Friday, December 23, 2016

Hope for Married Couples (And the Problems)


Hope for Married Couples
Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn/845-578-1917

Suffering from Roman Armies and From Lack of Derech Erets

The Mishneh in Sota 49 tells of two periods in Jewish suffering. One, in ancient times, when Roman armies destroyed Israel. Two, a worse period, just prior to the coming of Moshiach, when Derech Erets, respect for another will weaken. Even respect for the elders of our families will decline or disappear. Because “Derech Erets comes before the Torah” as taught in the beginning of the Book of Elijah the Prophet, the loss of Derech Erets is a true catastrophe. And this lack of Derech Erets destroys families.
Thus, in our days, when the Satan is emboldened by his sudden ability to destroy Derech Erets, it is no wonder that families are split. Instead of husband and wife working as taught in Rambam to respect and love each other, we have husband and wife standing apart from each other, hurling hate and ruining the children.
We now have gender war. People advertise that they are Orthodox feminists. Now, what is an Orthodox feminist? Somebody who feels that Orthodoxy requires an aroused female element to contest the other gender, men.
In the early period suffering from Roman legions, and the latter period suffering from a lost Derech Erets,  the Talmud teaches, “And we have nobody to turn to other than our Father in Heaven.” This does not mean there is no hope. It means that our Father in Heaven will never forget or desert us; if we strongly believe and practice that, there is hope. Indeed, it is precisely this great faith in HaShem, at the most impossible time, that opens the gates to Moshiach.
Yes, when family collapses, when Derech Erets departs, even then, the Gates of Heaven are open to those who turn to HaShem.
What can we do to save our families, our marriages, our Derech Erets, our sensitivity to others? We can educate ourselves and our families with Derech Erets and what the Torah requires of us in marriage and family. I once spoke to a man who had separated from his wife for ten years, and now they lived separately, but he would not give her a GET. I suggested that we learn a few lines of the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Laws, about family and marriage. After a few lines, he exclaimed, “I need a wife!” There are a lot of clever teachings out there, but an Orthodox Jew has a deep respect for the Torah and its written parts, such as the Shulchan Aruch. This brings us to the project of Shalom Bayis Beth Din.

Shalom Bayis Beth Din

I therefore suggest that a program called Shalom Bayis Beth Din be established. A Beth Din in family matters usually concentrates on divorce, who gets the children, who gets the money, when a GET is given, etc. But Shalom Bayis Beth Din is not about divorce, it has nothing to do with divorce, and those on the Beth Din need know nothing about Gittin and divorce. They are only there to save the marriage, not destroy it.
Shalom Bayis Beth Din is simply a program of educating people about Derech Erets and marriage and family. Such an education ideally should begin years before one marries. I told a prominent therapist about my program of Shalom Bayis Beth Din, and suggested that it begin at the age of three. The therapist replied, “It is far too late then. It must begin at the moment of making the soul of the baby and preparing for its arrival in the womb.” Somebody heard this and said that this is a gemora[1], that the soul of a child depends on the love the parents have for each other. Yes, exactly. And that begins very early. And yet, it may take years of training to achieve the proper intimacy that can produce a pure and happy soul of a baby.

Problems Accepting the Strictures of Kiddushin

We now come to another problem that helps to ravage marriage. I am talking about Kiddushin. One who marries with Kiddushin is not free to leave the marriage, surely not the woman or wife, and even the husband or man is somewhat limited. Thus we have many women who cannot tolerate their husbands, and want a divorce, but he won’t give her a GET. Furthermore, a GET, in the vast majority of cases, much be given by the husband willingly, or the GET is invalid. If the woman remarries with a forced GET without the husband’s free will, it is invalid. If the woman remarries with an invalid GET, the babies from the next husband are mamzerim. This in of itself frightens many people who are reluctant to marry with Kiddushin, especially women. And those who do marry with Kiddushin, often live to regret it. When their pain becomes public knowledge it weakens the enthusiasm of others, especially women, to marry with Kiddushin.
Those trapped in marriage and realize that their lives are over with, may decide, and some women do, to give up their Orthodox religion, at least until they get a GET. Somebody told me about a person who goes around counseling women from broken marriages. When the women have no hope of living with their husband they get what they need from him in a hideous manner. Thus, Kiddushin can be a portal to Gehenum.
Some declare that any husband who refuses to give a GET is torturing his wife. From this follows the idea that people should pressure and humiliate the husband and do worse things until he is forced to give his wife a GET. Others suggest prenups, having the husband sign a document that when the wife demands a GET he must give it immediately or pay a large sum of money each month or week until he has no choice but to give a GET. I just want to say, as one who has semicha to have a Beth Din of Gittin from the Gaon Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”L, that forcing a GET from a man is usually forbidden, and if done, produces an invalid GET, which if used to remarry, produces mamzerim. I also want to say, that there is a clear proof from the Mishneh in Nedarim 90b, that a prenup is forbidden, as is any device that enables a woman to force her husband to give her a GET on demand. Somebody “proves” from the Nachalas Shiva that prenups are permitted. But there it is talking about a woman who was abused by her husband and she ran away to her father’s house. The husband is forced by a Beth Din to support her expenses for food while she is away from her husband’s house and staying with her father. This money was not designed to force a GET. It was designed to force the husband and wife to report to Beth Din a few weeks maximum after the wife ran out of the house when the husband abused her. The money the husband gives his wife is only to pay for her food in her father’s house because the husband drove her there with his abuse. It has nothing to do with forcing every husband to honor his wife’s demand for a GET any time she makes it, something clearly forbidden by the Mishneh in Nedarim 90b.

