Not Getting A Get

Dear Editor,

Many of my friends were disappointed with your Heard in the Bagel Store article last week, “A Jewish Wife’s Rights.” Journalists often write on controversial topics in an effort to augment their readership, but I feel that here you have crossed the line. Rabbi Epstein destroys many beautiful Yiddishe mishpachos and magnifies many small trivial issues that should be quickly and quietly fixed. For example, telling a woman who is mad at her husband not to go to the mikveh is not only immature, but creates a much more difficult situation. This is something that he is known for.

It seems he’d rather divorce a couple than try to fix the marriage. He even calls the women “stupid” for trying to keep the family together. Did he not learn the Perek HaShalom in Maseches Kallah Zutah? Does he not know the famous Gemara in Sanhedrin of how the Mizbeiach cries for each divorce? True, divorce is often necessary, but most marriages are probably fixable. Isn’t it worth the effort of trying to save a family? Isn’t it worth keeping a child’s family together? Why jump to the “easy” way out and not try to see how to work things out?

There are no perfect people out there to marry, but the one you do get can, and with a little encouragement will, improve. It may not be easy, but what’s the alternative? People have a misconception that if marriage is difficult then divorce must be better. The truth is, divorce becomes much more difficult, for many reasons. The financial strain becomes greater, since the expenses are more (two households instead of one). Also, raising children is challenging when there are two parents; how much more so with one. Not only is it more difficult for the single parent, but the child loses out by not having both parents in his or her life. Marriage is not an iPod that you can easily replace if it breaks. There are children also involved, and a spouse can and does improve. It isn’t easy, but it’s far more rewarding to be “stupid” than to divorce.

Another big problem he minimizes is court. He feels that court is usually expensive and prolongs the get. This is true, but there are much more serious issues. Every child knows that a Jew is forbidden to go to secular courts. Besides the tremendous chillul Hashem, there is an issur in the Torah. The only way one is permitted to go to court is with a heter from a beis din that has looked into the issues and given specific permission to take the matter to secular court. A Jew isn’t permitted to go to court just because “there are times where going to court is beneficial.”

What is even more concerning is the many lawyers, even “frum” lawyers, who tell women to lie to the court and the police with false allegations in order to give them an upper hand in the proceedings. Not only is this a terrible chillul Hashem, but it is the worst case of mesirah! We know what the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch say about the seriousness of mesirah when the allegations are true; how much more they would say about those who lie with such allegations! How low has Klal Yisrael sunk?

I believe that you owe your readers an article about the sweetness and nobility of shalom and of those who chase shalom. Tell them also how beneficial it is to the children and even their parents. Write about the great reward that people like Aharon HaKohen receive for chasing shalom. May this year bring an end to the horrible sinas chinam that has been plaguing us these last couple of decades, with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days. I wish all your readers and all of Klal Yisrael a kesivah v’chasimah tovah!

Chaim Stern

Rabbi Epstein Responds

Dear Editor,

I appreciate the fact that you allowed me to publicly express my views. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, other than from people whom I have litigated against and who still have not been rehabilitated.

I want to comment on the letter sent by Chaim Stern. He is correct that divorce is a poor answer, especially when shalom bayis is an alternative. Every responsible rav or beis din asks if shalom bayis is possible. I am the “chevrah kadisha” for irreparable marriages; many times I send people away if there is any possibility for shalom bayis.

I am talking about the abuser and/or the lazy man, the immoral one, etc. We are not smarter than the Shulchan Aruch. A woman has rights. The Rambam writes that a bas Yisrael is not like a captive to be forced into relations with a man she hates. The Machane Chaim, a talmid of the Chasam Sofer, has various teshuvos on this subject and it is clear that mikveh is a result of a loving relationship.

The next myth is that the Mizbeiach cries over every divorce. Look in the Aruch HaShulchan siman 119, first paragraph, which quotes the Beis Yosef only if the woman is forced to take the get. Since we have a Cherem Rabbeinu Gershom prohibiting forcing the woman to take a get, this Gemara is no longer applicable. This is a quote from the Aruch HaShulchan–not Mendel Epstein.

The Ribbono shel Olam is our Father, and we are His sons and daughters. There is no way He wants His daughters to suffer because some have an immature comprehension of shalom bayis.

When we pray and say “Avinu Malkeinu,” let us truly believe He is our Father and loves all of us, male and female equally.

Kesivah v’chasimah tovah.

M. Epstein

Divorces, Right And Wrong

Dear Editor,

I have wanted to write about the “divorce crisis” in the Orthodox community for some time, but I believe that now, following your article about a “Bill of Rights of a Jewish Wife” from Rabbi Mendel Epstein, is the right time.

