Saturday, July 31, 2010

What a Disgrace!

What a disgrace!

I am referring to a very disturbing post that was written under a banner called Emes Ve-Emunah. And the post begins with these very same words: What a disgrace!

Now, I can't say that it's the most disgraceful post that I have seen in that forum, but it certainly ranks with the all-timers. For here, once again, he lambasts an observant religious authority for (shame of shames) DOING HIS JOB. (One of the first times that I had to deal with this methodology was in this post:
Because of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza was the House Destroyed)

But the amazing thing is, in order to accomplish this, he distorts and misrepresents the facts that are already distorted and misrepresented in the press. And by further distorting what is already distorted, it becomes his holy crusade to malign what he calls "the orthodox establishment". Yep, you heard me right, folks. He has graduated from the chareidim (those violent thugs) to the "orthodox establishment".

And I have come (and stayed up very late tonight) to clean up the mess.

The first step is to check out Rabbi Maryles' source material to see what the article really says.

Did you like the line: "Zionism runs in my family," the Detroit native says?

Second, let us try to understand what went on in view of how things work in Eretz Yisrael. One point of introduction:

A Rabbanut or, more accurately, a Moetzet HaDati (Religious Counsel), in any given municipality is an office that oversees the religious needs of the locality. This includes shuls, mikvaos, eruvin, and kashrus, and registry for weddings, divorces and funerals. They may or may not also have a Beit Din but they are not a Beit Din themselves. They are an office!! Even if they have a Beit Din, the local Beit Din may be qualified for only certain issues (such as a Beit Din for mammonus - monetary disputes) and not for more complicated issues. The people that work there are generally devout people but they may or may not be rabbanim.

Once we know this, let us analyze the article:

Here is a young American woman who approaches a municipal Rabbanut (which is not a court) to receive an approbation for marriage. The article claims that she brought letters from 4 Conservative (i.e. non-Orthodox) Rabbis and one Chabad (presumably Orthodox, but don't get me started...). At the same time, it states that:

...her parents are divorced and she can no longer provide their ketuba (Why not? - YH). The facts that her parents' get, or bill of divorce, was prepared by a Conservative rabbi (i.e., if he, and or any witness, is a mechallel Shabbos b'farhesiya, the get is invalid - YH) and that her mother has since remarried a Catholic (i.e., she is a mumar l'avoda zarah - YH)...

Allegedly, the fellow who was in charge of the registry (not a dayan) did not feel that the letters that she brought were acceptable. The article doesn't say why, but it could very well be that he was not authorized to accept them (as we shall see). For the record, when I made Aliyah, I also needed a letter from a Rabbi that I am Jewish. The letter I presented said nothing more than, "I know these people to be proper Jews...". It really did not offer much convincing proof, except perhaps that the Rabbi who wrote it was Orthodox. I did have my wife's Kesuba. It just may be because I wasn't related to Nachum Sokoloff that I had such an easy time.

Back to our incident, according to the article, the registry fellow demanded that she produce the Kesubos of matriarchs up 4 generations. I personally don't believe this. I think she is dramatizing. Nobody needs to present all of that documentation (note that her fiance's papers were fine and I will bet my rent money he didn't produce kesuvos from 4 generations up). But one may be required to present at least some of it. My gut feeling is he would have been satisfied with one or two generations if she could even do that.

But she couldn't.

She couldn't come up with her own mother's kesuba nor either of her grandparents who survived the Holocaust, nor their death certificates, nor her mother's birth certificate. At least, not on the spot.

I must reiterate that it is clear from this article that our subject (Miss Hillary) was dealing with a registry office and not a Beit Din. As a registry offfice, it has rules as to what it can accept on its own as proof of being Jewish and what it must refer to a higher body (i.e., a Beit Din that is qualified in this area). All this is for the common good, so that we can ensure that people who claim to be Jewish really are and thus to protect the integrity of Jewish identity (for those who value it).

So the fellow (not a dayan, remember?) did what he was supposed to do - he referred her to the Beit Din. That was his job. The article (if Rabbi Maryles would have read it) says so:

The Chief Rabbinate recently enacted new guidelines automatically sending marriage candidates whose parents did not wed in Israel to a local rabbinical court to determine whether they are really Jewish.

