Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting Hurt Where it Counts

Let’s briefly recap where we’ve been the last two posts.

We were discussing the Halachic phenomenon of forbidden marriages which, technically, need to be dissolved.  We noted that in almost all scenarios the forbidden status is in effect before the couple gets hitched so such a marriage can only occur among people who were not aware of the problematic status up front. Once a marriage is problem free, nobody will suddenly become forbidden. So, before you pick a spouse, open up a Shulchan Aruch or learn Yevamos and you’ll be all right.

We then noted that this is not always the case. Of course, if a woman is willfully unfaithful, she becomes forbidden to her husband. But this is very easily remedied – just stay faithful. Being unfaithful is a choice. Nobody can force a woman to be unfaithful, except…that’s right, we all know…if the husband is a Kohein.

In fact, let me relate as follows:

The Introduction of my book was meant to explain the reason I felt the urge to write it. I wrote that from the time I made Aliyah in 1997 I was disturbed (though not surprised) at all the negative propaganda and demonizing of the chareidi community that was prevalent in the general Israeli media. I felt that the chareidi world needed a public relations voice and an “Everything You Wanted to Know about Chareidim” digest to give some kind of counter-balance. Hence my book.

Among the countless examples of such demonizing propaganda was a news item that appeared in [Y]Idiot Achronot (now YNet) sometime around 1998 or so. A journalist reported that a man in Bnei Brak will need to divorce his wife, the mother of his nine children, because she was violated and the husband did not say “I don’t believe you”.

I don’t read [Y]Idiot Achronot so it must have been that the story was picked up second-hand by the J. Post or Arutz 7 but it was reported as a [Y]Idiot Achronot story. The story did not provide any details of the incident or of the people involved but it immediately drew a lot of skepticism. The obvious flaw is that if a woman is forcibly violated, even if the husband does believe her, she does not become forbidden unless he is a kohein; and there was no mention of such a thing in the story.

Sure enough, the paper I saw reported an update of the [Y]Idiot Achronot story that the husband was indeed a kohein but gave no further details. The skepticism didn’t stop for numerous reasons. Firstly, even in the case of a Kohein, as long as there are no witnesses, the husband does not need to pronounce “I don’t believe you.” The default is that the woman is not trusted to say she was violated regardless. It is only if the husband consciously chooses to accept her report that there may be a problem. But, if he likes his wife, why on earth would he do that?

There were other reasons for skepticism.  (1) No other medium reported the story firsthand. (2) Nobody in Bnei Brak was aware of the incident. (3) The logistics of a mother of nine being forcibly violated in Bnei Brak is exceedingly improbable. There were no details given of the incident so what precisely happened? Was it a home intruder? I don’t think so. Home intruders target women who are home alone at night. Married mothers of nine are not home alone at night and not too often alone during the daytime either. Was she on the streets going to the makolet or to a wedding? Let me assure you the streets of Bnei Brak are always filled with all types of women going to makolets or weddings, even, and especially, young, single or newlywed, well-endowed, supple ones. Do you mean to say that, from this crowd where young singles or newlyweds are the majority, some random rapist is going to pick out a late-30 or 40-something married lady who has gone through 9 childbirths and probably looks the part? Was this a blind rapist? And all this when right down the road we have Givat Shmuel and Bar Ilan U teeming with saucy tzatzkelach ripe for the picking with no husbands to look after them?

The whole story didn’t click.

Evidently, I wasn’t the only skeptic. The reporter was pressed for details by some other folks and he owned up that he fabricated the entire story. He apparently wanted to demonize the Torah community and lifestyle by showing how “mamzerush” our Halachos can be. But he couldn’t seem to find a real life case, so he had to make one up. As I recall, he was severely reprimanded but I don’t believe he was dismissed.

So, we have learned from this story that even though it is indeed true that if the wife of a kohein is publicly raped, she will be forbidden, it’s not very likely to happen. Boruch Hashem, Torah observant married women who live in Jewish communities and don’t wander about will not become first-string targets for a crazed rapist. But, more importantly, as long as the incident did not occur in the presence of two valid Jewish witnesses – and how likely is this to happen? – we can always get the couple off the hook.

So, as tragic as such an incident might be, I am personally not aware of any true life cases. I hope this applies to all my readers. So what’s left?

I gather that most of the learned male readers who are still reading this post know what’s coming. Likewise, I gather that almost all of those from the female persuasion cannot begin to guess.

This is going to be “below the belt”.

Many years ago in yeshiva, a chavrusa of mine told me about a boy he knew in camp who was hit by a baseball bat right between the legs. He finished the story by saying, “Now, he’s half the man he used to be.” To be candid, it means that one of his testicles was severely ruptured and needed to be removed.

The obvious sentiment was “Poor fellow…glad it didn’t happen to anybody I know…I hope he recovers okay and has a normal life…” But beyond that I didn’t think much of it. “Okay, he’ll look a bit different in an area that nobody really looks at anyway and hopefully, he’ll fly along nicely on a single engine. Shouldn’t be worse than having only one kidney. Everything else is still there. Life goes on. He'll get married.”

Not quite so simple.

How many readers know what a petzuah daka is? And how many readers, even those from my side of the mechitza, really know what it is?

