Monday, September 26, 2016

Rabbinate rejects conversions by Rav Gedaliel Schwartz - a major Modern Orthodox posek

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel recently rejected four conversions approved by a leading rabbinic authority in the United States, drawing heavy criticism from an umbrella organization representing Orthodox religious courts across the US.

The Chief Rabbinate issued no explanations as to why the conversions of Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz were rejected, sparking vehement protests by the Rabbinical Council of America last Friday.

Rabbi Schwartz, who heads the RCA’s national rabbinic court, is a prominent figure in the Modern Orthodox community.[...]

While the Rabbinate declined to explain the basis for the rejections, it should be noted that in one case, the convert’s mother, who also converted at the same rabbinic court on the same day, was accepted by the Chief Rabbinate.

On Friday the RCA issued a statement criticizing the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decision.

“The Rabbinical Council of America strongly objects to the latest decisions of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s office rejecting the endorsement of leading rabbinic figures in North America of the status of at least two converts. While we have worked assiduously with the Rabbinate in the past to assure the integrity of converts, recent missteps by its office have led to these latest decisions; we are working to reverse them.”

The RCA added that in the cases in question, the rejection of the converts also constituted a “challenge” to the decisions of one of the organization’s most respected rabbis.

“This decision by the Chief Rabbinate is especially egregious because it challenges the rulings of one of the preeminent [halakhic] authorities, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz and because it disregards the great efforts that we have made over the years, for the benefit of converts, to work with the Chief Rabbinate.” [...]

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Corruption and Conflicts: a lecture presented by the Greater Washington Community Kollel or a description of the Kamenetsky-Greenblatt outrage?

Update: Added a poster for the Agudah's lecture claiming that they also are concerned with honesty. Hypocrisy is not a rare commodity these days

Guest Post

The primary driving force behind the entire Kamenetsky-Greenblatt outrage have been Rabbis Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rabbi Sholom Kamenetesky.  Rabbi Greenblatt has explained that he ruled the marriage annulled because he had no choice but to accept the “facts” as presented to him by Rabbi Kamenetsky because of Rabbi Kamenetsky’s status as a “gadol.”  Rabbi Greenblatt refused to take into account that Rabbi Kamenetsky’s actions might be motivated by his longstanding and extremely close ties to the Epstein family. Rabbi Greenblatt stands by his annulment despite the ruling to the contrary by Rabbi Feinstein’s Beis Din and Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky’s letter that his father accepts the ruling of that Beis Din, because Rabbi Greenblatt insists that he must continue to rely on the “facts” given to him by Rabbi Kamenetsky, which Rabbi Kamenetsky still apparently stands behind.

This complete disregarding of the Kamenetsky ties to the Epstein family has occurred for many years, and is probably a large part of what caused the Kametskys to believe that they could get away with annulling the marriage without any basis. Rabbi Kamenetsky’s earlier letters attacking Aharon Friedman should have always been seen as biased and driven by his ties to the Epstein family, but were instead accepted by some, led by Rabbi Hershel Schachter, as those of an objective “gadol” whose opinion must prevail [because “sod hashem le’rauv”], even though he directly contradicted the Baltimore Beis Din to which the two parties brought the case and held several hearings with the participation of both parties. []

Unfortunately, the Washington Vaad’s actions in the case after the death of Rabbi Gedalia Anamer also appear to be driven by conflicts, if not outright corruption. In 2009, at Tamar’s request the Washington Beis Din sent Aharon a simple and straightforward hazmana to a “din torah” regarding a get.  Aharon responded that Tamar was not entitled to involve another beis din because the parties had submitted the matter to the Baltimore Beis Din and Tamar had violated their orders.  At the time, the Washington Beis Din accepted Aharon’s answer and did not send another hazmana. The Av Beis Din of the Washington Vaad’s Beis Din at the time was the Vaad’s long-time leader, Rabbi Gedlaia Anamer, a rav in the DC area for over fifty years.  So long as Rabbi Anamer was the alive, the Vaad and that shul refused to take any actions against Aharon.  Aharon, along with the child when with him, fully participated in the shul, such as sometimes laining or serving as shaliach tzibbur.