The fact is that everybody needs to do this. My own daughter got married last year. Both she and her chosson come from FFB families all the way up the line. But neither me nor my mechutanim were married here. So they needed to procure letters from their Yeshiva and seminary plus give information on who are their Chosson/Kallah-lessons teachers and bring them to Beit Din for an Ishur. It's not a big deal if you are genuinely Jewish and genuinely observant. Ironically, they did it through the "ultra-Orthodox" Eida Chareidis bes din because there was less red tape than to do it through the Rabbanut!!

Now, our hero Ms. Hillary also needed to go to Beit Din. Those are the rules. But she refused to do it. I bet she could come up with some of that documentation if she really wanted to, but it's easier to blame the hard-hearted extemists who are doing their job and to honeymoon off to Cyprus.

"At this point, I no longer want to play (be) [by] their rules. I want to fight what they're doing," Rubin, who observes Shabbat and keeps kosher, said...Rubin and her fiance' - whose documents were accepted by the rabbinate as valid proof of Jewishness - did not even want to try to convince the rabbinical court that she is a Jew...The young couple believes the consequences of going through the rabbinical court are "much worse" than not going at all. (Emphasis mine - YH)

So the "observant" Jewish girl doesn't want to go to Beis Din!? They stand to come out worse than if they "try to convince the rabbinical court"... !!

Why? What is she hiding?

This kind of behavior does not look good on her resume. Actually, it's downright suspicious.

But Harry Maryles calls this event "A disgrace." To Harry Maryles, to send somebody with a checkered past to Beit Din to check out their Jewishness is a disgrace (note that Harry never even mentioned that they were sent to Beis Din as are the rules, only that the registrar at the Rabbanut which he erroneously called a "rabbinical court" did not give the approbation that he is not authorized to give).

To get a clearer picture, let us check out some of what Harry wrote in light of what we know (his words are in burgundy):

But I also charge the current orthodox establishment in Israel with treating fellow Jews with contempt in the name of religion.

I don't know why guidelines equally applied are called "contempt".

I refer to the case of Hillary Rubin. She is a grandchild of the holocaust. Her grandparents were gassed by the Nazis. (Update - RHM apparently edited his post. It now reads: Her grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust. I wonder what tipped him off?)

No, her grandparents survived the Holocaust - all four of them. They are required by Halacha to have kesuvos even if they were married before the war and their original kesuvos were lost.

She now lives in Israel and is an observant Jew.

Ready to undergo a Conservative marriage.

But when it came time for her to get married, she was told by the by a rabbinical court in Herzliya (Update - the words in italics were edited to: Herzliya rabbinate.)

The article did not say that the Rabbanut in Herzliya is a rabbinical court.

that she needed to bring the Kesuvos (religious marriage contracts) of grandmothers going back 4 generations to prove her Jewishness.

The problem is that any such documentation was destroyed in the holocaust. She cannot provide any such proof.

How about the grandmothers who survived the holocaust? they still need kesuvos?

The fact that she brought letters of testimony from 5 people one of whom was a Chabad rabbi made no difference to them.

You mean, made no difference to him. It wasn't a court. He wasn't a dayan.

Neither did the fact that it was impossible for her to provide documentation they asked for due to the holocaust.

Perhaps not all of it, but how about some of it?

I understand the issues involved. One must be Jewish to get married to another Jew. If there is any doubt about it it needs to be proven.

Can you repeat that last line?

In our day where heterodox movements are doing conversions that are not in accordance with Halacha and in one instance accepts patrilineal descent as equally determining one Jewishness – it can be a problem. It is quite reasonable to ascertain the Jewish status of an individual that was so defined by a heterodox movement and not born Jewish via matrilineal descent.

But how far do we go with that? When is a rabbinical court justified in insisting on impossibly draconian demands like those made upon Ms. Rubin? (Update - or, rather, no update. Here he hasn't bothered to change the text)

Again with the Rabbinical court??

She had two parents that were Jewish,

How do you know?

grandparents that were murdered by the Nazis in the holocaust, (Update - this line modified)

Her grandparents survived.

and she had testimony from at least one kosher witness - a Chabad Rabbi.

