Volume 54 Number 72
                    Produced: Sun May 20 12:51:05 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Matir neder in relation to an issur
         [Chana Luntz]
Religious Psychotherapy (4)
         [Daniel Geretz, Frank Silbermann, Leonard Paul, Anonymous]


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 22:49:48 +0100
Subject: Matir neder in relation to an issur

Joseph Ginsberg writes:

> Coincidentally, this past week I was asked by a divorced woman to be
> "matir neder" (revoke a vow).  She had for some reason a few years
> back vowed not to have sex (again) outside of marriage.  Now she has
> apparently met someone, and wants to renege on that vow. The catch-22,
> of course, is that if I do so, I am apparently allowing her to violate
> halacha.  If I tell her that I cannot do so, I'd be telling a lie.  It
> appears to me to be a case of "trey avrei d'nahara", where the rule is
> that one cannot facilitate non-kosher eating if without you it's more
> difficult.

Just out of curiousity, is it clear that her neder was chal to begin
with?  Yoreh Deah siman 215 si'if 5 seems to me to suggest that it would
not be [al mitzvas lo ta'aseh d'alma ano chal ben bitulo ben b'kiyumo -
on a simple negative mitzva [a neder] is not chal whether to nullify it
or to perform it].  I guess that would get into the question about
whether the sex she was talking about violated a simple lo ta'aseh, but
I would have assumed that it would (is she likely to go to mikvah?).

If the neder was never chal, then clearly you cannot be matir it as it
does not exist to begin with, and so you would not in fact be telling
her a lie if you told her that you could not matir it (although
admittedly you would not be telling her the whole truth).



From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 12:35:36 -0400
Subject: RE: Religious Psychotherapy

IN MJ 54:69, Joseph Ginzberg writes:

> Sadly, I must also point out that while many, perhaps most, of the
> religious therapists are excellent, the field is also sadly flooded
> with religious "wannabes", M.S.W.'s, rabbis, and sundry others who are
> doing therapy and causing untold harm. Ask almost any rabbi, and he'll
> tell you how many "counselors" there are using allegedly
> Ramchal-based, kabbala-based, and the like, types of dubious therapy
> to help religious people in search of help, and causing huge problems
> of all types. They are finding, quietly, far more clients than the
> "magicians" who read your mezuza, megilla, kesuba, palm, tzitzis,
> whatever.

The converse is also true.  In other words, ask almost any therapist,
and he/she will tell you how many rabbis there are who feel that semicha
is all they need in order to be able to counsel people in search of
help.  (There are yet other therapists, I have heard, who treat
observance as a clinical diagnosis in and of itself.)

Joseph Ginzberg raises a number of difficult issues which anyone in the
field of counseling, be he/she a rabbi, or a therapist, needs to deal
with.  I think it is important to remember the maxim of "al tadoon et
chavercha ad shetagia limkomo" - don't judge your fellow man/woman until
you are in his/her place.  This applies both to rabbis and therapists
who are dealing with a client, as well as we who stand on the outside
and look at the therapist-client relationship.  For certain, the clients
face heartbreaking situations.  Almost as certain, any observant
advisor, be he/she a therapist or a rabbi, cannot help being heartbroken
at the challenges that their clients face.

Personally, I think that both rabbis and therapists who have to counsel
observant clients need to develop an appreciation for the unique skills
of each other and learn from each other (in a general sense - in
specific cases, there may be issues of privileged information.)  There
is an overlap between the disciplines, and an integrated
multi-disciplinary approach will likely lead to healthier outcomes.  A
therapist is not in a position to make a halachic determination, nor is
a rabbi in a position to make a clinical diagnosis.

Therefore, I laud the original poster (Alan Goldberg) for his sensitive
approach to counseling observant Jews.  I will also add, by way of
response to Dr. Goldberg directly, that frequently, "published" halachik
guidance/decisions (psak) is usually "one-size-fits-all" because people
are likely to ignore special mitigating circumstances and apply the psak
in cases where the circumstances do not apply (think over-the-counter vs
prescription medications).  Sometimes, private, unpublished psak, that
takes into account mitigating circumstances can be more direct in
addressing whatever conflict you are working to resolve.

Even though you are not observant, I encourage you to develop a
relationship with a G-d-fearing, sensitive, observant rabbi (dealing
with Orthodox patients, I recommend an Orthodox rabbi) with whom you can
discuss, in a general sense, the issues confronting your patients.
Although you may disagree on major theological and philosophical issues,
I think that there is less distance between you on the practical issues
than you might think.

