Mamzer Makers Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky: Are They Gedolim or the Opposite?
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn/Wed 29 Cheshvan firstname.lastname@example.org
There is great joy in the Torah community that after weeks of silence some major rabbonim are presenting their views on the Tamar Epstein Friedman remarriage with no GET. My brother’s blog daattorah.blogspot.com features them and more rabbis are anticipated to weigh in with their criticisms soon. I was the first one to attack Rabbis Kaminetsky and Greenblatt in America and my brother in Israel was the first one to anticipate and refute what he assumed was the reason for their allowing Tamar to remarry without a GET, something confirmed by others later on. Both of us worked for weeks attacking the remarriage without a GET but no prominent rabbis signed up. Now this is being rectified Baruch HaShem; and we anticipate more rabbis soon. What I want to do here is to ask What Did They Say? I feel there is some confusion here, at least with most of the protests.
Let us review the major rabbis posted on my brother’s blog daattorah.blogspot.com. First we mention the four prominent rabbis HaGaonim Reb Shlomo Miller, Rav Eli Ber Wachtfogel, Rav Moshe Green, and Rav Yechiel Tauber. This group of senior scholars refers to Rabbi Greenblatt not as Rabbi but as “Rabbi” meaning he is not even a rabbi. It also says that all who permit such things are “those who teach Torah falsely” which seems to include RSK and his son. HaGaon Rav Gestetner writes: “It was later announced that Tamar was married to Adam Fleischer by Rabbi Nota Greenblatt from Memphis, Tennessee. We protest at this terrible breach of the walls of our holy Torah that was heretofore unheard of amongst the Orthodox, but known only amongst the Reform. Anyone taking any part of this breach to permit what has been prohibited throughout the generations completely rejects the Torah and mocks the words of the Sages.
Therefore, pursuant to our holy Torah, we announce that the Rabbi Nota Greenblatt is an uprooter of the Torah, similar to the Reform movement. He must be completely separated from the Jewish community, and his Jewish Law teachings, his bread and his wine are prohibited. This is also the status of Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, as all who have the authority to protest this matter and do not do so are held culpable. Without his approval this would not have happened and it is clear that he bears responsibility for this terrible matter.
We also announce: Jewish Law is clear that Tamar is still married to Aharon and that Tamar and Adam Fleischer are violating the prohibition of another man living with a married woman. Any children born to Adam and Tamar will be considered complete “mamzerim” until the end of generations. And there is an obligation to pronounce this.
Tamar must leave both men and is prohibited to either forever. Before Tamar separates from Adam Fleischer through receiving a get, it is prohibited for Aharon to give a get to Tamar. And even after Tamar receives a get from Adam there is no obligation on Aharon to give a get before Tamar agrees to an appropriate custody arrangement. Any children born by Tamar from Adam even after Tamar receives a get are mamzerim according to the rabbis. There is an obligation to encourage them to separate. Signed, this first day of the week of “Vateshachais haaretz lifnei Elokim” [the earth was destroyed before Hashem] [Noach], 28 Tishrei, 5776,Monsey New York, Beis Din Shar Hamishpat
So far, the protesting rabbis utterly denigrated Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky. One put them in cherem and the other considered them as lacking in the ability to be a posek. Now let us turn to the other protests who also agreed that what was done makes mamzerim, but they spoke much differently about Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky.
Here are the words of Rabbi Shternbuch in my brother’s English translation. The Hebrew is on his blog daattorah.blogspot.com. It begins:
“This is in regards to the recently publicized psak of one of the gedolim (an American rosh yeshiva) together with an American posek. The psak freed a woman from marriage without a Get despite the fact that she had lived with her first husband for an extended period of time and she had born a daughter from him. But now a therapist claims that the husband suffers from mental illness that had existed prior to their marriage. Therefore these two rabbis paskened that they had determined that the marriage was a mistake (mekach ta'os) and that therefore the woman was free to marry immediately without needing a Get. And in fact they [the posek] officiated at a wedding for her without her receiving a Get.
“And I saw the teshuva that ‘freed’ her. I hate to say this but the teshuva is total nonsense.”
The confusion is as follows: It begins by saying that the rabbis are Gedolim and then says that “the teshuva is total nonsense.” How can somebody who writes a teshuva that is “total nonsense” be considered a Gadol?
Rabbi Shternbuch continues, “In fact in many cases of divorce, the wife brings a therapist's opinion to beis din, that the husband suffers from mental illness that was a pre-existing condition. Therefore according to the view of these two rabbis there would be no need for a Get (G-d forbid!) in those cases! Such an approach is destructive to Judaism and uproots the basic laws governing Jewish marriage. And this that they claim that they are merely basing themselves on the views of Rav Moshe Feinstein – that is total nonsense.” Now, can Gedolim and poskim pasken something that is total nonsense?