Do you know what his "testimony" was actually attesting to?

And why stop there? We are all suspect, are we not? Who is to say that our parents were really Jews without proof going back 4 generations? My grandparents died in the holocaust too. My parents told me they were Frum. But that is the sum and substance of my proof. I have no clue or proof whether my maternal great-great grandmother was Jewish. Why should my children be treated any differently than Ms. Rubin was?

Did your wife marry a catholic?

Why should anyone’s children be treated differently?

Did you read the part about the guidelines?

But we are. Those of us who are raised Frum are assumed to be Jewish. I doubt that any one of us were ever required to bring any proof at all about it.

Keep doubting. Nevertheless, people who keep Torah and mitzvos - what we call "Kosher yidden" - have a chezkas kashrus.

But those of us who are not in this category –

Peolple who do not keep Torah and mitzvos - and are children of women who are "mumar l'avoda zarah" do not have a chazkas kashrus.

if things keep going in this direction – will be written out of Judaism!

This is a grossly unfair approach

Please explain why it is unfair.

which serves to destroy Heterodoxy by destroying the lives of non Orthodox Jews. These are not honorable intentions. They are divisive and destructive ones. I realize there is an increasing ‘Jewish status’ problem. But prejudicial treatment of non Orthodox Jews is not the way to solve the problem.

As long as they are actually Jewish, but how do we know this without a chezkas kashrus?

Unless all Jews are subjected to the same standards

Did you read the part about the guidelines?

- no one should be. Unless a serious question is raised about a questionable conversion or there is some evidence that one is not Halachicly Jewish, most Jews have a Chezkas Kashrus and should be presumed to be Jewish.

a chezkas kahrus is based on being Shomer Torah and mitzvos.

The vast majority of Conservative Jews no matter how religious or secular were born of a Jewish mother.

The vast majority don't marry catholics.

It is grossly unfair to treat our fellow Jews this way just because they were not raised in an Orthodox home. Ms. Rubin - whose parents are Jewish;


whose grandparents were massacred in the holocaust, (Update - again, modified)


and who had a letter from a Kosher witness testifying to her Judaism -

No idea what the letter said

And the court that rejected her Judaism –

The court didn't reject her Judaism - she refused to go to court.

asking her to do the impossible –

nobody has to do the impossible

reveals the true motive of these rabbis. It is to eliminate ‘lesser Jews’ from our ranks.

Batei Dinim are here to help people, not hurt them.

This attitude

...of yours.
Rabbi Maryles, I am appalled. You are fanning the flames of divisiveness instead of cooling things down. Instead of fortifying the legitimate actions of the Herzliya Rabbanut (trust me, this is not the Eida Charedis), and simply trying to help the disoriented unoriented to understand what the issue is, how the process works, and why it is important - the part that you go out of your way to play down! - you feel you are doing a better service to Klal Yisrael by standing up for the girl who refuses to go to Beit Din and criticizing the fellow who sent her there. Perhaps you grew up in Detroit but the fellow from Herzliya did not. He has no idea who she is. And she can't even (or refuses to) produce one kesuva! To some of us, the standards of yuchsin are precious. And without these standards, it will one day have to apply to your (or my) children.

ought not to be allowed to stand.

What a disgrace!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


So I finally found a little time to write and, like Punxsutawney Phil, I stick my head out of my gopher-hole to see what's happening in the Jewish world. Well, the summer solstace is behind us and the shadows are indeed getting longer and I can only predict another six weeks of absolute chaos (and then comes Judgement Day!)

That's the optimistic forecast.

Even though I have been a bit quiet over the past few weeks, I have been lurking in the alleys (did anybody miss me?...didn't think so!). I sometimes had the urge to write but not the time and, perhaps, sometimes had the time to write but not the urge. Tragic plane crashes can do that sort of thing to me. (There was a time when I lived on the same block as Shalom and Simi Menora, now I live on the same block as Zevi and Kelly Klein. The dress that my 17 year old daughter wore at my older daughter's wedding last year was borrowed from Sara Klein, ZT"L.)

