Thursday, December 21, 2017

Nes Rubashkin - The Real Story

Yesterday was a great day for Klal Yisroel. Most of us do not know that the news media is only telling us a fraction of the story. I found out from anonymous reliable sources that this wasn’t stam and that there was a lot that happened within the previous 24 hours that we weren’t told. I got the full scoop and so here I give you the actual story of R. Sholom Rubashkin’s miraculous release:

And it was, at the end of eight years of days, and PharTrump was dreaming and behold he was standing on the Iowa side of the Mississippi. And behold, from the river arose seven glatt kosher beef cattle of pleasant appearance and prime on the rib and they grazed in Postville. And behold another seven treifeh beef cattle arose after them from the river, of poor appearance and short on the rib and they stood next to the first cattle on the bank of the river. And the treifeh beef cattle that were poor in appearance and thin of flanken devoured the seven kosher cattle that were pleasant of appearance and hearty, and PharTrump awoke.

And it was in the morning and his spirit was troubled, and he Twittered and he summoned all his spin doctors and all his wise men and son in law and he told them over his dream and none could interpret it for PharTrump.  Then his bartender Papadopoulos spoke up and said, “I must acknowledge my sins today. Before PharTrump blew his top at me, I was hanging around Otisville to check it out in case things went South, me and Steve Bannon. There we met a Hebrew National from Iowa who was an [acquitted] slave[holder] known as the Chief of the Slaughterers. He said he was in because Linda R. Reade, the wife of his master PETAfar, Chief [anti] Executioner for Phara-Oh Bama the Last, had it in for him. We asked him what’s in store for us and he pulled out a book called Igros Kodesh and told us to stick a paper in any page. We did that and he checked the pages and said I would get busted and Steve would get canned. And it was as he predicted so it came to be, I was busted and Steve was hung out to dry.”

And PharTrump sent for and summoned Sholom and they hurried him out of the slammer. He refused to shave but he changed his clothes and he came before PharTrump.

זה היום עשה ה' נגילה ונשמחה בו!

Mazel Tov to Reb Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, LOY”T and to all of Klal Yisroel. I am certain that this day of Zos Chanuka will be forever remembered by the Chabad Chassidim and made into a day of great gathering and rejoicing because this is what the Chabadniks always do to celebrate when one of theirs gets out of jail, especially if it’s in Kislev (okay, it was Teves).
I think we can all see the Yad Hashem and understand that sometimes what looks like a disaster is truly a yeshuah. We were all shocked and dismayed when we saw the unruly behavior of the court and the harshness of the charges and the sentence. We were all lamenting that it is way beyond reason.
But I think this very makka turned out to be the refuah because if Judge Reade would have been more practical and handed down a 10 or 15 year sentence, perhaps there would be no pressure to review the case and Reb Sholom would still be there. It is only because the sentence was so harsh and over the top that so many lawmakers and politicians were up in arms that facilitated this early release.

מה רבו מעשיך ה'.

RCANZ Does it Again

Once again the RCANZ (Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand) has outdone itself with irresponsible public statements.

Just a few days ago, they put out a statement as a response to a report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It seems that their outlet for statements is an Australian organization called Kol V'Oz which is dedicated to “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in the Global Jewish Community” and this is where the statement appears. After reading the statement, I can only say, in the clearest of terms, that it is fundamentally flawed and a misuse of the teachings of our gedolim. I am shaken to the core!

How so?

First, let’s have a look at the statement:

The Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand (RCANZ) Executive has made the following powerful statement in response to the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse:

The Royal Commission has now completed its work. The findings in general, and in particular the findings in relation to the failures of the rabbinic leadership of Yeshiva Sydney and Melbourne, must shake us to the core.

The Rabbinate as a whole must share responsibility in its failure to have educated itself and the community properly as to the true Torah values that do not allow mesira or any similar concept to be used to protect perpetrators and allow children to be left in harm’s way. We must recognise the great Chilul Hashem that was caused because we were not the light unto the nations that we should have been, but rather we contributed to the darkness. We can make no excuses and any apology we may make at this time must not be mere platitude.

We must truly absorb the horror that the Royal Commission has found, that instead of being protectors of the weak and innocent, Rabbis were directly responsible for the sexual abuse that occurred to children. There can be no greater shame, and no greater admonition to all of us, than that failure.

We must be grateful for and applaud the victims who had the extraordinary courage to stand up and be counted whether they were named or were represented anonymously. Reading their testimony breaks our heart. Make no mistake, the shunning still occurs. They still suffer not just for the abuse but at the hands of those who would blame them for exposing the community to criticism. We have all heard it, even now, and even amongst some within the leadership of the community. We as a Rabbinate say loudly and clearly: Those who spoke up are heroes who reflect the highest biblical ideals of the pursuit of Justice. We call on all members of the community finally to acknowledge and recognise all those who spoke out, as the true heroes they are and to give them and their families the respect they truly deserve.

Chanukah teaches us that a little light dispels a great deal of darkness. The light that the Royal Commission has shone on the darkness within our community must be the kindling for a great fire. We of the RCANZ have resolved to do everything we can so that the light we generate dispels once and for all, the darkness that is the abuse of children and the abuse of survivors.

Powerful, indeed. The statement itself is well written and quite principled. It says very appropriate and powerful things, BUT…
…the important thing is not what the statement says, but what it does. Or, what can happen as a result.

