Monday, November 12, 2012

Withholding Information in Shidduchim, Part 3

Rav  Eliezer Waldenberg (author of Shu"t Tzitz Eliezer) in Nishmas Avraham Even Ha'ezer, p. 252 (points he wrote in response to the Nishmas Avraham (note this is in the first edition, I'm not sure it is in the second edition, or it may be incorporated into the text and not be an appendix)

3.  E"H Siman 2 - Nishmas Avraham discusses needing to inform [the other party] (or disclose) about a family blemish or psul, or if the father is a non-Jew (and the mother is Jewish).  From Yevamos 45a when Rav Yehuda told him to either marry a woman like himself (of a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father) or go to another place [and not disclose your father is not Jewish), and Rava told him to disclose it or marr ya woman like himself.  Nishmas Avraham quotes my dear colleague R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach asking on this, "is there not a transgression of onaah not to disclose that his father is not Jewish, even though the child is completely kosher?"

To my understanding, it is a problem of onaah [not to disclose it].  If the second party would take the first party to a din Torah [for not disclosing] they would find a sympathetic ear.  The advice in Yevamos was only to show that to marry such a person is allowed: even though they ruled it is permissible, people will not agree to such a match.  In a place where they won't aks him about his background, since they are not obligated to [see Beis Yosef and Tur Yoreh Deah 268) he may marry a completely Kosher woman (meaning both her parents are Jewish).  The Gemara there was not concerned about the prohibition of onaah [and it was partially because of a temporary injunction due to extreme hardship (horaas shaah) in order to publicize the psak that someone whose father is not Jewish [but his mother is] is allowed to marry a kosher Jew, despite the public not accepting this lenient ruling...Even if we use this Gemara in Yevamos as a heter to himself [not to tell if he wasn't asked] we cannot learn a heter to others who know about his background; they must disclose it, especially if they were asked.

That which the Halacha is that the child of a non-Jewish man and Jewish woman the children are Kosher (not mamzer) but they [female offspring] are blemished and disqualified from marrying a Kohen as Shulchan Aruch paskens (EH 4:5 and 19), it certainly must be considered a serious blemish.  They, and the person himself (ntoe the male offspring of such a union) is required to siclose this to the other party.  Maharsha and Chemdas Shlomo require such a person to require Gerus (see out multiple posts on this subject), as Pischei Teshuva cites, and Rav Shlomo Kluger in Tuv Taam v'Daas YD Mahadura Kama 229, that woe to us to give him a Jewish name before conversion.  Despite that the majority of poskim do not agree [that such a child requires conversion] as the Otzar Haposkim mentions, nevertheless I mention this to show the blemish of such a person, that even though we don't require conversion, [we do pasken that] such a girl is disqualified from marrying a Kohen.

It is worthwhile to point out that a convert must disclose thiat fact [that they are a convert] to the second party.  For we find (Berachos 8b) that Rava instructed his sons not to marry converts, and R' Yaakov Emden in Haghos Yaavets there that one reason is that descendents of converts will have some impression from their source (non-Jewish ancestor) and this reason applies to the son of a non-Jewish father as well.  This is also seen from Pesachim 112b that Rabbeinu Hakadhos instructed his sons likewise.   Also see Haghos Yaavets Horios 13a.  We can also add a reason: the shechina only dwells on meyuchas families, as Tosfos cite in Niddas 13b and Yevamos 47b, and this also applies when the father is not Jewish.

Shu"t Mayim Rabim 9-10 (perhaps this link) cites this in practice (l'maissa) to break an engagement, that the bride's side informed the groom's side that the brides parent were converts was enough of a blemish to break off the engagement.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Disclosing Information in Shidduchim - in Mainstream Press

The following excerpt discusses the dilemma of a young woman cancer survivor - how and when does she tell a boyfriend that she is a cancer survivor and may have fertility issues?  Note she does not say she knows the answer to the dilemma.

As a young survivor, Cudlin worries about dating. "I don't quite know the protocol in divulging this information — how soon do I share, how will he respond, will I have the urge to want to be close to someone again? It's something a 25-year-old woman shouldn't have to worry about."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Withholding Information in Shidduchim, Part 2

Kehilas Yaakov (Steipler) Yevamos Siman 38 - Chashas Onaah b'kiddushin

One young man had one testicle removed surgically due to illness.  The Achronim consider on in this situation "mutar lavo bekahal" (a krus shafcha and petzua dakah - eunochs and similar - may not marry into the khal.  They can only marry people also forbidden to marry into the khal, like mamzeirim, and they are also allowed to marry geirim.) based on the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam and Sefer haTrumah that if a man has one testicle he is mutar lavo bekahal, combined with Rambam's opinion that when one loses [a testicle] from illness, that is considered an act of G-d, and not a man-made act, see Shulchan Aruch (E"H 5, Pischei Teshuva 7 the responsa of Rav Chaim of Volozhin).  However, this decision is not accepted by all opinions, but in a pressing case, like this situation, the poskim are lenient, and he received a psak that he may marry into the khal.

He asked if he must disclose this fact to the matchmakers.  This question has two parts: 1) if he does not disclose it, it may be a faulty kiddushin, and 2) even if it is not a faulty kiddushin, it may be onaah, and misleading others who would think he has no defect in that realm.

Regarding the first question, Pischei Teshuva (YD 31:2) brings the Chasam Sofer's opinion that when an animal has a blemish which we would permit only in a case of a great monetary loss had we been strict about that blemish, that heter only applies to the owner of the animal.  But he may not sell it...   Chasam Sofer says he is close to certain that the owner must disclose the defect to a prospective buyer, and if he did not, the sale is invalid.  Similarly in our case, the defect must be disclosed. 

However, we can explain that our case will not be a mekach taos because Rav Huna holds (Kesuvos 101b) if the woman was prohibited to the man only on the level of a regular prohibition (not kareis or misas beis din) she receives her kesubah.  From his ruling Rav Huna held the marriage certainly took effect.  For it is only effective because of doubt, she would not receive her kesubah (see Kesuvos 73b).  Even according to the Halacha that accepts Rav Yehuda's opinion that if he was not aware of the lav, she does not receive her basic kesubah, Noda Biyehuda (Tinyana 162) concludes (in the hashmatos) that the kiddushin takes place completely, and this is also the conclusion of Achiezer (E"H 10) that even where the marriage was a violation of chayavei lavin, it is not kiddushei taos.  Therefore, our case which is only a doubtful concern of violating a lav - even to the Tiferes Tzvi and Bris Yakov that Achiezer brings who hold if they were married with a lav that they had not realized, their marriage only took effect midirabanan (meaning midioraissa the marriage was not effected and a divorce is required Rabbinically - Ed.), and I also found this is the opinion of Chazon Ish (79:17) that a get is only required in a case of marriage violating a lav that was not realized is only a get midirabanan or misafeik, since she does not have a kesubah as the Gemara (Kesuvos, perek Hamadir) compares get to kesubah (where there is kesubah, a get is required, and vice versa).  All of that is if there was a violation of a negative commandment (lav).  But violating a positive commandment is explained by Rambam (Ishus 24:4) the woman does receive her kesubah even though they did not realize they were not acting in accordance with the mitzvah, the kiddushin takes effect definitely because it is not as severe [as violating a negative commandment -Ed.] [and see Or Samei'ach there who brings a strong proof to Rambam's opinion], and this is the Halacha as codified by Shulchan Aruch (EH 116, and see Biur HaGra there), since a non-realized positive mitzvah.  So our case, since most poskim allowed him to marry into the kahal, there is no doubt of kiddushei taos.

This does not appear to contradict the ruling of Chasam Sofer that if a merchant did not inform the buyer of the possible defect it may be mekach taos - we cannot compare merchandise to marriage.  For the sale of a defective - non-kosher - animal is a mekach taos (see Bechoros 37), and even selling something prohibited Rabbinically is a mekach taos, as Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (C"M 234) rule and a marriage in violation of a lav according to Rav Huna is not mekach taos, and even to Rav Yehuda, a positive mitzvah that was overlooked for a marriage is definitely a marriage, it is only a mekach taos for merchandise because you do not care for that exact object or piece, but you will be satisfied with a different object, and if one has a defect you would prefer a different one without the defect.  But for shidduchim, "which are difficult as splitting the Red Sea" when the parties consent to the marriage it is a very happy time, and they would not consent to marry just anyone, only someone who finds favor in their eyes, this would not be considered a blemish to nullify the marriage unless it was a complete defect that, had they known, they never would have agreed to the match.

