Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Shidduchim IX - A Shadchan’s Customer’s Wish List - Part 2: Barshert is Barshert, No?

One of the most puzzling concepts in our mesora is the concept of barshert especially as it relates to other obscure concepts such as bechira and hishtadlus.

We all know the famous gemara in Sota and Sanhedrin which states that "Forty days before the formation of the fetus, a heavenly voice announces:  The daughter of this one is destined for Ploni; the house of this one is destined for Ploni; the field of this one is destined for Ploni." Yet, in Moed Kattan the gemara says that one can daven to get a certain woman or property and perhaps he will be granted it out of Heavenly mercy. Likewise, in Sota and Sanhedrin the gemara tells us that this only applies to our first shidduch (zivug rishon) but not to subsequent ones. The subsequent ones are based solely on our "acts" (behavior or merit).

I have heard it said that “the first zivug” may refer to the first shidduch prospect that is offered to any individual. Once that one is turned down, all of those that are suggested afterward are considered “zivug sheini” and are based on our acts.

A more practical perspective is that the concept of “zivug rishon” only was applicable in days of yore when it was commonplace for girls to be married at pre-adolescence and boys in their teenage years. This is before either one is 20 years old and fully responsible for their "acts". Thus, since the boy and girl are not fully mature and have not yet adopted an adult lifestyle, they are matched with Heavenly foresight. Today that almost all boys and most girls are married when they are already 20 and answerable for their acts, they are automatically in “zivug sheini” mode. (I do not have any names to attach to the above viewpoints).

Whether these explanations are true or not, for all we know, they may be. And it says to us that, in practice, we can’t really rely on the barshert card.

Now here is a very interesting observation. As noted, this statement of “bas ploni l’ploni” is quoted three times in Talmud Bavli: Sota 2a, Sanhedrin 22a and Moed Kattan 18b. All three places deal with the apparent contradiction of “barshert” versus “hishtadlus/bechira”. But there seems to be three major discrepancies between the quotes in Sota and Sanhedrin on one side and the one in Moed Kattan.

1.   In Sota and Sanhedrin, the gemara states that this bas kol comes out forty days before the fetus is formed. In Moed Kattan it says that it comes every single day.

2.   In Sota and Sanhedrin, this contradiction is indeed between “barshert” vs. “bechira” (acts or behavior) while in Moed Kattan the contradiction is between “barshert” and “hishtadlus” (davening for a specific shidduch).

Tosefes in Moed Kattan (and Sota) do not seem to be bothered by these first two discrepancies. They ask: Why doesn’t Shmuel answer the contradiction in Moed Kattan that the barshert is for zivug rishon and the hishtadlus is for zivug sheni just like in the other two places in Shas?

I think that a third major discrepancy addresses the first two and negates Tosefos’ question:

3.   In Sota and Sanhedrin, this quote is attributed to Rav by way of Rav Yehuda. In Moed Kattan it is attributed to Shmuel by way of Rav Yehuda. (Rav Yehuda was a student both of Rav and of Shmuel).

It seems to me that Rav in Sota and Sanhedrin and Shmuel in Moed Kattan are discussing two different scenarios and saying two different things. Rav is talking about zivug rishon and thus he says “forty days before the fetus is formed…” Nothing will interfere with this at the zivug rishon stage so when the gemara asks a contradiction about being matched by merit, the way out is to say we are not referring to zivug rishon but zivug sheini.

Shmuel in Moed Kattan was not discussing zivug rishon at all. His starting point was zivug sheini. Therefore, for zivug sheini, the appropriate mate is always changing on a day to day basis based on the person’s behavioral status. As such, for zivug sheini mode, there is a brand new barshert every single day! In this setting, tefillah and hishtadlus will be effective even if there has been a “gezeira” that this woman is destined for another.

So, after all this we are plenty confused. Our future jobs, homes, and spouses are pre-ordained as barshert but because we have bechira, if we don’t do our hishtadlus, barshert won’t happen.


Now, here is a bigger question. Does a woman have a barshert at all?

Despite all of the efforts of the Open Orthodox and WOW, etc. etc. to equalize the genders, the Torah itself and the words of Chazal are not very egalitarian. For example, in the famous gemara in Beitza we are told that our preordained parnassah is set every Rosh Hashannah. But this budget does not include our expenditures for Shabbos and Yom Tov and tuition for our sons in learning. This will always be reimbursed at whatever the expense.

At face value, this only applies to sons. Many folks want to say that this holds true for the learning expenses incurred for the daughters, as well. I cannot say whether this is true or not but I can say that the gemara doesn’t say so. It mentions only boys.

Now, the terminology – This one’s daughter is for “Ploni” (male), as well as field for “Ploni”(male) and house for “Ploni”(male) certainly does not sound gender neutral. Actually, Tosefos in Sota seems to hold that this is said specifically for the males since, in most cases, the girl is not yet even in formation mode. One may want to deduce that Tosefos will hold that if the girl is indeed already in formation, there may be decrees on her as well but it is definitely inconclusive.

All told, up to this point we are not sure that any such preordained decrees are directly conferred to any girls. At best, a girl may be assured a preordained mate by virtue of being the one named on a specific male’s profile. But this will only apply to zivug rishon!

And in a society where there are more eligible girls than boys and chazal forbid us from double-duty, it will come out that although every boy may have an initial predestined mate and, according to the way I explained the gemara Moed Kattan, he may have a new daily predestined mate even in zivug sheini mode, there is yet no conclusive statement from chazal that a girl has a predestined mate whatsoever!

There is good news in this and bad news. The bad news is that my opinion is that every girl should get the concept of barshert out of their head. As far as we know they have no barshert. It is all dependent on their merit (acts) and their hishtadlus.

The good news is as follows: In today’s raging shidduch crisis atmosphere, a girl may reason as such: “Either I am on some boy’s hit list or not. If I am, it’s going to happen no matter what so why bother doing any substantial hishtadlus? And if, Ch”v I am not, so then there is no hope for me and all my hishtadlus won’t help, so why bother doing any substantial hishtadlus?” And she may fall into a rut of despair. This viewpoint says that, at this stage, a boy gets another barshert every day and there is no reason that it can’t be her. Thus, as I just wrote in the “bad news” paragraph, there is nothing but hishtadlus.

