Volume 31 Number 71
                 Produced: Tue Feb 29  5:16:15 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Blessings with head uncovered
Cosmetic Surgery
         [Moishe Friederwitzer]
Dealing with sexual (and other manner of ) abuse
Feeling Invisible
         [Joseph Geretz]
Megillah Question
         [Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer]


From: A.J.Gilboa <bfgilboa@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 16:56:55 -0800
Subject: Re: Blessings with head uncovered

Here is a fine example of the difference between halacha as an abstract
and psiqa, as the practical application of halacha to specific real-life

In the former, we see that there is no specific halachic prohibition to
recitation of brachot with an uncovered head. BUT a poseq who considers
matters of public policy and hashqafa might come to the conclusion that,
in this day and age, it is important to make absolutely clear that we
are not imitating non-Jewish prayer practice or condoning Jewish
movements (e.g., the Reform Movement) that are suspect of possibly
imitating non-Jewish practice. In this case, he (e.g., Igrot Moshe)
strongly forbids bareheaded prayer. In the present post, the issue may
have been perceived differently, since the Jewish businessman was
obviously too shy to pull out a kippa and recite the brachot aloud, the
poseq, R. Willig, basing his decision on the same halacha, advised the
questioner to recite the brachot bareheaded rather than, possibly, not
at all. Not everyone is capable of saying to a tableful of non-Jewish
colleagues "please excuse me while I say grace", whip out his kippa and
bencher, etc., but that is not a reason for him to be required to skip
birkat ha-mazon until he succeeds in overcoming his diffidence.

I think that this is an important point to make in this bulletin. All
too often we find ourselves confusing halacha with psiqa, in our
discussions. If we wish to know the halacha, we must look to the sources
and to those responsa that take the trouble to discuss the source
material before handing down a decision. However, if we try to use a
specific psaq or "ma`ase rav" to discover what is the halacha, we must
be careful to factor out the specific circumstances and the important
issues of public policy and hashqafa that led to the psaq. This is not
so easy to do but, if we fail to do so, we often end up with what seem
to be contradictions and confusion.

Yosef Gilboa


From: Moishe Friederwitzer <zaidy@...>
Date: 18 Feb 2000 15:51:34 EST
Subject: Cosmetic Surgery

What are the Halachik ramifications of those that are having the
operation to lose weight. I can understand if it is for Pikuach Nefesh,
but what about for cosmetic reasons?

Moishe Friederwitzer
Kolle Ba'al Habatim
Staten Island, N.Y.


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 07:17:01 EST
Subject: Dealing with sexual (and other manner of ) abuse

Stuart Wise wrote:
>  >  If the Orthodox community fails to respond internally then there is
>  > ample halachic justification to go the the secular authorities.  When an
>  > individual's actions are dangerous to many and the Jewish community is
>  > incapable of controlling him there is no prohibition of mesira to go
>  > state agencies and the police. {...snip...}
>  >  Sincerely ,
>  > (Rabbi) Yosef Blau
>  I hate to sound cynical, but given the way the Orthodox community deals
>  with agunos and gittin, I'm not sure it will do a better job dealing
>  with this issue.  I have heard, as I am sure others have, of how the
>  beis din has not been exactly objective or even understanding of the
>  complainants, and side with the accused.

I'm afraid I have to agree, based on, among other things, my own
personal history.  I was NOT sexually abused, ever.  However, I was
seriously abused both emotionally and physically by my parents, who, for
the record, were Jewishly very knowledgeable but not shomrei mitzvot
(observant of halacha).  I would also note that my parents repeatedly
quoted halacha, especially around "kibud av va'eim" (honoring parents),
often out of context, to me as the basis for what they regarded as my
obligation to put up with whatever they did to me without complaint or

I realize some list members won't believe my assertions about my
history, perhaps because emotional and physical abuse are popularly
regarded, especially in the dati world, as much tougher to define than
sexual abuse.  However, we're talking about incidents such as my father
hitting me across the jaw so hard that he knocked several of my teeth
loose.  Other examples include several incidents in which one or both
parents threw me against sharp corners of furniture with such force as
to cause injuries that needed medical care, but then denied me medical
attention for my injuries because they regarded obtaining such treatment
as "rewarding bad behavior."  On the "emotional abuse" side, examples
include my mother's remarks to the effect that I would never be able to
live up to a particularly cherished teacher's expectations of me.  In
the view she expressed to me, this teacher had, without legitimate
justification, been treating me with kid gloves up to a certain point
for reasons best known to himself.

