Bargaining in the Shadow of Unequal Law – Between Get Refusal and Pro-Female Civil Courts

Riddle me this – what’s the difference between this and this?

In both cases, the parties deal with a fixed legal disadvantage, yet one is decried (the get refusal) while the other (the pro-woman property and child custody laws) are lauded.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Open Thread Sunday

What makes a good baalabos?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do Rabbis Belong in the Bedroom?

In light of On the Main Line’s recent review, my answer would usually be an emphatic no. People trained in yeshiva and kollel generally have little to no understanding of male and female sexuality outside of relevant texts which they generally don’t really get. They lack any kind of training or education and obviously lack experience. To them, sex is at most a technical halachic obligation and at worst something disgusting to be tolerated.

This is exemplified in even in the RZ communities in Israel. Kallah classes focus almost exclusively on niddah and relevant prohibitions and only in a minor way on actual sexual contact. All sorts of crazy hanhagot and recommendations are taught as the letter of the law, with the result that the truly observant end up unsatisfied and deeply frustrated.

This is not simply a matter of not having enough fun. Sex is a critical component of physical and emotional intimacy in a marriage. Frustration or non-activity can help drive a marriage off the rails even if it’s not explicitly mentioned in the divorce papers. Even if this doesn’t lead to divorce, the subsequent distancing between the spouses can rub off in the household and radiating onto the children.

If anyone asked me, I would encourage couples to actively search and read up on the literature of mutual attraction and pleasuring in married life. It’s muttar now, enjoy things to the fullest. Get books like “Married Men Sex Life” and learn how to maintain attraction over time.

The problem with making my “no” an unqualified one is the fact that a substantial part of Orthodoxy, perhaps the majority, would not do so. Having been educated to avoid sexual material at all costs and ask a Rabbi on virtually everything. So they won’t do independent research even if it’s suggested.

The book reviewed by S. seems to meet a happy medium. Although I haven’t read it, it sounds like it might provide relief for thousands of couples who are suffering from a suffocating anti-sex culture that makes Puritanism look like Jersey Shore. I hope it is only the beginning, and that more such books are on the way.

Let’s ask the readers:

Should Rabbis and by extension halacha have a role in the bedroom outside of nidda restrictions?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Regarding Jewish Demographics

A note to my Secular, Reform and Conservative Brethren across the sea:

Want to contribute to Jewish continuity? Have more than 1-2 children and raise them Jewish. That is all.

PS That generally involves getting married, which you’re also not doing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You Learn A Lot In Yeshiva – Except How To Be A Man

Recently, my family and I had an interesting discussion with a Shabbat guest. She complained that Orthodox Jewish girls are given extensive amounts of shiurim about family and couples’ life (in her case from age 14 onward). On the other hand, boys are given nothing – no couples’ advice or advice on sex, no discussion on how to raise a family or run a household. It reaches a level that many don’t even know what a “girl” is outside the internet.

Worse still, Jewish boys have no real role models for manhood and fatherhood outside of learning (really, when’s the last time you heard parenting advice based on a gadol?). No encouragement to develop their masculinity – either physically or psychologically and no emphasis on development of personality from a shy boy to an assertive, confident man. No “ideal image” of a baalabos – which is after all the greatest insult one can give in yeshiva. Is it any wonder that all the religious boys on “Srugim” have about half a personality between them?

It is sad but true – “patriarchal” (Modern) Orthodox Judaism has abandoned its sons at the same time it is constantly trying to pry up its daughters.

So I’d like to ask my readers – any suggestions on how to remedy this situation?

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Cri De Couer: The Beginning of the Jewish Manosphere?

I believe that the Jewish world – from the Orthodox to the secular – needs its own manosphere: a virtual community that emphasizes and strengthens Jewish male positive roles, prevents injustices against men by women and ensures better relations between the sexes. A community that would dispense red pill wisdom without the crassness and borderline pornography you see in the pick-up community. The Jewish equivalent of Dalrock, Haley’s Halo and the immortal grerp, if you will.

A recent blog post by a frum baal bayit may well be the start of such an online discussion. Like most starts, it is far from flawless. The essay about men’s problems in O Judaism is rambling and often incoherent. Still, the post does make the following important talking points:

1) The male baal bayit is a second class citizen in O Judaism. They are often considered less than talmidei chachamim. There are role models for talmidei chachamim, women, lay leaders – but none for baalei bayit. He can expect criticism and opprobrium from all corners but very little praise and exhaltation. The life of a baal bayit is often nothing more than lots of hard work and constant demands.

