Volume 41 Number 08
                 Produced: Tue Nov  4  5:35:36 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Abuse & other things we'd like to avoid acknowledging
         [Carl Singer]
Listening to the Rabbi Without Challenging Him
         [Steven White]
Megillat Esther
         [Yehoshua Berkowitz]
Relying on the Rabbi (3)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Aryeh A. Frimer, Akiva Miller]
Shidduch Alternatives
Spouse Beating and Book Title
         [Alana Suskin]
Substandard English:
         [Frank Silbermann]


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 07:31:48 -0500
Subject: Abuse & other things we'd like to avoid acknowledging

The discussion re: Shidduch Alternatives has branched off to mention
spousal abuse.  I'd like to go a step further in this discussion: A
concern is how the issue of Loshen Horah impacts communication and
response to problematic situations.

There's a Yiddish phrase which translates roughly that what the Gentile
community does the Jewish community will (eventually) do -- this is
clearly evidenced by many concerns re: "bad influences" that the
"secular world" may have (aside -- why do we never speak of "good
influences" -- or is all external influence bad.)  There are significant
communities that have chosen isolation as a response -- isolation in
locale, socialization (commerce / communication) and/or dress.

Like it or not -- admit it or not -- there are (perhaps limited) adverse
situations within the Jewish community that need to be addressed.  This
list would likely reflect that of the larger "gentile" community in
which (or near which) we live.  Included are: Spousal Abuse, alchohol /
drug addiction, sexual preditors, social rudeness and disease.

Interestingly the various Jewish communities, perhaps at the direction
of their (informal?) leadership have taken action / or thwarted action
in regard to these:

Spousal Abuse -- there are now support organizations.  Some communities,
shules and newspapers have posted / circulated information about this
scourge.  Others, at the direction of the leadership have stonewalled
this.  (Consider that there are shules, mikvahs, etc., that ban such
postings on their bulletin boards.)

Alchohol -- some shules have banned booze on the premises, even for
Simchas Torah & Purim -- others have taken other routes to address the
problem.  I do not know if there is any comprehensive anti-drug /
anti-alchohol program in our Yeshivas.  My guess is that many might wish
to deal with this covertly.  (What of '"anti-smoking")

Sexual Preditors -- You don't know what you don't know -- in retropsect
it seems that Jewish institutions have (HaMavdil) taken the Catholic
Church's approach to this situation -- a mixture of denial and hiding
and covering one's institutional tail.

Social Rudeness -- is apparently not a problem.  It's an asset.  I
noticed two cars double parked, one blocking traffic, the other day --
so we're exporting this from Brooklyn to Passaic -- and maybe beyond.
Blocking traffic forces people to stop, slow down and smell the roses.
Thank you.

Disease -- why have I added this to the mix?  Because I'm told that a
discrete poster re: breast self-examines was banned from a local Mikveh
-- lest it cause any aggrevation (tsar) to women.  Ignorance is bliss.

In several of the situations above (clearly not the last one) the issue
of lushan horah needs to be examined.  For example, if we see someone in
our community with a small hip flask, "nipping" -- and perceive this as
a potential sign of drinking problem -- must we remain mute -- or can we
tell our Rabbi?

Last year, for example, I saw a tichel-wearing mother speeding down the
highway with two children standing / romping (unrestrained, un-belted,
un-carseated, etc.) in the back seat of their car.  I jotted down the
license number but I was (self) challenged re: how to best address this
situation -- both re: Loshen Horah and re: that great old saw -- MYOB --
Mind Your Own Business.

Carl Singer


From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steven White)
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 13:42:05 -0500
Subject: Listening to the Rabbi Without Challenging Him

In 40:99, Tzaddik Vanderhoof comments about truth-telling as someone is
investigating a shidduch.  One of his comments inter alia surprises me:

> Of course it goes without saying that in the vast marjority of cases,
> one should listen to one's rabbi without challenging him, but I think
> ultimately each person is responsible for his own actions.