The abuse was a prominent feature of my entire childhood and
adolescence; it continued until I was in my mid-20s, at which time my
parents instigated a particularly horrible incident that constituted the
final break between me and them.  Needless to say, this incident
devastated me so, both emotionally and physically, that people expressed
concerns to my face about whether I'd pull through it all right.  Among
the many things my parents did in this connection, they were motzi shem
ra (they slandered me) to almost all my other living relatives.  Most of
those relatives believed the lies my parents told, and refused any
interaction with me for many years thereafter.  Some have re-established
ties with me now, 13 years later, but many have not.  Anyway, the final
break between my parents and me occurred, and I was living at the time,
in a small town over 100 miles from any Jewish community and the nearest
Orthodox rabbi.

This rabbi had known me for almost 10 years at the time the estrangement
from my parents began.  He had seen me with my father exactly ONCE and
had NEVER seen me with my mother; clearly, he over-idealized the
relationship between my father and me.  Like my parents, though probably
with better intentions, he quoted halacha, especially around honoring
parents, to me throughout the years of his and my acquaintance as a
reason why I had to submit gracefully to their maltreatment of me.

When said rabbi first saw me after the incident, he reacted both well
and badly.  On the positive side, he took one look at my haggard
appearance (I was badly bruised and battered physically and had neither
eaten nor slept in nearly 2 weeks since the incident had taken place),
and asked immediately if I was suicidal.  Considering how I looked, and
what had happened 2 weeks earlier, that was a pre-eminently reasonable
question.  I responded, truthfully, that I wasn't.  However, on the
negative side, THE INSTANT he knew I wasn't suicidal, he started telling
me that I HAD to reconcile, FORTHWITH, with my parents, DESPITE the
danger into which they had put me, both in my childhood and so recently.

I would point out that I HAD NOT asked him anything remotely resembling
a she'elah about what my obligations were or weren't in this situation.
Moreover, I respectfully, but honestly, pointed out to him my conviction
that my parents' intent had been to kill me, esp. in that latest
incident, and that they would try again if I ever let them anywhere near
me again.  However, this carried no weight with him.  Ultimately, after
my parents and I had been estranged about 6 years, this rabbi was so
determined to see a reconciliation that he decided to take matters into
his own hands by discussing me with my parents.  With all due respect to
him, I construed his action at that point and still construe it as a
flagrant breach of my confidentiality.  It grieved me to do so, since I
had longstanding and affectionate ties to this rabbi and his family, but
I felt that his behavior left me no choice but to end my relationship
with them.

In my experience, sadly, the behavior of this rabbi is far from atypical
of what I've encountered in the dati world.  Too many individuals, both
rabbanim and laypeople, refuse to believe that abuse exists, let alone
that I was abused.  I was fortunate in encountering ONE individual of
the rabbinic persuasion who believed me AND made it clear that, in his
view, I was NOT obligated to submit docilely to abuse as a child or even
as an adult.  I was also NOT obligated, in his view, to reconcile with
my estranged parents given the danger to me indicated by past history
and my fears of what would happen in the future if I did let my parents
back in my life.

In general, however, I have encountered disbelief, minimization ("Oh, it
couldn't really have been that bad"--which generally translates to, "You
weren't killed, so it's OK"), and victim blaming ("What did you do to
make your parents so angry?").  This attitude has been so pervasive
that, in many of the communities in which I've resided since the
estrangement from my parents, I have been, let us say, less than honest
when people ask me about my family background.  To wit, with people who
hadn't known me well for years before the estrangement took place, I
responded that I had no family.  This was effectively true for a long
time, since my parents were out of the loop and my other living
relatives would have nothing to do with me.  However, I did not go into
detail about how it came to be that I had no family.  When people voiced
a presumption that something disastrous must have killed off my
relatives, I didn't correct them.

