Mixed Gender Functions

[Hat tip MD]

Recently, a question was asked of the Charedi Leumi Posek, Rav Aviner, about a 50 year reunion of a group of couples who had been part of a youth group 50 years prior. They would be attending, were frum, all with their wives, and the idea was that they would recollect memories and have an enjoyable evening. The question asked to him was

Is such a reunion permitted according to Halacha

I guess the mere fact that they asked Rav Aviner the question before going ahead with their reunion is testament to their frumkeit and fidelity to Halacha. Those who are not so beholden to their Rabbi, would not even ask a question.

At any rate, Rav Aviner’s answer was

“חלילה. זו מכבסת מילים לפעילות מעורבת. זה איסור חמור גם אם אלו יראי שמים. ולצערנו יש פעמים רבות פעילות המשך

In other words, definitely not permitted and is a serious halachic infraction even if the participants are frum! Rav Aviner opines that unfortunately, there are sometimes serious outcomes from such events.

In other words, age makes no difference, and one would assume, a fortiori, that this would be forbidden for younger couples. I won’t extrapolate to mixed tables of singles at a wedding who are looking for Shidduchim. Rav Aviner may have the same opinion as R’ Aron Soltoveitchik that this isn’t just permitted but desirable. It is dangerous to extrapolate in Halacha.

Upon hearing of this Psak, respected Rav Amnon Bazak (whose writings I am acquainted with and if I am not mistaken he may have visited Melbourne) of Har Etzyon, disagreed with Rav Aviner on three grounds.

  1. The attitude of the Rishonim and Acharonim on issues such as this, was and is tightly connected with the practices in such communities. In other words, if it was common place for men and women to meet, then Poskim such as the Bach, opined that it is permitted (if you want to read more about this examine the issue of whether to say שהשמחה במעונו at a mixed Sheva Brachos. If my memory serves me correctly, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is Machmir and says no). The point of Rav Bazak was that this is something which may well change from community to community. I wouldn’t expect this to happen in Satmar, or Belz, where the women aren’t even allowed to drive cars, of course.
  2. If one wants to say “those who are stringent will get a blessing”, this leaves is a sour taste because the idea that they get a blessing on account of people who really are not doing anything wrong according to plain Halacha.
  3. What’s the point in putting out words like ‘absolutely forbidden’ when this happens all the time, at tables, which involve Chachomim and Roshei Yeshivah at their meals?

There is also the question of when you have two long tables at a Sheva Brachos one with men and the other with women without a Mechitza. Some will still say this is “mixed” other will not, even according to those who argue with the Bach.

Mori V’Rabbi, R’ Hershel Schachter relates that R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל and R’ Yaakov Kaminetzy ז’ל  and others made weddings and there were mixed tables. He does however caution that times have changed somewhat to those days. He doesn’t use Rav Bazak’s arguments but notes that

  1. Women tend not to wear the ornate thick dresses that they wore in yesteryear, and sometimes, perhaps too often, are on the boundary of Tzniyus with flimsy clothing which leaves little to the imagination
  2. The music in those days was much slower and it was rare to find a women or man return to the table shvitzing with all that comes from that phenomenon and fine cloth.

Accordingly, he suggests caution at weddings.

Your views? I believe this is societal and something according to הרגלם and will change from group to group to the extent that a blanket opinion is elusive and probably not advised.

There is a lot of “Ess Past Nisht” and I’m not arguing. I’m just quoting and adding to this article

בענין סתירת הרמבם שלא יתערבו או שלא יסתכלו זה את זה,  כבר דשו ביה רבים

Yud Shvat is also the Yohr Tzeit of the indefatigable Rav Yissochor Shlomo Teichtal הי’’ד

The Rayyatz was a holy man, and it is Yohr Tzeit. He is given deserved honour.

In the honour of the Gaon Rav Teichtal, I will reprint something I saw from Rav Aviner. I have written about Rav Teichtal before.

Teshuvah and Geulah

Q: Aren’t the Charedim correct that Am Yisrael will first perform Teshuvah and only then return to Zion in purity?

A: This was in fact one of the possibilities, but as it happened, Am Yisrael did not repent in the Exile but will do so here (In the newly released edition of the book “Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah” of Keren Re’em, it is written in the introduction [p. 12] that during the Tena’im ceremony held for the engagement between the granddaughter of Ha-Rav Yissachar Shlomo Teichtel, author of Shut Mishneh Sachir and Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah, and the eldest grandson of the present Belzer Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe related that in the year 5703, Ha-Rav Teichtal came to his uncle and father [the previous Belzer Rebbe Ha-Rav Aharon and Ha-Rav Mordechai of Bilgoray] in Budapest to ask for a Haskamah for his book Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah. Rav Mordechai of Bilgoray said to him: There is a dispute in Mishnah Pesachim [10:6]: How far does one recite Hallel during the Pesach Seder prior to the meal? Bet Shammai says: Until [the verse] “Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah – As a joyous mother of children”, while Bet Hillel says: Until “The flint into a fountain of waters”. We currently follow the halachic rulings of Bet Hillel. In the future, the Halachah will follow Bet Shammai: “Eim Ha-Banim Semeichah” [- a play on the name of his book].

