An Aspiring Mekubal

The confessions of a Rabbi and would be mystic

Archive for the category “The System… broken as it may be”

Rabbi Kaduri and Messianics

I get a lot of questions about this, so I am posting this informational video by Yad L’achim.

Tough Tefillin

In case you haven’t heard the story going around the internet about the Tefillin that were offing children let me summarize it for you:

 A man bought a pair of tefilin 18 years ago. He used them for 12 years and then gave them to his son-in-law who used them for six years. During the 12 years the man used the tefillin he lost two of his sons before they reached bar mitzvah. One was 12 and the other was 6. During the time that the son-in-law used the tefillin his son a was very badly burned among other difficulties.

The tefillin were checked for mistakes and a missing word was the discovered. It seems that the word “Bnei” – “my sons”  was missing from the second parasha(not sure if it was head or hand).

There are a few problems with this.  First and foremost the responsibility for the kashrut of the ktiva, according to halakha, falls entirely with the sofer.  Since as I have discussed before death is essentially a punishment from Hashem(no matter how peaceful) so man’s innocent sons are being punished, not even for the sin of their father, but for the sin of a thieving scribe who wrote the Tefillin.

Let me explain.  A word doesn’t just go missing from a set of Tefillin.  A serious breach(several in fact) of halakha(Jewish law) has to occur in order for this to take place.  Even before computer checking came about, the halakha was that Tefillin had to be checked at least twice, and preferably thrice.  There is some halakhic debate about how that is done, whether the sofer counts as one, and another expert checker counts as the second, or(as poskim have held for 50yrs or more) the sofer doesn’t count as one and thus two expert checkers are needed, and three are preferable.  A sofer may make a mistake when writing Tefillin, especially if trying to write them fast, and leave out a letter or a word.  However a Baal Hamagiah(expert checker) should not, and two of them definitely should not.  Toss on top of that computer checking, which all poskim today say is absolutely necessary(and have for about 20yrs) and this is a virtual impossibility.

So what we are being sold here is that some sofer ignored the halakha and passed off invalid Tefillin(wouldn’t be the first time), and so some poor unsuspecting man lost his two young sons because of it.  Sorry, not very plausible.  HaShem simply isn’t a sadistic meany waiting to smite us, no matter how Farside has portrayed him.  That simply is not the G-d of Judaism.

So why is this story going around?  It is an advertisement(tasteless in my opinion) for a computer Tefillin checking service.  You know the folks that promise to speedily check your Tefillin while you wait.  Here’ s a tip, if you want kosher Tefillin, don’t use those sorts of services.  Having learned how to open, check and re-seal Tefillin, I can tell you honestly, it is a minimum two-three hour job, and if you really want it done right, it’s going to take a few days to a week.  I digress.  The reason this story is being circulated is to lure you into spending money on a sofer’s highest profit margin, least necessary service, Tefillin checking.

I don’t mean to upset anyone, however, the idea of Tefillin checking was only ever a recommendation by the Magen Avraham(O”C 39:14) back when Tefillin were still made of thin leather and people weren’t particular to have them fully inside the batim and not resting on the bottom piece that comes in contact with skin.  With those inferior quality Tefillin the parshiot could possibly be damaged by sweat.  Even then it was only a recommendation.  According to the halakha if one puts on their Tefillin every day that it is halakhically permissible, there is no need to ever check them.

Attack of the Sockpuppets

If you don’t know what the term sockpuppet means in internet lingo let me give you the wikipedia definition.

sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppetmade from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internetcommunity who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person.  The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization, or to circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer.

I knew that speaking out on the agunah issue would make a few people no so happy with me.  However, I never realized that so few would appear as so many.  I’ve long suspected that some sockpuppetry was going on over on the blog that I have been discussing this on.  I just didn’t realize how much.  A week or two here I got an comment from an anonymous commentor that was in clear violation of the comment guidelines.  I put it through, though I then blocked the IP address, a single IP address.

Within 48hrs my spam folder had exploded.  Now two weeks on(round about), I checked my spam folder.  Amazingly every single online ID that I had been arguing with over on the Daat Torah blog use the exact same IP.  To whit the names are(Yis Stein, Stan, Emes, Emes L’Yaakov, Dovid and Facts).  I guess it could be that all of these folks are roomates and they all use the same computer terminal… but I doubt it.

So I would like to thank you anonymous internet commentor for the huge waste of time.