Who Refuses to Marry?

Who may marry with Kiddushin? What kind of question is that? Of course, every Jewish man and woman may marry with Kiddushin. But this is not so simple. Take, for instance, today, when many people are frightened of Kiddushin. They see what happens to many women whose husbands won’t give them a GET, and they are ruined for life. Some women are not married at all, but are frightened by the rules of Kiddushin. They are not strong enough to accept living with a husband they hate forever. They are not strong enough to accept a life of misery with such a husband. Therefore, they are reluctant to marry in the first place, because they fear a failed marriage with no escape.
The fear of Kiddushin is a very important item on our agenda of discussing problems in marriage. If a person is truly afraid of Kiddushin, what are they to do? Let us imagine that a lady had a bad marriage, and perhaps, after much patience, horror, and despair, finally gets a kosher GET, given willingly by the husband or given by the husband for a sum of money from the wife. Now people suggest to this lady various men. Is she ready for Kiddushin? Is she ready to go through what she already tasted because of the rules of Kiddushin, or not?
At this point, allow me to comment on this woman’s decision. It all depends on whether or not the woman is able to struggle with Kiddushin another time, with no GET until the husband finally decides to give one willingly, or perhaps the husband will accept a large sum of money to give a GET. What do I say about this? I say as follows: If the woman is ready to take a chance, and maybe be ruined for life, with a living husband who refuses to give her a GET, then she may, in terms of halacha, marry with Kiddushin. If the woman cannot really be sure that she will last the rest of her life with a husband she hates, she is forbidden to marry with Kiddushin! I feel this is obvious, but I was told that a major posek in Israel said this. Again, a woman may not marry with Kiddushin unless she is positive that no matter what, she will never violate the rules of Kiddushin. This means, if the marriage sours, and the husband is the opposite of what she wants, she must not seek release from the husband by forcing him to give a GET against his will. She will not go with the organization of ORA who don’t obey the Shulchan Aruch that one may not force a GET in the vast majority of cases.
Again, a woman who will honor Kiddushin to the end, no matter what, may marry with Kiddushin. But a woman who doubts this, and knows she may finally go to a rabbi who permits forcing the husband to give a GET without his true will, should not marry with Kiddushin.
But if she cannot marry with Kiddushin, should she remain alone, with a dead marriage? That is also forbidden, as a Jewish man and woman may not live alone but are commanded to have more children and not live alone. But here is a woman who cannot marry with Kiddushin, because she is not strong enough to be sure that she will honor it properly. She is also forbidden to live alone without an active husband. So what can she do? There is one solution. The answer is that she should marry a man with Pilegesh marriage, and we will explain what Pilegesh marriage means.

Pilegesh Marriage and Spousal Relationships

Pilegesh marriage means that the husband and wife are completely married, but the husband or wife can leave the marriage at any time. During the marriage, the woman lives in the house of the husband exactly as man and wife. The woman and the man are married and must honor each other by not going to other men or women. As long as they live together in the same house and are married, they are married only to each other and to nobody else. And if the wife goes to another man, the Pilegesh marriage is immediately ended and the wife must leave the house.

I have been asked by a dear friend to describe how I would define the spousal relationship of Pilegesh, or more specifically, how I would want to have a community of Pilegesh people behave in their spousal relationships.

1)      Question: What are spousal relationship rules in Pilegesh? Answer: My book Secret of the Scale is about gender issues. I have spent much of my life dealing with the issues of male and female. Just recently, I needed very much to find somebody to discuss an issue with. I was walking out of shull, bothered by my inability to find somebody to help me with that issue, and I suddenly noticed that in the sky that was usually clouded over there was a shining moon and no clouds near it. I dashed to say Kiddush Halevono, and then I realized that the moon had come to me to explain how to answer my issue, who I should talk to. The Moon is a female holiness, so I discussed the issue with my wife. Afterwards, I was completely satisfied. Secret of the Scale is a book about male and female as old fashioned scale plates. The two scale plates rise and fall, never simultaneously, but as one falls the other rises. Then that one falls and the other plate rises. Thus, marriage is a process of taking turns in who is on top and who is on the bottom. This cyclical movement produces a wonderful harmony. Competitive spouses destroy marriage. The solution is to constantly fall to raise the other spouse, and then, the other spouse goes down and raises you, and the cycle never ends. Such is the proper way of all marriages, all spousal relations, and Pilegesh is a spousal relationship.

