Volume 16 Number 12
                       Produced: Wed Oct 26 21:57:19 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Benefit of the Doubt
         [Shaul Wallach]
First Date
         [Yossi Halberstadt]
Monsey bus controversy
         [Joe Abeles]
Yet another comment on women in the workplace?
         [Mandy G. Book]


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 94 12:10:19 IST
Subject: Benefit of the Doubt

     Zvi Weiss has criticized the tone of some of my postings, which he
finds condescending and lacking in compassion; in particular, towards
the anonymous woman who was told that women are to blame for all
divorces. Zvi also finds it ironic that I advise people not to go to
incompetent practitioners who can cause damage by improper speech, while
at the same time I defend someone who did just that in causing pain to a
woman in the midst of a divorce.

     Before answering directly, let me stress once and again that I am
engaging in these discussions not as a scholar or a counsellor, but only
as a student who is trying to learn the halachic source material that
pertains to the issues at hand. If you detect a detached, rather
impersonal tone in my postings, it is because I do not consider it
appropriate to reveal my sentiments towards people whom I do not know,
least of all in a public forum, nor am I qualified to be relied on in
practical matters without proper consultation of a competent rabbinic
authority. For me, this is a strictly academic, halachic discussion, and
I have no intention to mock or otherwise offend anyone on this list. I
hope that these remarks will suffice and not have to be repeated again.

     In answer to Zvi's criticism, let us keep track of two separate
accounts. On the one hand, consider the person in need of treatment. Of
course we are concerned for his welfare and therefore advise him to seek
only a competent doctor or psychologist. This is all out of compassion
for him, because we want to spare him the pain and damage that can
result from improper treatment.

     Now consider the person giving the treatment or advice, in the
event that the person who went to him does suffer as a result of his
treatment. If the client has proof of malpractice, then the doctor
indeed has to pay damages. And even if the damage was only emotional,
then he must at least appease his client in order for his sin to be
forgiven. But when we are in doubt after the fact whether the doctor did
in fact cause damage, we are to give him the benefit of the doubt.

     The duty to give people the benefit of the doubt (Limmud Zekhut)
after the fact is derived by our Rabbis from the verse (Lev. 19:15)
"... in justice you shall judge your fellow" (see Rashi thereon; Sanh.
92). The Rambam, in his commentary to the Mishna (Avot 1:6) gives 3
categories of just how Limmud Zekhut applies. If a person known to be
righteous commits an act that gives every appearance of being bad, we
are nevertheless obliged not to suspect him for this, while if a person
known to be wicked performs an act that appears to be good, we are not
to trust him and are still to be on watch for him. It is to an average
person who performs an act that can be understood from both good and bad
sides that we are to give the benefit of the doubt. This does not mean,
however, that we must approve blindly of the act he has done. It just
means that we should not detract from our regard of him as a person
because of what he has done.

     In summary, before the fact we do not give the benefit of the doubt
and advise people to be aware of the hazards. But after the fact we do
give the benefit of the doubt in judging people whose motives and actions
are not fully known to us.

     In the case at hand, the anonymous woman certainly does deserve
our compassion, just as all people who go through divorce, regardless
of what people told her. In my reply to Rivka Haut I offered concrete
advice to people to seek competent professional help in order to
heal their marriages and avoid this trauma in the first place. But
when it comes to the person who told her she was to blame, I still
find it necessary to apply Limmud Zekhut after the fact, in keeping
with the Rambam cited above, even though I cannot condone the act
itself. To see this, let's look again at what she wrote:

>                                                         When I was in
>the midst of my own divorce (after consultation with several prominent
>rabbonim) I was informed that all divorces were the woman's fault, by
>definition.  This defies reason, especially with an abusive husband.