Believe it or not, this is a very irresponsible, scary, and dangerous statement. On the surface it appears to be very saintly, sincere and contrite and a confession of past sins. Ashamnu, bagadnu, We have sinned. We have erred. We must do better.

The problem is that it does not look like they are trying to center the pendulum, but rather to swing it to the opposite extreme. A statement like this is bound to be read that "anything goes". For child abuse there is no such thing as "mesira" and likewise no such thing as due process or protecting the rights of one who is only suspected and accused of things that they may not have done. Nothing to tell their followers to think and ask before they do things that can be more damaging than they imagine. Damaging even to those they think they are protecting.

It is wonderful to praise those who have the bravery to speak out, but it is not always a good idea to speak out to just anybody - for the sake of all parties concerned. One must know what to speak, when to speak, how to speak, and to whom to speak. In most cases, and certainly whenever possible, it requires rabbinic guidance in each case.

Aside from being the teaching of the Chofetz Chaim and just plain common sense (see my posts about the 3 Ps and the 3 Cs), it is the ruling of Moreinu Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, ZTVK"L (click HERE). 

As I wrote previously about the Australians, they are sadly not an am chacham. They do not see the nolad.

I hope the Australian Jewish community can survive the tribulations of this generation, but I think it is a time for a change in leadership.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Dassi’s Lament: The Pitfalls of Vengeance – Parts I-III

Part I – A Short Vort

והבור רק, אין בו מים (בראשית לז,כד)

And the pit was empty, it had no water in it.

ממשמע שנא' והבור רק איני יודע שאין בו מים אלא מה ת"ל אין בו מים מים אין בו אבל נחשים ועקרבים יש בו: (שבת כב.)

If the pit is empty, certainly it had no water in it! What does this teach us? The pit had no water in it, but there were snakes and scorpions in it. (Shabbos 22a)

I am a little late for Parshas Vayeshev. But since it is still Chanukah (final hours), I want to bring us back to this timeless chazal.

We have probably heard countless insights on the significance of this chazal. For our purposes, I want to weave a tapestry from three well known insights.

The first two are very concise and almost identical:

Insight 1 (מפי השמועה)

Nature abhors a vacuum. A receptacle cannot be absolutely empty. If there is no water occupying the space there must be something else. So chazal tell us there were snakes and scorpions.

Insight 2 (מפי השמועה)

Water is a useful commodity. Snakes and scorpions have no constructive purpose. The second insight is that when a receptacle is not being used for a positive purpose, it will not stand idle but will be used for a less than positive purpose. There is no neutral.

Insight 3 (אזנים לתורה)

The third insight is an extension of the first two, but we must first know three other teachings of chazal:

Baba Kama 17a

אין מים אלא תורה – When the pasuk refers to “mayim” - water, it is a synonym for Torah knowledge.

Yoma 22b

כל תלמיד חכם שאינו נוקם ונוטר כנחש אינו תלמיד חכם  - Any Torah sage who is not as begrudging and vengeful as a snake [for the honor of Torah] is not a true Torah sage. This tells us that the snake is the quintessential model of a creature that is begrudging and vengeful. Or, in other words, one who is unjustifiably begrudging and vengeful is imitating the attributes of a snake. As such, a “nachash” – snake - is a synonym for one who is begrudging and vengeful.

Avoda Zara 13b

העובדי כוכבים והרועי בהמה דקה; לא מעלין ולא מורידין - The idol worshippers and those who raise sheep and goats in Eretz Yisrael (and allows them to graze indiscriminately), we do not raise them out and we do not lower them down.

Raise them out from where? And lower them down to where?

Rashi there in Avoda Zara 13b tells us: We do not lower him into a בור – “bor”, a pit – so that he will die; but if he fell into a pit by the Hand of G-d, we do not rescue him,  either.

This last teaching tells us that there are three status levels of people.
(1) A regular normal upstanding person. For such a person, if he should fall into a life threatening situation, the basic din is maalin v’lo moridin. We must do everything we can to raise him out of his “pit” and certainly to prevent him from falling in.
(2) A menace to society and a threat to others. Here, the din is moridin v’lo maalin, we may even initially lower him into the pit thus bringing about his demise.
(3) One who is not a confirmed threat (a shepherd who is not careful about grazing) or his sins are only to G-d (an idol worshipper). Here, the din is lo maalin v’lo moridin, i.e. “hands off”. If he is in danger, we do not save him but we cannot put him there if he isn’t already.

So the reference of maalin and moridin is relating to an allegorical bor – a pit. Hence, bor is a synonym for a ruling of administering or saving from death.

To review: mayim - water - is a synonym for Torah knowledge, a snake is a synonym for one who is begrudging and vengeful, and a bor – a pit –is a synonym for a life threatening situation.

Now let us put it all together.

The ten brothers were judging Yosef’s status regarding the din of “bor”. Is he upstanding - “maalin v’lo moridin”? Is he reckless - “lo maalin v’lo moridin”? Or is he wicked - “moridin v’lo maalin”? Their ruling was the most extreme, “moridin v’lo maalin”. He can be actively lowered into the “bor”.
They passed a sentence of bor.