2)      Question: In pilegesh marriage, does the wife have any status of "ezer k'negdo"?
Answer: See Rambam Mishneh Torah, Ishuse 15:19, “And the rabbis have taught that a man must honor his wife more than himself, and love her as he loves himself.” Honoring the wife means spending money on her more than he spends on himself.  Raishis Chochmo) If there is money only for one winter coat, the wife gets it. See also question number four and the teaching of Rashi and the Zohar that a husband must devote his life to making his wife happy, not himself, although when she is happy she will probably make him happy as well. But the obligation to make his wife happy falls upon the man.

3)      Question: Should perhaps both spouses be defined as "ezerim" for each other? Answer: The wife is not an ezer. She is an ezer kinegdo, a helper against him, and the question is, does the male have the same role with the woman that the woman has with the male? Is he an ezer kinegdo of the woman or just a plain ezer or what? Just what is the role of the male with the female? We  have a passage in the Torah, “And he will make his wife rejoice.” Rashi and the Zohar tell us this means that the husband will make his wife rejoice, not himself. Meaning, he does not  go about making both of them enjoying life, rather, he works specifically on making the wife happy. Her, not him. What happens when she is happy because of him? Of course, she reciprocates, and they are one happy family. But his attitude is full blast for her happiness without his own. That is his mitzvah. The wife does not have this mitzvah directly, but she does have ezer kinegdo meaning that she is there to be a helpmate and to be available to point out his errors in building the house, etc. But the husband does have this mitzvah directly, the obligation to live to make his wife happy, not to make both of them happy, but focused on her happiness. When he does that, surely she reciprocates, but his mitzvah is full blast to make the wife happy, and she does not have this.

4.       Question:  Does a pilegesh husband have any authority over his wife at all? Answer: Since in Pilegesh marriage the wife or husband can leave anytime, the husband is surely limited in his authority, which, even if he does have some authority over his wife, it ends when she decides to leave the house and the marriage. Having said that, I would recommend anyone seeking Pilegesh marriage, to strongly imitate the basic marital relations of Jewish people. The authority of the husband is part of the respect of the spouses for each other. Rambam says that the husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and respect her more than he respects himself, which can be interpreted in terms of buying things for her that he needs for himself. If there is only money for one winter coat, the wife gets it. And the husband is commanded to make his wife rejoice, which means he makes her rejoice in their marriage, not that he makes himself and her together rejoice. The idea is that the husband must emphasize his obligation to make his wife happy, without feeling an obligation to make himself happy. However, when the wife rejoices from the husband’s efforts, surely she will reciprocate and make him happy. Rambam also says that the wife must have a very extreme level of respect for her husband. And it is surely appropriate to maintain this level in Pilegesh marriage, as this is the way Jews in spousal relationships, Kiddushin or Pilegesh, should behave.

5. Question: Whose minhagim should be followed in the household? Answer: If the Minhag is not one that creates sins for one who doesn’t follow them, and assuming that the wife will not have pain from changing customs from her father’s house, the husband’s minhag is probably preferable. In the event that the husband knows how much the Minhag means to his wife, he may keep that in mind also. However, as a general rule, I would recommend that when there is a clash between husband or wife, or between any close people, it is always better not for one person to force his way, but rather, the question should be submitted to an authority. Anytime an authority has ruled between husband and wife, the marriage is surely saved from what could be bitter feelings. When people ask me such questions, and I tell them what the proper way to behave, I always add that I suggest that they blame me for the decision, and not the people involved.

6. Question: In pilegesh marriage, is there any obligation on the husband to provide sheirah, kesusah, and onasah? Should a pilegesh husband voluntarily accept upon himself to provide his wife's onasah even if not required by halacha? Answer: A husband in Kiddushin must supply his wife by Torah ruling with food, clothing, and intimacy. In Pilegesh marriage, I recommend that the couple accept upon itself the basic spousal and marital customs common to the vast majority of marriages, with Kiddushin. This will surely contribute to the happiness of the wife which is very important in Pilegesh marriage, because the wife can leave anytime. Better to keep her happy, with food, clothing and intimacy, for the sake of the marriage, which even in Pilegesh marriage, should be a serious attempt to remain married for a long time or forever!

7. Question: Should a pilegesh wife voluntarily accept a few household duties like making meals for the husband in order to please him? Answer: We mentioned previously that in marriage, through Kiddushin or Pilegesh, each spouse must always try to please the other spouse. Ideally, we want a permanent marriage, even in Pilegesh marriage. And this requires a feeling in both husband and wife that both of them are trying their best to please the other one.

The above are basic understandings, that go back to the requirement in marriage, in Kiddushin or Pilegesh, to aim for permanent marriage by pleasing the other spouse constantly, a process that leads to reciprocation and constant pleasing of the other. That is true marriage.

A Split in Orthodox Judaism

The Orthodox Increases and the Hyphenated Orthodox Declines

Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn

The Orthodox Increase in population is powered by large families and by people who are not Orthodox deciding to become Orthodox. When the Posek HaDor Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l died, a secular newspaper revealed that he left over a thousand progeny of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. What did this fact mean to the secular Israeli? What it meant is that here is a person, one man, who produced over a thousand people who were either all or most basically Orthodox as he was. Compare this with the secular Israel who has a very small birth rate. The sad comment on the secular Israeli’s propagation is that a family produces a child and a dog. The child then goes to Japan to marry somebody who is not Jewish, and the dog doesn’t vote.
Years ago the secular Kibbuts, perhaps controlled by leftist or even Communists, produced the senior officers of the army. But today those Kibbutsim have declined or disappeared, and the new element powering up the Israel army is completely Orthodox soldiers who believe that defending the holy land is a great mitzvah. After a period of some years, these Orthodox soldiers have made a good name for themselves, and they are on their way to be the future generals. The recent battles in Gaza were led by an Israeli colonel who is completely Orthodox. He spent years in America learning from and teaching American soldiers. If he wasn’t Orthodox he would probably have become a general by now. But making future generals Orthodox is a great threat to the secularists who control the army. But rejecting Orthodox soldiers from the highest positions is futile, because nobody else in Israel is so motivated to be a top soldier.
Our remarks here are not about the secular Jew, but about those who call themselves Orthodox or those who call themselves Orthodox plus a hyphenated word such as Modern Orthodox or Open Orthodox. When we say that they decline, what do we base this on? Basically, somebody who is Orthodox plus Modern or Open reveals that his Orthodoxy is tampered with other beliefs, and these beliefs are contrary to Orthodoxy. Otherwise, who needs the hyphenation? Just say you are Orthodox.
Let us examine the Orthodoxy of Modern Orthodox Jews. Are they completely Orthodox? First of all, who are they? Many of them come from Yeshiva University. Now, Yeshiva University was the only game in town in the early years of the twentieth century. Great European Gedolim taught there and instilled a Jewish spirit in many people who were ready to go to a secular college and get completely lost. But after a class or two with the European Gedolim, these American college students then studied under the atheists who teach in the secular colleges. Here is hyphenation. And it produces confusion. But confusion is not the right word. It produces an understanding that Orthodoxy is a compartmentalized religion. Part Rav Soloveitchik and part the people who teach about Einstein and other things that are filled with anti-Torah ideas. But things are worse than that. Let us be specific about the problems with Modern Orthodox. Yes, they are Modern in one compartment and then Orthodox in a separate compartment. Is this somebody who believes in Sinai and the Torah or somebody who is two people part believer and part denier?
Let us talk about Modern Orthodox people who play the American game and want the highest degrees and the best jobs. How many years does it take to get a doctorate or training in some advanced specialty? We are talking about unmarried people, because until they graduate with all of their required degrees and begin making some good money, marriage is unlikely. The rabbis required marriage at the age of eighteen and no later than twenty. But for the Modern Orthodox person, that is impossible. Getting a master’s degree takes years, and getting a doctorate takes years. A doctor must spend years after he gets his degree doing actual medical work until he eventually is granted his full license to practice. He is not young. His biology has been boiling for years. And yes, he has not been without girls. And they, too, have biology. Since they are Modern Orthodox, the dating is also compartmentalized. Don’t ask for details.
A YU student told me that there are students in the Modern Orthodox YU world who cannot marry but do have intimate relationships that are proper only for married people. The Rebbes in YU spoke out about such people. The very fact that they practice keeping the Mikva and are alone like husband and wife on a regular basis, could possibly create a pesak that they are married. If so, if the woman leaves this man and marries with somebody else, without a GET from the first man, her children are mamzerim. Yes, the hyphen goes a long way. It is terrible.
Now let me tell you a story that happened with me recently, that is quite relevant to our discussion. I spoke to people who are hyphenated Orthodox and I had for them what I thought was a home-run idea. Kiddushin often destroys the wife when the husband won’t give her a GET. So let them marry with Pilegesh, and anyone can leave anytime. I sweetened the pot by saying that when a Kiddushin lady remarries without a GET, her children from the new marriage are mamzerim. In Pilegesh there is no such thing, no mamzerim. I was shocked to realize that my idea was completely rejected. I don’t mean they rejected Pilegesh. They did not. But they rejected the negative information that Kiddushin can produce mamzerim. And the tone of voice was that this was completely wrong to even discuss.  I was confused.
But now I am beginning to understand. When a person is two opposites, Modern and Orthodox, he or she is compartmentalized, which is not my invention, but I heard it from others. The part of the hyphenated Orthodox is really Orthodox. But the part that is Modern is completely free to have sinful relations with people who should be married to do certain things. If you talk to that person’s Orthodox side, you see a full fledged keeper of Shabbos and kashruth. But when you talk about anti-Orthodox things that are the property of the Modern, you cannot talk at all about Orthodox sin, so just keep quiet.
I do not believe that everybody who joins a Modern Orthodox Shull or group is compartmentalized. I believe that many of them accept that they are one person and yet are simply too weak to obey the Orthodox teaching as they should. Such a person can readily discuss what he practices and what he does not practice, without hesitation, without inventions, without being two people but being one person. Such a person has a much easier time of considering dropping the hyphenation and becoming completely Orthodox. But the compartmentalized person doesn’t always believe in Orthodoxy, sometimes he is “Modern” and then, the Torah is not important.
When I say that hyphenated Orthodox is in decline, I mean that an Orthodoxy without Torah is a complete farce, and any intelligent person knows that. And although the many hyphenated people and compartmentalized people are firm believers in splitting the brain into two people, such a trick is not strong enough to appeal to people who think normally in terms of one brain and one person and one set of beliefs. Thus, the Modern Orthodox with its opposite brains is a state of impossible confusion, and can only produce more confusion. The hyphenated Orthodox are busy splitting into Modern and then Orthodox. One who reads their material knows he is dealing with people who don’t think straight. This is a formula for division and decline.
Again, as time goes on, the straight Orthodox, or the straight ultra-Orthodox, without confusion, without two opposing beliefs, will increase in number and gain ascendency in the Orthodox world. Far down the road, there will be some people who think they are two people, and eventually, who will even notice them?