2) Shalom bayit classes often start from the assumption that women are wonderful and the men are layabouts. This is similar to the “man up” lectures in American churches of today.

3) The mass media coverage of sarvanut creates the impression that men are solely responsible for marriage problems and divorces. Yet frivolous divorce by O women is never discussed – even though it may be common (We don’t have any research on the subject to know for sure). And we haven’t even discussed the moral swamp of cuckoldry – regardless of how common it is.

I hope that discussion on these issues permeates the Jewish world. We should not let the desire to improve the woman’s lot in Judaism to result in leaving the men behind.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Not Just an Orthodox Problem: On the “Shidduch Crisis”

You know, we spend so much time worrying about the problems of the “shidduch crisis” in the Orthodox world. Solutions are proposed and people blamed, but I’ve yet to see anyone talk about what’s happening in other parts of the Jewish world. If they did, it’d put our problems in perspective.

According to this link, the Reform marriage rate is 61% and the Conservative rate is 53%. That means that 40% of Reform Jews and almost 50% of Conservative Jews aren’t getting married period, and don’t even talk to me about having children.

What is a “crisis” by us is thus a full-blown catastrophe by them. Even if every single Conservative/Reform Jew would stay within the fold, their numbers would shrink by sheer demographic inertia. I have to wonder whether this is one of those times where interdenominational dialogue is not only permitted but absolutely necessary…

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Licensure of Religious Services in Israel

[For a good description of licensure and its effects, see here. This post will be merely descriptive. In further posts I will discuss how to improve the situation]

This post was originally going to be entitled ‘Rabbinic licensure’. However, after a more thorough study I have decided that this title is inappropriate. This is because the licensure in Israel, when it occurs, occurs at the stage of actually providing services, not the title itself. It potentially affects not only Rabbis, but anyone offering religious services.

What is licensure? Simply put, licensure is a policy in which a government requires an individual to answer to certain terms before they may legally provide a specific good or service. These terms may include a certificate of education from an approved school, the payment of a license fee and any other conditions the state lays down. Sometimes licenses are required for each individual service as we will see below.

Only people possessing licenses may provide the specified services. If a person provides the service without a license, even if they are more than qualified to do so, they are subject to criminal prosecution which can include fines and even jail time. Furthermore, the legal validity of their actions are often not recognized by a court of law after the fact.

Religious Services and Licensure

As far as I know, there is no such thing as “licensure” for the title or job of Rabbi in the state of Israel. Anyone who has the appropriate certificates may call themselves by that title, whether they are Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. The only exception to this is a Rabbi who enters the public service under the Rabbinate. Then their semicha is subject to scrutiny and approval or disapproval (not revocation per se, just deciding whether it’s sufficient to allow one to enter public service as a Rabbi or Dayan).

Where licensure comes in is the provision of specific religious services. In order for these services to be considered legally valid, they need to be approved first by the state, an indirect form of licensure:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Conversion
  • Burial
  • Kashrut

A Rabbi performing any of the above three services without the specific permission and approval of the Chief Rabbinate is performing an act that is legally null and void. As was seen in the case of Rav Druckman, that which can be given can just as easily be taken away; R Sherman’s “revocation” can be seen in secular terms as a revocation of license with all that entails.

Burial is another religious service which requires a license approved by the Ministry of Religious Services. One can register either as a religious burial service or a civilian-secular one. As of this writing, hard-right Hevra Kadishas have an almost complete monopoly on religious burial, one of the reasons for the many conflicts regarding women as well as exorbitant marginal costs.

Kashrut is an interesting case. According to the 1983 law against fraud in Kashrut, only the Rabbinate may declare food or food products to be labeled “kosher”. This is the case even if said food has already been declared kosher by other hashgachot such as the OU. Ostensibly, this is a clear cut case of monopoly.

However, the fact is that there are innumerable private hechsherim run out of the Charedi community that doesn’t answer to the Rabbinate. So how do they avoid getting jailed or fined? Simple. They don’t write “kosher”. They simply say “behashgachat” and the like.

I should point out that there are many services that don’t require a license or specific permission. A mohel can be certified by the Rabbinate and the Ministry of health, but a mohel who merely knows his craft from spending time as an apprentice is legally allowed to operate. The same goes for mashgichim, balaniyot and a number of other services.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Response to Dr. Shai Secunda, Part II: Who Is the ‘God of the Text’?