But the pasuk is informing us that the “bor” was empty, void of mayim. Their verdict was void of Torah principles. Their motives were not sanctioned by true Halacha. Chazal follow up on this to add: not only was there no “mayim”, Torah principles, but there were “nachashim” and “akrabim”. There were emotions of grudging and vengeance.

So says Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, ZT”L, in Oznayim L’Torah, Breishis 37:24. This is the third insight.

When we bring this back to the original two insights about “nature abhors a vacuum”, we understand that no human action or judgment is done without motives. One’s consideration of “bor" status must either be driven by the “waters” of Torah and be justifiable as “L’shem Shamayim” or, for lack of “water”, it inevitably will fill with “nachashim” and be driven by personal whims of grudging, vengeance and self-gratification.

End of sermon.

Part II – Dassi’s First Post

I haven’t written anything about the Malka Leifer episode for over two months. Out in the real world, nothing significant has happened for quite some time. But on the social media, there has been a great deal. The primary “victim” in the case, one Dassi Erlich, has been trying to make as much noise as she can and, in so doing, she is exposing a lot about herself and her two sisters.

This sudden surge of publicity began on September 23 (two days before Rosh Hashannah) when R. Dovid Lichtenstein aired a public interview with Dassi Erlich which I found to be enormously disturbing. I will explain what was so disturbing as we continue. At the time, I considered devoting a post to this interview, but the time wasn't ripe for it. I merely wrote a short note on my Facebook page.

Dassi Erlich made some startling revelations in the Headlines interview, which I will discuss later, and what she posted over the past week was even more startling, with more revelations. In between, there were two additional very disturbing podcasts by R. Dovid Lichtenstein on the subject of Mesira. For now, all that I can say about Dassi Erlich and R. Dovid Lichtenstein is: 

The pit is empty. There is no water.

Let’s quickly review the background. (See HERE for my initial post.)

Malka Leifer, an Israeli woman, was employed by a chareidi girls’ school in Melbourne, Australia from 2001-2008. In 2008 she was accused by some students of improper sexual behavior. She was immediately dismissed and sent back to EY. She has not admitted guilt nor has she been accused of any inappropriate behavior from that point on.

Since 2012, there has been an active campaign led by Miss Dassi Erlich to have her extradited back to Australia to be handed over to the non-Jewish judicial system for the purposes of punishment.

In past posts I have written that as tragic and damaging as the initial misbehavior up to 2008 may have been, it is now 2017 and this person lives in EY. There is no indication that she is currently any kind of rodef even here in EY and most certainly not in Australia where she hasn’t set foot since 2008 and has no intention to do so ever again. 

Consequently, for lack of a status of rodef, there is no conceivable justification to extradite her to Australia and hand her over to the non-Jews. Any effort to do so constitutes full blown mesira and a host of other heavy transgressions.

The Halachic foundation for all this – the “water of Torah” – was painstakingly laid out in this post (Thinking Like a Jew). So far, the only challenge I have received to anything that was written there was some fine-schmekker who had a problem with my description of nashim daatan kalos.

In addition to the long list of serious transgressions that would be in effect, I added that since there is no Halachic justification for this, this illicit media campaign and all the publicity it is generating is a colossal Chillul Hashem. What can be a bigger Chillul Hashem than setting up a FB page dedicated to mosering a Jew to the non-Jews and trying to recruit the “empty pit” masses to participate??

Now, let us get up to date and look at the two most recent Facebook posts of Dassi Erlich (update - she has since added two more posts).

The first of the posts comprises only three lines which I will number for reference purposes. Here is what she wrote:

1.   They tell me it's a chillul Hashem. My media campaign to #bringleiferback - a desecration of God.
(Messages received on a fairly regular basis)

2.   It makes me wonder how many people are messaging Malka Leifer with the same sentiment??

3.   Why is the onus on the survivor to remain silent and not on the perpetrator to expeditiously face the consequences of their crime?

In Line 1 she notes that she is receiving these messages “on a fairly regular basis”. Evidently, I am not the only person who sees her campaign as a big Chillul Hashem. Note that I am only a single person and I have not broached this topic for about two months and, outside of my blogs, I certainly have not messaged her, nor have I encouraged anybody else to do so.

Everything else she wrote both in the post and in response to comments indicates that she doesn’t take these messages seriously. So, why did she need to post this?

Something is obviously gnawing at her and she is desperate for support. So she turns to her mindless choir and, in one voice (except for a lone dissenter), they soothe her conscience. Of course, there is no mention of who “They” are. Even worse, she does not tell her audience on what basis “They” tell her it is a Chillul Hashem! She does not give her clueless audience a premise upon which to evaluate whether or not there is merit to this charge. And not a single member of her support choir seems to be interested.

Let’s move on to Line 2. She is wondering if people are sending the same messages to Mrs. Leifer.

Now, it’s pretty clear that Mrs. Leifer does not have a Facebook page and is not running any campaigns. Currently she is only going to Meron on Lag B’Omer and calling in sick to her extradition hearings. I didn’t really comprehend the question. At first glance, I thought that Dassi is asking if others are also telling Mrs. Leifer that Dassi’s Facebook page is a Chillul Hashem. Like, is Mrs. Leifer getting direct support from the “audience”? 

This “wonderment” does strike as a bit bizarre, like, why should she care? 

I then realized that I misunderstood her question and she was really asking if anybody from “her” (Dassi's) camp is telling Mrs. Leifer that her something-or-other is a Chillul Hashem?