The Need for Torah and Wealth

The gemora in Horiyuse 10B tells how the students of Rovo, one of the greatest sages of the gemora, visited him. He asked them if they finished this and that volume of the Talmud and they said they have finished the books. He then asked them if they were wealthy. Rav Popo replied that he was wealthy. Rovo was pleased with this response, because one who is comfortable financially can learn Torah with peace of mind, unlike a person troubled constantly with debt.

We have a gemora quoting Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei that one should not marry until he  has a house and a good job. See Sota 44a. When we note that in Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer I:3 it says a man should marry before twenty, and when we find in chazal "an eighteen year old should marry" we wonder where all the money came that an eighteen year old who spent most of his time learning Torah suddenly had money for a house and a good job.

The answer is as follows: A child has no obligation to keep the Torah, because only one who is Bar Mitsvah must keep the Torah. However, the father of the child has an obligation to train the boy for adulthood. Whatever an adult must do the child must be trained for it. If an adult must learn nine hours a day and work three hours a day as the Rambam Talmud Torah I:12  and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 156:1  tell us, a father must teach his son at a very early age to learn how to earn. Originally, the father makes it very easy, such as telling the son to go to school with some fruit from the farm and trade it with another child who is also learning how to buy and sell. But gradually, the child builds up experience, is trained to rap on doors, finds out the hard way that some people are not honest, and gradually develops under his father's tutelage into a first rate businessman. At the age of Bar Mitsvah he is already learning how to invest his savings into buying property if the price is right, and then he sells it when the price rises. At the age of eighteen he is ready for marriage. He has money for a house and has a going business in various things, real estate, selling things from the farm such as leather, and other opportunities.

Imagine a house where an eighteen year old boy has wealth. How much peace and contentment is in that house. How happy is the wife who can have what she needs and more. How happy are the children of that house, especially when their father begins training them in business, together with their main efforts, in learning Torah. Such a family trains children to be great in Torah and wealthy. This is what the Torah wants from people, if they make the effort and merit it. Because not everyone merits wealth, but it is surely an ideal to strive for.

Some rabbis such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehuda the Prince were extremely wealthy. Some were very poor, like Hillel. But how lovely it is to train a child from childhood to aim for wealth, to understand business, and to manage, in a few hours as a child, to establish himself as a successful businessman by the time he reaches marital age.

Children spend hours and hours on having fun. The best fun is to learn to earn and to watch the coins pile up. That brings a family of happiness and blessing.

Question: Do we raise our children to be great in Torah and wealthy? Or do we raise them to be "Great" in Torah, which almost never happens, and when it doesn't happen, a family is in trouble. And if we don't raise a child to earn, and he faces marital age, what hope does he have to have a house and a good job? Is this what Rambam says applies to a person who does not have a house and a good job and marries, that he is a Tipash? Rambam Mishneh Torah Dayose V:11

It is time to think carefully: Are we raising our children to be wealthy and great in Torah, or are we raising them to be Tipshim? Recall the above, that a gemora in Sota 44a clearly forbids marriage without a house and a good job, and this is brought in Shulchan Aruch Oruch Chaim 156:1. Why do so many people ignore open gemoras and poskim? Why, when we see the misery in so many broken families, we don't think into this?

