Volume 55 Number 22
                    Produced: Mon Jul 30  5:44:19 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Agunah Statistics
         [Russell J Hendel]
ATID Online Yeshiva
         [Jeffrey Saks]
Comparative Jurisprudence
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Finances and Judaism
"Whose Fault" is the Aguna Problem?
         [Leah S. Gordon]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2007 13:12:32 -0400
Subject: Agunah Statistics

Again, Aliza should be thanked for her insightful comments on Agunah
statistics. Aliza pointed out she "has a Ph.d in applied statitsics."
Rather amusingly I disagree with the implications of this (The
implications being that you need a ph.d to know how statistics are
manipulated or how surveys are done).

I have a Ph.d in theoretical mathematical and as Associateship in
Actuarial science (Which deals with mortality statistics). However my
real claim to fame is that I teach introductory statistics courses.
**All** the latest books have sections on **survey techniques** and
misrepresentation of statistics. In other words it used to be (Several
years ago) that you took an intro course, learned all the exotic theory
and only later learned the different data types and survey techniques.
Today the books have shaped up to the fact that students must be exposed
to this early.

I reiterate a position which I offered a few postings ago (Which
paradoxically no one commented on). The "proper" way to do this is to
start at the beginning: The following questions must be asked to
meaningfully discuss agunah statistics: a) How many marital partners
have seriously wanted a divorce at some point in their marriage for at
least 30 days b) How many currently have wanted a divorce for at least
30 days c) Of these how many have gone to a Rav, Lawyer d) Of these d1)
how many were amicably settled (This is important) d2) how many went on
to court and d3) how many died without further action.

We can then ask other questions. The issue of child support would be a
question about court outcomes e.g. e) Was a divorce e1) denied e2)
unconditonally granted e3) Granted but with monetary consequences.

Needless to say all the above would have to be done for both orthodox,
consevative reform and non-jewish (After all if Jewish "agunahs" are
statistically equivalent to non-Jewish "agunahs" we (that is the Jewish
halacha) does not have a problem indigenous to halacha (We rather share
a problem with the rest of the legal community which we have not

Other questions should also be asked. How many of these couples had
prenuptial agreements and how effective have the prenuptial agreements
been in diminishing the above.

The above can all be asked by a person with an introductory course. IF
additionally I had a Ph.d. I would know the details about constructing a
survey defining significance levels acceptable to the community
indicating a sample size and going into the details of how to implement
the survey.

Dont get me wrong.  I have no problem pointing fingers. But in this day
and age fingers have to be backed by numbers.

Hope the above helps

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


From: Jeffrey Saks <atid@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2007 18:30:04 +0300
Subject: ATID Online Yeshiva

Rabbi Chaim Brovender and ATID to Launch the Internet's First Fully
Interactive Yeshiva

Rabbi Brovender is "one of the most influential rabbis in contemporary Torah
-- The Jerusalem Post (July 6, 2007)

Rabbi Chaim Brovender's newest enterprise is a Web-Yeshiva -- a
revolutionary and comprehensive online learning experience for men and
women of all ages who seek to make a serious commitment to Torah study
(even if they must combine it at flexible hours with work or university
courses). The Yeshiva will be structured around live, fully interactive
video shiurim for a variety of levels, from advanced students to those
that wish to "learn how to learn" according to the famed "Brovender
Method". University students, Yeshiva graduates, businesspeople before
or after work, retirees, at-home moms, and all lovers of Torah will meet
in cyberspace to learn from an impressive array of teachers and rabbis
from Israel and throughout the Jewish world.

The Yeshiva will be fully interactive, and will "virtually" duplicate a
physical Yeshiva or Midrasha, with havruta learning, discussions with
rabbis and teachers, 24-hour tutoring available, and social interaction
as vital parts of this experience. A variety of shiurim will be held at
various times throughout the day and at various levels to accommodate
students in time-zones throughout the world.

The launch will occur in October 2007 (after Sukkot), with separate
programs for men and women, offering shiurim in English on Gemara,
Tanakh, Jewish Thought, and Halakhah. At a later stage we will offer
classes in Hebrew and Russian, and launch a division geared especially
for Jewish high school students in partnership with Diaspora Day

How can you help? Please sign up here for the Yeshiva's Facebook page at
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2723141479&ref=nf (free
registration required), to join the discussion and impact on the design
and offering of the Web Yeshiva. Feel free to contact the Yeshiva's
director, Rabbi Yedidya Rausman (<rausman@...>), with your ideas and

In the meantime, Rabbi Brovender's weekly Parsha Shiur is Podcasting
here: http://www.atid.org/shiur/. Sign up to receive the source sheets
in advance and listen to the shiurim online (uploaded around 4:00 PM
Eastern Time on Thursdays). Also, in cooperation with the Jerusalem
Post, Rabbi Brovender is answering questions on Jewish life and law
online here:

"Technology just provides an opportunity to teach people you would
otherwise not be able to teach. It's not about proving something through
technology.  I'm just trying to find a way to teach students who might
not otherwise have an opportunity to learn."
-- Rabbi Chaim Brovender

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks
Director, ATID - Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions
9 HaNassi Street, Jerusalem 92188 Israel
Tel. 02.567.1719 | Cell 052.321.4884 | Fax 02.567.1723
Email <atid@...> | www.atid.org


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2007 13:54:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Comparative Jurisprudence

While I do not disagree with everything Jay Schachter says, I do disagree
with his basic thrust, that purely on neutral, intellectual principles,
halacha is somehow superior to American law.  I address what appear to be
his principal points:

(1) The case of Korematsu v. United States, approving of the internment
of Japanese-Americans during WWII, refutes the "notion that the United
States government . . .  is controlled by laws and by its Constitution".
The Korematsu decision is based on the government's war powers, and what
the Court said was "Compulsory exclusion of large groups of citizens
from their homes, except under circumstances of direst emergency and
peril, is inconsistent with our basic governmental institutions. But
when under conditions of modern warfare our shores are threatened by
hostile forces, the power to protect must be commensurate with the
threatened danger."  This was wartime, and the Court was hardly
abrogating the laws and constitution; it was limiting them for a
minority to save them for a majority.  In essence, it was simply trying
to square the laws with what it saw as reality.  Also, these laws confer
rights, but rights may conflict.  In this case, the rights of the
majority to be safe and secure in their homes appeared to conflict with
the similar rights of a suspect minority.  One can disagree with the
conclusion in this case, and indeed most people today would say, in
hindsight, that the Court decided wrongly.  But would these people have
felt the same way if, immediately post-911, the government had decided
to detain everyone in this country, citizen or not, from Saudi Arabia
and Yemen?  To put it another way, the Court may have been wrong, but
its decision was not indefensible.  Note, lehavdil, the principle of
"vechai bahem - velo sheyamut bahem", i.e., with only three exceptions,
even Torah laws are abrogated in the face of a threat to human life.

Now, I'm not entirely convinced that the U.S. government - the executive
branch, not the legislative branch--would in practice be controlled by
the laws if it was really determined to ignore them.  For example, what
would happen if the president unilaterally declared that there would be
no elections in 2008 and continued to exercise his powers, and proceeded
to ignore a declaratory judgment of the Supreme Court that this was
illegal (assuming someone had legal standing to bring such a case)?  But
that would not be the result of judicial overreaching or fecklessness:
it would be the consequence of the fact that legal niceties can be
overridden by sheer power.  And it too has an analogy in halacha.  For
example, some time ago I described my recurring nightmare of the guy who
walks in off the street on Yom Kippur and demands to be the sheliach
tzibbur because he is a "chiyuv".  Several people asserted that this
could not happen because a person is a "chiyuv" only if he regularly
davens in the shul, and that in any event the gabbai (that's me) has the
overriding right to decide to davens.  Well, a couple of years ago
someone who the rav knew walked in on Shabbat, said "I'm a chiyuv", and
the rav let him daven musaf for that reason, my objection
notwithstanding.  The rav may be wrong as a matter of halacha and I may
be the gabbai and right, but I have no power to overrule him.

(2) That the Commerce Clause, among other parts of the constitution, is
interpreted in so open-ended a fashion that "The United States federal
government can do anything, except for a few acts that are forbidden to
it by the Bill of Rights", and that no rationale person thinks that it
cannot.  That may have been true decades ago,, but it isn't any more.
Jay cites Justice Thomas's dissent in Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, a
case upholding under the Commerce Clause the federal government's ban on
marijuana for medical purposes despite a California law permitting it.
But that dissent itself cites U.S. v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, which held
that Gun-Free School Zones Act, making it federal offense for any
individual knowingly to possess firearm at place that individual knows
or has reasonable cause to believe is school zone, exceeded Congress'
commerce clause authority.  Jay also claims that nothing in the
constitution authorizes congress to enact minimum wage laws.  Actually,
there is a case, U.S. v. Darby, 312 U.S. 100, upholding this legislation
under the Commerce Clause.  But then a subsequent case, National League
of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833, invalidated the extension of these
laws to state and municipal employees because the Commerce Clause did
not override state sovereignty.  So the Commerce Clause isn't open-ended
and the powers of Congress to legislate are limited.  Note also that,
lehavdil, by Jay's reasoning, nothing in the Torah authorizes chazal to
make the rules that form the vast bulk of our halacha.

(3) That secular judicial lawmaking is intellectually dishonest because
judges pervert the law to get the result they want while halachic
exegesis is intellectually honest because Chazal don't do that.  While I
never have had much patience for constitutional analysis, the lineup of
judges in Gonzales v. Raich, which Jay cites, disproves the first point.
With one exception, Justice Scalia, the judges supporting the marijuana
ban were the Court's liberals, and those opposing it were the Court's
conservatives.  If the judges had been voting based on their gut
feelings of the "right" result as opposed to their consistent legal
analysis, one would have expected the opposite result.  And in tax law,
with which I'm much more familar, it is not unusual for courts to say,
in essence, "I don't like this result, but it is what the law says"
whether the result benefits the government or the taxpayer.  As for
halachic exegesis, Jay's thesis is refuted by the frequent derivation of
rules through "asmachta" - we have a result, and find a biblical verse
to pin it on.

Orrin Tilevitz
Brooklyn, NY


From: Anonymous
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2007 06:36:03
Subject: Finances and Judaism

Regarding recent discussions of shul memberships, I think that is just
icing on the cake.

We are currently in an awkward financial situation.  With two kids in
dayschool, and babysitting for the third so we can both work, we will
spend upwards of $50,000 after-tax on education/care for the kids during
the next academic year.  We are both middle-class, white-collar,
educated professionals.  We make good salaries, in an urban area.  But
the numbers just won't add up.

It gets more complicated.  We currently live in a small (less than 1000
sf, 2 bedroom) house, with only a shared driveway for outside space.  We
have never gotten permission to build a sukkah, and only one set of
dishes fits in our kitchen (the other is in boxes).  We are about 2
miles from shul, inside the eruv.  This house cost us about $300,000
(which is an insane amount of money for a small/non-ideal house, in many
parts of the country).

If we moved out of walking distance from shul, we could afford a big
enough house and afford day school tuition.  If we put the kids in
public school, we could afford to live walking distance from shul.  If
we did either of these, we could afford to have more children, which we
would love, seeing as how we are Thank God young and healthy and believe
in making more little mensches.  :) We have considered making aliyah,
but neither of our jobs is easily portable, and we also have family
obligations in the U.S.

As things stand now, we have chosen to stay in our little house, and not
drive to shul, and keep the kids in day school.  But I wonder - how do
most people manage it?


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2007 05:48:14 -0700
Subject: "Whose Fault" is the Aguna Problem?

Chana Luntz wrote, in part:

>But if you believe the Torah is divinely given, then, it seems to me to
>follow, there is no more point railing at the rabbis for failing to
>find a solution for a divinely engineered problem, than for railing at
>them (or scientists for that matter) for failing to find a cure for

With all due respect to Chana, whose brilliant and erudite posts always
lead to much greater understanding of these issues, I do disagree with
her in this case.

The issue isn't as simple as 'God said so; what can we do?'....

In our religious tradition, there are all kinds of things that are
written directly in the Torah, that the Rabbis have interpreted and
interpreted until the effective law/practice is not at all the same as
the surface/literal meaning.

The point here is that in the aguna case, the Rabbis didn't feel any big
moral compulsion to do that kind of back-breaking interpretation, and a
lot of us feel that such a lack speaks volumes about their lack of
empathy and respect for women.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


End of Volume 55 Issue 22