This is even more bizarre (which is why I originally discounted this position). What is Mrs. Leifer currently doing that can possibly be called a Chillul Hashem???
Assuming the alleged activities are true, they occurred more than nine years ago and ended then. A thing of the past. As noted, Mrs. Leifer has not posted anything on social media for or against anybody. The only thing happening now that is relevant to the past is that she is not cooperating with those who want to extradite her and prosecute her. In light of the fact that her official position is one of innocence, whether true or not, there is no obligation for her to cooperate with those who are rodef her, with no Halachic license, to boot.  It certainly is no Chillul Hashem for her to avoid incriminating herself or to be incriminated.

Dassi Erlich alone is running a public media campaign to facilitate the mesira, nekama, Gonev ish, Lo tasgir, and any other transgression that is involved and is urging other uninvolved people (many of whom think they are observant Jews) to join her. And this is in the face of not only I but others who are warning her of her folly “on a fairly regular basis”!

Line 3 is the Makkah b’patish. Dassi wants to know why she must remain silent and there is no onus “on the perpetrator to expeditiously face the consequences of their crime”?

At the simple level these are two distinct questions. The answer to the first one - Why must she remain silent? - is quite obvious to a devoted Jew. We have rules about malshinus. If there is a clear and present danger to people and a constructive toelles to the malshinus, then one need not remain silent. But if nobody is in any kind of danger and the malshinus serves no useful purpose, as is the case here, then malshinus is forbidden.

The second question about why the “perpetrator” doesn’t need to “expeditiously face the consequences of their crime” is a very silly one. “Perpetrators” are not prone to do these sort of things just because their accusers want them to. Even if the accuser asks nicely like Dassi did in her Headlines interview (37:10).

So the answers to her questions at this level are really quite simple to one who knows how to think logically and to think like a Jew. One whose “bor” is filled with “water”, the water of Torah. But we have seen that if the “bor” is void of water, then it gets filled with “nachashim”, only thoughts of vengeance. And a vengeful thinker cannot think rationally. And so, she laments at being baffled by these questions.

But clearly, on a deeper level, she is asking a different question in Line 3. I will get to it in Part III where we examine her second recent post.

Part III – Dassi’s Second Post

Before I get back to her inquisitive post, we should examine her following post which was essentially a link to an interesting supportive write-up in the Age of Victoria authored by one Rachel Kleinman.

I mentioned that both her interview with R. Dovid Lichtenstein and her recent Facebook posts were full of revelations or “confessions”.  Many of these confessions are really only confirmations of significant details that were already presented by other sources. Until now, I dealt with them as unconfirmed speculations, but now she is herself confirming all of these details. In the Headlines interview, she said these things straight out and in her recent Facebook post, she is linking to a report in the Age of Victoria for which she herself provided almost all of the details – so everything written there carries her imprimatur.

Here is the short list of revelations:

1.   She came from an abusive home (Headlines 22:30 and 28:55). The Age article puts it this way:
Sadly, the seven children lived in a physically and emotionally abusive home, where they existed in constant fear of their cruel and extremely controlling mother.

With this, she confirms my charge that she had emotional issues for 15 years before Malka Leifer came into her life. Even if Malka Leifer did everything she is accusing her of, she is certainly not the sole cause of her problems.

2.   The school “had no idea” that something was going on (Headlines 31:30) and “no one had ever dealt with anything like this before” (Headlines 32:20).

With this, she is confessing that there is no justification for her to sue the school and to take any money from whoever it is that is paying it (which is not Mrs. Leifer).

3.   The three sisters gave their initial statements to the Victorian police only in 2011. (Age article).

This raises two very important questions:

a.  Malka Leifer was already gone from Australia for three years. As such, there was no rhyme or reason certainly from a halachic standpoint and even from a logical standpoint to involve the Victoria police. She is gone. If she can be considered an active threat in Eretz Yisrael in 2011 then it is perhaps justified to give a statement to the Israeli police, but to the Victorian police? Why? Did they do this on a whim or did they get any professional or Rabbinic guidance to do this? Why are the masses applauding this wanton behavior?

b. As long as no "statement" was given to the Victoria police, then she can certainly not be considered a potential or wanted criminal - or fugitive. Hence, when the Adass people shipped her out of Australia in 2008, they weren't shipping out an official fugitive and there was no act of obstruction of justice. As such, what is the justification of anybody to take them to task for doing the responsible thing and getting her out of Australia? And what are the grounds of Justice Jack Rush to incriminate them and fine them money?

4.   Her sister Nicole is two years her senior (Age article).

This was a real shocker!  Until now, I thought Dassi was probably the oldest. Earlier articles claim that she was abused from the age of 15-18. I found this to be perplexing in itself.  For four years into adulthood she didn’t know she was being abused? All this was non-consensual? But now I discover that for all this time she had a sister that was even two years older! 17-20! Where was she during all of this? Wait, there’s more! Another sister 12 years older! (Passed away three years ago at 39. Dassi is 30.) Where was she? Didn’t Dassi say in the Headlines interview (29:20) that she has six siblings and “I am very close to all of them”?

Something definitely does not add up here.

