Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tamar Epstein: Conjecture on how Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Aharon Friedman was not fit to be a husband?

Tamar Epstein has gotten remarried without a Get - the question is how? I would like to offer some conjecture on the matter since Rabbi Greenblatt has refused to explain the matter -  as has Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky and Rabbi Shalom Kaminetsky. I repeat that this is conjecture - and I welcome evidence that either supports or refutes it.

It is clearly on the basis of unknown rabbis paskening  - kiddushei ta'us - that her marriage to Aharon Friedman was viewed by them as a mistake and thus had no validity and she was therefore not an eishis ish. The question is on what basis did they determine this. The gemora does not provide such a solution nor does Shulchan Aruch. 

In recent years some rabbis have claimed to rely on the psak of Rav Moshe Feinstein to declare marriages to be non-existent. The most notorious of these rabbis was Rabbi Rackman - whose beis din and heterim were widely despised and discredited. As Rabbi Bleich wrote in his critique, according to Rabbi Rackman the mere fact that a husband refused to give a get was a sign that he was a cruel person and if the wife had known he was so cruel she would never have married him. Thus the marriage is a mistake. Thus any marriage where the husband refuses to give a Get is considered a mistake and there is no need for a get!

In general Reb Moshe requires the establishment of 3 factors. 1) The husband has a serious condition that preexisted the marriage that the wife did not know about- such as homosexuality or schizophrenia. 2) The condition has to be so severe that most women would not be able to deal with it 3) As soon as the wife discovered this condition she left her husband. 

Obvious number 3 is the most easy to establish. Did Tamar Epstein leave her husband upon finding that he had an impossible condition? For the sake of argument let us assume that at some point a rabbi or psychologist or friend or family member told her that he was never going to be capable of being the person she wanted. Upon hearing this she left him. That should be sufficient to fulfill this condition. She clearly did leave him - though it has not been established that that was the motivating factor. But let's assume it was fulfilled.

The difficult problem is establishing condition 1 and 2. We do have a list from Tamar about the good and bad points that she saw in her husband [Tamar's diary entry]. None of them fit the description of an impossible condition - not even the claim that her parents didn't like him. At most they can be described as disappointment that while he was a good man he was not as good as she had hoped and that she thought she could do better. Clearly implying that if she didn't think she had a choice she could have learned to live with him - and been happy. She obviously was getting feedback from her parents and others that she was still young and she could find someone better to spend the rest of her life with.

It thus seems clear that awareness of this impossible condition did not come spontaneously from Tamar - but it is something that an outside source must have told her. Otherwise she would have left him sooner. I was told by Aharon that he and his wife went to two different therapists. Were they the cause? One clearly stated that he thought the marriage could be saved. Perhaps the second therapist thought it couldn't.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the second therapist told Tamar that he thought that Aharon had a personality disorder or mental health issue that he didn't think was amenable to change or that the change would not be great enough to make him the man she wanted. Is that enough? The answer is clearly no unless it was very severe - such as bipolar or schizophrenia - that was not amenable to psychotherapy or drugs. It is important to note that Tamar never mentioned such psychopathology in her complaints about Aharon. It was primarily that he was shy and introverted.  Thus if he in fact had such a severe diagnosis - it was not likely that it prexisted the marriage and not likely that it preexisted the visit to this therapist.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that one therapist did in fact tell Tamar privately that he thought Aharon was suffering from an incurable and unpleasant mental health condition. Is that enough according to Reb Moshe Feinstein to declare the marriage a mistake? The answer is no - because there are many married couples in which one of the spouses has such a diagnosis - and they remain married. It has to be determined that most women would not be able to put up with such a condition - and from Tamar's own description of Aharon - that is clearly not true.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that she did accept the diagnosis of the therapist and changed her perception of her husband and that henceforth she decided she could not live with him and in fact left. Is that enough to invalidate the marriage? The answer again is no. She would need to convince a beis din that in fact that is why she left and they would have to agree with her.

It is clear from the Baltimore Beis Din - which is the only beis din to be authorized to deal with the case - that Aharaon manifested no such condition in their extensive and intensive dealings with him and his wife. So such a psak obviously did not come from them. 

