Volume 54 Number 24
                    Produced: Fri Mar  9  6:06:59 EST 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bet Din Issues
Conservative Responsa (2)
         [Guido Elbogen, Janice Gelb]
Mi She-Berakh for Agunot
         [Lisa Liel]
Physical and Spiritual illnesses
         [David Maslow]


From: <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 09:39:46 EST
Subject: Re: Bet Din Issues

      We have a problem with they system

ANONYMOUS makes a understatement here. I can tell from his typing that
he is furious with the posters who accused him of being a sore loser. He
had written previously that he WON the case, and yet posters simply
ignored his posting as the rant of a sore-loser. (As a writer of rants,
I recognize the signs of fury when typing.) AND I DON'T BLAME ANONYMOUS
FOR BEING ANGRY AT ALL. He is right. The system stinks to high and holy

 I love the way everyone blames him, when any woman who has gone through
the get process knows how careful you have to be with the choice of a
beit din. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that there are
corrupted mental midgets out there. 

When I asked Rabbi Riskin about corrupt batei din, he denied that there
was a problem in Israel...perhaps there are uncorrupted batei din in
Israel, that may be the case. (I ain't holdin' my breath--my sister, who
left "the derech" [she had it beaten out of her by her ex-husband,
frankly] went through that system and her daughter was given back to her
father until she ran away from home to the US.)

In any event, like the "imaginary" bus beatings, the "imaginary" takanot
issued for "modesty thugs", and the "imaginary" agunah problem, along
with the "imaginary" anti-education for women takanot....this is all
wonderful for the Jews. It gives us credibility--as lunatics who oppress
women..just like the Shia and Sunni Muslims who stuff their women into
burkhas, prevent them from driving, prevent them from leaving the house,
prevent them from going to work, etc. etc.  Why should the Taliban be
frummer than you?

Just remember, if you don't fix the beit din problems, you destroy your
women, you destroy yourselves. No woman in her right mind would get
married under the conditions that pertain today without a prenup that is
valid in a court of law.  I know personally of at least 4 women who
committed suicided because of this. And three cases, including ME (when
I was 22 and was told I would NEVER be free), a woman in Israel who shot
herself, and another now institutionalized--who didn't succeed when they
tried to die rather than be chained forever.

How many dead women will it take for you GUYS to wake up? Yeah, I know.
Michael Broyde says you can't mix contract law with pikuach nefesh, even
when that contract law forces women into terrible situations of being
battered or suiciding. 

We get the message. And if we women are smart, we will declare a
moratorium on our daughters' weddings until the situation is fixed.  But
everyone is so afraid to do what is right because of their neighbors who
flock like lemmings to leadership that is invested in its own
pocketbooks and powerplays.


From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 20:29:02 +0200
Subject: Conservative Responsa

      But for an entirely different reason, I question the mindset that
      leads a person even to ask whether a document that looks like
      words of Torah may be destroyed merely because the author is
      alleged to be a heretic.

If a sefer Torah is written by a goy or an acknowledged heretic, the
halacha requires it to be burned so that the 'mindset' will not give
credibility to those who have strayed from the path.

Its important to realize that kedusha is not just the words, otherwise
we could dispense with the purchase of expensive sifrei Torah and use
Chumoshim instead.

The kedusha comes from the fact that the sofer wrote the sefer
'Lishmah', inclusive of making sure to tovel before writing the letters
of the Holy Name.

      Several years ago, it was reported that Steinsaltz gemaras were
      turning up in garbage cans in Bnai Brak after Rav Steinsaltz was
      similarly condemned as a heretic.

I doubt the accuracy of "Steinsaltz gemaras were turning up in garbage
cans in Bnai Brak" since little purpose is served by such actions.  From
memories of the incident, the majority of the Steinsaltz gemaras landed
up in genizot to be later buried in a Jewish cemetary with other sofek
kedusha items.

Rav Steinsaltz' gemaras were to the BTs what todays Art Scrolls are.
However a closer reading of some of the commentaries of Rav Steinsaltz
portrays ideas that conflicted with traditional interpretations leading
to his ousting as an accepted Gadol BeTorah amongst the haredim.


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2007 15:07:11 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Conservative Responsa

Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>

> I am surprised that Avi is allowing this thread at all.  His rules
> stipulate that the validity of Conservative Judaism isn't a valid
> subject for this list.

And indeed, I have been waiting to see whether this thread would
continue before weighing in.

> In fact, official Conservative doctrine - to the extent there is such
> a thing these days - is that the RA Law Committee has the ability to
> override, not merely reinterpret, rabbinic or toraitic halacha.  So
> while not denying the binding nature of halacha, per se, the movement
> officially permits its rabbinic decisors to deny that halacha.  That's
> the whole idea behind the Law Committee.  The reader can determine for
> himself or herself whether that is Apikorsus.

I'm not entirely clear about the phrase above that says "override, not
merely reinterpret." You seem to be saying that these are
separate. However, isn't reinterpreting halacha and coming out with a
different interpretation the same as overriding the original halacha?
Conservative Judaism's ideology includes the belief that current
decisors on the Law Committee have the same right and duty to examine
halacha and make halachic decisions that rabbis throughout the history
of Judaism have exercised.

> That is, Rabbi Roth himself is saying that the Dorff teshuva is
> outside the halachic process; on what basis does Mr. Chipman say
> otherwise?

Just because Rabbi Roth did not feel that the halachic reasoning in the
teshuva in question was not valid does not mean that the reasoning was
ipso facto not valid.