But apparently they were unaware that when the Belzer Rebbe – Ha-Rav Aharon -made Aliyah, he came to Reb Noson – Ha-Rav Shalom Natan Ra’anan Kook, Maran Ha-Rav Kook’s son-in-law – and said: You and I had differences regarding the way to bring Jews on Aliyah. We [much of the Haredi world] said that they should first be strengthened in Judaism outside of the Land and only then could they make Aliyah in order to build in holiness; you said that every one of them should quickly come on Aliyah without calculation. After the Holocaust, it has become clear to us that we erred, and we are greatly distressed over this fact. Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah – Eretz Yisrael pp. 57, 221-222. This story is also brought in Imrei Shefer on Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira, p. 37)

The Israeli Flag in Halacha

The following is a question and answer posted to Rav Aviner. I hadn’t seen the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik’s beautiful חידוש on this topic (or had ale forgotten), so I am reposting.

Question: Is it permissible to throw away a worn Israeli flag or must it be placed in the Geniza?

Answer: It may be thrown away, but not in a disrespectful manner (In the book Nefesh Ha-Rav pp. 99-100, it is related that one year the Agudat Yisrael Conference was held in a hotel in Yerushalayim and there was an Israeli flag flying on the roof. Some of the participants, who were opposed to the State of Israel, were unhappy about this, but instead of requesting that the flag be removed they asked if all of the flags of the participants’ countries be flown as well. After this was publicized, Ha-Rav Yosef Soloveitchik stated at the Mizrachi Conference that while the Jewish People had flags in the desert, they were temporary and not for all generations. But the flag of Israel has a different significance.

There is a Minhag in the name of the Rishonim brought in the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 366:4: “If a Jew is found murdered, he is to be buried as he was found [i.e. in his bloody clothes] without any shrouds.” The Shach #11 explains that the reason for this Minhag: to kindle Hashem’s wrath when He sees how this person was buried without shrouds. Hashem’s compassion will thus be aroused to avenge him. And the same applies to the Israeli flag.

Towards the end of the War of Independence, the UN set a specific time by which the Jews and Arabs could seize land. They established that all the territory in the hands of the Jews, as signified by raising the Israeli flag on that spot, would become part of the State of Israel, and all territory in Arab hands, would remain outside the State of Israel. And this is indeed what occurred. During this period, much Jewish blood was spilled in order to raise the Israeli flag over as much territory as possible. Many Jewish fighters were killed, displaying self-sacrifice for the sole purpose of raising the Jewish flag, the flag of Israel. Therefore, Rav Soloveitchik said, the flag of the State of Israel has the status of a murdered Jew’s clothing, a symbol of the spilled blood of the Jews. As a result, when the flag of Israel flies, it arouses Hashem’s compassion for Am Yisrael).

The Rav on the far left, seated next to Rabbi Gourarie, the Rayatz, and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe


Talmidei Chachomim earning a living

I have written about this here.

I don’t always agree with Rav Aviner. For example, I disagree vehemently with his attitude towards Rabbi Elon. On the issue below [Hat tip NB]  he is undoubtedly right. There isn’t any reason someone who knows Torah and continues to learn should be a pauper. If they do want that, perhaps they should set up a Kollel in Vietnam?

Prominent Dati Leumi Posek Rabbi Shlomo Ha-Cohain Aviner Shlit”a addressed a statistic reporting that 40% of Charedim do not work. The Rav stated that due to the economic realities in Israel today, an Avreich (married Yeshiva student) must learn a profession that permits him to support his family. “A Talmid Yeshiva cannot remain in Yeshiva indefinitely. He must earn a living and it is not enough to say ‘Hashem will take care of things and it will be fine’”.

He told students during a Shiur that there are Avreichim who go to soup kitchens daily, and that in some Charedi homes children regularly go hungry.  That is why a husband must be able to earn a living. A Talmid can learn for a number of years as everyone must, but at some point one must reflect and determine if one will be a Rav or Rebbe and if not, it is time to look for work. The Rav added that not everyone is suited to be a Rav or Rebbe, though most believe they are, and while one may be a Talmid Chacham there is still the issue of earning a livelihood. Batei Medrashim are bursting with Talmidei Chacham that do not have work because all of the jobs in the Yeshivot are taken.

The Rav then addressed Avreichim who used to make do with the bare minimum. “Once upon a time, man slept on straw like Rabbi Akiva and this was fine.  But today it is not possible to live like this. We may sleep on straw but how will one pay tuition for one’s children? One does not have to eat Prili (type of fruit yogurt) daily but even when living austerely there is a need for money to pay for different necessities.  We cannot change reality with Pilpul. Perhaps in Vietnam one can survive on one dollar a day but in Israel it is impossible.”