For girls, the shidduch crisis is a war, and Yaakov Avinu has shown us how to fight a war: Prepare for battle, buy off the Powers that Be, and Daven.

In other words: For the girls, hishtadlus is the only card in the game. Do it and do it right.

I am now (almost) getting to the point of this whole post.

I have several very close acquaintances who are in their advanced years and have never been married. In regard to some of them, I have been asked over the years why it is that these people have not found their “intendeds”? Obviously, I don’t know the real answer but in some cases I know enough to respond, “I have never seen this or that person going about the parsha as if they really want to get the job done.”

Sometimes, in order to win the game, you really need to play the game to win.

Now, I am writing as the father of very eligible boy. I represent the “buyer” in the shidduch market. It is the girls’ job to “sell the product”, so they are the “sellers”. And I am totally astounded by how many sellers are out there that are not playing the game as if they really want to get the goods sold!

As I wrote in my last post, my proximity here in Eretz Yisroel forces me to employ a particular MO (method of operation) which may not be the standard in the US. Here is how we operate: If somebody meets my Yossi and wants to set him up, Yossi will give the kind person our contact information and instruct them to send us the girl’s resume by email. My wife and I will screen the resumes to see what looks interesting and we will take it from there.

We generally do not first get an earful from the shadchan and then a resume just as a “zichron devarim” like other folks do. For us, the resume is the full product description and the marketing brochure. We will not contact the shadchan if we don’t like the resume. (Though some shadchanim follow up and contact us.) So, just like a job resume, a shidduch resume has to “scream” at the buyer and say, “I am what you are looking for. I am not like every other resume in your pile. I am special!” And it should say, “I am playing this game to win.”

I am utterly astounded by the way many, if not most, of the resumes are written. And, in so many cases, I look at a resume and ask myself: Does this girl really want to get married??

It’s amazing how much psychology is involved in a resume and what messages a shrewd person can read into every line. Now, because I have a seasoned gemara kupp and an analytical mind, I can easily point out what is right or wrong with a resume. But one does not need to be a high-tech geek or uber-chacham like me. These “signals” are picked up subconsciously even by less astute people. And if it gives the wrong message, it gives the wrong feeling. I cannot tell you how many resumes I felt like ripping to shreds due to a lack of basic fundamental information. This is because I felt that the “seller” is playing hide-and-seek with me by not telling me what I want to know. And, this translates into my mind, “This girl is not serious”.

This resume is not screaming: “I am special!” it is screaming “Go look somewhere else!”

And I cannot be the only one who gets these negative signals.

So, in my next post, I intend to reveal what is truly at the top of my wish list as a shadchan’s customer: Properly conveyed information – up front.

There is a science (and an art) to writing resumes and it pays for an astute seller and an astute agent (shadchan) to understand this science. You need to do what it takes to turn a “suggestion” into a date. It takes a bit of hishtadlus.

It is not automatically barshert.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Shidduchim VIII - A Shadchan’s Customer’s Wish List - Part 1: The Skype is the Limit

The title of this post is a parody of the title of an article that appeared in last week’s Mishpacha magazine. The article – Your Shadchan’s Wish List - was about a shadchan’s perspective of what would help people get married. As the father of a boy (or two) currently in the Parsha, and with the knowledge that it is a “buyer's market” from the boys’ side (כי יקח איש אשה), I think it may be helpful to add to it the perspectives of a “buyer”. It will require more than one post so here is Part 1.

The Shidduch Crisis languishes on. And why should it not? For one thing, one of the primary causes - the fact that more girls than boys enter the shidduch market on a yearly basis – has not changed and won’t change anytime soon. (See this clip from Yisroel “Freddy” Friedman. I agree with all he says except where he says there is no such crisis here in E”Y. It exists here as well but is not as severe.) In this respect, I have reached the conclusion that this crisis is at least partially Heavenly ordained and beyond our capabilities to eradicate.

But, beyond this, it seems clear to me that certain steps that can be taken to alleviate this crisis have not been taken.

The most obvious one and the one that I have been preaching about for years is that modern web cam technology (e.g. Skype) should be integrated into the shidduch process (see the links at the end of this post). When I discuss this with people one-on-one, all I get are “Yes, but…”s. I have emailed both to Freddy Friedman (to pass on to S. Y. Rechnitz) and to R. Shlomo Lewenstein about this and have received no responses. Not a single man of action has contacted me.

To rephrase a very popular quote: Irrationality is to keep doing things the same way and to complain about not getting better results (and that there is a crisis going on).

But HKBH says: מה תצעק אלי? דבר אל בני ישראל ויסעו!

Why are you screaming to Me? Speak to the Children of Israel to move on…”

Even when HKBH Himself puts us in a tight spot, we cannot just stand there. It is our duty to move on. Yet, the Children of Israel are frozen in their tracks. They are afraid to move on. Where is Nachshon?

Before I say more, I want to present a progress report. My prodigy “Yossi” who starred in some previous posts is still out there. He was in the US from last July until Pesach when he came home for Bein Hazmanim. He recently returned to the US and is back in the hunt.

The hit-or-miss adventures of those nine months (chavlei leida) could fill a book, or at least a few blog posts. Though he made a hit with his Rosh Yeshiva, chavrusas and many friends and relatives, when it comes to shidduchim, all he had were misses – Miss Klein and Miss Schwartz and Miss Rechnitz (I can fantasize, can’t I?). Hence, I have learned quite a bit about the American Yeshivish dating scene. It ain’t what it used to be!

Now, I am writing from my lofty perch here in Yerushalyim, Ir HaKodesh (second only to Lakewood, NJ, Ir Kodesh Hakedashim). Thus, the distance gives me some advantages and disadvantages. The prime disadvantage is that I am too far away to get a close-up view and to manage the situation directly. But the advantage of distance is that one can have a bird’s eye view of the larger picture. From here, Los Angeles and Denver and St. Louis and Chicago and Baltimore and NY/NJ are all the same.