[Note: This was originally meant to be the third part of the response. However, I decided to bump it up in light of the second quote. Enjoy. AIWAC]

“Rashi? Rashi was an idiot!” – Anonymous*

“Like my Rabbeim, I tremble before Rashi. But I shudder at the thought of those that wish to deconstruct him.” – Rabbi Shaul Gold, Cross Currents

The two quotes presented above represent the two extremes of attitudes towards the study of sacred texts. The first is easily recognizable to modern ears – utter irreverence and even contempt towards anything ancient or ‘primitive’. Even in its more moderate manifestations, the modern attitude initially precludes reverence or even respect for an object of study.

It is true that academic studies today do not contain the kind of dismissive attitudes of, say, the 19th century.** Articles and books show what appears to be proper respect for religion even when they deconstruct and analyze the factual claims that it makes. Ostensibly, academia is more “religion-friendly” nowadays – at least on the surface.

However, this fact does not overcome a much more serious and fundamental problem, one which has potential to undermine any attitude of holiness or transcendence to text. To wit, when a researcher or a critical student approaches a text, he is its God and no other.

Like הקב”ה himself, the researcher judges his personae לשבט ולחסד, decides what text is the more correct and serves as judge, jury and executioner for an entire period and collective work. Even if he decides not to do so, it is his decision to spare the text, so his position of omnipotence and power is in no way diminished.

Of course, it cannot be otherwise. If a researcher or critical student abandons his position as judge, then he betrays his fidelity to the cause. He ceases to be a researcher and becomes something else. Nevertheless, few wield power without becoming drunk with it, and in an age when all heroes – ancient, medieval and modern – are torn down with glee, it is hard to believe that the critical reader will use that power responsibly.

It is this attitude of irreverence and general disdain of sacred Jewish texts and commentators which so shocked Rabbi Shaul Gold. To counter it, he proposes the opposite extreme, one of humility bordering on self-negation. Rabbi Gold would make the text the God and the reader its humble and obedient servant. I assume that for Rabbi Gold, to counter the irreverence of academics and critical thinkers alike, only going to the other extreme will do. Half-measures or balance will not work.

Yet here I must side with Dr. Secunda – such an approach is not only wrong factually, it is counterproductive. Almost none of the great authorities of the Jewish past held to either extreme. Anyone who reads their works will see this and, having been given no real alternative, will likely reject the Rabbi Gold approach for the irreverent one.

Striking a balance between critical faculties and proper respect, reverence and humility towards our forbearers is no doubt a daunting task. But in my opinion, it has the potential to create a much healthier sort of Jew than the fundamentalist yeshivisher or the Orthopractic scholar. It has the potential of creating a world in which we realize that Talmud Torah is a partnership between the ‘God inside and behind the text’ and Man who wishes to uncover His Will with the critical gifts that He gave him.

כן יהי רצון

* This quote is based on hearsay about a conversation from years ago.

** This doesn’t mean that scholars have stopped to view the ancient world through 21st-century glasses. The feminist, racial and class critiques are no less a part of the 19th century project to cut texts down to size, just in a different way.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Devil’s Advocate: Arguments in FAVOUR of Maintaining the Orthodox Marriage Monopoly

Now that we’re approaching Purim, I thought I might pull my own ונהפוך הוא. Rather than explain why eliminating the Orthodox marriage monopoly would be a good thing, even for the Orthodox, I will lay out some arguments in favor of maintaining the monopoly without further comment (keep in mind that these arguments are from an Orthodox POV). After Purim, I will discuss them one by one and see whether they stand up to scrutiny.

Readers are invited to add their own arguments or debate these ones in the comments section.

Argument #1: Most people make use of the Rabbanut through inertia; the number of people actively interested in civil marriage is quite small. Break up the monopoly and the number of people getting a non-Orthodox wedding will skyrocket.

Argument #2: It prevents encroachment of the Conservative and Reform Movements into the country by denying them the ability to perform a critical religious service.

Argument #3: Cancellation of the monopoly will lead to an increase in halachically forbidden marriages among Jews (e.g., Kohen w/grusha, mamzerim)

Argument #4: Cancellation of the marriage monopoly will necessarily break the divorce monopoly and lead to an explosion of halachic mamzerim vadai.

Argument #5: Intermarriage will increase exponentially, either by Israelis bringing non-Jews from abroad or among the non-Jewish Russians

Purim Sameach, AIWAC

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment