Volume 16 Number 36
                       Produced: Mon Nov  7  1:29:15 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Marc Shapiro]
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 1994 22:42:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Flood

In response to a couple of private letters, I would like to clarify a
few things I wrote in my posting re. the flood, and I hope this will
obviate the need to deal with this further, unless there is a
significant need.
	First, I do not deny that God could, if he wanted, have created
the world 5755 years ago, created the fossils, signs of civilization
etc.  For that matter, he could have created the world 30 years ago and
put memories into our minds and created earlier books, buildings
etc. However, the best of our religious thinkers have taught us that we
need not think in this fashion. We need not adopt Tertullian's credo
quia impossible -- I believe because it is impossible. (Actually
Tertullian really said certum est quia impossible est -- It is certain
becaaue it is impossible).
	It is preceisely because of this that great sages interpreted
the Garden of Eden story allegorically and refused to take literally
aggadot. Judaism doesn't require us to leave our intellects at the
door. E. g. Obviously it is possible for God to lift Mount Sinai over
the head of the Israelites, but must we believe this literally. The
whole endeavor to allegorize aggadot is based on the fact that God (and
the world) do not behave in a completely outrageous fashion. We don't
understand God, but we have an idea about how he interacts in this
world, at least that's was Maimonides and his followers thought. Why
else reject e. g. demons, astrology and other superstitions. Couldn't
God have made the world this way? Obviously yes, but the real question
is, is it likely that he did so and must we believe this. Maimonides
answers no and I think modern Orthodox Jews agree, although Haredim
probably do not.
	In my original posting I stated that believing in the truth of
the flood (and a 5000 year old world) is more extreme than denying the
existence of George Washington. Someone asked me if it isn't the case
that we have more evidence for George Washington than for denying the
flood. The answer is obviously no. We know about Washington because of
one type of evidence, historical, and we have agreat deal of this.
However, the entire received body of knowledge in just about every field
of human study is dependant on the fact that the world is not 5000 years
old and that there was not a flood. These facts are the fundamentals of
biology, physics, astronomy, history, anthropology, geology,
palentology, zoology, linguistics etc. etc. etc. Belief in a 5000 year
old world and a flood which destroyed the world 4000 years ago is a
denial of all human knowledge as we know it. It is a retreat into a
world of belief, rather than one based on any sort of fact, and one who
believes can believe anything he want to. The fundamentalist is not able
to prove that Washington lived, only to say that he believes that
Washington lives. It is because Modern Orthodox do not wish to live in a
world in which the entire accumulated knowledge of all civilization is
to be thrown out the window that they cannot take this literally. Pay
attention to what I am saying, it is impossible to make sense of
anything in this world, in any field of science and many of the social
sciences by adopting funadmentalist position. If people wish to live
this sort of existence, fine, but one can't pretend that there is any
sort of compelling reason for anyone else to. They certainly shouldn't
try to put forth all sorts of pseudo-science to convince people of the
correctness of their view. I think that when it comes to science,
history etc.  people would prefer the stated views of the great scholars
(and the not so great scholars) at every university in the world. Since
none of these people are fundamentalists, doesn't it make sense for the
fundamentalists not even to try and touch these areas.
	It is worth noting, I think, that although fundamentalism in
this country has always been accompanied by anti-intellectualism, this
has not been the case in the Jewish world. In fact, with the exception
of some hasidic trends, anti-intellectualism has no roots in recent
Jewish history. The people advocating fundamentialist positions are the
most intellectual we have. People often say that they can hold the
positions they do because they are ignorant of science and history. This
is incorrect. It is not that they are ignorant of all these fields, it
is rather that they reject them. There is a difference.  The proper word
to describe this is obscurantism. And I for one don't think it will last
forever. One can only go against the obvious facts of our day for so
long. Rabbis could declare that Copernicus's views were heretical for
only so long before the weight of evidence ran over them. That will
happen with fundamentalism, because if they dodn't change, no one with
any education will still be listening to them.
	One final point which is also relevant, since every thing I have
been saying touches on how one is to study the Torah. It appears to me
that the traditional approach of Bible study is in many respects
immature, at least in our day. What was adequate 50 years ago is now no
longer so. I remember from my high school days that to study a text in
more depth meant to read more commentators. That is, one increased the
information intake, but the method of analysis and the forms of
questions asked didn't change. When I got to college and studied the
same sources again, I was amazed at how the text could come alive, and
questions and issues were dealt with that never even entered my mind in
high school. I remember speaking to a number of yeshiva students and
they were so excited since in yeshivah Bible was taught in such an
immature, sometimes juvenile, fashion whereas Dostoevsky et al were
critically analyzed by the new approaches in literature. It was only
when they reached college and happened to take the course we did
(offered by Reuven Kimelman) that they saw the depth and beauty of the
Biblical stories. I realize that it is probably impossible to implement
these approaches in high school but woudn't it be great if we could
apply the same rigor to the Torah (I am referring to the narratives)
that we do to western literature. We need not be stuck holding onto only
medieval forms of exegesis. The world of exegesis hasn't stood still,
and the same insights which modern theories of literature and modern
ways of reading text offer us about the great works, will assist us in
understanding the Torah.I think in many respects this was Hirsch's
message, that Torah, and everything about it, need not be considered
shallow when compared to secular studies. This was also R.  Hayyim's
reason (or one of them) for his analytic method, to show that Talmud
study is just as rigorous as secular study. Unfortunately, we need a new
Hirsch and a new R. Hayyim since traditional Bible study in our day does
not have the rigor of academic disciplines and we will not be able to
atract the best minds if we do not do something about it. Either they
will prefer Talmud study, which remains rigorous , or they will choose
to study Western literature (or other fields), and Bible study will be
left for the less skilled, who are only able to tell you about one more
commentary and one more peshat, those who cannot see the forest because
of the trees, that is, those who miss the big picture of the Torah.