Many of us haven’t learned through all of Yevamos and haven’t learned Even HaEzer (5). We only hear of this once a year when we read Parshat Ki Teitzei (Devarim 23:2) and then glance at Unkelos and Rashi who, thankfully, don’t go into much detail. Unkelos merely says “one who was emasculated”. Rashi is a bit more specific but mainly refers us to look up Yevamos. Almost nobody else comments on this pasuk. To be brief, it means one who has sustained a serious injury to one or both “stones”.

Many people assume that it refers to somebody born with a strange deformity where his system was never properly developed or some kind of hermaphrodite or somebody who has his entire reproductive apparatus removed. People also confuse it as if it is just another term for the other injury in the pasuk – krus shafcha – which means “Bobbitized”.  We don’t prefer to think of it as something that can happen to any normal, fully developed, productive person in summer camp as a result of a common injury or wound.

I think it’s important to go into a little into detail as to what is called a petzuah daka. I intend to do so and will try not to get too graphic. The reason it is so important is that it applies today as much as it ever has and the game is for keeps. Because, aside from being uninformed as to exactly what constitutes a petzuah daka, many of us don’t realize what is at stake.

A petzuah daka, like a mamzer, is a pasulei kahal. This means he is not allowed to be married to any regular Jewish woman. Period. It does not only mean that if he is single he cannot marry one. It means that even if he is married, with or without children, he must divorce his wife. Even if he has plenty of children and doesn’t want or need any more. Even if he still has plenty of working parts and is capable of carrying out sexual intercourse and intimacy. He is forbidden to have relations with her!

Even if he is old and, due to natural impotence (which does not make one a petzuah daka), he has no desire for marital relations and hasn’t conducted any for some time. According to the Halacha they must divorce. And all this is when his original marriage was perfectly kosher!

A bit shocking, isn’t it?

And after he divorces, no matter how distinguished he is, he cannot be married to anybody – except to a convert. According to the Rambam and Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch, he even cannot marry a mamzeret. (The Rem”a says that there are those who permit a mamzeret, so if one is, chas v’shalom, a petzuah daka, he’s better off an Ashkenazi one.)  

Get this? A mamzer, Mitzri rishon or sheni, and a Moavi or Amoni can all marry women like themselves besides a standard giyores. And if they do, they don’t have to worry about any heartbreaks because nobody’s status will change. Even if they later become a petzuah daka they don’t have to divorce because they are already married to a pasulei kahal. But the perfectly fine Jew from the most distinguished family who is married with children and suddenly becomes a petzuah daka must lose his wife and kids, and then what?

He cannot marry another petzuah daka because there is no such thing as a female petzuah daka. And, like the Rambam, not even a mamzeret! Only a convert or emancipated shifcha.

Even in a case where the wife of a kohein is violated and he must give her up (very unlikely and very tragic), but at the very least he can go on and marry any normal single Jewish girl and start again. There are lots of them. But this petzuah daka fellow – only a convert. If he can't find one or can't deal with one, he is stuck. No breaks.

A male Agunah!

And the wife that he was forced to divorce can go ahead and marry somebody else and have another brood of kids!

Oh, and by the way, if somebody did not start out with perfect anatomy and health but was born underdeveloped, totally sterile and totally impotent and missing all kinds of parts, as long as he is unquestionably a male, he may marry any eligible Jewish girl in the world; the daughter of the Gadol Hador, the Admor, or the Kohein Gadol! Yet, this fellow who was born whole and married whole and just got tzeklopped yesterday – he’s out of business.

As Jackie Mason – a Kohein who has been around the block with every type of person he cannot marry – would say: “Ya unduhstend dis??”

The prohibition applies to this very day to one who is unfortunate enough to be Halchically deemed a petzuah daka. Since it is rarely reversible, it is usually a life sentence to loneliness and isolation. Even when it is reversible, the status and all relevant halachos are in place until it is actually reversed!

I doubt that you or I or any of the Gedolei Yisroel can imagine anything worse. And so it is absolutely imperative to know exactly what counts as a petzuah daka and what doesn’t. Which cases can be easily and happily resolved, which cases need to depend on controversial rulings, and which cases are, R”L, too far gone. And, like the pots and pans in your kitchen, you need to know when there is a question to be asked. Many people are not aware of the issues with prostate surgery and that a vasectomy can terminate a lot more than the conception of future offspring.

I have been doing a ton of research and I hope to have some guidelines in the upcoming post. We’ll have a better idea if our friend who lost the ballgame in camp is really in the dugout (if he can function, he is most likely all right, but it’s still not simple). In the meantime, those of us who are whole in body and mind should thank Hashem every day for their health and their family and pray that things don’t change.

Don’t mess with the family jewels. They are worth more than you know.


The Bald Guy said...

What is the point of this post exactly? This fellow is placed, it married, in a extremely difficult and emotionally sensitive bind because of the normative interpretation of p'tzua daqa...?

Yechezkel said...

I am happy you asked. I hope to get to the punchline in the next post. When I started this series of posts last week, I only wanted to do one post but, as usual, the material just piles up so it's taking me longer than I expected.

Keep reading!