Volume 16 Number 21
                       Produced: Sat Oct 29 23:25:11 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Harry Weiss]
Monsey Bus controversy
         ["Yaakov Menken"]
Shalom Bayis v Wife-beating
         [Jeremy Lebrett]
         [Warren Burstein]
         [Zvi Weiss]
Wifebeating (2)
         ["Ezra Dabbah", Esther R Posen]


From: <harry.weiss@...> (Harry Weiss)
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 94 23:11:57 -0700
Subject: Agunot

Rivka Haut's latest posting regarding Agunot reminds people of the
distressing situation of Agunot, but unfortunately gives the impression
that most Rabbis are insensitive to the plight of Agunot.  That is not
definitely not true.  There are numerous Rabbis that spend a tremendous
amount of time trying to resolve individual situations.  They often have
a tremendous level of success, but obviously sometimes they fail.  There
are some cases than unfortunately very little can be done to help the
unfortunate woman.

 From the earliest time the Rabbis have given a priority to preventing
Agunot.  That is why a single witness is believed, a woman or a relative
is believed etc.  Though there may be major disagreements on the method
of reaching a goal, (such as the New York Get Law Agudah vs.  Mainstream
Orthodox), they all have the same goals.

It is true there are Rabbis that are insensitive and uncaring, but these
Rabbis are a very small minority.  Perhaps Rivka's views are somewhat
skewed because of her work.  Obviously anyone who goes to such an
organization for help has already been unsuccessful with other methods.
And there may even be time that the Agunah herself may be at fault.

The Rabbis of the various Jewish communities do an excellent job in this
area and should be praised rather than condemned as a group.



From: "Yaakov Menken" <ny000548@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 94 10:49:41 -0400
Subject: Monsey Bus controversy

>>From: Joe Abeles <joe_abeles@...>
>Subject: Monsey bus controversy
>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.
Joe - and others - continue to miss a critical point.  The government
provides mass transit subsidies on a _per-passenger_ basis.  Therefore
it has nothing to do with "chapping" our share; rather, Monsey Trails is
doing its part to reduce fuel usage and congestion in NYC, and deserves
appropriate compensation.

The question is to what extent the government has a right to intervene
and interfere with a particular group's practices.  If the practice is 
offensive, then they can deny funding - but the Religious Freedom 
Restoration Act places clear limitations on government intervention when
the "offense" is of a religious nature.

No one has bothered to explain, btw, how one side suffers discrimination
and not the other.

Yaakov Menken                                 <menken@...>
(914) 356-3040  FAX: 356-6722                 <ny000548@...>
Project Genesis, the Jewish Renewal Network   <genesis@...>
P.O. Box 1230, Spring Valley, NY 10977


From: Jeremy Lebrett <J_LEBRETT%<REC@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 05:34:20 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Shalom Bayis v Wife-beating

I have been following the debate about wife-beating with academic rather
than practical interest, being married to someone who cheerfully and
voluntarily fulfills her role of Jewish wife and mother. I have been
struck by the great disservice being done to our greatest Poskim
(Halachic authorities) from the earliest Rishonim to the current day. I
think that a layman's view of what is undoubtedly a complex area of
Halacha will, by necessity, result in an incomplete picture being
presented. Whilst acknowledging that no one on this list is deciding
Halacha (CYLRO), some opions do come perilously close to declaring HOW
particular authorities would decide on particular issues. Halachic
opinions should only be expressed by those who are well versed in the
entire range of Talmudic and Halachic sources. It is only trained Poskin
who are able to do this for it is only they who know (or ought to know)
all the relevant opinions and how to apply them. It is also they alone
who have been vested with the necessary Si'aytah D'shmaya (heavenly
help) to be able to decide the law. Through the centuries there have
been different opinions regarding particular Halachos, which does not
mean are they all accepted and it certainly does not mean that one can
chose which opinion to hold like. Lighting 8 candles on the first night
of Chanuka decreasing by one every day is the view of Beis Shamai but it
has been decided not to follow that opinion and anyone who does is

Quoting random pieces of Rambam or other sources to prove a point 
without having learnt EVERYTHING the Rambam has to say on the topic 
can be very misleading.. 
For example, Rambam (that famous advocate of wife-beating) says in
Hilchos Ishus Chapter 15 Halacha 19:
    "also, the Rabbis commanded that a man should honour his wife 
     more than himself and love her like himself.....He should not   
     put unnecessary fear into her and should speak with her gently
     and he shouldn't be either sad or bad-tempered (Lo etzev v'lo 

This Halacha is based on the Gemara in Bava Metzia 59a which says that 
even though the Gates of Tephila (prayer) were shut with the 
destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (temple) the gates of tears are 
not shut. It is also  mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat
Hilchos Ona'ah chapter 228 halacha 3:
    "one must be careful regarding Ona'ah (with speech) with ones
     wife since she is easily brought to tears".

One of the factors in deciding what should be allowed or encouraged must
be - "will it promote Shalom Bayis, a peaceful home?". We see many 
examples of how important G-d H-mself considers this. For example, 
the Abudraham (14th century) writes in his explanation of Birchas 
Hamitzvos (blessings relating to Mitzvot) that the reason why women 
are exempt from time-dependant positive commandments is to prevent 
them being put in a position where her husband wants her to do something 
when she has a Mitzvah to do. To resolve this no-win situation (should I 
do G-d's command and incur my husbands wrath or do my husbands 
command a incur the wrath of Hashem) G-d says "I will exempt women 
from commandments which might cause problems". Similarly Hashem 
allows the Ineffable Name to be erased during the Sotah procedure so 
as to restore Shalom Bayis. I fail to see how wife-beating in this 
day and age could promote a peaceful home. (Maybe in Rambam's Spain 
it was socially acceptable to hit one's wife and she accepted 
(expected?) it. Maybe)



From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 1994 05:32:30 GMT
Subject: Re: Wife-abuse

In digest <9410250312.AA17639@...> mljewish writes:
Jeffrey Woolf writes:
1) The Orthodox community IS dismissive of women  (especially  in  the 
Haredi world) 

To which Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer replies
 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.

