Volume 55 Number 05
                    Produced: Tue Jun 19  5:57:17 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chastising One's Child
         [Alex Herrera]
Confidentiality of Therapists (2)
         [Russell J Hendel, Dr. Josh Backon]
Fixable Halach - Solution to Agunoth
         [Russell J Hendel]


From: Alex Herrera <odat@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 11:11:14 -0500
Subject: RE: Chastising One's Child

Josh Backon writes:

> While classical Jewish sources permit chastising one's child (Midrash
> Rabba Shemot) there were severe limits (MEIRI Bava Batra 21a) such as
> only using a very light strap and hitting very gently, not hitting one's
> child in the month of Tamuz...

Good response.

I never used a strap to discipline my children because my father used a
strap on me and it did little good. I believe that if I cannot make my
point with the palm of my hand on a kid's backside, then the issue
requires another method to solve the problem.

My youngest son seemed to have few pain receptors in his backside
because no matter how much I spanked him, he would not change his
behavior in the slightest, so I stopped spanking him. To spank a child
when it is clearly ineffective is wrong. He was the bane of the Jewish
Early Learning Center, but he has grown into a fine young man. He is
attending JROTC leadership training this week and he is in charge of the
rifle squad. He is a tough disciplinarian. How could that happen when I
refused to spank him from kindergarten on?

I don't think I have ever spanked a child out of anger but I have yelled
as if I was angry. One must make the point clear to the child.

One day my step-son and I had words. He was acting up terribly as
teenagers sometimes do. His father became concerned so he called the
police to check on his son. I took no offense. The father was over a
thousand miles away so he could not see things for himself. I was glad
to present his son to the officers who knocked at my door. In fact the
boy was taking out the trash at the time so they could look at him all
they wished. He was fine. When I have words, the issue is settled and
then forgotten. I don't punish my family endlessly. Once we had finished
our argument, my step-son knew it was truly finished and we could go on
as a normal family again. That was why when the police arrived; they
found a boy who was entirely normal and undamaged...  not even a

BTW, my step-son resented me for taking the family so far away from his
father. I bore his resentment proudly. It was the correct thing to do
for a variety of reasons not least of which was for the welfare of the
boy himself. His father has passed away now but the bottom line is that
the father agreed that during the time his son was growing up, the boy
was better off with me. The father grumbled but he never tried to stop
me. He knew I was right. I have never regretted it.

Alex Herrera


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 19:46:32 -0400
Subject: Confidentiality of Therapists

Several postings (v54n95) dealt with my Midrash Rabbah case: Man A
wanted to commit adultery with Lady L, who broke his confidence, and
told W, A's wife. W dressed up like L and had the affair with him (Which
he thought he was having with L). I use this as an example of where
confidentiality should be broken.

The postings presented correct proofs of correct points but did not
address my posting. One proper way to study Jewish law is to take texts
supporting opposing views and reconcile them. For example one of the
greatnesses of Rav Moshe's Teshuvahs is how skillfully he does this. A
person reading a Rav-Moshe Teshuvah invariably gets a mini-course in the
pros and cons of the issue along with the final decision. I therefore
must state the driving force behind my posting (Which no one
identified)as well as the driving force behind the responding postings
and show how they reconcile.

The postings answering my posting made 3 errors which I wish to address;
A) Several people pointed out that A should get a divorce and the
marriage is not salvagable B) Josh Backon discussed the issue of whether
the therapist HAS to inform W, A's wife or for that matter a court of
law and if no such requirement exists whether there is damage to A in
the therapist not so informing C) Finally one therapist brought up the
issue of lawsuits and professional malpractice.

Fair enough. First things first. What I stated was not "Russell's"
opinion. No one dealt with the fact that my views are based on a Midrash
Rabbah. Furthermore it is an established "preferred way to behave" to
mislead people for the sake of Peace. All little school children know
that Aaron the High Priest (Therapist par excellence?) when he heard of
a fight between 2 people would go to each one and say: You know the
other one told me how badly they feel and how much they enjoyed your
company and feel bad about the fight but they are too embarassed to talk
about it.In this way(Breaking confidences, lying:)) Aaron would bring
peace between people.

