values of the dominant society, so they must be pure. This, by
necessity, may be the age of CHUKIM (Laws that have no obvious reason)
because they have thei mpression of being "purely" Jewish while the
mitzvos that have been adopted by the dominant society serve Jewish
identity less well and therefore are of secondary importance for many of
our numbers.

Even so, the more insular of us are re-interpreting the sages in their
"apologetics" and the fact that they find these values incomprehensible
shows that they are not normative in the Haredi Jewish psyche.  I take
heart in that.  I don't find that amusing that people are embarrassed
when they see that legal sanctions for brutality existed. There were,
however, other suggestions on how people should treat each other and
these were considered to be values which should govern all behavior.
For instance, pride, anger, arrogance, and the desire for honor were
almost universally vilified as bad qualities.

Similarly, people are not consciously disingenuous when they read
sources differently, they are also struggling with this new information.
Let this be a forum where people engage in these discussions more gently
because we take these things so seriously.

As Marc gathers his material on battered women in responsa and halachic
literature one wonders what values he serves as he seeks out the
"truths" that seek to humiliate his "foes" into recognizing that liberal
values may have something to teach our tradition.  For he risks
destroying Jewish commitment along with it.  My complaint is more with
the tone of his medium then I am with the content of his message.

Avi Weinstein

From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 1994 09:37:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Wife-Beating

The learned Rabbi Michael Broyde asks for souces which permit 
wife-beating when in the same circumstances such beating would be 
forbidden with regard to strangers. Well, I could be wrong but I don't 
know of any sources which permit a man to beat a stranger if the stranger 
curses him. This is the context in which some authorities permit a 
husband to beat a wife. Now Michael, in line with his legal training, has 
made a very interesting point that the purpose of wife-beating is only to 
prevent a transgression, and the same approach would apply re. other 
beatings. In theory this is probably true (if the wife is strong enough 
to defend her rights) but in practice women do not have this power, and 
therefore it is only the man who is really being given permission to hit 
the wife. It is true that the wife can go to the Bet Din (I quoted Ramah 
that the Bet Din can cut his hand off) but usually the Bet Din will 
simply give the husband a warning. In other words, although Michael may 
be correct that in theory there is no license for wife-beating (only for 
wife and husband beating) in practice this is not true. Once again, I 
would like to know if Michael is correct re. strangers. Since when can I 
beat a stranger *after* he has sinned. This is different than saying I 
can beat him to prevent a sin. (My concern with the issue is not with the 
beating per se, but rather with the response of the Bet Din when 
confronted with this fact. Depending on the country one can usually 
anticipate whether they will have a more understanding view of the 
husbands actions)
					Marc Shapiro

From: <jjg@...> (Joseph Greenberg)
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 94 21:11 EDT
Subject: Wife-Beating

As I have been reading the last several issues of MJ, and in particular as I 
read Rabbi Broyde's latest commentary on the issue of "wife-beating" 
(although by no means to single him out), I am struck by the frankly 
pathetic convolutions that this discussion has taken. I am not one to cut 
off discussion because I don't like the topic... I can live with democracy, 
even when I'm the minority; however, the postings by the Hauts (just to 
state it for the record, I am sympathetic, as I'm sure most are, to the 
plight which they describe, and the frustrations of those that are 
attempting to help agunot) illustrate a serious problem that too many women 
face. In addition, Mrs. Haut, who is known to be active in various causes 
including that of agunot, has said that she has personally been faced with 
the situation where Rabbis have endangered the well-being of battered women. 
That is sufficient evidence to provide a basis for discussion of this topic.
        I think that it is irrelevant, demeaning, and harmful in the extreme 
to begin to analyze whether or not various Rishonim and/or Achronim allow 
wife-beating. Contrary to those that may think so, halacha has not stayed 
the same for the past 5,000 years; it is constantly being reviewed and 
expounded on. It is clear that spouse-beating is unacceptable under any 
circumstances in 1994. It is particularly dangerous to attempt to find 
"permissions" for acts that we personally consider reprehensible, and while 
I am not accussing any member of MJ of condoning spousal abuse, I find it 
extremely distastful that some would argue the acceptability of such abuse 
by some authorities.
        Much of the effort expended in justifying or "halachically 
explaining" this horrific crime would be better spent in ending it. If there 
are Rabbis that are known to harbor wife-beaters, then in my opinion their 
names should be on the same cherem (excommunication) lists as the "husbands" 
whom they are protecting [many communities have adopted the custom of 
ostracixing men that refuse to give their wife a get].
        Yes, it is true Rabbi Bechofer that there is a chilul Hashem going 
on here. But it is not the publication of a sad state; it is the coverup 
that many would make of it. Rather than look for terutzim (answers) as to 
how this could be allowed by one or two Rishonim, why not look for ways to 
stop it? Do we _really_ care about how the Terumas Hadeshen is presented to 
the world, or do we care to stop a terrible wrong?


From: Freda B. Birnbaum <FBBIRNBAUM@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 1994 18:49:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Wife-Beating Discussion, Discussion, Discussion....

In the last few issues of m-j, there have been quite a number of posts
on the issue of wifebeating and whether this or that authority permits
it or encourages it, and what this does or does not say about our
wonderful religion.  There have been a number of posts claiming that one
or two posters have misquoted or misread or misunderstood or mis-accused
various authorities of condoning it.  It seems to me that all of this
(especially some of the stuff giving Rivka Haut and Naomi Graetz a hard
time) is really beside the point, even if some of it is accurate about
the texts under discussion.  The point is to get the present-day rabbis
who enagage in some of the reprehensible behavior Rivka Haut describes
(sending wives back to abusive husbands in the name of "shalom bayit")
to CUT IT OUT.  If textual analysis and argument helps here, fine.
Would it were so simple...

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"

From: <rklapper@...> (Robert Klapper)
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 1994 08:04:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Wifebeating

 Yaakov Menken asks for halakhic sources permitting wifebeating - I
think the Kessef Mishnah to the Rambam at issue should suffice, while,
contra Naomi Graetz, I don't think that the interpretation of Ramabam
cited therein is compelling.  It does seem clear, however, that rishonim
did interpret the Rambam that way and rule accordingly.
 The Terumot HaDeshen cited by Naomi Graetz articulates what I believe
is the standard rationale for permission - an obligation of the husband
to educate the wife.  Are there other justifications out there?  If not,
the comparison to slaves is somewhat unfair.  Terumot HaDeshen (as
opposed to the ramabam at issue) is not relating to cases of disputes
between husband and wife.  Rather, he simply applies the universal
halakhic principle that an educator is permitted to use corporal
punishment (although at lea st some poskim argue that this is not true
in at least America today).  Question: From where is this obligation
derived?  Is it rabbinic or Biblical?  In the modern post-Chafetz
Chayyim environment, could we use it to compel a husband to pay for his
wife's seminary education?


End of Volume 16 Issue 7