But within months of Rabbi Anamer’s tragic and sudden passing in April 2010, that all changed.  A friend of the Epstein family took over Rabbi Anamer’s shul and he quickly started ostracizing Aharon despite the lack of any beis din ruling against Aharon. 

Following Rabbi Anamer’s death, the DC Vaad’s Beis Din sent Aharon an extremely nasty hazmana (in contrast to the earlier hazmana) essentially concluding that Aharon was guilty even before trying the case and demanding that Aharon appear before them for some unspecified type of proceeding that they did not even bother to claim would be a din torah. Nonetheless, after Aharon again responded that the matter was brought to another beis din whose orders Tamar had violated, the DC Vaad’s Beis Din acknowledged that it had no right to intervene against Aharon.  Nonetheless, the Epstein family friend who took over from Rabbi Anamer prohibited Aharon from setting foot in shul.

Tamar also asked the Beis Din of America to intercede against Aharon, but they refused to do so after calling the Baltimore Beis Din.  Despite the tremendous pressure from the Kamenetskys and the Epstein family, Tamar could not find an actual beis din to intercede against Aharon.  According to the testimony of Tamar’s toein, medical malpractice lawyer Frederic Goldfein, in Federal district court [Goldfein was forced to testify when the government granted him immunity because the government stated that Goldfein would otherwise have refused to testify by citing his right against self-discrimination under the Fifth Amendment), the Epstein family turned to the criminal Rabbi Martin Mordechai Wolmark to organize a “beis din” to intercede against Aharon.  Wolmark had the criminal enterprise he helped run issue a “seruv” against Aharon. Wolmark pled guilty to criminal charges in connection to his role in the criminal enterprise, and is currently in prison.  Two of the other signatories to the “seruv” narrowly avoided criminal charges n the case,: an FBI court affidavit stated that the FBI had probable cause to believe that they violated five different Federal criminal statutes, with regard to their participation in the case.  The criminal enterprise didn’t even attempt to pretend that its “seruv” had any validity, not even sending a hazmana before the seruv.  To highlight that the “seruv” had no basis in halacha, but was an exercise of raw political power, the criminal enterprise had Rabbi Kamenetsky sign the “seruv” despite his well-known and extremely longstanding personal and financial ties to the Epstein family and his previously having publicly reached a conclusion on the matter and publicly attacked Aharon

Following Rabbi Anamar’s death, active leadership of the Vaad devolved onto its director, the brother-in-law of Simon (Shimmy) Glick, whose daughter is married into the Epstein family, and Rabbi Dr. Freundel.  Glick is one the largest philanthropists in the yeshiva world, and his influence in Orthodox is very deep and very wide.  It is not clear exactly how large a role he has played in this tragic case, but as Rabbi Eidensohn has noted before, his influence is clearly strongly felt -- --- and particularly so in Silver Spring.

Despite the fact that even the Washington Vaad’s own Beis Din ruled that it could not intervene against Aharon, the Washigton Vaad seized upon the criminal enterprise’s “seruv” to publicly attack Aharon, issuing a letter that effectively incited violence against Aharon and the parties’ child.  Even after the Tisha Ba’av assault when Aharon brought the child to the Epstein house, the Washington Vaad refused to retract its letter or clarify that it did not mean to call for violence.  

Even after the Baltimore Beis Din issued a letter that Aharon was not guilty of wrongdoing, [] the Washington Vaad has refused to retract its letter attacking Aharon. 

It should be noted that the rav giving this shiur is new to Silver Spring, and is not on the Vaad.  But lest anyone get their hopes up that this shiur might address the corruption and conflicts driving the Kamenetsky-Greenblatt, it should also be noted that the rav is a member of a kollel headed by Shimmy Glick’s nephew.