Regarding the second question, if he is required to disclose his medical situation as to not violate onaah, Shulchan Aruch (C"M 228:6) says it is prohibited to trick people whisle buying and selling, or to mislead them (lignov daatam) for example, if the item has a defect he must disclose ite, even a defect that would not nullify the sale, one still violates "gneivas daas" (see Sma there), if so, in this case he needs to disclose his condition.  [This would prevent him from getting married because early in the process every small matter can ruin the match].

However, there seems to be a strong proof he does need to disclose it from Yevamos 45 that we hold a non-Jewish man or slave and a Jewish woman's child is kosher (not a mamzer) but people would not marry such a person.  Even Rav Yehuda paskened this person was allowed to marry into the kahal, but he said 'zil itmar' - Rashi explains go to a place where they don't know you and marry a bas yisrael, because if they know you they wouldn't let you marry [a bas yisrael].. Rav said go to a different place or marry someone like yourself (from a union of a non-Jewish man and a Jewish woman) because if not he will not find a wife; even if he was a scholar like Yehoshua bin Nun they would not marry him.  Still, in a different place he could marry a bas Yisrael without him telling them (disclosing) his status, for if he would disclose it they would not accept him as a husband, so we see it is permitted to not disclose his defect since he is permitted midioraissa.

And the reason this is not considered misleading (gneivas daas) is like we said above; for merchandise even for an insignificant defect had the merchant refunded his money he would accept it [in exchange for a non-defective item], but for marriage, after the marriage already took place (bediavad) even if both sides would consent to divorce, there is an umdena they do not want that, after they already emotionally bonded, and it is difficult to divorce, and who knows what the future will hold [to find a new spouse] so in any case like this where they will overlook the defect after the fact is not considered gneivas daas even though he did not disclose all defects.

It is also possible that gneivas daas [not an active misleading, but by not disclosing limitations] is only a rabbinic law [not Biblical].  Sefer Chareidim counts it as Rabbinic Mitzvah in number 84 from Negative Rabbinic Mitzvos (midivrei kabbalah).  When there is a worry that they will not procreate and other stumbling blocks, the Rabbis did not decree to avoid gneivas daas.  Or for some other reason.  We see from Yevamos 45 that one does not have to disclose the defect as long as the defect does not cause a violation of Biblical [negative] law.

That which you responded that perhaps only in cases like Yevamos 45 where there was a question of lineage, which was common to onvestigate, if he went to a new place and they did not ask him about his lineage we see they are not so concerned about it and leading themselves into doubtful situations.  But in the case of a possible ptzua dakah which is not something people are concerned about (because of its rarity) when they don't ask we cannot assume that they are not concerned about it.  This line of reasoning is found in Tosfos (Chullun 94b s.v. inhu), but it is not universally accepted.  Maggid Mishna (Mechira ch. 3) brings an opinion if the purchaser would be able to immediately find out [for example, a barrel of wine that he could have tasted] and he did not, and the merchant sold it to him without any warning or disclosure, the sale is final.  Mishna Lamelech says Rif and Rambam argue on that opinion.  To Rif, in the case of Yevamos where he went to a different place and married there and they did not ask him about his lineage, it does not tell us that those people are not concerned about marrying the child of a Jewish woman and non-Jewish man.  [And his actions are not considered misleading since according the the law he is allowed to marry a Jewish woman.]  The opinions who hold that when the matter could have been clarified but the purchaser declines to find out it is not a deceptive sale, do not hold that those people were okay with that matter because they didn't ask about it, because really they are concerned, but they did not think they had to worry that this person's father was not Jewish.  Because this form of gneivas daas is prohibited only Rabbinically, in an extreme case like this we can rely on Rif and Rambam, as seen inYevamos 45, that he does not have to disclose [the medical issue of the removed testicle].  It also is not evident that not asking a question about lineage shows acceptance of that fact.

That which you mentioned that maybe he is allowed to marry because of the sfeik sfeika, but maybe in reality he is sterile, and sterility is a major defect which would nullify the marriage, since we rely on the Torah principle of Sfeik sfeika that he is not a ptzua dakah, and even Rabbeinu Tam admits we commonly see people like this having children (see Ramban Yevamos 75 and other Rishonim there) and in our times the doctors agree he will be able to father children, if the woman would have known his condition she would have accepted him and believe he would be able to father children, this is not a mekach taus for her.

[This chapter was written as a discussion, without proper investigation (of the Responsa) and I do not say this as a psak (Halachik decision), and those who study this should keep that in mind.  Later I saw Shut Chavos Yair 221 about a eunoch marrying, but if you read it, it has no connection to our case.]

Friday, July 27, 2012

Withholding Information in Shidduchim, Part 1

The Gemara (Yevamos 45) discusses whether the child of a non-Jewish man and a Jewish woman is a mamzer or is not a mamzer.  Rav Yehuda said he is not a mamzer, but he advised such a person to go to a different place where he was not known to marry a bas Yisrael.  The implication is that people would not want their daughter to marry him, even if he is not a mamzer.

This Gemara serves as a springboard, in recent Achronim, to a discussion of disclosing information for shidduchim, where people would not want to marry a person due to a defect - in yichus or medical - even if there is not a hlachik problem in marrying that person.

Shearim Hametzuyanim B'Halacha, Yevamos 45a s.v. A"L zil itmar...

Rashi explains 'go to a place where they don't know you and marry a bas yisrael, because if they know you they wouldn't let you marry [a bas yisrael].'  In Shearim Hametzuyanim B'Halacha, Hilchos Onaah 62:1 we discussed if one is selling [food] that is not kosher according to all opinions, there is a dispute if one may sell since the merchant follows the opinion of those who permit this food, or because a buyer is strict, if the merchant must inform him of the status of this food.  Even if the food is permitted in a case of great loss according to all authorities, if the merchant must inform him because in this case it is not a great loss for the prospective buyer [and hence he is strict and cannot use this food], and we discussed that in great detail.

We brought the opinion of Chasam Sofer (Responsa, O"C 65) that the merchant must inform the customer, and if he did not it may be a "mekach ta'us" (faulty sale).  Pri Megadim (O"C 467:25) says if there is a strict opinion but the halacha does not rule according to that opinion, the buyer cannot complain that his practice is personally strict, and the merchant is not required to refund the money.  Shach (YD 119:20) brings from Teshuvas Maharalbach where one person is a guest in another's home, and the guest acts strictly in certain matters, when the host must inform the guest of the lenient issues, and when he does not.  And see what we wrote on Sukkah 10b s.v. agninhu.

From our Gemara, we can point out that Rashi (Shabbos 49b s.v. lemitzvah) explains that  if someone buys something for a mitzvah, because he wants to do the mitzvah in the best possible manner.  Therefore, in shidduchim, no one would want to marry someone who has any question about their lineage (yuchsin).  If so, how could Rav Yehuda advise the man to go to a place where he [and his defect] were unknown to marry a woman from that place?  I saw Kunteros Kehillas Yaakov (38) asks from this Gemara.

Another issue requires clarification, for in Bava Metzia (68b) Rava says: Rav Ilish is a great man, and he would not  have allowed others to partaken in forbidden items [in that case, benefitting from interest/usury].  Why does the fact that Rav Ilish was a great man shows it could not have  been done, for every man is prohibited from presenting a stumbling block to another person (lifnei iver)?  Rashba (Responsa, 938) explains that this was not actually forbidden, but it was a matter about shich some people are strict.  Therefore the reason that "Rav Ilish was a great man" tells us he was strict not to give these types of things to others, [lest they treat it strictly].  [Shasdaf's note: it's not clear if another person would be allowed to give this type of merchandise without informing of the possibility that some are strict about it, or that one may if they infrom, but Rav Ilish was so strict he wouldn't even sell it or give it with a disclaimer.]

We can say that since for shidduchim both sides investigate about the prospective bride and groom, it is upon them to check and ask according to their custom.  And see Radvaz (Responsa, V:1587 leshonos HaRambam) who proves from our Gemara that only for Biblical prohibitions are we forbidden to place a stumbling block before another person, but for Rabbinic prohibitions we are not forbidden to place a stumbling block.  Only Rav Ilish who was a great man, was careful not to place a stumbling block even for a Rabbinic matter.  This opinion is questionable, because Tosfos (Avodah Zarah 22a s.v. Tepok) explicitly writes that the prohibition of lifnei iver applies to Rabbinic prohibitions.  However, Tosfos (Chagiga 18a s.v. cholo) implies to the contrary.  Then I saw Minchas Chinuch (232) has a long discussion about this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Holocaust Symposium in Skokie

I attended the morning session for Educators of the Holocaust symposium at the Illinois Holocaust Museum under the aegis of the ATT.  I was disappointed because until the Panel discussion, the speakers failed to address their topics - how to teach the Holocaust.

(After I wrote this post, the ATT announced that the audio would be available here, but it's not up yet.)


Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel:  "How do we answer the hard questions regarding emunah and bitachon as we teach the Holocaust?"

I heard Rabbi Neugroschel speak in Israel 3 summers ago (in Hebrew).  He appeared businesslike and spoke to the point; he is clean shaven and looked like a businessman with a black yarmulke.  He is a first-rate speaker and I would absolutely hear him again.  Even in English, clearly not his native tongue, he is an impressive speaker.  He seemed much more emotional and gesturing rather than the stoic and businesslike posture I previously saw.  Unfortunately, he mostly told inspiring stories.  He did cite a fascinating Zohar and made some really thought-provoking he'aros about Rabi Akiva saying Shma while dying al kiddush Hashem, and about Elisha Ben Avuyah's going off the derech.  Unfortunately what I took away from his talk were some really inspiring stories but not an answer of "how to answer the hard questions regarding emunah and bitachon as we teach the Holocaust?"  See more below, under "panel".

Rabbi Nosson Scherman:  "What do we emphasize as we teach the Holocaust to our children?"

After the crescendo of Rabbi Neugroschel's closing stories, it would be difficult for anyone to talk about anything.  Rabbi Sherman did a fine job transitioning beginning with some nice stories about loving Hashem.  He mentioned this cartoon .  Then he transitioned into his scheduled topic, basically saying we must know where we came from; our history, the history of anti-semitism and how the US with the first amendment is much freer to Holocaust denial than Eurpoean countries where it is a crime, though becoming not so serious a crime anymore, and finally that Jews don't give up.  He referenced Raul Hilberg.  He also referenced other popular (or not-so-popular) culture.  In other words, he came across very knowledgeable of the world, not at all the vision one would have of the creator, master and curator of ArtScroll.  So he did address his topic; unfortunately, I don't think people will remember his points about it, but it was not his fault.

*Book to use.  Rabbi Nosson Sherman recommended several books about the Holocaust: for the history, The War Against the Jews (interesting because earlier he praised Hilberg, but according to Wikipedia, Hilberg was highly critical of this book; About American apathy, While Six Million Died; and The Abandonment of the Jews;  for Emunah issues, a soon-to-be-published ArtScroll book Tragedy and Rebirth.  He also said it must be taught with emotion, not like other history.  Not sure I agree with that.
 Rabbi Reuven Brand mentioned several: The Jew in the Modern World for its primary sources; Eim Habanim Semeicha, The Holy Fire; Shu"t Mimaakim.  I'm surprised he didn't focus more on the last source, as we can see from the questions the issues and worries that the Kedoshim were concerned about.  I have seen an English translation which I think is only a selection of teshuvos and is not a translation of the entire sefer.

*How to teach it.  R' Neugroschel spoke about through unconditional love.  Dr. Jerry Lob pointed out that a parent might be able to do that but a teacher likely won't be able.

*What to do after learning about the Holocaust - This was a good question and while Rabbi Scherman addressed it, I have no substantila content I can report.  He did say that we have to be concerned about everyone, not just Jews, though we must take care of other Jews first, before worrying about Darfur.  Great story how Chafetz Chayim asked Ponovizher Rav after the latter returned form South Africa if it is true that the Blacks are very badly treated.  Ponovizher Rav asked why is it important?  Chafetz Chayim said if there is a famine in India or earthquake in Japan or Blacks suffering in South Africa, it is a message to us, the chosen nation, to improve our behavior. Interestingly, from something Dr. Lob said before, there could be this project: visit a children's hospital.  He said this regarding a question how to tell children about so many children being killed in the Holocaust  he mentioned this as an example of children suffering in our own time.

(Rabbi Scherman is to be commended for speaking about the concern Jews must have for non-Jews.  Unfortunately there are many instances of what appear to be racism, especially among certain Chareidi groups.  But Rabbi Scherman's stories from the Chafetz Chayim show that racism does not have a place in Judaism.)

Rabbi Neugroschel had another unbelievable story about a grandson of a survivor he heard speak named Nitai - turns out after Nitai Ha'Arbeli in Pirkei Avos.  Tremendous story behind that.

Unfortunately, the following (notable) points were omitted in the program.
* General Studies teachers can teach the history, and let limudei kodesh faculty - or better yet, designated experts (since our education system fails miserably at teaching emunah issues) - teach emunah issues.

* related - most schools don't teach the ani maamins stam, neutrally, so why for one of the most difficult to comprehend issue are they now interested?

*Limudei Kodesh faculty never teach any Jewish history anyway, so why should they think they could teach the Holocaust?

*The need to know the context of WWI and the Treaty of Versailles leading to German problems, leading to Hitler's ascent, then active measures against Jews, and how the methods of murder were adapted to become more efficient; and the actual fighting of WWII on the European continent.

* Sometimes we're looking at the forest of the 6,000,000 and we're missing the trees - not each individual, but different communities - Germany vs Lithuania vs Poland vs remnants of Austian-Hungarian empire, etc.  Each has a different story regarding their suffering.  In other words, one story - or even one survivor's story - is important, but we can focus on these stories and not see the entire picture of what the Nazis did, and when they did it, and how things changed and evolved during the war.

* What other Jewish calamities do these schools teach?  Churban bayis Sheni and Bar Kochba revolts led to hundreds of thousands of Jews killed.  The Crusades.  Expulsions from European lands.  Chelminitzky's pogroms in 1649 (Tach v'Tat) wiped out a third or half of European Jewry.  Why aren't we teaching the history of those events either?

* Another item omitted was any mention of Yom Hashoah.

The capture and trial of Eichmann was a national springboard to discussion of the Holocaust.  This was not mentioned.  Hausner's Justice in Jerusalem and Ben Hecht's Perfidy (why is it so expensive?  Must be small supply and larger demand) are the first two books that come to mind about that.  Chareidi schools will have the added bonus of Hecht's harsh criticism of the Zionist leadership during WWII (and beyond), not wanting to upset the British.

Personal note: I am very excited for the upcoming publication of The Chain of Miracles by Rabbi Meyer Juzint.  Disclaimer: I ran this project - getting the manuscript translated to English, editing, layout and publishing.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jewish Genetic Disorders in the News

In Today's Wall Street Journal

A Community's Twist on Genetic Tests
Orthodox Jews Screen for Recessive Diseases Before Marrying, but Are Only Told So Much


NEW YORK—In Williamsburg, a bustling Brooklyn enclave across the East River from Manhattan, a sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews dresses in garb common to 18th- and 19th-century Europe and adheres to even more-ancient religious traditions. Yet they are wrestling with the most modern of questions: When it comes to genetic testing, how much does a person need to know?

The community has deployed a unique screening program that addresses a genetic issue arising from the fact that Jews in Central and Eastern Europe once lived and married within small, tightly bound communities. As a result, Jews who trace ancestry to this region have a higher risk of carrying gene mutations that could lead to bearing children with a number of devastating hereditary genetic conditions.

Many Jews who know their ancestry now get tested to see if they carry such mutations. But in many Orthodox communities, the kind of genetic screening typically used in the wider world is complicated by privacy needs, religious prohibitions, and clashes with some of their communal values.

So community members devised an approach to identify people carrying gene mutations for the same diseases who, if they were to marry one another, might bear children with lethal conditions (such offspring have a 1 in 4 chance of inheriting a so-called recessive condition.)

Rabbi Josef Ekstein, who had four children die of Tay-Sachs disease, a fatal neurodegenerative condition, founded a program called Dor Yeshorim to screen people and create a database with the test results while providing participants with anonymity. Young people—typically from age 17 to their early 20s—who get tested are assigned a personal identification number and birth date without the year. The program screens for nine conditions common among Ashkenazi Jews—those who can trace ancestry to Central and Eastern Europe—and the information is kept in a database by Dor Yeshorim, which means "upright generation" in Hebrew.

