Volume 57 Number 60 
      Produced: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 02:18:51 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Spousal Abuse (3)
    [Russell J Hendel  Joseph Kaplan  Rabbi Meir Wise]
Spousal Abuse and Peshat 
    [David Roth]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Spousal Abuse

There have been many good postings on spousal abuse. More generally there is
also much good discussion on Agunim and Agunoth.

I would like to change the direction of the thread by discussing PREVENTION vs.
PRAYER/CORRECTION. Traditionally in Jewish law, LEARNING goes along with PRAYER
as a means of serving God. PRAYER is a means for requesting Divine help in
impossible situations. LEARNING is a means of PREVENTING and CURING these
impossible situations. American law is experiencing a similar dichotomy now: For
example the original Medicare law (1965)  allowed payments for medical
procedures. Over the past 40 years there has been a realization that Medicare
SHOULD pay for PREVENTIVE as well as MEDICAL procedures. For example Medicare
now pays for initial physical exams (even though the exams do not treat any
medical conditions). Similarly Medicare pays for smoking cessation even though
the act of smoking is itself not a disease. The point here is that Medicare is
paying for PREVENTION as well as for DIRECT MEDICAL needs. Here again, in
American law, we see the LEARNING-PRAYING distinction in a different
disguise.....MEDICAL CURE like PRAYER is a response to an impossible situation
that you are ALREADY  in  while LEARNING like PREVENTION is an attempt to stop
impossible situtions BEFORE they occur.

So: I am all for writing pre-nuptial agreements to prevent agunoth. I am also
for prayer to save victims of spousal abuse.

But how about prevention and learning. Can we (mail jewish) formulate a few
basic principles that would help ameliorate some of the suffering that goes on?
I think that would be equally useful and would complement the prayers. 

I know mail jewish has in its distinguished membership many Rabbis,
psychologists, counselors, mother-in-laws etc. I am sure they see recurring
themes. I am sure they see things that may be obvious to some of us but may be
unknown to others.  Can we come up with some principles which would help the
development of some of these unfortunate situations. I think it would be very
useful to steer the thread that way.

Let me start this new direction by mentioning the worse enemy of Judaism, Leshon
Hara (Bad talk) including gossip,slander and malignment. Without exception all
of the (horror) stories told thus far on mail jewish strongly and intrinsically
involve Leshon Harah. This raises interesting issues.....you are at a social
gathering and hear some mild "attacks" What IS your  obligation. Should you just
sit silently. Should you counter-respond. If so how.

I look forward to some inisightful comments.
Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA http://www.Rashiyomi.com/

From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Spousal Abuse

Quite frankly, I don't find Rabbi Wise's tales of woe so terrible and I have
little sympathy for either R. Kotler or R. Wise's  great uncle.  Their wives
didn't want to be married to them.  That's sad, and it's especially sad if the
husband still wants to be married.  But guess what, we're adults and there comes
a time when an intelligent person realizes a marriage is over.  Good reason, bad
reason, it's over. And once that time comes, not agreeing to a get is simply
spite -- "I can't have you so no one else can."  Not someone I would consider a
"zaddik" or a "gentle tormented soul."  To the contrary.  I'm sorry the great
aunt didn't get the get; I'm not sorry the great uncle sat in jail.  I only wish
the rabbis had the power to do more than throw him in jail.   

And as for R. Kotler, my interpretation of the story is that he got a heter
me'ah rabbanim and was thus able to remarry.  So he, unlike women in that
situation (and there are, indeed, women in that situation), was able to get
married again and have children.  Women have to sit alone, watching their
fertile years go by, with the ability to have children (or more children if they
were already blessed with some) and a loving relationship gone because some man
has the power to to deprive her of those things. And men are in a worse
position?  Give women a chance to get remarried again and then maybe, just
maybe, there would be something to talk about.

I'm not a rabbi and I don't know when a beit din can order a man to give a get.
 But I'm a human being with a basic moral sense and can have an opinion (which I
do) that the refusal to give the get in the one story where there was such a
refusal was an act that doesn't bring glory to the person committing the act or
the legal system that allows him to do it.  The secular press had a field day? 
Well, for once they were right.

