Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity: Tamar Epstein's heter: An invitation to Rabbi Bech...

Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity: Tamar Epstein's heter: An invitation to Rabbi Bech...:   Update : One of the solid questions addressed to Rabbi Bechhofer is that in view of his extreme concern with being fair to Tamar, the K...


  1. R. Bechhofer - sometimes (usually, in fact) a scandal proves to be just the tip of the iceberg. We have now learned that rabbis held up as Gedolim by people who speak in that parlance have been מתיר אשת איש and מתיר כהן לגרושה. We are now learning that some of these rabbonim have even used "mekach taus" to permit a woman to marry on the basis that a witness wasn't frum! (Half the marriages in post WWII United States had witnesses who weren't frum.) And the Agudah had the sheer nerve to say R. Rackman's get was invalid?? I will be dan them li-kaf zchus that they too, like the rest of us, didn't realize how far the corruption had set in.

    I remember in yeshivah, rabbi Frand wrote an article for the old Jewish Observer, denying Blu Greenberg's comment "when there's a rabbinic will there's a halachic way." Any halfway educated talmid chacham knew already then, in his heart of hearts, that she was right. And you didn't even need hetter mechiras chametz, mechiras bechor ligoy, prozbul, etc, to prove it, you just had to open a blatt gmara. After all, lawyers know that the Judge can make the law come out any way he wants. Why would halacha be any different?

    But now the doors have been blown right off the hinges. The whole halachic "system" has been shown to be a חוכא וטלולא. You think I'm happy about this?? I promise you I'm not. It's a crying shame. Our society is rotten to the core, from the top down.

    1. Just to comment on your 2nd paragraph, it is sad beyond words that someone who learned in a yeshiva could get this false and simplistic impression of halacha.

      You are entirely correct that the "halfway educated talmid chacham" can think that way, because if they would have learned the other half and developed a complete knowledgeable perspective, the utter nonsense of "when there's a rabbinic will there's a halachic way" would be obvious.

      You ask why would halacha be different? Because it's based on Hashem's Torah. Don't you see that your very question is based on a rejection (unintentionally, I hope...) of Torah min haShamayim?

  2. Rabbi Bechhofer:

    I've been following this whole thing b/c of its considerable entertainment value. However, perhaps you could say a few words to restore my faith in the Orthodox masses. I do think that the rabbonim have acted reasonably given the circumstances (as this episode has made clear that being a rav is challenging in today's times). But everyone else involved seem to have opinions that mostly track their self-interest. These self-interested opinions become vehement, and then morph into attacks on the other parties. I would be less disturbed if this didn't seem like a pervasive phenomenon in Orthodox life - many or even all disputes of hashkafa seem to go this way. I would add further that this is not unique to the Orthodox Jewish community. All demographic groups seem to be aiming to turn their grievances into causes celebres.

    Was it always this way? Are we doomed to such a world?

  3. I think we have finally seen the truly negative effects of the Internet on Judaism. It's not the pornography - an aveirah is an aveirah, but not a shitah - but the Kinah and the Sinah. I don't know if we're doomed or not, but we must try putting our fingers in the holes in the dykes. That is one of the reasons I will not comment anonymously anywhere, and why I try to represent what I believe is what my heroes and role models would have stood for.


    Jefferson Smith: "I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them; because of just one plain simple rule: 'Love thy neighbor.'... And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other. Yes, you even die for them."

    - Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

  4. Fear not, R. Bechofer, our society is not doomed, not by a long shot. But while I too share your feelings about the Intenet and wish it had never been invented, we have to repeat that annoying mantra of "don't shoot the messenger" and look inward. Our hypocrisy has been laid bare for all to see, like a verse in Eicha. There are so, so many examples in which we said אסור to one person, only to turn around and say מותר to the next. The gamesmanship with marriages is only the latest example. But it starts with little things, like telling us translations are a crutch and not to be used, until the Heimsihers like Artscroll started doing it, at which point it became fine.

    Last year I put on techeles, after studying all the literature on the subject, and seeing what my own rebbeim have done. The rabbi of my shul (Lakewood through and through) asked me, in sincerity, how I could do it, seeing as my father and grandfather never did it. I looked at him in amazement. This rabbi sees people wearing their tallis in the street, using Deri lulavim, painting both sides of their teffilin black, eating yoshon, and a thousand other chumrahs that didn't exist in Europe, but TECHELIS he's bothered by. Obviously its because it didn't emanate from the Charedi/Agudah world, but he's not even aware of it! I don't know what's worse, the hypocrisy of the sheer ignorance of the hypocrisy.

    Not everyone is capable of putting these disquieting facts into words, but Rabbi, it is out there. Go to any Kiddush club. People know it. They believe in God and the Jewish people, sure, but not in halacha. How could they, when they see it's just a game to be manipulated as one sees fit?

    הכותב וחותם ומצפה לישועה