So who issued such a psak. It clearly wasn't Rabbi Greenblatt who never spoke with Aharon because he says he relied on gedolim that Tamar was not married. So who is the source for paskening that Aharon was not marriageable? It most have been Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Sholom Kaminetsky. But considering their considerable bias (because her father was a major supporter of the yeshiva as well as its doctor) in favor of Tamar getting a divorce - it would be rather unethical - though not against halacha - for them to issue such a statement.
It is reasonable that they tried being fair and consulted with therapists regarding the matter. But such therapists never spoke with Aharon and needed to rely entirely on the views of Tamar and the one therapist who had dealt with Aharon as well as the Kaminetskys. It is highly likely that such therapists were close with the Philly Yeshiva and wanted to please the Kaminetsky's. It is also quite possible that the therapists were friends of the Epstein family. 

Thus it is highly unlikely that that an unbiased professional with full knowledge of the the situation actually declared Aharon to be unmarriageable and that such a condition preexisted his marriage to Tamar. Without an unbiased authority - such an opinion in worthless. Finding a single therapist or therapists to make such a ruling is also worthless unless it can be established that most therapists would agree - something which is highly unlikely. In addition having spent significant time talking with Aharon as well as having many email exchanges - I as a psychologist do not see any evidence of a mental health problem that would preclude being a good husband.

To summarize. My conjecture - and that is all it is at this point - is that  Rabbi Greenblatt decided that Tamar could remarry based on  the psak of the Kaminetskys which was serverely biased because they were looking for a way to free Tamar from marriage. They have functioned from the beginning as her advocates and thus should not also serve as poskim. The psak was clearly not an objective evaluation of the full range of opinions of professionals in this matter but was a target drawn around the arrow after it had been shot. It is also not clear that whatever the blemish that they claim Aharon suffers from - is something that most women could not live with. It is also clear that Tamar would have been able to live with it - if her parents and friends had encouraged her to stay in the marriage - rather than to try for something better. In short - Tamar has no valid basis for viewing her marriage to Aharon as a mistake - and she is committing adultery in her second marriage.

Gevald!!! The sounds of silence after Gedolim approve the marriage of an eishes ish.

Disclaimer: I am willing to publicize any reasoned defense of the rabbonim and couple involved as well as any reasoned condemnation.

Update - My brother spoke a 2nd time with Rabbi Greenblatt - but he still refuses to divulge the names of the gedolim that he relied on in order to officiate at the 2nd marriage of Tamar Epstein - even though she has not been divorced from Aharon Friedman. 

This is very unfortunate as it seriously undermines the credibility of these rabbis who have been supporting her as well as the perceived competence of Rabbi Greenblatt.

Update    Background information

 marriage licenses issued in Memphis
         Adam P. Fleischer, 38; Tamar E. Epstein, 32.

For the last few years we have covered a number of unpleasant divorce cases. Cases where public relations have been used to compensate for the lack of halachic justification. Cases where respected gedolim have either chosen to ignore halacha or were unfortunately pressured to take a stance which not only has not halachic justification - but was clearly wrong according to the Shulchan Aruch.

Concerning one of the more notorious cases -that of Tamar Epstein - her rabbinic advisers claimed after 4 years of trying to pressure her husband to giver her a Get - with the aid of ORA and various rabbonim who had no jurisdiction in the case - that in fact there was no need for a Get. They claimed that the marriage was retroactively annulled because she and her family found that he was a bit socially awkward. Despite the fact that she had nice things to say about him she had decided that she could do better. 

After her husband Aharon Friedman refused to give a Get until more equitable custody arrangements were made - it was decided to get the young lady out of the marriage without a Get. The only possible justification that I can think of that they could rationalize is to rely on modern psychology. There are some who claim that it is enough to fit a diagnostic category in the DSM-V to be declared incapable of concluding a halachically valid marriage. However this is far from being an objective proof and in fact such a diagnosis by itself has no halachic significance. Anyone familiar with the DSM-V knows that it doesn't fit the requirements set down by Rav Moshe Feinstein. Nonetheless it has been confirmed that she has in fact remarried without a Get.

From  Wikipedia
While the DSM has been praised for standardizing psychiatric diagnostic categories and criteria, it has also generated controversy and criticism. Critics, including the National Institute of Mental Health, argue that the DSM represents an unscientific and subjective system.[1] There are ongoing issues concerning the validity and reliability of the diagnostic categories; the reliance on superficial symptoms; the use of artificial dividing lines between categories and from "normality"; possible cultural bias; and medicalization of human distress.[2][3][4][5][6] The publication of the DSM, with tightly guarded copyrights, now makes APA over $5 million a year, historically totaling over $100 million.[7]

From  Wikipedia
Despite caveats in the introduction to the DSM, it has long been argued that its system of classification makes unjustified categorical distinctions between disorders and uses arbitrary cut-offs between normal and abnormal. A 2009 psychiatric review noted that attempts to demonstrate natural boundaries between related DSM syndromes, or between a common DSM syndrome and normality, have failed.[3] Some argue that rather than a categorical approach, a fully dimensional, spectrum or complaint-oriented approach would better reflect the evidence.[65][66][67][68]
In addition, it is argued that the current approach based on exceeding a threshold of symptoms does not adequately take into account the context in which a person is living, and to what extent there is internal disorder of an individual versus a psychological response to adverse situations.[69][70] The DSM does include a step ("Axis IV") for outlining "Psychosocial and environmental factors contributing to the disorder" once someone is diagnosed with that particular disorder.
 Because an individual's degree of impairment is often not correlated with symptom counts and can stem from various individual and social factors, the DSM's standard of distress or disability can often produce false positives.[71] On the other hand, individuals who do not meet symptom counts may nevertheless experience comparable distress or disability in their life.
So what does a woman do when one of the gedolim tells her that she has no need for a Get? What does that woman do when her rabbis say to trust them and get remarried without a Get? What does a man do when faced with the reality that he will be declared to be in an adulterous relationship as the result of the marriage? Is is an indication of great emunas chachomim to in fact remarry without a Get and face the reality that any children will be considered mamzerim? or is it stupidity?

A tree fell recently in Memphis - and there was no sound - because the rabbis don't want to hear about it. 
My brother Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn just wrote the following:

Today Thursday Chol HaMoed Succos I received a call that Rabbi Notto Greenblatt  of Memphis married Tamar Epstein to somebody although she had no GET from Aharon Friedman her  husband.  I called Rabbi Greenblatt and he said that he had performed the ceremony. When I told him that great rabbis forbad the remarriage without a GET he replied that Gedolim had permitted her to remarry. He told me that if Rabbi Elyashev zt”l would disagree it would not change his mind, and that the rabbis who disagree with his “Gedolim” just have chutzpah. He asked me what a person like me has to do with this that I disagree with him. I told him that  the Gaon Rab Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l gave me a semicha to have a Beth Din for Gittin and further he gave permission for me to use his name for it.

 I called up a Rov who was intensely involved in the couple when they discussed their marital problems, and I asked him if there was any chance that the husband has some kind of defect that could have cancelled the marriage and thus allowed her to remarry. He told me there was no such defect and that if the woman has any children they will be mamzerim.

I quoted to Rabbi Greenblatt from him the pesak of Chazon Ish EH 99:12 that if the Torah does not require a husband to be coerced to divorce his wife but a Beth Din told the husband he is worthy of being forced to divorce and he gives the GET because of that statement, the GET is invalid. First it is invalid because the Torah did not require a coercion and the Beth Din did require a coercion. Thus, the Beth Din coerced the GET in violation of the Torah and the coercion is invalid and the GET is invalid. Secondly, the husband gave the GET under false pretenses thinking that he must be coerced to give a GET. Therefore, the GET is invalid by the Torah not just rabbinic level.  Anyone who learns carefully the laws of Gittin regarding this issue knows that there was no source to permit a married woman to just remarry and the “Gedolim” like Rabbi Greenblatt who permit these things are just making mamzerim. I wonder how many mamzerim Rabbi Greenblatt has made. Any woman married with his special inventions should ask a proper Beth Din if she is permitted to remain with her husband and if her children are mamzerim.

But the main problem is that married women cannot remarry without a GET or the death of their husband. Reb Moshe Feinstein was asked about a husband who was discovered to be strongly addicted to homosexuality and the wife ran away. He said that the great authorities of all generations had refused to permit her to remarry for various reasons. But he showed that in this extreme case there is room for leniency but since the great authorities disagreed with him he ruled that the woman must do everything possible to get a GET. Only if all fails does he permit this. And this only in this extreme case and with the understanding the no other great authority in centuries permitted it.

In this case , I spoke to the husband months before and he told me he would give a GET if the wife would allow him proper custody rights. Therefore, Reb Moshe would never have permitted her to remarry. Therefore, in this case, not only do all of the great rabbis of the generations forbid the woman to remarry without a GET, but even even if there were a preexisting disorder in this case, even Reb Moshe would not permit remarriage without a get because a get would be available if the custody arrangements were appropriate. Reb Moshe would forbid it until she gave in to the custody demands.

I can be reached at 845-578-1917 or eidensohnd@gmail.com.

Chief rabbinate rejection of US conversion ‘casts shadow over American Orthodox institutions’

JPost   A Jewish convert from the US who made aliyah to Israel had her conversion rejected by the Chief Rabbinate’s department for matrimony and conversion earlier this year, despite having a conversion approval certificate from a rabbinical court presided over by the head of the Beth Din of America, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz.

Although her conversion was subsequently approved by the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, the incident is the latest in a series of such rejections, which are being viewed in some quarters as a rebuff by the Chief Rabbinate of the legitimacy of Orthodox Jewish institutions in the US. Hauna, 24, converted in Minnesota in 2006 with senior Chabad emissary Rabbi Moshe Feller. She received a conversion approval certificate from the rabbinical court of the Chicago Rabbinical Council in 2009 before she emigrated to Israel in 2010. [...]

After making aliyah, Hauna became engaged and, six weeks before the wedding date, approached her local rabbinate in Herzliya to approve her Jewish status and register her and her fiancé for marriage.[...]

But Rabbi Itamar Tubol, the director of the department under the auspices of Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, wrote in a letter to the Herzliya rabbinate that “after verification and clarification the conversion needs to be checked by a rabbinical court as to the essence of the matter.” [...]

In a response to The Jerusalem Post, the Chief Rabbinate said that Feller was not authorized to serve as a rabbinical judge and that the various officials Tubol spoke with were unaware of his conversion activities.

The Chief Rabbinate added that because the conversion approval certificate was from Schwartz’s rabbinical court they had not rejected the conversion out right but passed it on to the Tel Aviv rabbinical court. [...]

Farber also argued that Orthodox conversions in the US have always been done by local rabbis and ad hoc rabbinical courts, and that the Chief Rabbinate’s refusal to rely on Schwartz’s conversion approval violated the terms of a deal worked out between the Rabbinical Council of America, with which Beth Din of America is affiliated, and the Chief Rabbinate in 2008.[...]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Why did Rabbi Nota Greenblatt condemn IBD for relying on a Ritva when he used a "heter" based on unreliable and halachically invalid views of a psychologist?

IsraelReader raises an important question. Rabbi Greenblatt just was mesader kedushin for a married woman based on a "heter" of the  DSM pychological diagnostic manual. Why should he be condemning the International Beis Din for Agunos for relying on a Ritva. Is a psychologist more authoritative than the Ritva?
Strange, that R' the same Notta Greenblatt who allegedly presided at the marriage of Tamar Epstein, signed a letter of protest against the incompetence of the IBD. How do understand this?
In other news:

Judge Dismisses Majority of Vaad’s Claim Against Kehot

A portion of a “seemingly never-ending dispute” in New York Federal Court came to an end when a district judge dismissed a major part of a lawsuit filed by Vaad L’Hafotzas Sichos and Zalman Chanin against Merkos and Aguc”h over the printing of the Rebbe’s Sichos.

In a decision issued yesterday, the first day of Chol Hamoed Sukkos, senior district judge Frederic Block dismissed claims of copyright infringement and unfair competition which were brought by Chanin.

This lawsuit was originally brought by Vaad and Chanin as a challenge against Merkos’s trademark of the Kehot logo in 2001 and again in 2011 in federal court. The plaintiffs claimed that the logo was simply a ‘spiritual mark’ and was not that of a publishing house.

Both the U.S. Copyright Office and the United States District Court ruled against the plaintiffs and dismissed a lawsuit seeking $21 million, as well as granting Kehot exclusive use of their logo. The ruling was based on “the record [which] shows that both the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe… each took the business steps that any trademark owner would take with respect to a trademark, including filing for protection of the mark under the laws of New York State.”

Now, in a twenty-six page ruling, judge Block noted that “For the third time, the Court is called upon to adjudicate an aspect of the seemingly never-ending dispute precipitated by the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson” and that “Even a matter as final as death is a subject of debate in the Lubavitcher community, with some holding the “heartfelt belief that, notwithstanding his physical passing in 1994, the Rebbe still lives.””

He went on to say “Though perhaps more mundane, the matter before the Court is no less fiercely disputed. At issue is the right to publish the Likkutei Sichos…”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Karbanos of Sukkos: Mathematical trick or Torah insight??

Rabbi Shlomo Pollack

The Yalkut ילקוט שמעוני relates to us, how a particular Amora - ר' ברכיה - counted up the cows- The פרי החג - to arrive at the correct 70 number....

It would seem we are being introduced to a mathematical method to count up consecutive numbers, commonly referred to as "The Gauss Trick". Indeed that is the explanation given by the זית רענן (commentary on the page).

Could it be, that we are actually be given an insight into the Karbanos themselves??....

For questions or comments please email salmahshleima@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reb Shlomo Freifeld - remembering his greatness and how he inspired others to be great

Rabbi Mendel Horowitz wrote an amazing article about growing up in Shor Yoshuv. It was just published  in Mishpacha for the 25th Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld. However I think it is difficult for someone who wasn't there to properly grasp the significance and the allusions and implication in Mendel Horowitz' rich emotional prose. I am including a few paragraphs (click the link for the full article). http://pillarofmyforever.blogspot.co.il/

To help get a richer glimpse of Reb Shlomo's unique sensitivity and personality I am offering a few stories from my 10 years in Shor Yoshuv. After reading them reread the article.

Rebbe Of My Past, Pillar Of My Forever

By Mendel Horowitz, Mishpacha Magazine, Succos 5776

According to my father, life for me in Shor Yoshuv began on Erev Rosh Hashanah, when still unredeemed, I lay on his shtender throughout Minchah at the coming of 5732. After Yom Tov, my pidyon haben happened in the basement of the “old” building. The deli platters were from a Brooklyn caterer who opened special for the occasion and the lemon meringue pie was my bubby’s who, until her end, spoke regrettably of the bochurim transporting those pastries upside down so the meringue stuck to the foil packaging. Twenty-five years later I would redeem my own son in the dining room of the “new” building, making me an incidental detail in a matter of Trivial Pursuit.

From the modest yeshivah he founded in 1967 and in the brotherhood that from there evolved, Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld "revived the spirits of the lowly and the hearts of those contrite." These words from Isaiah appear on his tombstone and in that way I experienced him in life. As a tower of passion and sincerity, Rabbi Freifeld influenced countless students throughout the 70s and 80s, religious from birth and baalei teshuva alike. Under his leadership, Shor Yoshuv became a haven for idealistic young men who found in him their mentor, model, and cornerstone for living.

My father was among those initially attracted to their rebbe’s vibrant manner, and with my mother, toiled to develop the yeshivah into a community. For as long as I can remember Rabbi Freifeld was our master and Shor Yoshuv was our muse. There was never uncoupling the two. Our teacher’s scheme was not aimed at scholarship nor was it limited to scholars. His surprising coalition of styles met a startling combination of needs. We trusted in our master because he believed in everyone first. In our rebbe we found incentive. In his yeshivah we discovered our worth.

Long before “at risk” was cliche, Rabbi Freifeld won the affection of uninspired youth from ordinary, Orthodox homes with his smile, honesty, common sense, and concern. Never a pioneer of any movement, the New York-born son of immigrant parents attended first to others like him, capturing the attention of unresolved yeshivah students who had nowhere else to go. In his rebbe, my wary father discovered a figure he could trust; and in Shor Yoshuv, a faith he could esteem. If you are an Orthodox Jew in America, you conceivably have experienced effects of Rabbi Freifeld’s magnanimity. In Far Rockaway, Rabbi Freifeld made possible a generation of families living inspired, inventive lives. In the hearts of his talmidim and in the methods of modern educators, my rebbe’s original influence endures.[...]

 ============Some of my personal memories  of Reb Shlomo - DT =============
I never remember him pulling rank as a rosh yeshiva or even as an older person. Nor do I ever remember his criticizing me - though I gave him ample reason. He was always focused on eliciting growth from everyone. Especially from those who felt they had nothing to offer. He never said anything because we deserved it, but rather what we needed to hear to continue our struggle to greatness. He was always smiling

At my first meeting with him - at the suggestion of Rav Bulman - I explained that I had many questions about Yiddishkeit that I had not gotten answers for and had been told that many of my questions were inappropriate to ask He said simply, "All questions are legitimate. The gemora is organized around questions. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. All I ask from you is to be patient about getting answers. I'll try and arrange private time for us to discuss your questions." In fact after 10 years he addressed very few of my questions. Some were dealt with by other rebbeim in the yeshiva. But his major contribution to me was to legitimize my questioning. I eventually wrote a sefer "Daas Torah" that deals with many of the issues that bothered me. Thus he ended up giving me the ability to answer the questions - myself.