I have to openlly ask all those who dissented with me: As Jews we pray
for restoration of the temple and sacrifices. But dont we also pray for
restoration of the priesthood? Isnt this what we want from our priests
when the Temple is rebuilt--that they run around, lie and break
confidences and bring peace? If we want this in King Messiah's era how
can we not want it now.

Anyway: I think now you know what is bothering me. It is not my belief
that therapists are bad. It is not an isolated midrash. It is rather a
TREND within Judaism to "lie/break confidences" for the sake of peace.
The Aaron and Midrash Rabbah midrashim are EXAMPLES of a trend. No one
disagreeing with me incorporated this trend in their analysis. Hence the
question remains open.

Before suggesting my own resolution let me proceed further. One person
mentioned professional misconduct and lawsuits. You miss my point.I am
not asking anyone to get sued or violate professional standards. But
people are saying more...they are saying that "confidentiality" is
necessary to have a good relationship. They are JUSTIFYING
confidentiality. My point of view is that ABSOLUTE confidentiality MAY
be justified by the fear of lawsuits and professional standards...but
there is nothing good about it. It is harmful. Many people are being
allowed to commit adultery who could otherwise stop.

As to all the objections that "A" should get divorced. In many cases he
should. I also agree the therapist should not talk to W at Kiddush and
that he should try and talk him (A) out of it. There is always much to
fillin in a midrash. My point is that THERE ARE SOME circumstances where
a good therapist having tried everything else SHOULD break
confidentiality (in a theoretical world where there is no laws to the
contrary). To continue this point the therapist may know that A has
discussed having an affair with his wife, W, so the therapist speaking
to her would not be a shock. Bottom line: I think the Midrash does not
define an absolute value but defines a POSSIBLE APPROACH in SOME

Finally let me address Josh Backon's analysis of requirements to talk to
the Courts. I make two quick points. First the fact that you do NOT have
to tell a court or that the couple NEED NOT GET a divorce doesn't mean
that there is not a SEPARATE OBLIGATION of the therapist to tell A's
wife, W, in order to prevent the affair. Telling the court and telling
the wife are two different tellings and their statuses need not overlap.

But more importantly I think Josh has overlooked some find points of the
law. e.g. I am at kiddush and a married woman tells me how nice so and
so is and how she would prefer to be intimate with him vs her
husband. Now Josh would say I dont have to tell her husband or the court
(Even if she said she already had an affair). This is true. The point
here is that people fantasize out loud and you need not believe
everything you are told.

But suppose after dealing with a person for 2 years in therapy with
repeated discussions of an affair he tells me he has broken the ice and
has received consent. Suppose I do believe him or to put it another way
that the fantasy is believable. As Josh knows in the Code of Jewish Law
certain divorce obligations are made dependent on whether the husband
believes his wife. This changes the whole story and the applicability of
Josh's citations(Which as I indicated are correct and apply to certain

Let me summarize. "A" has been in therapy with me for 2 years. He has
told me he has told his wife. He continuouslly tells me how he needs an
attractively dressed woman and a good conversationalist. All attempts to
have him talk to his wife and talk him out of it have failed. But as a
therapist I know his real problem is his lack of communication. He
finally breaks the ice with lady L (After all it is easier to talk to a
stranger than your own wife since you expect rejection and it doesnt

What are my obligations at that point. I do believe him. I have tried to
talk him out of it. I know his wife wants to maintain the marriage and
that she would dress up and talk to him the way he wants IF he
communicated with her. Why isnt the midrash story applicable in this
case. Why arent the Aaronite Priesthood standards operant in this case?
Lawsuits? Fine with me. Dont do it if you live in 20th century America
but at least be honest enough to admit that it is a deficiency in the

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

From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 16:36:57 +0300
Subject: Re: Confidentiality of Therapists

>Civil law limits professional confidentiality. In the USA a therapist is
>required to report child abuse to authorities when a client reveals
>it. Even admitting to spanking one's children will force a therapist by
>law (and liability) to ask pointed and uncomfortable questions of
>parents. A minor child who reports that she is pregnant by an adult must
>be reported.

[I recently had a post on MAIL-JEWISH dealing with the halachic aspects
of corporal punishment. Note the last line.]