I am an American oleh, somewhat tech savvy (though not fully up-to-date), who still has parents and in-laws and siblings and, now, two unattached sons in the US. I still have a bank account in the US and I do buy things on Ebay, Amazon, Target, Old Navy (all in dollars) sent to American addresses and transported by relatives. And I buy airplane tickets, too. Until recently, I worked at a high-tech company servicing US customers. (I am now “between jobs”.) All my writing is targeted to Anglo-Jewish audiences. Thus, from my holy abode here in Eretz HaKodesh אכתי עבדא דאובאמה אנא. I still have a “virtual” life in the US. As such, the Internet, for better or for worse (what I call the Parah Adumah) is an intrinsic part of my life.

Often, the most convenient times to speak to people one does not see is on Erev Shabbos or Motzaei Shabbos when people are home. But we here in Eretz Yisrael cannot speak to Americans on Erev Shabbos because here Shabbos begins when Americans wake up. Likewise we cannot speak to Americans on Motzaei Shabbos because we are in bed when Shabbos ends. (Thank G-d for Sundays!) Thus we must rely more on email to communicate overseas.

Israelis who do not interact with the US as much as I do have no such need for the Internet and Americans who live near their families and can just go shopping at Target and Walmart and go personally to their banks and don’t fly around likewise do not need it as much as I do.

It is with all this background that I can appreciate more than others what the Internet has enabled us to do and how it can help communication – and dating – even at close range.

The Americans are too close to the forest to see the trees.

What were my arguments in favor of web cam dating? They were the following (not the full list):

·         It negates distance

·         It saves time

·         It saves money

·         It saves lives

And now, to illustrate, back to my Yossi.

The truth is that over his nine months in the US, Yossi only met up with about six Misses. He began his trip with a summer camp job and then a new Yeshiva in Ellul plus just getting to know folks, so we didn’t really expect him to see much action before Cheshvan. On top of that, he hadn’t succeeded in getting a driver’s license in Eretz Yisroel (don’t ask – it’s a post in itself) but he managed to get one in his birth state over Sukkos.

His first encounter was after Sukkos which he was spending in an out of town community by his grandparents. Some baalhabayis spotted him and thought he would shtim with his gorgeous tuchter. He was still working at his license at the time so the maidel provided the transportation. After two very low cost dates with no fireworks (but still ok) he left town and reported to Yeshiva in NJ. This might have been a good scenario for some Skyping, but instead, the girl’s side put in a few bucks and shipped her east (supposedly she had a wedding to attend anyhow). He needed to date her and this time she did not bring a car. He had to rent one. $90!

Welcome to dating in America!

Before he left the Holy Land, I told him that although I give my blessing for his ventures, I cannot back him financially too far. If he needs $100+ dates, he will need to come up with the gelt himself. So, after three dates and still feeling parve, the girl was released. Was it a pre-mature decision? We’ll never know, will we?

Moral: Web cam dating can save money and prevent quick decision making.

Not only did this date cost Yossi over $100 but it cost the girl about another $300. Perhaps, in a case like this where the parties are seeing each other it doesn’t make sense to revert to Skype, but it’s nevertheless a sad situation where the girl needs to shell out to chase the boy to the coast. This did not occur in my days.

A bit later, while in Yeshiva in NJ, we got a nice sounding suggestion from another mid-western town. Yossi was in no position to fly out there but, as seems to be the trend, the girl was willing to fly in. If there was a textbook call for Skype, this was it.  

In this case, I explicitly told Yossi to tell the Shadchan that he wants to Skype her first before she drops a few hundred to fly out on a blind date. The response, in line with what skeptics have been telling me all this time, was that she is quite willing to spend the money (her father is a Rebbe – who’s money?) and quite unwilling to Skype. So she spent and she flew.

Yossi learned how to economize a bit on the dates (she was stationed in Lakewood) so they went out three times and then she said no. As far as I am concerned she could have said no over the web cam from the comfort of her own home for a lot less money and without missing work.

Moral: Web cam dating can negate distance and save time and lots of money.

By now I was resigned to the new American system. Girl travels, no Skype. Have it your way. When in Rome, do like a Roman. In any case, the next girl was a hit and a miss. Actually a hit-and-run and a miss. And the most expensive date of all!

This prospect was from Monsey. Monsey is a bit ironic because it can easily fall through the cracks. Too close to Lakewood to require a girl to relocate but too far as to be a cheap and simple date. Yossi who has to count his pennies was waffling on this one.

In order to lighten the expense, the shadchan offered to Yossi the use of her brother-in-law’s car, a battered cheap AMC Saturn, if he could get to Passaic. Luckily, we have relatives in Passaic so, for the first date, Yossi spent Shabbos in Passaic and, after Havdalah, he took hold of the car. He GPS'ed his way to Monsey and went out on a proper date. When it was over, past midnight, he took the girl back home to Monsey and headed off to Passaic. He almost made it.

We all know that after midnight on a Saturday night in non-Jewish America is witching hour. Watch out! Approximately 1:15 am on Passaic Ave. a guy named Jose driving a big black Ford pickup (or SUV) DUI'ed through a stop sign and got Yossi front-side. Demolished the front end. Totaled. Hit and run.

Chasdei Hashem ki lo tamnu! If, R”L, his car would have been positioned two feet forward…who knows? (Though if he was ten feet forward, nothing would have happened.) Yossi walked away with merely a slight bruise on his leg but without a car. A borrowed car. An uninsured-for-collision borrowed car.

Although the owner, a Passaic yungermahn, did not have comprehensive insurance, he did have AAA which automatically provides collision insurance, with one catch. The offending car must be identified. They do not cover hit-and-run. It just so happened that Jose, who was stoned, didn’t get too far and the cops followed a trail of fluids and debris and picked him up but they never informed the owner. To them it was just another Saturday night DUI smash-up. Happens every week.

A few weeks later, however, the owner did pick up a police copy of the accident report and sure enough all of the perp’s details were right there. At the end, AAA did cover the loss but with a $500 deductible. Plus there was a $200 towing charge courtesy of the Passaic Police Department. A posek said that a shoel is only responsible for the car but not the towing charge so the date cost us $500 plus another $50 for the GPS device (aside from the price of the date) and the generous yungermahn was out $200 (but we think he scored big on the value of the car). Yossi had to take up a collection to cover the loss (thank G-d for grandparents).

$550 (dammim merubim) for a date which ch”v could have cost everything (sh'fichas dammim). Only a first date! Incidentally, after one more date (the girl came to Lakewood), she said no (no kesher to the smash-up).