update: Reb Shlomo not only had a great sensitivity and skill dealing with others but he also had a strong physical presence and charisma. I hadn't realized how much his physical presence was part of the "message" until I started transcribing his speeches for someone. When compared to my memory of what he said or even a hearing a recording - the paper record just sat there. The electricity and awesome power of his words simply weren't captured by the transcript. He once told me that he had trouble writing his thoughts and wished he could just commanded the pen to write. (This was before voice activated computer transcription programs). But the bottom line is the impact of what he said was strongly dependent on the personal experience of seeing this giant of a man expressing his heart felt words with his entire being.

It was one of the rules of the yeshiva that any stranger who walked in was to be greeted. That this is unusual was revealed by bochurim who left to go to other yeshivos and reported how strange and insensitive their new yeshivos were. One bochur who went to Lakewood reported that someone had come from Australia and went unnoticed in the Beis HaMedrash. He also told the story of another bochur who had an important phone call but didn't have change. He was ignored in the beis hamedrash where everyone was learning with great hasmoda. Suddenly he felt someone link arms with him. It was the mashgiach Rav Wachtfogel. The mashgiach announced to everyone, "your fellow student is in need of change - who can provide it for him."

Once I criticized the way Reb Shlomo dealt with a certain individual. Instead of being offended he said the following immortal words. "I never claimed to be infallible and I make mistakes. But the most important thing that I have done is create a tzibur. Most of what happens here is due to the tzibur - not to me."

Reb Shlomo told me that he was jealous of his devoted talmid - Benjy Brecher - who readily cried  during davening. I was astounded that the rosh yeshiva would reveal to a bochur that he felt he lacked something that someone else had.

When I started Shor Yoshuv I didn't know how to learn gemora. Most of the other guys had come up through the yeshiva system and had no trouble with the gemora. I was once sitting in the beis medrash feeling depressed about my incompetence an difficulty keeping up with the others. As usual he not only picked up that something was wrong - but he came over to try and deal with my issues. When I explained my serious problems, he said. "Is that all that is bothering you? You feel that everyone is far advanced of you and you will never catch up? You are in fact in a superior position to most of the other guys in yeshiva. They have spent years developing a strong hatred for Torah learning. You have a head start because you simply have to learn gemora. They have to first overcome their hatred for it in order to advance."

After Shabbos morning davening we had a kiddush in which he gave insights into the parsha. He once spoke about the gemora in Shabbos which says one should not ask a talmid chachom questions about a gemora that he is not currently studying because he might be embarrassed to admit the he didn't understand it and he would make up an answer. My chavrusa and I had just made a siyum on Shabbos and we both looked at each other when he gave an explanation for what the gemora meant. It clearly went against the intent of the gemora. After the kiddush we went over to him and asked him to explain why he gave an explanation which was clearly not what the gemora said. He looked at us both and said, "What do you expect from someone who hasn't looked at that gemora in 25 years." His unflinching honesty in admitting to his students that he was wrong served the purpose of not only showing his tremendous concern for the truth - even if it caused him embarrassment - but also reinforced the gemora. Most talmidei chachomim would have in fact attempted a rationalization to conceal their error.

There was a student in the yeshiva who had done the unforgivable. It had become public knowledge that he was living his with girl friend. Obviously he was going to kicked out of the yeshiva and we were all sure that he would be given a very harsh lecture from Reb Shlomo. I was sitting in the beis hamedrash when he came in for his meeting for Reb Shlomo. He sat next to me and said, "Well it looks like I am leaving and I am sure Reb Shlmo has some choice words which I deserve - but I really don't care what he says."
He was calm and acted as if he was glad his stay in yeshiva was over. A few minutes later he was called into Reb Shlomo's office and we waited for the yelling and screaming to start. But there were no sounds coming from the closed office. When he finally came out he was white and shaking. "
I asked him what did he say to you?" It must have been incredibly harsh to penetrate his confident sneer. He replied, "Reb Shlomo simply asked me for personal forgiveness - that he wasn't big enough to influence me properly." That was the only thing he had no defense against and it penetrated his defenses like a cruise missile.

I was one of Reb Shlomo's principle drivers - since I had access to a car. I once drove him to Williamsburg to get a new wide rimmed hat which had been custom made for him. When he tried it on he saw that it was not what he had ordered. I was amazed that he didn't directly criticize the man. Instead he said, "I am embarrassed that I have to say that this is not what I ordered."

