Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Agunah Problem, part 2; Wearing a Kippah; More Censorship by ArtScroll

The Agunah Problem, part 2; Wearing a Kippah; More Censorship by ArtScroll
Marc B. Shapiro
1. Continued from here.
There is even an opinion, which as far as I know is accepted by many, that if a man apostatizes the beit din can still not force him to issue a divorce. This is first mentioned by R. Meir of Rothenburg and his reason is quite surprising. He says that a woman would rather be married to an apostate than not married at all.[1]
כתב מורי רבינו עובר על דת או אפילו משומד אין כופין אותו להוציא ותדע מדלא מנה רשע עם שכופין אותן להוציא וטעמא דטב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו אם לא שעבר על דת שקיבל עליו חרם שהוא כלפי דידה כגון שלא להכותה או שלא להקניטה.
This position, and the opposing one that we do force a meshumad to give a get: משומד כופין אותו על ידי גוים, is mentioned by R. Moses Isserles, Even ha-Ezer 154:1.
Today, there is no way in the world that a religious woman would wish remain married to an apostate, so how could the hazakah טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו be applicable in such a case? I therefore don’t see how any beit din could tell a woman whose husband apostatized that they are not able to compel him to divorce her. Incidentally, R. Solomon Luria couldn’t believe that R. Meir of Rothenburg really meant what he said. According to R. Luria, the word משומד here does not mean “apostate” but a משומד לכל התורה, that is, a complete sinner who is still in the Jewish community and can be brought back to Torah observance, perhaps even by his wife.[2]
כל זמן שלא נטמע ביניהם אפי' הוא משומד לכל התורה כולה אין כופין אותו מאחר שיכול לקיים שאירה כסותה ועונתה כראוי וגם אולי על ידה יתחרט ויחזור למוטב ובזה יתיישבו דברי מהר"ם שכתב שאין כופין כלל אפילו משומד.
This is not the standard position as pretty much everyone assumes that R. Meir of Rothenburg was talking about an actual meshumad. Yet it must be noted that as with R. Luria, R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg also found R. Meir of Rothenburg’s language strange, since how can you say טב למיתב טן דו מלמיתב ארמלו about a woman living with an apostate? R. Weinberg therefore suggested that perhaps R. Meir just meant a sinner.[3] Elsewhere, R. Weinberg sees it as obvious that a Jewish woman would not want to marry an apostate, even one who has repented from his apostasy.[4]
והנה זה דבר ברור שהמומר מאוס בעיני כל אחד מישראל, ואפילו אם חזר בתשובה שלמה הוא מאוס כשזוכרים שהמיר את דתו, וק"ו ב"ב של ק"ו אם לא עשה תשובה שלמה אלא הרהר תשובה בלבו ואח"כ חזר לסורו שהוא מאוס ואין שום בת ישראל מתפייסת עם אדם כזה.

הכל יודעים ששום בת ישראל לא תנשא לאיש שהמיר דתו אפילו אם עשה אח"כ תשובה בלבו ואפילו אם ימיר את דתו החדשה בדת ישראל.
Just as with the case of a real meshumad, it is hard to imagine that today a woman who wants to divorce her husband because he has become completely non-observant, and the husband refuses to give the get, that this woman would not be regarded as an agunah. I am speaking about the more modern communities. What about in the haredi world? I was shocked to read the following in a recent work by R. Judah Itah explaining why it is that even today a woman would rather be married to an apostate than be alone, something that is obviously factually incorrect and is a terrible indictment of Jewish women.[5]
והנה בדין זה אם כופין המומר לכאורה איירי דבאה האשה ומבקשת מהבי"ד שיעזרו לה לצאת מרשות המומר כי לא טוב לה להיות בחברת המומר. א"כ היאך אתה דוחה את רצונה בנימוק דטוב לה כיון דטב למיתב תן [!] דו וכו' הרי היא זועקת דאין זה טובה בשבילה. וצ"ל דקים לחז"ל דכל אשה רוצה להיות בחברת איש מלהיות בודדה, ומה שאומרת שרצונה לצאת מהמומר לא זה סיבה בגלל המומר אלא אפשר מפני שעיניה נתנה באחר ולכן אין כופין המומר, דלא מאמינים למה שאו' שכל רצונה לא להיות בחברת המומר.
Can R. Itah really believe that a Bais Yaakov girl could live with an apostate and the only reason she would scream to get out of the marriage is because she has her eye on someone else? If there was a haredi woman who chose to remain with an apostate rather than demand a divorce, wouldn’t the haredi world regard her as a traitor?
In the previous post I discussed R. Weinberg’s responsum dealing with a man accused of sexual abuse. In that case, R. Weinberg refused to force him to give a get. This responsum is mentioned in a 2013 decision by the Jerusalem Beit Din available here. In a 2-1 decision the beit din refused to order a convicted sexual abuser to give his wife a get. The majority recommended that the husband give a get, but as far as compelling the husband, or even telling him that he was obligated to give a get, the beit din felt that its hands were tied.
We are taught that the ways of Torah are pleasant. Can it really be that a woman who wants to be divorced from a sexual abuser has no recourse? Must it be the case that the beit din’s hands are tied and the husband can keep his wife a prisoner? 
This brings me to a suggestion which can perhaps solve some of the problems at least in the State of Israel. I am not naive enough to think that it will ever be implemented, but I do think that it is a good approach. As I just mentioned, the Jerusalem Beit Din case of the convicted sexual abuser was decided by a 2-1 majority. One of the dayanim thought that the husband could be compelled to give the divorce, but unfortunately for the wife he was in the minority. If you examine the decisions of the various batei din you find that some dayanim are more liberal than others when it comes to ordering the husband to issue a divorce. This doesn’t mean that the other dayanim are “bad guys”, as some feminists like to portray them. They just feel bound by certain halakhic restrictions. The more liberal dayanim, however, follow a halakhic tradition that assumes that if the husband and wife have been separated for a long time, or if there are good reasons for the woman to want a divorce, even if these reasons are not mentioned in the Talmud, then the husband can be forced to issue the get.
Since I think we all agree that freeing women from dead marriages is a positive goal, would it violate any halakhic procedure for certain communities to have batei din composed exclusively of those rabbis who accept the halakhic position that a husband can be obligated to divorce his wife even in cases not specified in the Talmud? This would not be an example of deciding the halakhah before the case was heard, but only of creating a beit din of dayanim who are at least open to a more liberal understanding of when divorce is to be required.
This would no different than the conversion courts set up in Israel recently under the direction of R. Nachum Rabinovitch. Only dayanim who have a liberal perspective on conversion are on this court. This doesn’t mean they will always agree on all points, but they will agree on certain baseline positions. This might be a solution to the sort of case that appeared before the Jerusalem Beit Din, discussed above. Had the make-up of the beit din been different, rather than a 2-1 decision leaving the wife in a miserable marriage perhaps for the rest of her life, the decision could have been 2-1 or 3-0 in her favor.
I don’t think anyone would object if a community said, for example, that they will only hire a rabbi who supports, or opposes, the heter mekhirah. That is the community’s prerogative. So why should it be problematic to say that for certain communities only dayanim who have a liberal perspective on when a husband is obligated to give a get should be seated on batei din dealing with these issues? I think that some dayanim will be fine with this. While their interpretation of halakhah does not generally permit them to obligate a husband to give a get, they recognize that others have a different perspective. It is not uncommon for a posek to tell a questioner that he should inquire of another posek who will probably give him a more lenient answer. For example, both R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Ovadiah Yosef, when confronted with questions about abortion, rather then reply that it was forbidden they advised the questioners to ask R. Eliezer Waldenberg, as he had a more lenient opinion in this matter.[6] Many more such examples could be cited dealing with a whole host of issues.[7]
Here is what appears in R. Eliyahu Sheetrit’s Rabbenu, p. 137. 

It describes how R. Ovadiah Yosef did exactly what I am suggesting. He purposely arranged to have a dayan join the beit din on a certain day, knowing how this dayan held in a halakhic matter. In other words, R. Ovadiah was “stacking the deck” to get a decision he believed to be correct. If R. Ovadiah felt comfortable in doing this, then I don’t think there is a problem with picking dayanim who are known to accept the view that men can be required to issue a get in a wide range of cases.
Another way to solve the problems I have written about in the last two posts would be if the batei din accepted the view of R. Moshe Feinstein that when the husband and wife are living separately, and there is no chance of reconciliation, then halakhah requires the husband to give a get. I realize that R. Moshe’s position is not in line with the sources I have previously referred to, but since so much is at stake, perhaps the dayanim could agree that R. Moshe’s position is sufficient to rely on. This is what he states in Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4, no. 15:2 (emphasis added):
ובדבר איש ואשה שזה הרבה שנים שליכא שלום בית, וכבר שנה וחצי דרים במקומות מופרדים, וכבר ישבו ב"ד חשוב ולא עלה בידם לעשות שלום ביניהם. וראינו גילוי דעת חתום מהב"ד שלא הועיל כל השתדלותם לעשות שום. וכנראה מזה שהב"ד סובר שא"א לעשות שלום ביניהם. אז מדין התורה באופן כזה מוכרחין להתגרש ואין רשות לשום צד לעגן, לא הבעל את אשתו ולא האשה את הבעל, בשום עיכוב מצד תביעת ממון. אלא צריכים לילך לפני ב"ד לסדר התביעות בענייני ממון ולסדר נתינת וקבלת הגט.
R. Moshe’s approach was anticipated by R. Hayyim Palache in the 19th century. Therefore, if some poskim feel that R. Moshe’s authority isn’t enough to rely on, R. Palache words might be sufficient for them (and indeed, in recent years some dayanim have relied on R. Palache).[8] R. Palache actually sounds like he is describing the contemporary scene when he says that if either husband or wife refuses to allow the divorce to go through in order to take revenge on a spouse, that the heavenly punishment for such an action is very great. He then says that if it has been eighteen months and the couple still can’t get along, then the husband is forced to give a divorce.[9]
וידעו נאמנה כי כל הבא לעכב מלתת גט בענין זה כדי להנקם זה מזה מחמת קינאה ושינאה ותחרות כאשר יהיה האופן פעמים שהאיש רוצה לגרש והאשה אינה רוצה וכדי להנקם מהאיש מעכבים הדבר שלא לש"ש עתידין ליתן את הדין . . . וכמו כן להפך כשהאשה רוצה להתגרש והאיש איו רוצה וכדי להנקם מהאשה מעכבים מלתת גט שלא לש"ש כם בזה לא בחר ה' ויש עונש מן השמים . . . והנני נותן קצבה וזמן לדבר הזה דאם יארע איזה מחלוקת בין איש לאשתו וכבר נלאו לתווך השלום ואין להם תקנה ימתינו עד זמן ח"י חדשים ואם בינם לשמים נראה לב"ד שלא יש תקנה לשום שלום ביניהם, יפרידו הזווג ולכופם לתת גט עד שיאמרו רוצה אני.                     
As I mentioned, some dayanim will be very content not to sit on cases where their stringent approach will lead to a situation where the husband is not obligated to give his wife a get. They will recognize the problems women are sometimes placed in because of their approach and be happy that other dayanim have a different perspective, even though they themselves cannot agree. What then to do about the dayanim with a stringent perspective who will not agree to recuse themselves? I don’t see any reason why communities cannot declare that they do not wish to accept a situation where women are locked in dead marriages if there are valid halakhic options. As such, they will only hire dayanim who adopt a liberal perspective as to when a husband can be obligated to issue a divorce. This does not mean that these communities would be deciding cases in place of the dayanim, and every case is obviously different. However, there is nothing wrong with inquiring of a dayan what his halakhic philosophy is before seating him on the bench. This has nothing to do with deciding specific cases, as anyone who has ever watched a Supreme Court nominee hearing understands.[10] You are permitted to ask a question of a posek whom you assume will offer a lenient decision, as long as you are prepared to follow the decision even if in the end it is not what you expected. By the same token, one can appoint as a rav or a dayan someone whose halakhic philosophy is in line with the values of the community he will serve. That is all that I am suggesting
As mentioned in the last post, R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg states that if there is a dispute among halakhic authorities, we must reject the view that will bring the Torah into disrepute in people's eyes (Kitvei ha-Gaon Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, vol. 1, p. 60):
ואגלה להדר"ג [הגרא"י אונטרמן] מה שבלבי: שמקום שיש מחלוקת הראשונים צריכים הרבנים להכריע נגד אותה הדעה, שהיא רחוקה מדעת הבריות וגורמת לזלזול וללעג נגד תוה"ק.

This formulation of R. Weinberg can provide justification for the approach I am suggesting. Interested readers should also examine R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 5, no. 26, where he writes to R. Elyashiv and justifies his liberal perspective. He sums up his position with these important words

ואחרי זאת בקחתנו גם בחשבון חומר השעה המיוחד שאנו חיים בה בתקופתנו אשר רבו שוטני התורה וכן בראותינו פירצת הדור הצעיר המנוער מתורה ויראת שמים וכשלא מוצא אוזן קשבת לדבריו עושה במחשך מעשיו, וכמה פעמים הרי אזנינו שומעות ולא זר מהמכשולים הגדולים שהנשים נכשלות ומכשילות את הרבים באיסור א"א ואנו עומדים רפה אונים באין בידינו להעמיד הדת על תלה, נדמה לי ששפיר ישנו במה שכתבתי בספרי שם כר נרחב לתת מקום לדון בכובד ראש בהערכת כל מקרה ומקרה שלטענת מאוס עלי ולהשתמש לפי הצורך בכפיה . . . ולכן לפענ"ד נאמנים המה דבריו של המהר"א טוואה בחוט המשולש שכותב שאפי' לדעת הסוברים שלא לכוף אם יש צורך שעה בכפייה יכופו דאין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות, ובלבד שתהא כוונת הדיין לש"ש ויחקור על הדבר כראוי.
I quoted R. Waldenberg at length as there are some people who thought that my previous post sounded "reformist", because I argued that divorce halakhah should not be decided in a vacuum but should take into account the contemporary reality. As you can see, this is exactly what R. Waldenberg says.

R. Waldenberg concludes that the final decision on this matter should come from all the rabbinic courts in Israel. He does not want to have a situation like we have today, where different courts have entirely different approaches when it comes to how to deal with divorce law. 

There is another point that is important to make. I have heard people say that the problem of the agunah that we have today, where a man refuses to give his wife a get, is a new phenomenon. This is completely incorrect, as this phenomenon is already seen in the medieval responsa. However, you won’t generally find it discussed among the responsa that deal with agunah. The matter is discussed when dealing with whether one can be forced to give a divorce. From medieval times until the present, women in unhappy marriages have demanded divorces. As we have seen, in situations that many people today would consider cases of agunah, in prior generations the rabbis ruled that the woman was not entitled to a get
Even in earlier years, however, we do find examples of agunot where the husband refused to give a get, even after being told to so by a beit din, and the community tried to help. The 19th century Hebrew newspapers have a number of such cases. Here is one example that appeared in Ha-Magid, Feb. 13, 1861, pp. 27-28.
It is interesting that when they caught up with the man they imprisoned him in the rabbi’s house. They also took his money and used it as leverage.
Let me make one final point. In matters of divorce my feeling is that when either husband or wife wants a get, and it is obvious that there is no future in the marriage, then neither party should prevent the divorce from taking place. There shouldn’t be any reason to go to a beit din to force a divorce. Adults should be able to see that the marriage isn’t working out and come to a conclusion that it is time to end it. Any husband who chooses to withhold a get when he knows that the marriage is over is acting in a very cruel way, and the full weight of halakhically acceptable communal pressure should be brought on him. Nothing should scandalize us more than a so-called religious person keeping his wife captive as a means of revenge. I would even suggest reading the names of some agunot during the Shabbat prayers, in order to sensitize people to the issue.
I know that many people will regard what I have just written as obvious. What I will now say might anger some, but I think that it too should be obvious. I have often heard it said that a get should never be withheld, and that the get should be given immediately. For example, on ORA’s website it states: “[I]t is never acceptable to refuse to issue a get once the marriage is irreconcilable.” On JOFA’s website it states: “As soon as it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation, the Get should be written and delivered to the woman so that it cannot be used as a bargaining tool in financial or custody negotiations.” 

While in general both these statements are correct, it is not correct that this is always the case. For instance, let’s say the wife runs away to Europe with the kids. Does anyone seriously think that the husband is still obligated to give her a get? In such a circumstance it is entirely appropriate for the husband to insist that she come back to the United States and settle all custody issues before a get is issued. Or let’s say a husband and wife separated, and the wife refuses to let the husband see his children. It could be many months before the secular court rules on the matter of visitation. Why would anyone think that in the meantime the husband is obligated to give his wife a get if she refuses to allow him to see his children? I don’t think that there is any reputable beit din in the world that would side with the woman in these two cases. These are obviously extreme examples, and have nothing to do with the typical agunah case we hear about. Yet we should be aware that there are nuances that sometimes come into play, and every case must be investigated by a reputable beit din before judgments are made.

Finally, those who want to learn more about the matters we have been discussing should consult R. Shmuel Gartner's detailed book, Kefiyah be-Get (Jerusalem, 1998). A 2000 page book with the title Mishpat ha-Get has just appeared. I have not yet seen it but it must have important material as well. There is also another book that is worth noting, R. Raphael Aaron Ben-Shimon's Bat Na'avat ha-Mardut (Jerusalem, 1917). R. Ben-Shimon (died 1928) was a leading Egyptian rabbi and author of a number of significant works. What makes Bat Na'avat ha-Mardut of particular interest is that he has a number of formulations that if written today would lead certain people to claim that he was a feminist or an adherent of Open Orthodoxy. For example:

P. 4:

ואמנם בזמנינו זה הנה מתלאה, כי הוסב דין המורדת לאכזריות נוראה כי בתי דינין בזמנינו האחרונים, לסיבת כי לא מצאו כל הדין מפורש מה יעשה לה להמורדת בטענת מאיס עלי ואחרי אשר אין לנו עתה דין הכפיה לכוף את הבעל לגרש בשום אופן אחזו בשיטת החומרא עד דיוטא התחתונה, ושמו להם לקו כי המורדת היא כאשה מפרת באמונה וכל חמירא דאיכא ברשותייהו נתנו אותה על ראש המורדת האומללה, כאלו הוא דין דאיסור והיתר אשר המחמיר בה בטוח הוא ממכשול יותר מהמתיר, וע"כ העמידוה על גחליה ריקה. חופשה לא ניתן לה, הפסידה נדוניתה וכ"ש כתובתה, ואף אם חזרה בה לא יקבלו תשובתה

P. 8:

דהרמב"ם ז"ל נתמלא חמלה וחנינה על בנות ישראל

P. 154:

 ואמינא ולא מסתפינא שאם היה הרמב"ם ז"ל חי אתנו היום, היה מרעיש העולם, על אחרוני זמננו אשר דנין את המורדת דמאיס עלי במשפט מר וקשה ואכזרי כנ"ל, ואומר בקול רם הלא תבושו הלא תכלמו לתלות בי קלון אכזריות כזאת אשר לא דמיתי, ולא עלתה על לבי, הן אנכי חסתי על נפשות בנות ישראל, שיחיו חיי צער ויהיו כשפחות וכשבויות חרב להבעל לאיש שנוי [שנאוי] נפשם
2. In the previous post I referred to a couple of Supreme Rabbinic Court decisions. In these cases R. Elyashiv was a member of the court and the decisions were published in the Piskei Din shel Batei Din ha-Rabaniyim be-Yisrael. In both of the cases I cited the decision was unanimous and no individual dayan is recorded as having authored the published decision. Nevertheless, the rulings are reprinted in R. Elyashiv’s Kovetz Teshuvot, vol. 1, as if they were written by him alone (and maybe they were, but no evidence for this is provided). This volume was not published by R. Elyashiv but by one of his followers, and is a collection of previously published court rulings and responsa. There are 253 sections and the table of contents at the beginning of the volume provides the original sources of all the material.
When you look at the list of sources you find something unusual. While the names of the various books and journals are given one also finds some abbreviations. This is strange since these abbreviations are nowhere explained, and abbreviations are only used for a very small number of the many different sources. I was unable to figure out what all of the abbreviations mean but I did figure out the following:
פ"ד = פסקי דין של בתי הדין הרבניים בישראל
י"א = יביע אומר
ד"י = דרך ישרה
מ"ש = משפטי שאול