Kol Tuv,

Danny Geretz

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Wed, 16 May 2007 09:36:22 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Religious Psychotherapy

Someone earlier wrote:
>> I'm not familiar with any halacha that would require notifying someone
>> about their spouse's behavior, if that behavior doesn't affect them
>> (i.e.  the examples you cited of "masturbation, failure to act in
>> accord with halacha when the spouse wasn't around").  On the contrary,
>> it would seem that it would be forbidden to notify the spouse, due to
>> the halachas of loshon hara.

Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...> V54 N69:

> Failure to act in accord with halacha when the spouse is not around
> ... affects others. What happens to the issue of reliability >
> (ne'emanus)?  The husband is eating at home thinking his home > is
> kosher, when it is not.  He may think she goes to the mikva, > when
> she does not.

I think we must distinguish between cases when the patient transgresses
versus when the patient causes others unknowingly to transgress --
e.g. someone who eats treif out or on a secret third set of dishes,
verus someone who treifs the dishes or worse yet, serves treif food.

Perhaps the husband would not wish to rely on the kashrut of someone who
does not keep kosher, but as long as the food the wife serves him _is_
kosher that preference need not be the therapist's concern.

If she doesn't go to the mikvah but he thinks she does, that is more of
a problem as his observance _is_ affected -- and not merely his
willingness to rely on her.

> There are many other examples, but in all these cases the halacha is
> involved, the husband should know, and there are penalties >
> prescribed in the Shulchan Aruch, where such a woman is called > a
> "moredes", a rebel.  The only issue is if the therapist is > obligated
> to tell the husband, where major violations of halacha > are involved.
> This issue is a complex one, and the modern-day > "loshon hara"
> defense is an inadequate response.

How _does_ the rule of loshan hara apply in general if any random person
discovers something of this nature about a neighbor?

> I know of a case where a woman nursed her husband, ill with cancer,
> for years before succumbing to her urges and lack of marital life >
> and having a fling. Now what? Tell the husband, so he'll die upset >
> and alone?  Tell her she's now forbidden to be alone with this man?  >
> Ignoring the issue is a lot easier and seems more "fair", but how >
> can one make it kosher?

If the husband is too sick to have sex and is not going to get any
better, perhaps a rabbi could make an exception to this rabbinical
ordinance based on competing issues -- and the fact that nothing is
going to happen anyway.

But I can well imagine other cases where this is not possible.

someone else:
>> As for "condemnatory comments"... If you are referring to "rebuke",
>> that is supposed to be constructive and likely to lead to a change of
>> behavior. Also, if you know that the rebuke won't be effective, you are
>> not required to give it.

Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...> V54 N69:

> Of course, there is also the Torah mitzvah of "Hocheach", which can be
> called rebuke, if you prefer to call it that rather than condemnation,
> > but is not limited to constructive. How can telling another that he
> is > violating X be constructive, and still be part of the procedure
> that > leads to bet-din penalties?

The rebuke required for the death penalty was intended to be
constructive, and in most cases stop the behavior.  That the death
penalty was sometimes carried out testifies to the fact that we cannot
always know for certain beforehand.

Of course, the frum therapist can remind the patient of what the halacha
dictates.  But there is also the issue that (for capital crimes at
least) a Bet Din does not accept a person's testimony against himself.
If that holds for a Bet Din, might it not also apply to the actions a
therapist would be halachicly obligated to take?

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee	frank_silbermann(at)hotmail.com

From: Leonard Paul <lenpaul@...>
Date: Sat, 19 May 2007 22:48:08 -0400
Subject: RE: Religious Psychotherapy

This discussion touches on an area that I find of great interest both
personally and professionally. By way of introduction, I am a
rehabilitation psychologist with a specialty in vocational
rehabilitation of the physically disabled.

I would be very appreciative of further comments and discussion about
instances of conflicts between halacha and professional issues as other
health professionals and attorneys and judges may have experienced them
in professional practice.

Thank you so much for bringing up this topic for discussion.

Leonard Paul

From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 18 May 2007 19:03:40
Subject: RE: Religious Psychotherapy

Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...> writes regarding religious

> First off, "Es chatai ani mazkir" ( I condemn myself), by letting you
> know that although these days there are indeed many religious
> therapists, I am older, and in the 1970's there were not.

I agree that psychotherapy had a number of deficits in the 1970's but I
needed psychotherapy. While I still believe that therapy was the right
choice, I had to be firm when they tried to talk me out of my spiritual
and religious choices.

