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Who Misled Rav Chaim Kanievsky?

Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Rav Chaim Kanievsky

Rav Chaim Kanievsky is one of the most respected rabbinic leaders in the Charedi world. He is the son of the Steipler Gaon. And the son in law of Rav Elyashiv. He has written many Seforim on Halacha and Hashkafa. His mind is encyclopedic.  His advice is sought everywhere.

In matters of public policy, I have disagreed with him. I believe that in some issues he is not fully informed before he makes decisions. Although I think he probably believes he is.

But every once in a while something is said (or in this case published in writing) that is so outrageous, that I have to assume it is an outright lie. There is no way that Rav Kanievsky could say this. Not if he knew the actual Metzius (reality) of the situation. I have to assume that anything he said along these lines is either a completely lie, or a gross mischaracterization of what he said, or a complete misunderstanding of the Psak.

Copy of Letter - Photo credit: Kikar Hashabbat

Copy of Letter – Photo credit: Kikar Hashabbat

Rafi’s ‘Life in Israel’ blog features a photocopy of a letter by someone named Aharon Feinhandler who heads an organization called, Vaad L’Tohar Hiskashrus. In it he claims to have received a Halachic ruling from Rav Kanivsky about people who own any device that can access the internet. From Rafi’s blog:

A person cannot be a witness at a wedding or at a divorce, and one who did act as such a witness will invalidate the proceedings, even bdieved (after the fact) . The wedding should be performed again, and the get should be given again. This means that there are thousands of adulterers, eishet ish, mamzerim walking around out there without even knowing it.

Rav Feinhandler, director of the committee for purity in communications and the person quoting Rav Kanievsky, also said that such a person cannot build a mikva (i.e. do the hashaka process of connecting the mikva water pit to the mikva pool), and a woman cannot supervise the immersion in the mikva if she has an iPhone.

And, he adds, in many places, such as in Jerusalem, mikvas are built by, and weddings and divorces or officiated by, the Rabbanut and religious councils, and they don’t ask such questions, so they cannot be relied upon – i.e. their mikvas, weddings and divorces must be assumed to be invalid. (source: Kikar)

So, we have eishet ish, mamzerim, passul mikvaot, boalei nidda and children of unions with nidda.

Rafi is right. If this were to be the case, then in its most serious ramification there would be thousands of invalid Gitin in the world. Which means the children of remarriages would be Mamzerim, and their parents will have unwittingly committed biblical level adultery.

Every single person reading this blog that ever witnessed a Get, know that you have increased Mamzerus in the world.

This Psak would include people like Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, executive vice president of Agudah, Agudah spokeman Rabbi Avi Shafran and most of Agudah’s membership – including (I’m sure) some of their more prominent rabbis.

Half (if not more) of the Charedi Mechanchim I know have smart-phones. It would probably include the entire membership of the RCA.  I could go on, but you get the picture. There is no possible way Rav Kanievsky did this. This Feinhandler fellow is either lying to us, or he lied to Rav Kaneivsky.

Oh… I’m sure he asked him a question along these lines. But, Rav Kanieavsky or anyone of his age and stature wouldn’t know what a smart-phone was if it was staring them in the face. In light of that I strongly suspect that the question went something like this:  Is a person who uses pornographic devices permitted to be a witness on religious documents? Since every single senior rabbinic leader in the world has come out so strongly against using  such a device he probably considers them to be Mumrim L’Hachis – people who purposely violate Halachic directives of the rabbis. Such people are invalid witnesses.

Rav Kanievsky only knows what he has been told and reacted to that. Same as Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner at the Internet Asifa a few years ago. He has been told that there is an alarming number of Frum internet users that have been destroyed. Marriages have broken up. Children have gone OTD unprepared to handle the Apikursus they encounter… all because of this device.

Even those who don’t want to access the porn will eventually see it inadvertently. And the Apikurus is there at the click of the mouse. The slope is very slippery from there.  So that even as they are told that the internet has some positive value, the bad so greatly exceeds the good, such devices should be completely banned from use and anyone using them are to be given the strongest sanctions.

If I knew nothing about the internet and someone came up to me and told me all that, I might feel the same way. Their understanding of the internet is that it a virtual Playboy Magazine only worse. And that those who continue reading Playboy (even if it is only for the articles) knowing full well that the rabbis forbade it are Mumrim L’Hachis and to be treated accordingly.

Of course those of us who do use these devices know how ridiculous that understanding is. Most know how valuable it is…and how indispensable it has become. Eventually it will be more vital to our lives than the telephone. And most Charedim know that too.

One way or another, these Rabbinic leaders have been completely misled. I therefore fully reject this letter as either a complete lie or a Psak based on false information. It is not possible that a rabbinic leader of any stature who actually understands the reality of the situation would have ever said this.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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21 Responses to “Who Misled Rav Chaim Kanievsky?”

  1. of course its a lie, harav kaniefsky is my cousin and i know him very well, he would never talk like that or say such stupid things and doesnt think that having an i-phone is an issue if used correctly, its too long to comment here, but suffice it to say i had a conversation with him about it and he said its fine if you need it for work or other things, so this letter is false!!

  2. Jonathan Weber says:

    Oy V'voy! Total Lunacy! I'm with Harry!

  3. Moishe Pupik says:

    I don't believe you.
    What's his number?

  4. Moishe Pupik has the best answer!!!!

  5. Sounds about right. I've done that a couple of times with Rabbeim, and usually got an answer that was much more level-headed than what was being reported.

  6. Leo Abrami says:

    Having read this page, I feel greatly comforted for whether we follow the Halakhah to the letter or not, we are probably all "mamzerim" according to Rabbi Kanievsky. So don't worry friends, we are all in the same boat – except for this "all-knowing" rabbi who thinks he has the true understanding. No matter what you do, you will probably be wrong anyway. How about just giving expression to your intention in the presence of the divine Sheh'inah and forgetting about R Kanievsky's sophistry?

  7. Moishe Pupik says:

    Rafael Jason Rafi Hecht · OK, funny.

  8. Myriam Obadia says:

    I agree. I'm do not know the rabbi mentioned, but every time I got to ask a question to a Rabbi, I got a thoughtful and levelheaded answer, so I have to conclude that, unless he comes to tell me so in person, I just will ignore the rumor.

  9. Ch Hoffman says:

    insanity is often contagious

  10. cmon people..grow up. you are all wasting time with stupidity..nothing better to do? I understand these comments are upsetting, but are TOTALLY FALS!! .Forgive me for sharing, but I must say, that I feel MUCH pity for anyone who has no belief in a godol like reb Chaim Kaniefsky. I have been through many crisis' in my life and through EXPERIENCES that many could not withstand, I was ONLY able to survive because I believed and listened to GEDOLIM. A godol is not "just" a Ruv..he has deep understanding of people and hashem's ways besides halacha.ALSO, They have very caring hearts , patience and sympathy, and would never put someone in a difficult situation unless they know something we dont. I have many times given in and listened to gedolim's advise , though inside me I disagreed, and later on , I clearly saw that it saved my life and mynperceptions were wrong and blinded.Gedolim like Reb Kaniefsky shlita , and( lehavdil , )Reb Moshe, Rav Pam, Rav Kaminetsky. zatsal …..these were our "eyes".Wake up and smell the coffe kinderlech…

  11. Anonymous says:

    I personally know Rabbi Aaron Shlomo Feinhandler , he is the most genuine Rabbi beyond what we could ever imagine , I happened to listen to a disc that he put out on this exact subject regarding the internet so I have know doubt that these comments were made by Rabbi Kanievsky

    I also had a hard time with this but Rabbi Kanievsky
    often says very strong stuff that Americans for sure have difficulty with .
    So if we want to comply with Rabbi Kanievsky the only solution is to use a filterthat prevents photos that are not znius from your screen .

    Rabbi Fienhandler is the finest person in the whole world .

  12. Shmuel says:

    BH It happened before a lot of times such letters were forged Ect. Rabbi Kanevsky is one of the Gdoley ha dor. Recently when there was a problem and danger from Syria & Israelis were buying gas mask. Rav Kanevsky said: ” masks are for Purim, everything will be good with us…” the rest you know…

  13. Ariela Jayosi says:

    This is nothing that's new. My uncle has been on this crusade for a while now, but I don't think he would've intentionally misled anyone in it. He's a very straight-forward man and even though I'm not at all religious anymore I am very disappointed at your claiming that he pulled one over on Rav Kanievsky. I suggest calling or visiting the Rav Aharon Feinhandler and checking directly with the man before you publish such an outlandish, libelous claim again..

  14. Ariela Jayosi says:

    I'd like to add that it's important why HaRav Feinhandler is on this mission to rid the frum world of internet devices. Believe it or not, it's very little to do with porn, but more to do with his personal experiences in his own immediate family. He (falsely) believes that the reason for his son's divorce was because he connected to the internet and began learning 'worldy' things (ie stuff other than torah/gemara/etc). In fact, his youngest son is now an outspoken advocate for those who choose to leave the world of Beit Israel/Mea Shearim/etc. HaRav Feinhandler is a man with a broken heart because of his gross misunderstanding of technology and misappropriating it with, at least in his son's case, divorce and 'yarida' from the faith.

    However, anyone here or anywhere else who tries to claim that MANY marital problems and psychological sexual problems (which run rampant in such a closed-off world) were not exasperated by what's available on the internet is lying to themselves and others. I have had many married 'frum' (hassidic and hareidi) guys propose sex and/or sexual behavior to me on the internet when I initially started my journey into becoming religious (~10 years ago). I was disgusted, but thankfully found a 'normal' niche of religious people elsewhere. We also know that pedophiles use the internet to look at child porn and other psychologically-disturbed people use it for similar purposes.

    Anyone who wants to claim that the internet can't screw up the life of a person who is not equipped to deal with what they encounter is, as the author and some commenters so inappropriately claim what my great-uncle is, a liar.

    Anyone who thinks that this Rav Kanievsky, who's made outlandish claims and rulings before, couldn't have said this because it's not suitable to their 'frum ears,' is in denial.

    Anyone who writes/makes these claims about the Rav Feinhandler, an extremely religious man (and one I disagree with on most points, btw, incl. obviously his ruling re: the internet), is committing lashon hara.

  15. Yossi-Chani Steele Royde says:

    Even if someone were to view immoral images on his device, it would not forbid him from being a witness. The Shulchan Aruch details who may and who may not be a witness. Someone who does not guard their eyes, is not on the list of those who may not.

  16. Chaim Moore says:

    When I was studying in Israel a psak was publicized that Rav Elyashiv said one could not war crocs on Yom Kippur as they are too comfortable. My Rav heard about this so he went to Rav Elyashiv himself (he did this often) and asked him if its true. Rav Elyashiv said "What are Crocs?" so the Rav showed him one and he said "Is it made of leather? No? So why should it be assur!

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