Sunday, May 12, 2019

Lev Avos al Banim

A number of years ago, I was ending a session of Avos U’banim (AUB) with two of my sons at the little shul on the corner. Learning time was up so my boys made their way to the bima to collect the weekly treat from the organizer, Reb Yoel. The treat was a little more tempting than usual that week, so I facetiously told one boy to ask Reb Yoel if I can also get a snack. Reb Yoel was just as facetious and sent a return message with my son, “Tell him he gets a snack if he comes with his own father.”

I didn’t get the snack.

But, technically, I could have. I have been tremendously blessed to have a set of parents who are still quite married to each other for upwards of sixty years (bli ayin hara). They live in the US but they come to visit on a steady basis, and when my father is in town, or if I am in the US, we try to find some opportunities to learn a daf or two. Needless to say, I treasure these opportunities (and hope they will continue forever).

We never outgrow Avos U’banim even if the age restrictions disqualify us for a treat. The intimacy and bonding that comes from fathers learning with sons and sons with fathers is pure and sublime. There is a special kedusha and divine mesora that is being effected when a father learns with a son which supersedes a standard rebbe/talmid relationship. There is no substitute for it – just like there is no substitute for a real live father. 

And, therein lies the rub. Not every boy is so blessed. We are all aware that quite a few members of the boy population do not have real fathers in their lives. For some, the real father is no longer in this world and, for others, the real father is somewhere else in this one, but not available to the son. Regardless, this is a situation which is bound to make such a boy feel handicapped and disenfranchised. Second rate.

How should the community deal with this?

At the basic level, there is no debate. Every Jewish boy is welcome to participate in the program. The organizers never make a fuss over who brings them. Whether it is a grandparent, big brother, uncle, cousin or any type of good Samaritan, they are welcomed with open arms and the boy is just as eligible for the snack and raffle as anyone else. Perhaps a more proactive organizer may even form a team of pinch hitters and seek out neighborhood kids who don’t show because they have no one to bring them.

Mi k’amcha Yisroel!

So, of course, we are all on board with this. Let’s make the program as accessible as possible to every single kid. It’s for everybody!

But some people are not satisfied with this. They note that the very name of the program spells out that this session is for kids with fathers. Real fathers. And it sends the message that someone without a real father is not really worthy of this great program – but we’ll let you in anyway. We don’t really want to hurt your feelings!

And this really hurts their feelings.

And so, they say, let’s not call it “Avos U’banim”. Let’s call it something else. Something less exclusive. How about “M’Dor L’Dor” or “Kol HaNaarim”?

This suggestion was initially presented to the Chareidi world in a Mishpacha article by Rav Yaakov Bender in February 2017. Two months ago, the subject was raised again in the same magazine by Reb Yisroel Besser. He gave the issue some perspective but wisely evaded a clear personal opinion. Three issues later, the opinions came – in the form of Inbox letters. One written by Reb Zave Rudman and a second by Rabbi Yaakov Bender.

The letters are in print and not digital. I will only excerpt the letters because I need to hand type them. I will start with Rabbi Bender although his appeared second. Here are his main points:

The column about Avos UBanim was terrific…But he has no idea as to the pain and tzaar of yasomim when they see and hear these words…They feel hurt when others don’t.

He goes on to back it with a true story he heard from a menahel:

Recently, two boys in our yeshiva became yasomim. When we announced our first week of AUB, one of them…came over to me and said, “Rebbe, when I saw the sign for Avos U’Banim, it was like a dagger in my heart.”…Is the pain of one single yasom worth it?

So, Rabbi Bender strongly advocates a name change based on a single consideration. The existing name causes needless severe pain to fatherless youngsters. He sees a name change as a tikkun with no real downside to it.

Before him was Reb Zave Rudman. He first established his credentials as a father and grandfather and one who has fostered a child of divorce. Then he writes:

The issue is not the name. Klal Yisrael has termed the mitzvah of Talmud Torah using the name of the father for generations…If the child has someone…who learns with him and takes him to shul, it would not matter what we call the program. And if he does not…then whatever we call it, that time of the week will be hurtful…in my view, allowing what is PC to become a focus is a mistake.

Reb Rudman thinks it would be a mistake to change the name (or to focus on changing it) but he does not explain why.

So we have two very legitimate opposing viewpoints on hand. Perhaps call it a stalemate. All this was a month ago. But the controversy won’t settle down. In last week’s issue, a very articulate 11th grade bochur weighed in heavily favoring Rabbi Bender. Despite the manual typing, I don’t think I can omit anything from his letter. So here it is in full:

I am a bochur in 11th grade from a divorced family writing a response to Rav Yaakov Bender’s [call] to change the name of Avos U’banim. AUB is a great program. Kids all owe their shuls, Pirchei, or yeshivos a big thank you.

But the name is really a killer.

This is not a hate letter on AUB, rather an awareness letter. I don’t think when AUB started in our cities they picked this name to hurt kids. But now, and even then, it did hurt.