Before a couple is betrothed, or sometimes even meet, their families call Dor Yeshorim with the identification data and are told whether the prospective couple is "compatible" or—if both carry a gene mutation for the same disease—"not compatible." In the latter case, the relationship is typically abandoned.

The program is unusual not for what it tells people, but for what it doesn't.

Typically, a person who is sent for or requests genetic screening is told if he or she is a carrier for a wide variety of conditions.

Rabbi Ekstein, though, tells a recent visitor that he didn't envision Dor Yeshorim that way. "We are a prevention program," he says. The purpose isn't to expand an individual's personal medical knowledge, but to prevent the births of doomed children by alerting potential spouses to the risk.

How much to reveal to people remains a contentious issue in the gene-testing field. Some geneticists argue that scientists still have no grasp of most gene mutations' relevance, and that sharing information whose meaning is uncertain is potentially harmful. In some cases, people might endlessly worry or alter their lives because of a mutation for which there is no effective treatment or that turns out to be benign; others may ignore medical advice because genes show they aren't predisposed to a particular condition, even though screening can't rule out the possibility a disease will develop.

Many believe people have a right to know everything, and withholding any information amounts to a kind of genomic paternalism.

Rabbi Ekstein recognizes that, in some respects, withholding all information other than people's compatibility may seem old-fashioned in an age when technology can tell people about all kinds of genetic risks. He argues that too often, people don't consider the "negative part of knowing" one is at risk. Everyone talks about the right to know, the rabbi says, but there should be equal attention paid to "the right not to know."

Those who use Dor Yeshorim aren't told for which diseases they are carriers unless they insist. Among the concerns: If word were to get out in the tightknit Orthodox community, the stigma of carrying a faulty gene might make it hard to find a spouse not just for that person, but for his or her siblings as well. And screening is done only for recessive diseases, for which each parent must contribute a faulty gene in order for a child to be affected.

Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., who works with Dor Yeshorim on research projects, says the group's decision to share only what it considers "actionable information" is a stance taken by many geneticists. What's unusual is that, in this case, "the marriage is the actionable information," he says.

Dor Yeshorim's story is really Rabbi Ekstein's story.

The rabbi's first child, a boy born in 1965, seemed to be developing normally. But at around 6 months old, he started losing muscle tone, had seizures and experienced trouble swallowing. Eventually, he went blind. The boy was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs at age 2, and died at age 4. Four more children were born; three also died of Tay-Sachs.

After burying his fourth child, Rabbi Ekstein says, "it came to my mind that maybe this has a purpose." Screening tests had been developed that could let people know if they were carriers of diseases and, while it was too late to help him and his wife—who have five healthy children—Rabbi Ekstein sought a way to help others in the community.

In Williamsburg, which boasts one of the largest populations of Satmar Hasidic Jews—a branch with roots in Hungary and Romania—couples tend to have many children, and find spouses who are usually chosen or approved by their families. In most cases, abortion is prohibited, sperm and egg donation isn't an option and in vitro fertilization is financially prohibitive. The only practical way to stop children from being born with these diseases is to prevent carriers from marrying.

Rabbis and other community leaders debated Dor Yeshorim's mission for some time before giving their approval. A paramount concern was the confidentiality aspect. There also was considerable debate about which diseases to test for: How severe does a disease have to be to justify providing information that could thwart marriage plans?

Today, the number of children born with Tay-Sachs in the Jewish community in the U.S. and Canada each year has dropped to between three and six from between 30 and 40. The Dor Yeshorim database now includes information from 330,000-340,000 people from Orthodox communities around the world. One in 100 prospective couples are found to be incompatible, the group estimates.

Still, researchers believe that while risk can be lowered, it can never be completely eliminated. In genetics and love, says Edwin Kolodny, professor emeritus in neurology at New York University Medical Center and chairman of Dor Yeshorim's medical advisory board, "Marriage in most situations remains a lottery where we just take our chances."

Write to Amy Dockser Marcus at

Within the past month, the same reporter reported how Irish may also be carriers of Tay-Sachs at an elevated rate.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Free Jonathan Pollard

In the WSJ earlier this week, Martin Peretz wrote an op-ed about the clamor to release Jonathan Pollard.  I was surprised by its tone.  For the record, let me say:

Jonathan Pollard is not a tzaddik.  He did commit a crime.

Jonathan Pollard has served more than enough time for his crimes and deserves to be released.

Maybe it has to do with the old saying that it's tougher to stand up to friends that to enemies that Pollard was treated so harshly.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kol, Se'ar, Shok B'Isha Erva, Part 4

Here is what the Moreh Nevushim says regarding distancing ourselves from arayos. It is unsurprising for anyone who is familiar with Hilchos Isurei Biah.

ספר מורה הנבוכים חלק ג פרק מט
וכבר ידעת שאסור לנו ליהנות בערוה על אי זה צד שיהיה ואפילו בראיית העין, והוא שיכוין ליהנות כמו שבארנו בהלכות איסורי ביאה, ושם ביארנו שאין מותר בתורתנו להרהר במשגל כלל, וגם לעורר הקושי כלל, ושהאדם כשיתקשה מבלתי כונה ראוי לו שישיב רעיוניו למחשבה אחרת, וישתכל בדבר אחר עד שיסור הקושי, אמרו החכמים ז"ל במוסריהם המשלימים החסרים, בני אם פגע בך מנוול זה משכהו לבית המדרש, אם ברזל הוא נמוח, ואם אבן הוא מתפוצץ, שנאמר הלא כה דברי כאש נאם ה' וכפטיש יפוצץ סלע, הוא אומר לבנו דרך מוסר כשתתקשה ותכאב, לך לבית המדרש ותקרא וחלוק ושאל וישאלוך יסור ממך הכאב ההוא בלי ספק, ותמה מאמרו מנוול, כי זה באמת נוול גדול הוא.
Seeing erva vs. hearing erva - we see from the following three pesukim that seeing would be asur, but it doesn't mention about hearing the [singing] voice of an erva.
Is only sight asur because of “Lo Sasuru”?  במדבר פרשת שלח פרק טו
וְלֹא תָתוּרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם:
But Rashba Brachos (in MHK, near ff222) brings a different pasuk
דברים פרשת כי תצא פרק כג
וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר
and Rav Moshe Feinstein cites a third Pasuk בע"ז דף כ' מקרא דונשמרת שלא יסתכל באשה
The pasuk - venishmarta - can include everything we've been discussing, but the Gemara (Avodah Zara 20) learns from it not to look (see).
(How does this Gemara fit with Raavad that you need to see the woman before you marry her or bring with an am haaretz?  It must not be applying to that case.)

To Smell an erva is asur.
Rambam Isurei Biah 22:2
רמב"ם הלכות איסורי ביאה פרק כא
כל הבא על ערוה מן העריות דרך איברים או שחבק ונשק דרך תאוה ונהנה בקרוב בשר הרי זה לוקה מן התורה, שנאמר לבלתי עשות מחקות התועבות וגו' ונאמר לא תקרבו לגלות ערוה, כלומר לא תקרבו לדברים המביאין לידי גילוי ערוה.  
    הלכה ב
העושה דבר מחוקות אלו הרי הוא חשוד על העריות, ואסור לאדם לקרוץ בידיו וברגליו או לרמוז בעיניו לאחת מן העריות או לשחוק עמה או להקל ראש ואפילו להריח בשמים שעליה או להביט ביפיה אסור, ומכין למתכוין לדבר זה מכת מרדות, והמסתכל אפילו באצבע קטנה של אשה ונתכוון להנות כמי שנסתכל במקום התורף ואפילו לשמוע קול הערוה או לראות
 שערה אסור

Does smell have substance that you can transgress issurim by smelling something?  Yes.  See Pesachim 25b about deriving benefit from issurei hanaah, reegarding smelling offerings to avodah zarah, and specifically this Ritva there:
חידושי הריטב"א מסכת פסחים דף כה עמוד ב
איתמר הנאה הבאה לו לאדם בעל כרחו כו'. כתב הרי"ט ז"ל דכל היכא דאמרינן בשמעתין אפשר ולא אפשר היינו אפשר בלא שום טורח או לא אפשר אלא בטורח, תדע דהא גורר אדם מטה וכסא אוקימנא בכלים גדולים (שבת כ"ט ב') ומשום הכי לא אפשר אלא בגרירה וההיא ודאי אפשר ע"י טורח, וכן פירש הרא"ה ז"ל. עוד כתב ז"ל בשם הרא"ה ז"ל שאמר בשם רבו ז"ל דמתכוין דאמרינן לענין הנאת ריח זה לאו דוקא מתכוין ממש להריח כי מה לו לעשות רשעות גדולה כזאת להתכוין ליהנות מריח איסור, ועוד דבהנאה הבאה לו לאדם בעל כרחו אתמר והיינו שיש לו לאדם לעבור סמוך לע"ז בשעה שמקטירין הקטורת זכה ואם מתכוין להריח הרי אינו בעל כרחו, אלא מתכוין דאמרינן בהאי (נטילא) היינו שנהנה מאותו ריח כי יש הרבה מבני אדם שאין נהנין בדבר ואינו ערב להם וכל שנהנה מן הריח חשיב לן מתכוין.
Tosfos HaRashba in Pesachim there – for smell you can close your mouth and nose and not smell; for psik reisha, nobody allows it.

