web analytics
September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



What Kind of Community Needs to Hear this?

Rabbis have to stop dismissing everything that comes from outside the Beis Medrash.
Rabbi Mendel Epstein

Rabbi Mendel Epstein
Photo Credit: The 5 Towns Jewish Times

An interview with Rabbi Mendel Epstein has gone viral. The protagonist of the article is Rabbi Epstein, a man who has dedicated his life to helping women navigate the rough waters of Jewish divorce. He is a professional to’ein (Jewish for lawyer) and advocates for women. He has a lot of insight. He also carries a bias. We all do. There’s no crime in bias. But it’s important that we know what we are dealing with.

In terms of substance, I agree with a lot of what Rabbi Epstein says. Obviously. Who wouldn’t?

He comes off a bit paternalistic at times. He’s also working in a very male dominated social environment so some of what he says sounds uncomfortable to more modern ears. I think it’s clear that he is talking about a fairly insular Haredi community. Most of the modern orthodox or even centrist yeshiva type people I know are fully aware of these things and don’t need to be informed or even reminded to treat their wives respectfully.

Four items in his “Bill of Rights” for Orthodox Jewish wive are:

(1) A wife must be treated with respect and not be abused. A woman in an abusive relationship has a right to seek a get.

(2) She is entitled to be supported by her husband. Read the kesubah.

(3) A husband is obligated to honor and respect his wife’s parents.

(4) She is entitled to a normal conjugal relationship.

He also cites some very specious anecdotal evidence about divorce and infidelity that sound exaggerated. He basically tries to assert the “it might lead to mixed dancing” argument as fact.

But here is the real problem. What kind of society needs to be told these things? How is this all not patently obvious? What kind of world needs a rabbi to affirm these basic principles?

It’s not as if Rabbi Epstein is saying that there a few people who need to be reminded or scolded about these things. He seems to be saying that this Bill of Rights is necessary for our entire society. This makes me ill.

We tout our communities as safe havens from the dysfunction on the outside. But is it true? Is there dysfunction on the outside? Are we functioning better? These are very difficult claims to answer. Rabbi Epstein seems to be poking a hole in our armor. It seems that in some ways we need to look to the outside as our guide on how to behave. Ask any middle-class, educated, family orientated person about marriage and there is no doubt that they will echo Rabbi Epstein’s supposed bombshell.

But how does this happen? How is it that we are falling behind?

It’s possible that we have demonized the outside so much in our communities and educational systems that we passively reject whatever they espouse. We gloss over חכמה בגויים תאמין. We think that we have the answers and they don’t. Eventually this leads us to a place where we tune out the good ideas and advice from the outside and bad habits and poor social standards become set in our communities.

I don’t doubt that there are many people who need to hear this Bill of Rights. But I also don’t doubt that anyone normal would agree with them. So why does it need to be said? It has to be that we simply ignore these issues. Why are we ignoring them if the rest of modern society is addressing them? There is no satisfactory answer to this question.

One more thing. Rabbi Epstein places too much faith in the Beis Din system. I have never in my entire life heard of someone who had a positive Beis Din experience. It seems extremely unlikely that a woman’s best course of action is to go to a Beis Din that requires both parties to agree to a binding arbitration. The problems with our Beis Din system are well known and it’s a disservice to his audience that Rabbi Esptein recommends entering into this basically corrupt system. See: Restoring Credibility to the Beis Din System.

The article ends with a call for action and ideas for solutions. I think it’s pretty simple. Reinstitute חכמה בגויים תאמין. Start learning from the outside. Read secular books of marriage and intimacy. Pay attention to what psychologist, marriage therapists, and secular experts say. Rabbis have to stop dismissing everything that comes from outside the Beis Medrash. We can learn a lot from experts on these matters, especially intimacy. We have to start respecting people outside our community and not believing as a matter of faith that a yarmulka and a sheitel and a vort and a 500 guest wedding and sheva brachos and shana rishona are going to magically make for great marriages and happy couples.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

7 Responses to “What Kind of Community Needs to Hear this?”

  1. Igor Stavnitser says:

    "But here is the real problem. What kind of society needs to be told these things? How is this all not patently obvious? What kind of world needs a rabbi to affirm these basic principles?"