When reprinting rulings from R. Elyashiv that appeared in the Israeli government Beit Din publication, rather than telling the reader where they are taken from, all we get is פ"ד. Similarly, the typical reader will have no way of knowing that material has been taken from R. Ovadiah Yosef’s Yabia Omer, R. Yitzhak Yedidyah Frankel’s Derekh Yesharah, and R. Shaul Yisraeli’s Mishpetei Shaul. Obviously, for the individual who published the Kovetz Teshuvot, there is something problematic with all of these individuals, and with the government beit din, and he therefore wouldn’t even mention the name of their publications.
If you look at Yabia Omer, vol. 3, Orah Hayyim no. 33, and Mishpetei Shaul, no. 34 you can see the original letters from R. Elyashiv. Needless to say, in these letters he relates to R. Ovadiah and R. Yisraeli as valued rabbinic colleagues. However, in Kovetz Teshuvot the beginning of the letters has been deleted, and the reader therefore has no idea who R. Elyashiv was corresponding with. Elsewhere in Kovetz Teshuvot, when the recipient of a letter is “kosher” in the eyes of the publisher, the beginning of the letter is indeed included.[11] For some reason, in the list of sources the publisher does not abbreviate the titles of R. Isaac Herzog’s Heikhal Yitzhak and R. Yitzhak Nissim’s Yein ha-Tov. Yet he still deletes the beginning of R. Elyashiv’s letters taken from these books, so the reader does not see the very respectful way he refers to R. Herzog and R. Nissim. Here, for example, is how R. Elyashiv’s letter appears in Heikhal Yitzhak, vol. 2, no. 24.

As you can see from the titles R. Elyashiv gives to R. Herzog, he has the utmost reverence for him.

Here is how the page appears in Kovetz Teshuvot, where all this is deleted.

Also, notice how at the beginning of the letter in the original it says אני מודה לכ"ג מרן, yet the wordמרן  is deleted from Kovetz Teshuvot. In the second paragraph R. Elyashiv writes

ואנכי לא באתי בשורות אלה אלא להשיב על מה שהעיר מרן שליט"א

In Kovetz Teshuvot מרן has been removed, leaving us with להשיב על מה שהעיר שליט"א, which doesn’t make sense since שליט"א does not follow a verb.[12]
For those who have read my new book, this example will not be surprising and illustrates once again the lack of basic intellectual integrity that we find in some segments of the haredi world. From the response to my book, I can tell you that the ones most upset about this sort of thing are none other than haredim. They really believe in the haredi outlook and can’t understand why some members of their society, such as the publisher of Kovetz Teshuvot, feel that the haredi position is so weak that it can only survive by misleading people. How could a haredi not be upset when seeing how a publisher feels that he knows better than R. Elyashiv which rabbis are deserving of respect, and therefore takes upon himself to “correct” R. Elyashiv’s “mistakes”? If this is not a complete undermining of Daas Torah, then I don’t know what is.
3. In this post I referred to the German Orthodox practice of men not wearing a kippah. R. Yoel Catane informed me on the authority of his mother, a native of Frankfurt and a relative of the Breuer family, that even R. Joseph Breuer when he taught secular subjects at the Hirsch school in Frankfurt did so without a kippah. R. Catane also points out that many German Orthodox Jews continued the practice of going bareheaded even when they came to Israel. R. Catane gives as an example of this Yitzhak Ernst Nebenzahl, who served as State Comptroller in Israel and was punctilious in his Torah observance. His son is the famous Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl. Even in his old age in Jerusalem, the elder Nebenzahl continued his practice of going bareheaded, which when it came to the German Orthodox was not a reflection about their level of piety. Here is a picture of him without a kippah.
Dr. Aharon Barth, a grandson of R. Azriel Hildesheimer, was also a well-known German Orthodox Jew. He served as the director of Bank Leumi and was one of the two people whose signature was on the first currency of the State of Israel. He also wrote the Orthodox philosophical work Dorenu Mul She’elot Netzah, which has been reprinted a number of times and has also been translated into English, French, and German. You can read about Barth here. Here is his picture showing him bareheaded.