As Jeffrey's comment appeared in a discussion of men beating their
wives, and no one has yet denied that this does take place, I submit
that part of our "great travail" is that abuse takes place in our

Of course it's always a time of "great travail" in the Jewish world,
and as Reuven Kimmelman says, someone who calls for unity should be
asked, were you not in favor of Jewish unity would your position be
any different?

 |warren@         an Anglo-Saxon." -- Stuart Schoffman
/ nysernet.org


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 25 Oct 1994 17:26:46 -0400
Subject: Wife-Beating

In his 23 Oct Posting, Shaul Wallach refers to the Pisqei Din Rabbaniyyim --
which he never cites.....
Perhaps, instead, of trying to beat up on Rabbi Haut -- with whom one may 
agree or disagree  -- it would have been more educational to actually
cite the material.
What disturbs me is that it is clear from the evidence that (a) there IS a 
problem (very unfortunately) with "wife-beating" in the "Frum" community
and (b) that not enough is being done -- in part because of Rabbinical
attitudes that do not treat the problem with sufficient gravity in terms of
the WIFE's well-being.  It is a serious comment upon OUR society when the
domestic protection laws appear to offer a woman more protection than our
own halacha.  I DO NOT believe that the problem is with the halacha...  nor
do I think that l'ma'aseh, Poskim such as the Rambam would EVER condone our
situation.  I *do* believe that part of the problem is with people trying to
defend "the good old days" rather than addressing themselves to the current
One final word to Shaul...
How do we know that past generations had more "stable" marriages than our
generation.  True, there may not have been as many Gittin... BUT  we know
that there were cases of husbands simply ABANDONING wives leaving them
Agunot.  [Is that better than giving a get?].. We do not now how "happy" or
how "healthy" such marriages were.  Also, it is simply not true that the
society was so totally "male-dominated"... There are enough instances of
the wives tending the store (or similar business) while the husband learned
to imply that the women were not "cloistered creatures".  Before asserting
how things were back "in the good old days", it might be instructive to go
to some historical material and REALLY findout what life was like.
In any event, it is far better to focus on the present and work to better it
than to "mourn" for the "past" and regard that as the "utopia".  The Torah
gives us the tools to build a good and healthy society where ever we
find ourselves.. 
Let us take advantage of THAT.


From: "Ezra Dabbah" <ny001134@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 94 20:07:03 -0500
Subject: Wifebeating

When I read the Rambam "kofeen" I believe it does mean the bet din in
the same way that I understand ben sorer umoreh (the rebellious child).
As I learned this to mean that the parents contention is not that the
child is doing anything wrong but he is a drunkard and glutton. The 
reason they go to the bet din is to make sure that the Torah puts in
safeguards against child abuse. I believe the Rambam had spousal abuse in
mind when he alludes to bet din. In my mind to believe that a husband can
beat his wife is barbaric. Allow me to quote the following:

  Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior
  to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them.
  Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has
  guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish
  them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you,
  take no further action against them. God is high, supreme.

The preceding passage is from the koran chapter women 4:34.
I can only thank Hashem that our Torah approach towards our wives is 
light years ahead of everyone else.

From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 10:10:10 -0400
Subject: Re: Wifebeating

I am fascinated with the fascination of this topic to our list members.
Whether there exists rabbinic literature that permits wife beating is
totally irrelevant in today's society.  There are many HALACHIC reasons
for this which I am not familiar enough to pontificate on but I believe
some attention has been given to this point already by more learned
members of this list.  (I know that we study gemmarah that is totally
irrelevant today as well but I have not seen much MJ arguments about the
different details vis a vis korbonot.)

We could argue about who is a "gadol" today continuously but is there
even anyone up for election today who would condone this type of
behavior??  The reason a more proactive stance isn't taken against
abusive spouses and parents is our collective fault as a society.  The
fact that there are shelters for orthodox jewish women in many of the
large orthodox communities in USA (I don't know about the situation in
Israel) attests to the prevelance of this dispicable behavior among us.

The difficulty with spouse abuse (I know a bit about this because I have
a friend who works in the field albeit not with orthodox women), is that
it is difficult to prove conclusively since there are usually no
witnesses, the woman becomes victimized and believes she deserves the
treatment she is getting and no one can force her to leave the
situation, our legal system does not protect the woman from her abusive
spouse, and interestingly enough, traditional family therapists may
focus on "keeping the family together" and encourage women to rectify
the "behavior" that causes the abuse. etc. etc.

In our society which is so careful about loshon horah and motzei sheim
ra and which glorifies the privacy of the marital relationship (as it
should) it is even more difficult to find and rectify these situations.

As a community we could do things about these situations that are alot
more constructive than studying the history of wifebeating in orthodox
jewish society.  We could teach our daughter self-respect and give them
a sense of the dignity of a jewish woman.  We should support the women
we know (and trust me we probably all know one or two) that need help
leaving abusive situations.  We should totally ostracize from our shuls
and homes the men who behave totally contrary to contemporary halacha.

Esther Posen


End of Volume 16 Issue 21