    What kind of society?
    Society that has heard incredible stories since birth. Stories that make contemporary stories of misogyny sound tame. Yael's sacrifice, Yehuda's treatment of Tamar, etc.. Society where there is no forum for critical discussions of such stories, other than following few standard explanations.

    In any case you don't get a community you want, you get a community you get. So this Rav got the one on his hands that needs to be told that you can't abuse your wife. So… who exactly are you angry at?

  2. why would a person get married and then decide to abuse their wives, or it does happen their husbands? then they are probably getting married for the wrong reasons, and should be told so before they take their vows.

  3. Eliyahu Fink says:

    Why do you think I am angry?

  4. Eliyahu Fink says:

    Why do you think I am angry?

  5. Well, Torah is a tool, not a magic wand (even the latter is a tool, actually… never mind). If you don't use it the proper way, it's gonna do nothing. So, there are religious jews who need to be told those things (another question – they just won't give a damn about anything they're told by anybody other than those who have already taught them exactly what they already believe… never mind, again). And the others – have, for about 100 year, been reading secular books, getting degrees in universities, and, in general, looking at things "outside the community"… I don't quite understand your passion. :)

  6. Igor Stavnitser says:

    Igor Tseitkin Abuse must be quantified somehow to make any conclusions. Each case is uniquely tragic, however, it would be useful to see some numbers to benchmark incidence of abuse vs other groups before making any conclusions. With so many different types of spousal abuse to choose from, there are probably cases within all groups. What are the numbers and sources?

  7. malkae says:

    people who abuse their wives are not ‘regular’ people, they are dysfunctional were not talking about the norm, they have a need to dominate, control, abuse and disrespect in order to feel powerfull and they have no empathy

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Smoke rises near Quneitra Crossing as it seen from the Golan.Heights in the Israeli side on August 27, 2014, The IDF instructed farmers and civilians to stay away from the border with Syria on the Golan Heights.
Shelling on Golan Heights Strikes Close to Israeli News Team
Latest Blogs Stories
rgds

Smear campaigns by people with agendas other than justice do not faze him; He does what is right.

Lebanon's Hezbollah terror organization, now fighting in Syria, says the presence of ISIS makes it "clear"  that it must remain to fight the brutal terrorist group.

Countries like Turkey, Europe and even the US have proven fertile ground for recruiting terrorists

Death to All (Zionist) Juice

How many times have you heard anti-semites spew words like Israel are Nazis, or what you are doing to the Arabs is worse that what the Nazis did to the Jews?!…

hacker

My blog, Israpundit, was hacked, and I had to move to a new domain…

There’s much confusion about the definition of Daas Torah; simply put it means the wisdom of Torah.

We’ll never be able to negotiate a true, lasting peace with the Arabs.Their aim is our destruction.

Now I live in a country where every shop in the food court is kosher! I can have anything I want!

Pashkevil: “Come out today and battle the Zionist Amalek and all the traitors in Nahal Haredi…”

Jordan: Only M.E. country with no historical basis and ruled by occupiers placed by European powers.

Why is an IRA a worthwhile account for retirement? And how can you use it to the best advantage?

Like the fighter pilot’s letter, I wonder if certain units are simply too sensitive to allow certain leftwingers to serve in, and to entrust in their hands the security of our country and our lives.

There is only one thing more tragic than experiencing a terror attack, and that is allowing those who attacked you to do it again!

Smuggling Gazans into Europe is cheaper than fighting with Gaza, and then rebuilding all the destruction.

This week’s parsha offers a new covenant; a covenant that speaks to national life unlike any other

Why did I feel so uncomfortable around people with special needs? It’s not like they’re contagious.

The US government ignores Saudi policies, focusing narrowly on Saudi oil and military cooperation.

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
QuestionsandAnswers-logo

People act not because they think it’s right; they do what they do because it’s what they want to do

Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/what-kind-of-community-needs-to-hear-this/2013/08/28/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: