Volume 50 Number 16
                    Produced: Wed Nov 23  5:52:23 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [David Mescheloff]
Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan (3)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Chana Luntz, David Riceman]
Wearing jackets to shul (2)
         [David Mescheloff, Reuben Rudman]


From: David Mescheloff <david_mescheloff@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 13:58:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Ketuba

My friends, with whom I have had the pleasure of working for many years,
and to whom I am eternally grateful for their help at various junctures
in my life, are dragging me out of my work clothes as farmer and
handyman (see my item on Jackets in shul).

Rabbi Professor Tabory wrote:  

> I would like to point out that chazal stated that the reason for
> requiring a kesuba is so that a man may not divorce his wife freely.
> . .  .  the Rama states that .... where herem derabeinu gershom is
> accepted, one may be lenient about writing a kesuba but this is not
> the minhag and one should not change the minhag.

Anonymous responded:

>I have observed some mesaddrei gittin routinely confiscate the kesubah;
> Rav Moshe has a teshuva which asserts this to be normative practice ...

>I find that troubling, as it basically renders the husband's monetary
> obligation uncollectible in case of divorce.  In effect, we are left
> relying on the Remah's lenient theoretical position, even when the
> kesubah is signed, read and delivered at the chupah.

Indeed, it is common knowledge that "chazal stated that the reason for
requiring a kesuba is so that a man may not divorce his wife freely" -
usually, it is stated even more bluntly: "so that a man may not divorce
his wife arbitrarily" (that a man has the halakhic right to do that is
another bit of common knowledge); the literal translation refers to
divorcing her being "light in his eyes".  As is often the case, these
bits of common knowledge are not quite correct.  As I showed in my
doctoral dissertation (yes, I know, it will continue to gather dust on
the library bookshelf if I don't edit it for publication, either in
pieces or as a whole; and no, there's no way I can present my proofs of
what I claim in brief, here on mail-Jewish), in actual fact:

a) not only have halachic institutions not permitted a man to divorce
his wife arbitrarily for more than the last two thousand years, it is
possible that they never permitted it, despite the impression given by
several talmudic sugyot to the contrary; 

b) chazal did not say that the purpose of the ketuba was to prevent the
man from divorcing his wife easily - the basic purpose of the ketuba has
always been to protect the property rights and financial concerns of the
wife and her family of origin in the event of divorce or widowhood, by
assuring them both 1) that the property she brought into the marriage
(or its value) would be returned to her (remember, this is also the
family's concern because, generally, they are the source of the property
she brings to her marriage; remember, too, that by reassuring the family
in this way they are likelier to be generous with the marrying young
woman, both to her and to her new husband's advantage)and that she would
be able to live, at least on a minimal standard, for a transitional
period of a year, until she would get back on her feet and be able to
support herself independently (third, depending on the socio-economic
status of herself, her husband, and their two families of origin, she
was guaranteed enough to continue living at the same standard she did
while married, or before she married, and not just on a minimal level).
By protecting these rights and concerns, besides the justice in the
protections themselves, the ketuba granted a woman a degree of
confidence and security during her marriage which enabled her to live
calmly and with a free mind with her husband.

c) I showed in my dissertation how it came to appear that "chazal stated
that the reason for requiring a kesuba is so that a man may not divorce
his wife freely", even though the reasons are as stated in b).  [In
actual fact, although they referred to "so divorcing her would not be
light in his eyes", given that, as I claim, he already could not do so
lightly, and given that halacha did allow women to initiate divorce in a
variety of cases where the marriage had broken down, this was the only
way they could say what we say in the following words: "to bring the
divorce rate down".  Indeed, our contemporary experience shows that
numerous factors go into the divorce rate; a very major factor is the
difficulty / the ease with which one can legally divorce.  It is
impossible to define this in precise numerical terms, and it is
impossible to specify a system in which everyone who should get divorced
can do so easily while those who should not get divorced (say, they are
going through a deep but passing crisis) cannot do so easily.  Chazal
were just trying to tip the balance in the direction of reducing the
rate.]  More significantly, what chazal did state was only that the
***form*** of the ketuba initiated by Shimon ben Shetach - that is,
rather than paying all the above amounts up front (as Ya'aqov avinu had
to do), entering into a contractual obligation to pay the various sums
that constitute the ketuba obligations at a future date, contingent on
the husband's divorce or death (since such an undertaking clearly
constitutes "asmachta" - an exaggerated, contingent undertaking which a
person could deny he meant seriously, it could only be made valid as a
general takkana) - this **form** of the ketuba can lower the divorce
rate, by making it difficult to come up with the funds necessary when
divorce comes up as a possibility.  The real aims - financial protection
of the wife and her (family's) property - remained as before.

