Volume 48 Number 44
                    Produced: Wed Jun  8  5:13:25 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Accepting Psak without reviewing sources
         [Chaim Tabasky]
Kollel wives
         [Abbi Adest]
leave a shul?
         [David Mescheloff]
"Marketplace" vs. Dark Alleys and Seatbelts
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Shul hopping -- supporting shuls
         [Tobias Robison]
Victim blaming (2)
         [Risa Tzohar, Akiva Miller]
victim-blaming / women's locations
         [Bernard Raab]


From: Chaim Tabasky <tabafkc@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 21:54:44 +0200
Subject: Accepting Psak without reviewing sources

In following this thread I've sometimes felt several different issues have 
been lumped.

1. The teshuva from Igrot Moshe forbade printing a condensation of Rav
Moshe's responsa without all the reasoning. He explains that it is
impossible to use a psak issued in one situation to help decide another
case unless one is clear about the rationale of the first psak and the
limitations involved. Rav Moshe apparently considered the Igrot Moshe as
a sort of textbook fo Rabbinic decision making. He seems to have been at
least as concerned by the process as he was by the bottom line. I am
sure that Rav Moshe did not always give reasons for the answer to every
query that was put to him. I don't think the teshuva is always relevant
concerning straight halachic queries.

2. The famous stories of the various Briskers who asked for a psak
without reasons points out the dilemma of the Talmudic scholar. In
yeshiva we are taught to make sense out of every position, and sometimes
a position not accepted as halacha seems to be the most
creative/logical/true to sources.  The ability to consider many sides of
an issue, which is a prerequisite of Talmudic scholarship, may be a
drawback when considering a halachic decision. I don't mean to imply
that great poskim should be limited as Talmudists. Psak requires
"policy", that is a methodology of applying information and positions to
various situations. It is not enough to know the reasons, or even all
the precedents. We know that there are several "valid" answers to
halachic questions, and knowing the reasons cannot guarantee a
reasonable outcome.

3. "Talmud Torah" includes the logic and underlying principles of all
halachic statements. One who ignores these aspects of halacha is simply
missing part of the learning experience and I would say the mitzvah of
Talmud Torah is performed at a lower level than by one who tries to
understand such principles. There is an argument to be made that in the
actual performance of a mitzvah, the acceptance of Hashem's dominion and
the authority of the halachic system as embodied by the posek is of
overriding importance. Personally, I feel the mitvah experience is
enhanced by understanding what I am doing, but I know people who do not
feel this way, but rather are quite convinced that the finest way to
serve Hashem is through the acceptance of authority.

4. For many people, and I intuit for most on this list, asking a shealah
is also a Talmud Torah opportunity. We tend to seek out a teacher who
will give us a bit of background, and assure us that the psak is not
arbitrary, or inconsistent with our basic spiritual dynamics. OTOH,very
often, when I know the issues at hand, I am only interested in the
bottom line of a particular posek. If a rabbi is unable to provide the
spiritual messge I need at a certain time, I may need a new, or at least
another, teacher.

5. I have been told that in Lithuania one did not go to "ask" the rav,
but rather to "discuss' (duch-redin) an issue with the rav. It is not
halachically necessary to ask a question for a psak/ One may ask a
Rabbis opinion, ask for guidance, ask to understand his position,
etc. IMHO shopping around for a psak that meets my kula/chumra quotient
is abhorrent, but asking various opinions to deepen understanding is in
the finest Talmudic tradition.



From: Abbi Adest <abbi.adest@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2005 13:22:31 +0300
Subject: Kollel wives

Mr. Teichman wrote:

<<Based on the Kollel families I know, the wives still perform the
"traditional" domestic duties, in addition to working and bringing in a
primary source of income. That is the sacrifice that (I hope) they
considered when entering this type of arrangement in order to allow
their husbands to learn Torah>>

Just so this is clear to me, as long as women are leaving the house to
support their husband's Torah learning, it's ok to be lenient on the
what is "clearly Chazal's idea of what the _proper_ focus of a jewish
woman ought to be" (your words)? Do you find this to be at all
contradictory or intellectually dishonest? Do you think this sacrifice
is the least bit unfair to these women? Do you think these women are
truly able to maintain the proper focus on their families when they are
worrying how they will have enough money to put food on the table?