							Marc Shapiro


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 13:34:10 IST
Subject: Wife-Beating

      Zvi Weiss asked me for citations of the Pisqei Din Rabbaniyyim
on the issue of wife-beating. Although I didn't want to get into this
discussion and assumed that those who have access to the PD"R would
be able to find the relevant cases, after Zvi's request I decided to
do a more thorough search of the responsa database here at Bar-Ilan
and report what I found.

     The cases cited here are probably not exhaustive, and I have
not cited all the cases in which only incidental mention is made of
hitting one's wife, but mainly those in which references are made to
the halachic sources. The search also turned up a few cases of wives
attacking  their husbands, and I have included these also, though they
are a distinct minority.

     I cannot warn readers too strongly not to draw any conclusions
from the brief descriptions given here without consulting the cases
in full. Each case has its own special details, and due consideration
is always given to all the circumstances involved, which I cannot
present here for even a single case due to lack of time and space.

1. Pisqei Din Rabbaniyyim, Vol. 1, p. 77. 194/5713.

    In this case the wife sued for divorce because of the husband's
cruel behavior which included beating her. The Beit Yosef on Even
Ha-`Ezer at the end of Ch. 154 was cited as bringing many Rishonim
who side for forcing the husband to grant a divorce. Although this
view is not followed, there are other means to bring him to give the
divorce. See Pithei Teshuva, ibid., note 8.

    The ruling was for a divorce and for the husband to pay the
Ketuba of 500 Israeli Lirot.

2. Ibid. Vol. 1, p. 333. 174/5715.

    In this case the husband sued for divorce on grounds that his
wife poured acid over him in order to kill or blind him. His request
was denied because it was shown that he was the cause of the quarrel
and she wanted peace.

3. Ibid. Vol. 3, p. 220. 5717/1197.

    In this case the husband shot and seriously injured his wife and
was serving a 5 year term in jail at the time she sued for divorce.
The ruling was to force him to grant the divorce.

4. Ibid. Vol. 3, p. 346. 65/5718.

    The wife sued for divorce on the grounds that the husband was
starving her and beating her. The charge that he beat her was proven
for only one instance, and this happened after the husband heard about
her provocative behavior in the street. The Ram"a (Even Ha-`Ezer 154:3)
says that some opinions do require forcing the husband to grant a
divorce for beating his wife, but only after being forewarned by the
Beit Din. The ruling was that neither side can be required to accept
a divorce.

