Volume 54 Number 09
                    Produced: Wed Feb 14  5:45:37 EST 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Beit Din Experience
         [Rabbi Wise]
Drug abuse (and depression) in the frum community
         [Russell J Hendel]
Drug abuse in the frum community
         [Frank Silbermann]
Jewish Sociology
         [Yisrael Medad]
Smoking again (3)
         [Frank Silbermann, Joel Rich, Russell J Hendel]


From: <Meirhwise@...> (Rabbi Wise)
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 11:21:00 EST
Subject: Re: Beit Din Experience

In reply to anonymous re: Beit Din Experience

I cannot understand why any comments should be published anonymously
however all your readers should know as a principle of Jewish Law that
whoever is summoned to a Beit Din has the right to chose which Beit Din
the case is heard in. That is to say the Nitan (defendant) not the To'en
(applicant) choses which Bet Din. This is very important when there is
more than one Bet Din in town or if one is invited to appear in an
out-of-town Beit Din

Rabbi Wise


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 06:42:54 -0500
Subject: Drug abuse (and depression) in the frum community

Mike Gerver in v54n5 incorrectly interprets my remarks on prayer and
chesed as alternatives to therapy as applying to drug users of illegal
drugs but not to people with depression.

I wish to make it clear that the primary thrust of my remarks was
directed to depression.

In disputing Mike there are 3 separate cases to consider.

1) Preventative: I think Mike would agree with me that prayer and chesed
is preferred PRIOR to the development of any depression. I repeat with
paraphrase what I said in my posting: Take 5-6 year olds, teach them to
complain personally to God in their prayers, teach them to get involve
in chesed projects, and when they grow up there will be a minimal (if
any) incidence of depression and / or drug abuse.

Mike missed an important point...I wasnt just speaking about CURE...I
was speaking about PREVENTION

2) About to go to doctor: Mike might also agree with me that a person
who was depressed or who was about to try drugs (or who tried it once or
twice) is advised to try and solve his problems himself -- thru prayer
and drugs --- prior to going to the doctor.

Here I am talking about a person "giving himself one last chance" before
going to the doctor.

3) Already under treatment: How would I deal with a person already under
treatment for drug abuse or depression. Well Mike and I are in agreement
that I certain would not tell him to go off his medication cold turkey.

But I would encourage such a person to start praying and doing chesed
projects EVEN if his doctor was against it (What type of doctor in
passing, would be against such wonderful things).  As he improves I
would like his doctor to coooperate and take him off the medication.

There is a philosophical point here. We all know that Judaism is not
about physics. The purpose of the Torah is not to tell us for example
how the world was created. But as the Rambam clearly states (about
amulets) "The primary purpose of the Torah is spiritual and the cure of
spiritual problems (Direct quote)" If a person needs a therapist to cure
him/herself then he/she has contradicted the essence of the Torah ("cure
for spiritual problems.") On the contrary we must look to the Torah for

I know what Mike will say "But it is proven that depression comes from
chemical inbalances in the brain---doesnt that mean that the problems
are physical not spiritual." My answer is "No. For the ultimate issue is
who is the cause and who is the effect...If I go out in the winter
without a coat I get sick...here my illness is physical and the CAUSE of
my illness is physical...but if I have improper spiritual habits it is
these improper spiritual habits that CAUSE the chemical imbalances that
we call depression. In other words although physical cause was a
MEDIATING VARIABLE for the depression the ROOT CAUSE was the spiritual
problems themselves.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:06:20 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Drug abuse in the frum community

I'm afraid I still don't understand the mentality of the addict.

In V54 N04 Izzy <izzy@...> wrote:

>It is said that an alcoholic/addict is a person who is waiting for a
>call from G-d, and when he does not receive it, he searches for a way
>to make that contact.  ...  If a person builds his connection
>... through Jewish prayer and charitable deeds, then he will have a
>good foundation to guide him when that crisis of connection occurs.
>But just as many of us are not Talmud scholars despite our desire to be
>more learned, so too, a person might not have a full enough foundation
>in Jewish prayer and practice to weather this crisis when it
>comes. What to do?

I can sympathize with people who suffer anxiety, depression or some
other psychic pain which they are not able to relieve via their own
spiritual efforts (and so might choose to rely on a Prozac-like drug.)
What I cannot understand is why these people would even bother to try a
harmful drug that is addictive or illegal.

> At first alcohol and drugs work.  It fixes the crisis.  But in time the
> body changes. The very cells change their configuration so that one will
> no longer be able to resist the use of drugs. The body will scream for
> drugs the way the body will scream for food... more so. 

How can any person in pain imagine that alcohol or drugs has fixed the
crisis?  Certainly they must know that their pain is long-term
(otherwise, they could have simply waited it out), and that therefore
the harmful addictive or illegal drug is not a solution!

After a half a century of warnings, how can any literate person _not_
know that addictive drugs only make things worse?  (It's like meeting a
person who doesn't know about AIDS and the way it spreads -- I would ask
where they've been for the last twenty years during which every magazine
and newspaper has been writing about it?)

My brother explained his addiction to tobacco saying, "At first I
thought I could quit anytime, and after a while I realized I couldn't."
When I replied, "When you first started, how did you _think_ people got
hooked on tobacco?" he had no answer.

If after taking shots of vodka at a few ferbrengens a college student
with a tendency towards alcoholism begins to notice a sense of craving,
how can he _not_ realize that this is a danger sign -- and that alcohol
is therefore not for him?  How does he _imagine_ that people become

Is it a shortcoming of imagination that can be treated with more
explicit communication?  Do such children need to read stories which
detail the day-by-day hour-by-hour process of becoming addicted --
instead of just warning them about what happens _if_?

Or is the problem more of a a pathologically short-term outlook that
discounts the future?  Would reading a pseudo-diary of a person becoming
addicted make them eager to experience the initial high or relief
despite the end result?  I know most people would benefit from a
longer-term outlook (e.g. that increases their concern about haOlam
haBa), but how short-term an outlook are we talking about?

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee	<fs@...>


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 22:18:45 +0200
Subject: Jewish Sociology

Just to keep the list members up-to-date, the Van Leer Institute is
holding a series of lectures on the topic of Passion and Perversity.
The sixth meeting, on May 31, will hear from Shlomo Fisher (who I know;
heads Yesodot for Jewish Democracy Education and who is awaiting
confirmation of his doctoral thesis.  You can see him here:
who will speak on "Passion and Sexuality Among the Religious Bohemian
Ultra-Nationalist Zionism"

Can't wait.


P.S.  You will be able to view a live web broadcast.
Next week's talk will be shown here:


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 10:15:42 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Smoking again

> Arnie Kuzmack <Arnie@...> V54 N05:
> R' Moshe appears to be (distinguishing) between something whose adverse
> effects are real but very rare and something whose adverse effects occur
> in a large portion of the population.  He places smoking in the first
> category and therefore permits it but discourages it strongly.  He refers
> explicitly to the evidence that smoking causes lung cancer, but states
> that it occurs in only a small minority of smokers and that the vast
> majority do not get sick from it.
> ... 
> However, we now have evidence that the incidence rate of smoking-related
> fatalities is in the area of 50% or more.

If people still died of infection, tuburculosus, automobile accidents,
and congenital hardening of the arteries at the rate people died
throughout Rv. Moshe's lifetime, then even today only a small minority
of smokers might have their lives shortened by smoking.  In fact, it is
difficult to name _any_ product that wouldn't cause death _eventually_
if competing causes of death were sufficiently ameliorated.

On the other hand, we _did_ ameliorate and delay competing causes of
death to the degree that smoking _now_ causes death _eventually_ to a
majority of smokers, so perhaps the point still stands, even if it
didn't apply in earlier, more dangerous times.

An alternate argument against a halachic ban on smoking is very strength
of the addiction, and the principle of not issuing a takana that won't
be obeyed.  That would not apply, however, to a ban on taking up

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee	<fs@...>

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 05:23:38 -0500
Subject: Smoking again

From: Arnie Kuzmack <Arnie@...>

> R' Moshe appears to be making a different distinction: between something
> whose adverse effects are real but very rare and something whose adverse
> effects occur in a large portion of the population.  He places smoking
> in the first category and therefore permits it but discourages it
> strongly.  He refers explicitly to the evidence that smoking causes lung
> cancer, but states that it occurs in only a small minority of smokers
> and that the vast majority do not get sick from it.  He does not discuss
> what incidence rate of what kind of illness would be necessary to
> support an issur, but he believes that smoking is well below that level.

Me- Where do you see this " real but very rare and something whose
adverse effects occur in a large portion of the population." in R'
Moshe's tshuva? Specifically the "very rare" and the "adverse effects"
(vs. actual deaths)

> R' Moshe addressed this explicitly when discussing why it is a good idea
> not to smoke.  He wrote "v'ein bazeh shum toelet vegam hanaah le'eilu
> shelo hurglu bazeh" (and there is no benefit at all from it [smoking]
> and also no pleasure for those who are not addicted to it).

It seems he would include many things in this warning (e.g. watching tv,
reading novels....)

Joel Rich

From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 06:29:17 -0500
Subject: Smoking again

Re Arnie's posting in v54#5. First fruit have **nutritional**
benefits---all fruit supply needed nutrients. By contrast smoking has no
nutritional benefits (If it has benefits they are psyhcological).
Consequently my original statement that Rav Moshe was wrong because he
didnt distinguish between fruits and smoking--one of which has
**physiological** benefits and one of which has no physiological
benefits, stands.

Secondly: The issue is not what percent of people develop lung cancer.
The major source for prohibiting unhealthy items comes from Rambam
Murder 12. Sucking coins is listed...sucking coins also causes death
very rarely and usually only causes an upset stomach. Even drinking
snake venom from what I understand does not cause death (just some
squeasiness). To cause death the snake venom has to enter the

Returning to smoking -- it was known early on that smoking "decorates"
the lungs with ash and this in turn causes illness and maybe
death. Every surgeon operating on a person who smokes could see that the
otherwise pink lungs were black. Rav Moshe had access to this
information when he issued his psak.

To sum it up: Smoking resembles forbidden coin sucking in that is causes
illness and rarely death; smoking does not resemble fruit consumption
since no physiological benefit ensues. Consequently smoking is
prohiibited and it is prohibited based on information known in the late
fifties and early sixties.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/ 


End of Volume 54 Issue 9