Gneivas Daas and “Political Spin”

Geneivas Da’as in Hebrew involves the theft of one’s mind, thoughts, wisdom, or knowledge (Choshen Mishpat, 228: 6). By causing someone to have a mistaken assumption, or impression it includes fooling someone In other words, it is akin to deception, cheating, creating a false impression, and/or acquiring goodwill through false impressions/words and the like. It goes beyond blatant lying; which is a separate sin.

A clever choice of words or actions that cause others to form incorrect conclusions may be considered a violation of this Issur. The Torah does not allow us to reduce the ability of another person, (Jew or Non-Jew), to make a fair and honest evaluation. This crosses business, interpersonal relations, or other areas where one may be deceived.

It is common place in our politically correct world, as well as in competitive environments where people want to minimise damage to reputation to carefully craft statements describing a situation that has occurred. Details and purposeful ambiguity are employed. In particular, when it is known that there has been a wilful use of such “spin” to deflect from what actually transpired, I think that this forms Gneivas Da’as.

The Tosefta in Baba Kama (7:3) considers the worst type of theft is the one that “steals the minds” of people.  The Tosefta, Baba Metzia 3: 15, quoted by the Magen Avraham states that a storekeeper is not permitted to sprinkle their store with wine or oil because they “steals the minds” of people given that it may fool customers into believing that all the wine sold in the store is of the same high quality. This doesn’t involve a financial loss, so financial loss is not a necessary condition.

Of course, there is a situation where one is fooling themselves and actually believes they are correct and don’t intentionally set out to “spin” or deceive. In such a case Chullin 94b we don’t apply Gneivas Da’as.

I have seen some statements of late which in my opinion are simply Gneivas Da’as Kipshuto bordering on blatant lying. As it is Elul, I won’t take the opportunity to use one example and show explicitly how false and misleading it is to the extent that it steals the minds of those who are not in the know.

Many frum organisations now have public affairs employees, and some of their staff are adept at producing spin. The purpose of this post is to alert people that they should actually ask a Rav whether they may be transgressing Gneivas Da’as. It is not always the case that the sole expert in a matter is the professional wordsmith.

It’s raining women

No. they can’t tell you about mundane issues like “chicken” and Kashrus and Issurei D’Orayso.

Here is the new breed [Hat tip NB]

To me, these are the new “Chiropractors of Medicine”. They call themselves Dr as well and they are as well qualified but not as well paid as unskilled labourers in Melbourne.

What is it with titles, self-esteem, and the feeling that anything whatsoever will change that is outside millennium old Mesora.

Nothing will change. Like Reform and Conservative, either Geulah will be upon us, or they will be relegated to the politically charged Women of the Wall and the Bernie Sanders New Israel Fund types.

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they paskin on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halkha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskining on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else

The USA and Israel. Full of it

I noticed this article by David Horowitz in the Times. I don’t understand why people don’t call a spade a spade. America likes to antagonise Israel’s “right” (sic) as anti peace. It’s the same in Melbourne with the left wing of the New (sic) Israel Fund, “Ameinu”, Habonim or Hashomer HaTzair.

Israel’s right isn’t anti peace. Who doesn’t want peace? It will not, however, kowtow to one approach, Obama politics.

Iran? Of course there is nothing to talk about. Fact: they are anti-Semitic. Fact: they deny Israel’s right to exist. Fact: they don’t give a damn about “Palestinians”. Fact: they emblazoned “destruction of Israel” on their missiles. We are in fact the Indigenous people of Israel.

Barack Hussein Obama knows he can’t do anything to Iran unless they step over an “imaginary line”. If that line is crossed, and it may be crossed, then Hilary will adopt Kissinger-like zero-result diplomacy, Trump may well make decisions that cause Americans on the ground to die (as opposed to Obama’s Pareve drone attacks which do nothing except knock off a head which grows again on another body) and Bernie Sanders will always be the darling Jewish talking head of the darlings.

It never ceases to amaze me that the left-wing (who THINK they are the owners of any and all peace proposals) condemn the democratic process. Are they denying Netanyahu and Lieberman to join? This is the Israeli democratic system.

The left wing is full of it. They always have been. Look at Russia and our countryman who invented their “philosophy” of life. If the world was serious, and the world is not serious, then it would allow equal time for prayer according to their sacred democracy and equal rights on the temple mount. I won’t go there for Halachic reasons, but the secular Israeli parliament has legislated that Jews must stay mute. sacré bleu!

Avigdor Liberman and Naftoli Bennet call their spades. People seem to not like spades.

Maybe they prefer the editor of Melbourne’s Australian Jewish News who disgracefully allowed a big feature of an INTER-marriage (read non Jewish marriage) also performed by a נכרי  “celebrant” and chose not to publish letters decrying this תואבה. Don’t get me wrong. People have free choice. They can do as they like. Why doesn’t the aJn tell us what Jewish means in the J  “celebrating” an marriage of assimilation ר’ל . What a disgraceful piece of Jewish journalism. I may as well read the Age.

By the way, Communist/Socialist Lee Brown (Rhiannon) of the Greens (and God help any sane person who votes for that party) is actually halachically Jewish.

[As an aside: I admit to recently finding out that my father’s cousin ע׳ה, with whom he played in the streets of Rawa Mazowiecka before the war decided that the answer to Jewish Persecution was to become a Communist. He became a high-ranking officer and always was surrounded by body guards. His father and brothers were frum, but he “knew” the answer. After the war, he still tried to bribe my father ע’ה to stay in Poland and become a communist as that was the future! Why go to Australia he said. He gave my father an expensive gold coin which my father promptly returned to him. My father ע׳ה didn’t fall for Hitler. He wasn’t going to fall for gold. I never knew of him (except for a reference once my father made in passing) and my father ע’ה didn’t know what happened to him. As השגחה פרטית would have it, his granddaughter was courting an Australian Jew she met in the USA, and she came to a wedding of a friend in Australia. To cut a long story short, I invited her to our house so she could meet her Jewish family. I showed her pictures of her lineage. I told her she was my cousin etc. Her mother advised me via email (they left Poland) that her father (my father’s cousin) regretted his courtship with the left. After the war, teaching himself, he was admitted to a Bachelor of Economics. He finished that and completed a Masters of Economics. He then did a PhD in Economics. Then he discovered what it means to be a Jew, even if you tried to hide it. He was not permitted to submit his thesis for some five years because he was Jewish by none other than his Socialist friends. Yes, after the war. Finally his thesis was defended and he became Dr Balbin. All this time, I thought I was the “first” Dr Balbin (big deal). I was wrong. He then went on and did something beyond a doctorate. I don’t know the details of the Polish University system. Whatever it was, he achieved it. After that, he was ignored.

Disillusioned, he travelled to Vietnam during that war, and helped out on a humanitarian mission, literally giving away the clothes he had, to those who didn’t. He returned with no suitcase. I was told by his daughter, that he knew of his relatives in Melbourne, and he tried to ring them from Vietnam. Unfortunately, that didn’t succeed in those days. He returned to Poland a broken and disillusioned man, but one who now understood the farce of contemporary  Communism and Socialism. He passed away. His wife outlived him, and when she was on her death-bed with cancer, her treating doctor, a famous professor, made an anti-semitic remark. She had no strength, but suddenly found it. Yelling loudly she screamed that “this doctor will never ever go near me again. He is an anti-Semite. I would rather die today than be treated by that toad”.

A few days later she was dead.

Some of my family were “annoyed” I had rediscovered this small branch. I stay in touch. Here is a picture. My father ע’ה is pictured on the bottom left, and the Polish, now American, granddaughter is on the top right. My Aunt and Uncle are also pictured.


Open your eyes people. The USA Government has a love/hate relationship with us. It does not have true love. It’s what’s known in הלכה as אהבה שתלויה בדבר …. In this case, the דבר, is the דבר אחר.

Most American Jews are so assimilated they don’t know their Krutzmich (scratch me) from the light of a Menorah. I don’t hold out that they will give a Patch (pronounced putch in Yiddish) to the Democrats, but they damn well should. The only reason Israel doesn’t go to the Jewish (on both sides, yes really) Vladimir Putin, is because he hasn’t got the money to give them billions in military aid and Berel Lazar isn’t that important to him. Remember, though, Russia were the first to recognise the State of Israel: there is Jewish blood running thick in the veins of Russia.

The only reason the USA supports us is because of the messianic lobby and real politick and the so-called disappearing Jewish “lobby”.

Do you delude yourself like Horowitz that anyone really cares? They don’t. The slither, ממש, that is ארץ אבותינו doesn’t mean anything to them in real terms.

אבינו מלכינו אין לנו מלך אלא אתה

David’s article follows. Why does he bother?

According to unnamed senior politicians referenced by Israel’s Channel 10 news on Friday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to stabilize his coalition by bringing in Yisrael Beytenu, with Avigdor Liberman taking over the Defense Ministry, is likely to have the opposite effect. The government may well collapse, and we could be heading to “new elections in the next six months,” these anonymous top polls predicted.

This is Israeli politics, where every new hour can make a mockery of what you thought you knew the hour before, so it would be wise not to get carried away by such anonymous predictions. But, it’s easy to understand the assessment. The brutal ousting of capable, temperate and loyal Moshe Ya’alon, in favor of the inexpert, intemperate and disloyal Liberman, has caused dismay across the spectrum, and not only in opposition circles.

The Jewish Home coalition party has manufactured a crisis over it, demanding an overhaul of the process by which the key security cabinet is provided with information in times of war and conflict, vowing otherwise to block Liberman’s appointment.

Kulanu’s Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay has followed Ya’alon’s lead in resigning from government in protest at one cynical political maneuver too many; like Ya’alon a week before, Gabbay on Friday slammed the door on his way out with a warning that, under this increasingly extremist coalition, Israel is heading down the path to destruction.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announce their coalition agreement, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman announce their coalition agreement, May 25, 2016 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Kulanu, a party crucial to Netanyahu’s Knesset majority, is plainly discomfited by the unfolding events, and is trying to persuade Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog to enter the government — ludicrously, since Herzog was so badly burned by his last effort to negotiate terms for a unity deal with Netanyahu that his party leadership is under unprecedented threat.

In Netanyahu’s own Likud ranks, the wave of criticism rolls on. MK Benny Begin immediately pronounced himself horrified by the Ya’alon-for-Liberman trade. On Saturday, deputy minister Ayoub Kara declared that ex-corporal Liberman, who never served in an IDF combat role, is simply not fit to succeed ex-chief of staff Ya’alon.

Herzog has claimed that he held talks with Netanyahu, at great risk to his own political career, because Israel currently has a rare opportunity to make headway toward regional peace, but that the prime minister, in jilting him for blunt, bleak, settler Liberman, “ran away” from the compromises and domestic political battles seizing such an opportunity would have entailed.

And even the United States has weighed in, with the State Department articulating concerns over Israel’s direction. Asked about incoming defense minister Liberman hours after the new coalition deal was signed on Wednesday, spokesman Mark Toner stressed that the administration would, of course, “work with this government as we have with every Israeli government that preceded it, with the goal of strengthening our cooperation.”

But he allowed himself a little foray into what might be considered internal Israeli politics. Said Toner: “We’ve also seen reports from Israel describing it as the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. And we also know that many of its ministers have said they opposed a two-state solution. This raises legitimate questions about the direction it may be headed in, and what kind of policies it may adopt, but ultimately we’re going to judge this government based on its actions.”

I have written two columns in recent days criticizing the ouster of Ya’alon and his imminent replacement by Liberman, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Netanyahu gambit does come to be regarded as a turning point when it comes to the electorate’s opinion of the prime minister.

But I’m struck, nonetheless, by the criticism from Washington — issued even though Liberman pledged at the coalition signing ceremony that he was “committed to a balanced policy that will bring stability to the region and to our country”; he even switched to English to pledge his commitment to “peace and to a final status agreement, and to understanding between us and our neighbors.”

What’s perhaps most telling about the response from Washington is that it was so very different to the administration’s response, one day earlier, to dramatic political developments in Iran — where, coincidentally, a hard-liner was being elevated in somewhat different circumstances to a yet more powerful position.

On Tuesday, a day before Netanyahu and Liberman signed their deal, Iran’s Assembly of Experts chose Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as its new chairman. The Assembly oversees the actions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and come the day, will select Khamenei’s successor. That makes Jannati one of the most powerful figures in Iran, arguably the most powerful.

Ahmad Jannati, widely described as the most radical of Iran’s senior clerics, is not a nice man. He opposes any notion of Iranian political reform. He backs the execution of political dissidents. He insists that Iran’s women cover up beneath the hijab. Needless to say, he loathes Israel. And he loathes the United States.

Here’s Jannati in 2007: “At the end of the day, we are an anti-American regime. America is our enemy, and we are the enemies of America. The hostility between us is not a personal matter. It is a matter of principle.”

In 2008: “You cried: ‘Death to the Shah,’ and indeed, he died. You cried: ‘Death to Israel,’ and it is now on its deathbed. You cry: ‘Death to America,’ and before long, Allah [he’s not my God] willing, the prayer for the dead will be recited over it.”

And in 2014: “‘Death to America’ [is] the first option on our table… This is the slogan of our entire people without exception. This is our number one slogan.”

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, hard-line Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati speaks during an inaugural meeting of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran, May 24, 2016. Jannati was chosen on Tuesday as speaker of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that is mainly tasked with selecting the country’s supreme leader. The official IRNA news agency said 89-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati won 51 votes in the 88-seat Assembly and would serve as speaker for the next two years. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, hard-line Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati speaks during an inaugural meeting of the Assembly of Experts in Tehran, May 24, 2016. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Given that the United States last year led the diplomatic process that culminated in an agreement to rein in (but not dismantle) Iran’s rogue nuclear program; given that President Barack Obama has been urging Iran to “move toward a more constructive relationship with the world community”; given that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and a regional troublemaker; given that Iran continues to develop its ballistic missile program… you might be forgiven for thinking that the selection of the radically hostile Jannati would raise “legitimate questions about the direction” in which Iran may be headed, “and what kind of policies it may adopt.”

And indeed, a day before he was asked about Liberman, the State Department’s Mark Toner was questioned at his daily press briefing about Jannati. Did he express his dismay at the selection of an official viciously hostile to the US and Israel to so prestigious a role? Did he communicate America’s concern about the grim message that the choice of Jannati represented? He did not.

Here’s the full exchange:

Question: “You’ll have seen, I’m sure, the reports that Ahmad Jannati, a 90-year-old anti-Western cleric, has been chosen as the head of Iran’s new Assembly of Experts, which is in charge of selecting the new or whomever will be the next supreme leader. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? And does this suggest that Iran may be moving toward a more pro-Western, more open-toward-the-West stance?”

Question: “Or do you have faith in Iran’s internal democratic procedures?” (Laughter.)

Mark Toner: “Let me see if I have anything pithy to say about that.”

Question: “And do you regard Iran as an ally in the fight against terrorism?” (Laughter.)

Toner: “You’re talking about – yeah, no. Have at it, guys. (Laughter.) We follow domestic events in Iran closely, as you know, but we don’t have any comment at this point on the outcome of the leadership elections of the Assembly of Experts.”

Raising questions about Israel’s direction, after Liberman, promising a commitment to peacemaking, joins the coalition. But staying silent about Iran’s direction, after Jannati, a man who declaredly seeks the destruction of the United States, is elected to head the Assembly of Experts.

Have at it, guys.


Aspects of the Badatz Hechsher

Don’t water down your milk and juices and other important ingredients just to make a buck

On Israel TV, investigative reporters clearly revealed yesterday that levels of ingredients were reduced (not abolished) when they were produced for Badatz and other “Heymishe Hashgachos”. The nutritional value, especially for children was compromised. It is of absolutely no business for a Kashrus agency (in this case also Belz) to dictate changes in amounts of ingredients unless it is a matter of bitul, which can’t be done by Jews anyway.

The producer creates a product. It is either Kosher according to the published standards or it is not. I am aware for a several years of this practice occurring and it is nothing short of a Chillul Hashem, which has zero to do with Kashrus.

I trust the OU over them any day.