Contemporary Gadolim on Obligations and Exemptions in Positive Time Bound Commandment by Rabbi Yisrael Kashkin

Guest post by Rabbi Yisrael Kashkin

Man was created to learn Torah and Woman was created to assist the Intellect which is Man

Rabbeinu Bachye (Bereishis 3:21): And G-d took the Man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and guard it. The Garden of Eden alludes to the Torah. Just as the Garden is drawn from Eden, so does Torah draw from the higher wisdom which is Eden. The reason that man was created was so that he would learn Torah – to work it and guard it. And G-d commanded the man It is known that the basis of the Torah is the mitzvos i.e., the positive commandments and the negative commandments. And if so the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge which are established within the Garden of Eden allude to the positive commandments and the negative commandments which were established within Torah. And “the Man” alludes to intellect. And it is not good for the intellect to be alone because it needs an instrument through which its actions could be seen and this instruments should also be the assistant for man in keeping the Torah and mitzvos. This assistant needed to be material rather than intellect. In addition since man had been created with a physical body and a soul it was necessary to have assistance in preserving the species just as the body assists the soul concerning intellectual matters. This assistant is the woman. The name “woman” contains an allusion to the body. Thus we find that Shlomo compared matter to woman when he said (Mishlei 2:16) To save you from the woman who is a stranger. This means that even though woman is not part of the intellect but she is the instrument for receiving the actions of the intellect. Similarly Matter accepts the Form and thus relects its image. The “Serpent” alludes to the evil inclination which is from the term “menachesh” – sorcerer. That is because he is constantly challenging man and trying to seduce him. And the serpent started by speaking with the woman i.e., with Matter. And he used the strategy of “af” which means “even though” but also to anger which draws from a person’s strength. The explanation of the serpent’s words: “Af (even though) G-d said not to eat from the trees of the Garden, but if G-d prevents you from eating from that which the body desires – that means G-d is preventing you from enjoying all the pleasures and good things in the world. How could it be that G-d would do such a thing?” This is the seduction of the evil inclination. And this that we find that the serpent (evil inclination) spoke with the woman and not with the man, that is because all the efforts of the evil inclination is only with Matter and not with the power of Intellect.

Chaim Weissman charged with sex abuse of 9 year old boy in Boro Park

Police have arrested a 38-year-old man, who they say lured a 9-year-old Hasidic boy into his car, then pleasured himself in front of the child, officials said.

Chaim Weissman, of Brooklyn, was charged with sex abuse, sexual contact with an individual less than 11 years old, and other child abuse charges for the Sept. 14 incident on 18th Ave. in Borough Park — just five blocks away from where 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky was abducted and murdered in 2011, officials said.

Weissman gave the boy $100 after he masturbated, cops said.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ki Savo; The Three Parts To Every Brachah by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

Gust post by Rabbi Shlomo Pollak

Rashi in Ki Savo (26;13) brings a Medrash on the words ולא שכחתי. The Medrash, which is mentioned in the Mishnah in Maasar Sheini (5;11), explains the Pasuk the be referring to reciting a Brachah before performing the Mitzvah of separating T'rumos & Maasros.

The Gemarah in Brachos (40b) in discussing which parts of a Brachah are essential, brings this Medrash...

However, it seems to be a Machlokes Reshonim,-The ROSH & Tosfes- if the Gemara is actually quoting the Mishnah, or a Ber'reisah? Furthermore, they seem to be arguing what the answer is according to Reb Yochanan.....

For questions & comments please email us at

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Beis Din says "To do anything which will save the Aguna" - Even murder?

This letter was found on the ORA website. . Not sure what this has to do with halacha. It seems to be a heter to do anything to the husband until he gives a Get - which would seem to include physical violence or murder.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'Give me money, then you can talk to your daughter' Divorced women extorting money

A video showing an apparent extortion attempt by a divorced mother of her ex-husband was publicized on Tuesday by men’s rights activists looking to highlight what they call an overlooked phenomenon.

In the video, which shows a portion of a Skype chat between a divorced father and his young daughter, the man’s ex-wife cuts into the conversation, threatening to reduce contact between the man and his daughter unless he pays some unspecified amount of money.

“[If] you pay money, you will start to talk to her every [day] of the week. If you don’t, we won’t do more than twice a week.”