I said, "Look! This spiritual stuff is the only part of my life that's
actually working! I have so many other problems; can we set aside your
objections for now and work on this other stuff?"

The therapist who finally was able help me to normalcy was a man who did
not wince when I mentioned spiritual issues. He seemed willing to work
with me on that basis.

> Sadly, I must also point out that while many, perhaps most, of the
> religious therapists are excellent, the field is also sadly flooded
> with religious "wannabes", M.S.W.'s, rabbis, and sundry others who are
> doing therapy and causing untold harm.

The other problem I had were therapists who contradicted me whenever I
made mention of my religious activities. It is one thing to disagree,
but one therapist actively corrected me, flat out refused to see it any
other way but in her religious framework when I knew my religious
position was correct (she was from a different movement).

A true story:

Day by day I noticed my neighbor's young child acting strangely. I
advised the parents to take the kid to a psychotherapist for an
evaluation. Each Shabbat when I would visit for Torah study, I would
mention it, gently at first and as the months went by, more
urgently. Finally after a year of inaction, I put my foot down. The
child was running through the house with knives... sharp carving
knives. As he ran up the stairs I could envision him tripping and
impaling himself with those knives. I was furious with the parents. I
told them in no uncertain terms that they WILL take their child to a
doctor for evaluation... immediately if possible... perhaps even setting
aside the Sabbath laws to do so, but certainly by Monday. I told them
that if they did not call me with verification that they had done so, I
would call the authorities. They did not take the boy to a doctor. I
called child protective services. They came.

They were my neighbors and my fellow Jews but the boy's welfare came
first.  They took the boy to therapy at last. He seems better now.

Why did I tell you this story? 

The parents explained that the reason they hesitated to take their boy
to a doctor was that they didn't trust psychotherapists. They were
afraid such men and women would talk their boy out of an Orthodox
observance. As I said, some therapists even now cannot set aside their
personal beliefs.

I remember explaining this to the case worker. 

I asked, "Are you Jewish?"
"Yes I am!" She seemed bright.
"Are you Orthodox?"
"Oh...uh...No." She was less confident.
"Ask yourself this question, how many of your friends, when they speak of
Orthodoxy, speak kindly and how many speak derisively... even vehemently?"


"You see what I mean? Many Jews speak freely about the practice of other
Jews because they think they are free to comment. They are convinced that
they are practicing Judaism as it should be practiced. My neighbors were
afraid they'd get some boneheaded Jewish therapist who wouldn't shut up
about it." 

The case worker laughed. She understood.

> ... Also, one is in violation of halacha (in my opinion, obviously) if
> you are being asked, consulted, or in any way involved with someone
> religious and one does not tell him that what he's doing is forbidden.

Well... yes. 

I was recently conscripted as a volunteer chaplain at the local county
jail.  An inmate made a claim to be an Orthodox Jew and wanted kosher
food. I evaluated him. He was not an Orthodox Jew but it was clear he
had been trying to maintain a kosher home prior to being picked up for a
violation of his parole. As I spoke to him, he seemed to make light of
his violation but he agreed he had been in the wrong and was willing to
suffer the consequences. I saw no need to chastise him.

What struck me was that I knew the synagogue he attended regularly.
Shouldn't I tell the rabbi? The man might be a danger to unsuspecting
congregants. He was not violent, but he might take advantage of the

No need for folks to answer that question. I have a call in to the local
rabbi for a ruling on the issue without revealing the man's name. It's a
tough issue for me. I'm still trying to figure out this chaplaincy

> The law of the land doesn't say that one should work in any particular
> field, nor does it say that one may ignore halacha when it conflicts
> with his professional ethics.  The concept is widely misunderstood,
> and is IMHO is irrelevant to this topic.

I promise not ignore Halakhah as I try to figure out this chaplaincy. I
may make a mistake occasionally but not because of a lack of trying to
do they correct thing. Luckily I have many wise folk at hand who know
the Halakhah and can guide me.

I am needed at the jail and several other places but I can do this

It is almost candle lighting time here so I must go. Be well and
remember to be an adult and control your own therapy. It is your right
and responsibility. Therapists are your wise advisers. They are not your

My name is withheld because knowing my correct name might draw people in
my neighborhood to conclude who those "neighbors" were that I was
talking about. Yeah. The kid was THAT obvious but few knew what happened


End of Volume 54 Issue 72