It looks as though RMG Rabi’s “Kosher” Business may be Kaput

A reader passed on the following information:

Finally all the images on the It’s Kosher Facebook page are frozen

Among some of the more allegedly dishonest messages were:

  1. A series of logos some belonging to the American Conservative Movement, some just a Kosher symbol belonging to nobody in particular and even a logo from Masterchef including, “these are all Jewish, these are all Kosher.”
  2. Another image had marketing for Limors Restaurant on Kooyong Road with a large photo of the establishment and even a menu! The story about Limors is this non Kosher restaurant that was allegedly serving pure treyf 7 days a week was advertising at one stage (about 2 years ago) that 6 days a week their breakfast was “Kosher under the supervision of Meir Gershon Rabi”. RMG Rabi hosted a sheva brochos for his own daughter, catered by Limors.
  3. We are aware of many people who were allegedly confused and ate in this restaurant, meals that were cooked with 100% non Kosher meat believing that this restaurant was fully under RMG Rabi.
  4. As most of the religious public do not accept RMG Rabi and do not eat a milchig “kosher” breakfast in a non Kosher restaurant serving 7 days a week, the arrangement between Rabi and the owner from Limors was allegedly suspended and according to Limor there was allegedly no Kosher food available for well over 12 months.
  5. In typical style “it’s Kosher”, in the marketing on its Facebook page, Limors was still there until 5 days ago! This is even though it was bought to RMG Rabi’s attention.
  6. Other images were RMG Rabi’s selfies of himself with staff of establishments he went to visit, and were removed. Some have complained that images were not even in accordance with Tzniyus standards.
  7. On the webpage of Kosher Veyosher/Its Kosher there are a number of pages of self promotion of RMG Rabi. These have now been passworded and are no longer accessible to the public.
  8. A reason that RMG Rabi’s promotions  have suddenly been passworded as well as all images on his Facebook page, is likely due to a legal letter received by RMG Rabi warning him to immediately remove all pictures, comments, logos and names of their organisation and Rabbi as they are falsely being used by RMG Rabi to promote his business with Kalman Gradman.
  9. Dayan Abraham from the London Beth Din and many others face the same dilemma

And now RMG Rabi extends his services to conversion

I received this by email, however, I have known about it for some time, having heard it from Dayonim in Melbourne and Sydney. In fact, the story gets worse than what is related here. I will leave it to other investigative types to find out what happened after this episode. Again, it confirms my (non Rabbinic) view that absolutely nobody should rely on RMG Rabi’s pseudo-halachic determinations and cosmic inventions. I’ve edited the quote below lightly and added a source.

[Hat tip BA]

Some years ago a young non-Jewish girl by the name of ### approached
the Melbourne Beth Din to convert to Judaism. She was told the standard procedure
and was given a list of teachers who were approved by the Melbourne Beth Din.
Shortly quite a number of concerns starting coming to the attention of the Beth Din.

These issues we are aware of, have had them confirmed, but do not feel we should make
them public. Five prominent senior Rabbanim from the Melbourne Rabbinate were
consulted and the unanimous decision was not to go ahead with her Geirus.
Numerous Rabbonim were allegedly hassled and pestered over a lengthy period, but the
Rabbonim would not budge and would not convert her as per Halachic advice from overseas experts.

Ms ### then moved to Sydney where she applied to the Sydney Beth Din to convert
to Judaism. After more than a year of her arguing, pressuring, threatening the Sydney
Beth Din and other prominent Rabbonim, she was told that she would not be converted
by the Sydney Beth Din either.

Ms ### was engaged to an American Israeli named ###. This ### was told in
Israel by a “do gooder” that the only person who could help to convert ### is a Rabbi called Meir Rabi.
### was told that Rabi has a history of allegedly antagonising the local Rabbonim and is described as a
rebel who will probably help especially if the other Rabbis say not to. ### also threatened
many Sydney Rabbonim.

Within a couple of weeks of Meir Rabi meeting ### the conversion was, predictably, carried out.
Meir Rabi manufactured a letterhead printed pretending to be an official beth din, calling himself
Harav HaGaon Meir Rabi, Rosh Beth Din.  The other two “Dayonim” of the Beth Din
were his business partner Kalman Gradman (who was bestowed the title Rabbi), and a third
gentleman by the name of Yitzchak Micha’el. Both of these gentlemen, Gradman and
Micha’el, may not halachically be part of a Beth Din for conversion. Kalman Gradman
whose past conviction arguably disqualifies him from being part of a conversion Beis Din. Yitzchak
Micha’el is himself a convert which disqualifies him from converting others (see Bet Din Shel Yerushalayim (in Dinei Mamonot Ubirurei Yuchsin 7:416) where it is invalid even B’Dieved, after the fact).

Meir Rabi knew that no Mikveh would allow him to come with his two business associates to convert
the woman, so the 3 of them took ### to the Brighton City Baths to use as a mikvah,
where she performed a dunking and they “baptised” her.

48 hours later in a hush-hush ceremony the couple were married.

Suffice it to say, no Rabbinic authorities accept Rabi’s conversion.

Are מומר לתיאבון types (hungry people) going to hang their coats on his hook and trust? Surely by now your eyes are wide open. Isn’t it time that the established and accepted and respected Kashrut authority in Melbourne was respected?

PS. I note that a famous Arab West Bank Techina factory had its kashrus certification revoked by the Israeli Rabbanut, because of the dangers of Mashgichim coming unannounced to check on operations, and the Arab owner’s argument that they had comprehensive video cameras installed within the factory was rejected! 

I prefer truth

I saw this on the internet:

When The Children Open Their Hearts
The Connecting Link… / Meirav Maggeni,
Author of Content and Stories in Chemed, the Religious School System
For the last few days, the first thing I did when I got home from school was to open my email, but I have been disappointed every time. I don’t understand why Rabbi Chaim, the school rabbi, didn’t send me a reply, like he promised to do.

A week ago, I went to Rabbi Chaim and asked him a question about something that really bothers me. “How can it be that the great and mighty Holy One, Blessed be He, who created heaven and earth and is all-powerful, cares about what I do (small and puny that I am) when I wake up in the morning? What difference does it make to Him whether I wash my hands and which shoe I put on first, the left one or the rig ht one? What is the point of all of these nitty-gritty details in our lives? Does the Master of the Universe really care how I make a glass of tea on Shabbat? I really don’t understand why all of these tiny points are so important. The main goal is that we should be good to each other, help our friends, pray, and study Torah. Why do we need all of this detail??”

Rabbi Chaim listened carefully to my questions and wrote down my email address, and he promised to send me an answer soon. But a whole week has already gone by, and I am disappointed to say that no answer came. So I decided to go to his house, pound on the table, and demand an answer.

Rabbi Chaim greeted me warmly, and he showed me respect as an important guest. He told me to sit in the living room, and hinted to his wife Batsheva that he wanted her to bring us some refreshments. He sat down next to me and waited for me to speak as if he had all the time in the world to meet me. To tell the truth, the way he greeted me so warmly confused me a bit. If he has so much free time, why didn’t the rabbi send me an email, I thought to myself.

However, Rabbi Chaim didn’t leave much time for thinking, and he turned to me and asked, “Why have I been privileged to have you visit me today?” I was very surprised. I said, “Don’t you remember that I asked you a question?” And he replied, “Of course I remember. The very same day I wrote you a detailed and reasonable reply. Are you sure that you didn’t get my letter?”

I shook my head, and told him that I had not received any letter. Rabbi Chaim took a piece of paper out of his pocket, where he had written down my email address: “yoav@gmail com” – and he showed it to me. And I said, “Now I understand why your mail didn’t get to me. There is a period missing. Here is how you have to write the address: yoa – then I will get your email.”

But Rabbi Chaim looked surprised. “Oh, come on,” he said to me. “What does it matter if there is a period in the middle of the address or not? Don’t try to tell me that such small details are important! Doesn’t it seem funny to think that because of a missing period we can’t send mail back and forth between us?” Rabbi Chaim said this with a big smile, to show me that he didn’t really believe what he was saying. Rather, he wanted to teach me something about the significance of small details.

“Do you see it now?” He went on. “The purpose of the mitzvot is to help us form a link to the Holy One, Blessed be He. In order for the link to form properly, it is important to ‘key in’ the exact address, without missing even one single ‘period.'”

I thanked Rabbi Chaim for the special way he answered my question. He smiled and said, “It was not my ide a. This is a well-known story that a friend of mine sent me. I am lucky that he didn’t forget to put the ‘period’ in my address, otherwise it would not have gotten to me.”

On the way home I thought about what the rabbi taught me. Now I understand that the mitzvot make a connection between us and G-d. The only way to form the link is to observe all the precise details of the mitzva. I realized that I still have a lot to learn about the mitzvot and about how to observe them in a precise way. I therefore took it upon myself to study halacha very seriously, and I decided that if I had any questions I would turn once again to Rabbi Chaim. And please pray for me to be successful in forming my link to G-d…

What do you think, my readers? I am sure that you want to be form a link with the Creator of the World. So from now on, always make sure to remember the ‘tiny period’ and where it must go.

I have just a “teeny” problem with this story, viz, the truth. if you have an email address then according to gmail this is the same as (also is the same etc)

This isn’t known, but try it. As such, I look at the above story, and unless I have misread, it’s Gneivas Daas and untrue. It does us no good.


The time has come: I do not recommend anyone rely on R’ Gershon Meir Rabi for kashrus

Ben Pekuah is now done and dusted. RMG Rabi, has once more shown his עקשנות but more to the point, his lack of consideration for the advice given by the גדולי הוראה in the world. It’s just a shame that the dismemberment of RMG Rabi’s business has to come from outsiders. In this case, it is Rabbi Yair Hoffman of the five towns. I will reproduce yet another interchange between RMG Rabi and Rabbi Yair. It concludes with a video (we have to resort to videos so that words aren’t twisted and tortuously reinterpreted where R’ Chaim Kanievsky, who whilst not my Posek, is from the Gedolay Horoah, say the words בהחלט … absolutely (not) … in his assessment of RMG Rabi’s investment project and supervision venture with Stephen Bloch and others (who I thought should have realised that they were not backing a winner). The money invested would better have been spent on Charity.

The following video of Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter (who does not support RMG Rabi and directly interchanged with him on a person to person basis). It is important to internalise what Rav Schachter says. It makes it very clear about the types of Musmachim and Gedolay Horoah one should seek on grave questions. Listen very carefully.

The latest interchange from five towns follows. I would urge those with true יראת שמים to distance themselves from each and every one of RMG Rabi’s business forays into Kashrus. There is nothing altruistic in what I interpret. It is opportunism of an unacceptable variety, ועתיד ליתן דין וחשבון, on his activities which hurt the community and those struggling to keep Kosher Businesses acceptable to all, בלי פקפוק from keeping their noses above water.

I’d suggest that RMG Rabi perhaps take a degree in the Law. He will likely meet realities despite his tortured logic that rejects his arguments and dismisses them summarily.

Ben P’Kuah – The Battle Rages On
By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
The following represents a letter that the consulting Rabbi of the Ben Pekuah Meat concern in Australia, Rabbi Meir Rabi, wrote in response to the Five Towns Jewish Times article last week on the topic of Ben Pekuah. Rabbi Yair Hoffman has written a point by point response. In addition, a letter was written by Rav Hershel Schachter Shlita, agreeing with Rabbi Hoffman’s point. Below is Rabbi Rabi’s letter.

Dear Sirs,
We appreciate the opportunity to add some information to clarify last week’s article about BP.
A] Our primary objective is to welcome those who are sympathetic but not currently committed to eating kosher meat, either because of its cost, or because the choicer cuts aren’t available.

RYH Response: While that may be what you say, the fact that the promotional material includes letters and photos with Chareidi Rabbis, many of which were done without their permission, is indicative of a campaign to also get the Chareidi target market.

B] All our BP are derived from those that originated as non-fully-gestated babies.

RYH Response: The distinction between fully gestated and the 8 month calf which forms the underpinnings of this entire venture is a debate in the Poskim, with many Poskim holding it is prohibited. The Rambam holds that there is no such distinction and so do the Baalei HaTosfos in tractate Shabbos 135a (“Ben”). The uestion is whether it is fair to market such a product even to Jews who are less observant. Furthermore, the Ramah writes elsewhere that we do not distinguish between ben ches and ben tes anymore.
I believe that you making a halachic error in thinking that the offspring of a ben ches BP is treated like a BP ben ches and not a ben tes once it has walked on the ground. This, it seems, is what you are basing your entire edifice upon.
Lastly, the very thought of specifically harvesting a fetus prematurely in order to raise and breed its offspring is halachically untenable as well as perhaps morally questionable..

C] BP is markedly less expensive than and superior to ordinary kosher because
• every ounce of meat of every animal that is Shechted is Glatt Kosher LeMehadrin

RYH Response: The term Glatt when used colloquially means a higher quality of kashrus and does not exclusively refer to the smoothness of lungs anymore. The fact that this meat is only kosher according to a combination of a minority opinion combined with two obscure readings of texts makes this statement somewhat misleading.
In addition, as mentioned in our first article, the London Beis Din has requested that Rabbi Rabi take down the letter from the London Beis Din on his website that gives the impression of support. They claim that the letter was only meant to help you get a job in hashgacha and you had used this letter to support his own hechsher and to have it reflect on Ben Pekuah. They have said its use is dishonest.
When I brought up the issue in conversation with Mr. Bloch he said that this has nothing to do with the company as they are not displaying the London Beis Din letter of approbation. In fact, the company brochure, which the 5TJT has now gotten hold of displays the London Beis Din letter prominently. This is a questionable practice.

• checking the lungs for ritual blemishes is not required – a great time, money and personnel saving

RYH Response: Most smaller shechitas have only one processing line with one experienced bodek. This is probably the case in the abattoirs used in your area as well. Thus, the line would not be slowed at all and the personnel savings would be of one employee.

• in ordinary Kosher such blemishes regularly disqualify up to 66%

RYH Response: Actually, my research is that it is more like 25 to 35 percent. This is especially true in Australia where the cows are much healthier than elsewhere.

• no need to remove Cheilev and Gid [the forbidden fats and sciatic nerve] – a tremendous saving

RYH Response: The issue of Chailev is also not so clear cut. All seem to hold that the chailev must be removed, rather there is a debate as to whether this obligation is biblical or on account of maris ayin.
The reason why you may have thought that there is no need to remove the chailev is that in SA 64:2 it appears to only mention hifris al gabei karka, walking on ground, in relation to Ben tes. You assume that it doesn’t apply to children of a Ben ches or your Ben ches that gets saved. But perhaps the real reason that it only mentions it in relation to Ben tes is because that is the only one that survives.
A Ben ches that is removed and survives can very well be considered a Ben tes! Furthermore, once a cow is walking around, whycan;t we assume the maris ayin would be there regardless of the origin of the cow. And how can you categorically state that the opinion that holds Ben tes Chailev is Doriso will not hold the same for progeny of a Ben ches or the Ben ches itself that somehow was saved and grew to birth age? The issue is about possibly feeding chailev to others.

• there is no risk these painstaking tasks are performed hurriedly and incompletely

RYH Response: According to the simple readings it would be uite risky.

• BP animals are processed as efficiently as non-Kosher animals
• BP requires far fewer Kosher staff
• ordinary Kosher production runs slower, is less efficient, and requires more staff
• tereifos from ordinary Kosher sold to the non-Kosher market only fetch non-Kosher prices. Their extra production costs cannot be recovered.

RYH Response: In this list you list 9 reasons why your meat is substantially cheaper than the standard kosher meat. But most Kosher shechita is done at the gentile slaughter facility and a kosher production team is brought in. The team will number between 3 and 5 people. The cost per day of this team is about $2200 per day. But if this number is spread out over the total edible poundage of the slaughter that day (say the product of 100 cows at 850 pounds divided by 2 for bone and fat loss and halved again), the additional cost is less than ten cents more– yes, less than 10 cents more on the wholesale level. So what then is the extra cost in kosher production? It is the distribution system, the markups of all the middle people and the standard aspects of economics that would apply to all businesses. The nine points that are made here are a drop in the bucket and perhaps are not the real reason that kosher meat is higher.

D] In previous generations kashering and removing prohibited cheilev fats and gid was performed at home so BP offered no real benefit whereas modern meat processing presents tremendous challenges and costs to Kosher. Today BP offers tremendous benefits.

RYH Response: An honest system of reliably tracking and reliably keeping tabs on BP herds would also involve expenses. Outsourcing this system to a gentile firm and outsourcing crucial aspects of overseeing the kashrus involved to a gentile firm is fraught with missteps. Assurances of reliability here notwithstanding, the fact is that we were not yet able to obtain assurances of your organization’s kashrus integrity from any of the three major kashrus organizations in Australia nor from the London Beis Din despite their letter being on your own website. Indeed, on the contrary, we have received and viewed letters demanding that you take down these letters from your website and you have not complied with them.

E] Chazal did not ban or even discourage cultivating herds of BP notwithstanding the potential problem that animals with partial BP Yichus cannot be Shechted.
The Gaonim Rav Sherira and Rav Hai certainly took precautions to prevent such risks when they cultivated their BP herds for feeding the community [R Chaim Kanievsky explained they did this simply to promote awareness of BP] but clearly these were unremarkable since no mention or fuss is made about them.