Have we strayed on Sheva Brachos?

The following was from Rav Aviner. These days, it seems to have become de jure, and it’s almost as if you feel “sorry” for someone who doesn’t have them each day. Would we be better off giving Tzedaka? It’s a difficult question as it can’t be generalised, of course.

Q: Is there an obligation to have Sheva Berachot all 7 days?

A: No. Whatever is most comfortable for the groom and bride. After all, it is to bring them joy and not to burden them (Re’im Ahuvim pp. 165-169. And Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein related that when he got married they only had Sheva Berachot on Shabbat, and not on all 7 days as is customary today. Reshumei Aharon Volume 1, p. 18. And Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach once lamented this practice and quoted what the Chatam Sofer wrote in his responsa Even Ha-Ezer #122: “That someone once had Sheva Berachot on Shabbat and the entire community mocked him”, and that the Aruch Ha-Shulchan wrote in Hilchot Sukkah #640 that we do not have the custom to have Sheva Berachot every day. Meged Givot Olam Volume 2, p. 72).

Clarification of R’ Aviner’s פסקי הלכה on abuse

R’ Aviner posted the following פסקי הלכה

Based on the recent discussions by Rabbinic organization in the US and Canada
regarding reporting child abuse, we saw fit to reprint this article:
One’s Duty to Immediately Report Child Abuse, at all Costs

When children are battered, whether sexually or “just” physically, anyone who knows about it has to report it to the authorities. The child, after all, is helpless and has no defenses. According to Jewish law, the primary loyalty of anyone who knows what is happening must be to the battered child, and this duty is absolute. Allow me to add that from a legal standpoint, if the person who knows about it is a professional in an associated field, for example a social worker or psychologist, and he does not report it, he is liable to go to prison for half a year.

Cruelly hitting children is alien to the world of Jewish law. Our halachic authorities viewed the matter so gravely that Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ruled that outside of Israel in the case of a battered child, one must assist the authorities to remove him from his home – even if the child will be moved to a non-Jewish family. The reason is that such treatment could threaten the child’s life (see Shut Tzitz Eliezer 19:52 who discusses abused children in Israel and considers the abuser a “Rodef – pursuer” who must be stopped).

The desire not to report it in order to spare the perpetrator may derive from sincere motives, but one must first take pity on the helpless child. His fate comes before all else. In the Crisis Center for Religious Women, it is reported that there are more children who suffer from beatings and sexual abuse among the religious public than among the secular public. This is not because the religious are more violent, but because more often the religious public avoids reporting such incidents, and they make reports only when the matter go to extremes. Until then, the battered child suffers terrible harm.

It is important to note that there is only one situation in which one is exempt from reporting. If the perpetrator is aware of his problem, is willing to go for appropriate treatment, steadfastly shows up for treatment sessions, and the responsible authorities supervise this process, then the perpetrator is doing what he would be ordered to do anyway. In all other instances, without exception, there is an obligation to report abuse, and quickly. The child’s fate depends on us.

I recall a story in which I was personally involved. Someone saw his neighbor kick his small daughter in the head when she was lying on the floor. The man hesitated about whether or not to report what had occurred, when it was clear that he would pay for his deed with a fight with the neighbor. I ruled that he was obligated to report it, and immediately. During the talk it became clear to me that the person asking the question was a social worker. I had trouble believing this and I asked him, “How can it be that you, as a social worker, would ask me such a question?”

He did report what he had seen, and as he feared, he got into a fight with his neighbor, as well as with much of the neighborhood in which he lived, since the violent father incited them against him. I heard about that and I talked to him. I told him, “It will all be worth it. Think about the fact that you saved a Jewish life.”

Subsequent to that Psak, I asked him a number of questions. I reproduce the questions and answers below. Q is me, A is R’ Aviner.

Q: On what basis does one assume that the process outlined above, is indeed the process required by the law? Which law? In Australia there is a law of mandatory reporting which requires that professionals and para professionals, including teachers and Rabbis report alleged abuse to the police. Is R’ Aviner saying that in the case of someone who has previously committed a crime and is now under the care of a psychologist, as above, that one should ignore the law of the land and not report them to the authorities?
A: Good point.  This is according to the law in Israel.  One should follow the law if it is other wise.
Q: If we report someone to the authorities and they are convicted, and we know that there is every chance that the the abuser will be assaulted in the prison by fellow inmates (because inmates tend to target those who have abused children) is there a problem with doing so?
A: No.  We do not allow a child to be abused to save the abuser!
Q: Does a Rabbi have any more knowledge/authority on deciding whether a person is likely to abuse again, despite having treatment, given that all the research shows that offenders offend and re-offend, despite knowing that what they did was wrong?
A: Rabbis are generally in contact with specialists who guide them.
Q: Is it permissible for a community to effectively send away an offender to another country, and “warn” people in the other country that the person has offended, in order to protect the offender from a local prison sentence?
A: No.  Same as number 2.