No Daat Less Torah Part II

First I have to make a slight retraction.  I personally never spoke with Officer Walsh.  He was a little upset that I had said that I had.  My wife is the one who has been in contact with Officer Walsh.  Any miscommunications that have happened on account of that I take full credit and responsibility for.  The Washington Jewish Week says that they spoke with the Police Spokesperson, who is Officer Walsh.  However there is a problem with that.  He denies that he spoke to anyone but my wife before last night, and then David(still not Daniel) Eidensohn last night, and here is the email to prove it.
When my wife asked last night if any report had been filed he responded by saying that there was a report that there was an assault on the 200 block of Linden Lane.  The report claims that three suspects dressed in black at least one of whom had a masked face approached an alleged victim, pushed him, and broke his glasses, at which point he fled the scene.  The police were dispatched but found insufficient evidence that an assault had take place and they have been unable to find any suspects matching the description.

This is why officially they are saying that an assault has not taken place.  They are still investigating the matter, which means they are still looking for suspects, and they are also looking to see if it is a false report.

Officer Walsh promised to keep my wife up to date on any developments, but otherwise said that there is nothing more to report.

I think his one line about the “Daat Torah” blog pretty much sums it up, hysterical.  If the Police Spokesman is calling it hysterical there isn’t a great deal more to say.  It is a mountain being made out of a mole hill suggesting conspiracies and all sorts of things from an alleged incident against an alleged victim that the police have insufficient evidence to even say happened.

So once again I have to ask, is this “Daat Torah”?  Is this the way of Torah?  Where does the Torah give approbation to say all kinds of nasty things about a woman and her family based on an as yet unsubstantiated claim?

No Daat and Less Torah Part I

I love the character assination that takes place around the Agunah issue.  I am accused of being on ORA’s payroll, well I’m not.  Accused being a part of the Epstein family(again wrong).  Accused of trying to make a parnassa off of being a descendant of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira(have you seen my apt?).   All of this is rediculous, as some of you who have contacted me for tikkunim and tefilot can attest.

Yes I do have vague memories of Tamar Epstein from when I was a mashgiach at the local kosher grocery, which was a part of the Safeway Food chain.  Honestly I didn’t much care for most of the people in that particular community, mostly because they did their level best to get us mashgichim fired for any perceived slight.  I was actually suspended for two days once for refusing to sell non-kosher chicken livers.  It actually brought the matter to such a head that the kashrut organization pulled the hekhsher until I was permitted to return to my job.  So any memories I have of the folks in Lower Merion, let’s just say that they are not fond ones.

So why do I speak out on this issue?  Because no matter how I personally feel about another Jew(and honestly I do strive to love every Jew, even those I don’t fondly remember) I find it an affront to see one publicly smeared.  It would be one thing if there were actual proof that any of the stuff that is being said about her and her divorce situation were true, then it would be more akin to setting the record straight.  However, instead we are given just out and out distortions and fabrications.  For instance on the “Daat Torah” blog we are given an excerpt from one of Tamar’s private journal’s that reads thus:

Why I love/like Aharon/what I respect:

respect: shmiras halashon

loyalty – I can trust will always be at my side when crises

makpid on kashrus and davening

idealistic – can also be tiresome/absurd

loving/sweet/ affectionate/gentle to me

lets me spend money – equal share

sometimes helpful

open/honest/real to me

doesn’t pressure me to go back to work

appreciates me – taking care of baby etc.

This is then used to “prove” that Tamar was in a perfectly happy marriage from which she simply decided to flee.

Here’s the problems with that.  First we are given no context for this journal entry.  After 10 yrs in the Rabbinate, and more time than that as a counselor, I have seen numerous battered women who, if you were to open up their journals, you would find similar things written, especially from the courtship phase of their relationship.  In fact, I know personally, one woman who was repeatedly severely beaten by her husband, at times requiring hospitalization, who if you asked her to journal why she was staying with her husband, would have written a fairly complimentary list.  He was a great guy, except except when he was beating her with a tire iron.

I would expect someone who has a PhD in Psychology to know this, and thus know if they are going to use a journal entry like this, for it to be anything more than just a smear campaign, context has to be given.  I am baffled as to why a blog that calls itself “Daat Torah” would do otherwise.

Is This Daat Torah?…

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn on his blog posted a harrowing tale of assault and attempted abduction against Aharon Friedman in a supposed attempt to force him to give his wife a Get.   Nevermind that such a Get would be worthless.  Nevermind that there is a Lakewood couple already sitting in jail for trying this in another divorce case.  So goes the tale, of course by an anonymous guest poster.  The tale was then backed up by Daniel Eidensohn’s brother, Dovid Eidensohn who assured us all that this was so severe that even the FBI was getting involved.  We were told that this was a conspiracy involving the Tamar Epstein’s family, Rabbi Herschel Schachter and quite possibly a few Philadelphia Rabbis.