When one of the supporters of the yeshiva who lived in Washington D.C. was niftar, he asked me and a few other bochurim to drive down with him to see the family who were sitting shiva. The man's children were all below the age of 8. What do you say to young children who have just lost their father?
He sat down with them at a small table. He didn't try to give them words of comfort - they meant nothing to them. What he did do was to talk to them as if he one of them. And he entertained them by making various faces. In short he comforted them on their level - something he was the master at doing. I learned that the mitzva of nichum aveilum is not  to make yourself feel righteous - but rather is to do what is needed to comfort the mourner.

 We were once driving to Brooklyn and he mentioned that according to the gemora in Berachos it is prohibited to mention Torah in the presence of a dead person - because the dead person no longer had the ability to learn Torah. He told me in the name of Rav Hutner, "It is not only for the dead that one should avoid shaming because of their inability to participate. This is a lesson for everyone. For example one should not have a spirited Torah discussion in the company of the ignorant who can not participate. One needs to be sensitive to the feelings of others."

When I moved to Brooklyn after 10 years in Shor Yoshuva, it was quite disconcerting. No one took the initiative to greet me or other newcomers. But perhaps the greatest change was the lack of community. In Flatbush there was no community to belong to. I once mentioned this to Rabbi Shimshon Scherer. His response was, "You have lived in a fantasy world for ten years. You will never find another community like it. Just be glad that you had a chance to be part of it."

When Rav Feivel Cohen shul's had a melave malke in Flatbush. Rav Feivel Cohen was hoping to form a genuine kehila like Shor Yoshuva.  Reb Shlomo was the guest speaker. I'll never forget the words, "As I was driving across the Marine Channel Bridge linking the Rockaways and Flatbush I knew that I was stranger entering a strange land. A land without a sense of community as we have in Shor Yoshuv. Fortunately Reb Feivel is working to correct that problem and with G-d's help he will succeed in building a genuine kehila here in Brooklyn.

 Reb Shlomo was down to earth and had a solid sense of humor. I spent a lot of time with his family, doing errands and well as spending time with his children. Once his 7 year old daughter took a vice grips pliers that I was using to fix something in the house and removed the screw and threw it out on the roof adjacent to their kitchen. I was very upset at losing a valuable tool. Reb Shlomo came in and sized up the problem. How to get the screw that was lying on the roof? Obviously no one was going to climb out the window to retrieve it. He thought a moment and asked his daughters for several pieces of bubble gum which he proceeded to chew. He then stuck the wad on the end of a broom stick and stuck it out the window and retrieved the screw.

At the yeshiva we occasionally had visiting talmidei chachomim give a shiur to the entire yeshiva. On one occasion, the distinguished talmid chachom spoke about Bava Kamma regarding the difference between a tam and muad ox. What was interesting was that the roshei yeshiva constantly interrupted him and disagreed with him. After the shiur a number of us stood around discussing the shiur. We concluded that it couldn't have been correct since the roshei yeshiva disagreed with it - so why was he asked to speak. Reb Shlomo sensed our question and noted, "You are probably wondering why we asked him to speak if we disagree with what he said. What I wanted you to note was not so much the content of the shiur but how he relates to Torah. Most of us have a very formal relationship with Torah. A distance is maintained with proper attitude. However I hope that you noted that for Rav Plontchik there is no distance. He relates to the Torah as if he were in a comfortable bed. Torah is something personal and intimate. I wanted you to experience a talmid chachom who has such a relationship to Torah - even if I disagree with his conclusions."

When I left Shor Yoshuv for Brooklyn, the final meeting I had contained one message. "Doniel don't forget to be normal. Far Rockaway is still normal - only one family has a chandelier." In fact saying that someone was normal was one of his highest praises.

Just before I left America to move to Israel, I drove to Far Rockaway from Brooklyn with my young sons. At that time Reb Shlomo was dying from spinal cancer. He was in constant pain and he was in constant danger from catching a cold or worse because of the medication that suppressed his immune response. Because one of my sons had a cold I left them in the car to run in and get his bracha and run out. He didn't have the energy for more than that.
However things didn't go as expected. He wanted to talk and we did. I realized it wasn't a good idea to leave my young sons alone in the car and so I stood up to say goodbye - explaining the problem.
When he heard that my sons were in the car he insisted that I bring them in - even though he was exposing himself to danger. He not only greeted them but insisted on talking with each one - including asking them to solve mathematical puzzles. Finally he gave them individual berachos and we departed. His literal mesira nefesh for others was astounding.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rebbitzen granted right of privileged communication by Oregon court

Yated   Is a rebbetzin a religious leader? Or is the term an honorary title denoting nothing more than “wife of a rabbi?” 