5.   And the last thing is something that I had heard from unverifiable sources and strongly suspected but was only now confirmed. In the Headlones interview she mentioned twice that she “was struggling with my religion” which is not conclusive, but the Age article closes the issue:
She had already endured the tricky transition from a life in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, where every move was governed by severe rules and rituals, to a secular life in Melbourne's suburbs. (Age article)

It’s confirmed. Dassi is no longer religious!

Actually, this was quite obvious to me from the start. Back in my post about Judging the Judges I wrote, "My suspicion is that she is no longer religious." And I wrote it again in my post about Flirting with Danger. After I repeated for the third time the list of issurim that are involved, I commented:

All of the above should rile up any yarei shamayim, people who believe in the 11th principle of emunah that HKBH will punish people for their transgressions. There is serious danger here… I was hoping this alone would reach the Australian Jews. But it seems to me that most of these Jews, the victims and their supporters, are not really yarei shamayim. So they will not acknowledge this danger.

In short, Dassi is not fazed by her involvement with mesira, and gonev ish, etc. She is not religious and no longer believes in Heavenly retribution. She does not use Torah principles to make her judgments. Her “bor” is void of water. By default, it is full of vengeful snakes and scorpions.

We can now return to her earlier post about Chillul Hashem, and I have a question of my own:

If she is no longer observant, why does she care if “They” think her campaign is a Chillul Hashem?

She has left the frum community, so it would seem that she is not really interested in what “They” think. She is docheh “Them” with both hands. There is no Torah. In her [secular] book, there is no Halacha. There is no mesira, malshinus, Lo Tasgir, Gonev ish. No nekama and no Chillul Hashem.

So, what’s her problem?

Her problem is the makka b’patish in Line 3.

Even though she is asking two separate questions, emotionally it is really only one question:
Why do I have to stay quiet and (at the same time) she doesn't have to give herself up? It isn't fair!

Why are “They” telling only her that she is perpetrating a Chillul Hashem. What about Mrs. Leifer (who hasn’t crossed any lines in over nine years)? Aren’t “They” also telling her she is doing a Chillul Hashem? Why only Dassi? Why can she go to Meron on Lag B’Omer? (Note - Dassi can go, too!) How can she get away without being extradited? Why are “They” protecting/supporting Mrs. Leifer and not her?

Oh, Teacher, why do I get sent out for disrupting the class?? She's the one who was making the funny faces!

It’s not fair!!!

She is tormenting herself. She cannot sleep nights. She sees Mrs. Leifer everywhere she looks (evidently, she looks everywhere for Leifer). Just like I wrote in my post about Judging the Judges, after the confirmed abuse from her mother and the alleged abuse from Mrs. Leifer, Dassi is abusing herself. She has no peace. And why?

Because she has no “water” in her “bor”. It is full of snakes and scorpions.

So she goes into her Facebook sanctuary and listens to her choir sing her praises. They unanimously tell her she is a tzadeikes. She is amazing. Strong. Inspiration. Chillul Hashem? How dare “They”? Everything she is doing is a Kiddush Hashem! The only one making a Chillul Hashem is that “vile vile animal”. Keep it up! Hatzlacha Rabba! Etc. etc. etc…

They are soothing her injured psyche. They are easing her pain. They are encouraging her and empowering her…for today.

But for tomorrow (and the next day), they are helping her abuse herself and helping her to perpetuate her torment. And they are helping her to lose both worlds – chas v’shalom – and to take her daughter and two sisters and everyone else with her!

Snakes and scorpions are very dangerous creatures. They will destroy her. I wrote in my June 7 post: Nekama always destroys its master. It’s a boomerang!

הוא שטן הוא יצר הרע הוא מלאך המות

End of Part III

To be continued…

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Trump's Noble Prize

The gemara in Avoda Zara (17a) tells us about [Rabi] Eliezer ben Durdaya. This fellow made sure to conduct business with any woman who was open for business. During one encounter, he had a sudden jolt of remorse and set out to mend his ways. He went to a valley and cried out his soul until it left him. Whereupon, a Heavenly voice called out, “Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya is invited to the world to come.”

The story concludes that when Rebbi [Yehuda HaNasi] heard this Heavenly voice he tearfully exclaimed, “There are those who acquire their ‘world’ only after many years [of righteous deeds] and there are those who acquire it in a single moment.”

The simple way to understand Rebbi is that the "world" he was referring to is one’s World-to-Come, his Olam Haba. It surely fits in with the proclamation of the Heavenly voice. But, at the risk of deviating from the plain interpretation, I want to suggest an alternative intention of Rebbi.

It could be that Rebbi was also telling us that many people need to invest years of good deeds in order to “make the headlines”; in order to be known far and wide for their contribution to mankind. And there are those who can seize the moment and get into the headlines in the actions of a split second.

What kind of Olam Haba did “Rabbi” Eliezer ben Durdaya get? Was it the same Olam Haba that was in store for Rebbi and his chaveirim and those who commit their lives to Torah and chessed?

I doubt it. In fact, I suspect that Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya probably needed to go through some harsh Heavenly tikkunim before he was through (but without the teshuva he would not even be zocheh to that.) So what kind of Olam Haba was Rebbi crying about?

Rabbi Eliezer got an Olam Haba that turns us all green with envy – he got his name into the gemara in Avoda Zara 17a. And on an inspirational note, to boot. And it will be there forever. In less than two months from now, on the day after Tu B’Shvat, thousands upon thousands of Jews who learn daf yomi will hear the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya and his teshuva if they haven’t already.

