mail-jewish Vol.65 #44 Digest

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Jun 26, 2022, 6:41:47 AMJun 26
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Volume 65 Number 44
Produced: Sun, 26 Jun 22 06:41:43 -0400


Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Abortion
[Martin Stern]
Branches of Judaism?
[Immanuel Burton]
How do I cope with my Anti-vax spouse? (2)
[Leah Gordon Prof. L. Levine]
Where Does A Woman Find Happiness in Life? (4)
[Leah Gordon Prof. L. Levine Irwin Weiss Robert Rubinoff]



----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Martin Stern <md.s...@ntlworld.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 26,2022 at 06:17 AM
Subject: Abortion

The recent decision of the US Supreme Court that the US constitution does not
give a woman the automatic right to an abortion, and therefore decisions on the
legality of abortion revert to the state legislatures, will give rise to
considerable discussion. What we on Mail Jewish might wish to discuss is what,
based on halachah, should be our attitude.

Unless I have misunderstood them, the two camps in general society, Pro-life and
Pro-choice, are both inconsistent with halachah.

It seems to me that the Pro-life position is that a foetus is at least a
potential human being and aborting it is tantamount to murder (“the right to
life from fertilization to natural death”). This is inconsistent with the
halachic principle that for the first forty days from conception (counted from
the cohabitation subsequent to the mother's immersion in the mikveh), the
conceptus is maya be'alma [merely water]. That is not to say that there is a
blanket permission to abort but that it is certainly not murder.

Similarly the Pro-choice position (abortion on demand) is that a woman should
have full right to control her body and, therefore, she can remove a foetus at
will, certainly if it is not independently viable. It seems to me that this
depends on the principle of uber yerekh imo [a foetus is a limb of its mother].
However halachah does not recognise the right of a person to do whatever one
likes with one's body - to take the extreme case one is not permitted to kill
oneself.

These might be oversimplifications and I would welcome others' comments.

However, the discussion might be better directed to whether we, as Jews, welcome
any legislation on abortion, or should take a neutral stance and never comment
on it. As a starting point, we might take the statement from Agudath Israel of
America, published on June 24, as reported in VIN news:

https://vinnews.com/2022/06/24/read-agudas-yisrael-welcomes-supreme-court-ov
erruling-roe-v-wade/

> Today, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled Roe v. Wade, the 1973
> decision establishing a womans constitutional right to abortion. Agudath
> Israel of America welcomes this historic development.
>
> Agudath Israel has long been on record as opposing Roe v. Wades legalization
> of abortion on demand. Informed by the teaching of Jewish law that fetal life
> is entitled to significant protection, with termination of pregnancy
> authorized only under certain extraordinary circumstances, we are deeply
> troubled by the staggering number of pregnancies in the United States that end
> in abortion.
>
> We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on the broader American
> society. We are of the view, however, that society, through its laws, should
> promote a social ethic that affirms the supreme value of life. Allowing
> abortion on demand, in contrast, promotes a social ethic that devalues life.
>
> To be sure, there are certain extraordinary circumstances where our faith
> teaches that a woman should terminate her pregnancy. Agudath Israel fully
> supports her right to abortion in such situations, both as a matter of
> constitutional free exercise and moral principle. However, it must be
> reiterated that these cases are indeed extraordinary, rare exceptions to the
> rule that fetal life is entitled to protection.
>
> We pray that todays ruling will inspire all Americans to appreciate the moral
> magnitude of the abortion issue, and to embrace a culture that celebrates
> life.

Martin Stern

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Immanuel Burton <ibu...@policeboxes.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Branches of Judaism?

Martin Stern added (MJ 65#43) to my posting (MJ 65#42) more detail about the
dialogue in court:

> If I am not mistaken, there was a revealing dialogue between the judge and Rav
> Yehezkel Abramsky at this particular trial.
>
> The judge first asked Rav Abramsky "Who is the foremost authority in Jewish law
> in this country?"
>
> After a few moments consideration, Rav Abramsky replied "Myself!"
>
> To this the judge commented "Rabbi Abramsky, is that not a somewhat immodest
> statement?"
>
> Without hesitation, Rav Abramsky replied "I know, your honour, but I am under
> oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!"