As an aside, I happen to know a few Kollel women who are starting to
refuse to have all of the responsibilities heaped on their shoulders, in
the name of their own sanity.

Abbi Adest  


From: David Mescheloff <david_mescheloff@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2005 00:42:36 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: leave a shul?

A young friend of mine, residing temporarily (two years down, one to go)
in a certain American Jewish community presented me with the following
question.  I answered as I answered, and said I would add more after
consulting with friends.  Tell me, mail-jewish readers, what you think
about the following (what follows is quoted from my friend's letter,
with the identifying details removed - I have left in enough detail that
some of you may feel sure you know where this has taken place,
unfortunately, because I fear the type of situation described here is
all too common; if any of you should actually guess right, please be
discrete and do not bring this discussion to his attention).

The question is maybe difficult to analyze when not being in the
community, but I will try give as much relevant information as possible.
In one of the Batei Knesseth (B"K) were I pray, a certain group within
the B"K has been striving for several years to get rid of the Rabbi of
the B"K. In the process, the honor of the Rabbi has been trampled, and
in my opinion has not been treated as a talmid chacham should. Among the
people not paying the proper respect is the head of the B"K and other
members of the board of the B"K. As an example, the Rabbi was verbally
attacked at an open board meeting where the Rabbi had to defend his
plans for the community (forceful and aggressive, but clean
language). Another example, the president of the B"K will refuse to
announce that the Rabbi is giving a ... class. I have heard from some
people that there has been a lot of lashon hara going on about the

It seems as if the Rabbi might leave the B"K shortly, and my question is
whether it is permissible to continue to pray in this B"K (it is one of
two orthodox B"K which I attend in my neighborhood, but the only B"K
where they will mark Yom Ha'atzmaut).  What are the guidelines when
judging whether a red line has been crossed in terms of kavod harav? If
the answer is that one shouldn't pray there, what would the situation
be once a new board is elected in the B"K? Most of our friends are in
this B"KĊ Also, if the question is that one cannot pray there, should I
discontinue sending my son to the youth program there?

End of quote. 
Suggestions, please.

David Mescheloff


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 18:34:08 -0700
Subject: "Marketplace" vs. Dark Alleys and Seatbelts

I wish to clarify my statement re. victim-blaming in the case of rape.
I said, "...suggest that a woman's presence in a public area is to blame
for a sexual assault.  To suggest this is tantamount to victim-blaming.
No woman asks for or deserves a rape.

And I stand by this assertion.  A question about one avoiding a dark
alley or empty/dark car is off the mark: Those are dangerous locations
per se.  The original quote was that "women ought not frequent the
marketplace lest a tragedy like what happened to Dina occur".  The
marketplace is not a dangerous location in the same way as a dark alley.
Or at least it shouldn't be, and I think that public servants and police
ought to make sure that markets are not in the same category as dark
alleys.  (I am sure that some folks will tell me gory stories of
old-time open markets with high crime rates, but Dov Teichman and I were
talking about modern women in the United States, IIRC.  There had better
not be scary pirates waiting in the aisles at Stop-n-Shop.  Oh, and if
there are, I have better self-defense training than the average ancient
woman, I daresay.)

I think that the distinction is very important between "dangerous"
locations and "public" locations.  Saying that the "marketplace" is
inherently dangerous for women sexually is in fact a big problem in
terms of sexual harassment.  For many years, women who dressed
"provocatively" in school/office, or even those who were deemed to be
"too pretty" would be touched or spoken to in inappropriate ways.  And,
there were victim-blamers who said "she wanted it".  (Actually, there
were evil victim-blamers who said that about women who were raped, as a
matter of fact.)  And, there were always people who said, "if only women
hadn't come out in public, then they wouldn't be treated as objects,"
because it was easier to be respectful to a theoretical person than a
real-live person.