This story piqued my interest.  It would have been horrible, if true.  The problem is, IT’S ALL A LIE!!!  Before I get too wound up on this, let me start the chain of events that unraveled this for me.    The first red flag was the insistance that the FBI was investigating this.  Believe or not the FBI does not jump to investigate every crime that happens across the US.  Considering the FBI only employees 35,000 people to police the entire US(NYPD have 34,500 uniformed officers for just one city, as a comparison) they don’t have the resources to track down every assault and attempted abduction.  Further it falls outside of their stated purview and jurisdiction.  Someone had stated that since he was a Federal Government employee that would put it inside their jurisdiction.  However, that is not the case.  If he has a high enough G rating(on a scale of 1-20, the the President being 20) he may rate a Secret Service investigation, however, he has to fall into the category of national leader(i.e. a high G rating, over 10, and some assistants are only G-5′s, Monica Lewinksy for instance was a G-6).

Second, it didn’t make any of the local Lower Merion(where the crime is supposed to have happened) news.  The Mainline Media News(primary online news outlet for that area) has nothing about it.  Likewise the Save Ardmore Coalition, which also reports on events that they view to be a threat to the Mainline way of life has nothing about it(though they do discuss a person being verbally accosted by a dumpster diver).

However, having learned my lesson of solely trusting news outlets, I went to the source(no not the Friedman or Epstein families).  I called the Lower Merion Police Department(610.649.1000) and spoke with Public Relations Officer Walsh, from whom I got an official statement, “We have no reports of any assualt, attempted assualt or attempted abduction on the specified day, nor in relation to a Mr. Aharon Friedman.  The FBI is not currently conduction an investigation in that direction in Lower Merion.”

So I have to ask, is this Daat Torah?  I could appreciate, that a person may be mislead by the media(I have) and thus post a false report based on such an article(I have), but I hope that even in that case one would post a retraction.  In this case, we have an anonymous guest post.  Yes I have kept Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn up to date on my hunt for the truth, including the denial from the Police Department.  I cannot, and will not speculate as to his motivations for continuing to keep this post up, and refusing to apologize for it’s error.  So I all that is left to say is, “Rabbi Eidensohn shame on you.”

Moderation Not Censorship…

I feel like I have to make a post about this about once a year.  So here goes my latest attempt.  This is a moderated blog.  I’m not looking for Jerry Springer in the comments section.  Therefore, if you cannot behave respectfully, you will find yourself blocked.  What that means is, I will never see the inane and insipid stuff you say unless I actually dig through my spam box, which I do about once a month, because sometimes honest good comments get caught.

Yes you can spam my email account calling me all sorts of names, because of what you perceive as censorship.  That is until I mark all of those messages as spam as well.  Look I get it.  You are a hater that cannot conduct yourself with dignity.  That’s fine.  There are plenty of other blogs that will take your comments to get their hits up.  The truth is, I don’t want those kinds of readers.

If I did want those kinds of readers, I would simply be another Orthodox Scandal blog, that writes up whatever it feels like, and never bothers to post retractions when the facts are shown to be the opposite of what I thought.  Which you will notice I have done(even this past week).  However, insults, foul language and denigrating Rabbanim will not ever be tolerated here.  If you can’t behave like a Mentch I invite you to find another blog to comment on, this one is not for you.

Now since much of this seems to be coming right now because of the latest post I made about the Aharon Friedman/Tamar Epstein divorce.  Here is where I am at with this supposed assault.  I have spoken to family and friends that live in the neighborhood.  No one has heard of it.  I have checked the crime blotters and police report databases and have found nothing.  Today I called the Lower Merion Police dept(three times) and finally spoke with their Public Relations officer, Officer Walsh.  He had not information immediately available, and said he would have to check with the detectives to see what if anything had/was/is going on.  He promised, to check for police reports and if he found one to call me back immediately(he didn’t), otherwise he would give an official statement to me tomorrow(erev Shabbat, hope he calls before candle lighting).  Once I have that I will post it here.

Nahalaot Retraction

I posted a link yesterday that someone sent me to a JPost story.  The JPost had the article dated for August 1, 2012.  Honestly I am not sure if they are having a problem with their dating system or if it was just a slow news day and they needed filler.  However, the article was actually initially run in January.  So this is me saying, I was wrong.