Rabbi Bender’s insight about the stab in the heart was so true. I remember when I was younger, my Yeshiva had a Chanukah night learning program. Besides the food and door prizes they gave out, there was a special raffle for those who learned with their fathers. Of course, the principal let my learning with my older brother qualify, but why should a third grader have to worry about that? Either the raffle should include anyone who learns with their father, grandfather, neighbor, or brother or don’t make the raffle at all. Will that make such a difference?

I would like to end off with two questions for those in favor of keeping the name Avos U’banim. 1. Who loses out when it’s called Avos U’banim? 2. Who loses out when it’s called by other names, whatever they may be?

The answer is quite obvious. When the program is called by a different name, it may even encourage more people to come – because yes. Some kids don’t come because it’s called Avos U’banim and they feel embarrassed learning with someone else. And I can almost bet you that if you were to go back in time and be at that first meeting and state the obvious problem, not one person would dream of letting that problem go untouched.

Let’s quickly review.

We have the Rudman camp that says that the problem is not in the name and that it would be a mistake to change it for the sake of political correctness. Again, he does not explain why it would be a mistake.

The Bender camp says that “the name is a killer” and to avoid changing it “is it worth it?” In other words, it’s not worth whatever it is we gain.

לאחר שמיעת הצדדים my yachid mumchah beis din paskens…squarely like Rav Rudman.

ואלו הנימוקים

First, let’s state what most of us are probably thinking. As Reb Rudman points out, the term Avos U’banim clearly carries “scriptural” license and aptly characterizes the program. It is a program designed to promote fathers learning with their sons and vice versa. In practice, we know the organizers are not too fussy about who assumes the role of “father”. Certainly, a real one is preferred but, in case of need, any adult in the “father” capacity is acceptable. And so, just like the Av does not need to be a genuine father, likewise there is no need to construe the word Avos in the title as to mean exclusively a genuine biological father. It can refer to anyone who is playing the role. So, to many of us, this debate seems to be a bit petty.

Yet, it seems that there are those unfortunates who take it very literally.

I fully confess that, thankfully, I do not have the “yasom” credentials of Rav Bender, Shlita or the child-of-divorce (COD) credentials of the 11th grade bochur, nor even the fostering of a COD as does Rav Rudman. Baruch Hashem, I am probably one of the oldest people in my shul – or in any shul I daven at – who still walks out for Yizkor (and I want to keep it that way!). But along with not having these credentials come not having a “chip on the shoulder” which I clearly see in the opinions of those in the Bender camp. This allows me to be more impartial and to see the larger picture and things that they are overlooking. This also allows me to see the flaws in the claims of the Bender camp. In fact, in my view, the 11th grade bochur unknowingly destroys his own case and fortifies Reb Rudman’s that the name is not the issue. I will elaborate shortly.

I do indeed have other credentials. I am a professional father – six boys over a fifteen-year range. This means I was an avid participant of the program since it was first introduced in Har Nof circa 1998 until my youngest boy’s bar mitzva in 2016. Quite a run. I am certain that our 11th grade bochur lacks these credentials and I assume that even Rabbi Bender, a master mechanech, may have pre-dated being a participant in the program. This may even apply to Reb Rudman.  

Back to my “ruling”.

Reb Rudman brought up political correctness (PC). Let’s look at this concept for a moment.

We live in a world dominated by liberal minded people who tell us how sensitive we must be toward people who have shortcomings are “challenged”. This sentiment has evolved so far as to dictate that “society” is duty-bound not only to go out of its way to acknowledge everyone’s “challenges” but to apologize for them and to compensate them even at the price of collective sacrifices of the mainstream for the benefit of the challenged minority. It doesn’t stop at providing sloped curbs at sidewalk crossings and ramps at public buildings and buses, but to level the entire playing field no matter what the cost.

What do Chazal say about this?

Let’s look at a puzzling gemara at the end of Masechet Taanis. This gemara talks about a different community program. It wasn’t called Avos U’banim. It was called Chossons V’Kallot. It starts at the Mishna on 26b which states:

There were no better days for the Jewish nation than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. For on those days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out wearing white dresses that were borrowed so as not to shame those who did not have their own [dresses]… And what would they say? “Young man, raise your eyes and look at what you can choose… Do not look at beauty but rather look at family pedigree…”

Later on, the gemara elaborates (31a – Ein Yaakov version):

The pretty ones would say, “Set your eyes on beauty for a woman is only for beauty.” The pedigreed ones would say, “Set your eyes on pedigree for a woman is only for children.” The affluent ones would say, “Set your eyes on those who are wealthy.” The simple (poor) ones would say, “Make your acquisition for the sake of Heaven but you must adorn us with jewels.”

There is something contradictory about this gemara. Initially, it tells us that the girls must only wear dresses borrowed from another girl so as not to shame one who is lacking. In other words, we need to be sensitive toward those who are “challenged”. Let’s level the playing field. Yet, immediately after this, the gemara encourages each girl to flaunt their unique strong points. They would specifically compete for a husband by declaring what benefits that they have and that the next girl doesn’t. No more concerns about shaming those who are lacking!