I had some plans to write about the conversion bill (I have a six-month extension on that now) or about the Orthoprax Rabbi ( a true oxy-Moron), but nothing materialized.

So as my blog devolves from a daily to a weekly to a monthly (moving quick toward quarterly), what is the burning issue of the day?

It is the just released Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.

And when I say "just released" I mean it. The site that I linked to has it dated as July 28, 2010. I remember that date as if it was yesterday. There is some significance to this which I hope to get to shortly.

Now, I got wind of this proclamation just this morning as I was checking the sage wisdom of Rabbi Harry Maryles as I so regularly do.

I actually read over the statement. It contains 12 principles, just one less than Rambam! In general, the proclamation is saying that despite the Halakhic injunctions against homosexual behavior, the rules of mentschlichkeit and kavod habrios are not to be inhibited.

Now, on the face of it, this is very reasonable and the author(s) seemed to have taken much care to acknowledge that there are still "red lines" of Halakha that must be respected. It is clear that the author(s) were struggling on the NCOJ (non-chareidi Orthodox Jew) tightrope to maintain the balancing act that is forever a part of the non-Chareidi world. One goal of this was to gain the widest scope of acceptance that is attainable in the greater Orthodox world.

Rabbi Maryles affixes his own stamp of approval though, commendibly, he does voice his objections on a number of details that are a bit too liberal for even his tastes. For the record, I agree with his objections. Nevertheless, I am a bit confused about how far his objections actually go for in this post he writes:

While I agree with this statement in principle, I object to the implied imprimatur this places upon homosexual couples who adopt children. With rare exception I am opposed to promoting adoptions by parents that do not have a male and female parenting role model. A child that has two parents of the same sex is being shortchanged in my view - even if they are celibate.At best it is a B’Dieved – just like a single parent family would be. If one has no choice that is one thing. But to suggest that less than the ideal should be ‘fully embraced’ is not something I can support.

Yet a bit less than a year ago (August 21, 2009) he wrote (HERE):

Is it halachicly permissible for homosexual couples to have and raise children? Is it a good idea?The answer to both those questions is probably yes -under certain conditions.

...So the idea of homosexual couples having their own child should not really be a problem – whether by natural means or by adoption. The question then arises: How? By what process do they achieve it? In the case of male homosexuals - do they get married to a woman just for procreative purposes even while living with a male partner? What about artificial insemination? Is that an option? Adoption? I do not see a problem with any of these options halachicly.

Psychologically the marriage option might be a bad choice. But if everyone is up front about who - and what - they really are and the marriage is only for procreative purposes it may not be so bad. ...The next question is what kind of family life will the child of a gay couple have? What if ‘Heather has two daddies’?At this point I would posit that female homosexual couples might not have as great a stigma as do male homosexual couples. Nor do they have the same halachic problems. So if ‘Heather has two mommies’ it may envisage a better outcome. ...On a halachic level though - I do not believe there is any real problem. And I don’t think the major Poskim have one either.

Now, of course, the easy answer is that in the August 2009 post, he never meant that it is "L'chatchila" but just as "b'diavad" as he writes here. But the tone of that post does not suggest it. He seems a lot closer to "full embrace" than he does here.

Whatever it is that he does "fully embrace" has another dimension. He laments the fact that no notable "right wing" Rabbi or Rosh Yeshiva has signed on to the proclamation. He wants to get them "on board". In his August 2009 post, he went further to fantasize that they are already on board. And this is what I really want to discuss.

Such a thing is never going to happen.

Now, in its time (August 29, 2009), I dealt with this at length and you can find the post here:

And for this occasion, I do not have too much to add to the eloquent comment of one ClooJew who, lulei d'mistefina, wrote:

There are three objections, lulei demistafina, that I can see Rabbonim—including YU's 34 Roshei Yeshiva, none of whom signed this letter—having to this letter.

One, Nothing happens in a vacuum. I think that most rabbonim from all stripes of the Orthodox world would agree with the content of most of this formal declaration. That does not mean they would agree that it should be formally declared.

By underscoring "our obligation to treat human beings with same-sex attractions and orientations with dignity and respect," the signatories go beyond dignity and respect, and enter the grey zone toward legitimization. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, the inherent nature of a public pronouncement is to overemphasize the facts it pronounces. This is what the activist agenda of the gay community thrives on. The reason for gay pride parades is not simply to announce but to publicize and promote.