The question lay at the heart of an unprecedented court case in Portland, Oregon, in which Mrs. Esther Fischer and Mrs. Sarah Goldblatt, two kollel wives employed with their husbands by the Portland Community Kollel, were subpoenaed in a divorce trial. The women were asked to disclose personal and confidential information they had received from the wife in the divorce case, which might have bearing on child custody issues coming before the court. 

The women responded that such information, including confidences shared in person, by letter, over the phone and through emails and texts, was protected by the statute governing clergy privilege, similar to the law granting attorney-client privilege. 

As rebbetzins in the Portland community, they said, their conversations with community members fell under the rubric of a state law protecting the confidentiality of information entrusted to clergymen. As advised by rabbonim, the women said they were not permitted to share personal information they had received from a woman they had taught or counseled.[...]

As the testimony and deposition continued, the atmosphere in the room seemed to change. The questioning came to an end and Judge Beth Allen, in an unusual departure from protocol, issued her ruling on the spot. 

“It seems pretty clear,” she said, “that the issue here is not about official ordainment as a means of identifying Orthodox Jewish clergy. The state is not in a position to dictate to religious organizations how to define their clergy. The key seems to be how the movement itself identifies its religious leaders.” 

“In Orthodox Judaism, where only men can be rabbis, men can have their confidences protected by the law when they talk to the rabbi. But what about the women who prefer not to talk to male clergymen about deeply personal matters and turn to women religious leaders for guidance? Is it reasonable that women who prefer to open their hearts to other women should be deprived of the law’s protection? 

“I don’t believe that is what the statute governing clergy privilege intended,” the judge concluded, granting the kollel wives in this precedent-setting case their motion to void the subpoena.[...]

Effectiveness of Psychotherapy for Depression Is Overstated, a Study Says

Medical literature has overstated the benefits of talk therapy for depression, in part because studies with poor results have rarely made it into journals, researchers reported Wednesday.

Their analysis is the first effort to account for unpublished tests of such therapies. Treatments like cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy are indeed effective, the analysis found, but about 25 percent less so than previously thought.

Doctors have long known that journal articles exaggerate the benefits of antidepressant drugs by about the same amount, and partly for the same reason — a publication bias in favor of encouraging findings. The new review, in the journal PLOS One, should give doctors and patients a better sense of what to expect from various forms of talk therapy, experts said, if not settle long-running debates in psychiatry about the relative merits of one treatment over another.

Five million to six million Americans receive psychotherapy for depression each year, and many of them also take antidepressant drugs, surveys find. Most people find some relief by simply consulting a doctor regularly about the problem, experts said. Engaging in a course of well-tested psychotherapy, according to the new analysis, gives them an added 20 percent chance of achieving an even more satisfying improvement, or lasting recovery. Before accounting for the unpublished research, that figure was closer to 30 percent, a difference that suggests that hundreds of thousands of patients are less likely to benefit.[...]

The way to think about the results, Dr. Hollon said, is that antidepressant drugs and talk therapies are modestly effective, and the combination is better than either approach alone. But for those who do well or fully recover, “psychotherapy, particularly cognitive behavior therapy, seems to be most effective in cutting the risk for a relapse long-term,” Dr. Hollon said. [...]

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Nachlaot abuse scandal - What is the significance of an apology?

I received this document and comments today

Thought you might find this interesting and would like to post it on your site.  This was posted in the neighborhood of Nachlaot during the 10 days of Tchuva.
It obviously raised many questions. 
1. If M is writing a letter of apology stating that SKV is innocent of what he thought she was guilty of as is implied in the Hebrew, does this mean that he no longer believes his children were molested by a cult to convert them to Christianity? (Since she was believed to be the head of this cult?)
2. If this is true, where does he draw the line of reality and rumor?
3. What implications does this have for Rav Berkovitz in his belief of what he is claiming in Sanhedria?

Around the same time that this apology was put up, most of the material on Rotternet was taken down. 

Regards, and Chag Sameach

YNET reporter infiltrates the Taliban women of Jerusalem