I have heard this story too, but the article in Volume 2 of "Emunah - Pathways
in Contemporary Jewish Thought" (1990) that I quoted didn't include this
exchange. I have, however, found it cited in other places online, though, for
example:

https://ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/226/Q3/
https://mishpacha.com/the-affable-lion/

The exact wording varies in these two accounts.

Also, Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#43):

> Immanuel Burton's description (MJ 65#42) of Rav Yehezkel Abramsky's testimony
> in a British court was interesting. However, in an American Court under the
> current understanding of the First Amendment, the court would not take the
> case. Rather, it would leave those religious issues (what is kosher, who is a
> competent rabbi and the like) for others to decide.

Surely there would be some point at which the secular authorities would hear
such a case - for example, if someone advertised pork or shrimps or ostrich as
kosher, wouldn't the secular authorities hear a case of false advertising?

I had a quick look on the Internet, and found a page of the official website of
New York State regarding kosher law enforcement:

https://agriculture.ny.gov/food-safety/kosher-law-enforcement

Immanuel Burton.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Leah Gordon <leahgord...@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: How do I cope with my Anti-vax spouse?

Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#42) :

> Rav Gershon Ribner recently spoke about how to deal with disagreements in
> marriage. In a recent vaad, a newlywed submitted a question about his new
> wife, "an extreme anti vaxxer who believes virtually every conspiracy theory".

I'm left wondering how someone married another person (for life?) without
having conversations about important issues.

--Leah S. R. Gordon

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Prof. L. Levine <lle...@stevens.edu>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: How do I cope with my Anti-vax spouse?

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 65¢43):

> Prof. Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#42):
>
>> I recall reading that Rav Avraham Pam used to say, "My minhag is to do
>> whatever my wife tells me to do". I sincerely doubt that there are many
>> husbands who would adopt his minhag!
>
> This observation should not be gender restricted. It does, however, remind me
> of a piece of advice that Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky once gave.
>
> The background was that someone came to him with a problem - his daughter
> was getting married and his custom was that the two fathers would escort the
> chatan to the chuppah, and the two mothers would escort the kallah, whereas
> his mechutan's was that each set of parents would escort their own child (it
> might have been the other way round - I can't remember that detail). As they
> could not come to a compromise he had suggested that they should approach
> Rav Kamenetzky and ask him what his minhag was - and agreed that they would
> follow it either way.
>
> His response was "My minhag in this matter is to do whatever will make my
> mechutan happy!"
>
> This philosophy of avoiding disputes over relatively trivial matters is the
> mark of a true gadol.

I know that Rav Kamenetsky was a genius when it came to dealing with people and
their problems, but I simply do not understand his approach regarding this matter.

Shouldn't the primary concern regarding how and with whom the Choson and Kallah
walk down with be what they want, regardless of their parents' minhagim? After
all, it is their wedding and not their parents' wedding.

Some people getting married want to walk down with the people who raised and
nurtured them all their life. Others are content to have the fathers walk with
the Chasson and the mothers walk with the kallah.

But in any case, I think that what the two people marrying want should be the
main concern at their wedding.

Yitzchok Levine

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Leah Gordon <leahgord...@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Where Does A Woman Find Happiness in Life?

Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#43):

> Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 65#42):
>
>> To answer the other implied question, women are no more and no less likely to
>> be happy exclusively because of a marriage than men are. The reason it seems
>> that women are more reliant on a marriage to be happy is because of the
>> historical economic exclusion of women from life except as adjunct to a
>> father, husband, son, etc.
>
> What is the basis for this assertion? Does she have any data or studies to
> back it up? Is it based on extensive observations on her part? Is it true
> for all women? Is it true for observant Jewish women?
>
> Please can she elaborate.