Nowadays, most of this behavior is illegal, as it should be.  A
co-worker has to refrain from e.g. pinching his colleague's tush, and no
outfit she wears is an excuse for doing so.  This doesn't stop our
friends the victim-blamers from making spurious claims about how "no one
can take a joke" or "she wouldn't dress that way if she didn't want me
to leer at her"...but at least social pressures keep such comments away
from the likes of me....

As for whether an admonition to wear a seatbelt is "victim-blaming," I
suppose it is, but then, I don't think that the analogy is apt.  There
is no criminal human involved in a car's dashboard crushing a person.
To reduce a rapist to an inanimate object obeying the laws of physics is
to free him from personal responsibility.

Regarding whether feminist theory looks for the worst in men: I don't
agree with this idea.  However, it is certainly the case that any
revolutionary thinking (and I include feminism in that category)
challenges status quo assumptions, and that may be uncomfortable for
even well-meaning people.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Tobias Robison <trobison@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 11:29:02 -0400
Subject: Re: Shul hopping -- supporting shuls

Avi wrote:

"In my current shul, and I think my previous shul, the money from the
tzedakah box in shul went to the Rabbi's Discretionary Fund, ..."

I've been at several shuls with multiple tzedakah boxes whose labels
suggested they were collecting money for different purposes. And I've
watched people choose carefully which of these boxes they put their
money in.

Tobias D. Robison
Princeton, NJ.


From: Risa Tzohar <risa.tzohar@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2005 12:05:18 +0200
Subject: Victim blaming

>Someone wrote <<< The Yalkut also says that women ought not frequent
the marketplace lest a tragedy like what happened to Dina occur. >>>

>Suppose I said that people ought not ride in cars without fastening
>their seatbelts, lest they get seriously hurt in an accident. Would
>that also be tantamount to victim-blaming?  
>Akiva Miller

It is unreasonable to limit frequenting the marketplace as if a rapist
(or thief or murderer) has no control over his actions. It is the
acceptance crime as an inevitable outcome of the victims dees and not of
the perpetrator's lack of integrity that results in victim blaming.
Does owning something desirable invite a thief to take it from you? Do
Jews walking in Jerusalem invite terrorists to bomb them? Does not
buckling your seatbelt justify the other driver running the red light?
Where is the individual's responsibility? I have to take reasonable
precautions but not more than that.

Risa Tzohar 
Rehovot, Israel

From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2005 12:42:16 -0400
Subject: Re: Victim blaming

Risa Tzohar wrote <<< It is unreasonable to limit frequenting the
marketplace as if a rapist (or thief or murderer) has no control over
his actions. ... I have to take reasonable precautions but not more than
that. >>>

(I have two points to make in this post. Please try to withhold your
responses until you've read both of them.)


Yes, I totally agree, and I suspect that this is the point Chazal were
making about Dinah, that she was *not* taking reasonable precautions.
Chazal never said that women are *never* allowed out of the house. But
there is a reasonable amount, and then there is more than usual. But
labelling her (Rashi on Bereshis 34:1) as a "yatzanis", "one who goes
out", it seems to me that their point was that she went out more than
was appropriate for that time and place.


But that does not mean we are saying that it is her fault! We're simply
underscoring the idea that she could have taken more precautions. It's
like when a person does a risky act and loses the gample. Suppose a man
walks through a dangerous neighborhood late at night and gets mugged.
Some people might respond, "He was asking for it." They don't literally
mean that he was asking to be mugged and that the mugger is
innocent. All they mean is that he was stupid for not being more

Akiva Miller


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, 06 Jun 2005 15:07:04 -0400
Subject: RE: victim-blaming / women's locations

>From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
>Suppose I said that people ought not ride in cars without fastening
>their seatbelts, lest they get seriously hurt in an accident. Would that
>also be tantamount to victim-blaming?

I believe the proper analogy would say that people should not ride in
cars lest they get hurt in an accident. That would be victim-blaming. To
say that people who do not wear seat belts are "asking for it (i.e.,
injury)" would be analogous to saying that women who dress provocatively
are "asking for it". Perhaps both could have done more to avoid injury,
but in neither case can you say that they were asking to be injured.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


End of Volume 48 Issue 44