RYH Response: With due respect, no mention is made anywhere of herds that Rav Shrirah Gaon and Rav Hai Gaon cultivated. They had a few Ben Pakuahs. There is no evidence that they cultivated herds of Ben Pakuahs.

We have very strict safety and security systems, including DNA to verify and guarantee the purity of all our BP which is documented and confirmed by an independent auditor as are all our protocols.

RYH Response: There are two issues here. Firstly, when dealing with DNA there needs to be a trust of the person in charge. Thus far, we have been unable to find Rabbis in your community that stand behind your supervision – even on ice cream – and certainly for meat. The second issue deals with the DNA parameters. Rabbi Yaakov Roza is one of the top experts in the field of DNA testing and halacha. He states that the halachic criterion is to match 200 of the 500 DNA parameters in order to create a DNA umdana. Your process matches 12 of 25 DNA parameters.

F] Halacha accepts the legitimacy of non-Jewish experts due to their need to maintain their integrity and reputation.

RYH Response: This is not true on issues of meat. A kfailah has ne’emanus on taste, but not for matters having to do with supervising meat.

The material collected from the Shechted animals for DNA analysis is overseen by Rabbi Rabi.

G] DNA is vastly superior to double seals required for meat which is in the control of a Goy [ShA-YD-118] Furthermore, considering Rabbi Hoffman’s confirmation that authentic Kosher seals are fairly readily available, one must seriously question their reliability [the OK reports; “Our Mashgiach sent the meat back and was shocked to observe the (non-Jewish) driver applying other Kosher seals he had on the truck to those same boxes of meat”]

DNA provides the most powerful tool on earth to prevent substitutions and guarantee the integrity of Kosher meat. The Israeli media reports “Only 15,600 tons of 35,000 tons of non-Kosher meat imported during 2007 to 2009 for the Palestinian Authority, reached its stated destinations. 56% just “disappeared.” State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote, “There is a concern that it was smuggled into Israel and lucratively sold as Kosher meat”

H] The Pesukim in the Torah, and the argument Ubbar Yerech Imo – a foetus is deemed to be akin to a limb of the mother, fail to explain or provide foundation for the ruling that all future generations of purebred BP are also BP. The Gemara and Rishonim see no need to explain it, as though it is self-evident.
Indeed, R Chaim Kanievsky explained – obviously species replicate themselves and since BP is a species unto itself it requires no Passuk or Derasha to know that it replicates itself.

RYH Response: You are quoting Rav Chaim Kanievsky, but he and Rav Shteinman and Rav Karelitz and two other gedolim signed a letter saying that commercial BP production is forbidden. The Five Towns Jewish Times published this letter last week. Why is this being ignored?

Furthermore, we now have a video of Rav Chaim wondering what happened to you [in other words, that you have gone completely off the deep end]. His grandson then asked the question, “Is what he is doing wrong?” Rav Chaim responds, “Certainly!”

We also have a letter here from Rav Hershel Schachter of the OU saying that the approach of the requirement of shechita being not a full fledged requirement is incorrect, and thus any allowing of stunning before the shechita would make the meat treif.

I] Just as deer meat may be cooked with dairy since Basar-BeChalav is restricted to the species of BeHeimah which excludes Chayos, like deer, so too BP is not a BeHeimah and may be cooked with dairy.

RYH Response: In order to respond to this, we must take off the kid gloves. Not one Rishon or acharon mentions that BP meat is pareve in 1600 years. You have an inference that you make in one sefer (which you admit has alternative readings) that you have extrapolated to say this very explosive idea. In addition, there is not a posek in America, Australia, or Eretz Yisroel that has ruled in this manner – it is simply untenable.

R Moshe Sternbuch, quoting the Meshech-Chochmah, unequivocally declares that BP meat may be cooked with dairy – השחיטה מתיר בבן פקועה ושרי בחלב – the Shechitah [of the mother] permits the BP and it may be cooked with milk. [MoAdimUzManim Vol-4 Chapter-319]

RYH Response: No, these sources are referring to the milk because it is considered chalav shechuta milk of a slaughtered animal.

J] Rabbi Hoffman had access to all R Chaim’s correspondence prior to publication of his article as well as the details of a renowned Posek who endorses and has eaten our BP meat.

RYH Response: Following the principles of due diligence, each item and name that you have presented must be confirmed. Thus far, I have been unable to confirm one citation or quote. Those that have responded to my inquiries have had slightly different stories than that which was presented. The renowned posek you cite also must have instructed you to remove his name from your website, which you did take down but a few days ago.

The Rav Chaim correspondences, are working with a different reading than yours as can be seen from the letter that he signed along with the other four Gedolim, and from the video that we have. YH
Rabbi Meir G Rabi, Consulting Rabbi, AK Ben Pekuah Pty Ltd

The author of the responses can be reached at

Watch the video below:

Ben Pekuah again–Sigh

This latest post, which can be seen here, is verbatim.

The New Commercially-Produced Ben P’kuah Meat
(Thursday, January 7th, 2016 10:52 AM)
rav chaim kanievsky[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times]

There is a new type of meat, called Ben Pekuah Meat, that is about to enter the kosher consumer market, and it is stirring up some serious controversy, particularly in Boro Park. It seems that the Hebrew language Mishpacha had recently run an article on Ben P’kuah meat and has also published an alleged ruling of Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita. The Hebrew Yated had also run a piece on it. Two Rabbonim in Brooklyn have brought up the issue to this author, and have asked that the matter be investigated.

The meat is coming out of a company in Australia. But questions abound, both on the nature of Ben P’kuah and on the specific company producing it. What is this meat? Who are the people that are behind this initiative? What are the underlying issues?


A Ben P’Kuah or BP is an unborn calf that is found in the womb of its mother that was just slaughtered. The Gemorah in Chullin 69a states that such a foetus does not require its own slaughter. The Mishna in Chulin 74a records a debate between Rabbi Meir and the sages regarding a fully matured calf. Rabbi Meir holds that it does require its own slaughter, while the sages hold that it does not – on a biblical level. There are two types of BP – the first is that of a foetus that was not fully formed – to which even Rabbi Meir agrees that Shechita is not required. The second type is when it reached maturity. There, Rav Meir holds that Shechita is required – biblically. The sages disagree.


There seems to be three sources as to why the BP is exempt from Shechita. The Gemorah (69a) states that the verse “vekhol b’heimah” is the source. It is understood to mean that the entire animal can be eaten – even the foetus found inside. Later on (69b) the Gemorah returns to an original source called, “Behaima BaBehaima” that any animal within another animal is included in the original shechita. Finally, the Baal haMaor 70b understands it as falling under the rublic of “uber yerech imo – the foetus is considered a limb of its mother.”


The Chailev and veins of a BP cow that is still in the cow are actually permitted (AH 13:2). The blood, however, still retains the prohibition of Dam Aivarim – blood absorbed into the limbs. There are essentially two reasons for the exclusion of the blood from the verse of “the entire animal” permitting it. 1] It is no different than any other organ of the slaughtered cow and 2] the verse only permits food that is generally eaten – blood is a liquid and is not in that category. There is a substantive difference between these two reasons. According to the first reason, ingesting the blood is a violation of a lav; according to the second reason, the ingestion of blood would involve the more stringent violation of Karais. After the calf’s legs hit the ground, the other items are forbidden on account of Maris ayin.


The repercussions of being a BP cow is that there is no concept of treifus. The animal does not need to undergo the rigorous inspection of lungs that regular cows have to go through.


One of the most fascinating and pertinent areas of the laws of Ben P’kuah cows is the fact that if a cow descends from two parents who are BP cows, the descendant cow also only requires Shechita miderabanan. If, however, a regular cow fathers a calf from a BP cow, the calf will remain non-kosher forever. In the Gemorah’s language, “ain lo takana l’olam.” The explanation is that it is considered to have a delay in the shechita process called “Shehiya.” How so? The cow is considered to be half-shechted and half regular. There is no greater delay in the shechita process than this and it is thus considered “shehiya.”


Many students of Chumash will recall the debate explained by many commentators between Yoseph and his brothers as to whether there is a prohibition of aiver min hachai regarding a Ben P’kuah. Yoseph held that before matan Torah, they are considered as bnei noach, and thus the original shechita of the ben p’kuah’s mother does not stop the biblical prohibition of aiver min hachai, eating the limb from a live animal. The brothers held that they were full-fledged Jews in this regard and that the mother’s shechita does remove the prohibition of aiver min hachai.

The Gemorah in Bava Kamma 106b discusses whether there is an obligation for a theif who steals a Ben Pkuah cow to repay 4 or 5 times the value of the cow, just like there would be an obligation if he had stolen a regular cow. There are also questions as to whether there is a prohibition of shechting a Ben Pkuah and its offspring on the same day. Another question is whether the Ben Pakuaj may be shechted on Shabbos or not.


This author has been in communication with the general manager of the company as well as the supervising Rabbi through email and telephone conversation. The company is based in Melbourne, Australia, and it has been, they claim, a project ten years in the making. The Rabbi associated with the company is Rabbi Meir Rabi, who has authored an article on the topic in the 35th volume of Techumim.


In this author’s opinion, the supervising Rabbi, Rabbi Meir Rabi, who authored the article in Tchumim, has made a serious error in his understanding of the nature of BP meat.
Rabbi Rabi seems to understand the BP animal as a new, different type of creature. He cites (in footnote 6 to his Tchumim article) the Meshech Chochma in Bereishis 18:8 as being of the opinion that BP meat is not fleishig. Rabbi Rabi then claims that Rav Moshe Shternbuch writes the same thing in his response Vol. IV #319. He further writes that he was told by Rav Shternbuch that according to all opinions the meat is pareve and that he was also told this by Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita.

However, it seems to this author that the Meshech Chochma is only saying that milk from a BP cow is not considered dairy, because it has the halachic status of a pre-shechted cow.
Milk from a shechted cow is only forbidden by Rabbinic decree, on account of maris ayin, but is biblically permitted. The Meshech Chochmah makes no mention of any possibility of the meat being considered pareve. Nor is there any such indication in Rav Shternbuch’s writings.

As far as the next two citations that Rav Shternbuch said that it is considered pareve as did Rav Chaim Kanievsky, there is no such indication in the rishonim or acharonim on the relevant Gemorahs, nor in the response, nor in the Poskim. It is difficult to conceive that such a view would have escaped mention in the nearly 1600 years since the Gemorah was written.
It is especially difficult to accept that Rabbi Shternbuch would say that all would agree that this is the case. I am conjecturing that Rabbi Rabi incorrectly understood both of these Gedolim.
This matter is so obvious that there is almost no need to show it, but Rabbi Akiva Eiger in his glosses to the Shulchan Aruch (YD 87:6) clearly shows that the only issue is the milk – not the meat. Rav Elyashiv zt”l in Kovetz Haaros al HaTorah (page 308) clearly indicates this too.

Although this is a substantive error, it would not, however, forbid Ben P’kuah meat. Why then bring it up? The reason is that a BP meat operation must ensure that no non-BP cow can mate with the BP cows. True, DNA testing is in the process, but a claim of DNA proven is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. Someone else assuring me that DNA testing was done – is not necessarily foolproof and only boils down to one person’s assertions. Let us also realize that a BP cow can also ruin the cows in a regular herd from being kosher in the future. This is a grave responsibility when commercially producing so many BP cows.

This is not to say that theoretically DNA may not be used Halachically to ascertain crucial information. Indeed, a shiur delivered by Rabbi Shmuel Fuerst from Chicago carefully delineates the parameters of when DNA can and cannot be used.

How does the Australian religious community view Rabbi Rabi? A website called J-Wire reports as follows: “Rabbi Meir Rabi took over the reins of authorising foodstuffs from Rabbi Shlomo Rudszki, a former chief minister at Melbourne’s South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation. However, many members of the community do not recognise his Kosher VeYosher certifications and the dominant Kosher Authority has told J-Wire that whilst they are still checking Nestles and Peters ice cream products, there has been no decision made and they state that the products classified as Kosher by Rabbi Rabi are yet to pass their tests.”
However, inquiries have not found anyone that is aware of this claim, including Rabbi Rudski’s own children.

There is an organization called “Kosher Australia” belonging to the wider Orthodox community. They do not recognize or accept Rabbi M. Rabi. Their official position is that Nestle’s and Peters are not under an accepted hashgacha.

His website,, lists an approbation from the London Beis Din. However when the London Beis Din was contacted for verification, the following reply was received.

“Dayan Abraham has asked me to send you a copy of a letter which he sent to Rabbi Rabi, over a year ago. In the light of this letter, he regards Rabbi Rabi’s continued use of his letter of recommendation to be dishonest. Regards, David Frei, Registrar, London Beth Din”

When speaking to the London Beis Din representative this author was told that the Dayan of the London Beis Din felt that Rabbi Rabi was undermining kashrus in Australia by his private hechsher and had requested, actually demanded, that he remove the letter back in 2007, 2010 and also in November, 2014. Rabbi Rabi completely ignored it.

Another fundamental question deals with how the entire operation of a Ben P’kuah shechita would be any cheaper. The animals must land on the ground in order to eventually sire progeny. Thus they are subject to a very rigorous deveining process. After consulting with industry experts, it seems that the differences in processing would not amount to a significant savings. Why then is the company embarking upon the entire idea. One industry expert suggested that perhaps it is a marketing idea designed to get buyers.

The author contacted the managing director of the company, Stephen Bloch, as well as the Rabbi, Rabbi Meir Rabi, and the following exchange of conversation took place:

Q: Where is this BP operation happening?
A: In Australia. Original shechita is performed in a private location. They have opted to set up a private location where all the equipment is required, built according to Dr. Temple Grandin.
Q: Has she been at the site?
A: No she has not been. We have an independent auditor that monitors the process.
Q: Are the owners, or the majority shareholders, religious Jews?
A: Some are. Some are not. But why should that make a difference?
Q: Because some people, particularly in New York, only purchase meat items from Sabbath observing Jews. They would not eat from a hechsher of which the owner of the establishment might be in a position to have any position of possible control over things.
A: We understand and appreciate that. And there have been numerous problems in kashrus even with such a system with shomer Shabbos owners. We, however, have a system in place that ensures the absolute integrity of the meat. On our website, we have the auditor’s report and a foolproof system in place. The auditor monitors everything and we even use DNA tracking to ensure that it is only this meat that is being used.
Is the auditor is an observant Jew?
No. He is not. But it is a guaranteed system. And creates a mirsas.
Q: Mirsas is a halachic tool that works regarding other foods, but it is not an effective halachic tool in regard to meat. Is there a Posaik that has signed off on this idea that a gentile auditor is equivalent to a mashgiach?
A: We do not use it as a mashgiach. It is no different than the simanim that all hashgachos use. I have in my possession the identifying material, plumbas stickers of hechsherim, of numerous hasgachos that were just left at the place and they never bothered to pick them up. Our integrity, our system, will inspire much more confidence.
Q: I too, have such a collection – from the top hechsherim as well. But let’s get back to this concept. Let’s assume even, for the sake of argument, that your system is one hundred times better than a regular hechsher. But do you have a posaik, other than yourself, that has signed off on this idea that a goyish auditing firm can be acting in the role as mashgiach in your foolproof system? Do you have a gadol or posaik that has seen this system and has approved of this system where the hashgacha is overseen by a gentile auditor?
A: We do. I have to speak to him whether I can use his name.
Q: Okay. I have two more topics to bring up.
[The next phase of the conversation was a debate as to the reading of the Meshech Chochma. Rabbi Rabi claimed that the Meshech Chochma must hold that it is pareve because otherwise the rabbinic prohibition of using Ben Pekuah milk would have kicked in. The author responded that if he held that it was pareve he would have said that and one cannot build an entire edifice based upon a question, and that there are numerous answers to that question. Perhaps there was no prohibition of maris ayin in the time of Avrohom Avinu because there were no other Jews, and this is just one possible answer.]
Q: I had contacted the London Beis Din and they said that they have repeatedly asked you to take down their letter on your hechsher’s website, and yet you refuse to do that. Don’t you feel that you are morally obligated to comply with their request?
A: Rabbi Rabi- Well, it depends on why they are requesting that they take it down.
Q: Let’s assume the worst possible reason for the sake of argument. Let’s assume that your competitors in the field of kashrus had actually gone as far as bribing the London Beis Din to get them to ask you to take it down. Don’t you feel a moral obligation to take down the letter?
A: No, I do not.
Q: I think that this is a serious error on your part – in terms of public relations.
A: Stephen Bloch- This actually has nothing to do with us, it is not on the Ben Pekuah site – it is on the Rabbi’s own website.
Q: Still, it does reflect on your company as well as long as he is your endorsing Rabbi.
A: Rabbi Rabi: I responded to the Dayan of the London Beis Din and said that I would be willing to take down the letter if he would provide the same letter to me on his own letterhead rather than that of the London Beis Din.
Q: Still, if I were you, I would comply as soon as possible with the request of the London Beis Din and not use a letter that they do not wish you to use.