For the record, I have been divorced for seven years and have a very civil and cordial relationship with my ex and her family. This is important for the readers to know so they understand that nothing I am writing is coming from “sour grapes” or a bad place. Furthermore, because I do consider myself one of the lucky ones who never had to go to court, but went through the process cleanly and, I believe, mentchlichly–speaking for both myself and my ex–I have a moral obligation to help those who have not been so fortunate.

Rabbi Epstein discusses the obligations a man has towards his wife while they are married, and what he believes is the most beneficial way for both the man and wife to divorce once the marriage is broken.

What has not been discussed here, or anywhere else as far as I have seen, is how some rabbanim, people in positions of influence, or the community responds once the divorce starts heading in an ugly direction.

While neither gender has the monopoly on being the victim, I have seen many more examples of men seeking to destroy their ex-wives by all means necessary than the other way around–though, again, it would be naive to suggest that there aren’t some women who are vindictive and will do everything to hurt their ex-husbands, either financially or by using the kids as leverage in negotiating a settlement.

To date, there has never been a declaration from gedolim on how a frum divorce must take place. Rather, both sides forget what it means to be a frum Jew, a ben Torah or bas Yisrael, and they try to inflict as much pain and distress on the other. This goes way beyond just the giving of a get or amenable financial arrangements. There is also parental alienation, one parent intentionally violating court orders–daring the other parent to go back to court–or one parent telling the kids, “I would love to take you to Disney World, but Mommy/Daddy won’t let me.” There are many more examples.

There are way too many situations when a woman who has no money needs the help of community leaders or a rav, but is told “I can’t get involved.” Often, it seems that the ex-husband or his family has a lot of money, and some rabbis are afraid to start up with them or to be seen as taking the side of the “enemy.”

A recent case on Long Island saw a woman go to beis din, as insisted upon by her ex. Both of them were represented by well-known and highly qualified toeinim. In the end, the p’sak went against the husband. Apparently he wasn’t happy with the verdict, and he went against halachah and took the case to court. The court soundly rejected his motion on the grounds that this case had already been ruled on by the beis din. In fact, this case was so unusual that it was written up in a law journal. Ordinarily, such an action would have led to a seruv from the beis din, but because of the family’s stature, the beis din looked the other way.

This same beis din, it seems, also has issued seruvim as a first resort rather than a last resort. I know of two people specifically who had seruvim issued against them, which were printed in the Jewish Press, causing great shame and embarrassment, but had never been contacted by the beis din in advance or given a warning of the consequences of ignoring their summons.

Another issue that must be addressed is frum divorce lawyers who are more committed to “destroying” the exes of their clients rather than instructing them from the start that “under no circumstances will I fight for you or represent you in a manner that goes against halachah.” I am quite confident that there is no mitzvah in intentionally and unnecessarily inflicting pain on another person just because you are a highly skilled attorney.

So many divorcées have gone off the derech because when the chips are down and they are at their most vulnerable and really need the Torah and halachah to stand behind them, they are abandoned. It is very easy for a rav to answer she’eilos about kashrus or what is considered muktzeh, but when a person is about to go through the most traumatic experience of his or her life, not to mention what their kids and families will go through, it is absolutely incumbent upon the rav to help and not be afraid to stand up to a family of stature who withholds a get or issues other threats.

This letter was written after speaking with a well-known toein who has represented many clients in front of the batei dinim I cited and in no way is it meant to be interpreted as “anti-beis din” or “anti-rabbis.” Rather, it is meant to shine a light on a very big problem in the Orthodox community that needs to be addressed immediately.

Alan Skorski

West Hempstead

Bureaucracy Stinks

Dear Editor,

The Nassau County Legislature Democrats have now twice voted to deny critical funding for the repair of Nassau County’s sewage treatment infrastructure damaged by Superstorm Sandy. To be clear, the actions of the Nassau County Democrats, if left unchallenged, will delay recovery efforts and will place public safety and the environment at risk.

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant serves nearly 500,000 Nassau County residents and processes an average of 50 million gallons of sewage daily. Flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy devastated this facility, knocking many systems off-line. The damage was so severe that millions of gallons of raw sewage backed up into people’s homes and was released into South Shore waters.

The plan advanced by Nassau County’s engineers calls for nearly $722M to fund rebuilding and storm-hardening efforts. Ninety percent of this amount will be reimbursed by the federal government through FEMA.