R. Catane mentioned the following anecdote. Once Barth was giving a lecture to bankers in Israel and he heard some thunder. He stopped the talk, took a kippah out of his pocket and put it on his head, made the blessing on the thunder, then put the kippah back into his pocket and continued with the lecture.
4. In Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox I wrote about how in its English translation of R. Zevin’s Ha-Moadim ba-Halakhah, ArtScroll censored references to Saul Lieberman, removing his rabbinic title. Leon Well pointed out to me that ArtScroll didn’t just remove the “R.”, but in one case removed Lieberman’s name entirely. In Ha-Moadim ba-Halakhah (Tel Aviv, 1955), p. 133, in the article on Shemini Atzeret, R. Zevin writes:

בנוגע לתוספתא משער ר"ש ליברמאן [!] ב"תוספת ראשונים" השערה חריפה

In the Festivals in Halachah, vol. 1, p. 346, the following “translation” appears: “As regards the passage from Tosefta on which Rashi’s interpretation is based, Tosefes Rishonim ventures a daring speculation.”

On the topic of Saul Lieberman’s name being censored, Professor Yaakov Spiegel called my attention to the following. Here is R. Dov Berish Zuckerman’s Beit Aharon: Beurei ha-Rambam al pi ha-Meiri (Jerusalem, 1984) p. 311.

This volume appeared posthumously, published by Machon Yerushalayim. If you look at the second column, 6 lines from the bottom, it says שוב הראני חכם אחד. Who is the anonymous scholar? What appears in this book had earlier been printed in Talpiot 4 (1949), p. 139. In the original we find הר"ש ליברמן שליט"א.[13]

David Farkas called my attention to another case of ArtScroll censorship, this time in its new Midrash Rabbah. Here is a page from Bereshit Rabbah, Miketz, Parashah 90.

In the Etz Yosef commentary there are three dots, showing that something is missing. This is the only time I am aware of that when ArtScroll engaged in censorship they let the reader know that something was removed, so I guess we have to be thankful for this.

What was so terrible in the Etz Yosef that ArtScroll had to delete it? Here is the uncensored version of the commentary, and as you can see, Etz Yosef cited Mendelssohn. That is why it had to be removed.

While on the topic of censorship, let me share another example of censorship of R. Kook. This time R. Kook's name is removed from R. Meir Abovitz’s commentary on the Jerusalem Talmud.

5. I want to call readers’ attention to a new book recently sent to me by R. Yaakov Shapiro. Its title is Halachic Positions: What Judaism Really Says About Passion in the Marital Bed, available here. This is the most detailed book there is on halakhah and marital sexuality. In many ways it is designed to counter a lot of the stringencies that have arisen over time and which the author feels are non-halakhic and also psychologically unhealthy, thus making a happy, balanced marriage much more difficult. You can also watch the author herehere and here. I think readers will be surprised, and perhaps upset, when they learn that some of what they have been told is forbidden is actually permitted according to the standard halakhic authorities. See also what I wrote here in note 26.

I also should add that this book is not for the prudish, as it is very explicit in what it discusses. This in fact relates to one of the themes of the book, that halakhah itself is not prudish as sex is an important part of life and is discussed in halakhic works just like everything else. Having said that, I must note that there is a difference between being prudish and refraining from inappropriate slang when discussing halakhic matters. While the author is careful in this matter, he does refer to another recent book that makes this mistake. I am uncomfortable in even recording the title of this other new halakhic work by Rabbi S. Even-Shoshan, but readers can see it here.