What gives?

The simple answer is that clothing is an external adornment that anybody can wear. They are a transferrable commodity. It’s easy and painless for everyone to trade clothes for an hour so that nobody should be embarrassed to come. Presumably, the wealthier girls will not bring their fanciest clothes if another girl is going to wear them so they will just bring something plain and simple.

But the other attributes – looks, wealth, yichus – are not transferrable and it is silly to pretend that it is. Each individual is entitled to what is best for them. Those who are better off do not need to sacrifice their own well-being and to relinquish the advantages they were blessed with. And they don’t have to be quiet about it either. If they would, it would undermine the whole purpose of the program. The sensitivity would be counterproductive.

So the lesson is that we do need to be as sensitive as is practical toward those who are missing basic necessities (decent clothes or concerned parents). Points for the Bender camp. Yet, we need to make sure that it does not hamper the goals of the mainstream. There must be a healthy balance. I think this is what Reb Rudman was saying.

This is not very conclusive and could possibly go either way. But where does the Bender camp really go wrong (in my “judgement”)?

The answer is that I was taken aback at Rabbi Bender’s dismissive use of a pronoun. He ends his letter: “Is the pain of one single yasom worth it?

Is the pain worth what? What is represented by the pronoun “it”? The pain of the yasom is prominently on one side of the equation, but what is on the other side that clearly is not worthy in relation to this pain? What is it that, in Rabbi Bender’s eyes, is devoid of worth that it can be trivialized by a pronoun “it”?

Well, the issue at hand is the name of the program – Avos U’banim. Rabbi Bender is certainly correct that a name has no feelings and in relation to the feelings of a human being it is totally insignificant. Go change it to something else. It won’t cry in its pillow.

But programs have a purpose and names have a purpose. And the purpose of any name is to characterize the entity that it is representing. We all know that Adam HaRishon had a special deep-seated wisdom to be able to give each creature its name. In each case the name conveyed the essence of the creature.

If the Bender camp advocates to change the name of the program, I fear they have lost sight of what the program is and what is its primary purpose.

So…what is AUB? Why was it established?

Many of us assume that this is another method of promoting mass Torah learning for cheder kids during the lazy weekends. We encourage the fathers to join in which helps the machinery along and increases the body count even more. But the main thing is to get the kids to come and keep them “off the streets”. That’s why there are treats and prizes. The kids are the main thing and the fathers are secondary. After all, we don’t really need to do parsha sheets for ourselves and the treats are not for us (found this out the hard way!).

If this were true, then there definitely would be no harm to changing its name. Kol Hannarim would be just perfect.

But I think this is a mistake!

Again – what is Avos U’banim? Why was it established?

Just look at this exceptionally potent video ad put out by AUB about twelve years ago:

So, this is the surprise:

AUB was not established to encourage boys to learn during the off hours. It was made to incentivize the fathers to find time to learn with their boys. The whole idea is to enhance the special father-son relationship that I spoke about in the beginning of this post. AUB is made specifically so that the fathers should show up, not [just] the sons! This is why it was called Avos U’banim.

Of course, the chief beneficiary of this program is the kid. But our main goal is not to get each kid to put in an extra hour of learning over the weekend. That’s just a fringe benefit.  Our main goal is to build this father-son learning relationship.

And do you know why?

Look at the video again.

That’s right. It’s because, we don’t want any more yasomim!

Tragically, we have more than we need of true yasomim or those from fatherless homes. The Benders and 11th grade bochurim. We can compensate and accommodate these true yasomim as much as possible, but there is nothing we can do to replace the fathers they don’t have. Moreover, we have a more serious problem to deal with.

These are the potential artificial yasomim that have perfectly capable fathers living right there with them at home. They have real fathers who really care about them. But, left to themselves, these fathers won’t step up to the plate to forge the bond and pass the baton. Every boy needs a father. Anybody else is just another rebbe whether they are family or not. We can’t really help those without real fathers. But we can help these guys and make sure that those who have fathers are able to use them.

We have enough real yasomim that we can’t help. But we can help the regular guys. We don’t want any additional synthetic yasomim added to the list.

This is what the program is really for. To be blunt, AUB is not really for the unfortunate boys who don’t have involved fathers. Sure, we want them to come along and participate in the “fringe benefit” part. Everyone can do that. And we want them together with their peers from school and/or shul. And we obviously don’t want to stick daggers in their hearts. So, like the gemara in Taanis says, they can borrow “fathers” that aren’t theirs.

But we cannot undermine the program.

Hence, to change its name as if to indicate that this is not meant to be a special parent-child bonding experience, but rather just some shul sponsored communal learning session, will tell a busy father like Shloimi’s in the video, especially one who is not such a talmid chacham, “What do I need this for? I will learn when it works for me and my kid will learn in school with his rebbe.” Or, perhaps more commonly, “Let him learn with his older brother. I don’t have the geduldt (patience) for this!”