I agree with the "seifa" (concluding idea): each person is responsible
for his or her own actions.  But "listen[ing] to one's rabbi without
challenging him"?  On the contrary, I would think that one has the
responsibility to learn the halacha to the best of his or her ability.
After that, if s/he asks for and receives a psak halacha, then either

(a) the psak is in line with what the person already understands, so
that no challenge is necessary, or

(b) the psak is not in line with what the person already understands, so
that challenge is (more or less) *obligatory*, at least until
understanding is reached.

Listening to any rabbi without feeling the right to challenge
(respectfully) leads to "Iran."  And any rabbi who would promote same is
"placing a stumbling block before the blind."

Steven White
Highland Park, NJ


From: <RYehoshua@...> (Yehoshua Berkowitz)
Date: Thu, 30 Oct 2003 18:35:44 EST
Subject: Megillat Esther

In this week's issue of The New Republic (November 3) there is a letter
by Jack Miles, (author of God: The Biography) a well known and respected
Christian Bible scholar, where he argues that in the second century BCE
Greek translation of the Bible, Megillat Esther (I am assuming he is
referring to the Septuagint, though my history book dates it as having
been miraculously composed in the 3rd century BCE) one can find numerous
references to G-d, unlike the Hebrew version in usage today where no
refernes to G-d are fo be found.  Does anyone have an information on

Thank you.  (Rabbi) Yehoshua Berkowitz


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 2003 10:34:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Relying on the Rabbi

From: Yakov Spil <yspil@...>
 >>>The rabbi is there to teach and apply the Torah, but it is Hashem who
 >>>we are ultimately answerable to, not the rabbi.<
 >This is a mistake.  I fully understand the motivation with which this
 >was written, but it is based on a mistaken notion.
 >And that is all we have is our poskim...<snip>..Once we get an answer
 >from them- and that's what we follow- we are, for lack of a better
 >expression- in the clear.

I'm afraid I disagree, in part because we have lost the rabbinic
connection from Moshe rabbeinu.  Poskim no longer have the authority to
make representative decisions for a person, and I suspect that you agree
with me because many people would not follow (and not accept other
people following!)  halachic opinions that are beyond a certain
normative framework (e.g. many traditional Jews would not eat food
delivered by someone who had driven it over on Shabbat, even if that
person follows a psak of their knowledgable Conservative rabbi).

As such, "lo bashamayim hi" [[the Torah] is not in the heavens] can now
only mean that *we* take responsibility for understanding the will of
G-d.  There have been many examples over the years where rabbis have
made grave and inexcusable mistakes (murder of Rabin, molesting
children, etc.) and, as Jews, we must be especially careful of shirking
ethical responsibility for our actions.  After all, even in your
scenario, you are the one who picks what rabbi to follow!

	-Ari Trachtenberg (<trachten@...>)

From: Aryeh A. Frimer <frimea@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 13:59:25 +0200
Subject: Relying on the Rabbi

Choose your Rabbi well! R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yom haShishi, 16 Iyyar 5757
(May 23, 1997), p. 26 and again on 27 Tevet 5762 (January 11, 2002)
p. 26, has indicated that one should not rely on the halakhic rulings of
a rabbi who, despite his recognized general scholarship, is known not to
be an expert in halakha. Should one rely on such a halakhic ruling, if
the rabbi's pesak later proves to be in error, the questioner is held
fully culpable (ne-hshav ki-meizid) for his/her misdeeds. A similar
position was stated by R. Hayyim Volozhiner, Resp. Hut haMeshulash, I,
end of sec. 13. See also Resp. Rashba, I, sec. 98 (end).

Dr. Aryeh A. Frimer
Chemistry Dept., Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, ISRAEL
E-mail: <FrimeA@...>
Tel: 972-3-5318610; Fax: 972-3-5351250

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 09:05:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Relying on the Rabbi

In MJ 40:99, Tzadik Vanderhoof wrote <<< Of course it goes without
saying that in the vast marjority of cases, one should listen to one's
rabbi without challenging him, but I think ultimately each person is
responsible for his own actions.  If you know in your heart and mind
that what you're being asked to do is dead wrong ...one should go to the
rabbi and give him an opportunity to convince you ... If he's unable to
do that, you are obligated by the Torah to do what you know to be
right. >>>

I would phrase it slightly differently. I would end off by saying: If
he's unable to convince you, you need to remember that your only
responsibility to to do what is right in HaShem's eyes, not the rabbi's,
and not your own. Be aware that the rabbi is probably more learned than
you, and that he could well be correct. If you are willing to take that
chance, then do what you think is right, but realize that you may indeed
be mistaken.