I want to say thank you to the folks who brought that to my attention, and especially those who sent me links to the original posting(which apparently the JPost ran a few times in January).

I have heard it said that trust is something that is hard earned and easily lost.  Well as of today the JPost has lost mine.  I ask your forgiveness for having relied on them.  I truly thought that they were a trustworthy source of information.  As it stands the best piece of verifiable information that I now have is that three men, acted in concert(which I still consider to be a ring, just a small one), in molesting children.  This is verifiable through official Israeli Court documents(sorry no English translation).

Beyond that, I have no verifiable information as to the current goings on, and after this mess up with the JPost, I will only be posting things about this that I can personally verify, through official sources.  Which means, as I currently have no spare time, I will not be posting on this further.

Fact Check Please…

The latest bit of “information” going round the Agunah argument blogs is that supposedly Tamar Epstein(or her family or her friends) tried to have her hopefully soon to be ex-husband abducted just outside her mother’s home.  Here’s my response: Evidence please?  As the story has grown, much like the fish that got away, now supposedly even the FBI is involved in the investigation.

Here’s the first problem I run into, there is no police report.  Police reports are public documents.  Even if the identities of the victim and suspect are being withheld, you should be able to find a censored report saying that there was an attempted abduction in Lower Merion PA.  Checked the local papers for crime section, nothing.  Searched the available online databases, nothing.  So while some anonymous supporter of Aharon Friedman’s is spreading this story, to this point they have offered no actual evidence of it.

Moving in that same direction, the FBI cannot simply get involved in local investigations.  For the FBI to get involved it would have to fall within their purview of crimes that they investigate.  According to the FBI itself, attempted abductions of adults does not fall within those categories.  I understand that to many of the backward types that want to keep women agunot until they die, the FBI is this spooky organization that looks into everything and anything.  However, that is just not the case.  And again, one can check to a certain degree open FBI case files, and doing so pops up not attempted abductions in Lower Merion.

I appreciate that certain folks feel that they have an obligation to help Aharon Friedman.  I also get that some of those folks have a loose hold on either the truth or reality or both.  However, if they are going to write fan fiction I would just wish that they would check some of the facts to make it plausible, and thus enable proper suspension of reality.

For the blog owners posting said story, I wish they would actually check their facts at least a little bit before libelously claiming that Tamar and her family tried to orchestrate an abduction.

End of the World?… Not Yet Apparently.

You will remember a little while back I posted about a certain individual who regaled us with tales of Rav Kaduri’s supposed predictions that the world would end and Mashiah would come by Tisha B’Av this year.  Well Tisha B’Av fell on Shabbat, and so it was techinically pushed off a day due to that, so I figured I would give it till the end of the day(the 10th of Av).  To really say, “Told you so.”

Now it is truly and fully over, and still no Mashiah, still no war between Gog and Magog.  Still no earth shattering world ending crisis.  And still no apology from the nutter who posted all of this nonsense in the first place.  The latter is what I am really waiting for.

Let me explain.  When these sorts of wild predictions are made (fraudulently) in the name of some big Mekubal(especially a niftar one who cannot defend himself), it denigrates that Tzadik, in this case Rav Kaduri who my father and I were close with.  It also gives Kabbalists, the real Mekubalim, a bad name.  A very bad name.  We are made out to look like a bunch of nutters standing on soap boxes shouting “Repent for the end is nigh.”

Honestly I don’t know which is worse, the Kabbalah cults, or the guys who make end of the world predictions and proclaim them(again often fraudulently) in the name of true Kabbalists.  On one side we are made to look like a greedy new age cult, on the other we are made to look like a crazy Armageddon cult, neither is all that appealing in truth.

So here we sit, still waiting and longing for Mashiah.  With all of our funky predictions once again shown to be not only wrong, but a distraction from what will truly bring Mashiah.  The Gemarra tells us that the first Beit HaMikdash was destroyed for the sins of murder, incest and idolatry.  Yet we merited to see it rebuilt after only seventy years.  The second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed for the sin of Sinat Chinam(baseless hatred), yet after 1942 years we still wait for redemption.   Why?  Because we have never sought to put an end to that sin.  Don’t believe me?  Read some of the stuff that gets posted on Pashkveilim.  We have Tzniut movements, and Tzniut police and all sorts of other craziness.  I would like to see a Yachdut(unity) movement and Yachdut police… That would be refreshing.  It may even bring Mashiah, and even if it doesn’t, it will make the wait a lot better.

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