Blatantly ignoring the advice of Nassau County’s expert engineers that failure to approve the total funding request will delay this vital reconstruction, the Democrats have denied funding for the repair of the Bay Park Facility’s electrical distribution system and other storm-hardening measures. The contractors selected for these electrical and storm-hardening projects will be the linchpins to the rebuilding process, and the performance of every other contractor depends upon their work. The Democrats know well that to delay these projects is to delay the reconstruction of the plant.

I wonder if the Democrats would have voted differently if raw sewage backed up into their houses.

What is most troubling is that the Democrats justify their no votes with false statements on debt and oversight. The reality is that County Executive Mangano has reduced total overall county debt by millions of dollars from levels incurred by his predecessor, Tom Suozzi.

As for oversight, both FEMA and NIFA will work closely with Nassau County as the rebuilding process proceeds. Additionally, County Executive Mangano has created the Hurricane Sandy Waste Water Advisory Board, composed of environmentalists and union and community leaders, to provide unprecedented transparency as to how this process is accomplished. Finally, Nassau County’s elected legislature will aggressively monitor all phases of construction.

Calls for additional layers of bureaucracy by Nassau County’s Democrats are not going to aid in Nassau County’s recovery. It is the job of Nassau County’s elected officials to ensure that our sewer facilities are repaired quickly and efficiently. And though Nassau’s Democrats would look to unelected boards and commissions to do their job for them, I assure you that the Republican delegation will work tirelessly to assist our residents as we recover from this devastating storm.

On behalf of the one million residents connected to Nassau County’s sewer system, I urge Nassau County Democrats to approve the funding required to rebuild the Bay Park STP.

Norma Gonsalves

Presiding Officer, Legislator, LD 13

Vote For Erick Salgado

Dear Editor,

This year’s unusually complex mayoralty race has, paradoxically, given frum Jews an opportunity to cast a vote for moral values and be counted for k’vod Shamayim.

Alone among the candidates stands Erick Salgado, a Latino businessman and pastor whose unequivocal support of traditional societal values has elicited the signed endorsement of over 40 rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, and rebbes.

Erick Salgado will receive substantial Latino support in other areas of the city. In Orthodox Jewish communities, votes cast for Salgado will be counted as votes for moral issues. A strong showing will demonstrate that for Torah Jews, moral values count–a highly appropriate outcome in this Holy Day period.

Primary Day is Tuesday, September 10, in the middle of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah–a particularly auspicious time to cast a vote for k’vod Shamayim, by voting for Erick Salgado.

Isaac Levy

Jews for Morality

More On Har HaBayit

Dear Editor,

I was disturbed by Mr. Sackett’s letter and by your response in last week’s issue.

1. In the original article, the comment that the action is forbidden by “most poskim” was irrelevant, out of place, misleading, and provocative. A halachic treatment like Rabbi Hoffman’s in last week’s issue is appropriate. At most, you should have included a parenthetical statement that the issue is both complicated and incendiary and that a full treatment of it is beyond the scope of the article.

2. Despite your comment #8 and Rabbi Hoffman’s reference to intellectual honesty, I am not convinced that anyone can say what Rav Moshe would or would not have said today in light of “new evidence” (whatever that happens to be) and in light of the political exigencies that exist today (which can point in both directions–assertion of our sovereignty versus provocation). I am expressing no view on the extent to which those matters are or should be taken into account by any posek.

3. Mr. Sackett is reasoning from a converse in suggesting that the chareidi poskim do not have credibility on this issue because their followers do not always follow their decisions. However, I believe that you give too short shrift to the rabbinical authorities who permit entry onto Har HaBayit. This is an issue on which one cannot simply rank poskim or count noses, because the starting points are not necessarily the same. The national religious camp may have, by their greater involvement in the state, a sensitivity to this issue that goes into the calculus of p’sak that simply does not resonate with someone who views a venture onto Har HaBayit as a purely intellectual question or as a mere option.

4. There may be further developments on this. When Rav Moshe allowed doctors to return home from hospital calls on Shabbat, people were surprised; all these years later, some may rely on the p’sak and others not, but it is not an eye-popping item. There is a leniency today regarding yom tov sheini by many visitors to Israel that would never have been tolerated on the same facts a generation ago. And so on.

5. Does the author have a source for Rav Elyashiv’s request of Mr. Peres? (Incidentally, I agree with your assessment of how we, and history, are to relate to Mr. Peres. Mr. Sackett should not be reviling him or suggesting that he would never have visited Rav Elyashiv, but to support that statement the author must provide a source.)


Robert Kantowitz

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