And I have another point that most people don’t realize. The only posek who permits a person with severe deficiencies to be removed from a marriage is Reb Moshe Feinstein. He admits that gedolim of all of the generations disagreed with him and forbade the woman to remarry without a GET, and yet he permits it in certain extreme cases. But he makes a condition: This is only when the husband won’t give a GET. If the husband will give a GET, even if the wife has to give in to his demands in the most painful way, she may not remarry. So how can Rabbi Greenblatt, a disciple of Reb Moshe, permit the woman to remarry without a GET when nobody in the world would permit it? And if two rabbis permit a woman to remarry without a GET with claims that are “total nonsense” how can they be considered Gedolim? And note this. The terms “total nonsense is used twice, once regarding the basic teshuva that permitted the remarriage, and the other thing is the claim of the two “Gedolim” that Reb Moshe Feinstein would permit Tamar to remarry. Somebody who makes up lies in the name of Reb Moshe Feinstein who writes clearly in Igeres Moshe that a husband who wants to give a GET but wants severe conditions, Reb Moshe does not permit remarriage even if the husband is hideously impossible to live with. So here we have “nonsense” and lies, and a scholarship that is far below the level of a Gadol.
Rabbi Shternbuch concludes, “It is important, therefore that it be publicized that the heter of these rabbis for her to remarry is totally worthless and has no basis. Consequently she is still married to the first husband in every respect and therefore any children born from her relation to the second husband are clearly mamzerim. I have no peace of mind because I have not heard protests against this false heter - which is against G-d's honor and His Torah.”
Here again we ask, “If people make a heter that is “totally worthless and has no basis” and is a “false heter”,are they “Gedolim”?
We turn now to the protest of Rabbi Aharon Feldman.
Rabbi Aharon Freedman Attacks Heter of Rabbi Greenblatt
Rabbi Aharon Feldman writes, “A few weeks ago, one of the most authoritative and distinguished rabbis in America [Rav Nota Greenblatt] permitted her to marry another man - and even performed the ceremony himself - without her receiving a Get from her husband. I asked this great rabbi what was his justification? He responded that the basis of his ruling, that she could marry another man, was an expert psychiatrist's report that had been given him. The psychiatrist had concluded that the husband (Aharon Friedman) suffered from the personality disorders of Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) from the beginning of their marriage. Furthermore the psychiatrist claimed that these personality disorders were incurable. On the basis of this information, the distinguished rabbi concluded that the marriage was retroactively annulled based on the halachic principle of mekach ta'os (mistaken acquisition).”
At the end of his remarks Rabbi Feldman says, “In addition to the danger posed because the heter has been produced by Rabbi Greenblatt, in the eyes of the public Rabbi Greenblatt is viewed as being supported in producing the heter by one of the senior rosh yeshivos (Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetsky) of the present generation as well as his son ( Rabbi Sholom Kaminetsky) who is also a distinguished Torah scholar. Despite the fact that the Kaminetskys deny this, there is no question that many will rely on these rumors to permit the nullification of the status of being a married woman by means of this heter. That is because they think gedolim have clearly supported this heter.” Here again we have Gedolim, this time Rabbis Shmuel and Shalom Kaminetsky, called Gedolim. And yet, what they have done defies, as the lengthy letter of Rabbi Feldman proves, basic logic and Torah teachings. These are “Gedolim”?
When I learned by Gedolim Reb Aharon Kotler, Reb Moshe Feinstein and Reb Shmuel HaLevi Wosner all of the zt”l, and I made a mistake, I caught it. But when a person is a “Gadol” and makes mamzerim, that is something else.
But one of the signers against Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky told me that there is method to the madness.
There are two approaches to use when attacking Tamar’s remarriage. One is that of completely denigrating the rabbis responsible for it, such as was done with two of the above protests. The other is the approach of another two protesters, to protest very strongly and declare that children will be mamzerim, and yet, to speak highly of the rabbis who did it. As I pointed out, if rabbis make such an error to make mamzerim, do we call them “gedolim” and other such titles? But this rabbi explained to me the reasoning.
Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky must be brought to understand that what they did was wrong. If they do this, we can hope that other rabbis will be afraid to repeat what they did. But if Rabbis Greenblatt and Kaminetsky are insulted and they continue to believe they are right, they will make more mamzerim. Furthermore, their students and disciples and those who look to them for guidance will accept negation of marriage without a GET. Then Klal Yisroel will be split in two some considering the others side mamzerim. Others believe that if these two rabbis are not destroyed, they will continue their evil ways.