Subsequent to this conversation, Rabbi Meir Rabi sent some written communications allegedly from Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita that purport to show that Rav Chaim Shlita holds that BP meat is, in fact, pareve.
This author has sent inquiries to Rav Chaim to verify the accuracy of this, as well as to Rav Shternbuch. We will print it in the future as soon as we hear the information.

There is also a letter that was signed by numerous Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel against the commercial production of Ben P’kuah meat because of numerous problems associated with it. The problems are that milk from a Ben Pkuah cow is forbidden midrebanan, it will lead to leniencies in other shechitas, and it is virtually impossible to have adequate supervision. The letter is signed by Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Nissim Karelitz and others as well. The letter signed by the Gedolim comes out against any commercial production of Ben Pekuah meat.

There has never been a commercial production of Ben Pekuah meat in recorded history since the time of the Gemorah. There are numerous reasons for this.

The author can be reached at


R’ Meir Rabi, Ben Pekuah Commercial Kashrus Venture and Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter

I am not here to discuss the laws of a Ben Pekuah. Look in Shulchan Aruch. Those who do not know about it (I’ve found it rather gross personally), let alone a commercialised farm of these, should discuss a commercialisation venture directly with their Rav who I expect will likely speak to a world-renowned kashrus expert.

I have mentioned R’ Rabi’s trips to various Rabbonim around the world, where he seeks their agreement to commercial projects he and his investors are involved in.

I have mentioned that the renowned world posek Mori V’Rabbi R’ Hershel Schachter, Chief Posek of the OU (with Rav Belsky) was displeased when I showed him a picture of himself and R’ Rabi from the day before, disbursed via the internet, as he had asked this not to be distributed via the net.

There is a danger that people would conclude that Rav Schachter was endorsing in any way R’ Rabi’s commercial kashrus projects or his stature. Rav Schachter is too nice a man to refuse a picture.

In that vein, I issue the following.

I have been in direct contact with Mori V’Rabbi Rav Schachter Shlita today, and he indicated that R’ Rabi had approached him about R’ Rabi’s plans for a commercial Ben Pekuah farm. Rav Schachter advised R’ Rabi clearly that in no way can Rav Schachter be involved or seen to be involved in such a venture, nor should anyone conclude such involvement by virtue of Rav Schachter’s picture appearing on web pages (without permission) or otherwise. The same applies to future communication that may be published by R’ Rabi with any pointer implied or otherwise regarding Rav Schachter.

Mori V’Rabbi advised R’ Rabi that he was in no way giving a Hechsher or even implied Haskomo to the concept. Nobody should conclude, therefore, that Mori V’Rabbi R’ Schachter is in anyway involved or has given approval to R’ Rabi’s commercial Ben Pekuah venture. There are many intricate and complex concerns about such a commercial project and these need very close and careful hands-on supervision by a knowledgeable expert, world-renowned Rav, who agrees specifically with each and all the details of R’ Rabi’s methodologies and particular supervision regime.

Rav Schachter does not endorse in any way, Rabbi  Rabi’s commercial Ben Pekuah farm, and encourages those who do wish to avail themselves of produce from such a farm, to discuss that issue directly with a world-renowned expert Posek who is fully across all the details of the commercial farm.

The exact above words were read to Rav Schachter and he thanked me for ensuring that people would not be misled in any way.

Kashrus and a higher level

The following is from Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, Dean, Machon Tzomet. The mind boggles in regards those who approve the lowest level AND run it as an entrepreneurial private business with closed books, wealth accumulation and a dishonest attempt to work with Halal on the grounds that they might imagine they are the ‘authority’ to represent the majority of kosher consumers, most of whom reject such supervision.

A hearing will soon take place in the Supreme Court in Israel on a request for an injunction by some restaurant owners in Jerusalem against the Chief Rabbinate, which fined them based on the Kashrut Fraud Prevention Law that gives the Rabbinate (and the IDF) exclusive control over the concept of “kashrut” in Israel. These restaurants are “approved by the community” in the framework of “private supervision,” headed by Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, who is challenging the local Rabbinates and the Chief Rabbinate. The approval certificates are worded in a sophisticated way, in order to avoid using the protected word “kosher” – (for example “this place is supervised,” and other roundabout hints). And just in case somebody might think that the supervision involves other issues, such as health, ecology, or security, he can check his assumptions at their website, The State Attorney as usual sets his eyes on the strict letter of the law, and he has therefore expressed support for the petitioners. The judges of the court scolded him, trying to “pay attention to how the people normally behave” [Berachot 45a], and demanded to hear from him the position of the Chief Rabbinate. The future result is not easy to guess. Will it depend on the specific judges who are called upon to rule? (As an aside: the kashrut approvals of the “Badatz” organizations are evidently provided in addition to regular approval by the Rabbinate. They have branded themselves as “Mehadrin,” holding to an especially stringent level of kashrut, and it seems that there is a demand for this.)

I agree with the feeling that the time has come for privatization in the realms of kashrut and other religious services (such as has been done with medical insurance and public transportation…). This would place the Chief Rabbinate in a regulatory role, “higher-level” supervision, giving approvals to those who directly supervise the kashrut, attesting to their honesty and their authority . Perhaps the Rabbinate should also be involved in setting the work conditions of the kashrut supervisors. With respect to the new organization in Jerusalem, I would insist on one other precondition – only groups that have proven experience in the field and that have attained public trust would be able to enter the arena as independent supervisors of kashrut. And there is another prerequisite: Transparency – the organization must prominently display the “kashrut elements” on which they depend, and which rabbis give them approval. For example, there might be room to accept rabbis who are willing to give kashrut approval to firms which do not observe Shabbat, while some people might reject them. Some would prefer to be stringent with respect to cooking in a restaurant by a Gentile, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, while others may be more lenient, following the opinion of the RAMA (see Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Yechaveh Dei’ah, 5, 54). Some will be willing to accept the “heter mechirah” for Shemitta, while others will not. Some will be stringent about milk of Gentiles. Many examples can be given. But the main point is that there should never be any room for deception and misleading claims.

In the petition in Jerusalem, as long as the current law remains in effect and there is no regulatory mechanism, and as long as there is no “higher-level” supervision over the “private supervision,” the situation is indeed one of deception and misleading claims. The normal citizen, who is not aware of the ins and outs of all the power fights against recognized institutions, will tend to accept any “certificate of supervision” as if it was given by the officially recognized kashrut authority. Would we tolerate such sophisticated wording with respect to the ingredients of our food? Would the relevant government authorities allow “approvals” of this type with respect to health, security, or ecology, using very tricky wording?


Let me add that rabbis who are not expert in the issues involved should refrain from giving Shabbat approval to eg hot water heaters or samovars, or to ovens. And this reminds me of the recent scandal of the “kosher switch” which is being promoted by a group in the United States. This “kosher for Shabbat switch” has received approvals by some very low-level rabbis but is rejected by all the rabbis of recognized authority.

Just as it is unthinkable that approval by an amateur will be accepted in matters of security or health, so caution is needed for religious approvals.

Guest Post: on the misrepresentation of pictures

Thanks to Reb Meir Deutsch for his copyrighted contribution.

Why should only women be blurred in pictures? Do not women have HIRHURIM? The whole thing of ERVA originates from SHIR HASHIRIM. The description of the Shepherd by the NOTERET are (her הרהורים ):
דודי צח ואדום

ראשו כתם פז קבוצותיו תלתלים שחורות כעורב

עיניו כיונים על אפיקי מים רוחצות בחלב

לחייו כערוגות הבושם

שפתותיו שושנים נוטפות מור עובר

ידיו גלילי זהב ממולאים בתרשיש

מעיו עשת שן מעולפות ספירים

שוקיו עמודי שש מיוסדים על אדני פז.
Is it less HIRHURIM than the Shepherd’s ( his הרהורים):
עינייך יונים מבעד לצמתך

שערך כעדר העיזים שגלשו מהר גלעד

שינייך כעדר הקצובות שעלו מן הרחצה

כחוט השני שפתותיך

כפלח הרימון רקתך מבעד לצמתך

כמגדל דוד צווארך

שני שדייך כשני עופרים

אפך כמגדל הלבנון צופה פני דמשק – בטח, הרי זה אף יהודי

ראשך עלייך ככרמל

חמוקי ירכייך כמו חלאים מעשי ידי אומן

בטנך ערימת חיטים סוגה בשושנים

Blur them both. Is there an ERVA only in women? Let us see:

בספר חסידים (מרגליות) סימן תריד. “מכל מה שכתוב בשיר השירים צריך להיזהר שלא ישמע קול אישה והוא הדין שלא תשמע [האישה] קול איש, שמכל שהאיש מוזהר האישה מוזהרת. […] וגם אם שער ראשו יפה ואינו נזהר בו לוקה כאבשלום שנתלה בשערו.” 

There are many POSKIM, but I would like to quote Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. He writes:

בזמנם [של חז”ל], שלא היו רואים אשה בחוץ שכל כבודה בת מלך פנימה, ובראיית אשה מיד באים לידי הרהור במחשבה שבלב, משא”כ עתה שהנשים עוסקות במשא ומתן, ומורגלות בינינו, ואין האדם מתפעל בראייתן ובשיחתן לבוא לידי הרהור

ומעתה י”ל שגם לענין ק”ש כנגד נשים שהורגלו לצאת לרה”ר בגילוי הראש, וכל אדם העובר ברה”ר יראה כהנה וכהנה, ואין הרהור מצוי כ”כ בזה מרוב הרגלן בינינו, אין בזה משום שער באשה ערוה אע”פ שעושות כן שלא ברצון חכמים, דלגבי דידן הו”ל כבתולות שרגילות בכך. ושו”ר הלום להגאון מהר”ר משה פיינשטיין שליט”א בשו”ת אגרות משה (חאו”ח ס”ס לט), בד”ה ולכן, שכתב: וכבר הורה זקן הגאון ערוך השלחן שבזה”ז מותר לברך ולהתפלל כנגד שער נשים הרגילות לצאת פרועות ראש.

Let us have pictures of landscapes, oceans and famous buildings. Why do we need pictures of people, if they are showing nothing (all blurred), or showing a picture made up and not a genuine one.


Hamodia’s grievous sin of G’Neivas Daas

I don’t have a subscription to Hamodia. Occasionally my wife buys it. One Erev Pesach I saw it at a shop and it looked so thick, I thought I might but it. In the worst, at least some might enjoy it.

The problem is that nothing has changed. The paper is Sheker VeChozov. It is chock full of lies and unbridled revisionism. It is a paper of indoctrination for the Oilom Goilom who follow in single file.

There was a wonderfully researched piece about R’ Yissochor Shlomo Teichtal הי’’ד whose Yohr Tzeit was around that time. I learned some interesting facts that I did not know. So far so good. Apart from his famous שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר there were two enormous factors that made R’ Teichtal stand apart from other greats in his generation

  • Despite being probably the Talmid/Chossid Muvhak of the Munkatcher, he had not trouble saying “Rebbe, you were wrong, very wrong” about the holocaust and israel
  • He abandoned his Munkatch way of life, stayed frum and his אם הבנים שמחה which was hidden from the world by his family for decades is now a classic that everyone should read and has been translated into English.

But no. Hamodia told us everything up to that point. How could they mention the contents of that incredible ספר and the challenge it raised to the charedi establishment. So instead of reporting the truth, and teaching it the way it was from a גאון עולם a giant of the last generation, they decided “No, we won’t tell our readers that this man underwent an enormous transformation where he rejected the teaching than someone as great as the Munkatcher, and pointed out chapter and verse where he thought the Munkatcher was incorrect.

This is the problem with Hamodia and the problem with Artscroll. They have no fidelity to the truth. Artscroll in its newly published מקראות גדולות had the Chutzpa and temerity to refuse to publish words of the Rishon, the Rashbam! They censored him. Hamodia is no different. They take their stories put them through the ‘Aguda Cleaner Solution’ so that everyone can only read a sanitised lie or half truth.

There is nobody with any faults in Hamodia. Anyone who passes away was incredible, an impeccable Tzaddik.

Tell it the way it was. Stop the stupidity of banning books by R’ Nosson Kaminetszky, such as the ‘Making of a Gadol’. On the contrary, when we see that people are people and not Malochim we stand a better chance to aspire to their lofty heights.

Hamodia has created a monster: a self perpetuating ‘everything is beautiful’ monster in the frum world. It isn’t. There are pedophilles, adulterers, money launderers, fraudsters as well as the genuine article. Stop sanitising our underwear. Hamodia thinks we will be exposed to the real world and not get shocked at cattle prodding dayonim who take thousands to electrify someone till they give a gett. And they have the Chutzpa to complain about הגאון הגדול מאחיו מורי ורבי רב צבי שכטר when he invokes Rabbeinu Tam.

They talk about “off the Derech” and the “Shidduch Crisis”. Maybe they should start pursuing Emes and stop hiding behind transparent bushes.

I finished the article about R’ Teichtal and threw the paper away. I didn’t want to soil my hands with such blatant omissions which amount to ball faced lies and plain old indoctrination.

My Whys over Pesach?

The AJN target Yeshivah and are not at all even handed.

[UPDATED: I was not aware that my post (in good faith, by a friend) was published on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook except in a private professional capacity to stay in touch with my 450+ postgraduate alumni of nearly 3 decades as it is a most convenient forum.

I understand some people had nice, not nice, and some scathing comments to make about my “Whys”. It’s only a relatively a free country, however, and as author of my thoughts I reserve the right to publish and/or respond to anyone reacting to these. Accordingly, if you feel like it (and frankly it is not my aim to attract comments) and are ready to put a real name to your comment (unless you are, of course a victim of crime) I will moderate your comment according to my understanding of Halacha and common law. If such an arrangement does not suit you, go ahead and write a critique. I won’t be engaging in debate, as this is not why I write. If I want my blood pressure to rise, I have a myriad of better techniques at my disposal 🙂 ]

Onto the article, which I will now proof-read in anticipation of a wider audience than I would normally expect.

Both before and during Pesach I found myself full of pitputim that I needed to express. I held myself back for reasons that aren’t worth recording. One of these was that I didn’t think it was permitted on Chol Hamoed. Maybe I was the proverbial תם (simpleton) of the Hagadda and should have fired thoughts as soon as they occupied my neurones, but, for various reasons, I held back and wrote them immediately after Pesach (when I undoubtedly should have helped my wife). Undoubtedly that was not the right timing, but let’s not go there (thanks CBN).

Some of the responses to these questions need people to retrospect through new glasses; as such I was reticent. This is a hard job, Accordingly, I’m going to frame some of my thoughts as a series of why’s as opposed to proffering cheap advice.