Marriage is a Major Move: Not Everyone is Prepared for It

Marriage is in of itself a major move. Before marriage a person is a king with nobody to interfere with what he wants to do. Marriage means a person spends the rest of his life joined with another person who has their unique desires and attitudes, and the husband and wife have to learn how to share a limited space.
One leaves his personal life and personality and becomes united into one unit with a spouse. Not everybody has the training and ability to do such a thing. Somebody told me that in Brooklyn there is a shull whose majority of members are old bachelors. People raised with the hopes that they will earn such and such and achieve such and such may be enthralled with themselves and not willing to share the glorious dreams dancing in their heads with a spouse.
The truth of the matter is that especially today moving away from the self into a marriage is no easy matter. Increasingly, people fear it and avoid it. In one neighborhood it is known that people come of age to marry but shack up and do so with no shame. They are too old to live alone and lack the training to share their lives with another person. So they indulge in a life that defies the Torah, no marriage but the other things associated properly only with marriage.
Another problem in marriage today is simply that people don’t find what they want. There are families where parents work hard to find a mate for their children. And there are families where parents don’t work hard to find a mate for their children. The shame and the pain in finding a mate for a child is very much an excuse for a lot of people to quit. You are sure that your best friend’s son is perfect for your daughter, but your best friend doesn’t think so. Without a parent to rely upon to find you a mate, you are on your own. You could look for a shadchon and many people do that. You could accept advice and people from friends and others. But do you know what you want? How should you know if you were never married?
The rabbis say that as a person ages something changes in him and he is a different person. That different person is a challenge when it comes to marriage. The basic question is: Is marriage a passing moment in life, or is it always available? Well, let us hope that it is always available, but one thing is for sure, it gets harder with each passing year.
Life is a rotating wheel and we are looking at it. When it passes us, we can act to seize what is on that wheel, or we can ignore it. There is no way to know everything about people passing us. We have a small opportunity to take or reject, and our lives depend a lot on what we decide.

[1] Nedarim 20b

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Joe Orlow on Rabbinic Corruption and Pilegesh Marriage

Journaling in America:
Building a Halachic Jewish Community

 by Joe Orlow

Comment by Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn - The Satan traps people to sin in two ways. One way is to tempt them with evil desire that they know is evil. The second way is to tempt them to do evil because they think something is a good deed. Rabbis who free women from marriage without a proper GET are the second level,of those who listen to the Satan to do evil things in the guise of goodness. Freeing a woman from a marriage, to these rabbis, is a good deed the overrides the sin of making mamzerim. I think this indicates my difference with the thrust of Joe's article, which I asked him to produce for my blog, because he thinks interesting thoughts that are deserving of discussion.

Part 1

This page is a very personal post. I hope that it will evolve into a more generic public post at some point. But for now, it's all about me. The writing may be long and rambling, because my life is complicated, and I'm not going to simplify things for the sake of brevity. Sometimes in life things are complicated and take effort and time to master. According to the effort is the reward.

I don't watch movies much lately. And I would not recommend anyone to watch the movie I'm about to describe. But I think there is a lesson to draw from it.

The movie was a low-budget movie, and over the years it has gained a dedicated following. I believe the reason for that is because the movie is an apt metaphor for life.

The movie is "Escape from New York". It takes place in a future where New York City has been abandoned by its citizens and been turned into a national prison.

The hero of the movie, or, better said, anti-hero, is a decorated combat veteran who was betrayed by his country. He re-tools his patriotism, turning his efforts on bringing down a corrupt system that is now leading the country.

The movie starts with this character, Snake Plissken, about to be incarcerated for life in New York City Prison. Concurrent with his imprisonment, but initially unrelated, the plane of the President of the United States, Air Force One, is hijacked and crash landed in New York City, a city which has been turned into a no man's land filled only with prisoners. There are no guards in the prison, only outside to prevent escape. The city is surrounded by walls, and people are thrown into the prison and forgotten.

The warden of the prison, Bob Hauk, now is stuck. The President must be extricated from New York, but it's virtually impossible to do it. The prisoners run the city. The warden's main job is to kill anyone trying to escape. He hits upon an idea to get the President out: Snake Plissken, ex-special ops soldier, who is about to be jailed in New York City, has the skills to find the president.

Hauk makes a deal with Snake. If Snake brings the President out alive in twenty-four hours, then Snake will be pardoned and become a free man.

To motivate Snake, Hauk has a bomb implanted in Snake that will detonate in twenty-four hours. The bomb will be defused only when Snake returns successfully from his mission.

Now the Nimshal, the analogy.

I was at one time a motivated team player for the Jewish Nation. I bought into the idea that my role is to learn Torah, Daven with Minyanim, and keep the Mitzvos. This is what I was taught by my family. This is what I was taught by my Rabbis. It meant a lot to me to be part of a thousands years chain that connected Creation to the Final Redemption. I genuinely believed that the Rabbis revered in America as Gadolim were just that, Great Ones.