Don’t tell my wife, but I wouldn't complain if I had to trade places with him. This is Olam Haba.

Rebbi wasn’t kidding about how hard it is to get one's name in the books (if this is what he meant). The gemara in Sukkah 28a tells us that Hillel the Elder had 80 disciples. 30 of whom were worthy that the Shechina should rest on them and another 30 worthy to hold back the sun as could Yehoshua bin Nun. 20 were “in between”. The greatest of whom was Rabi Yonasan ben Uziel and the “least” of whom was Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai who did not leave a word of Torah unstudied.

You mean to tell me that there were 78 talmidim greater than Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai and we don’t know any of their names???

Rabi Akiva had 24,000 talmidim. We don’t know the name of a single one of them. We only know the names of his last five talmidim – who are the foundation of our current Mishna including Rabi Meir, Rabi Yehuda, and Rabi Shimon ben Yochai. Do you think these 24,000 were any less great?

I can assure you that there were hundreds (if not thousands) of worthy Tannayim and Amoraim that we will never know about. Also Geonim, Rishonim, Poskim, Achronim, and great rabbanim from the recent past who wrote volumes of chiddushim that we will never know and never see.

Rabbi Eliezer ben Durdaya?

As Rebbi said (with tears), some people just plain get lucky!

It’s not just Jews. Consider our friend Dama ben Nesina. We know his story. He had a jasper stone for the Choshen but had to pass up the sale so as not to wake up his pop. Next year he was blessed with a parah adumah and told the chachamim that “I know that you would pay me as much as I ask, but I will only ask for the money I lost by honoring my dad”.

Do you think he sold himself short and made a bad deal? Au contraire. This fellow was a sly businessman. He could have gotten a lot more cash for the parah aduma but he got better. He got his name into shas (Kedushin 31a) and he is the poster child for Kibbud Av v'Em for every Jewish kid. I can assure you that if he would have taken the whole jackpot, his name and story wouldn’t be there.

What’s worth more?

A good businessman knows that the intangible value of a sale may pay off a lot more than the full cash value. So it pays off to forego the bottom line for a bit of highly publicized nobility. Perhaps we can call this the “Noble Prize”.

Just ask the 2013 Noble Prize winner, Rabbi Noach Muroff.

Well, the current winner of the Noble Prize is our own president Donald Trump. Kudos on his decision to “deliver”.

I think the events of last week are the most momentous to occur since 9-11. We are anticipating a lot of fireworks and jubilation but just what kind of fireworks and who will come out jubilant remains to be seen. I hope there isn’t any blood, and if there is (R”L), it isn’t ours.

This obviously required a lot of fortitude and carries substantial personal risks, but it suits Trump to the “T”. Nobody thinks of Trump as a politician. He operates like the businessman he is and this moves looks to me like a very sensible business move. Because one thing is assured...

...Donald Trump has bought his place into the history books. And it will be there long after all his Towers of Bavel come crashing down. I think he got a great deal.

Trump is a businessman first and politician last, and I don’t think that his political career means too much to him. His triumph was to get there but there is no glory in staying here. Besides, he is already 71 years old. How much time does he have left? 10 years? 20? Maybe not even 10? Who knows?

What has he really got to lose?

Not too much, but there is plenty to gain. Donald Trump knows an opportunity when he sees one and he was not about to pass this one up.

And it’s about time. Almost every president has some event or accomplishment that gives him some kind of legacy. Also some kind of Mideast breakthrough, real or imagined. Nixon had the Yom Kippur war, Carter had the Sinai accords, Reagan had Osirak and the Iranian hostage breakthrough, Clinton had Oslo and Wye, George W. had 9-11. But Obama had nothing. No bogus peace agreements, Sinai, Wye, Oslo, nothing. No Cuba Missile crisis, no hostage crisis, no 9-11, nothing.  Eight years of absolutely nothing.  And Hillary promised us more of the same!

Oh yeah, he claimed to have nailed Osama bin Laden although nobody saw the body and he brought the US health care system from bad to worse. But fifty years from now, what on earth will he be remembered for? His name may as well be Millard Fillmore.

Oh, right, he won the Nobel Prize. But he didn’t win the Noble Prize.

There are people in our circles who are hailing Trump as a reincarnation of Koresh. I’ve seen somebody else calling him a reincarnation of Alexander the Great complete with a photo comparison.

I look at him as a reincarnation of somebody much more recent. So recent that their lifespans overlap.

Personally, I was always in favor of Trump’s candidacy and victory. I didn’t vote this election because it was too much trouble for me to deal with an absentee ballot. And I was anyway from a strong Hillary state. But I certainly would have voted for Trump.

Many people wouldn’t consider it because he is known as a philandering foul-mouthed businessman who tells it like it is and isn’t much good at diplomacy. This is what I liked.

It looked like at 70 years old, his philandering (Eliezer ben Durdaya) days are a thing of the past. And as for everything else, I think he would be at least as good as the last president who was a foul-mouthed businessman who tells it like it is and wasn’t much good at diplomacy. And who, just like Trump, wasn’t expected to win the presidency. And who knew, just like Trump, how to assure his place in history.