5. Ibid. Vol. 4, p. 267. 3983/5721, 5420/5721.

    The husband sued for divorce on grounds that his wife was beating
and cursing him and rebelling (Moredet). A witness tesified that on a
Shabbat morning he saw the husband running to the police when he was
bleeding, and the wife's excuse was considered weak. The Beit Din did
not, nevertheless, grant his request because they were not thoroughly
convinced that he had a sufficient case.

6. Ibid. Vol. 6, p. 221. 116/5725.

    From the conclusions: "(a) A husband who hits his wife is forced to
divorce her, as long as he is forewarned." The source is Even Ha-`Ezer
154:3 in the gloss of the Ram"a.

     In this case the wife's suit for divorce was dismissed because
the doctors' testimony showed that her own uncooperative attitude
contributed to her husband's nervous tension, which was found neither
abnormal nor a threat to her safety. While the wife was not declared
to be rebellious (Moredet), she nevertheless lost her Ketuba after 12

7. Ibid. Vol. 7, p. 65. Appeal 178/5726.

     The wife's appeal for force her husband to grant a Get was
declined. The Ram"a above was cited here too.

8. Ibid. Vol. 8, p. 28. 5729/29.

     This case did not directly involve beating one's wife; however,
the Resp. R. Aqiva Eiger (Jerusalem, 5725), Ch. 107 was cited in which
a wife who runs away from her husband because he beats her cruelly is
not considered to be a Moredet.

9. Ibid. Vol. 8, p. 104. Appeal 5729/132.

     Here too the above Ram"a was cited. The source is given as the
Resp. of the Ramban (Meyuhasot) 102, which is brought by the Beit Yosef
at the end of Ch. 74 in the Even Ha-`Ezer.

10. Ibid. Vol. 8, p. 216. 315/5729.

     This case involved a mentally ill husband who was hospitalized.
The same Ram"a, as well as the commentary of the Vilna Gaon (the Gr"a)
was cited. The decision required the husband to grant the Get.

11. Ibid. Vol. 10, p. 3. Appeal 49/5734.

    In this case the issue of the husband slapping his wife once came
up incidentally, and the same Ram"a was cited.

12. Ibid. Vol. 11, p. 327. Appeal 5737/73.

    In this case the husband was required to give the divorce. The
source given was Resp. of the Ramban (Meyuhasot) 102: "The husband is
not to hit and torment his wife, for she is given for life and not
for pain..."

    By the way, the judges of the Beit Din in these cases included
such Rabbanim as R. Ovadiah Yosef, R. Yosef Qafeh, R. Eliezer
Waldenberg, R. Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, R. Bezalel Zolty, R. Shaul
Yisraeli and R. Ya`aqov `Adas, among others.

    These cases are not exhaustive, and do not include those which might
be found in newer volumes of the PD"R that are not in the database.
However, from the cases I found a few general remarks can be made.

     First of all, in not a single decision did I find any opinion
quoted that permits a husband to strike his wife. Instead, the question
is always whether this is a valid grounds for divorce and whether such
a divorce can be forced upon the husband. In nearly every case the gloss
of the Ram"a to Even Ha-`Ezer 154:3 is cited, and it can be reasonably
assumed that it is considered the basis for halacha by the Batei Din.

     Nevertheless, even when the charge is substantiated, the judges are
always careful to investigate all the surrounding circumstances. When
it is felt that the husband was provoked, or when it was only a single
occurence, especially when the wife was not seriously injured, the Beit
Din is reluctant to decide in her favor on this basis alone. The same
thing goes for the cases in which the wife hit or cursed her husband.

     It goes without saying that in every case of domestic violence,
the violence is always seen in the broader light of the quarrel itself.
Every case is unique, and the judges make painstaking efforts to unravel
the cause and effect in the marital interaction. In only a few extreme
cases was the violence itself the deciding factor in ruling for the
divorce. This should be kept in mind whenever we try to appraise the
approach of the halacha to this difficult problem.




End of Volume 16 Issue 36