  1. Why has the disgraceful Australian Jewish News continued to remain the mouthpiece of few, as opposed to a faithful unbiased reporter of Jewish news allowing for a wider range of reporting of fact. To give but one example, anyone on Facebook (and I am not on Facebook except with my University alumni although I have an account I originally set up to see pics of my grandchildren) can look up Avi Yemini and find most serious accusations which he apparently alleges will now be formalised via the police against his father Steven (aka Tzefania) Waks. Why Steve? Well, he has clearly shown a preference to a centrist orthodox way of life, dispensing with charedi garb and beard. For the record, I am often regarded as centrist and my name is Isaac. Some persist in calling me יצחק and from my perspective both are quite ok. Indeed, halachically speaking one cannot will away a name that one was called formally even if done via deed but lets not go to that area of Halacha. More to the point:Why is the Australian Jewish News seemingly ignorant of Avi Yemini and his siblings and their views of the father of Manny Waks? I met his siblings in Miami and it wasn’t a pretty description, and backed up Avi. Indeed, they don’t like to talk about it. Guess what AJN? That (comparative silence) in of itself is news, and should be reported. Why didn’t you do that? There is more, but I won’t write it.
  2. Why is Tzedek “off the map?” I did see an advertisement this week, which is good but there is no denying the demise of Tzedek and it worries me. At best, it served as an important encouragement to those who have been abused (earlier in their lives) to give voice to that abuse; and encourage others to give voice. This is critical to unveiling the mask of perpetrators and ensuring educational programs become de jure in organisations to recognise and prevent such perverts. We don’t hear comparatively less from Tzedek since their controversial CEO resigned, although I have absolutely nothing against those running it now and I am sure they are as committed to the cause as those who preceded them; irrespective of whether some were victims. I am not a victim of abuse, but I pursued Cyprys until his veil was lifted. I believe Kramer was after my time, and I certainly didn’t experience any abuse from any of my teachers, be they religious or secular in my 12 years in the School and neither did my siblings.
  3. Why are victims creating websites? The manifestation of private websites authored by professed victims serves good in my eyes only if it’s cathartic for them and not investigative. I’m not a psychiatrist but I’d hope their psychiatric advice would be to pursue such channels only if it was part of their healing. There are existing channels. I’m not sure why they aren’t apparently being used. Shouldn’t they channel their life long challenges to established professionals and professional organisations? I don’t think is the best idea on the planet and furthermore many will see it as self-serving gold-digging. There are formal community and private bodies to help deal with these life long issues and give aid using the best professional methods, as they are developed. At worst it may give the impression that those abused seek to make a career from being abused and I doubt that this is their intention. Well, I hope not. If it indeed is their sublime intention, then I suggest they need even more professional help than they realise.
  4. Why is it that The Australian Jewish News seems to only report one school and institution-the Yeshivah Centre. We all know that the Yeshivah Centre and Chabad in general have done more than arguably any group for Torah observance, Kiruv, and the welfare of those in need. They are not judgemental. Their mantra is love albeit played through the love strings of their Rebbe’s violin. This is their great strength. They do, in the main follow, a system which was typified by their late and great Rebbe. They have rotten apples. No group is immune from that reality. The last Lubavitcher Rebbe (and his father in law) didn’t join groups (e.g. Aguda) and felt they could achieve their aims through an independent well-structured agenda: bringing Jews and Judaism to Torah and Mitzvos through spreading Chassidus Chabad. He rarely (to my knowledge) interfered with the nitty-gritty of problems in his myriad of institutions but was surely bombarded by such (indeed I once did so). He expected that same independence and intellectual purity to be demonstrated by his trained and faithful emissaries. Sure, they asked his advice, but he wasn’t aware of cleaners and locksmiths and groomers of kids in Mikvaos irrespective of the stories you hear of his greatness and vision.Now, it is clear to all, that the SCHOOLS, (Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah) which are really the raison d’être of the entire organisation are employing best practice, to the extent that they are perhaps overly strict. It is known that they are allegedly being sued by some employees who step out of a very strict line and who don’t allegedly practice world’s best standards. This was instituted before the Royal Commission and as soon as word of the criminals Cyprys and Kramer became love children for the reporters of “the Age”. The other love children of “the Age” are Israel and the “Palestinians”. I know some of the reporters from the Age. They hunkered for Jewish stories and used to call me (and read my blog) as I am straight on these matters and always tried to be. Indeed Mr Waks senior rang me almost daily in my pursuit of Cyprys. As a board member of Elwood Shule, I felt an extreme responsibility to stop this pariah from parading in the way he did.
  5. Why is Yeshivah singled out for its particular mode of governance, when all Chabad Houses still function in a similar way and have not been abandoned in any way. Few complain, because they trust the Rabbi and his advisors and they all benefit. Are some going to conduct an audit of a Rabbi Raskin/Engel/You-name-them and their specialised Chabad Houses, or, say Rabbi Lieder who works tirelessly for Israeli back packers (and ironically leave Melbourne with more knowledge of Judaism than what they learned when in Tel Aviv?) No. I don’t hear any call from the Jewish News or the holier than thou’s asking for a different form of transparent governance. Why not? Is it a matter of amount or principle? Don’t get me wrong here. I think they should all, without exception, including Adass’s offshoot extreme school, subscribe to the strictest codes especially given the Chillul Hashem we have endured. I also happen to disagree with the mode of governance but having grown up witnessing the hopeless squalor that Rabbi Groner lived in, I never considered him to have anything other than the institution in his mind. Indeed, when my father gave him some money before Pesach, the next day there was a receipt from the Yeshivah Centre.
  6. [Please note] The information about Heichal Hatorah (Rabbi Donnenbaum) was miscommunicated. It isn’t based on video surveillance. There is a policy, as I understand it being developed by professionals which as I am informed will be an approved policy that can stand up to accepted standards.  We apologise for that previous innacuracy.
  7. Why only Chabad? It’s not just Chabad. Rabbi Kohn, a controversial figure himself, runs what is effectively the identical model of a Chabad house, except that his is a private business like Meir Gershon Rabi. Will anyone ever know the finances? Cyprys went to Kohn’s minyan! I heard Rabbi Kohn say he learnt his craft from R’ Nochum Zalman Gurevich, who we all knew and loved. Well he learned some of it, the bits that garnered donations. Yes, Kohn’s bent could be described as non Hasidic or anti Hasidic, but who audits his books? What real governance exists? What standards do they use there? Is there a community list—even a Shomer Shabbos list—of every single place that has an acceptable verifiable standard. Let’s not forget, people like Cyprys would try to hire a Shule Hall or a Youth Hall and use that as their modus operandi. He worked for the CSG no less and they had no clue.2015 is not 1985 or 1995 or earlier. The world has changed we must completely eradicate this scourge of scum. It is in fact far worse overseas, if you can believe it because they are so much “holier” and use cattle prongs to elicit a gett as long as you pay through your teeth.
  8. Why are Adass Israel ignored? Peyos don’t make the man. Malka Leifer, has strangely not been a constant focus of those affected by Cyprys and/or Kramer and she runs free allegedly in Immanuel in Israel. Credible rumors abound that she is seeking to avoid extradition to face serious charges on the grounds that the “West Bank” where she resides is not Israel! and Australia has no extradition treaty. Can you believe such a Chutzpah? If true, this is a clever but grossly offensive defence by smart attorneys. I ask why the silence from the Adass Congregation that provides us with so many products and producers. Is it only about food and profit? You cannot get Adass to do anything until you hit their hip pocket. The rest of us are unwanted pimples of the Sitra Achra. Don’t be mistaken. This is what they are taught. I have heard it from the number 2 in the Rabbinic side of the organisation. The youth of Adass are not the old generation. They have little love and are taught thatAhavasYisroel only exists for aShomer Shabbos.There are some wealthy people in Adass. Why isn’t Leifer’s picture in the local Immanuel paper weekly saying “Beware of this person. There are serious allegations of lesbian pedophilia against her”. Should she be teaching or ever left alone even with her own children? Has she even admitted she was wrong, short of fleeing the next day. I asked arguably the third most senior Rabbi at Adass and he shrugged his shoulders saying “What can we do”. I urge you to ask them when you bump into them at various establishments. Ask at the bakeries, ask at the fish shops, ask at the next function you attend. You can do plenty Adass but you thumb your nose at the non charedi community and now also deny that many of your own are “off the derech” something you prided yourself with and now send away so “nobody will notice”.
  9. Why aren’t other schools in the frame? I was informed reliably by someone at the Royal Commission that there were n students of Mt Scopus abused some time ago and a then headmaster was approached and said “Shoosh” it will cause a Chillul Hashem. Sound familiar? I know the AJN were at the Royal Commission. Was there an order barring the names of other schools affected by the despicable reprehensible pedophiles to be reported. I had wondered about the timing of a later letter by Rabbi Kennard (who reads my blog). He didn’t reply. Why? Rabbi Kennards letter was correct and proper but should have been written at least 6 months earlier.
  10. Why don’t people re-internalise that Yeshivah was a one man band. An incredibly wonderful one-man band with more success than people could ever imagine. It was the late and great Rabbi Groner, who whilst consulting with professionals, would not today remotely repeat his approach if he had his time again. Is there anyone game enough to say he would? There was always a committee, but they were and are toothless tigers who took ultimate direction from Rabbi Groner. If he said “no” the committee could proverbially jump. He told them what he thought they needed to know. I have no doubt there were many private things he took his grave. Tonight is his birthday as I just saw from an email.Much was in his head and certainly never on paper. He was the Shaliach. People were only too happy to call him their friend and get his calls in hospital while he was in hospital himself, and come to functions in his honour and he is on the record as vociferously castigating some of the parents whose children became victims (and they ignored him on occasion). Is there a real need to destroy the man after his passing, together with his significant life work, now, while the place has initiated a process to modernise its governance when ill-timed votes threaten its existence financially? Sure, if their new governance is a façade, go for it, but for crying out loud, give them a chance to go through a process. It doesn’t happen over night.
  11. I know of another very well-known (real) clergy (not charedi) who the Jewish News chose NOT to name over allegations of past pedophilia. The name would shock. He was by no means “ultra” orthodox. In that case the AJN (correctly) did not name the person because he couldn’t defend himself against the odious claims. Why only Yeshivah? Because some Rabbis showed themselves to be second-rate and/or clever by half?
  12. Why are there so many (self-proclaimed) counsellors permitted to discuss all manner of most serious topics to congregations and groups “as if” they are experts. If you are a counsellor, then register with the Australian Counselling Association and/or other similar bodies. Your commerce degree isn’t enough. There are enough complaints about counsellors themselves but if, unlike psychologists, some can get away with a load of ill-advised counselling, and more, without being answerable to a formal board, then no Jewish organisation should let them into their four walls to speak and nobody should seek them for any advice except which chewing gum to buy. Some maybe okay, but others are straight out charlatans, Register! Did victims go to a psychiatrist and spill their guts out and get medication where indicated or did they run rings around the counselling option of people who don’t answer to a board of counsellors.
  13. Why are people skeptical about those who sit on Yeshiva’s board or sat on that board? I have emails from about a decade ago where (it now turns out) some victims and others were looking to change things while Rabbi Groner was alive. One hears all types of stories of “this board member” being stubborn, “that one” being nepotistic etc. Some of it is true especially in a vacuüm. I know three former board members and I don’t think they aligned with any of the above. I know they gave thousands of hours of their lives to keep the institutions above water and growing in a way that no Jewish child was ever turned away. Remember, I happen NOT to be a card-carrying member of the “Chabad only” approach to Judaism, although members of my family happen do. We live in peace and in harmony. It’s not hard.There is a review of governance allegedly taking place. It doesn’t and can’t take 5 minutes. Instead, I hear people saying “it’s a PR trick”. How do they know that? I know a serious person who is looking at the structure and they are definitely not looking at it from a PR point of view. Yeshivah is in transition. It had to happen after Rabbi Groner’s passing following that of his mentor. It’s a shock and terrible that the spectre of pedophilia needed to be the back-breaking catalyst, but in the words of a good friend “it is what it is”. So people why don’t you sit back and see what comes forth. By all means if it isn’t transparent and in keeping with the law, bleat and bleat and bleat. Until then, surely wait a little while.
  14. Why do people feel that beating Rabbi Telsner or Rabbi Glick is the answer? It isn’t. It’s 2015. I especially rang Rabbi Telsner because I wanted to know exactly what he said that got the Jewish news positively apoplectic on their front page and what was said to him. How the AJN could then say “tell us it’s not so Rabbi Telsner” is beyond me. Rabbi Telsner and I have a love/less love relationship. He doesn’t like it when I raise Chabad issues with him (halachic) and he’s not my Posek but he doesn’t deserve to be manipulated.
  15. Why isn’t the Association of Jewish Psychologists being used more. They respond. They don’t go looking for work. I went to a talk and was very impressed with Dr Dan Gordon. He is someone who every School should use for an in-service for their teachers. Why was this a well attended event by Rabbis and religious people and yet so poorly attended by others including headmasters and/or vice-principals? I have a feeling my wife may have been the only senior teacher there. These are specialist psychologists, with PhDs and experience; they have authority and wisdom and aren’t running shonky practices. Listen to their professional wisdom.
  16. Why is the AJN becoming more of a left-wing “Age” newspaper seemingly only haranguing religious institutions (except Adass who don’t buy their paper and buy Hamodia). Religious groups certainly deserve it in some cases, but as I’ve pointed out the AJN are transparently biased. I dislike Hamodia with a passion because it is such a fake fairy tale “feel good” paper full of omissions. I saw a new paper emerge over the break. I hope it takes form. To be honest, I wouldn’t be unhappy if the AJN disappeared if it didn’t seriously reform to become a properly neutral paper instead of a harbinger of an agenda together with pictures of who attended what. I’m tempted to cancel my subscription and my advertising. If it’s possible and the AJN is listening, let me know and I will cancel. Call me tomorrow. My blood pressure will be healthier without your articles and the predictable Henry Herzog et al propaganda that we all skip and are sick to death of.

The ‘phenomenon’ never sleeps

Fresh from his many years of strangulating a letter from Dayan Abraham for his benefit and refusing to take it down ….

Over here in the USA I met Mori VRabbi Rav Schachter. I showed him a picture of the Machshir and business partner of ‘it’s not treyf’ a day after said Person had been to see him and asked permission to take the picture. Rav Schachter agreed provided it wouldn’t be used on his websites. So, what did he do? He went against Rav Schachter and did post the picture on his Facebook page. Splitting hooves again? How much chutzpah can one have?

I was at a day long Yarchei Kalla at YU which was fantastic.

The machshir is going around getting support for his Bnei Pekuah farm.

Don’t be fooled. it’s all under his hashgocho only and not the Rabonim who he seeks to Hob nob with, and then publish his face with theirs together with their views on the theory (which is old and which he has been discussing on the net about for about 6 years)

I had to stop him using his picture as a Gravatar with Rav Belsky because It’s Gneivas Daas on my own blog. Why isn’t he in a picture with his mum and dad?

Anyway, the frum oilom don’t use his hechsher and many who do are those who …..

Git Voch from Crown Heights

Is Shlomo Sand lacking the vision of Bilaam’s donkey?

Frankly, his job as a professor lends no credence to his views. They have demonstrably been shown to be false, if he opened his eyes and just looked at Israeli society. His is the sad wish of someone who wants to assimilate because then he won’t be from the “chosen people”.

His Zayda would disown him. The most telling comment was his use of the word “occupation”. That gave it all away for me. Globalisation, my foot. If anything, the internet has strengthened my knowledge of Judaism enormously.

His inane comment is as silly as the one I saw in Rabbi Donenbaum’s booklet over Succos where someone put in a dedication (anonymous! Why? Tzidkus, humility?) because his Chavrusa has turned the internet off on his iPhone. I have a better idea. Let his Chavrusa give me his iPhone and I’ll give him one of those old Nokias. The Yetzer Hora won’t even touch him that way. Anyway, here is the article reported about Shlomo Sand. I suggest he change his name to Steve Sand?

A controversial Israeli historian has declared his wish to cease considering himself a Jew, expressing disgust at the “ethnocentricity” which he feels is the prevailing worldview among many Israelis

In an opinion piece published in the Guardian on Friday – which is an extract from his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew — Prof. Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University says he has been “assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters.”

“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew,” he writes.

Sand asserts that Israel is “one of the most racist societies in the western world” due to its strict characterization as a Jewish state. “Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws,” he says.

He expresses his disillusionment with Israel dues to its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, which he says “is leading us on the road to hell.”

Despite his scathing critique of Israel, Sand acknowledges that he is also deeply tied to the nation. “The language in which I speak, write and dream is overwhelmingly Hebrew,” he says. “When I am far from Israel, I see my street corner in Tel Aviv and look forward to the moment I can return to it… when I visit the teeming Paris bookstores, what comes to my mind is the Hebrew book week organized each year in Israel.”

Sand states his belief that the ethnic differences which have divided the world for millennia will become insignificant as the world moves more and more towards globalization. “The cultural distance between my great grandson and me will be as great or greater than that separating me from my own great grandfather,” he hypothesizes.

The Tel Aviv lecturer has long been the subject of controversy. His 2008 book “The Invention of the Jewish People” claimed that the Jews were not a nation expelled from its homeland but a religion of converts spread throughout the world. The Jewish people as an ethnic group, he asserted, was a myth created by Jewish intellectuals in the 19th century. In a 2009 sequel, “The Invention of the Land of Israel,” Sand similarly deconstructs the Jews’ historical right to that land.

Guest post on the propriety or otherwise of R’ Meir Rabi’s business practices

[The post is from EK, I have asked Meir and his business partner Kalman if they have any objections= to me posting this, and the answer from Meir was no.]

Several months ago, I brought to the attention of readers of “Galus Australis” that Rabbi Meir Rabi is responsible for the appropriation of the artwork of a famous Hungarian / Israeli / Australian graphic artist: Georg Hamori. Rabbi Rabi has not responded to the specific allegations. Unfortunately, Galus Australis is in the habit of removing all comments from articles that are inconvenient to its contributors. I have included some new comments together with an updated version that incorporates updates I made before Galus Australis obliterated them.

I regard all Australian “Kosher Authorities” as being equally interested in empire building and / or financial gain. Indistinguishable and multilateral examples of this include: “Laffa Matzo” brouhaha; non-direct and non-continuous supervision of “Kosher” eateries; bogus shechita by not observing Kohanic gifts. Even so, I like Rabbi Rabi and some of his positions on Kashrut.

To put my position in perspective for the readers, as far as we know, my family originally lived in Ottoman Palestine and Egypt, India and China. Rabbi Rabi is on the right track about soft matzos. The problem is that the wheat or barley should have been observed from harvest to grinding into flour. Then the dough must be rapidly prepared to prevent fermentation and immediately baked. Worldwide, there are many soft and hard flat types of bread that contain no leaven or aerating compounds and are thoroughly baked before fermentation occurs. I agree with Isaac Balbin that there should only be one Australian Hechsher. The board that operates the hechsher must be representative of all degrees of observance and must be transparent in all its operations.

I’m keenly interested in stamp collecting. Why is this relevant? The other week I was perusing Rabbi Rabi’s It’s Kosher website and found an image of the certificate he uses for providing to manufacturers and retailers. I am reliably informed the certificate is displayed at “It’s Kosher” retailers.

The core image of the certificate is the APPROPRIATED design of the Israeli 150 Pruta stamp commemorating the “Memorial Day for the Fighters for Independence” and “The Seventh Independence Day” by the late; world famous, graphic artist George Hamori. He designed a vast number of stamps, many of which were issued by Australia and Israel. He was born in Hungary, survived the holocaust, immigrated to Israel and later moved to Australia. The Hamori family continue to live in Australia.

The Israel Post Office released this stamp on the 26 April 1955.

Records show that Israel Post had a license to produce a stamp design almost identical to the Israel State Emblem. Looking at the stamp gutter is more information. For comparison, an exact image of the Israel State Emblem is depicted. The stamp design differs to the Israel State Emblem in that the lighting angle is the opposite, the rounded base and stem of the menorah truly depicts the menorah on the Arch of Titus (not stylized as on the Emblem), the font for “Israel” is different and of course there is the addition of flames.

Fact: you or some one working for you must have acquired the image of the stamp and then used software to remove “Israel” in English and Arabic along with the denomination “150″. You should know that the Israel FLAG AND EMBLEM LAW 1949 (5709) ss(3) & (8) and possibly s5 would apply to you and what you have done. There are penalties specified by the Act.

I found this on the Kosher Ve Yosher website of Rabbi Rabi in the legal section:

“COPYRIGHT … We therefore grant permission to publish and disseminate any texts (NOT IMAGES) found in this website …without the prior written consent of Rabbi Meir Rabi.

Publishing information from this site requires:
• that it be used and presented such that it clearly pursues the same objectives as are presented on this website.
• that full credit be attributed to Kosher VeYosher or its Kosher! together with and on the same page as, the relevant texts.
• that the full internet address of the this website and the name of Rabbi Meir Gershon Rabi appear on the same page as the relevant texts. That these attributions be clearly observable on the relevant page.”

Your self-admission that you thought the copyright had expired is telling. This article provides a scholarly discussion of the Halacha in relation to appropriation.

Click to access NetanelNimme.pdf

Rabbi Rabi, I feel you are a hypocrite and have demonstrated zero respect for Mr Hamori. Using the State of Israel Emblem for the gain of your Hechsher is reprehensible. Why instead didn’t you create your own original artwork with a menorah? I feel very strongly that you need to discontinue the appropriation of Hamori’s design for the following reasons:

[1] The stamp was designed to commemorate the sacrifice of the Fighters for Independence, to establish a homeland and state for Jews and protect them in the shadow of the holocaust and earlier pogroms. It is entirely wrong that this ideal is vandalised for commercial or personal gain.

[2] Misappropriation of intellectual property: either belonging to the Hamori family or the Israel Post Office.

[3] No attribution was provided to George Hamori on the certificate.

[4] Shock to the Hamori family who might see the certificate image at an It’s Kosher certified retailer.

The Hamori family deserve an explanation and apology

Twisting, turning, Askonim using Gedolay Yisrael

The following made the rounds. Of course, most reported them irresponsibility and with the usual anti Jewish venom. Some salient points.

  1. This is not a letter from R’ Chaim Kanievsky
  2. It is from a Charedi organisation that sets itself up to “purify” communication. It  has an agenda, and will never tell you about a Rav who has no problem with proper use of an iPhone
  3. There is a footnote which is their own fodder for the masses and can be misread to be the words of R’ Kanievsky.
  4. Even if this is true, R’ Kanievsky isn’t making decisions for you and I. A Rav paskens (if he did indeed pasken) for the people in front of him. Frankly, those people aren’t looking for a Psak at all. They are simply look for another bazooka to hold at people’s heads
  5. Anyone who extends the use of such a letter to the “conclusion” that wedding witnesses or mikvah ladies who use iPhones are Pasul even B’Dieved, doesn’t need a Rabbi; they need therapy
  6. There are plenty of Av Beis Din’s around the world who use smartphones.
  7. This has nothing to do with phones, it’s all about the improper use of the internet. Who has an argument with improper usage? My iPhone contains more Shiurim than I have time to listen to.
  8. Of course, toilet blogs like Scott Rosenberg’s blog and others, breed piranhas using such stories. They are irresponsible.
  9. Rabbi Kanievsky defers to Rav Shteinman anyway (the latter of whom isn’t a Posek of note, unless I’ve missed his Tshuvos)
  10. They neither live, nor know about my world, and simply don’t have the information required.
  11. I didn’t ask them for their opinion, and am not obliged to do anything with their letter.
  12. A Rosh Yeshiva is not a Posek anymore than a Posek is a Rosh Yeshiva
  13. There is no such thing as Daas Torah anyway. Speak to your Posek when you have a Shayla. That’s the way it was and ought to remain.
  14. End.


Does this rest easily?

[hat tip Cracower]

Israel’s Richest Rabbi on Forbes List Is $367M Man
Pinchas Abuhatzeira Is Tops — Pinto Comes In No. 7

The rabbinate is not known as a path to riches. But for several Israeli rabbis, it is just that. The ten wealthiest Israeli rabbis own a combined fortune of over $620 million, according to a recent ranking by Forbes Israel.

Rabbi Pinchas Abuhatzeira is Israel’s richest rabbi by a long shot, with an estimated net worth of about $367 million. At 36 years old, he is also the youngest rabbi on the list. He inherited a massive fortune and a large following from his father, Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzaeira, who was murdered in 2011. The elder Abuhatzeira was stabbed to the death by a mentally disturbed follower to whom he had previously given marital advice. Superstar rabbis like Abuhatzeira can collect large sums in return for advice, blessings, amulets, and attending their followers’ family events.

The father and son aren’t the only wealthy members of the family. Pinchas’ uncle Rabbi Yekutiel Abuhatzeira is Israel’s ninth wealthiest rabbi, with over $7 million, and his uncle David Hai Abuhatzeira appeared on the list last year. His cousin, rabbi and kabbalist Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto (No. 7 on the list), is one of Israel’s most highly sought-after rabbis and directs an international network of yeshivas and charities. The police have also taken an interest in Pinto, investigating his finances and questionable real estate deals. Pinto and the three Abuhatzeiras are direct descendants of the famed Sephardi religious leader, the Baba Sali, who died in 1984 but is still widely revered in Israel.

The Abuhatzeiras are not the only wealthy rabbinic family in Israel. Two members of the Ifargan family made it onto Forbes’ list: Rabbi Yaakov Israel Ifargan (No. 5) and his sister Rebbetzin Bruria Zvuluni (No. 10), the sole woman on the list. Popularly known as the “X-ray” rabbi, Ifargan supposedly can read people’s minds. Like Rabbi Pinto, Ifargan advises some of Israel’s most important businessmen and politicians – for a fee. The “X-ray” rabbi and his sister, who is sometimes known as “the CT”, collectively own for than $30 million.

Two Hasidic leaders also made it onto the list: the Gur Rebbe (No. 2) and the Belz Rebbe (No. 3). Both lead powerful Hasidic movements that were decimated during the Holocaust, but are now growing in population – and wealth.

While a few ultra-Orthodox rabbis have done quite well for themselves, the majority of their flock lives below the poverty line. Nor are all Israeli rabbis as wealthy as these 10 well-heeled rabbis – most make modest salaries.

No word yet on when we can expect a list of America’s wealthiest rabbis.


Rabbi Pinchas Abuchatzeira
Value: 1.3 billion
Age 36
Marital Status Married +5
Residence Beer Sheva
Value are in 1.3 billion


Gerrer Rebbe Yaakov Aryeh Alter
Value: 350 million
Age 73
Marital Status Married +9
Residence Bnei Brak
Value are in 350 million


Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Issachar Dov Rokeach
Value: 180 million
Age 65
Residence Jerusalem
Value are in 180 million


Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi
Value: 100 million
Age 55
Marital Status Married +4
Residence Session furrows
Value are in 100 million


Rabbi Jacob (Israel) Ifergan, “X-ray”
Value: 90 million
Age 46
Marital Status Married +4
Residence Netivot
Value are in 90 million


Rabbi Josiah Pinto
Value: 75 million
Age 38
Marital Status Married +3
Residence Ashdod
Value are in 75 million


Rabbi Reuven Elbaz
Value: 40 million
Age 68th
Residence Jerusalem
Value are in 40 million

Rabbi Yoram Abergel
Value: 35 million
Age 55
Marital Status Father to 5
Residence Netivot
Value are in 35 million


Rabbi Yekutiel Abuchatzeira
Value: 25 million
Age 51
Marital Status Married
Residence Ashdod
Value are in 25 million

Rebbetzin Bruriah Zevuluni
Value: 20 million
Age 51
Marital Status Married +8
Residence Jerusalem
Value are in 20 million

The Gneivas Daas perpetrated on Chachmei Yisrael

I have written about this topic before, in respect of R’ Elyashiv and his minders, aka מתעסקים, and Rabbi Rosen was pointed in the way R’ Ovadya was sheltered from the real world by those who had their agendas.

There is a power struggle amongst the “Litvishe” style Chachmei Yisrael: R’ Yehuda Leib Shteinman and his supporter, the venerable R’ Chaim Kanievsky versus the more outspoken and bombastic R’ Shmuel Auerbach, a son of R’ Shlomo Zalman who is very unlike his father.

R’ Shteinman is elderly and very frail. He was also recently assaulted by an alleged psychotic person who is now being assessed in a mental institution. What disturbed me last night was an article which referred to the following video [Hat tip Benseon]

Watch carefully. R’ Shteinman is fed all manner of lies about the non Charedi candidate for mayor in the hotly divided embarrassment, otherwise known as Beth Shemesh. R’ Shteinman, who is known for having a more sanguine outlook on life and those who are not yet frum, is basically bullied with lies, to condemn Eli Cohen. I found the video most disheartening. There can never be כפייה תדית, that is, the forced charedisation of people whom Hashem provided with free choice. Yet, the agenda is clearly to mistranslate the phrase ’לתקן עולם’ to be one of violent and unremitting pressure designed to “rid” Beth Shemesh of people who happen to choose their own way of life.

Everybody knows that such facile attempts to “convince” people to follow a particular path is but a charade. It’s a charade in the sense that many protagonists act out the charade, and others follow suit simply to remain unbranded. Branding can and will mean ostracisation at least, and the leper-like treatment of their children in the future.

I do not think that we can do much about it, except hope that any fraud in that election is revealed and that fraudsters are imprisoned. We must also interact with those who do live peacefully in Beth Shemesh, and who want nothing of the emigration of Neturei Karta to their city where that emigration denies them basic civil rights.

It is important to bear all this in light of the so-called proclamations issued by the Chachmei Yisroel. They are being fed a litany of lies and untruths. אוי מה היה לנו

On another note:

I  watched a wonderful video of R’ Ovadya’s youngest daughter-in-law, Yehudit Yosef. Again, I was thunderstruck by her description of his powers of concentration as he was learning. Even if there is a touch of hyperbole, I don’t doubt the story of her two year old son.

Alas, I can’t find where I saw it. She was interviewed by a female student and it was broadcast on an Israeli Television station.

Why the sudden fuss about “it’s kosher”?

I noticed the following issued by the Rabbinic Council of Victoria

It has recently been brought to the attention of The Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) that claims made by the local business ‘It’s Kosher’ on its website that its hechsher is endorsed by the Chief Rabbanut of Israel are both false and misleading.

The Rabbanut has clarified that no such endorsement has been issued, and while it did approve one specific product some four years ago, this does not constitute an endorsement of the “It’s Kosher” hechsher.

The Rabbanut further clarified that it has a policy not to approve any products under the supervision of this Hechsher.

“Leaving aside the concerns expressed to the RCV relating to the Halachic standards adopted by the said business,” RCV President Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant said, “this misleading statement about the Israeli Rabbanut is deeply concerning to the RCV. If it is the case that the false statement was made to mislead and deceive the public by claiming that its Hechsher is supported by the Israeli Rabbinate, this would call into question the integrity of those running the ‘It’s Kosher’ business”.

Anyone who visits the “it’s kosher” website knows that it is chock full of controversial attempts to convince the public into respecting the rulings of its halachic authority. We are told that this authority was “compelled” to undertake his work by Rabbi Rudzki ז’ל for the benefit of us all.

Perhaps we can hear a little but about the separation? of finances and kashrus in his organisation. Does the supervising Rabbi/authority receive a wage which varies with the number of hechsherim/products for which he gives the nod? Where are the books? Are they open for all to see? Is there a lay board with no financial interest? Who are the financial beneficiaries of this business? Did R’ Rudzki also run his own supervision business this way?

This gives new meaning to the term השגחה פרטית.

There is more to be said about this business. Did its halachic authority seek (unwittingly?) to give a financial boost to Jews who have a half treyf shop which is also open on shabbos when simple yashrus would have dictated that this is a basic unfair advantage over Jews who try to provide a similar product which is kosher and only kosher and is not profiting from Trayf on Shabbos. Is this the meaning of “Yosher”?

Remember, the website for that authority claims in the FAQ that there are no Divine Laws, only Divine Principles.

PS. There is no halachic difference that I can understand between writing God, Gd and G-d. I am not sure why people persist on doing that (eg on their kashrus business website)? Enlighten me.

And one more thing …

Anyone who doubts the childishness and the lack of ethics and decency of Scott Rosenberg’s blog, should note (as I was advised last night by my children) that this person purposefully wrote my surname as Baalbin.

Ho Ho Ho.

Don’t think this was an innocent mistake.

Why? Because Scott thinks he is being clever by referring to the “prophets” of Baal.

Well, Scott, this isn’t clever, and it is indecent, and if I could be bothered, I’d report you to some journalistic ethics board. This is why your blog, especially the unfettered disgraceful comments you purposefully allow (and disallow) is considered contemptible.

But, you will get hits using these little tricks, and make money from this activity. I guess it pays your bills, Scott?

I have a day job (and night job).

I’d hate to see Tzedek disappear

I have a lecture to prepare. I don’t really have the time to deal with scurrilous nonsense, so I will be brief.

Tzedek was set up with the best intentions. I am confident that the financial and non financial backers are good people whose final and laudable aim is to help our society deal with past ills and (perhaps even more importantly) create an awareness so that the horrible crime of abuse is seriously minimised etc

Organisations, though, need to be very careful with their words and claims. It is relatively easy to lose credibility very quickly. That’s not to say they shouldn’t speak out. That’s an entirely different matter.

I don’t allow ad hominem attacks on this blog. The purpose of this blog is multifarious as can be seen by the range of topics I choose to write about.

In trying to discredit me, however, I had to laugh with angst at claims and  descriptions put out by Tzedek.