As to "Anonymous"'s concerns - cherem d'rabbenu gershom genuinely
changed the playing rules, to strengthen the woman's hand in the
bargaining which precedes divorce (note: the nature of this bargaining
depends largely on the players' **perceived** strengths (each one's
perception of himself and of the other) - this is true to this very day
- so that it became a reasonable assumption that by the time of the
formal divorce (which is generally the moment when the sums in the
ketuba fall due), both sides had concluded some sort of financial
agreement.  Indeed, this agreement might have been for the husband to
pay less than the amounts in the ketuba, or more - depending on the
bargaining process, which had (and has) numerous components.
(Contemporary divorce agreements inevitably include a paragraph to the
effect that - in light of the new agreement - the woman waives the
ketuba.)  Thus there is no loss to the woman in giving up the document
at the time of divorce.  It is not the Rema's theoretical leniency we
are relying on, but rather the genuine strength of cherem d'rabbenu

But, after all is said and done (for the moment), and after I have
taught the above for many years, you can only imagine my excitement and
gratification at seeing one of the Dayyanim on Israel's Supreme
Rabbinical Court write that, since one object of the ketuba is to
guarantee the woman at least minimal support for one year, therefore in
contemporary Israel this sum should be calculated in contemporary terms
and used in actual Bet Din decisions in relevant divorce cases.

As I heard in the name of Winston Churchill - Please excuse the length
of this item.  I didn't have the time to make it briefer.

David Mescheloff 


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:59:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan

From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
> ...
> But if there is a question of prioritisation, it might be that the
> question really is, if one cannot do it all, is it better to be a bad
> neighbour, a bad employee, a bad husband or a bad father?

Thanks for the very interesting analysis of the obligation of tefilah.
For what it's worth, my personal opinion is that going to a minyan (that
already has at least ten men and when you don't have other explicit
obligations such as kaddish) is intrinsically a selfish act: it's an
opportunity for you to connect to the community.  Though it is important
to put yourself first in some cases, it is important to keep in mind
what you are doing if there are conflicting interests.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>

From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 23:06:58 +0000
Subject: Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan

I wrote:

>> But if there is question of prioritisation, it might be that the
>>question really is, if one cannot do it all, is it better to be a bad
>>neighbour, a bad employee, a bad husband or a bad father?

And Ari replied:

 >Thanks for the very interesting analysis of the obligation of
 >tefilah.  For what it's worth, my personal opinion is that going to a
 >minyan (that already has at least ten men and when you don't have other
 >explicit obligations such as kaddish) is intrinsically a selfish act:
 >it's an opportunity for you to connect to the community.  Though it is
 >important to put yourself first in some cases, it is important to keep
 >in mind what you are doing if there are conflicting interests.

I don't think I agree.  Even if you have a minyan of at least ten men,
by not participating you are leaving them to shoulder the burden of
community, as opposed to sharing it.  In a way it is not that different
from saying, well my wife is at home with the kids, so therefore I can
leave the burden of the family on her.  Yes you can, there is indeed
somebody to pick up the slack and if she is a responsible person, she
will do so.  On the other hand, your wife's response to that attitude is
likely to be pretty negative (an attitude that is pretty much echoed by
the minyan regulars, and the smaller the minyan the more acute that
attitude gets).  On the other hand, take another common scenario, that
of an elderly parent or parents.  Very often the burden of nursing an
elderly parent or parents will fall disproportionately on one child,
sometimes unfairly, but often because that child has, because of
whatever reason, fewer other responsibilities (particularly to children)
than the other children.  The other children just do not have the
capacity to give to the parent in the same way, and if they do, they
risk jeopardising their relationship with their children.  That may be
the reality, and it may in fact be that the burdened child is making the
correct decision in how they allocate their limited resources, but that
does not mean that a) they may not feel guilty about it and b) that even
if they don't feel guilty the other child who does bear the greater
burden might not feel resentful.