I don’t think I am being overly fastidious if I say that in my opinion any halakhic work with a title like that should not be regarded as a legitimate text. My yardstick in this regard is if one would feel comfortable using a word when speaking with a great rabbi or when giving a lecture. Thus, while the term “oral sex” is fine (and I was even present when a well-known rav was asked a question using these words), for the life of me I can’t understand how a rabbi discussing a halakhic topic can use a slang word.[14] In fact, I don’t think that even an acceptable term like “oral sex” should be used in the title of a book, as it is needlessly provocative. This sort of provocative title is also found with another book published by Rabbi Even-Shoshan. One who wants to write about these matters should use a title like “Jewish Sexual Ethics” or “Marital Intimacy in Halakhah”, with all the details discussed in the book.[15]

6. In the last post I wrote about a dispute in understanding a text between Rabbis Israel Brodie and Shlomo Yosef Zevin on one side, and Profs. Shlomo Zalman Havlin and Israel Moshe Ta-Shma on the other. I was incorrect in this, as R. Zevin actually agrees with Havlin and Ta-Shma. Thanks to Rabbi Dovid Solomon for noting this.

[1] Hagahot Maimoniyot, Hilkhot Ishut 25:4.
[2] She’elot u-Teshuvot Maharshal, no. 41. Cf. Yam Shel Shelomo, Yevamot 4:22.
[3] Seridei Esh, vol. 3, p. 75.
[4] Kitvei ha-Gaon Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg, vol. 2, pp. 443, 447.
[5] Even Sapir (Jerusalem, 2013),  pp. 358-359.                     
[6] See R. Ovadiah Yosef, Ma’yan Omer, vol. 8, p. 173; R Nahum Stepansky, Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol, vol. 3, p. 296.
[7] Since I referred to Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol in the last note, see also in this book, vol. 3, p. 191, for another example, this time dealing with a kashrut issue. R. Auerbach thought that the matter was forbidden, but stated that if the questioner wished he could also ask R. Waldenberg for his opinion. See also ibid., p. 212, where the author asked a question of R. Waldenberg and he replied, “Do not ask me. I am stringent in this matter. Go to R. Ovadiah and ask him.”
[8] Hayyim ve-Shalom, vol. 2, no. 112. Another important source is R. Shlomo Moshe Amar, Shema Shelomo, vol. 3, Even ha-Ezer no. 19. In an email to me, Prof. Amichai Radzyner noted that in recent years many dayanim have been adopting a more liberal position regarding when a husband can be forced to give a get, and also when he is told that he is obligated to give a get even if the court cannot force him. Much important material in this regard is found in the many issues of the journal Ha-Din ve-ha-Dayan, found here
[9] R. Palache’s responsum is cited by many and is an important source for those who have argued for a more liberal approach to Jewish divorce law. I don’t think anyone will be surprised that R. Abraham Samuel Judah Gestetner, who in his Megilat Plaster [Monsey, 2014] makes the ridiculous argument that R. Jacob Emden’s Megilat Sefer is a Haskalah forgery, also says that this responsum of R. Palache was inserted into the volume by an unknown heretic. See ibid., p. 85.
[10] My own opinion is that no one should be appointed a dayan in the State of Israel unless he has served in the army. After all, how can a dayan understand the people appearing before him without having had such an experience? Yet I realize that this is a pipe dream.
[11] Strangely enough, he includes the beginning of the letter to R. Yitzhak Yedidyah Frankel even though, as I have mentioned, he doesn’t tell us where the letter comes from.
[12] The censorship in Kovetz Teshuvot was also noted by Avraham (Rami) Reiner in his fine article, “Kavim Rishoni’im le-Darko ha-Hikhatit shel ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv,” Netuim 17 (2011), p. 78 n. 12.
[13] R. Zuckerman also mentions Lieberman’s point, and refers to him by name, in Kol Torah 12 (Adar 5718), p. 22.
[14] It is worth noting that there are some passages in rabbinic literature that if said by anyone today would be regarded as nibul peh (this is the correct transliteration, not “nivul”). See Changing the Immutable, ch. 6, for some examples. See also Megillah 25b: “R. Huna b. Manoah said in the name of R. Aha the son of R. Ika: It is permitted to an Israelite to say to a Cuthean, Take your idol and put it in your שי"ן תי"ו (buttocks).” Tanna de-Vei Eliyahu: Eliyahu Zuta, ch. 22 (end), is very explicit: 'בני אותו מקום שאתה אוהב וכו
[15] An example of what I am talking about is Jennie Rosenfeld and David Ribner, The Newlywed Guide to Physical Intimacy. This book is explicit in its discussion, but the title is an appropriate one.

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