Saturday night after chatzos is not the time to be out on the streets – or roads – if you don’t have to. I am advocating web cam dating so that, at least some times, you won’t have to. Incidentally, in my original post about Skype dating, I related a very similar story about my brother-in-law. Both events could have ended a lot differently. Like I wrote then, we can laugh at it now, but it’s no laughing matter.

Moral: Web cam dating can negate distance and save lots of time and lots and lots of money – and lives.

So this part of my perspective is drawing to a close but I am getting more than a bit peturbed at the laxity of the “system”. This is a serious matter.

·         There is money at stake (הוצאת דמים)

·         There is time at stake (איבוד ימים)

·         There are lives at stake (שפיכת דמים)

·         There is kedusha at stake (תהיו תמים)

The Americans may be too close to ground zero to see it but I am not. And I formally challenge all of the prominent shadchanim – including R. Shlomo Lewenstein, R. Yisroel Friedman, and the rest – plus all of the Roshei Yeshivos, Mashgichim and Rabbanim of all of the mosdos in New Jersey  to reevaluate the situation and step up to the plate.

In my post from 2009 I quoted the following from Jonathan Rosenblum:

A few weeks ago, the Novominsker Rebbe told me that he views the so-called Shidduch Crisis, as the most devastating problem facing the Orthodox community – a matter of “dinei nefashos.”

I commented:

If it is truly a dinei nefashos, then we are facing a situation of לא תעמד על דם רעך and we must save neshamos with any practical means at our disposal.

That was more than seven years ago. Before I had to deal with it myself. But I will now state in no uncertain terms that it’s not just לא תעמד על דם רעך. All the korbanos of the last seven years, financially, physically, and spiritually, are שפיכת דמים plain and simple. And it is the powers that be that have not heeded the clarion call that have all that שפיכת דמים on their hands.

It is high time to put our money where our mouse is.

Previous posts about Web Cam dating:

Original post - November 26, 2008       >                   HERE

Second post (Shidduch Vision) - January 28, 2009  >  HERE

Third post - August 10, 2014               >                    HERE

Friday, March 25, 2016

Megillas Estheroid

The following is the insert that we put into our Mishloach Manos for Purim 5776. A Freilichin Purim!
Yechezkel and Family

Megillas Estheroid

According to many opinions, this is the time of [3600] year[s] that we should be reading Megillas Estheroid.  This Megillah was discovered very recently and translated from the Sumerian cuneiform by HaKofer Harav Zecharia Sitchin, Alav Hacheshbon, also known as the Chozeh Kochavim M’Lundin and the mechaber sefer Planet Shteim Esreh – Mi Yodeah. (Also the inventor of the “Sitchin Comet-T”).

According to Reb Zecharia, A”H, there is an additional planet in the solar system which he calls the 12th planet with about seven moons. He says that the ancient Sumerians called it “Niburu”. Others call it “Planet X” in reference to the tenth planet (after Pluto) and some call it Planet IX (Nine) since Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a Disney cartoon character. Even others call it Planet 7X (just to be different, I guess). Some call it the “Dark star”. Some call it a star, some call it a planet, some call it a comet and some call it an asteroid. Whatever it is, this heavenly body is supposed to have a mass ten times that of planet Earth.

It supposed to be just now circling the sun and is right next to it which makes it all but impossible to see with the naked eye. It doesn’t come out at night.

This planet does not orbit in a circle like the rest of the planets but rather in an elliptical (egg shaped) orbit and it takes about 3600 years to pass near our planet Earth. The Orbital ring is full of asteroids and meteors and also leaves a trail of breath mints.

When it does pass near Earth, its tremendous gravitational pull will cause havoc on Earth. There will be heightened seismic and volcanic activity (earthquakes and eruptions), polar shifts and meltdowns which will raise the sea levels and tsunamis.  Not the best time to vacation in Hawaii!

It is also predicted that when this “Dark star” passes between the Earth and the sun, it will cause a prolonged eclipse with EMP failures that will put us in a state of darkness (Makkas Choshech) and purify us from the Internet. Some say this will last three days, some say 2 weeks and the Zohar says 40 days. Have plenty of extra candles around!

Finally we will have the privilege of viewing a magnificent meteor shower which will knock most of world – and the Azrieli towers - to smithereens. Put on your 3-D glasses!

This may all sound like science fiction except that there are references in no less than four places in the Zohar to a great star – with seven moons - that will come and cause wars and darkness! This will be HKBH’s instrument to seek vengeance upon the wicked of the Earth. The Zohar repeatedly references the pasuk stated by Bilaam in his Acharis Hayamim prophecy: דרך כוכב     מיעקב  – a great star will set a path from Yaakov – וקם שבט מישראל – a rod will arise from Yisroel. This is taken as a reference to what we call a כוכב שביט  - a Comet!

Hence, many want to claim that Niburu was also the instrument to bring about the Great Flood (warning! - this is a X-tian source) in its previous orbit – although that was closer to 4100 years ago. This may explain why the Dor Haflaga tried to claim that after every set time interval – they claimed it was 1656 years – the sky collapses and destroys the Earth. Maybe they were only half-wrong!

There are also many references to this in Megillas Estheroid. For instance:

·         Nobody can really see it with the naked eye (yet). It is hidden – הסתיר אסתיר.

·         Nobody knows its real name or nationality.

·         Queen Estheroid says: לך כנוס את כל היהודים... וצומו עלי ואל יאכלו ואל ישתו שלשה ימים. This is a clear reference to the advice of the autistics who say that when this planet comes, all the Jews should go into their houses and lock themselves up for the three days (or two weeks) until it passes and do teshuva and daven to HKBH to be saved. If you don’t stock up some food you will definitely have to fast for three days and nights!

·         ונוח בארבעה עשר – A clear reference that this happened as well in the time of Noach!

·         וישם המלך ... מס על הארץ ואיי הים – This means that the planet will have a tremendous mass that will cause earthquakes on land and tsunamis in the sea.

·         And finally – Mordechai is called מור דרור which has a targum of מרי דכי . The second word  דכ"י stands for  דרך כוכב מ-יעקב!

When is all this supposed to happen? In the end of days!

According to our autistic brethren and Rav Michael Glazerson, this is sometime in 5776. According op Reb Zecharia, A”H, the Earth should begin to cross the Orbital path of Niburu starting on March 26, 2016.