And the fact that you may get more out of the relationship of community
building than you put in, I do not believe alters any of this. That can
be true of any relationship (bringing up children and looking after
elderly parents can be classic cases).

Chana Luntz

From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:23:18 -0500
Subject: Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan

> Well maybe the solution is to take out of his sleeping time (not that
> that is always possible, but lets say that is a partial solution).
> Should he prioritise going to minyan over sleeping if not sleeping means
> that he performs inadequately for his employer, or is not able to
> provide much of a relationship to his wife and kids (irritable, falling
> asleep on their games, unable to provide the necessary empathy)?>>

Changing the subject slightly, the impression I have is that most
Americans (I don't know the situation in England) suffer sleep debt, and
getting more sleep (e.g. on the night daylight savings time ends)
reduces traffic fatalities in the aggregate.  Would one consider someone
who drives daily skipping minyan to get more sleep as fulfilling the
mitzvah of pikuah nefesh, or is pikuah nefesh only a posteriori [once
someone is actually endangered rather than potentially endangered]?

David Riceman 


From: David Mescheloff <david_mescheloff@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:42:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Wearing jackets to shul

Dov Teichman wrote
>David Mescheloff writes:
>> I rather hope that the tribunal will look kindly on .... my dirty
>> work clothes ... 

Dov responded:

>On the other hand there is a certain dignity in trying to keep one's
>standards of respect no matter what predicament one finds themselves
>in.  It reminds me of a story of the previous Belzer Rebbe (Reb
>Aharon)....  ... the message is that it is important for minhagim to be
>followed even in adverse circumstances.

Indeed, I agree.  The problem is, as always in real life, in deciding
whether to apply "on the first hand" or "on the other hand".  We live in
a real world filled with uncertainty.  Even with the many certainties
which our Jewish life provides us, we often have to decide between
several possibilities, and I suspect only the divine court (and perhaps,
with help, the person himself) can possibly sort out all the factors
that go into determining whether we chose well.  Perhaps this is why,
although I did write that we should learn and live - and teach to those
who want to know and are able to learn - the rules of proper dress in
shul and in davening, I still think we should accept lovingly all who
come to shul and/or daven, knowing that we neither know whether their
circumstances are exceptional, nor whether this is a time (for them)
when they should/can be "following minhagim" even "in adverse
circumstances" or not.  This is particularly true in our contemporary
world, with its physical, social, cultural and spiritual mobility -
people often appear in "our world" from other "worlds", both internal
and external, and they either know nothing of our rules and/or minhagim,
or are momentarily (or temporarily or permanently) facing circumstances
which render them incapable of observing our rules and/or minhagim.


From: Reuben Rudman <rudman@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 22:11:57 +0300
Subject: Re: Wearing jackets to shul

This past summer we spent several days in Katzrin in the Golan and
davened in the main Bet Knesset in Katzrin.  The weather was hot and
most of the people in shul were wearing short sleeves and not jackets.
What I found most unusual was that when the Ba'al Tefillah went up to
the Bimah (yes, the bima) he took two loose shirt sleeves that were
lying there and slipped them on to cover his bare arms (they were
equipped with elastic at the top and bottom to hold them in place).
Thus, his arms were properly covered but without wearing a jacket.  When
I mentioned this to someone else I was told that these sleeves are
available in Israel and are often worn by taxi drivers to protect their
left arm from excessive sunburn.  I should add that all these people
were wearing long pants; I do not know if there were similar leggings
available if anyone came in in shorts..

I should imagine that this is at least as good as wearing a jacket with
your arm in only one sleeve, while the other arm (with Tefillin on it)
is left bare.  Not only is one not covered properly, but the hanging
jacket is not acceptable as attire anywhere else.

Reuben Rudman   


End of Volume 50 Issue 16