    First of all, she says she divorced "after consultation with several
prominent rabbonim." From this it appears that the "prominent rabbonim"
gave the proper advice, especially if her husband was abusive. Then she
says "I was informed..." without telling us who informed her or under
what circumstances. From her language it appears that this was someone
else, not the "prominent rabbonim" who apparently advised her to get
divorced. Would these same rabbonim then tell her she was to blame, by

    Now if these rabbonim actually were the people who told her she was
to blame, we would indeed be required to judge them - not their acts
- for the good, according to the Rambam, since "prominent rabbonim"
are presumed to be good people. But even if, as it appears, that they
were not the same rabbonim, we are still left in doubt as to their
identity, and what they said can still be judged either way, since,
again, it is still possible that they meant well and hoped to save her
marriage, especially if they did not know that the rabbonim had already
told her to get divorced. And even if, following Zvi, what they said
really was stupid and served no useful purpose at all, then there is
still the outside chance that it was said out of ignorance and not
out of malice. It is this doubt which leads me to Limmud Zekhut -
without, I stress again, condoning their actions themselves.

    She also refrains from telling us whether what this other person
told her caused her any pain. The main point of her posting was only
to tell us that not all frum marriages are happy and that women are
unfairly blamed for the problems, not to tell us about any pain that
was inflicted on her. How can I, then, condemn people the likes of
whom I know not, with no knowledge of the whys and wherefores of the
situation, for the sake of a woman who has already obtained relief by
following the advice of prominent rabbonim?? What purpose would it
serve, and what halacha would give me permission to do so? Accordingly,
unless there is a present need for assistance, I would urge her not to
give us any further details, in order to save us from getting in trouble
with the Biblical prohibitions on evil speech.

     The same goes for her friends who are suffering in their marriages.
I have no details by which to judge who is to blame, nor is that my
business. The most I can offer, out of compassion for these unfortunate
women, is to advise them to seek competent professional help to solve
their marital problems. From the point of view of halacha it would
appear that the husband is required to pay for all the treatment needed
to restore his wife to full mental health, regardless of who is
responsible for her illness. And if she really is contemplating
suicide (H"W), then the community is required to come to her help,
according to the verse (Lev. 19:16) "You shall not stand by over your
fellow's blood."

    (Yes, I did misunderstand previously the part about the women
having no alternative. I thought the "alternative" meant staying
married and supporting the children alone while the husband does not
work, with no support from the community, since I assumed that divorced
women receive alimony and children's support like they usually do here
in Israel. But this has no bearing on the halachic aspect discussed

     Zvi asks, "where is he coming from"??? Well, I was born in
Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in Storrs, Connecticut, if
that helps anyone... :-)




From: <fx_joe@...> (Yossi Halberstadt)
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 1994 13:04:20 GMT
Subject: First Date

>From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>

> It seems that a good percentage of engagements are finalized where at
> least one of the dyad has never "gone out" with another prospect.  (My
> impression is that this is more common for girls than for boys.)

I am not convinced of the mathematics here (unless some girls go out
with huge numbers of boys)!

>    3. Some of the people under question come from backgrounds where
>       they NEVER had meaningful relationships with peers of the oppo-
>      site sex.  They thus have no basis for comparison.

Providing you like the person you meet, maybe having no basis for
comaprison is a good idea. After all, there is always going to be
somebody better looking, more clever etc. than your chosen.

I am reminded of a wedding I attended where the father of the bride
quoted a gemorrah discussing a man who married a woman with only one
arm. It says

"Lo hicir bah ad yom moso - he never realised until his death."

The speaker asked, how is it possible that a man didn't realise that his
wife had only one arm, he wasn't blind. To which he answered, that the
husband had never looked at another woman - he thought that all women
had only one arm - he never realised that she was different!

Now maybe this was said, to an extent, in jest. But I think that there
is some underlying truth there.

Yossi (no 'e') Halberstadt


From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
Date: 21 Oct 1994 07:58:34 U
Subject: Monsey bus controversy

Regardless of the points made by Yaakov Menken to the contrary, I
believe as an American that if the bus company in question either (1)
takes any subsidies whatsoever or (2) stops to pick up paying passengers
on public streets, then they *should* be required by American law to
conform to certain practices.

And I believe that I am correct when I say that many other Americans,
Jewish also but especially non-Jewish, would agree with this viewpoint
but it just so happens that they are not asked their opinion regarding
Jews and would hesitate to answer for fear of being branded

Among these practices would be to avoid any behavior which can be
considered as "separate but equal" discrimination against women,
minority groups, the handicapped, etc.