I find some irony in the fact that Yitzchok made an outrageous assertion about
what all women want, yet would like me to provide scholarly evidence that women
were forced into economic dependency over history.

Furthermore, the sneaky repetition of "Observant Jewish" in YL's posts is not
lost on me. No, I do not think that halakha requires women to have different
sources of happiness than men do. That indeed would require a powerful cited
source to be the case.

1. Source that women were put in a dependent economic position - a starter
article written so that almost anyone could begin to learn about the subject, is
this one:

https://www.thoughtco.com/property-rights-of-women-3529578

2. Source that women rely less on marriage when able to own property:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/90024195

3. Interesting thesis on "women's happiness" over a period of American history:

https://scholarworks.smith.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2063&context=theses

It would be too big of a task for me to list an extensive library about women's
economic and social history. But the great thing is that I don't have to. If a
man wants to assert that xyz is true "about women," surely the burden of proof
is on him!

--Leah S. R. Gordon

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Prof. L. Levine <lle...@stevens.edu>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Where Does A Woman Find Happiness in Life?

Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#43):

> Irwin Weiss writes (MJ 65#42):
>
>> I think it might be more reasonable to ask women, who have the ability to
>> speak, how they find happiness, rather than have a guy dictate something like
>> this. I am sure many women find happiness in their husbands and homes, their
>> children and families, but also in their professional endeavors as doctors,
>> judges, architects, scientists, artists, artisans, and so forth.
>>
>> Don't you?

> Absolutely. And it would be wonderful if the women on Mail Jewish chimed in on
> this issue as Leah Gordon has done. I"m grateful for her response which is so
> much more meaningful than an outsider's view. This is a topic where we men
> should sit on the sidelines and listen respectfully.

Rav Raphel Breuer was stating what he considered a fundamental psychological
insight into the psyche of women. I fail to see how the comments of the women on
this list will disprove this insight. There is no question that some women are
happier working outside of the home. Others prefer (if they can) to stay home
and raise their children during their early years of development.

None of this disproves or proves Rav Breuer's assetion.

Yitzchok Levine

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Irwin Weiss <ir...@irwinweiss.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Where Does A Woman Find Happiness in Life?

In response to Prof. Levine (MJ 65#43), the quotation from Rav Breuer was:

> Faithful to the principle that a woman finds happiness in life ONLY in the home
> of her husband. (my emphases)

What is obnoxious and inaccurate about this statement is the word ONLY. For
sure, many women find happiness in life in their home life. But, it is for sure
the case that many women find happiness in their professional endeavors as I
pointed out in my prior post.

Prof. Levine seems to recognize this by saying There is no question that some
women are happier working outside the home. That statement is contrary to the
statement of R. Breuer, that a woman finds happiness ONLY in the home. I
seriously doubt that very many psychologists would say that R. Breuer has
accurately stated a fundamental psychological insight into the psyche of women.
In particular, I doubt that female psychologists, psychiatrists and social
workers, of whom there are many, would endorse this statement. It may be that
R. Breuer considers this a fundamental psychological insight but based on what I
have seen among my women colleagues, I think in many cases it is just plain
wrong. Now, I am not a psychologist, so I would defer to trained psychologists
on this matter.

Irwin Weiss
Baltimore

----------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Robert Rubinoff <rubi...@cs.cmu.edu>
Date: Thu, Jun 23,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Where Does A Woman Find Happiness in Life?

In response to Joseph Kaplan (MJ 65#43):

I object to the question itself. I don't know who this woman is, and I have no
idea where she finds happiness in life, nor do I care. She is an abstraction,
not a real person.

Actual women find happiness in lots of different places and ways - the same as
actual men. While one can make generalizations about where and how people find
happiness, and it may in fact be the case that on average there are differences
in how women and men find happiness in life, the fact is that actual women (and
men) vary dramatically, and what makes them happy depends on their personalities
and life experience.

Looking at the question as one of what makes women happy just establishes an
expectation that the answer will be the same for all women, which is simply not
true.

Robert

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