Sunday, May 22nd | 21 Iyyar 5782

October 11, 2013 11:54 am

Rabbinic Violence

avatar by Jeremy Rosen


An abuse victim. Photo: Mike Knapek.

I can’t even begin to express how embarrassed I am by the case currently getting massive exposure in the press and T.V. about a collection of outwardly religious Jews, charged with trying to arrange for a man who refused to give his wife a Get to be kidnapped, beaten and tortured until he capitulated.

A sting operation took place in which FBI undercover agents managed to get recordings of rabbis and fixers saying how and what they would do, including graphic descriptions of electronic cattle prods being applied to the victims private parts, was simply the icing on the cake of self-incrimination. But I must not prejudge the issue, innocent until proven guilty and all that. And neither will I entertain the argument that there are worse dangers to be pursued and this was just a politically correct counter balance to all those stings that have trapped Muslim terrorists. A crime is a crime is a crime.

There are several huge issues here that concern me and should concern anyone who takes the idea of Chillul HaShem, desecrating the Lords name, seriously. Maimonides in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah makes it the first principle of Jewish behavior. This whole sorry story makes for a massive humiliation of Jewish Law.  For make no mistake about this, any normal average non- Jew hearing all this could not but conclude that  Torah Judaism has a problem with violence, corruption and that Jewish Law on divorce makes the Taliban look positively progressive.

Why is it that so many men of limited intellect and capacity around the world carry out continuous and gratuitous rapine and violence against womenfolk? The answer is that they have a profound realization of their own inferiority that they have to take it out on someone even more vulnerable. So they take it out on their womenfolk and the womenfolk in turn often take it out on disadvantaged weaker women and then on their own children. Violence begets violence. Wherever it is, whoever suffers, takes it out on someone else.

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I can only explain the amount of petty violence apparent in sections of the supposedly Torah world as the product of violence done to them. This year alone the non-Jewish public has learnt of apparently religious Jews setting other Jews on fire because they disagree religiously; Jews killing and sexually abusing other Jews and I won’t even begin to enumerate the number of charges against orthodox Jews for corruption, deception and financial irregularities. What is wrong with these people? Indeed what is wrong with their rabbis who seem so in love with money that it blinds them to their moral responsibility to be seen to be upholding the law of the land? Kohelet was right three thousand years ago when he said “And money covers up everything.”

Torah is supposed to be pure, enlightening and reviving, says the Book of Psalms. But this makes Torah out to be unfair and discriminatory. This whole episode revolves around the offensive fact that if a husband refuses to give his wife a religious bill of divorce she can never ever, ever remarry. How on earth can God’s law discriminate so against women leaving them trapped and hopeless?

A thousand years ago Rabbeynu Tam, the greatest rabbi of his day forbade beating men up as a way of compelling a recalcitrant husbands to grant a Get. Why? Many argue because it created a very negative impression in a Christian world which anyway at the time did not recognize or approve of divorce. Rabbeynu Tam was indeed worried about how we would appear to our non- Jewish neighbors. But at least the Christians found a way round it by annulling marriages, usually on spurious grounds. We too have this possibility. “Whoever marries does so according to rabbinic law and therefore the rabbis have the right to annul a marriage.” But rabbis have consistently refused to make use of this. Sometimes I wonder if its either pig-headed stubbornness or just male chauvinism. But if we were really worried about making fools of ourselves and demeaning Torah in non-Jewish eyes, why are we not concerned about doing something about it?

According to Jewish law, if I discover, after I have made a commitment, something about the other party, that had I known about beforehand I would never have bound myself in the first place, that agreement is null and void. Wouldn’t any woman say that if she had known what evil her husband really capable of before she married him she would never have married him in the first place, isn’t that equally grounds for invalidating the marriage agreement? And if understandably one doesn’t want to use this power cavalierly, why not occasionally as a recent Beth Din in Israel did?

This whole public relations fiasco would never have arisen if there had been a fair way of releasing a women legally through the Torah.

Frankly I’d love to beat up any bastard who so cruelly ruined a woman’s life and made her suffer till her dying day. But I cannot because I fear the consequences, I hate violence and because it would be a terrible Chillul HaShem.

So I blame the rabbis who refuse to find ways of releasing women whose husbands refuse them a get for this public humiliation of Judaism. It isn’t enough that we have bred a generation of religious toughs who use violence as a way of resolving differences but that we actually encourage them to do so because the law as currently applied is giving no alternative.

If the Talmud is so authoritative and important and if Orthodox rabbis simply ignore it when it suits them, how in heavens name can I call them anything else but those who assist in desecrating the good name of Heaven and Torah? The Talmud says in Yoma only death atones for anyone guilty of Desecrating the Name of God.

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