  1. I’m ultra-orthodox. Well, let’s see. Where do I start. My Rabbi isn’t. He advises me on halachic matters. He is shunned by the ultra-orthodox and described as modern orthodox or centrist orthodox. He is a world-class Talmid Chacham but the Aguda don’t even let him speak or sit on a dias at Daf Hayomi Siyumim. He sits at the back on a normal table. It’s a bizayon Talmidei Chachomim. He can learn better than most of them on the dias, but because he is not considered ultra-orthodox, he has no place! I have a PhD, which means I spent many years of my life studying in a University. That’s a no no. Worse, I’m still there. I teach secular topics—Science. I even use the internet, constantly. I use social media. I have a blog. All these are forbidden by ultra orthodox. But wait, it gets even worse. I run a band which plays non-Jewish music and this is to crowds who are mixed dancing. Guests aren’t dressed modestly either, especially in the warmer months. Read my posts on Israel and related matters and see if I’m closer to Zionism than “non” or “anti” Zionism—hallmarks of ultra orthodox. Read my critique of the extreme groups. Yes, I have to unashamedly try to keep Torah and Mitzvos, but if that’s the definition of ultra-orthodox, then I guess many of us are damned by Tzedek. Tzedek’s CEO’s own father is “ultra-orthodox”. Does he describe him as “my ultra orthodox father”. Why do I say, “damned”? Because it is entirely irrelevant what shade of white, black or grey somebody is unless you believe in strange conspiracy theories that people who are lumped by Tzedek into some category (which they don’t define) are likely to be so dumb and stupid, that they will hide the truth or protect people from that same  “Tzedek category”. Sorry, this type of characterisation is Grade 1 level. Does the CEO preface his remarks about someone defending homosexuality as saying “Homosexual Joe Jones said …” that’s simply boorish. It has no credibility as far as debating logic is concerned, let alone, in my case any resemblance to fact. It is a transparent and poor attempt to deflect from the lack of research conducted by Tzedek on the matter of Rabbi Brander’s visit to our shores. Did Tzedek actually ring a roof body, all of whom reacted with probity after reading some of the toilet blog posts and their comments? At the risk of repeating myself, there is no such thing as a Gzera Shava for people, to the extent that if one  does belong to a group, that they are thereby tarnished ipso facto and have lost their independence of thought and action. There is no better proof of that than Tzedek’s CEO’s own father. Is he tarnished because he is Chabad? Why not? Answer: he has his own views and expresses them. A contradiction to the implied thesis in the CEO’s hyperbole. But …. maybe I am ultra orthodox in Galus Australis style, simply because I don’t eat at Lord of the Fries or similar establishments? The mind boggles.
  2. I’ve been criticised because I sit on a Shule board, one of whose ex-members is now facing proceedings. I understand that the CEO of Tzedek is alleged to be one of the victims of said ex-member. Well, hello there Tzedek. Your CEO and his father (and indeed readers of my blog) know very well that it was me who initiated the removal of said ex-member from the board. Do you not remember my father הכ’’מ asking me to take a post down because he thought I should not get involved! Let’s go further. I even had an attempted intervention order (later withdrawn) placed out on me by the aforementioned ex-board member now facing trial, because I was “in his face” so to speak. Tzedek, you have the wrong address. But it’s worse than simply having the wrong address. What’s really worrying, is that (a) you actually know you have the wrong address on such matters, and (b) had you even bothered to ring a single board member of my Shule, they would have told you this. Indeed, ring the accused’s father! Go on, do us all a favour and return with your findings.
  3. On the matter of the COSV and the accused’s membership, again, Tzedek is so far off the mark, it’s really sad that this fact demeans Tzedek terribly. I was present when the conundrum was raised, and frankly, Tzedek ought to have been proud, of the attitude of each member of that executive and individual Shule Presidents. But, let us not let the truth get in the way of Tzedek’s tirades, hyperbole, and one liners in the press.

A pattern is emerging with Tzedek, and it’s a very sad one. It is turning people off Tzedek; people who used to look up to them. Their raison detre is brave and important, but their execution (sic) due to poor research, questionable leadership and the emotive untruths expressed by its leader(ship) is damaging its credibility. That would be a great shame.

I don’t have a clue if any member of Tzedek’s board read my blog, so my words may be in vain. By all means, someone please pass on this blog post to each and everyone of Tzedek’s board members. I would be most happy to meet them in my house at a time of their choosing, and properly explain what is wrong and my thoughts on how it can be fixed.

Have a nice day, everyone. I hope to!

Rabbi Broyde saga appears to have gone from bad to worse

My defence of Rabbi Broyde in the context of understanding why some people assume pseudonymous identities may be misplaced. Time and evidence will tell.

See the article (reproduced below) by Steven I. Weiss at the Jewish Channel.

A new investigation by The Jewish Channel suggests a deception related to Rabbi Michael Broyde’s academic work that academic ethics experts say would represent a much greater breach of academic ethics than the revelations from a previous investigation published by The Jewish Channel on April 12.

The Jewish Channel has previously revealed that Rabbi Michael Broyde — a prominent rabbi who was reportedly on the shortlist to be chief rabbi of England and is a law professor at U.S. News & World Report’s 23rd-ranked law school at Emory University — created a fake professional identity, Rabbi Hershel Goldwasser, that Broyde used over the course of nearly 20 years. The Goldwasser character joined a rival rabbinic group and gained access to its members-only communications, to argue with other members of that group under the fake identity, to submit letters to scholarly journals that in some cases touted his own work, and engage in other scholarly deceptions.

But a second identity uncovered by The Jewish Channel might have gone farther down the road of academic misconduct than did the Goldwasser character. The second identity, claiming to be an 80-something Ivy League graduate and Talmud scholar in 2010, alleged he’d had conversations with now long-dead sages in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The alleged conversations were used to produce a manufactured history of statements from long-dead scholars that buttressed an argument that Broyde had made in a highly-touted article published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Broyde, in a later publication, subsequently quoted this second identity’s alleged findings as further proof of his original argument.

The consequences for Broyde in creating the Goldwasser character have been greater in his role as rabbi than in his role as a law professor. Broyde has already taken an “indefinite leave of absence” from his position as a judge on the largest rabbinical court in the United States, as well as from his role as a member in the rabbinic professional association with which it is affiliated. The president of that rabbinical group, the Rabbinical Council of America, has called Broyde’s conduct “extremely disturbing.”

But whereas numerous rabbis have explained to The Jewish Channel that the requirements of a rabbinical court judge include having a reputation for unquestioned integrity and honesty, several academic ethics experts have explained that the standards for university professors are different. Broyde’s conduct revealed in The Jewish Channel’s previous reporting thus far is less clear as a violation of academic standards for professors, these experts say.

However, if Broyde created this second identity and alleged historical evidence, that would “clearly be false scholarship” and “clearly require disciplinary review,” according to Professor Celia Fisher of Fordham University, where she is director of the Center for Ethics Education.

Broyde’s conduct as Hershel Goldwasser could be “defensible” if it was used “to stimulate discussion or even controversy,” said the director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, Professor Teddi Fishman, but “Making up a supposedly real person to prop up one’s own positions does just the opposite and undermines scholarly integrity.”

Broyde did not reply to multiples e-mails or to multiple voicemails at both his office and mobile phone numbers requesting comment for this story.

Another Character

This second identity involves a 179-page article by Broyde published as a special supplement of the scholarly journal Tradition in the fall of 2009. A prefatory note to special supplement expresses thanks from the editors of Tradition to two entities, one of which is Broyde’s employer, the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, where Broyde is a senior fellow. The two entities “funded this special supplement, thereby enabling Tradition to publish a worthy article that we would not otherwise have been able to print because of considerations of space,” the editors write.

Broyde’s article generated significant controversy within the Orthodox rabbinate and in Jewish scholarly circles for its detailed historical argument suggesting that the dominant view of past rabbinic sages was that married women might not need to cover their hair in public in order to conform to Orthodox Jewish law.

Tradition received multiple letters in response to the article, both supporting and opposing Broyde’s argument. Two of the letters supporting Broyde’s argument aroused editors’ suspicions about their authenticity.

Someone claiming to be David Tzvi Keter wrote one of those letters to Tradition from a Gmail account, establishing a biography in which he claimed he had “moved to Israel in 1949 after graduating from Columbia,” and that he then went on to learn at one of the most prestigious yeshivas in the world at the time, Jerusalem’s Etz Chaim yeshiva, under a major sage of the time, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer.

The Keter character then goes on to provide a history in which he gathered the oral testimony of several prominent sages of the mid-20th-century on the topic of women’s hair covering. His letter provides their comments 60 years later to add them to the historical record Broyde had been analyzing in the Tradition article.

After Tradition declined to publish the letter, Broyde succeeded in getting the letter published on the Orthodox Jewish scholarship website Hirhurim. Broyde then wrote a follow-up to his Tradition article at Hirhurim, in which he responded to critics and cited the Keter letter as one of three “additional sources that support my position which have come to light since my article came out.”

Finding David Keter

The Jewish Channel has been unable to find any evidence of David Keter’s existence.

Columbia University has no records of a student named David Keter in the 1940s, nor does it have a record for any student having an English version of that name, David Crown, in that era.

The Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, founded in 1951, as “the primary support organization for immigrants to Israel from North America,” has no record of David Keter in its database. According to a director of the organization, Josie Arbel, “in the early years [membership] was very inexpensive & automatic,” and “all olim [immigrants] arrival info from the Jewish Agency went into our database.” However, it’s possible that someone from 1949 never made contact with the organization, despite the relatively few such immigrants who were in Israel at the time of the organization’s founding.

All but one of the four men named David Keter listed in Israeli phone directories going back to 2003 told The Jewish Channel that they were born in Israel. The family of the David Keter who could not be reached told The Jewish Channel that he died more than 8 years ago, and was also born in Israel.

The only public record The Jewish Channel could find of a David Keter who was not born in Israel was a 1961 Hebrew newspaper article about a lawyer and yoga aficionado who had just emigrated to the country from the United States. The article said that the David Keter who was a subject of their article had changed his name from Isaac Dowd. Columbia University has no records of an Isaac Dowd attending Columbia University in the 1940s, either.

Brandeis University Professor Jonathan Sarna told The Jewish Channel that new immigrants to Israel were frequently featured in the English-language Jerusalem newspaper of the time, The Palestine Post. A search of the online archive for the newspaper produced no mentions of anyone with the last name of Keter.

The Jewish Channel was unsuccessful in trying to get government sources to determine whether David Keter ever received a national identity card, which Israeli law requires every resident of Israel over the age of 16 to carry at all times. Without more identifying information about Keter, the sources said, a search could not be completed.

No One Home

The Keter character provided a fake home address to Tradition editors when they sought to engage him in follow-up correspondence to his original letter.

After Tradition editors initially became suspicious of the Keter letter, they reached out to Keter on January 11, 2010, asking for an address and phone number to contact him. The Keter character wrote back eight days later, apologizing for the delay in response, which he said was because “I had what they tell me is a mini-stroke and I am only now able to read email at all.”

Keter responded with an address and phone number, but Tradition’s editor, Professor Shalom Carmy of Yeshiva University, did not recall doing anything with this information.

The Jewish Channel investigated Keter’s phone number and mailing address in 2013.

The phone number Keter provided to Tradition in 2010 today leads to a message that it is a non-working phone number. The Jewish Channel has been unable to obtain records for the phone number going back to 2010 to determine who, if anyone, once held that number.

Regarding Keter’s alleged address, while the Keter character’s letter claimed to have lived in Jerusalem in the mid-20th-century, he responded to Tradition’s 2010 e-mail inquiry by saying “I live in Maalot Tarshisha now, all the way up north, in 16 Shlomo Hamelech.”

That address the Keter character provided to Tradition consists of two lots. According to property records obtained by The Jewish Channel, the current owners of the two lots have owned those properties since 2002 and 2007. Owners of both properties told The Jewish Channel that they have resided there since their purchases and have never met anyone named David Keter, nor any man living in the area who was Orthodox or born in the United States. A next-door neighbor who told The Jewish Channel she has lived in her home since 1996 said that for as long as she has lived in her home, no one named David Keter, nor anyone born in the United States or who is an Orthodox Jew has lived nearby.

The small town of Maalot Tarshisha, population 20,000, consists mostly of secular Jewish Russian immigrants, with an additional 20% of the population being Arab. The head of the local religious committee for the time period Keter claimed to have lived there, Michael Hazan, told The Jewish Channel that he’d never heard of a David Keter.

Connections With Broyde

Unlike the Hershel Goldwasser character revealed by The Jewish Channel in an earlier investigation, the David Keter character does not claim to know Broyde — but Broyde did claim to have spoken to Keter.

In the months after Tradition chose not to run the Keter letter in January 2010, various outlets were publishing responses to Broyde’s controversial article.

In September 2010, the Jerusalem-based Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin sent a response to the proprietor of the Orthodox Jewish scholarship website Hirhurim, Gil Student, that was critical of Broyde’s article, declaring in part that “Rabbi Broyde’s core position…is untenable.” Henkin told Student that he had originally sent the letter to Tradition, and that the journal had not published it.

Student forwarded Henkin’s letter to Broyde before publishing, and Broyde replied “I have no problem with this — just make sure he knows that Tradition will certainly not publish it if you do.” Broyde then brought up the Keter letter, asking “Can I send you in a more favorable letter to the editor that Tradition declined to publish? Can you publish that also under some section of letters tradition [sic] did not publish?”

Upon Student’s assent, Broyde then forwarded the Keter letter to Student, explaining that he had obtained it when the editor of Tradition “sent it to me as an FYI.” Broyde then requested, “Please do publish it.” The Tradition editor, Carmy, told The Jewish Channel that he has no record of sending Broyde the letter from Keter, but that he regularly deletes old e-mails and that “I had no reason to keep it from Broyde.”

Student wrote to Keter’s e-mail address asking for permission to publish the letter, and Keter replied less than two hours later, writing “That is fine with me. It is an incident that is more than 50 years old now.”

In the days after The Jewish Channel’s investigation of Broyde was published on April 12th of this year, Student specifically asked Broyde whether Keter was a real person. Broyde responded that Keter is real, as Broyde had personally spoken to him by phone.

In a later conversation, Broyde told Student that Keter had given Broyde access to Keter’s Gmail account, and that Broyde had edited Keter’s original letter before sending it to Tradition.

Gmail accounts, unlike the Hotmail account used by the Goldwasser character, do not include the Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses of those sending messages from Gmail in their metadata.

How Could Keter Exist?

Student published Keter’s letter on Hirhurim in September 2010, and soon thereafter heard from readers, including editors at Tradition, about the factual concerns regarding Keter’s letter.

The overall biography for Keter is extraordinary. He claims to have graduated Columbia University in the 1940s, an era when being an Orthodox Jew in an Ivy League school was extremely rare, according to Brandeis University Professor Jonathan Sarna. “You still had quotas in the 1940s,” Sarna said in a phone interview, where rules existed such that “Jews are not more than 10 percent [of those enrolled as students], usually less, at top universities, and of those Jews, the vast majority tended to be non-Orthodox, since it was especially difficult to be an Orthodox Jew on most Ivy League campuses.”

Keter then claims to have moved to Israel in 1949, just after Israel’s war of independence and before many of the basic government services — including immigrant absorption — had been established in the Jewish State. “Back in 1949, aliyah [immigration to Israel] from America was highly unusual,” Sarna wrote in an e-mail to The Jewish Channel, adding “Orthodox American college students were no exception to that rule.” Sarna noted that “many of whose who did make aliyah returned after a few years,” because “Israel was a third-world country in 1949, and Americans did not find living there easy.” Sarna concluded that, “I am not aware of any precise figures concerning American Orthodox olim with college educations, but I suspect that you could count their numbers on your fingers and toes.”

Once in Israel, Keter claims to have studied at one of the most prestigious yeshivas of its era, which would usually require years of high-level Talmud study instead of schooling on secular subjects at an Ivy League University. While Meltzer’s yeshiva “certainly had taken American students” in the first half of the twentieth century, “they would tend to be people who went to Yeshiva Etz Chaim in America or another yeshiva, and then gone off,” instead of having gone to university.

Asked about the possibility of an Orthodox Jew doing all of these things — attending Columbia University in the 1940s or earlier, then moving to Israel in 1949, and studying in Meltzer’s yeshiva — Sarna answered in the phone interview, “Whoa, that’s unusual.” Sarna added, “I’m not going to say the facts are impossible,” but “I would ask a lot of questions.”

That such an exceptional figure would then never be heard from in the field of Jewish scholarship, until he wrote a single letter 60 years later, struck many scholars contacted by The Jewish Channel as extremely odd.

Presenting a New Narrative

The story Keter relayed also struck editors at Tradition as odd. The premise of the Keter letter as a response to Broyde’s article is that, while learning at the exclusive Jerusalem yeshiva under the sage Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer, “I was engaged to a woman who would not cover her hair and I spoke to the Rav Meltzer about this matter at some length.”

Keter relates that Meltzer was initially dismissive of Keter’s inquiry: “He told me that it was better not to marry someone who would not cover her hair.” But Keter was able to get the sage to refer the question elsewhere by citing the power of love: “After I told him that I really loved this woman and wanted to marry, he graciously gave me permission to speak to three of his students, Rabbi Yehuda Gershuni, Rabbi Elazar Shach and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.”

“So off I went” to meet those rabbis, Keter declares.

Keter’s letter then cites responses from Gershuni and Auerbach that are broadly consistent with what the historical record reveals.

Where Keter’s letter goes into completely new territory, and the portion which Broyde cited in a later publication, is in Keter’s testimony about Shach. “[I]t was Rav Shach who startled me with his halachic [rabbinic legal] view,” Keter wrote. After discussing the issue in detail, “Rav Shach told me that it was better to be strict on this matter, but one who was makil [lenient], yesh al ma lismoch [he has what to rely upon].”

It is this paragraph about Shach’s attitudes that Broyde cites in an article on Hirhurim, declaring that “a recollection by David Keter of a conversation he had with Rav Shach,” is one of three “additional sources that support my position which have come to light since my article came out.”

A Story That Couldn’t Have Happened

As improbable as scholars find the overall narrative of the man named David Tzvi Keter, the letter itself contains a false detail that suggests Keter’s story is untrue.

Scholars suggest it was extremely unusual that an Orthodox Jew would have attended Columbia University in the 1940s, and indeed Columbia University has no records of this man. They also find it extremely unlikely that a man who was so well-versed in secular learning that he could attend Columbia could also develop the Talmudic skills to be immediately accepted into an exclusive yeshiva just after graduating college.

But the stories about the new history provided by Keter raised questions, as well. Scholars questioned whether the chronology suggested by the letter was consistent with recorded history, and whether the historical statements Keter provided were reflective of the long-dead rabbis’ actual attitudes — especially those regarding Shach.

And indeed, in one detail in the letter, Keter includes a historical inaccuracy that reveals his narrative could not have happened as Keter claims it did. The author says he “moved to Israel in 1949″ before his rabbinic adventure began. All four rabbis Keter claims to have spoken to were in Israel then, but Gershuni left Israel for the United States shortly thereafter, in 1950, according to a 2005 memorial book edited by Itamar Warhaftig, Afikei Yehuda.

However, the conversation with Shach that Keter relates could not have happened until 1952, two years after Gershuni left Israel.

Keter tells of Shach saying that “his wife had not covered her hair in Europe or while he was learning at Etz Chaim,” but that things changed for Shach when he became an instructor at a different yeshiva. “Now that he was at Ponevitch she certainly did cover her hair,” Keter claims Shach said. Shach only started teaching at the Ponevitch yeshiva in 1952, according to a 1989 biography of the rabbi by Moshe Horovitz, HaRav Shach Shehamaphteach Beyado.


In October 2010, Student, the Hirhurim editor, gathered various of the factual objection to Keter’s letter and asked Keter about them in an e-mail. Student also mentioned in the e-mail a result of Student’s correspondence with editors of Tradition after he published the letter, that a nephew of a Tradition editor then studying in Israel wanted to meet Keter.

Student, trying not to appear accusatory, concluded, “I apologize if these request [sic] offends you. You have already been generous with sharing your experience and any further information you give is at your discretion.”

Keter never replied.

Why do some people assume false identities?

One of the by products of the internet, is that it is easier to hide behind a screen and comment. This presents a challenge. I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t succumbed on rare or not so rare occasion to issuing an “Anonymous” comment, or a comment from “Yogi Bear”. That is one level. A lower level is when you imitate somebody else’s identity, and the someone else actually exists. This is clearly far more insidious, because not only is one hiding their true identity, or assuming a fictitious identity, they are pretending to be someone else. This is clearly universally unacceptable.

Academics, in particular, face perhaps more pressure to hide behind a screen. Gone are the days when an academic was free to express their opinion on any matter, especially those in which they have expertise, without fear of repercussions. Furthermore, the newly focussed environment of publish or perish has created its own unnatural Yetzer Hora for academics.

I vividly recall a fellow PhD student who had managed to publish about ten academic papers by the time he was ready to hand in his PhD. I had published 2 Journal papers and 2 Conference papers, and I thought I had been doing well. I recall looking at some drafts on his desk, and perusing these. What I saw was the “one” result, recast in different and deceptive ways, and sent to different forums, where neither forum would be aware of the other, let alone previous papers ostensibly in that area. I thought he was engaging in an academic fraud. My view was shared by other PhD students, but we didn’t say anything.

Bravely, when he went to submit his PhD, the checks and balances were applied, the University refused to allow him to submit his PhD, despite that he had ten publications to his name. His supervisor was oblivious and also at fault, no doubt.

Pressure builds on intelligent people. They have important things that they want to say, and they await reaction with a sharpened pen to defend themselves or their standpoint. They often find it more difficult to remain silent. The bubbling of the intellect is a force that sometimes forces its way through.

I am reminded of the story about R’ Chaim Brisker ז’ל, which was repeated in real life again by his Yoresh in genius and chesed, the Rav ז’ל. Both were profoundly attached to Emes in the purest sense. Their egos and academic genius were a clear second to Emes, truth. When they had both given a profound shiur that was roundly commended, they both had the integrity to front the same crowd, and declare

“What I said yesterday was wrong (faulty)”

This is an ethical value derived from an attachment to Torah. That’s not to say, of course, that others are unable to be similarly ethical without having learned Torah, but for the Soloveitchik family, abhorrence any  of falsehood was in their DNA. At the end of the day, one could argue, what would it have mattered. Unless someone proved that there were errors in the R’ Chaim or the Rav’s logical analysis  one might be tempted to “let it go” and take the attitude “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change anything”.

Academic life has changed enormously. While once we could pursue what was of interest to us, and do so with all the tenacity (and sometimes vitriol) we could muster because we believed in what we had written, today, elements of government ineptitude have imposed themselves on many academics. These budgetary pseudo-justifications are premised on dubious metrics and so-called “quality” outcomes, most of which are simply untrue.

Academics will now often not speak out, for fear of upsetting their line manager, or someone higher up.  They may accept papers that they should not have accepted for ulterior motives. They often adopt the attitude of “you do me a favour and give me a glowing reference, and I’ll do likewise”. This has happened because they are now under the same KPI-driven system which in essence is anathema to a free intellect that finds expression best when they are unencumbered. An obsession with metrics and management layers has introduced an unnecessary bureaucratic yoke.

Witness the growth of a metric system designed to measure one University against another, and one academic against another. Frankly, in most cases, I and most others find these metrics faulty, inconclusive and game-playing. There are academics I know who have written a seminal paper that appears as a standard reference in every text book, and are otherwise not considered “influential”. Yet, there are others who have published hundreds of papers, and if one tried to summarise in one paragraph what they had contributed to the field, it is too hard because it can’t be written down.

I have met and had dinner with Rabbi Professor Michael Broyde. He is a  quiet and unassuming gentlemen who portrays almost no ego. I found and find him to be committed to Torah-learning in a profound way. Yet, he was identified in a recent imbroglio and caught sock-puppeting over a number of years by using the alias of “Rabbi Hershel Goldstein”. The part of his sock-puppeting that disturbed me was the alleged praise by Hershel of Broyde’s essays or comments. This aspect reveals a man who either  has a low self-esteem or is full of himself. I suspect the former based on my observation.

That he has been suspended from the Beth Din of America is appropriate. I would like to think, though, that in time, he will return there, after Teshuva. If HKBH accepts Teshuva when it comes from the heart via action, then so should we.

I hope his University doesn’t come out too viciously in dealing with his actions. Yes, he did the wrong thing, and yes, he should be counselled.

I do not, however, want to see the disappearance of Rabbi Broyde from the landscape of Torah learning and academia over these issues.

He hasn’t stolen from or abused anyone. He made some very poor errors of judgement. This can be corrected. He isn’t the first or the last. Consider: John Locke, Voltaire, Lawrence Sterne, Benjamin Franklin and many more. Raphael Golb is a more recent example.

A prank that went badly wrong

By now, at least Australian and British people are aware of the tragic story regarding a prank call initiated by two Australian radio jockeys, after which a nurse committed suicide.

The papers are full of condemnation, in the main, although there are others who have a different perspective. Former Victorian premier, Jeff Kennett of Beyond Blue stated

“When they did this they had no intention to cause harm, it was a harmless prank,” he said.

“Now they will be under extraordinary pressure and I just hope that they get our support and that their employer provides them with the professional support to help them get through what will be a terrible few weeks.”

I have certainly pranked and I would guess that many of us have done likewise. Who can forget the “Smile, you’re on candid camera” TV series. Those who us who are old enough were glued to the set to see how the “victim” would react when they realised that had been duped.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the two Radio hosts were convinced that their prank call was utterly without malice and could not cause any harm. Yet, as sometimes happens, sadly, one person took it to heart, and committed suicide.

We know that people who commit suicide generally suffer from a psychological malaise. In Halacha, this fact is also used to allow such sad people to be buried amongst the rest of the community. I understand that psychologists estimate that over 80% of those who commit suicide had a pre-existing condition (which may or may not have been manifest to others).

The nurse who committed suicide may have been from the 80% or may have been from the 20%. One thing is certain, the radio hosts did not perform an act that people would have called outrageous. Until the Nurse committed suicide, it was considered a funny episode. Nobody complained. I understand that even the Royal Couple thought it was funny.

One person didn’t think it was funny, and she killed herself.

What would Halacha say about this? Again, I’m no Posek, however, using the dicta of מדבר שקר תרחק and גניבת דעת one could conclude that their actions were not acceptable. That being said, I do not know if the damages, the נזק, which resulted, viz the loss of life is something they would be responsible for. I’d have though that at worst, they would be able to live in an ערי מקלט, a city of refuge for those who accidentally caused the death of another through some negligence. We’d need to show negligence, however, as opposed to a lack of truthfulness.

Your thoughts?

Meir Rabi’s latest attention seeking news bite

One side of me said to stay silent and not blog since blogging would serve his purpose. The other side said to blog but only in order to encourage people NOT to get involved in facebook and other forums where the human headline will purvey his latest feather salvo. Don’t engage him in discourse; you waste your time.

Just forget about it and remember
ורם לבביך ושכחת את ה אלוקיך
is a real syndrome.

Don’t react and don’t provide fodder for next week’s ‘screaming headline’ in the AJN.

Guest counsellor in Melbourne

The Australian Jewish News included an advertisement from Kollel Beth HaTalmud featuring Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser. Rabbi Goldwasser is described as an expert in matters of addiction and is widely respected as a counsellor. I do not know if Rabbi Goldwasser has any formal qualifications. Certainly in Australia, you can be an accountant, and advertise and perform the role of counsellor and not have your advice or counsel subject to any peer review or peer oversight. My view is that all counsellors should not only have formal training, but that they should be answerable to a counselling peer body if there are complaints about their para-professional counsel. A psychologist can lose their registration if they are found to be guilty of breaching the standards expected of their peer body. It seems that counsellors, for some reason, are not bound by peer based standards because they do not need formal qualifications.

I guess it’s buyer beware. There is advice, and there is counselling. They are two different things. Rabbonim have long given advice. Some of them are also incredibly good counsellors and possess the “wisdom of Solomon” by virtue of their acumen and life experience, laced with the values of Halacha. Rabbis Chaim Gutnick ז’ל and Yitzchok Dovid Groner ז’ל were both revered as advisers and counsellors in Melbourne, and rightly so.

A Rabbi with requisite wisdom will also know when something is outside their range of expertise and refer a congregant to professionals when that appears to be warranted.

This is not to cast any aspersions on Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser. He is highly visible on the internet, and would seem to have a very good reputation achieving lots of good.

That being said, he is also someone who was issued with a Ksav Siruv by Chabad on account of allegations that he wilfully mistranslated the memoirs of an elderly paragon of Russian Jewry by omitting all and every reference to Chabad! I’m not breaking any new story here. The issue is well documented here and here

Thank God, apart from my addiction to Herring, Tzibbeles, and Bromfen on Shabbos, I have no need to see the good Rabbi; although if he can tell me how to lose some of my tummy I’d be obliged. If someone does attend, it might be interesting to ask why he chose not to appear before Rav Osdoba to answer the complaints directed against him about the book.

Statement from מו’’ר, Rav Hershel Schachter שליט’’א

This puts an end to R’ Meir Rabi’s attempts to use Rav Schachter’s name in support of his Laffa. I hope he has the good sense to remove Rav Schachter from his marketing and information websites.

In English:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERNI have been asked many times over the past years if it is correct for Ashkenazi Jews to fulfill their obligation to eat Matza on the night of Pesach with Sephardic Matza. I have always answered that, in my opinion, this is not against custom provided that the Matza is produced under expert supervision and under the strict guidance of reliable and responsible Rabbinic authorities. My intention was in strict reference to the Sephardic Matzas that are known to us here in New York. I have now been informed from afar that there are new varieties called Laffa and Mountain Bread that I have never seen and know nothing about and I have not expressed any opinion concerning them, for one may only rule on what one’s eyes have seen. It is impossible to give my opinion on anything that I am not familiar with. I am greatly astonished how a “living person can contradict a living person” and how it is possible that anyone can say things in my name that have totally never entered my mind.Signed: Tzvi Schachter

I’m closing the Kosher V’Yosher vs other Rabonim comment stream

I posted an article about Diet drinks on Pesach. The comments section was respectfully filled with important information from Rav Moshe Gutnick of NSW and others. I found myself eventually having to tone down some of the comments of interlocutors through editing. Rabbi Rabi of Kosher V’Yosher sent me a comment last night and it is not one that I can edit in the way that I wanted to. I would have removed the misleading Gravatar. Seemingly unable to find a picture of himself alone, Rabbi Rabi continues to use conjunctions of his image with a famous Posek (in this case Rav Belsky, may he have a Refuah Shelemah). In my opinion, this is G’neyvas D’aas as it may well constitute a transparent attempt to ascribe importance and respectability to his business and hechsher. It’s most unbecoming. I’m not going to be a mouthpiece for marketing of business/hechsherim. So, I’ll reproduce his comment below (lightly edited) without his gravatar and that’s the end of this issue for me unless I see written information either to his business/hechsher from Rabonim which contradicts the information that is issued by the Rabbinic Council of Victoria/NSW or if Rabbis from Victoria or NSW produce written information to them which contradict’s Rabi’s information.

In our first year we did not have flour that was Shemurah from Ketzira, harvest, but only Shemurah from milling. An alert was placed upon the Matza packets of that year – suggesting that people use Matza that is Shemurah from Ketzirah for their Mitzva of Motzi Matza. There was no ambiguity that would lead any reasonable person to think that regular flour was used. If there is anyone who has a record indicating otherwise, I urge them to bring this immediately to my attention. Failing that, all remarks and those on this site saying/suggesting otherwise ought to be removed.In the same vein, quite a few postings here have been edited, the same courtesy and moral fibre dictates that all unsubstantiated remarks that reflect negatively upon my work and reputation should also be removed.A remarkable claim has been made, that HaRav Schachter rules that soft Matza may only be made by those with a Mesora; however, Rabbi Lebowitz has written that “I spoke to Rav Schachter about this several times. He holds it is completely permissible and has nothing to do with mesorah.” SEE full email Rabbi Moshe Gutnick emailed me that HaRav Schachter’s ruling can be found on the web. Can anyone assist me to locate this? We have not been able to locate it.

The truth versus the whole truth

In a previous blog post, I cross referenced a story relayed by R’ Lazer Brody. At least one of my readers was a tad skeptical about the stories veracity. In the meanwhile, I received an email which suggested that the story never happened. True enough, the story didn’t happen in the way it was described. Here is what R’ Lazer Brody apparently writes about that story

Dear Rahel,
The story is actually a composite of three stories, all of which happened. The activists on the 350 bus, with the Breslever’s comment about the value of riding a mehadrin bus was one incident that occurred 2 weeks ago. A Breslever’s invitation of egalitarian activist for Shabbat and the revelation that many Haredi men and women are university graduates and army veterans was a second incident. The explanation about the rationale of shmirat eynayim to a hostile feminist was a third incident that happened to me personally in Manhattan. I turned all three into one incident to show how Rabbi Shalom Arush teaches his students to react in such a situation – ahavat Yisrael and Kiddush Hashem. Blessings always, LB

Some have reacted to this admission by saying that it was Gneyvas Daas. Others use this story to show that one must always check the veracity of such nice tales because they may well never have happened. I am as skeptical as the others. I’ve often been accused of having too much skepticism. Either way, I have absolutely no problems with the

  • story itself
  • use of the story in context

The story is made up of three sections, all of which are true according to R’ Brody. They happened to three different Breslaver Chassidim. To combine these into one story is to say that it is both conceivable that this could occur to one Chassid, but most importantly, that this is one approach to pursue when confronted with such a situation.

It isn’t the whole truth, but it is certainly truthful. I’m okay with it.

R' Lazer Brody (left) with his teacher R' Shalom Arush
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