Volume 40 Number 35
                 Produced: Fri Aug  8 14:43:19 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Are Jews ethically challenged?
         [Bernard Raab]
Batei Dinim
         [Carl Singer]
B'tai din and surrounding issues (2)
         [Janice Gelb, <FriedmanJ@...>]
Ethics (2)
         [Joel Rich, Joshua Seidemann]
Rav YE Henkin z"l
         [Rabbi Y. H. Henkin]


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2003 15:44:09 -0400
Subject: Are Jews ethically challenged?

From: Carl Singer
>1 - a group of employees tell their non-Jewish manager that they cannot
>work on a certain date because it is a (non-existant) Jewish holiday.
>They want the time off to attend a wedding.

I can't think of a more shocking example of "chilul ha-shem" in the
workplace. I'm afraid the list of remedies Carl suggests do not begin to
reflect the seriousness of this behavior. This group deserves
termination plus trial by a beis din leading toward excommunication if
their defense cannot present some mitigating factors.

 From someone who spent a lifetime in the American workplace defending
the practise of observing "obscure" Jewish holidays--Bernie R.


From: Carl Singer <csngr@...>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 2003 13:21:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Batei Dinim

That a secular judge is corrupt does not indite or exonerate Batei
Dinim.  I do agree, certainly, that people who are dissatisfied with the
outcome (not the "hallachos" as noted above) may well blame the Bais

To me -- an issue of concern is the composition / selection of a Bais
Din.  The halachic: I pick 1, you pick 1 and they pick 1 is open to
issues.  Consider for example, if 2 balabatim in my community, Passaic,
NJ, have a disagreement -- and then two other unrelated balbatim have a
similar disagreement.  When the dust settles it's highly likely that the
two "cases" will be heard by two different Batei Dinim, from two
different communities who rely on two different Poskim, etc.  The lack
of clear jurisdiction is certainly open to mischief.

Carl Singer


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 08:49:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: B'tai din and surrounding issues

<BaalHaIkvei@...> (Shraga Rubin) wrote:
> How does the obligation to rectify the Bobov or even Orthodox community
> judicial system- an internal matter relative to where much of the world
> stands- give one the right to go to a secular newspaper, who will twist
> the facts as he sees fit to write a juicy story, and will not take into
> account the halachos of aguna and bais din, but rather look at it from a
> modern liberal twenty first century American point of view, and this is
> the story that will be passed on to millions of readers- who are
> Orthodox and non-Orthodox, Jewish and non-Jewish.  To go the police/
> civil authority if bais din can't respond is one topic to discuss, but
> how can one respond to a problem by suggesting to cause a massive
> chillul Hashem? 

It's a likely possibility that the woman did not seek out the newspaper
reporter for this story, but that he noticed the uniqueness of the case
pending in secular court and followed up on the story. So it's unclear
that the wife in this case deliberately went to a newspaper to have a
story written.

A larger question is this: assuming for the sake of this discussion that
the allegations in this case are true, this wife has been betrayed by
her husband and her community to an egregious degree. Can you really
blame her for not taking extra precautions to protect their reputations?

-- Janice

From: <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 12:49:43 EDT
Subject: Re: B'tai din and surrounding issues

      > 5.  What obligation does a married woman who knows her husband
      > is philandering have to go to a mikvah each month?"

      What does one have to do with the other?  If they are still living
      together (as he is allowed to have two wives, me'de'oraisa), how
      can she be machshil him into a cheyuv karais?  And even without
      him, it's a cheeyuv karais on herself as well.  Why would she want
      to do that?  What does that have to do with other misdeeds?

If he is messing about, he is opening himself up to HIV infection, which
is a death sentence. Anyone hear of pikuach nefesh? She has every right
to go on a mikvah strike to save her own life and health.


From: <Joelirich@...> (Joel Rich)
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 14:23:14 EDT
Subject: Ethics

      From: Carl Singer <csngr@...>

      More accurately, Do some groups of Jews frequently display
      unethical behavior and/or is such behavior the acceptable norm
      within some groups (especially when dealing with outsiders - both
      Jewish &non-Jewish, individual and governmental.)  And what, if
      anything, should be our response.

R' Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (I don't have "The Rav" here at work) said
something along the lines that we will not be successful unless we (IIRC
he was speaking to Rabbis but I think we can extrapolate) are perceived
as operating at a higher moral/ethical level than non-orthodox people.
After I spoke about this at a small group that studies "The Rav" someone
asked me if this were so than why do we see exactly the behavior you
describe.  My response(and I'd be interested in others) was that I think
people sometimes focus on microhalacha(eg rules differentiating between
Jews and nonJews) and forget about macrohalacha(eg stealing is wrong) or
(as per Freud) All men are geniuses at rationalization.

      Also a framework for determining what our response should be.
      Consider the first example:  One could:
      (a) subscribe to MYOB (mind your own business) although as a
      coworker this may put more work on your shoulders,
      (b) if asked why you, too, aren't taking this day off you can be
      truthful and say that it is not, to your knowledge a Holiday and
      let the feathers fly where they may or
      (c) you can lie (or be evasive to some degree) in order to protect
      this group.

Ziyuf Hatorah (falsifying Torah) is clearly forbidden (see the story in
the Talmud of the Roman emmissaries who learned all of torah to see if
anything was anti nonJew-they found 2 examples-why did the Rabbis teach
them those 2 and not lie?)

Joel Rich

From: Joshua Seidemann <quartertones@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2003 12:00:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Ethics

re: Carl Singer's posting on the non-existent holiday:

I agree with your idea to simply tell your co-workers, if you are asked,
that you are not aware of the holiday or its observance.  Bottom line
IMHO is that (1) the truth will out -- someone, somewhere, somehow, will
learn that this is a bogus holiday; (2) I find the face of dishonesty
couched in Jewish terms repellant.  I have personally always enjoyed
being the only "strictly" observant Jew in a job setting -- saves me the
hassle of, "Why does s/he do/not do this, and you do not/do?"  In the
settings that I have encountered these questions based on legitimate
grounds (differences in kashrus, hand-shaking among the opposite sex), I
have been able to respond truthfully that in matters of faith, no matter
the faith, individuals pick the path that suits them best.

A co-worker once asked my sister why I wore a yarlmulke, and my sister
replied that is a reminder of G-d.  When my co-worked followed up with,
"Why doesn't Mr. Cohen wear one?," my sister glanced sidelong at me and
winked, "Some people need more 'reminding' than others."

Honesty and creativity go a long way.


From: Rabbi Y. H. Henkin <henkin@...>
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2003 14:02:17 +0200
Subject: Rav YE Henkin z"l

Thirtieth Yahrzeit of the Gaon R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zatzal

                                by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin

      R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin z'l died peacefully after Musaf on Shabbat
Nachamu, 13 Av 5733 (1973), in his apartment in New York's Lower East
Side which also served as a synagogue in his last years. He was 92.  For
many years he was a supreme Halachic authority in America, recognized
worldwide as one of the gaonim and tzadikim of the generation. His
funeral was relatively modest and some twenty or thirty thousand people
attended. In Av/August the yeshivas are empty and faculty, students, and
many others are out of town, often in the mountains. R. Moshe Feinstein,
R. Yaakov Kaminetzky and other Torah Sages z'l delivered eulogies.
However, few were able to return to the city during the week of mourning
to comfort the family.

           R. Yosef Dov Soloveichik z'l sat at the front during the
funeral, although he did not eulogize. Many recalled a wintry morning
years earlier, at a memorial for one of the roshei yeshiva at R.I.E.T.S.
who had passed away. An elderly man, a fur-lined cap pulled down over
his head and ears against the bitter cold, entered the packed hall at
the back. R. Soloveichik, who had been sitting on the bimah facing the
audience, stood up and hurried to the rear of the auditorium to escort
him to the bimah. The whole audience rose, many not knowing for whom. It
was R. Henkin.