While classical Jewish sources permit chastising one's child (Midrash
Rabba Shemot) there were severe limits (MEIRI Bava Batra 21a) such as
only using a very light strap and hitting very gently, not hitting one's
child in the month of Tamuz. The RITVA (Moed Kattan 17a) recommended
that a parent verbally reprimand rather than hit. The Shulchan Aruch
YOREH DEAH (Hilchot Melamdim) Siman 245:10 delineates the permitted
parameters of a teacher giving corporal punishment to a pupil. A teacher
who physically abuses a pupil can be dismissed (the MEIRI in Bava Batra
21a calls this abuse a "peshia" [major offense]. See also the Pitchei
Tshuva YD 245 #4. The Nishmat Avraham CHOSHEN MISHPAT 424 # 2 brings
down the opinion of Harav Rabinovitz (Sefer Halacha u'Refuah I 336) that
a parent (and teacher) who hits out of anger not for "educational"
purposes, or has severely hit his child even for the sake of *chinuch*
(education) has carried out an *aveira* (sin). One is halachically
required to report the abusive parent (teacher) to the police.

Josh Backon


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 19:08:00 -0400
Subject: RE: Fixable Halach - Solution to Agunoth

Hi I heard Rochel Levmore in Baltimore during the adult education month
here. Rochel is doing her doctoral thesis in Israel and specializing in
the Agunoth situation. She is also a certified Toeneth.

Rochel explained the agunah situation. Here remarks shed light and agree
with the opinions in several postings that "halachic problems can be
fixed." I think that part of our faith and world view is not only
acceptance of halachah but the belief that the halachic system can
successfully (within the bounds it has on it nevertheless) solve all

Rochel first explained where the problem came from. By way of background
I should add something that Rachel herself did not say.It comes from an
essay from one of the Breuers on the legal concept that the man must
GIVE the divorce while the woman RECEIVES it. Breuer points out that
this requirement is PROCEDURAL not SUBSTANTIVE. That is, the purpose of
the law is not to give the man power of the woman but rather to place
responsibility on completing the get procedure. The proof of this is
that in the old days Jewish courts were empowered to force a person to
give a get if they refused. It is an interesting essay and I have
forgotten where I found it (Perhaps someone knows the source) But
Breuer's essay contradicts one recent posting that "A simple reading of
the Biblical divorce text shows that the man has the power and the woman
is helpless."  That is simply not true.

Rochel pointed out that the Mishnah in Gittin lists 4 classes of people
where the woman has the right to force a get and receive full Ketubah
(Separation payments). The most blatant example is someone who works in
(I think copper) mines making them unlivable because of the strong odors
they retain.

So a halachic basis for forcing men to give gets exists. Rochel pointed
out that the forced get of a Jewish court is valid; of a non-Jewish
court is invalid.

The problem comes from the list of 4 cases in the Mishnah. Are these 4
examples of a more general principle "If a woman cant live with someone
she is entitled to a divorce" or are these the ONLY 4 cases. So for
example, if a husband was verbally/physically abusive - does she have a
right to a divorce? Abuse is not listed in the mishnah though clearly it
is on a par (of offensiveness) with miners.

Rochel explained that some Rishonim were unwilling to EXTEND the 4
examples to obviously similar cases because of the seriousness of
divorce laws and the possibility of illegitimacy. Since some Rishonim
were unwilling to extend the mishnah the Code of Jewish law refused to
override them and that is why we are stuck where we are today.

However Rochel explained that the "prenuptial" agreement is a very
simple way to effect divorce when needed. She said it is becoming more
widespread. Rochel indicated that some of the orthodox groups have
mandated its use as a requirement of membership. She cited stats on how
prevalant it is (The basic idea is that the prenuptial agreement binds
you to pay a large some of separation money unless the husband agrees to
give a valid Get...here the civil obligation to pay money is enforcable
so the get is not considered forced)

As long as I am on the subject of Agunoth I should point out that Rochel
dealt with one part of agunoth--husband refusal. Another part (e.g. from
9-11 type strategies) was discussed in another Baltimore lecture---Rabbi
Shwartz, Head of the Rabbinical Court of Chicago spoke to us about this
several years ago and showed how certain modern technologies like DNA
are enabling many women to remarry.

I have posted this now because I hear a very negative tone--as if
halachah is totally helpless. I think the proper healthy perspective is
that the problem is with the people not with the law. There is nothing
the matter with Jewish law. As to people, Shoshana's story of an actual
court scene is scary enough to show what people are capable of

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d.;A.S.A.; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


End of Volume 55 Issue 5