When the father told her to stop interrupting the conversation with his daughter, the mother responds “I’ll interrupt you as much as I like… you will speak nicely to me, I run things here in this house.” [...]

Ki Tavo 76 The Downside of an Attitude of Gratitude by Allan Katz

Our parasha talks about 2 commandments that required people to go to Jerusalem. A landowner was obligated to bring his first ripened fruits –' Bikkurim' to the temple and present them to God's representative, the Kohen-priest. This ritual included a moving declaration and expression of gratitude to God, for being a protector ……and having brought us to the land of Israel and having given us the land of Israel, a land flowing with milk and honey…….As the farmers made their way to Jerusalem, they were met by delegations from the various towns and cities who greeted them with praises and psalms to God. The procession was accompanied by music and plenty of happiness and joy. There is the obligation to separate tithes from food and give to the Levite and poor and also separate food –' ma'aser sheni ' for personal use – to be eaten in Jerusalem or be redeemed and the money spent on food in Jerusalem. The purpose of the mitzvah was to encourage people to visit Jerusalem and the temple and benefit from the learning, prayer and the spirituality of the city.

The Midrash commentary notes that the Torah begins with the word Be'reishit - in the beginning which can be also read – for the sake of the first. The world was created for the sake of the' firsts' – for the sake of the nation of Israel or the Torah that are called Reishit – first. Likewise the word was created for the sake of the mitzvah of the first crops – bikkurim. Gratitude is a trait that is fundamental to the sustainability of the world, central and vital to interpersonal relationships, our relationship with God (not that God needs our thanks) and our relationship with the physical world. Our lives and achievements are made possible by the contributions and help of so many people and primarily because of God's assistance and direction. In order to express gratitude we need to have humility. People showed gratitude and solidarity with the farmers by going out to greet them on their journey. In Jerusalem, people would include the Levite, the convert and poor in their celebration of gratitude. They would rejoice and make others happy. The Torah is making a connection between gratitude and happiness. An attitude of gratitude brings happiness, but true gratitude to God is not just the thank you and expression of gratitude but using the God given gifts to benefit others and inviting the less privileged to join in your celebration. True joy and happiness is a result from giving to the needy and making others happy. True gratitude demands both expression of thanks and action.

ושמחת בכל הטוב אשר נתן לך יהוה אלהיך ולביתך אתה והלוי והגר אשר בקרבך: עשיתי ככל אשר צויתני", שמחתי ושימחתי בו.

Gratitude is very much on the self-improvement, personal development scene because of the research done by Dr Emmons who studies the science of gratitude. Gratitude helps people counter negative thoughts and complaining. It puts an end to self-pity, jealousy, bitterness and regret. It leads to good health, a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, as well as more joy and pleasure. People who kept a gratitude journal for just 3 weeks measured 25% higher on life satisfaction. They exercised more, they drank less alcohol and their families and friends noticed that they are nicer to be around and the effect lasts several months beyond the initial 3 week trial period. The act of writing things down that you are grateful for will instantly change your mood. While expressing gratitude by writing a letter or communicating and interacting with people is a good thing to do in a moral sense, the new gratitude gurus are stressing the benefits for us and that gratitude makes us feel good. A lot of the advice and gratitude exercises suggested can be undertaken without human contact – thank someone mentally , keep gratitude journal, count your blessings, mediate and for those so inclined, pray. Consider this advice from a yoga instructor. “Cultivate your sense of gratitude by incorporating giving thanks into a personal morning ritual such as writing in a gratitude journal, repeating an affirmation or practicing a meditation. It could even be as simple as writing what you give thanks for on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror or computer. To help you establish a daily routine, create a ‘thankfulness’ reminder on your phone or computer to pop up every morning and prompt you.”