And so, we now know the value of the variable “it” that Rabbi Bender refers to when he asks, “Is the pain of one single yasom worth it?” The variable “it” = “the impact of real father-son learning that is implied in the name”. Don’t forget that the impact of real father-son learning includes the prevention of synthetic yasomim. We plug the value into the variable in the equation and the equation reads as follows:

Is the pain of a single yasom worth the impact of real father-son learning that is implied in the name?

Now this question is not nearly as trivial as Rabbi Bender makes it sound. To answer this question, we need to examine two factors:

1)   If we change the name, would the impact of real father-son learning be diminished or not? Would it be just as effective in preventing synthetic yasomim? Is there a downside to changing the name?

2)   If we change the name, will the pain of the genuine yasom or COD be diminished or not? Is there really an upside to changing the name?

It goes without saying that we cannot change it to another name that blatantly expresses the father-son relationship. That would be senseless. We are obviously talking about a name that diverts the focus. Kol HaNaarim definitely diverts the focus. Dor L’Dor does not do it so much.

As for Factor #1, my vote is that any of the current suggestions would indeed diminish the impact of the program. There is a strong downside.

As I wrote, I was an eighteen-year veteran of AUB. The first or second year that I was in Har Nof, I saw ads for this program posted in the shuls. I hurried to participate because I was excited about learning with my boys in an environment where other fathers are learning with theirs. Trust me, it wasn’t because I wanted to spend motzaei Shabbos doing mishnayos and parsha sheets. Personally, I would have preferred to learn other things.

So the question arises: If it were not called Avos U’Banim and it were not specifically geared to enhance the father-son relationship, would I have been so quick to participate? Let’s say that it was initially called Kol HaNaarim and was promoted to provide extracurricular learning for boys with treats and raffles like the Pirchei programs of my youth, just that fathers are encouraged to tag along, would I have signed on?

Can’t say for sure, but I fear that the real answer may be – No. The boys learn enough at school and if they want to learn more and get a chocolate covered wafer, kol hakavod. As for me, I have other things to learn than mishnayos Yoma or, perhaps, I have other things to do on a winter Motzaei Shabbos.

Dor L’Dor may have stood a better chance but if it was not promoted as a father-son program, I don’t see why it would, and if it was promoted as such, then it is no different than AUB.

You see, learning specifically with my flesh and blood sons and having them learn with me was the draw! It’s not the name, but the theme. Of course, the theme must be reflected in the name or it may not work. Conclusion: I vote Factor 1 in favor of the Rudman camp.

We move on to Factor #2 – will a name change diminish the pain of a yasom or COD? – and we get the same result. As Reb Rudman says: it’s not the name, but the theme. If the program is meant to promote father-son learning, it won’t matter what it’s called. It will be a dagger to the heart of the yasom/COD.

We see this in the flaws that are inherent in both the letter from Rabbi Bender and the letter from the 11th grade bochur. Rabbi Bender writes that the menahel told him that the 13-year-old yasom said, “Rebbi, when I saw the sign for Avos U’banim it was like a dagger in the heart.

My question: In what way does Rabbi Bender prove his point about the name? The boy saw “Avos U’Banim” and said he felt a “dagger in the heart”. He did not see “Dor L’Dor” because the formal title in use was AUB. But if it were Dor L’Dor instead of AUB, would it be less of a dagger in the heart?

The story doesn’t say it and I am far from convinced. Someone whose uncle, big brother, nice guy down the block or even his genuine grandfather takes to AUB will feel the pain no matter what it’s called. He will look around and see [most] everyone else learning with their real fathers and he will feel it. Even if there are a few other kids that require surrogates, he will feel no comfort. He will not look at them who don’t have, only at those who do. It is precisely because of what this learning group is meant to be that he will feel his loss.

But the letter from the 11th grade bochur puts the case to rest. He tells us of a Chanuka night learning program with a special raffle for those who learned with their fathers. There is no indication that this Chanuka night learning program, or even the raffle, was called anything. The bochur is bothered by it for what it was, not for what it was called.

Ironically, this is a clear score for Reb Rudman that “it isn’t really the name”.

The bochur even continues to criticize the raffle program: Either the raffle should include any one who learns with their father, grandfather, neighbor, brother, or don’t make the raffle at all. His story indicates that only he obtained a dispensation for a surrogate father but anyone who had a real father on hand could not do the same. This bothers him.

Hold on. Let’s stop to think. Why did they make a special raffle for those who learned with their fathers?

The answer is obvious. The Yeshiva wanted the fathers to participate in the learning night. They didn’t want substitutes if real fathers were around. They did not want the father to be with the rest of the family making their own personal Chanuka party at home that night which would conflict with the Yeshiva program and dissuade the bochur from showing up. They want the fathers in on this program so the family will make their party another night and the bochur will show up to the yeshiva night. If the father stays home and sends a rep, this ploy won’t work. It has to be the fathers.

Tragically, this bochur’s house is fatherless. He would not be facing this dilemma. So it is difficult for him to understand and appreciate the value of this move. The raffle was meant to help the learning night. And it did, even for him. It got his older brother to come. And, all told, he was allowed to participate in the raffle.

When we understand that the program is not meant primarily for those without fathers, we look at his two closing questions differently:

1.   Who loses out when it’s called Avos U’banim?

A.   No one, really. The yasomim don’t lose more than they have already lost.

2.   Who loses out when it’s called by other names [that marginalize the focus of a father-son bond]?

A.   Anybody in danger of becoming an artificial yasom!

He enlightens us that “yes, some kids don’t come because it’s called Avos U’banim…” I suppose he means to say “some kids who don’t have acting fathers don’t come because it’s called AUB.” We would like these kids to come anyway, but we are more concerned that some real fathers won’t come if we call it something else.

And I can almost bet you that if you were to go back in time and be at that first meeting and state the obvious problem, not one person would dream of letting that problem go untouched.

I actually called one of the founders of the program who was at the first meetings in Bayit Vegan and asked him about this debate. Firstly, he confirmed that at the early meetings this issue was never raised. I asked him what he thought about it. I won’t elaborate but sof davar, I must say, I strongly suspect our 11th grade bochur would lose his bet.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Consumerism and the Art of Denial - Part 2: Tunnel Vision and Narcissism

Welcome back to Part 2 of “Dassi Through the Looking Glass”. If you have not read Part 1, please do.

In this portion we will review the Facebook post that Dassi wrote about Harav Mendel Shafran Shlita on March 10, 2019. I intend to point out that, not only does the plague of consumerism spread the symptoms of the Tochacha – shigaon, ivaron, and timhon levav, but it also foments hostility and outright wickedness.

Dassi’s words will be in dark red and I will stay in default black. Here we go:

This past Friday we met with Rabbi Shafran in Bnei Braq to discuss why he was publicly supporting Leifer by asking the court to release her under his care.

I have written in the past about superfluous adverbs. They are usually the first giveaway of a distorted perspective since they are distortions of the facts. 

The adverb “publicly” is out of place. Rabbi Shafran wasn’t supporting Mrs. Leifer publicly or privately. He was supporting her – period. If proceedings are held publicly and he participates, it makes his participation public. And if the proceedings are held privately and he participates, it makes his participation private. Rabbi Shafran did not choose the venue of the proceedings. He just participated in them where they were held. He did not make any public rallies or statements. 

That said, the only reason there is so much publicity about this saga is because Dassi Erlich and her sisters and supporters want it. They are generating the publicity, not Rabbi Shafran. In short, they are prosecuting her publicly. So, he is standing up for her in public because this is the place where Dassi and her sisters are prosecuting her.

Now, let’s ignore the word “publicly” and look at her leading sentence again:

This past Friday we met with Rabbi Shafran in Bnei Braq to discuss why he was [publicly] supporting Leifer by asking the court to release her under his care.

In short, the Sapper sisters arranged a meeting in Bnei Braq because they could not understand why a Jew who does indeed observe mitzvos is willing to support a religious Jew who is being prosecuted in contravention to Halachic standards and who is being held in jail without being convicted of anything.

Our meeting was right out of the text book I am studying regarding abusive arguments.

I would love to know the name of the text book, who wrote it, and is it available on Amazon (second hand)?

All kidding aside, this is one of the most despicable and belligerent statements in this post. I will explain.

What is Dassi Erlich saying with the term “abusive arguments”? What are abusive arguments and what kind of a “textbook” describes them? 

Sure enough, there are volumes of books and papers about criminology and personality disorders and abusive behavior by people who engage in crime and abusive behavior. We can call these people “abusers”. These “textbooks” and papers go to great lengths to analyze the “arguments” and justifications that “abusers” present to rationalize their behavior. 

Whose behavior?

Well, that of the abusers, of course.

And, I suppose Dassi’s favorite current pastime is to study such a text book. 

But, unbeknownst to Dassi and her cronies, Rabbi Shafran is not an abuser. Nor is Rabbi Grossman nor Rabbi Litzman nor am I. We are all Torah observant objective people who are evaluating a situation without prejudice of either side. We can see both sides as victims, both sides as aggressors and both sides as Jews. And we are all interested in protecting the rights of the accused regardless of who the accused is. And we do not live in an echo chamber and we do not have tunnel vision. We can see and hear both sides of the issue.

It is hard to believe that Dassi is studying any textbooks about community leaders (or bloggers) who are not abusers. I tend to doubt there are any such textbooks. 

That said, these “abusive arguments” are coming out of an ancient textbook. They are the textbooks of the Rambam, Shulchan Aruch and Chofetz Chaim. And you can bet your bottom Australian dollar that Dassi Erlich is not studying those. 

What makes this statement so utterly despicable is that, in order for this statement to make sense, we must say that Dassi is equating the Torah scholars with actual “abusers”! As consumers, Dassi and her lynch mob cannot tell the difference. They are in total denial that there are other “textbooks”. They are in total denial that HKBH has other methods of dealing with these things. Most of them are in denial of HKBH altogether.

I now understand why we were so deeply pained after leaving this encounter with him.

If it was out of the textbook, why are you so pained? Isn’t it what you expected to get? After all, it’s in the textbook that you are studying to be a post grad! What were you expecting???

In my Post Grad Degree in Domestic Violence


“Domestic” as an adjective to “Violence” means at the hands of family members. Anyway, it looks like Dassi is trying to make a career for herself as a professional practitioner of domestic violence. As far as I know the best practitioners of domestic violence never went to school. The skills of domestic violence came naturally to them. In any case, I do not wish her success. 

I am learning that abusive arguments usually have the following four characteristics:

My primary objective in this post is to deal with these “four characteristics”. Here we go:

1- Denial in refusing to believe us. "I did not say I believe you, I will not say I believe you. I will not come to court to support you. I will not take sides".

Dassi is certainly a post-graduate in denial. She is in total denial of the fact that she – Dassi Erlich (and her sisters) – is currently an accuser, prosecutor, aggressor and pursuer and her goal is to hurt, destroy and punish Mrs. Leifer. She justifies her actions by proclaiming that she is trying to protect potential future victims (and change the future). It is questionable if there are potential future victims at risk, but it is not questionable that she is harassing and pursuing (rodef) Mrs. Leifer.

Dassi Erlich is not saying “believe me that I was molested” so she can get therapy and help for herself to rebuild her life. She is also not saying “believe me that Mrs. Leifer molested me” so that she can get some legitimate restitution from Mrs. Leifer. She is not even saying “believe me that Mrs. Leifer is not safe with young women” so that she should be disallowed to be a teacher anymore. She is saying, “Believe me that Mrs. Leifer is an irredeemable fiend and should be punished without mercy”. 

This is what a Torah observant Jew such as Rabbi Shafran has to look at. Dassi is an accuser and, at this stage, she is the rodef. What are the rules of believing an accuser?

Well, our Torah and Halacha give us clear rules of “neemanus”. And I elaborated on them in my post Thinking Like a Jew. The obvious rule is that nothing can be accepted as a fact if it cannot be corroborated by a second person. We are allowed to be choshesh (suspect) to implement protective measures but not to believe for the purposes of punishment. 

Plain and simple. 

Rabbi Shafran knows this, Rabbi Litzman knows this, I know this, and I wrote it. Dassi and her fellow consumers knew that I wrote it when I wrote it 2 ½ years ago, but they were in denial then and are in denial still. To some it just isn’t there and to others, it must be “misguided”.

But don’t all victims need to be believed?

We have a principle called פלגינן נאמנות – dividing the credibility. This means that we can believe what an individual says for what affects themselves but not for how it affects anybody else. For example, if a woman claims that she had extramarital relations so her husband must divorce her, and there are no objective witnesses, we believe her to invalidate her ketuba, but we do not believe her to force her husband to divorce her or to render her child a mamzer.

If somebody says they were molested, we should absolutely fully believe them that they were molested and do all we can to help them out. But when they say they were molested by "Abe", we can suspect "Abe" but we are not allowed to believe that part.

This is Torah, but the consumers want no part of it. 

2 - Excusing of ones beliefs." Leifer taught my two daughters and nothing ever happened to them".

Like I said, this phrase is to me incoherent. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how this is different from the previous “characteristic”. 

In any case, I wonder if this was said by Rabbi Shafran. He certainly did not have any daughters studying in Australia. Perhaps he did say it and it refers to when Mrs. Leifer was teaching here in Eretz Yisrael before she went to Australia.

Regardless, if somebody says something like this, they are saying that they themselves have had some level of interaction with the accused person and there was nothing about this interaction that supports the accusations of the accusers. Yes, it can be used as basis to be skeptical about the allegations, but it is quite a rational observation being made by a rational person. Again, we are talking about a non-involved person who must make a personal judgment. It does not prove the accuser wrong, but it is meant to tell the accuser that they need to furnish some objective evidence to support their claim. 

Note that Dassi does not even pretend to claim that she presented any objective evidence to Rabbi Shafran. So if the score is that Rabbi Shafran brings the weight of his observation, as limited as it may be (give it a value of 1) and Dassi Erlich brings absolutely nothing (value of 0), the nay-sayers win by a 1-0 shutout! 

So, I ask Dassi, why is such a comment worthy of criticism??

3- Minimisation of ones worth as a Survivor.
"You were abused already, somebody else hurt you".