Joseph Kaplan

From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Spousal Abuse

There is little to add to reb Elazar teitz's excellent contribution  
concerning the Israeli rabbinates persual of recalcitrant husbands.

Again,  a personal reminiscance. I was the director of the office of  
the rabbinate in the west end of London, uk some years ago. Chief  
Rabbi Simcha Hakohen Kook of Rechovot, a sweet modest saintly learned  
zaddik (despite his chareidi appearance) entered my office and asked  
if he could use my phone to make a call to America. I replied that I  
would be honoured, gave him my chair and phone and went out for a break.
On my return I found a beautiful hand written note thanking me and  
enclosing a ten pound note with the hope that it would cover the call  
and with his mobile number in case it did not!
This was five times the cost of the call and it was the only time that  
anyone chareidi or otherwise had paid to use the synagogue office phone!

You want to know why Rav Simche needed to call America so urgently  
between shacharit and a world wind tour of lectures, meeting and  
He was pursuing (with a chareidi detective) a husband who had fled  
israel without giving a get. He was having sleepless nights over the  
case and at 3am that morning had discovered where the man was and  
needed to speak to the detective urgently!

Keep warm
Rabbi Meir Wise ( still touring the Holy Land)


From: David Roth <droth@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Spousal Abuse and Peshat

There seems to be some controversy about the Baal haTurim's
interpretation of Breishit 3:12 and whether it reflects peshat.

Before I begin, I should note that I agree with Leah Gordon's (I trust
she will forgive my use of her given name from this point forward)
articulate statements regarding spousal abuse.  This is not to say
that we should ignore spousal abuse of men; we should ignore no
injustice or abuse.  Nevertheless, I agree with Leah that regardless
of its merits, the Baal haTurim's interpretation of this verse "is not
really meaningful in setting the parameters for discussing the facts
of spousal abuse today," and I hope that my discussion of this
interpretation will not distract from this point.   In the spirit of
le-hagdil Torah ul-ha'adirah, however, I would like to explore the
meaning of this verse, and I hope readers will forgive the length of
this post.

Rabbi Wise responded to Leah:
> I'm sorry that Ms Gordon does think that the Baal Haturim is not "a
> universally established commentary" on the Torah! Maybe she can
> explain why it appears in either the full or shorter versions of the
> mikraot gedolot.

Leah wrote that the Baal haTurim's commentary was not
"universally-established."  I asked, and she confirmed that she was
referring to this particular comment.  I think she was therefore
justified in claiming that this comment was not
universally-established; I see no similar comment among the
interpreters in Mikraot Gedolot.

Rabbi Wise took issue with Leah, understanding her to mean that the
Baal haTurim is in general not "even a universally-established

It seems to me that Leah's use of the word "commentary," which could
mean either a particular comment (as I understood it) or the entire
work of commentary (as Rabbi Wise understood it) may have been a bit
unclear, but now that Leah has clarified matters, I think we can now
all agree that the author of this commentary, Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher
(= the Rosh), is universally respected, though of course this does not
imply that each of his comments is universally accepted.  There is
hardly a page in Mikraot Gedolot where one universally-respected
commentator does not disagree vehemently with another
universally-respected commentator.

As for peshat, I agree with Leah that the peshat refers to fruit (for
reasons which I will explain in due course).  I hope that I am not
alone in thinking that one may quite justifiably challenge anyone's
claim to present peshat, even that of a scholar as illustrious as
Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher.

This does not preclude some type of homiletic interpretation
explaining how Adam could possibly have disobeyed the Divine command.
One might ask, "Havah was tricked, but what was his excuse?"  The Baal
haTurim's comment may be an attempt to answer this (or a similar)
question.  Furthermore, even if Adam meant to say that he had been
beaten, who says he was telling the truth?  At best, we would know
that he said this as he made his excuse.  Regardless of what Adam
meant to imply, in verse 17, God says "because you listened to the
voice of your wife," without any mention of a beating.