The author Barbara Ehrenreich sees this as the downside or selfishness of gratitude. Who is interacting here? ' You' and 'you'.' So it’s possible to achieve the recommended levels of gratitude without spending a penny or uttering a word. All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.' She notes that the conservative leaning John Templeton Foundation , a foundation that promotes free-market capitalism, has been funding gratitude research of more than 8 million dollars, yet the foundation does not fund projects directly to improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal , through efforts like these , to improve their attitudes. '

Another problem with gratitude, particularly between people with different power and status – boss and employee, teacher, parent or child, is that gratitude - especially when 'praise' is also expressed - can be experienced as judgmental and controlling. Judgment even if positive is judgment. The person with power is grateful that his subordinate has jumped through his hoops. A Boss once expressed gratitude and praise to an employee for her work. She replied – please remember your words when you write me my pay- cheque at the end of the month. Instead better to focus on the deed and action and not on the person. Offer neutral feedback and ask questions so the employee speaks and reflects on what she did.

Barbara Ehrenreich suggests that we have a more vigorous and inclusive sort of gratitude, that for e.g. includes all the people that make our meals possible and taking action and expressing ' solidarity' with their demands for better pay and working conditions.

We see clearly from the mitzvoth of Bikkurim- first fruits and eating the Ma'aser Sheni – 2nd tithes in Jerusalem, that gratitude needs to be accompanied by pro-social actions and interactions between people. When gratitude is just an ' attitude' the focus is on the self and an expression of selfishness. It is based on the most primitive form of morality, do good because it feels good, and offer thanks and express gratitude because if you don't reciprocate people won't give you anything or help you. If we are grateful to God and thank Him, but don't act in the world as a partner and be of service to others, our praises and thanks take the form of sacrifices and offerings that God despises. True gratitude is emulating God's ways – והלכת ברכיו מה הוא חנון אף אתה תנון מה הוא רחום אתה רחום ..... - Just as God's is gracious, be gracious, just as God is compassionate, be compassionate, kind and generous etc., etc.

Kaminetsky-Greenblatt Heter: A beis din/rav that allows a married woman to remarry - are they placed in nidoi?

שו"ת הרשב"א חלק ד סימן רד
שאלת על ענין האשה שנתקדשה לאחד באנקוזא ואחר כך נתקדשה ונתייחדה לאחר במקום אחר. והוציאה מתחת השני וגירש הראשון. ואח"כ התירוה ב"ד לשני זה אחר גירושי הראשון. אם אותו ב"ד בר נדוי הוא או לא,

תשובה הדין נותן שהוא בר נידוי. דכיון שהיא אסורה לו וב"ד זה מתירין אותה לו שמותי משמתינן ליה. וכההיא דסוף יבמות (דף קכא) בההוא דטבע באגמא דסמקי ושריא רב שילא לדביתהו. וא"ל רב לשמואל תא נשמתיה. וכההיא נמי דאמרינן בס"פ ואלו מותרים (דף כ). השתא דאמרו רבנן לא מזדקקין ליה, בי דינא דמזדקק ליה שמותי משמתינן ליה. ומיהו אם טעו בהוראת ולא עשו במזיד אלא בטועת לא משמתינן ליה. וכדמסקינן בההוא דסוף יבמות. דרב שילא שהבאנו דשלא להו רב שילא בעצמו מטעה טעאי ולא שמתוה. אבל אם עשו שלא מחמת טעות הוראה הרי אלו בני נדוי.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Satmar rabbi, woman plotted to kidnap and kill husband who wouldn’t grant her a divorce

Update: Added Defense lawyer's letter - names informant

update THIRD MAN ARRESTED   News 12

NY Daily News    Time Magazine    Justice Department announcement

Daily Beast - major summary

A prominent rabbi in the Satmar Jewish community of Kiryas Joel in Orange County plotted to kidnap and murder a man who was resisting a religious divorce from his wife, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Rabbi Aharon Goldberg of Israel, and Shimen Liebowitz, of Monroe, were arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder for hire. In early July, Liebowitz and Goldberg contacted an individual to kidnap the husband and force him to give a get — a religious divorce — to his wife, the feds said.

The individual, who is cooperating with the feds, later learned that they didn’t just want to kidnap the husband — they planned to kill him as well, the feds said.[...]

“Over a period of months,” he said, they “met repeatedly to plan the kidnapping and to pay more than $55,000 to an individual they believed would carry it out.”[...]