I totally disagree with what Yakov Spil wrote in MJ 41:05: <<< ... is
all we have is our poskim.  They interpret the Torah for us and help us
in our individual situations to apply the halocho correctly for our
unique situation. ... Once we get an answer from them- and that's what
we follow- we are, for lack of a better expression- in the clear. >>>

No, we are not in the clear. We do not believe that our rabbis are
infallible. Even the Sanhedrin itself can make mistakes, and we have an
entire tractate (Horayos) to teach us what to do when the Sanhedrin does
err. On the other hand, it is true that we are obligated to follow the
Sanhedrin even when they are wrong, but our rabbis today do NOT fall in
that category. Our rabbis today lack the true Semicha (ordination) as
passed down from Moshe Rabbenu, and without that semicha they're not
even eligible for membership in the Sanhedrin.

I have looked many times over the years for published documentation of
this idea that one must follow the rulings of his rabbi, and follow them
whether strict or lenient, and have not found any such sources. One who
disobeys his rabbi is taking an awfully big risk, because in most cases,
the rabbi does in fact know the correct answer. But there is still a
chance that the rabbi is mistaken, and there is no obligation to blindly
obey today's non-semicha rabbis.

But I am always willing to be corrected. Yakov Spil continued in his
post that <<< This was asked to Rav Moshe zl and this was his response.
He said if the posek makes a mistake- it is on the posek's shoulders,
not the one who asked. >>>

So, for example, if my posek said that a certain food was kosher, and I
ate it, but it really was not kosher, then my having eaten it is not on
my shoulders at all? It doesn't count as a sin on my account at all? Not
even as an accidental sin? After all, my posek said it was kosher, so to
me it is kosher, right? Do you know if this response from Rav Feinstein
can be found in print somewhere? I'd love to see it.

Akiva Miller


From: <Smwise3@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 06:58:12 EST
Subject: Re: Shidduch Alternatives

<< <<I was quite shocked to hear that a rabbi was "telling everyone"
that they could not warn a woman that the man she was considering dating
had been abusive to his previous wife because of lashon hara, and I was
even more shocked that "everyone" was apparently obeying....>> >>

It could be the rabbi did not know the halachos in this area well or
chose to abide by his own standards.  Not everything in shidduchim is
permitted, nor is it all lashon harah--according to a shiur I attended
this past summer on this very topic. It probably would have been
appropriate for the rabbi not to tell "everyone" but at least someone
should tell the poor woman.

The Jewish community is small enough that this woman is bound to hear
about it. Let us hope that she keep her eyes and ears open.



From: Alana Suskin <alanamscat@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2003 06:57:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Spouse Beating and Book Title

Yehonatan Chipman wrote:
> P.S. Rav Avraham Twersky (i?) has written a significant book on
> marital abuse in Judaism, both in theory and as a phenomenon in the
> Orthodox community. Sorry, don't know the title.  Also, Naomi Graetz
> has a book on Talmudic and Rabbinic sources on the subject.  Ditto.

Naomi Graetz's book is called _Silence is Deadly_ and is a very
interesting book. I don't have the name of Rav Twersky's book,
unfortunately, but there's a great program in Baltimore run by the
Orthodox community together with JFS, and I bet they would have all
kinds of resources.

Alana Suskin


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 06:34:57 -0600 (CST)
Subject:  Substandard English:

> (He said, "It's somewhere on the floor" when he meant "on the ground.")
> "I don't now where this young man goes to school, perhaps he's home on
> break from some Brooklyn Yeshiva -- but is English that neglected in
> some of our schools?"  Carl Singer

Could this be similar to the problems that public schools had with
bilingual education?  On the other hand, maybe a reference to "the
floor" instead of "the ground" was a subconscious revelation of his
discomfort with outdoor life, which seems to be common among many Jews
-- and perhaps moreso among Yeshivah bochrim.  (How many Jews do _you_
know who like to go camping on their vacations?)

Frank Silbermann
New Orleans, Lousiana


End of Volume 41 Issue 8