-- Janice


From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 14:01:46 -0500
Subject: Re: Mi She-Berakh for Agunot

On Fri, 02 Mar 2007 09:49:50 +0200, Yael Levine wrote:

> Last summer I composed a new "Mi she-berakh" prayer for agunot, 
> which is scheduled to be recited in shuls this coming Shabbat 
> following the "Mi she-berakh le-Hayyalei Zahal".
> I granted first publication rights to "De'ot", the journal of 
> Ne'emnei Torah va-Avodah in Israel, and it was just published 
> (issue 31). It was also published in today's Ha-Zofe, and is 
> scheduled to be published in additional printed sources.
> The prayer will be recited in shuls throughout the Jewish world 
> this coming Shabbat, since Ta'anit Esther is the International Day 
> of the Agunah. This year it falls on Shabbat Zachor (tomorrow), and 
> the fast was held early, on Thursday.
> I am including here the nusach of the prayer. I would like to 
> mention that it may be printed for personal use, and requests for 
> reprinting it in written sources will be considered. [Please direct 
> such requests to <ylevine@...> ] However, I am not presently 
> consenting that it be posted on the net.

I received a copy of it on another list, where I was able to read it.
But I'm troubled by it. I disagree with parts of it, b'charifut, and in
its present form, I could never say it, nor say "amen" to it.

Rough translation follows:


May He who blessed our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and our
mothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, remember and visit for good
all chained women and those who have been refused a writ of divorce in
Israel, and help, protect and save them, and bring them out from closed
in (locked) souls to revive them this day.

God who answers in times of trouble, who redeems and saves in every time
of trouble, may He answer those women who are bound in living widowhood,
and hear the sound of their cries, and nullify and change for good the
thoughts of their husbands, who refuse to give a writ of divorce to
their wives, for He is the God of all flesh -- is anything impossible
for Him?

Our sisters, the daughters of Israel, who are oppressed and in captivity
[sic!], may the Omnipresent One have mercy on you, and release you from
your oppression to freedom, and from darkness to light.

God who releases prisoners rightly, give in the hearts of the judges of
Israel a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of good advice and
courage, a spirit of knowledge and fear of God, that they may release
all chained women and those who have been refused a writ of divorce from
their bonds, to raise up the Shechina from her dust, for anyone who
releases a single chained woman is as though he had built one of the
ruins of Jerusalem on high. And may it be fulfilled in them the verse,
as it is written, "He shall call Me and I will answer him, I am with him
in his trouble, I shall free him and honor him."

May the King of Kings of Kings stand to their right, raise up their
redemption, bring up to them length of days and health, and may they
have no ___ or brokenness. And may they merit to build faithful houses
in Israel. Because this whole holy congregation is praying on their
behalf, here, soon, and speedily, and let us say: Amen.


It's rough, and I'm sure Yael will want something a lot more polished
for release. But let me repeat that I am *extremely* troubled by it.

* Captivity is a halakhically defined category that has many serious
implications, none of which apply to agunot or mesuravei get (though I
am glad that the distinction between agunot and mesuravei get is made).

* The implication is made that all of these women can be freed to marry,
if only the rabbis were smart enough or brave enough to find a way to
make it happen. It's kind of an offensive suggestion, really, and
trivializes the situation. Worse, it puts the blame on the rabbis who
are upholding the laws of the Torah, and not on husbands who are
committing what is effectively blackmail.

* It refers to their husbands, but that is relevant only to mesuravei
get, and not to agunot whose husbands are missing and possibly dead.  A
text said publically in davening should be more clear about such things.

* And as politically incorrect as it may be to mention, and despite my
not wanting to make any excuses for the vile types who refuse to give a
get (I'm on the record as saying that mesuravei get would be better off
as almanot then gerushot), there are cases where withholding a get is
the only tool left to men who have had their children taken from them
unjustly. A prayer like this one makes no such distinction, and is as
much a curse on those victims as it is a blessing for others.

* I'd be interested in seeing a source for the freeing of an agunah or
mesurevet get being the spiritual equivalent of rebuilding the ruins of
Jerusalem on high. It's poetic and all, but comparing individual
tragedies with the national calamities that have informed millenia of
our history seems a teensy bit lacking in perspective.

The agunah problem is a big one, I agree. But how is the plight of an
agunah worse than that of a mamzer? How is it comparable to national
catastrophes that effect each and every Jew for their entire lives?
There are a lot of people who can't marry. The injustice of it being
because some jerk refuses to give a get is horrible, true.  But that's
outrage that should be directed at the jerk.



From: David Maslow <maslowd@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 10:13:28 -0500
Subject: Physical and Spiritual illnesses

Russell Hendel wrote (v54n09):

> 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.

Now that this topic has reappeared with the continued discussion of
depression, I would like to ask for further explanation of the
distinction some seem to make between "physical" illnesses, for which a
medical treatment is the recommended first course of action, and
"spiritual" illnesses, where changes in spiritual habits is advised as
the first step.

The growing body of information that is appearing on the role of stress
in "physical" ailments and on genetic and biochemical causes of
"psychological" maladies is increasingly blurring that line.  Despite
the popular impression, just being out in the cold does not cause
illness (with the exception of extremes such as frostbite)--bacteria or
viruses are needed, but also are not sufficient.  Thus, a physical
insult does not necessarily cause a physical ailment.  Similarly, the
most spiritual person, if experiencing a chemical imbalance or the
effects of a genetic disorder, can have a so-called "spiritual" illness.

David E. Maslow


End of Volume 54 Issue 24