Maggid Mishna brings a possible source for the Rambam's din that you can't smell the perfume or fragrance of an erva is Shabbos 62:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת שבת דף סב עמוד ב
דרש רבא בריה דרב עילאי: מאי דכתיב +ישעיהו ג+ ויאמר ה' יען כי גבהו בנות ציון - שהיו מהלכות בקומה זקופה, ותלכנה נטויות גרון - שהיו מהלכות עקב בצד גודל, ומשקרות עינים - דהוה מלאן כוחלא לעינייהו ומרמזן, הלוך וטפוף - שהיו מהלכות ארוכה בצד קצרה, +ישעיהו ג+ וברגליהן תעכסנה, אמר רב יצחק דבי רבי אמי: מלמד שמטילות מור ואפרסמון במנעליהן, ומהלכות בשוקי ירושלים, וכיון שמגיעות אצל בחורי ישראל, בועטות בקרקע ומתיזות עליהם ומכניסות בהן יצר הרע כארס בכעוס. מאי פורענותיהם? כדדריש רבה בר עולא: +ישעיהו ג+ והיה תחת בשם מק יהיה - מקום שהיו מתבשמות בו נעשה נמקים נמקים, +ישעיהו ג+ ותחת חגורה נקפה - מקום שהיו חגורות בצלצול נעשה נקפים נקפים, +ישעיהו ג+ ותחת מעשה מקשה קרחה - מקום שהיו מתקשטות בו נעשה קרחים קרחים, +ישעיהו ג+ ותחת פתיגיל מחגרת שק - פתחים המביאין לידי גילה יהיו למחגרת שק, +ישעיהו ג+ כי תחת יפי, אמר רבא: היינו דאמרי אינשי חלופי שופרא כיבא. +ישעיהו ג+ (וספח) +מסורת הש"ס: ושפח+ ה' קדקד בנות ציון אמר רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא: מלמד שפרחה בהן צרעת. כתיב הכא ושפח וכתיב התם: +ויקרא יד+ לשאת ולספחת. וה' פתהן יערה, רב ושמואל, חד אמר: שנשפכו כקיתון, וחד אמר: שנעשו פתחיהן כיער.  
these women - among other improprieties - had fragrant myrrh and balsam in their shoes and when they would come close to Jewish lads they would kick (at the ground), to presumably crunch the myrrh and balsam chips so they would exude fragrance to entice the lads.  From the fact that this was one of the enticements they used, presumably it shows that doing so is forbidden.

to be continued....

Monday, April 30, 2012

Kol, Se'ar, Shok B'Isha Erva, Part 3

Continuation of Rishonim on the Brachos sugya:
חידושי הרשב"א מסכת ברכות דף כד עמוד א
והא דאמר רב יצחק טפח באשה ערוה ואוקימנא באשתו ובק"ש פירש הראב"ד ז"ל דאפשר דוקא ממקום צנוע שבה ועלה קאתי ר"ח למימר דשוק באשה מקום צנוע וערוה הוא ואפילו לגבי בעלה אע"פ שאינו מקום צנוע באיש, אבל פניה ידיה ורגליה וקול דבורה שאינו זמר ושערה מחוץ לצמתה שאינו מתכסה אין חוששין להם מפני שהוא רגיל בהן ולא טריד, ובאשה אחרת אסור להסתכל בשום מקום ואפי' באצבע קטנה ובשערה ואסור לשמוע אפי' קול דבורה כדאמרינן בקדושין [ע' א'] לישדר מר שלמא לילתא אמר ליה הכי אמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה, ואלא מיהו נראה דדוקא קול של שאלת שלום או בהשבת שלום כי התם דאיכא קרוב הדעת, והרב אלפסי ז"ל שלא הזכיר מכל זה כלום כתב הראב"ד ז"ל דאפשר דמשום דאמרינן לעיל עגבות אין בהן משום ערוה סבור הרב ז"ל דכ"ש טפח ושוק ושערה וקול, וכתב הוא ז"ל דלא מן השם הוא זה אלא הכא משום דמטריד וברואה, ועגבות הא פרישנא דוקא דנפשיה ובאשתו בשאינו רואה ואע"פ שנוגע, דכל שאינו רואה משום נגיעה לבד לא מטריד הואיל וגס בה.
Highlight: This sugya is talking about reciting Kriyas Shma in front of his wife who has certain areas uncovered...Shok, even though it is not a private part of a man, for his wife it must be covered [for him to recite Shma], but her face, arms, legs, her speaking voice (as apposed to her singing voice), the hair outside her kerchief is of no concern (i.e., is not prohibited to say Kriyas Shma if they are uncovered) because these are usual....for another woman [i.e., not his wife] one may not look at any part, even her little finger...or her speaking voice, but it seems thatr only speaking voice when it is a discussion to her well-being because that involves kiruv hada'as.

רבינו יונה על הרי"ף מסכת ברכות דף יז עמוד א
ערוה בעששית אסור לקרוא ק"ש כנגדה וכתב רבינו האי גאון ז"ל דהוא הדין לכל אשה שמגלה טפח במקום מכוסה שבה שאסור לקרוא כנגדה דטפח באשה ערוה וכן אין לו לקרות בשעה שמנגנת דקול באשה ערוה אבל כנגד פניה או כנגד מקום שאין דרך לכסות או בשעה שמדברת כדרכה מותר ואפי' בשעה שמנגנת אם הוא יכול לכוין בלבו לתפלתו בענין שאינו שומע אותה ואינו משים לבו אליה מותר ואין לו להפסיק קריאתו וכן כשמגולה טפח אינו אסור אלא כשמסתכל בה אבל בראייה בעלמא מותר:
Rabbeinu Yonah says one may not recite Shma in a place where a woman has a part that is usually covered uncovered, but her face or a regularly uncovered part of her body or her speaking voice, one may recite Shma...Even if she is singing, if he can concentrate so that he cannot hear her voice and does not pay attention to her, and he should not interrupt his Shma.  If part of her body becomes revealed [during his recitation] it is only prohibited to look intently at that area, but his allowed to say shma if he sees a brief  glimpse [of the uncovered area].

מרדכי מסכת ברכות פרק מי שמתו
 והכא נמי אמרינן הכא בתלמודא טפח באשה ערוה אפילו באשתו פי' טפח שדרכה להתכסות וכן שוק* וקול באשה ערוה ופי' רב האי גאון דכל הני לענין ק"ש **וכתב הר"א ממיץ בס"י הלכך אסור לומר דבר שבקדושה בשמיעת קול שיר של אשה ובעונותינו בין העובדי ככובים אנו יושבים ועת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתך הלכך אין אנו נזהרין מללמוד בשמיעת קול שיר נשים ארמאות וכ"פ בה"ג וכ"פ ר"ח כדברי ר' (*יהודאי) [*האי] גאון וכתב ראבי"ה כל הדברים שהזכרנו למעלה לערוה דוקא בדבר שאין רגילות להגלות אבל בתולה הרגילה בגלוי שער לא חיישינן דליכא הרהור:
Mordechai: Tefach of a woman is prohibited [to see], even of his wife.  Meaning, a tefach which is usually covered, and shok, and the voice of a woman is erva.  Rav Hai Gaon explained these are prohibitedin regard to reciting Shma in their presence.  Rav A. of Metz said it is prohibited to say a davar shebikdusha when you hear a woman singing.   And in our sins that we live among non-Jews, and "Eis Laasos Lashem Hefeiru Torasecha" (a verse allowing us to take certain Halachik liberties to strengthen observance of Torah and Mitzvos - Ed.), we do not refrain fro mstudying Torah when we hear non-Jewish women singing.... And Ravyah wrties everything mentioned above regarding erva is when it usually covered, but for an unmarried woman who keeps her hair uncovered, there is no concern [to prohibit seeing her hair] because it does not cause improper thoughts.

* The Mordechai, Implies shok is not one of the places normally covered.  If it was, he wouldn't need to list it separately.  UNLESS he holds like the Raavad cited by Rashba above - since in men it does not need to be covered, we need it explicitly mentioned.  Or, it may an area that is at the border of anatamy that must be covered and in reality is sometimes covered but sometimes is uncovered.  (Note: I always understood that the forbidden places ended at a joint.  Anywhere else, there was no clear boundary.  But the knee and elbow are clear boundaries.)
** Not like Rosh, who says the Gemara prohibits these areas for everything, not just for Kriyas Shma.

Now that we have seen how Rishonim explain the sugyos, there is a very important comment by the author of the Haflaah, in the Hamakneh, Kiddushin 70a

המקנה מסכת קידושין דף ע עמוד א
בגמ' א"ל הכי אמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה. כתב הב"ש בסימן כ"א בשם הרשב"א אע"ג דקול דיבורה שרי מ"מ מה שהוא משיב על שאלת שלומה גרע טפי דאיכא קירוב דעת, ולפ"ז הא דאמר בברכות בס"פ מי שמתו דאמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה וכתבו הפוסקים דהיינו לענין ק"ש וקול זמר. ולכאורה צ"ל תרי מימרא דשמואל נינהו, אבל הרא"ש בברכות כתב שם דהא דאמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה היינו לשמוע ולא לענין ק"ש, ונראה העיקר כיון דיליף מקרא כי קולך ערב ומראיך נאוה והיינו דקמ"ל שמואל דקול הוי ערוה כמו מראה וכיון דמצינו במראה דבא"א אסור להסתכל אפילו במקום שדרך להיות מגולה כדאיתא בברכות שם כל המסתכל באצבע קטנה וכו' ובזה אין חילוק בין ק"ש [לשלא בשעת ק"ש] דלבעלה אין איסור אפילו בשעת ק"ש אבל במקומות המכוסים בזה יש חילוק דבשעת ק"ש אסור אפילו לבעלה, וכיון דיליף שמואל קול ממראה כמו כן יש בקול דיבורה דהיינו דרך חיבה כמו הכא אין חילוק אפילו בשעת ק"ש לבעלה מותר ולאחרים לעולם אסור, והיינו כמ"ש הרא"ש אבל בקול זמר שאין רגילות לשמוע דינו כמו במראה במקומות מכוסים והיינו כמ"ש הפוסקים הנ"ל דאסור לבעלה בשעת ק"ש, נמצא מימרא דשמואל חד הוא דקול שוה למראה בכל ענין ואין מחלוקת בין הפוסקים אלא דהרא"ש מפרש דברי שמואל כפשטא דקרא כי קולך ערב ומראיך נאוה דמשמע מסתמא בקול ומראה הרגילים והפוסקים הנ"ל מפרשים אותו לענין ק"ש לפי משמעות הסוגיא בברכות שם דמיירי בק"ש, אמנם בתלמידי ר"י כתב והביאו הב"י באו"ח שם דאפילו קול זמר אם הוא יכול לכווין לבו בתפילתו בענין שאינו שומע אותה ואינו משים לב אליה מותר וכו' וכן במראה אין איסור אלא שמסתכל אבל בראי' בעלמא מותר עכ"ל. וכן כתב המג"א בסי' קכ"ח ס"ק ל"ה וז"ל ועיין בסי' רכ"ט דמשמע דלשון להסתכל דוקא להסתכל הרבה וכו', וקצת ראי' מדכתיב בשמואל ותצאנה הנשים מכל הרי ישראל לשיר וגו' נהי לדעת הרמב"ם דאינו אלא מדרבנן כמ"ש הב"י שם די"ל דעדיין לא גזרו רבנן וכמ"ש לעיל לענין שימוש באשה אבל לדעת הפוסקים שם דהוא מדאורייתא צ"ל כמ"ש התר"י דאינו אלא במתכווין לשמוע ודו"ק:

1) The sugyos in Kiddushin and Brachos are separate statements of Shmuel, because Brachos includes prohibiting listening to hearing a woman sing while you say kriyas Shma.
2) According to the Rosh, they are the same statement.  The sugya in Brachos is the main sugya because it includes psukim as sources for each ruling.  And Shmuel deduces kol (her voice) from looking.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More on The Last Mishna

update to this post.
Netziv in Meitiv Shir (Rinah shel Torah), Shir Hashirim 3:3 : A kinui for Torah is "mishmarti", and the Mishna at the end of Kiddushin says Avraham kept the Torah - the meaning of "kept" (asah) is not that he kept the mitzvos, because that is not a mishna, rather it is a meimra in Yoma.  The Mishna isn't talking about keeping Mitzvos, it is discussing learning Torah .... Therefore those who learn Torah are called Shomrim....

So the Gemara in Yoma teaches us that Avraham kept mitzvos, and the Mishna in Kiddushin tells us that Avraham learned Torah.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Who Is A Jew - Early 1970s

Someone asked me to put this in Sheimos if it needed it, and I took a look at it and thought this is a great pamphlet.  Who_Is_A_Jew

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Kol, Se'ar, Shok B'Isha Erva, Part 2

Last time, we saw two sugyos, one in Kiddushin and one in Brachos, about the impermissibilityof seeing a woman's hair, shok, or to hear her voice.  Rif rules that the sugya in Brachos is specifically some of these things during Kriyas Shma.  The Rosh, however, has a much stricter view.

רא"ש מסכת ברכות פרק ג Sugya in Brachos:
א"ר יצחק טפח באשה ערוה למאי הלכתא אילימא לאסתכולי בה והאמר רב ששת למה מנה הכתוב תכשיטין שבפנים עם תכשיטין שבחוץ לומר לך כל מי שמסתכל באצבע קטנה של אשה כאילו מסתכל במקום התורפה לא קשיא הא באחרת והא באשתו ולק"ש. ודבר שרגיל להיות מכוסה באשה ודוקא באחרת אבל בעצמה הא אמרי' לעיל האשה יושבת ערומה וקוצה חלתה*:
ואמר רב חסדא שוק באשה ערוה שנאמר גלי שוק עברי נהרות וכתיב תגל ערותך. אמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה שנאמר כי קולך ערב פירוש לשמוע ולא לענין ק"ש. אמר רב ששת שער באשה ערוה בנשים שדרכן לכסות שערן אבל בתולות שדרכן לילך פרועות מותר לקרות כנגדן:
Rosh changes statement 4 to prohibit the voice of a woman completely, not only when you are trying to say Kriyas Shma.
He qualifies statement 5 by saying that it is mutar to see the uncovered hair of besulos (which we will take to mean as unmarried women) while reciting Kriyas Shma.

 Kiddushin Sugya: רא"ש מסכת קידושין פרק ד
ואמר שמואל אין משתמשין באשה בין גדולה בין קטנה [דף ע ע"ב] ואמר שמואל אין שואלין בשלום אשה כלל ואפילו ע"י שליח (ורש"י פירש) ואפי' ע"י בעלה אסור והא דקאמר בפ' השוכר את הפועלים (דף פז א) דע"י בעלה שואלין היינו לשאול לבעלה היאך שלומה וניהוגה כי הא דקאמר התם למה נקוד על אי"ו שבאליו למדה תורה דרך ארץ שישאל אדם באכסניא שלו כמו ששאלו המלאכים לאברהם איו שלום שרה אבל כי הך עובדא דהכא שאמר רב נחמן לרב יהודה שישלח לה דברי שלומים על ידו כי האי גוונא אסור אפי' ע"י בעלה:
Rosh does not cite B, kol b'isha erva, afilu al yidei shliach.

Rashba Brachos 24a says:
חידושי הרשב"א מסכת ברכות דף כד עמוד א
ואסור לשמוע אפי' קול דבורה כדאמרינן בקדושין [ע' א'] לישדר מר שלמא לילתא אמר ליה הכי אמר שמואל קול באשה ערוה, ואלא מיהו נראה דדוקא קול של שאלת שלום או בהשבת שלום כי התם דאיכא קרוב הדעת
To hear a woman's speaking voice is prohibited.  We will see that many say only the singing voice of a woman is prohibited, but Rashba says her speaking vpoice is prohibited, but then limits it to when one is conversing with her about her welfare.  Such a situation yields "kiruv hada'as," a "meeting of the minds."  This is not prohibited because it could lead touwanted behavior; in other words, it is a harchaka based o nthe pasuk in Kedoshim "lo sikrivu l'galos erva."  It is the same idea as yichud, but even without physical contact.