Dassi is an expert distortionist. Although she, at the receiving end may feel that such a statement minimizes her worth as a survivor, she cannot claim that this is the intent of the one who said it. To me, the clear implication of this line is to minimize the worth (i.e., impact) of the alleged abuser. The message is that you cannot honestly claim that all of your tzaros are a result of this alleged abuser since, by your own admission, you have repeatedly acknowledged that you underwent 15 years of real domestic abuse before encountering the one you are accusing. 

And we notice that you did not walk into the Victorian Police station and file any charges against the initial abusers.

Again, Dassi is in total denial that she is not petitioning to be recognized as a victim. She is petitioning to have Mrs. Leifer branded as an abuser. As such, any statement that is made by Rabbi Shafran relates to how he views the perceived culpability of Mrs. Leifer, not the victim [survivor] status of Dassi Erlich.

4-Justification. Writing a letter to the Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and turning up at court to support Leifers bail, "It's my duty as a rabbi to support a fellow Jew".

I got a good chuckle out of this one. Her keyword is “Justification” and her definition is “Writing a letter to the Justice Minister”. Cute.

Again, we see that Dassi is in denial that she is pursuing and prosecuting another Jew. From Dassi’s temperament and those of most of her commenters, they are in denial that Mrs. Leifer is a Jew and must be treated like one. And these people find it so very abhorrent that a non-consumer wants to do just that.

Once again, they are in denial of the Halachos of mesira and extradition. Dassi does not recount in her post a hint of asking Rabbi Shafran about Halachos. But, isn’t this what people go to rabbis for? 

When asked why Leifer's Jewishness deserved his sympathy over our own??
He refused to answer us.

Such a question does not deserve an answer. The question itself is a display of total arrogance, immaturity and narcissism. 

It is clear to people like me and Rabbi Shafran that there is no need for us to prosecute or harm (destroy) Mrs. Leifer in order to be sympathetic to Dassi. We onlookers can afford to be sympathetic to everyone involved. They are not mutually exclusive. Thus, if in Dassi’s eyes, another Jew (a Shomer Mitzvos one, at that) needs to be harmed as a show of sympathy to her, there is something inherently wicked about Dassi (and her sisters). Dassi is playing the spoiled child that demands from the loving parent to “choose” between me and the rival sibling. “If you love him/her, then you don’t love me!” or “If you won’t help me send her down the river, then you love her more than me”.

I think this is utterly detestable! 

Let’s first note that the issue at hand here is not that Rabbi Shafran or anybody wants to condone any sexual misbehavior that Mrs. Leifer may have committed more than a decade ago and it is certainly not an effort to enable her to resume these activities. The Sapper sisters are going ballistic over the prospect of Mrs. Leifer being released from prison to house arrest so that she can continue a semi-normal family life and to live like a human being and a Jew – i.e., keep Shabbos and Yom Tov and Pesach Seder – as all Jews who are religious and observant of mitzvos are entitled and required to do, while all the proceedings are going on.

This does not interfere in the lives of these saintly sisters nor does it put children at risk once she is being watched. 

Still and all, these saintly sisters cannot countenance allowing Mrs. Leifer to live like a human being and must fight tooth and nail to prevent it. Then they even confront people like Rabbis Grossman and Shafran for "asking the court to release her under their care". 

How dare Rabbis Grossman and Shafran ask that this unconvicted monster should be treated like a Jew and a human being? Or, as these paragons of virtue put it (publicly):
“What kind of G-d are they praying to that protects abusers?” (Haaretz March 7, 2019).

Our G-d does not want anybody to languish in prison. But, evidently, these sisters (two of whom abandoned observance) don't worship the same G-d. They worship a god who would not allow such compassion. A god of Vengeance!

As I said, I think this is utterly deplorably wicked! 

Let’s add to this that, I have previously speculated, based on JCW’s own statistics, that it is more than likely that Mrs. Leifer is herself a victim of abuse and, if so, should be entitled to some measure of sympathy (which does not need to be construed as coming at the expense of the alleged victim). Of course, to acknowledge this likelihood is such a game-changer to the consumer lynch mob that their denial is absolutely deafening. When I brought this up to a woman emailer from Australia who claimed to be a victim of Mrs. Leifer, she refused to answer me.

It goes both ways.

An immature narcissist can only see their personal interests. To a narcissist, there is no such thing as looking out for the interests of all sides. It is either “you are on my side or you are against me”. A narcissist is in perpetual denial that it is possible for an objective bystander to be out for the welfare of both sides. This is because they are in denial that anybody else’s wellbeing matters. Only theirs. 

Dassi stated publicly at the JCW event on Nov. 25, 2018 (3:12-3:26), “We continue to be told that we are doing this for revenge or some sort of victim fame, which I don’t understand, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are here for nothing else than to try and change the future.

Well, if it’s not a personal vendetta or a quest for revenge, why does she take it so personal if a renowned Talmid Chacham is looking out for both sides and doesn’t think that being moser Mrs. Leifer to goyim in Australia is a positive step in changing the future?

I see no small measure of hypocrisy here.

In any case, I clearly wrote in my post in June 2017:
...contrary to all appearances, I really do have a lot of ahavas Yisroel. I don’t want to see Malka Leifer destroyed and I don’t want to see Dassi Erlich destroyed. There is no need for it. As far as I know, they are both victims. I think it's a better idea to try to fix wounded people than to try to break them. But I have yet to hear a single voice echo mine!

The lynch mob consumers are in denial that people such as I and Rabbi Shafran may actually be sincere and want what is best for all sides. They have no clue what sincerity is. My claim to “ahavas Yisroel” was ridiculed publicly without it being substantiated. Just like what Dassi is doing to Rabbi Shafran in her post.

He did explain the importance of supporting the abuser because he saw them as the underdog.

I wonder what the real words were. I thought Dassi wrote that he didn’t believe her that she is an abuser. Anyway, what he obviously meant is she (Mrs. Leifer) is the pursued and accused. She is entitled to all the rights of an accused person. 

Dassi denies this. She is a professional victim so even when she is the aggressor and pursuer, she has to be the underdog. It’s just not fair that anybody can think that the person she is pursuing to destroy is an underdog. 

This is tunnel vision.

I looked at him incredulously and asked him if he had ever been to court when an Ultra-Orthodox predator was the accused. On which sides was the court swollen with supporters?

I believe he was to court when an Ultra-Orthodox predator was the accused back on February 18, 2019.  It seems that the court was swollen by supporters of the accusers and the accused was undeniably the underdog.

But Dassi can always deny it. This is why she was incredulous.

Again he refused to respond.

It’s clear that Dassi, who has left observance, is not now and never was interested in the Halachic viewpoint of accusations. She was not too receptive of this viewpoint when I wrote it and she has shown no inclination to be receptive now. Dassi’s response to Rabbi Shafran (about if he had ever been to court…) along with her incredulous look was a disputation of his statement, not a sincere request for him to qualify it (as in “What do you mean by that?”). 

When people contact me with the sole intention of disputing what I have said and with no intention of trying to come to terms with it (the vast majority), it does not pay to try to respond.

Rav Shafran is heralded as the Rabbi who instructs complainants to report to the police. He shared an example of a woman who called him up recently. "Go to the police", he told them, "know though your children will expelled from school, you will be barred from your synagogue and you life will be ruined".

This paragraph doesn’t flow. In our language we say: קשיא רישא אסיפא (the first segment contradicts the second one) or מעשה לסתור? (do you bring a case example that is contradictory?). But, as I already wrote, I do not give Dassi a medal for coherency on this post. 

Anyway, it is not possible to comment on stories like these because their brevity leaves way too much to the imagination. We have no clue exactly what the recent woman in question was complaining about and what, and whom, she wanted to report.

I need to reiterate that way before I knew about Malka Leifer or Dassi Erlich, I wrote a summary of Hilchos mesira called the 3 Ps (and 3 Cs). 

The 3 Ps basically said that there are three incremental steps to dealing with suspected molesters – (1) Prevention (Protection), (2) Publicity, and (3) Police (Punishment). The steps must be taken in that order. If step 1 resolves the issue, it is forbidden to advance to step 2. If not, then step 2 is indicated, but it is still forbidden to advance to step 3 unless even step 2 does not resolve the issue. Hence, going to the police is only permissible if it is absolutely necessary in order to resolve the problem. And even that is governed by the 3 Cs.

The case of the woman who called Rabbi Shafran is unclear. If she had other options (P1 and P2), she has no business resorting to P3 and should be subject to the consequences. Perhaps, this was what Rabbi Shafran was telling her. If she had no other recourse than P3, these consequences are uncalled for. I do not condone them and I very much sympathize with this woman.

Well and good, but all this is chit chat. The Sapper sisters met with Rabbi Shafran “to discuss why he was publicly supporting Leifer by asking the court to release her under his care.” The Malka Leifer case does not qualify for P3. And even if it did, there is no reason to oppose, and every reason to support house arrest. Specifically, if there was no violence in the alleged abuse as is true in this case.

Imagine how hard it is for survivors of abuse in his community to speak up. This man is considered a standard bearer on these issues. What hope do these people have?

In a sense, Dassi does have a point in her closing paragraph. It isn’t easy to speak up. But much of it depends on who do you want to speak up to. What do you want to achieve by speaking up? Are you doing it to protect somebody who is currently in danger or to prosecute somebody for what he did yesterday (or a decade ago)? Are you trying to fix a specific problem in the here and now or trying to make a public spectacle to do “nothing else than to try and change the future”? Are you doing a kiddush Hashem or a chillul Hashem???

Before one can answer these questions, they must be able to hear them and see the different angles. But you’ll never hear them in an echo chamber and you won’t be able to see them if you have tunnel vision.

Post Script – I would love to be able to enter a link to this post on Dassi’s Facebook page, but alas, Dassi Erlich does not allow comments from any dissenters, only from supporters, and so I am blocked!