           Years later, R. Avraham Price z'l of Toronto, the author of
Mishnat Avraham on Sefer Chassidim and the Semag, told me about another
winter morning. It was at a small synagogue in Manhattan. Barely a
minyan was present; it was frigid and blustery, and R. Price said that
had he not had to say kaddish he would have stayed home. The door blew
open and in walked R. Henkin. He had come to collect for Ezras Torah,
the charity he headed, and he collected a few dollars. R. Price asked
him, for a couple of dollars did he really have to go out in such
weather? R. Henkin answered: "R. Price, I'm surprised at you. It's my
employment. Am I supposed to receive a salary for nothing?"

      Twenty years ago I had the privilege of visiting Orthodox
communities throughout the United States and Canada. In one city after
another I heard from elderly rabbis: Rav Henkin said this. Rav Henkin
ruled that. Rav Henkin determined the name of the city and enabled us to
write gittin. In the nineteen-forties and fifties, I was told, the rabbi
whose rulings were cited in thousands of homes across North America was
R. Henkin.

      He was born in Climovicz in White Russia in 1881, studied
particularly in Slutzk, and spent ten years as a rabbi and rosh metivta
in Georgia, on the Black Sea. At the age of 33, he applied for the post
of rabbi in the town of Moholna in what was soon to be war-torn
Byelorussia. Part of the selection process involved giving a learned
derasha before the community. R. Henkin, seeking a position, began with
a discourse on the type of discourses rabbis give when seeking a
position.  Whether this reflected his sense of humor or his equally
salient trait of examining anything he was involved in, is not known.

      He was elected rabbi of a different town, Smolien, and nine years
later came to America, in 1923. In 1925 he became secretary and later
director of Ezras Torah, which he headed for forty-eight
years. R. Henkin was in constant contact with rabbis and scholars
throughout America and around the world in matters of both tzedaka and
Halacha. He was recognized as a gadol hador without being a rosh yeshiva
with disciples to praise him.

Among many personal memories I have of him are two concerning women. The
first is that in birkat hamazon his wife read the "harachaman" section
out loud, and he answered amen. Why? To give her "nachat ruach"
(satisfaction). The second is from after the Pesach seder a year before
his passing. My wife told him how much she enjoyed his tune for chasal
sidur Pesach. He replied that he had learned it from the Ridba'z in
Slutzk, and sang it for her over again from beginning to end.

At a memorial gathering held in Jerusalem thirty days after his death,
six prominent roshei yeshiva spoke. All of the yeshivas and their
students received support from Ezras Torah, and the bet midrash of the
Chebiner Yeshiva was full. The first rosh yeshiva finished speaking, and
shortly after got up and left, followed by his students. The second rosh
yeshiva spoke at length and he, too, left with his students. And so on,
until at the end only a few people remained. At that point I spoke on
behalf of the family, as a grandson who had learned with R. Henkin for
many years.

     Today, not thirty days but thirty years after his passing, how are
we to evaluate the life and work of my grandfather, the gaon and
tzaddik, R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin? As is only natural, a generation has
arisen "who knew not Yosef". Occasionally I read discussions citing the
Halachic opinions of rabbis and roshei yeshiva in the United States
fifty years ago, with the writers unaware of who was the address for
Halachic decisions at the time.

            But even if the details are not remembered, almost everyone
knows that indeed there lived such a rabbi, one who was numbered among
the great rabbis of every generation. For those who recall his
qualities, a unique blend of great Torah scholarship and Halachic
authority with fearlessness and originality, of decisiveness tempered by
humility, innumerable acts of chessed and devotion to the community, his
memory and his example still serve as an inspiration and a guide in
life. His memory is a blessing. Would that we had his like today.

A detailed account of the life of R. Yosef Eliyahu Henkin z'l can be
found in his grandson's book "Equality Lost" published by Urim
Publications, in chapter sixteen.

Rabbi Yehuda-Herzl Henkin is the author of three volumes of Halachic
Responsa Bnei Banim. His most recent book in English is "Responsa on
Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues," published by Ktav. After aliyah to
Israel in 1972, he served as district rabbi of the Bet Shean valley. He
now lives in Jerusalem.


End of Volume 40 Issue 35