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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

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Readers Reason…

Dear Rachel,

A while ago you published a letter from a woman who had written about her ordeal with breathing difficulties (Chronicles, 5-17). Though she had originally been diagnosed with chronic pulmonary disease and was told she would need to lug an oxygen tank around for possibly the rest of her life, a second medical opinion eventually freed her of the burdensome contraption altogether; a relatively simple hernia procedure relieved the pressure on her lung that had caused the problem in the first place.

I’d like to share my own recent experience with your readers. When a lingering irritation on my forehead began to worry me, I made an appointment to have it checked out by a prominent dermatologist.

As he probed and prodded the small nodule, this highly recommended physician kept shaking his head and muttering that it didn’t look good and was most likely a malignant growth. To top it off, he made sure to utter the “C” word numerous times.

He took a biopsy and said to check in for the results later in the week. Rachel, those were the longest days of my life; I prayed fervently as I pictured myself dying and leaving all my loved ones behind.

The diagnosis: a benign wart! I had been tormented for absolutely no reason. There was no justification whatsoever for this doctor’s behavior. He’s lost me as a patient for good.

Fright for Naught

Dear Fright,

Our Sages teach that even a cut in one’s little finger is heaven-ordained. More to the point, your fright was not for naught; it was something you were meant to endure — not that this in any way excuses the doctor for his terrible bedside manner. Still, you are fortunate to have gotten off with just a scare and have much to be thankful for.

Dear Rachel,

Your response to “No Regrets” (Chronicles, 6-21) was right on. She was the woman who justified using the Internet on Shabbos to research her symptoms after finding blood in her urine, as she detailed in her previous letter (Chronicles, 4-12).

I was just forwarded a tweet that happens to be remarkably in line with your reply to “No Regrets” (where you simply stated that the Internet cannot be relied upon for a serious medical evaluation). The tweeter had apparently also researched an ailment on the ‘net and tweeted that “Looking up symptoms online is not a good idea. Pretty sure I have scurvy, pneumonia, the bubonic plague, dry skin, leprosy, and death.”

Just thought you’d appreciate

Dear Just,

Sums it up neatly, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing.

Dear Rachel,

My blood is boiling. I refer to the letter by “Desperate” (Chronicles, 7-5) — the woman who has been framed squarely into the agunah picture by her coward husband and his rabbi’s intimidations. She is obviously at a disadvantage because the men in this ugly scenario are exerting the power they can and she doesn’t have. Don’t they always?

Your advice that she should absolutely refuse to sign on the dotted line was correct. She will lose whatever leverage she currently has and will have to bow to further extortion and impossible demands. And it’s obvious that being a “nice guy” doesn’t work with these unscrupulous characters.

I differ, however, with your response, where you suggest an intermediary to speak on her behalf and take the rabbi on “respectfully, of course.” Respectfully? What exactly earns him that respect? He is treating this agunah like dirt. His attitude is arrogant, overbearing, pompous, threatening, menacing and bullying. She is right in stating that he would never speak to a man in that manner. He wouldn’t dare because the man would simply ignore him, walk out or return the favor in kind.

And, NO, she does not have to sit and take the abuse. Fortunately, this is a free country and we have certain laws dealing with bullying and extortion. What she needs is to first and foremost respond in kind. If and when she next speaks to him, she needs to raise her voice, bang her fist on the table and tell him to his face that she will bring charges against him for harassment and intimidation. Immediately thereafter, she should file such a complaint with the police department and the district attorney of her borough.

This type of “rabbi” needs to understand that his methodology of bullying has ended. And I strongly disagree with her assertion that revealing the name of this co-conspirator in her misery is lashon hora. To what end will hiding his name lead? So he can do the same to the next agunah victim?

This injustice perfectly highlights the ongoing problem in our society. The cowards intimidate, threaten and extort, while the victim is perplexed and frightened. This so-called rabbi is typical of the chauvinists who take money from the husbands, support their vicious behavior, and advise them on how to totally destroy their wives. Why do we tolerate them?

Before she becomes a long-term prisoner shackled to her husband, she needs to know that she has the law behind her. Unfortunately, her letter intimates that she is frightened by her husband and his bullying mentor and she wonders whether there is anyone who can at least attempt to help her.

Give me the rabbi’s name and particulars.

Had it up to here!

Dear Had it,

Any decent man or woman with a heart surely cannot help but empathize with this woman’s quandary, inasmuch as the particulars surrounding the case are unknown to us. Kol hakavod for your compassion.

And you are right — she should not have to take the abuse sitting down. Yet you must realize that not everyone is cut out to be confrontational; hence, an intermediary with no emotional investment is best suited to fight the woman’s battle.

Though you seem ready to roll up your sleeves to duke it out, flare-ups (as in angry outbursts) do not generally serve to mollify an already tense situation. On the other hand, conducting dialogue in a composed and self-assured manner stands a far better chance of bringing about a favorable conclusion.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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