That’s tomorrow (gulp)!

So, in order that we should be prepared for this momentous event, the Hirshman family has prepared for you a sumptuous Mishloach Manos that is out of this world. It contains:

·         A miniature rocket powered by solar grape juice (Bottle of Grape juice)

·         A bright orange clementine sun – with real sun spots! (Tangerine)

·         A miniature (candy) comet – Kochav Shavit (Lollipop)

·         Dark Star cookies (Cookies)

·         Moon-cakes (Cupcakes with candy stras on it)

·         The Orbit trail of breath mints (Orbit Breath Mints)

·         Star-kissed tsunami salad (Starkist Tuna Salad)

·         A detailed map of the solar system (A napkin with stars, planets and spaceships on it)

·         Igerret HaKochav with some of the fascinating references from the Navi and Zohar.

May we all be zocheh to see the Ohr Haganuz, בב"א.

ליהודים היתה אורה ושמחה וששון ויקר.
א פרייליכען פורים

Monday, February 29, 2016

Mesira XI: Epilog - Getting Involved

By now, I am more or less done with the topic of Mesira and Child Sex Abuse. There is nothing more to add but I do need to make a closing statement.

From the moment I first noticed this Kol Koreh, my mind was boggled. It had a one-time appearance in a few publications but it seems to have made only a brief splash and then fade into dreamstuff. It was so brief that most American Jews didn’t even notice it except for a few sharp-eyed (bored?) bloggers. Yet, I could not let it pass because, in my eyes, this edict is not merely unnecessary and unhelpful, but it is actually counterproductive and potentially harmful. I saw it as something more insidious than a lame attempt to pacify the armchair quarterbacks who call out, “Why don’t the Rabbis do something?” I saw it as a travesty of Halacha and common sense.

An indictment of the Kol Koreh is an indictment on the ones who signed it. Some of whom are friends of mine past and present, some are venerable leaders of the chareidi community considerably older than I, some are related to me and at least two of them have been proposed as potential mechutanim. These are my peers. This is not a group that I wish to lock horns with.

Anyone who has followed my writings knows that my primary agenda is to hold aloft the banner of Torah and Yiras Shamayim. As a rule, I come to praise Talmidei Chachamim, not to bury them. Taking the confrontational stance that I have on this issue, normally goes against my grain. Yet, as long as I have a blog dedicated to pursuing the “emess” – that barely anybody reads – I will not abstain from presenting the truth as I see it. In this case, I have really merely taken the side of a “silent majority” including the gedolim of past generations and even many contemporaries who dissociated themselves from this Kol Koreh.

Thus, it is with much reservation that, in the course of my postings (Mesira VII), I singled out two very chashuva Rabbanim to challenge their public statements. One is Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita with regard to his contradictory position. I dealt with it at length in my previous post. The second of whom was Harav Yechiel Perr, Shlita, with regard to the statement quoted in the Jewish Press. In my post, I called this statement “incomprehensible”. Ever since I posted it, I thought that I am not being fair to Harav Perr if I do not explain why.

Let’s have a look at the quote (all emphasis mine – YH):

When the Torah commands us ‘Lo sa’amod al dam rei’echa” it teaches us also that what people tend to do is to stand by watching the harm being done to others and to do nothing to stop it,” said one of the document’s most prominent signers, Rabbi Yechiel Perr, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway/Derech Ayson Rabbinical Seminary. “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business. But it is! The Torah has made it everyone’s business when a Yid is being harmed.”

On the surface of things, this all sounds very reasonable. Like Reb Dovid Lichtenstein said (in the name of Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita): “When you see somebody running after somebody with a gun or a knife, do you call a Rabbi or do you go to the police?”

But things are not the same beneath the surface. This is not how things happen in real life. It is hard to understand why these highly intelligent people are so detached from real life as opposed to Harav Doniel Neustadt, Shlita who said: “The analogy of somebody breaking down your door is misleading. Because this is not happening right now. This is not an emergency situation which is happening at the moment…”

What Rabbi Neustadt is saying is that our decisions are not made during "play action" but rather between innings.

Nobody ever literally “watches” anybody being harmed. Molesters do not invite spectators. We are not there “when a yid is being harmed”. It just doesn’t happen. At best, we may actually see the aftermath of somebody who has already been harmed (R”L) and we see a damaged victim, but, unfortunately we never see an offender actually doing damage. What Rabbis Cohen and Perr and Reb Lichtenstein are doing is taking a metaphor ("watching") and treating it as a literal reality.

Incredibly, these Rabbanim use this rationale to advocate a drastic action against an “offender” who has not been positively identified and who has not even been confronted regardless of whether this action is actually helpful to the victim! Evidently, our priority is not the proven damagee but the unproven damager.

This is Lo Taamod?!

Says Harav Perr, all this is because “People stand by and do nothing because they don’t want to get involved. It’s not their business.”

Hold on there! What kind of people are we discussing? Are we talking about victims and/or their parents? Aren’t they already involved??

No. We are talking about friends and neighbors who have no firsthand knowledge of what took place or by who; and who were not asked by the victims to intervene. Maximum, they “heard about it”.

Have they “watched” anything? Definitely not.

Can they testify against anybody? Not if they haven’t watched anything.

So how are they supposed to get involved?

It’s not that they “don’t want to get involved“. They are in no position to get involved!

But don’t be discouraged. Because contrary to what Rabbi Perr is implying, this Kol Koreh is not instructing us to get involved. It is instructing us to call in (involve) “law enforcement” and to personally stay uninvolved.

So now I have a big surprise for anybody still reading this: I and my fellow "detractors" (Rabbi Neustadt, Rav Eisenstein, and a silent majority of community Rabbanim) are not saying to not get involved. We are saying not to get the secular authorities involved. We should definitely get involved – k’mo she’tzarich!

Behold the true meaning of לא תעמוד על דם רעיך.

Based on the underwhelming feedback that I have gotten on my blogsite, at my site meter, and personally from my nearest and dearest, I can safely conclude there aren’t a whole lot of people who actually read my posts and certainly nobody is rushing to establish the neighborhood panels that I have been calling for. But this is what “getting involved” really means.

Getting involved means seeing to it that the community has some kind of a vaad and program to deal with predators. It does not mean forcibly chasing them out to Florida to be rid of them only to subsequently import different ones from California on the inter-city molester exchange program. Getting involved means being willing to invest time and energy to participate in such a vaad.

Getting involved means approaching the players of the drama, not avoiding them. It means confronting the molester to be certain that he is a molester.  And perhaps to ascertain why he is a molester.

Getting involved means to approach the victim to be certain that he or she is a victim.  And perhaps to ascertain why he or she is a victim.

This last passage may sound derisive, but it’s really not. Fully understanding the problem is essential to implementing the most effective solution. As such, getting involved means to make the effort to understand what is going on - from all sides - before deciding what to do about it. Before doing something that is more harmful than helpful. And before doing something that cannot be rectified.

This is not easy and this is not pleasant but this is what getting involved really means.

If this is what Rav Perr, Shlita had in mind, then Kol Hakavod. He is certainly correct that people don’t want to get involved. Luckily for them, this Kol Koreh instructs us not to get involved. It tells us to pass the buck to the secular authorities who "know better" and then to pat ourselves on the back for maintaining לא תעמד על דם רעיך and ובערת הרע מקרביך as we waltz into shul and daven for good health, parnassah, and the best shidduchim --- for ourselves.

My signatory friend claimed that these Rabbanim were at least brave enough to take a stand. My impression is that these were the ones timid enough to follow the herd.

Klal Yisroel needs people who really know how to get involved.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mesira X.ii: No Chochma, No Tevuna and No Eitza Against Hashem - 2nd Segment: Eitza and Conclusion

Author's note - This post is the second segment to Mesira X essay. The complete essay can be accessed in PDF format. To access -click HERE.

Part 4 – Eitza: How to Apply the Lessons - Let the Chofetz Chaim be our Guide

I have written in several posts that I am convinced that the Chofetz Chaim would never sign the Sweet Torah Kol Koreh as written. I also added to this the Rambam and HRH”G Rav Moshe Feinstein. I am sure there are many others but these are rather easy to substantiate.
The Chofetz Chaim writes that any hetter to be malshin must meet as many of seven conditions as apply. These conditions are (in the order that I wish to analyze them):
1.   There must be a constructive toelles.
2.   If there is another way to achieve this toelles that does not require malshinus, it is forbidden to be malshin.
3.   One may not be malshin if it will cause a repercussion that is beyond what is called for (i.e., what a Beis Din would hand down).
4.   The malshin must have his information first-hand.
5.   The malshin cannot infer conclusions beyond the first-hand information that he has.
6.   The malshin cannot embellish or exaggerate the severity of the offense.
7.   The malshin must first reproach (confront) the wrong-doer.

We can now analyze these conditions and see if and how they are respected by the Kol Koreh.

Conditions 1 and 2 – Toelles

To Halachically justify being malshin (moser) a Jew to the secular law enforcement there must (a) be some constructive toelles that (b) cannot be achieved without being moser.
What could such a toelles possibly be?
The only possible toelles is that this is the only method that will cause him to desist from harming others. Yet we have learned in Lesson 1 that less than 15% of offenders are arrested and of those, less than 10% are incarcerated. So this does not stand to be too effective.
So, now, let me ask, if more than 98.5% of the offenders are not taken off the streets, what are we to do with them?
There is no easy answer. And I wrote in my previous post that we cannot solve this problem. We can only “treat” it. There must be alternatives, and there are some. There are social services and rehabilitation programs (12-step) that the offender can be compelled to attend under threat of further action. And there can be community sanctions for proven offenders – i.e., removal from high exposure positions, not allowed to use the mikva, etc. likewise with the threat of mesira if they are violated. Of course there is no guarantee of success with these, but Rav Eisenstein wasn’t wrong, either, when he said the court system is “like Las Vegas”.
So, once there is no choice but to have alternatives, then condition number 2 automatically precludes the Halachic justification of going straight to the police because there are alternatives that can be implemented first.
Thus, the Kol Koreh is definitely in breach of Condition #2 and in most cases (98.5 out of 100) does not even meet Condition #1.
Note that R. Moshe Feinstein, ZT”L wrote in his teshuva (IgM Ch”M 1:8) concerning one who counterfeits kashrus stamps on meat, that the offender can be reported to the authorities only if the Beis Din cannot stop him from continuing. In other words, if BD can stop him (i.e., an alternative to calling secular authorities), there is no justification for mesira. This is one proof that Rav Moshe would not sign this Kol Koreh as written.

Condition 3 – Overly Severe Repercussions

By itself, if Condition #2 is met, meaning there is truly no other way to stop the molester, this condition is usually not very relevant. We have to do what needs to be done to protect people from harm. This is when the din of rodef applies.
However, taken in conjunction with Condition #6, which is a heavy-duty one and will be analyzed shortly, we need to watch our step.

Condition 4 - Verifying the Information

Conditions #4, 5, and 6 are variations of the same problem: Is the report truthful? They interact to create what is obviously one of the key points of contention in this whole shooting match. The Kol Koreh, by its lack of discrimination, is opening the door to false accusations.
Condition #4 tells us that we cannot be malshin (or moser) on anybody unless the one who wants to be malshin is absolutely certain that the offense being reported actually took place.  “Certain” means the malshin witnessed it personally.
Understandably, this could be difficult. When molesters do their mischief, they typically do not invite spectators. Invariably, the victims do not have much company. So, how on earth, can somebody other than a victim have first-hand knowledge like the Chofetz Chaim requires?
They can’t.
Any person who is not the victim or a first-hand witness (virtually non-existent) cannot know exactly what happened (if anything).
The Kol Koreh indicates that one has a Torah obligation to mahsser on the alleged molester even if he has nothing more than “reasonable suspicion”. This and the term “every individual” indicate that this Kol Koreh is targeted to people other than the victim him/herself! It says that a non-victim has an obligation to report a molester for committing an offense he hasn’t witnessed.
So how does he know what happened?
Obviously, the victim or some other reliable source told him so. And he depends on what they say. Or what he thinks they said. Or what he “heard” them say. Perhaps, this may be bolstered by some genuine testimony that the offender “blew in her ear” or “patted him on the backside”, which may have really happened.
But actually, the non-victim “agent”, whether it is a parent, relative, friend, or clergyman, is judging the case. He is hearing testimony from one side, and most likely, not only does he not confront the offender to see “how he pleads”, but he does not even cross examine the victim or source to make sure there are no holes in the story. The testimony goes unchallenged and as such is “stamped” authentic. Thus, the malshin convinces himself that the report is impeccably true. An example of all this is the story of Mr. Grossfinger that was presented in my previous post.
In any case, the Chofetz Chaim does not allow such a thing. The Kol Koreh does. 

Condition 5 – “Interpreting” (or Misinterpreting) incomplete evidence

Condition #5 tells us even if we possess verified (first-hand) partial information, i.e., circumstantial evidence, which supports an allegation but does not irrefutably ensure that it is true, this is not sufficient to satisfy condition 4.
This is the problem of irresponsibly “filling in the blanks”. There are numerous variations of this phenomenon.
One variation is fully illustrated in the Mr. Grossfinger story in which Mrs. Nehrvin may have had firsthand evidence that there was abuse, yet she had no firm evidence as to who was the abuser. She recklessly took it upon herself to solve the “whodunit” with disastrous results.
In a second form, this problem rears its ugly head at a more insidious stage. Before there is any proof that an offense was committed at all. This is reflected in the reactions of the three other women in the Mr. Grossfinger story who jumped to conclusions based on sheer hearsay. In that case, not one of the mothers observed Mr. Grossfinger doing anything objectionable. They chose to misinterpret (or imagine) unrelated symptoms on the alleged “victims”.
In a third variation, the accused perpetrator indeed committed some confirmed misdemeanor, but nothing close to the degree that he is being accused of.
This goes back to the line I wrote in the previous condition about if one actually sees the offender “blow in her ear” or “pat him on the backside”. The onlooker makes the subjective decision to interpret this in the worst possible light and concludes on his own that the person is a serial rapist.
This issue brings to light what I wrote in Mesira IV about degrees of child abuse. I wrote there that while a non-invasive act (groping, stalking, blowing in the ear, etc.) is unacceptable and may be indicative of even worse behavior, by itself, it is not Halachically impeachable. Even if one actually witnessed such an act, but nothing more, the offender cannot be deemed a “רודף אחר הערוה לבועלה”.
To illustrate this, in the true version of the story that I was involved in, a complainant (who was not a victim but apparently a parent) tried to convince the Rav of a shul that a mispallel (the accused) was a confirmed molester. The Rav was prudent enough to ask the caller how he (or she) knew. The caller responded, “Once when I came to pick up my kid, they didn’t answer the door for fifteen minutes.”
In this statement, the caller is admitting that they did not witness any abuse. If they had, that’s what they’d say: “I saw it with my own eyes, Rabbi!” But the most damaging thing that they saw with their own eyes was perhaps that they had to wait quite some time until the family opened their door. Yet, amazingly, this parent was convinced that their child was molested. Parents can be that way. (Incidentally, there was no basis to any accusations against this person. It’s a long story.)
The Kol Koreh tells “every individual” to report “abuse” while allowing “every individual” to rely on their own definition of “abuse”. 

Condition 6 - Ensuring that the facts are not distorted

Condition #6 tells us that even if every condition to this point is met, the offense is confirmed and the malshinus is justified, the malshin is forbidden to enhance or embellish the information in any way.
This is almost identical to the previous condition. The previous condition is that the malshin, before he reports, cannot bend the facts to convince himself that an unsubstantiated event occurred. This condition says that the malshin, when he reports, cannot bend the facts to convince the listener that an unsubstantiated event occurred.  Also, he cannot over-sensationalize or over dramatize the report to make it sound more horrendous than it is.
This reflects the line I wrote in the Mesira IX.v that an adult will invariably tell the truth the way he wants the listener to hear it. Sometimes a report is distorted from one end to the other simply by adding an extra word or omitting one. I wrote an entire post on this subject alone many years ago [sub]titled: The Objective of the Subjective Adjective (a fun post to read).
This was the main sin of the meraglim. They didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, they merely accentuated the negative and eliminated the positive. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
To illustrate this, as well, I will go to the true story I related in the last condition. When the parent told the Rav that they were forced to wait for 15 minutes, the Rav responded, “So, what does that prove?” A good lawyer would have responded with a different question: “How are you sure it was 15 minutes?”
It’s not very likely the delay was 15 minutes and probably not more than three minutes. But when somebody is standing there waiting, a short time seems like forever. But I am certain the complainant said it because three minutes wouldn’t make the story stick. “So what does it hurt if I pad the details a bit? I am only telling the truth anyway, I just need him to believe me.”
As I wrote above, this condition can interact with Condition #3 because if one overstates the offense, it will invariable overstate the repercussions.
The only positive thing I can say is that these two conditions are the only two that the Kol Koreh does not explicitly urge us to violate. 

Condition 7 – Confronting the Offender

I saved this condition for last because, in my personal view, this is the most serious and neglected issue of them all.
The Chofetz Chaim tells us here that one can never be malshin on another under any circumstances before he confronts and reproaches the offender.
For what purpose?
I hardly think that the purpose of confronting the offender is so to first scold him and call him a “bad boy” and then to promptly go ahead and report him. It is to get him to desist and change course and thus to obviate the need to be malshin (moser) at all. It could also be to give him the opportunity to let you know that he hasn’t been doing what you think he has.
The Chofetz Chaim is in good company. Firstly, we have the Rambam who, when explaining the rules of rodef (Rotzeach 1:7), states: כיצד? אם הזהירוהו והרי הוא רודף אחריו  - "How so? If he was warned but he is still pursuing the victim…"

Likewise, Harav Moshe Feinstein writes in his teshuva (IgM Ch”M 1:8): It is only when they have observed that the Jewish courts cannot deter him is there any hetter [for mesira], after they warned him that they will file a suit in secular court…

When I wrote previously that not the Chofetz Chaim, Rambam, nor HRH”G Moshe Feinstein would endorse this Kol Koreh, my assertion was based on this condition. These three giants contend that to confront the offender is an absolute imperative. The Kol Koreh and the 107 Rabbanim who signed it wantonly disregard it.
The effects of direct confrontation are underrated. But they are very powerful. When I was taking courses on counseling, we covered this subject:
Q. If you suspect that your client may be contemplating suicide, what do you do to find out?   
 A. Ask him!
There is nothing to lose. If he is truly suicidal, he will more likely than not say so. He knows you suspect him. If this happens, you can surely believe him. If he says he isn’t, you can probably believe him, too, but you can judge his tone and body language to see if they allay your suspicions or exacerbate them, and act accordingly. The point is that most of the time, they tell the truth, and even if not, you haven’t hurt anything by asking him. If he’s bent on doing it and doesn’t want to tell anybody, he’ll do it anyway. You haven’t made anything worse.
It’s very much the same with somebody suspected of indecent acts. Just ask him! There is nothing to lose. Recall facts 10-14 that the majority of molesters are former victims who never got the help they needed. Many have a “death wish” to be caught and restrained. So, if they are really guilty, and they feel that the accusers have solid evidence and the “jig is up”, the majority will cave in.
If he denies guilt and you have no solid evidence (and you are not the victim), there is a good chance that he isn’t guilty. Whether he is or not, we are back to the Chofetz Chaim’s Condition #1 which isn’t being met.
If you do have irrefutable evidence and he still denies guilt, at least at this point you have met all seven conditions. Under these circumstances the mesira can now (and only now) be justified.
Confronting an alleged molster is not a comfortable thing to do. But it must be done. The Grossfinger story in Mesira IX.v illustrates how devastating it can be to neglect this step.  
Of course a victim should not need to do it him/herself. An agent, parent or a Rav should do it for them. But, somehow, in cases that I have followed, the “reliable information” of unequivocal guilt is freely offered to everybody under the sun (Rabbanim, principals, policemen, social services, mechutanim) except to the offender. When the offender wants to know where these accusations come from and on what basis, there is a sudden wall of silence – or case of amnesia - from very loose lipped people.
The bottom line is that according to the gedolim of the previous generations, there is absolutely no hetter under any circumstances to turn a molester over to secular authorities before he is confronted and given the opportunity to either clear himself or accept rehabilitative measures. No excuse whatsoever!
To my great consternation, both the revolutionary Kol Koreh and Rabbi Dovid Cohen, do not seem to acknowledge any of these seven conditions and especially this last one. The Kol Koreh explicitly instructs us to violate this condition when it says: “Any individual with firsthand knowledge…has a religious obligation to promptly notify the secular law enforcement…”
Likewise, Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita is very puzzling. Initially he tells us (1:20): “I have paskened to go straight to the authorities, you don’t have to ask a she’ayla…”. There is no mention of any of the seven conditions of the Chofetz Chaim and no need to confront the offender. Later, he seems to have a brief moment of lucidity when he says (7:29): “There is a consultation. The person is given a fair chance to defend himself…”
Wait a minute, Rabbi Cohen! “The person is given a fair chance to defend himself…” when?? When is this “consultation”? Do you mean before you “go straight to the authorities”? This hasn’t been indicated by anything you have said to this point. In fact, it seems to contradict your earlier “psak”.
Or, do you mean that there will be a consultation without his participation, and he will have a chance to defend himself to the judge after he has been turned over to the authorities? What happened to the Chofetz Chaim, Rambam and Rav Moshe Feinstein?
חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין.

עד כאן עצה

Part 5 – Conclusion

I have had numerous personal conversations with the editor-in-chief of Mishpacha magazine wherein I voiced my objections to his stance on Mesira in general and to the Kol Koreh that his magazine carried in August. I know he has read some of my posts and at some point he said to me, “I’ve heard enough from you about what we shouldn’t do. Tell me your plan about what we do need to do!”
I wrote the Mesira IX post to express the point that, like cancer and other ills, we will not eradicate this plague by legislative means or magic bullets. The issue of sexual child abuse is far too complex for quick one-size-fits-all fixes. Once we know this I must strongly question the liberal psak of Harav Dovid Cohen, Shlita.
This Kol Koreh is advocating only one thing – to prosecute suspected molesters whether they are guilty or not. It is not designed to protect anybody, because damage is done by unknown and unsuspected molesters. Prosecution is done to known or suspected molesters. Hence, this edict will not prevent damage and it will not repair damage.
To prosecute a person who does not deserve to be prosecuted is wrong no matter how many suicides there are. As I wrote, the suicides happen at the hands of Phase 1 molesters. Prosecution happens to Phase 2 molesters. Thus, prosecution will not reduce suicides. It merely closes the barn door after the horse has escaped.
And, Rabbi Zvi Gluck tells us that 98.5% of these guys aren’t going to jail anyway. They won’t even be prosecuted. The barn door won’t be closed even after the horse is gone!
So, obviously, we need to put our efforts into doing what will help. It is imperative that every community have a vaad consisting of a Rav, a lawyer, various mental health professionals, and some laymen to oversee a rehabilitation program. It’s not a bad idea for this vaad to have a direct link with both secular social services and law enforcement. Many large communities have Jewish social welfare programs such as Amudim, Shalom Task Force and Project Relief in the East Coast and Magen Yeladim in California. There is no reason that these organizations cannot provide or oversee rehabilitative programs for offenders (if they don’t already do so). But if not, some other organization or community body must oversee them.
Once there is a vaad and a rehabilitation program, there is an alternative for Phase 2 molesters. Remember, most of them cannot or will not be prosecuted by the law enforcement anyhow. And now that there is an alternative, there is no excuse whatsoever to turn anybody straight over to the police.
I do not care what Rav Dovid Cohen, Shlita or 107 community Rabbanim say. I know what the Chofetz Chaim says along with the Rambam and Rav Moshe Feinstein, ZT”L.
So, here is my psak. And I can pasken this way even though I am not a Rav because this is זיל קרי בי רב :
Unless you are the victim and feel imminently threatened, every individual who suspects anybody of child abuse should promptly report them to the local vaad. The person must be immediately confronted by the vaad to determine if there are grounds to the suspicions.
If there are, he must be given the opportunity to cooperate with whatever rehabilitative measures are called for. Only if he is deemed to be non-cooperative and a continuing threat is there any toelles – and hetter to call in law enforcement.
This is what the Kol Koreh should be advocating. But it isn’t. And, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why not. I only spoke with two of the signatories and neither one could answer this question.
Who can?
אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה לנגד השם