And, like our current president, his name begins with T-r-u-m…

Harry S Truman wasn’t particularly a friend of the Jews. His ex-partner had to twist his arm to convince him to meet Chaim Weitzman. But he was a man who could make a cost benefit analysis. One who knew what the reality is and could do what had to be done. And, if you ask the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, they’ll tell you that he “delivered”. And, for his fortitude, the Jews will canonize him forever.

It’s been 70 years since we’ve had such a president, but it's about time.

Give ‘em heck, Donny.

Related posts:

Writing Yourself into the Torah 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Prenups III: The Waive Theory vs. the Particle Theory

Author’s note – This post is intended to clarify some of the Halachic assertions presented in the previous two posts (Part 1 and Part 2) and address some challenging comments. Once again, it includes some highly technical Halachic discussion and is geared for Halachic savvy readers. In an effort to make the points as succinct and user friendly as possible, I was unable to explain some of the points at length. Please contact me offline ( or in the comments for more detailed explanations.

For readers who are not interested in the Halachic debate, you can get a synopsis of this post in the closing section with the heading: Bottom Line.

Of the two pro-PNA commenters who weighed in at my first post, it looks like one of them has given up on me. The second, R. Daniel, still thinks there’s hope.

Incidentally, R. Daniel lives right here with me in Yerushalayim (though not in Har Nof) so I can assume that he understands the prevailing mentality here. I don’t believe we have ever met, but I would be happy to. You know what they say: You never know who your next mechutan will be.

R. Daniel pointed to one of the Halachic assertions that I posited as follows:

"So, does it (the “siluk”) take effect at “the time of the wedding”?

It would, indeed, if this were when he wants the siluk to take effect. But because he does not want it to take effect now and is freezing it for later, it cannot."

And this is what he wrote:

This is a critical mistake. Normally, at the time of the wedding the husband gets the right to the ma'asei yadayim. The siluk prevents him getting some of this right at the time of the wedding. He still gets the right to most of the ma'asei yadayim, but he is mistalek from the right to ma'asei yadyaim for the period after the couple's domestic residence ceases to be together.

Clearly, R. Daniel disagrees with one of the assertions that I made in my post. He calls it a “critical mistake”. This is serious.

I have always acknowledged that I am not a posek, just a Toen Rabbani in training, and my blog (and book) is merely a forum for me to think out loud. (People complain that I am a very loud thinker, so I try not to think too much after midnight.) I don’t need to be right. That is the domain of genuine poskim.

That said, I don’t think I am making a mistake, critical or otherwise, but as a Toen, I can only state my case and the opposing council can state his and the powers-that-be (or the audience) can judge. So let’s understand what I am saying and let’s understand what R. Daniel is saying and let’s evaluate how critical all this may be.

As I wrote in Part 1, the main concept of Siluk is discussed at length in Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 92. It is discussed there exclusively in regard to the proceeds of nichsei malug. There is no indication that it can apply to maaseh yadayim at all.

Yet, sure enough, the concept is brought down by the Rema almost as an afterthought in Choshen Mishpat 209:8 and the poskim seem to apply it to any type of future “zechus” which can include maaseh yadayim. But, even for maaseh yadayim, it works on the same principle, which is that the potential beneficiary is stating: אי אפשי בתקנת חכמים – “I am not interested in [benefiting from] this Rabbinic ordinance [which was only implemented for my benefit]”.

The baseline case discussed in Choshen Mishpat is where a person wants to renounce his upcoming eligibility to this benefit (mesalek). Says Rema that in contrast to being mochel the actual monetary benefits which cannot be done in advance, he can renounce his upcoming eligibility so that it should not begin to take effect. This is as much as the Rema and later poskim tell us and it implies that the person is blocking the eligibility from taking effect at all – from the moment he would first become eligible. They do not discuss a more complex scenario where the beneficiary wants the eligibility to take effect now but is stating that, even though he wants it to take hold, he is as of now renouncing a part of the eligibility that may come at a later time (not the benefits, but the eligibility).

This is what is happening in the BDA Prenup. Can this work?

This depends on an age-old debate in quantum physics – the Waive Theory versus the Particle Theory.

My position- the Waive Theory

I maintain that the concept of אי אפשי בתקנת חכמים is one continuous unbroken waive of the rights – or, eligibility – to the benefits that are granted.  It’s all or nothing; either you want the eligibility to take effect or you don’t. One cannot break it up into pieces and say, “I want it to take effect under the current circumstances, but I am already renouncing it under a different set of circumstances which are definitely not in effect now and may never be.

I see this as contradictory and somewhat absurd. In my mind, one who enacts this is really renouncing the future benefits themselves and not the “eligibility” toward them despite his choice of words. In short, it reverts to a mechila of the earnings, not a siluk. And we know that one cannot renounce future benefits before they come into existence.

R. Daniel’s position – the Particle Theory

R. Daniel maintains that אי אפשי בתקנת חכמים can be broken up into particles.  Each moment that one is enjoying these rights is a new zechus of benefits unrelated to that of a moment earlier. המחדשים בטובם בכל יום תמיד תקנת חכמים. What’s more, the eligibility for all of these particles, present and future, is granted all at the moment of nissuin so as to enable one, at that time, to accept whichever particles he wants and relinquish up front those that he doesn’t.

I suppose in gemara talk, we can call this פלגינן palginan (we split)”. We say this regarding problematic testimony wherein there are times when “we split” the testimony and accept what is kosher and disregard what isn’t. Here, as well, we are splitting the takanas chachamim and accepting it when it serves our purposes and, at the same time, claiming it doesn’t even begin to take effect when doing so does not serve our purposes.