(to be continued...)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kol, Se'ar, Shok B'Isha Erva

Sorry I got sidetracked with the issue of identifying people by their voices, but now we'll being the sugya of  kol b'isha erva - including if hearing the voice or singing voice of a woman is prohibited to hear; if the uncovered hair of a woman is prohibited to view; if the "shok" of a woman is prohibited to view; if the scent of a woman is prohibited to smell, and about inquiring into the well-being of a woman.

There are two sugyos about these issues, I indentify each point ot the Brachos 24a sugya with numbers and the Kiddushin 70a sugya by letters, and will refer to them by those numbers/letters.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף כד עמוד א
1)אמר רבי יצחק: טפח באשה ערוה.
1a) למאי? אילימא לאסתכולי בה - והא אמר רב ששת: למה מנה הכתוב תכשיטין שבחוץ עם תכשיטין שבפנים - לומר לך: כל המסתכל באצבע קטנה של אשה כאילו מסתכל במקום התורף!
2)אלא: באשתו, ולקריאת שמע
3) אמר רב חסדא: שוק באשה ערוה, שנאמר +ישעיהו מ"ז+ גלי שוק עברי נהרות, וכתיב +ישעיהו מ"ז+ תגל ערותך וגם תראה חרפתך.

4) אמר שמואל: קול באשה ערוה, שנאמר +שיר השירים ב'+ כי קולך ערב ומראך נאוה.

5) אמר רב ששת: שער באשה ערוה, שנאמר +שיר השירים ד'+ שערך כעדר העזים.  

-תלמוד בבלי מסכת קידושין דף ע עמוד א
A)בפירוש אמר שמואל: אין משתמשים באשה כלל, בין גדולה בין קטנה. נשדר ליה מר שלמא לילתא, א"ל,
B) הכי אמר שמואל: קול באשה ערוה. אפשר ע"י שליח!
C)א"ל, הכי אמר שמואל אין שואלין בשלום אשה  על ידי בעלה.
D) אמר ליה, הכי אמר שמואל: אין שואלין בשלום אשה כלל.

One comment - what does erva mean?  It can mean, as in Yevamos 2a, the singular form of "arayos" which means one of the women who is closely related to a man that they cannot be married, and their offspring would be a mamzer (see Vayikra 18:6-19).  It can also mean the "place of nakedness," referring to a specific anatomical location of any female.  ibn Ezra (ibid. 6) explains erva as a disgusting place that must be covered.

How do the rishonim learn these two sugyos?

Rif Brachos 15 a does not cite 1-5 at all.  Why not?
חידושי הרשב"א מסכת ברכות דף כד עמוד א
והרב אלפסי ז"ל שלא הזכיר מכל זה כלום כתב הראב"ד ז"ל דאפשר דמשום דאמרינן לעיל עגבות אין בהן משום ערוה סבור הרב ז"ל דכ"ש טפח ושוק ושערה וקול

Rashba explains since an earlier Gemara in Brachos says that one may recite Shma when in physical contact (back-to-back) with his wife, hearing her voice, seeing her hair seeing her shok (to be discussed later) will not preclide him from reciting Shma.  We understand that this sugya in Brachos is not a general prohibition, it is talking about saying shma in the presence of these sights.

רי"ף מסכת קידושין דף ל עמוד ב
ואמר שמואל אין משתמשין באשה בין גדולה בין קטנה ואמר שמואל אין שואלין בשלום אשה כלל ואפילו על ידי שליח:
Cites A and D (which includes C)
These are general laws, not related to Kriyas Shma.

We see, then, that Rif holds the two sugyos are separate.

(to be continued...)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Purim - When Esther went the First Time...

I always wondered about these Pesukim in Megillas Esther:

אסתר פרק ב
יג) וּבָזֶה הַנַּעֲרָה בָּאָה אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר יִנָּתֵן לָהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהּ מִבֵּית הַנָּשִׁים עַד בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ:
    יד) בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה אֶל בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים שֵׁנִי אֶל יַד שַׁעַשְׁגַז סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַפִּילַגְשִׁים לֹא תָבוֹא עוֹד אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי אִם חָפֵץ בָּהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְנִקְרְאָה בְשֵׁם:
    טו) וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר אֶסְתֵּר בַּת אֲבִיחַיִל דֹּד מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר לָקַח לוֹ לְבַת לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא בִקְשָׁה דָּבָר כִּי אִם אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר הֵגַי סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים וַתְּהִי אֶסְתֵּר נֹשֵׂאת חֵן בְּעֵינֵי כָּל רֹאֶיהָ

What was so important about the women being allowed to bring whatever they wanted into Achashveirosh's chambers?  And why did Esther not bring anything?

There is an important machlokes Rishonim if the din of yehareg v'al yaavor applies to abzraihu of the 3 cardinal sins.
המאור הגדול מסכת סנהדרין דף יז עמוד ב
אביי אמר אסתר קרקע עולם היתה רבא אמר הנאת עצמן שאני נקיטין השתא דע"ז וג"ע וש"ד ל"ש בצנעא ול"ש בפרהסיא לא שנא בשעת השמד ול"ש שלא בשעת השמד יהרג ואל יעבור ולא מיבעיא עבירה עצמה אלא אפי' כל מידי דמטי ליה לעובר העבירה הנאה מחמת העבירה בג' עבירות הללו יהרג ואל יעבור כדגרסי' התם בכל מתרפאין חוץ מעצי אשרה וכולה כדאיתא התם והרי רפואה דכי מתרפא מעצי אשרה לאו עובד ע"ז הוא אלא איתהנויי הוא דמתהני מינה ואפ"ה אין מתרפאין ממנה אפי' רפוי נפשות כלומר חולה שיש בו סכנה ואין צ"ל שאין בו סכנה ועוד ההוא שנתן עיניו באשה ...
Rambam argues and we can infer from his language that yehareg v'al yaavor applies to the 3 cardinal sins themselves, but not their abizraihu.
רמב"ם הלכות יסודי התורה פרק ה
הלכה א
כל א בית ישראל מצווין על קדוש השם הגדול הזה שנאמר ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל, ומוזהרין שלא לחללו שנאמר ולא תחללו את שם קדשי, כיצד כשיעמוד עובד כוכבים ויאנוס את ישראל לעבור על אחת מכל מצות האמורות בתורה או יהרגנו יעבור ואל יהרג שנאמר במצות אשר יעשה אותם האדם וחי בהם, וחי בהם ולא שימות בהם, ואם מת ולא עבר הרי זה מתחייב בנפשו.  
    הלכה ב
במה דברים אמורים בשאר מצות חוץ מעבודת כוכבים ב וגלוי עריות ושפיכת דמים, אבל שלש עבירות אלו אם יאמר לו עבור על אחת מהן או תהרג, ג יהרג ואל יעבור, במה דברים אמורים בזמן שהעובד כוכבים מתכוין להנאת עצמו, כגון שאנסו לבנות לו ביתו בשבת או לבשל לו תבשילו, או אנס אשה לבועלה וכיוצא בזה, אבל אם נתכוין להעבירו על המצות בלבד, אם היה בינו לבין עצמו ואין שם עשרה מישראל יעבור ואל יהרג, ואם אנסו להעבירו בעשרה מישראל יהרג ואל יעבור, ואפילו לא נתכוין להעבירו אלא על מצוה משאר מצות בלבד.  
Rambam only mentions the aveiros themselves, not abizraihu.  And later
רמב"ם הלכות יסודי התורה פרק ה
הלכה ו
כענין שאמרו באונסין כך אמרו בחלאים, כיצד מי שחלה ונטה למות ואמרו הרופאים שרפואתו בדבר פלוני מאיסורין שבתורה עושין, ומתרפאין בכל איסורין שבתורה במקום סכנה חוץ מעבודת כוכבים וגילוי עריות ושפיכת דמים שאפילו במקום סכנה אין מתרפאין בהן, ואם עבר ונתרפא עונשין אותו בית דין עונש הראוי לו
So to Rambam, you are only chayav to give your life on the 3 cardinal sins themselves.

And see R' Moshe Feinstein regarding the Baal Hamaor above:
שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק א סימן נו
ולכן צ"ל דלהביא אצלו האשה ערומה שיסתכל בערמומיתה הוא שייך לג"ע, אף שלא יעשה יותר מהסתכלות דהרי כן עושין מגלי עריות להכנת מעשה הזנות שלהם והוא ג"כ מדברים המעמיקים בזמה ואפשר שבאופן כזה שהוא מעשה הכנה משניהם למעשה הזנות אף שהחליטו שלא יעשו מעשה הזנות ממש אלא רק מעשה הכנה דהסתכלות להגדיל תאותם ולא יותר יהיה אף בהסתכלות הלאו דלא תקרבו אף בלא נגיעה כיון שאין לך דבר מביא לידי גילוי ערוה יותר מזה, ויותר מסתבר שעכ"פ בלא נגיעה אינו בלשון לא תקרבו שבקרא, אבל עכ"פ מעשה זמה ודאי הוי שזהו ההכנה שלהם והוי זה מאביזרייהו

I think that the women were allowed to bring something into the room to help them entice Achashveirosh to their charms.  This was not an act of arayos mamash but it is it is maaseh zima.  Still, because Esther was careful to not contaminate herself from Achashverosh, she chose not to bring anything with her, she only brought only what Hagay gave her.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Testimony if You Recognize Someone's Voice, Part 3 (last one for now)

Teshuvos Achronim continued.
Chasam Sofer V:CM2 (the V is a Roman numeral and the CM is not - it's Volume 5: Choshen Mishpat 2)
The Dayan Rav Daniel made a diyuk in Rambam Eidus end of Ch. 9 and and SA CM 35:12 that "a blind person cannot testify even if he recognizes the voice" implies a kosher witness can testify when he recognizes the voice.  But Chasam Sofer goes into the issue further and suggests maybe kol only works with touching the person also, like Yitzchak felt Yaakov and felt hairy Eisav-like arms.  He concludes we would not be motzi mammon based on recognizing a voice.

(2 non-post-related points of interest: the first is he discusses standing in dinei Torah (in the legal sense - you can't sue someone if they have no standing; he mentions "lav baal devarim didi at."  Minor point.

The second is timely - the case was where a person hid witnesses and told them he was going to bring a certain person (let's call him Reuvein) in to admit Reuvein owes this guy money.  Chasam Sofer says even if tevias ayin of kol wirks, in that case it would not work because the witnesses are tainted thiking the voice is Ruvein's.  But maybe the guy brought in someone to imitate Reuvein's voice.  This is timely because of Daniel Kahneman's recent book Thinking, Fast and Slow discusses the effects of priming - putting an idea or awareness of something into a subject's consciousness - even non-maliciously -and the subject's answer can change by putting a certain idea into his head.  (Enjoy that, #JR!)

Mishkenos Yaakov in Kehilas Yaakov (there are teshuvos in the back of it) EH 6.  Discusses using kol in aguna.  Cites Avodas Hagershuni, Shvus Yaakov and Ketzos.  Leans toward saying like Ketzos.  He keeps referring to another Teshuva - not sure if it is from a question that is not printed or is in R' Efrayim Zalman Margolis' teshuva (maybe Beis Efrayim EH 15-19?) about making a machlokes Bavli/Yerushalmi of the status of siman being dioraissa or derabanan.  I lost the thread of his discussion because I don't know what he keeps referring to.  He does say a chiddush that while it sounds like we rely on teviyas ayin in returning an aveida to a tzurva dirabanan, he says it is not because we rely on Tevias Ayin, it is because in that case, the owner had yiush.

Somewhere (can't remember) I was referred to Noda BiYehuda Kama EH 51 but it does not seem to  e about kol.

And I want to end with how I satrted this series - if Eidim were hidden and heard someone admit to a debt, it is considered admitting to his debt, the Ketzos says it is only where the witnesses were able to see the face of the admitting person, and the Nesivos says no, we rely on the witnesses identifying the admitting person by recognizing his voice.

Applications of this issue
This issue comes up several times in the latter half of sefer Breishis:
1) When Racdhel gave the signs to Leah (whatever they were) and Lavan successfully swindled Yaakov into marrying Leah.  Why didn't Yaakov recognize that the voice was not Leah's?
2) Hakol Kol Yaakov - when Yaakov got the brachos from his blind father, who thought it was Eisav.  Why didn't Yitzchak identify Yaakov by voice?
3) It seems one reason why Yosef spoke harshly to his brothers when they came for food was so they would not recognize his voice.  If he would have spoken regularly they could have identified him.

These examples are mentioned at some point by several of the teshuvos mentioned above.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Testimony if you Recognize Someone's Voice, Part 2

What is the status of eidus based on identifying someone by their voice?

If this does work, is that only when the "witness" recognizes the voice?  What if the witness does not recognize the voice, but the voice identifies itself?

Let's look at various teshuvos about this.

Rishon - Ri Migash 149
Identifying from voice works.  The shaila was for mekalel or menadeh, so it seems if you heard someone be mevarech es Hashem you can give a chiyuv misa, provided there was a hasraah.

Interesting Gemara (cited by Ri Migash): Gittin 66a
תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף סו עמוד א
 מתני'. מי שהיה מושלך לבור, ואמר כל השומע את קולו יכתוב גט לאשתו - הרי אלו יכתבו ויתנו.  
  גמ'. וליחוש שמא שד הוא! א"ר יהודה: כשראו לו דמות אדם. אינהו נמי אידמויי אידמו! דחזו ליה בבואה. אינהו נמי אית להו בבואה! דחזו ליה בבואה דבבואה. ודלמא אינהו נמי אית להו! א"ר חנינא, לימדני יונתן בני: בבואה אית להו, בבואה דבבואה לית להו. ודלמא צרה היא! תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: בשעת הסכנה, כותבין ונותנין אע"פ שאין מכירין. 
The Rambam (Geirushin 2:13) does not bring down about בבואה דבבואה; see Kesef Mishna.  (My Rebbi discussed the "sheid" aspect in Hashkafa shiur here.)

Avodas Hagershuni 110
The case was where a person had a brother abroad, but no one knew where.  Someone came claiming to be the brother, and he wanted to inherit their father's estate with his brother.  No one recognized his face, but people did recognize his voice.  Is that enough?  Avodas Hagershuni says recognizing the voice is enough even in dinei mammonos, provided there is no contradictory evidence.  Therefore, in this case, there are eidim who recognize his voice, however, his identity is in doubt because everybody agrees his face does not look like the brother we knew before he went abroad, so he cannot inherit absent better proof that he is who he claims he is.

Applying this to Gittin 66, Kol is a siman.  When there is no other evidence, it works.  When the gemara says "dilma sheid hu," it means how are you so sure it is a person and not a ventriloquist or Frank Caliendo imitating a voice or people trying to play tricks?  בבואה דבבואה tells us there is no evidence contrary - call it reiusa or hakchasha - against this voice.

Shvus Yaakov I:100
The case was to matir an aguna.  During a war or rebellion her husband went missing.  Witnesses came that they heard rebels catch someone and that man was pleading for his life, and from what he was saying they knew he was this woman's husband.  However, they were too far away to visually identify him, and it was very dangerous for them to try to get closer.  Is their testimony of identifying this man by his voice enough to allow this aguna to remarry?

He says we don't have Halachik precedent regarding this.  He cites the Avodas Hagershuni.  He goes through the sugyos relating to it (and says a suma or even a seeing and hearing person is allwed to their wife even on their first night of marriage, based on recognizing their voice) and says we would allow it.  Not for dinei nefashos, but certainly for this case and probably even for dinei mammonos.  However, due to the novelty of the ruling, his heter allowing the wife to remarry would only take effect if two other great poskim agree to his heter.  (This method of using three ballei horaah to be matir an aguna was used widely; even Igros Moshe has cases of it).

Comment: here we see that recognizing a voice does not mean that we know the person and recognize his voice, but even if we don't know the person but from what he says we can identify him - probably in this case, when the man was begging for his life, he probably said he had a wife and kids and probably mentioned their names, so the eidim who heard it were able to put the pieces together.  That's how I understand the teshuva.  This relates to the question I asked at the very beginning.  It is important because Rashi to Gittin 66a says the voice identified itself, his wife's name and his city; the information necessary to write a get.  He doesn't say if you recognize the voice or not; I think he means when you don't recognize the voice.