Two, communal needs must not only be balanced with, but often take precedence over individual needs. Again, nothing happens in a vacuum. Publicly announcing oneself to be gay is unlike publicly announcing oneself to be a Yankees fan; it requires a response. It is a declaration waiting to be welcomed or rejected by the community. In a community that lives by a Torah which clearly states that homosexual behavior is an "abomination" punishable by death, such a statement cannot simply be overlooked.

Furthermore, a public revelation also unmasks the intentions of the homosexual. Would a heterosexual Orthodox Jew stand up and admit he likes to watch pornography (even if he claims to control himself)? A person who views his inclinations and behavior as non-halachic and immoral would keep it between himself, his rabbi, and God.

But I do want to add one other objection that those from the One Above camp would have (it really mirrors all of Mr. ClooJew's points, especially the third). Lulei d'mistafina, I felt there was one principle missing from the Statement (the 13th principle?!) and this is that the principles only discuss the sensitivity that we "straights" should have toward those who are "suffering" from this horrible (abominable?) affliction. What the proclamation does not say is that the homosexual must also respect the fact that the traditionalist heterosexual Jews does not want to look upon homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle by any measure and, as such, whatever homosexual tendencies are in place must be played down to the highest (lowest?) degree possible. In plain English it means - keep it under wraps! I really think, lulei d'mistafina, that this is the implication of Mr. ClooJew's third point and it is essential.

This proclamation comes across to me as a one-sided contract which enumerates the obligations of one party and absolves the other party of all obligations whatsoever. There is not a single word about how the homosexual who cannot control or conceal his "orientation" is supposed to deal with the community that is likewise struggling with this anomaly. The homosexual is the victim of "crossed wires" and has carte blanche to expose himself (itself?) for his weaknesses and the community has to tiptoe around him! No mutual obligations!

And here is where I want to get back to today's date. As I read Harry Maryles' blog dated July 28 and the link to the Statement Blog (created especially for this, apparently) also dated July 28 (though perhaps updated from July 22) I sit here in Jerusalem Ir Hakodesh on July 29 and read this "Statement of Principles" on the very day that a bunch of gay and lesbian perverts have nothing better to do than to make a public Pride parade through the heart of Yerushalayim! And they have done this and continue to do this year after year after year with the full knowledge that that this is the seat of Har Habayis and the Makom HaMikdash and that most of the population here is repulsed by it.

But they don't care. They are proud to be gay!

Now, we can rationalize that these are secular folks and religious Jews that are victims of SSA are not apt to be so audacious.

But then, on this very day, I read this newly released "Statement" from an "Orthodox" think tank (approved by Emes Ve-Emunah!) which tells me, as I sit here in Yerushalayim, how accepting we need to be to our SSA brethren, yet, not a word of responsibility to them and I say to myself: They couldn't pick a better time to release this proclamation??

Timing is everything!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Golden Oldies - Parshat Balak/Pinchas

I haven't written in a bit. Some readers are starting to forget that I exist (which may actually be the case). Let's chalk it up to an extended visit to the real world. I am still too preoccupied to write new material but I do want to present some of the Golden Oldies from the first months of this blog back in 2008 (anybody remember those days?).

In the old days, I used to do what I called a Parsha Challenge. I would first present a puzzling issue from the Parsha - something that the classical meforshim seem to have overlooked - and a few days later I presented a proposed solution.

Now the link between Parshat Balak and Parshat Pinchas is the terrible debacle at Shittim where many of our ancestors (or our ancestors kin) met their end. Exactly how many were indeed executed during the episode?

The question was asked in this post:

and, 3 days later, the solution was presented in this one:

Another fascinating discussion that centers in Parshat Pinchas was my discussion on TuM (it's not what you think!). Why on earth is this topic being discussed in this Parsha? This was the first Parsha Challenge that I ever posted in this blog. The problem was presented in this post:

And the proposed solution was presented here:

I do have some material for some up-to-date posts but it is very hard to find the time to write them up. In the meanwhile, have a great Shabbos!