This position is vital.

In my previous post, I explained why, according to my Waive Theory, the waiver in the BDA Prenup cannot take effect right after the nissuin. And since it can only take effect at zero hour (separation or notification), the husband has ample opportunity up to that point to retract it. Comes R. Daniel and he explains to me that if one maintains the Particle Theory – “The siluk prevents him getting some of this right at the time of the wedding. He still gets the right to most of the ma'asei yadayim…” – thus, all is well. We must conclude that Rabbi Willig, Shlita and the framers of the BDA Prenup maintain the Particle Theory as well.

R. Daniel seems to be very smug that his perception is correct; yet I don’t know on what basis he can be so certain. All that I, or anyone, knows is the baseline Halacha professed by the Rema in Ch”M 209:8. This Halacha merely states that a siluk can work on a zechus that has not yet taken effect. Period. R. Daniel and the BDA are extending it to another level of “palginan” and I wonder how anybody can support this extension.  I suppose that his strength is from the fact that the wise sages of the BDA are in his corner. So this must be the true viewpoint. And I am making a mistake. A critical mistake!

How critical is my “mistake”?

Well, at the end of the day what is the difference between the two “theories”? I can only think of these three:

1)  The Integrity of the Text of the PNA

According to my Waive Theory, the declaration in the PNA that “and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our wedding” is totally meaningless since no siluk takes effect at that time. At best, the text needs to be changed to read, “and I recite that I shall be deemed to have repeated this waiver at the time of our separation”.  In short, the text needs to be changed.

According to the Particle Theory of R. Daniel/BDA that one can do a partial siluk at the time of the nissuin (wedding) that will take effect in its time, there is no need to change the text of the PNA.

I must add that even if the language of the “I shall be deemed…” clause does not need to be changed, there is another part that must be changed. We previously stated that the terminology: “I waive my halakhic rights to my wife’s earnings…” is too ambiguous in that it can mean to waive by means of pardon (mechila) or by means of abdication (siluk). Since mechila cannot work according to all opinions, the PNA must be clarified to clearly say that we are dealing with siluk and the text should be modified accordingly.

2)  Retracting the Siluk up to the Time of Separation

According to my Waive Theory, at least, up to the time that the separation takes place, not only can the husband retract the waiver clause, but there is not even any need to because no waiver is in effect.

According to the Particle Theory of R. Daniel/BDA that there is a pending siluk in effect until the time of the separation, there is a dispute among the Poskim if it can be retracted in the interim. I wrote about this in the previous post and I will try to briefly explain it here.

The pending siluk that takes effect is the siluk that is discussed in Ch”M 209:8 and, as such, carries all of the issues that are presented in that Halacha. This is where the Ketzos brings a dispute of the later poskim headed by the Moharit who says that in a case where there is only a declaration with no kinyan, there is no problem retracting it before it comes into existence because אתי דיבור ומבטל דיבור a later declaration nullifies an earlier one. Although the Ketzos challenges him, the claim of the Ketzos defies comprehension because he brings a proof from a case of Yibum very different than ours – a case which is not dealing with property that is not in existence and where there was a kinyan on this property. This is contrary to the subject matter of this Halacha. This implies that the Ketzos may agree in our case.

Beyond this, the conclusion of the Ketzos himself is that the issue of retraction remains a dispute in Halacha (Rema and Tumim vs. Shach in Ch”M 112:1). It is beyond the scope of this post to elaborate further with the Halachic technicalities, but after studying this closely and sorting out the nuances in the cases brought as “proofs”, my view is that it is virtually unanimous that in our case the siluk can be retracted as long as the object of the siluk is not yet in existence.

3)  Retracting the Siluk after the Separation

In line with my Waive Theory, it appears to me that if the language is changed to assert the siluk from the time of the separation, it is quite possible that it will take effect and be irrevocable from that point.

According to the Particle Theory, ironically, since there is a new zechus for eligibility every subsequent moment, and each new moment relies on the “pending” siluk of “time of wedding”, then the dispute mentioned in the previous section will extend indefinitely even after the time of separation. This is because, according to the particle theory, each approaching moment requires a new siluk and one can always retract the siluk for the moments that have not yet come. According to the opinions in the dispute that one cannot retract a predesignated siluk, then we are okay. But the dispute stands.

Bottom Line

Here are the final results of our discussion:

·         Perhaps the language of the PNA has to be changed and perhaps not. Although it should definitely be changed to clarify the waiver as a siluk.

·         Either way, the waiver is either totally non-existent or pending until the time of separation.

·         According to my perspective that the waiver is non-existent, there is no waiver to retract until that time. According to the other perspective that it is pending, retraction is a matter of Halachic dispute and, in case the husband indeed retracts, we must be stringent with a question of get meuseh and honor the opinions that the retraction is valid.

·         According to the BDA perspective (if they do not change the text), the Halachic dispute may extend even after the separation and we must likewise honor the opinions that retraction after the separation is valid.

So, whether you accept my position or R. Daniel’s (BDA), the prevailing picture is that the waiver is revocable at least until the point of separation if not even later.

Perhaps there is a “critical” mistake afoot. But either it’s not my mistake or it’s not so critical.