Now, to return to the fruit (Please forgive the overly literal and
not-always grammatical translations).  If one considers the use of the
word "eitz" in this section of Breishit, and especially the three
occurrences of the phrase "min ha-eitz," it becomes clear that the
peshat refers to eating fruit from the tree.

In Breishit 2:16-17, God says, "you may eat from every tree of the
garden (mi-kol eitz haGan) but from the tree (u-mei-eitz) of knowledge
of good and evil you may not eat from it (mimenu)." In verse 3:1, the
serpent cunningly asks whether God said, "you may not eat from any
tree of the garden (mi-kol eitz haGan)," and in verses 2-3, Havah
answered him, "we may eat from the fruit of the tree(s) of the garden
(mi-pri eitz haGan), but from the fruit of the tree (u-mi-pri ha-eitz)
which is in the center of the garden, God said 'do not eat from it
(mimenu) and do not touch it lest you die.'"  In verse 6, she saw that
the tree was good to eat (tov ha-eitz lema'akhal), and she took from
its fruit (va-tikah mi-piryo) and she ate and she also gave to her
husband with her and he ate. (Incidentally, these are the only uses of
the word "pri" in this section of Breishit.)  Now, let us jump to
God's interrogation of the guilty couple.  In verse 11, God asks, "did
you eat from the tree (ha-min ha-eitz) which I commanded you not to
eat from it?"  In verse 12, Adam responds, "she gave to me from the
tree (min ha-eitz) and I ate."  Finally, in verse 17, God begins his
statement to Adam, "because you listened to the voice of your wife (=
obeyed) and you ate from the tree (min ha-eitz) ..."

I believe it is quite clear that the simple understanding of "min
ha-eitz" in all of these verses is that it refers to the fruit of the
tree.  This understanding does not seem to be challenged by most
commentators, and we are left with the Baal haTurim's perplexing claim
that the peshat of "natenah li min ha-eitz" means "she gave me [a
beating with wood] from the tree."  I don't believe that the argument
that "it should have said the fruit" (rather than "from the tree") is
persuasive in the face of the two other verses using the same phrase
(min ha-eitz) and the usage of the word eitz throughout.  The original
prohibition from God was in terms of eating "from the tree," and
therefore God's question and Adam's response use the same phrasing,
emphasizing the disobedience involved.  If anything, using the term
"pri" would have raised questions.

As I mentioned above, this could be a homiletical explanation for
Adam's transgression, but I find the claim that it is peshat to be
incompatible with the way that I, and I believe many interpreters,
understand the term peshat.

Luckily, I am not alone.  If one refers to Hamaor Vol. 54 No. 2
(http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=28120&pgnum=19), one
will find Rabbi Mordechai Shemuel Yonatan Berkovitch's discussion of
the Baal haTurim's interpretation of this verse.  I translate loosely:
"The words [this comment] of our rabbi [the Baal haTurim] are very
surprising (tamu'ah me'od), and many have struggled with it.  Rabbi
Reinitz in his publication here brings in the name of R. Emanuel
haRomi that it is a mitzvah to erase it, for scoffers inserted it into
the words of our rabbi, but he [R. Reinitz] writes that because he
checked all the manuscripts, and in all of them this comment is
brought, he therefore left them [the words of the comment] - even
though the wording of our rabbi when he wrote here 'according to the
peshat' is very surprising ..." R. Berkovitch then goes on to
elaborate on the difficulties with this comment before then providing
evidence for a source for the comment and his explanation for why he
now believes it to be correct.  R. Berkovitch succeeds in showing how
this interpretation can be based in the words of the Torah (as is all
midrash), but I (based on what I presented above) cannot accept it as

In terms of the wider discussion on mail-jewish, I wonder whether
arguments against this prayer should be made at all.  Let those who
wish pray, and let haKadosh Barukh Hu decide whether these prayers are
worthy of attention.

Kol Tuv,
David Roth


End of Volume 57 Issue 60