Mind you, it bothered me to engage in even this "passive deception," but
I knew I couldn't handle any more disbelief, minimization, or victim
blaming, which I perceived to be the most likely reactions if I told the
whole truth.  Moreover, I knew that, as I've seen asserted on this list
too often over the years, an abuse history would stigmatize me, both in
general within the communities, and as regards possible shidduchim,
since so many observant folks seem to regard an adverse childhood
history as inimical to the establishment of a "wholesome marriage

At a certain point, I got tired of expending the emotional energy that
went along with even a "passive deception," and started leveling with
those who would ask me about my family.  To some extent, I've been
pleasantly surprised when people have reacted sympathetically or at
least respectfully.  Unfortunately, however, a lot of my worst-case
projections about likely responses in the general dati world have been
borne out.  While batei din, constituted as they are by learned and
(usually) highly respected rabbanim, may do better, I have to agree with
Mr. Wise that they may not, given the range of sociopolitical as well as
variably halachic concerns they bring to their positions.


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2000 23:25:07 -0500
Subject: Feeling Invisible

Anonymous wrote:
> I've got to admit that I'm quite astonished by the exchange above [see
> Vol. 31 #64]. Joseph, I doubt that you have experienced standing on
> the other side of the mechitza for your entire life. Despite this,
> your original words (i.e. "imagine") indicate that you don't believe
> that many women feel this way. When Ellen mentions personal experience
> (from speaking to others, I assume), you have simply given a poor
> analogy rather than just admitting that, yes, many Orthodox women
> don't like the feeling of invisibility that the shul has conferred on
> them.

Your conclusion is correctly drawn from my words in the original post
(e.g.  'imagine'), yet ignores the fact that I readily admitted to Ellen
that I'm sure that some women do feel invisible. How can you say that I
reject Ellen's words when in fact, my lead words to Ellen were 'I'm
sure', as a statement of acceptance to Ellen's post?

Of course, this needs explanation. If I originally rejected the fact
that Orthodox women feel invisible, how could I subsequently admit that
they do?  I have not retracted my original opinion.

What I object to is the characterization of the stereotype that
Orthodoxy denigrates women as second class. The original poster wrote a
negative characterization regarding an Orthodox woman about whom she
knows practically nothing, except the fact that she attends Shacharis
(morning service) every morning.

> probably steeled herself to feeling invisible if
> she was still going to an O[rthodox] minyan.

Without knowing anything about the woman in question, the poster assumes
that she has 'steeled' herself to feeling invisible. This is negative
stereotyping, which I reject. To suggest that the majority or average
Orthodox woman is uncomfortable with our Halachic institutions, is to
suggest a major deficiency in our Halacha and/or community, G-d
forbid. I do not accept that this is the case and in previous postings I
cited empirical evidence that suggests, at least to my experience, that
this is not the case. (Thus, allow me to rephrase my original posting:
Is that how you imagine *the average (or majority of)* Orthodox women
feel ....)

However, if you'd like to state the fact that *some* Orthodox women feel
uncomfortable, that I'm quite willing to accept. In fact, I'm sure that
this is the case. I'm sure also that some of these women even have valid
objections. Although, I'm a bit bewildered at the characterization that
this is a significant or widespread problem. Based on the demographics
which I observe in my community, it seems to me that the vast majority
of women in the Ezras Nashim (women's gallery) have a husband (and/or
father) in the men's section. Assuming that there are a significant
number of women who are dissatisfied, what are their husbands' reactions
to their complaints? Do their husbands simply ignore them? What exactly
is being suggested here?

> Joseph, I doubt that you have experienced standing on the other side
> of the mechitza for your entire life.

OK, so please explain to me. What are your objections?

Kol Tuv,
Joseph Geretz
Focal Point Solutions, Inc.


From: Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer <frimea@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2000 16:53:29 +0200
Subject: Re: Megillah Question

In contradistinction to Megillat Esther which is a personal obligation,
the reading of megillat Ruth , Kohelet, Shir haShirim is a communal
practice like keri'at haTorah. With an individual obligation we are
afraid he/she will forget and carry. With a communal obligation we rely
on the collective memory of the Tsibbur not to forget it is Shabbat.


End of Volume 31 Issue 71