And then I realized that some -- not all -- of these Gadolim were corrupt. To be sure, they were learned. But frauds, nonetheless. The reasons seemed to be three-fold:

(1) There does not seem to be an independent board in America that certifies achievement of Torah. That always puzzled me. The lack of such a board leads to a diminishing of Torah excellence. The leaders of some Yeshivos and those who fill positions of leadership at Agudath Israel are seemingly selected because of their lineage, and not their knowledge of Torah.

(2) The continued existence of some Yeshivos depends on raising money for the Yeshivos. Sometimes the heads of the Yeshivos will distort the Torah to keep the money flowing.

In particular, the chasm between what the Torah teaches and the values of American culture seem to be widening. In an attempt to bridge this gulf and facilitate fundraising, some Rabbis have outright permitted things that are forbidden.

(3) These corrupt leader Rabbis are still held in high regard despite widespread knowledge of the corruption. Some other Rabbis feel constricted in their power to oppose the evil Rabbis. These other Rabbis risk losing their livelihoods, reputations, and future marriage prospects for their children if these other Rabbis speak out publicly against the corruption.

Part 2

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn encouraged me to write more on the subject of the corrupt leadership. I will now follow through on his implicit suggestion to find a "solution".

My approach, though, is not so much to find a solution for tearing unquestioning followers away from a corrupt leadership. My approach is to find a way for me to move forward while distancing myself from those who refuse to challenge their evil masters. Because being part of a community that seeks guidance from corrupt rulers is not an option for me.

The Torah teaches that if a Jew has it within his power to influence another Jew to do the right thing, than he must use that influence. Failure to try and influence others to do right can even shift sins from the sinners back onto the one who failed to correct the sinners. Thus, a father has a responsibility to give Torah guidance to his family.

It goes even further. Even if someone in a position of authority is convinced he cannot influence others, he still must make the attempt. After all, maybe his words will be heeded.

I'd like to go back to the movie and draw another lesson from it, and to tie the lesson in with the obligation to correct others.

In the movie, Snake has two micro-bombs implanted in him. He has less than a day to complete his mission successfully or he will die.

As a Jew, I am in a similar position. Day by day, I am given a burden of what I need to complete each day. I am, so to speak, given a "token" (as Rabbi Aharon Lopiansky called it). This token is a pass to get me through the day. Thus, I wake up brand new in the morning, and must complete my task for the day. I am not required to complete the overall mission of Mankind. But neither am I free to neglect my part of the job.

This is a key lesson! So many of the people  I speak with, who DO recognize the corruption of the leadership, have thrown up their hands and given up. Don't they realize that if we all coordinated our efforts and did a drop of work each day, that, like penetrating oil, we would eventually achieve our goal of uprooting the evil leadership? I hate to say this, but I think that deep down some of my friends would rather just get a good feeling from knowing they are "right" than to actually do what it takes to make things "right".

And what is our work? To keep speaking out. Whether we think it will help or not. Because we don't know. Maybe it will help

Another movie lesson: The prisoners in New York City cannot escape because the island is surrounded by walls and by water and they are under constant surveillance. Furthermore, the bridges are mined. I, too, am walled off. Many times I reach out directly to the corrupt leaders, to those  who are close to them, and to their followers. And many times they refuse to speak to me, or they speak a little and then clam up, or they try to justify the unjustifiable. Any attempt I make to communicate about the corrupt leadership is cut off with a volley of defenses that essentially come down to this: once someone has achieved Gadol status, he becomes infallible. Thus, they I relegate me to a prison for the politically incorrect.

In the movie, the President is kidnapped and barely escapes death by exiting Air Force One in "the pod" moments before his plane crashes into New York. The irony is, that for Snake to save himself from a life sentence in prison, he must save the President, a man who represents everything Snake abhors. At the end of the movie, Snake manages to save himself and the President, yet still brings down the whole corrupt system.

The Nimshal may be forced a little here, but I think that the corrupt leaders realize that their little game of propping up the "Gadol Hador in America" at all costs has backfired. This "Gadol Hador" has, so to speak, double-crossed them. He has kidnapped the integrity of the Moetzes Gadolei Hatorah, and trashed it for his own gratification. So, although I am in a virtual prison, removed from many Rabbis, yet their integrity has also been tossed in here with me.

This is actually backed up by my experience with talking to some of the corrupt Rabbis. When I point out that they are out of order, they urge me to set things straight and save the day. And, like Snake, I intend to. And bring down their corrupt system at the same time.

Part 3

When I was a kid growing up in America, people didn't talk about their bodies and bodily functions. The culture changed, though. now, everything goes when it comes to the physical. But it has apparently become verboten to discuss "Truth" with a capital "T". Talk of the metaphysical is in "bad taste".

"Moral Relativism" rules the roost. Every religion is "right" for its followers; there is no "wrong"; and anyone who wants to say otherwise needs to mind their manners.

I will come back to this idea of "Truth" in a while. First, I want to introduce a way to undermine the corrupt leadership.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the corruption is the willingness of the leadership to annul marriages. This is not the place to explain the mistakes that are being made when marriages are annulled. Please take it as a given that the corrupt leadership is annulling marriages, or tolerating the annulment of marriages, in a way that contradicts Halacha.

A simple way to undermine the corrupt leadership is to take away from them the opportunity to annul marriages. The way to do that is to tell people not to get married in a way that may lead the wife to seek an annulment if and when she wants out of the marriage. Instead, people should be told to get married through a process that will not require a Get to dissolve the marriage.

I will refer to a marriage that requires a Get to effect a divorce as a Kiddushin marriage, or k-marriage. A marriage not requiring a Get to end it is a Pilegesh marriage, or p-marriage.

This idea to re-establish Pilegesh marriage as a way to do an end run around the corrupt leadership is a good plan in theory. In practice it is a little hard to implement. The reason for this, I have found, is two-fold.

(1) Some people in the Orthodox community find the idea of promoting p-marriage as something that a "cult" would do. That is, there has been no Jewish community that had widespread use of p-marriage in hundreds of years. Why start it up again?

To those who say I am part of a cult, I counter that my detractors have it backwards. Those who oppose p-marriage on the basis that it is cultish, it is my position that they are the ones in a cult. They follow Rabbis who go along with annulment of marriages, something which is in contradiction to the received Mesorah. Now, THAT is cultish! Imagine. Rabbis whose sole claim to authority is the Torah then go ahead ahead and ignore the Torah.

Still, we cannot ignore that our opponents seek to marginalize us. And it is difficult to reason with them. Because, as I noted above, it is considered the height of vulgarity to speak as if there is an Absolute Truth.

(2) The second reason I've found that makes it challenging to promote p-marriage, is that even with people who are willing to discuss Truth, we do not always share the same basic assumptions that are required in order to have a discussion.

I am an old-fashioned Jew. I believe that G-d spoke at Mt. Sinai. I believe that the Torah received there is the Torah we have in our hands today.

Others, who identify, as modern Jews, have similar beliefs. But they have a slightly different take on the way the Torah has been handed down. This different take has huge implications.

The moderns feel that the Halacha can "evolve". That is, that Halacha has to touch the Mesorah, but does not necessarily have to conform to the Mesorah.

An example will illustrate this. The Mesorah does have a concept of marriage nullification. Thus the moderns feels they can adapt this concept and apply it to cases it was never meant to cover. Old-fashioned Jews are constricted to applying the Halacha in exactly the same way it has been handed down to them from previous generations.

What follows from all this is that it is not possible to present a Halachic justification for p-marriage that will satisfy everyone. The best approach to promoting p-marriage, it seems to me, is to let everyone formulate their own justification.

As an old fashioned Jew, it is important to me to justify p-marriage by saying we are re-establishing it in order to prevent the birth of Mamzerim that may result when a woman "freed" from a k-marriage has children with another "husband". But in the final analysis, it doesn't matter to me if people don't agree with this justification. What matters is that people who do not respect the implications of k-marriage should then choose to be in a p-marriage over a k-marriage.

Meanwhile, some moderns will offer a justification that p-marriage is more "fair" than k-marriage. They will promote its egalitarian set-up in that the husband and wife have an equal and unilateral power to end the marriage. In contradistinction to this, only the man can give a Get in a k-marriage.

Thus, the approach to Halacha differs between old fashioned Jews and modern Jews. And even though we both agree that Pilegesh marriage should be encouraged today, I don't think we will be able to formulate a Halachic treatise that would satisfy both groups. Nonetheless, we should work together and coordinate a campaign promoting p-marriage.

Furthermore, those who think p-marriage is the stuff of cults will eventually come around when faced with the growing adoption of p-marriage as the basis for marriage. Those who throw around the "cult" word are unmoored from Halacha and float with the fashionable currents. Despite this, they are observant of most of the Mitzvos, often scrupulously so. They will perforce come to terms with p-marriage as it gains in popularity and as its Halachic basis becomes evident to them.

Finally, the corrupt leadership will be left in shame as it contemplates the mess it created. The community, by adopting p-marriage, will signal its abandoning of those Rabbis who consciously change the Halacha, all the while claiming that they, the Rabbis, must be listened to because they are the arbiters of what the Halacha is in regard to all matters.

People will be free to marry without having a corrupt Rabbi conduct the ceremony. People will be free to un-marry without going to a corrupt Bais Din. Jewish children will be born without any question of being Mamzerim. The corrupt Rabbis and their corrupt courts will be exposed.

Rabbis who clung to the true Torah will be the ones that people turn to in order to learn Halacha.