I don't accept, from an American point of view, that since "everyone"
else gets subsidies "we" should expect to benefit from similar
subsidies.  I feel this way because "we" are not the same as everyone
else in our practices.

While I don't have a halachic justification for this view, I believe
that "we" should be reasonable regarding our demands on the society at
large for accomodation to our needs which are not shared by society at
large.  In areas where there is an absolute need for accomodation, such
as being able to not work on Shabbos and still keep a job, we should be
able to make demands on society at large for accomodation (and, B"H we
are today rather successful in such cases).  However, in areas where
there is no "absolute" need for an accomodation of this type, such as
subsidies for bus operation and other subsidies as well, we must not
demand (dishonestly) that society-at-large must bear the burden of
accommodating us to permit us religious freedom.

As to the argument that we are paying the same taxes as everyone else is
concerned, and that we ought to get "our fair share" back from those
taxes, again I disagree.  The taxation system is not and ought not to be
a trough from which schnorrers "fress," contrary to frequent media
reports which claim that it is in fact just that.

And, as for those who claim that other (for the moment unspecified)
ethnic groups "chap" from the government, I would say that does not in
any way justify similar outrageous behavior on "our" part.  The halachic
principles of dinah malchusah dinah and maras ayin, as well as tikkun
olam, come to mind in this connection.  There is no halachic principle
that "two wrongs make a right."

Unfortunately I fear that many of our co-religionists have grown too
comfortable with the practice of "chapping" from Uncle Sam, believing
that various benefits and social programs are there for them to take
advantage of when not absolutely needed.  I believe that such an
attitude comes dangerously close to engendering justified hostility on
the part of non-Jews who, rather, ought to be given reasons to respect
us, not revile us.  But more basically there is the issue of whether we
are doing the right thing.

Are "we" not stealing something when we misappropriate funds for a
purpose not intended?  For a bunch of people who are so scrupulous in
kashrut and shabbos halachos, it is striking how unscrupulous we are in
the area of "chapping."

Allow me to remind everyone that, in spite of the existence of the
democratic process by which "we" have an input to the changing of the
laws of our country, until they are changed those laws are still real
laws and the failure to abide by them should be considered an aveirah.
I refer to taking things such as bus subsidies which are not intended
for non-public buses.  It makes no difference even if not a single
non-chassidic, non-male rider ever shows up asking to purchase a ride on
that bus.  What is important is that it is a public bus which receives
subsidies according to the law of the land and must adhere to certain
requirements in order to qualify as being a public bus.

The minute those requirements are no longer met, the acceptance of
subsidies qualifies as stealing.

--Joe Abeles


From: <mbook@...> (Mandy G. Book)
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 1994 14:41:43 -0600 (CDT)
Subject: Yet another comment on women in the workplace?

I hope I'm not jumping onto an already crowded bandwagon, but I did want 
to make a small, but rather important, I think, point that's being missed 
in our discussion of women and men in the workplace.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but I thought the primary purpose of going to 
work each day is accomplishing some sort of task for an employer and 
earning a paycheck.  To that end, going to work ought to be no more 
tempting than going to the grocery store -- do we really worry when a man 
or woman goes to the grocery store that he or she might be tempted to 
have an affair with the produce clerk?  Of course not!

I firmly believe that the workplace is no more tempting or dangerous a 
situation than any other daily activity in which we engage -- shopping, 
driving a carpool, taking children to a doctor or a playgroup or a 
baseball game . . . 

To say that the workplace involves significantly more temptation than 
other such situations is to say that most people are poor employees, who 
pay more attention to the social dynamics of their offices than to their 
assignments.  I would even go so far as to say that this discussion is 
not really about the dangers of illicit romance in the office as it is 
about some larger question of the Jewish woman's role in her community . . 
   Are we *really* worried that a generally good person will be tempted 
to cheat by sharing work obligations and experiences with members of 
the opposite gender?  Or are we actually concerned that presence in the 
workplace will detract from some of her other "obligations"????????????

-- Mandy Book


End of Volume 16 Issue 12