A Yom Kippur Plea for Sensitivity

A concerned member of our community shared this plea with me and I feel it has such strong merit that it deserves to be shared, especially as we approach Yom Kippur and ask for G-d’s forgiveness. May we all be blessed with His mercy, compassion and forgiveness and be sealed in the Book of Life.

In recent years there has been an unfortunate surge of Orthodox Jews, Baalei Batim and Rabbanim alike, accused of being involved in various scandalous activities or behavior. Unfortunately, in many situations, however, the “defendant” is totally ostracized by the Orthodox community based only upon pure hearsay, rumors and accusations proliferated by the community itself, sometimes by the media and often publicized in Google and social media. In certain instances, the accusations are often trumped-up charges concocted by the District Attorney’s office that are at best only ”charges” – charges which have not and might never be corroborated by reliable witnesses or substantiated by a trial jury. The internet and social media have certainly played a role in perpetuating false information and spreading Lashon Hara, fueling the lack of support within the Jewish community.

In the recent, unfortunate, frequent cases of child or teen molestation, G-d forbid, where reliable witnesses have come forth to make a clear accusation, we must assume that the “defendant ” is “guilty”. The same is true if reliable witnesses, even one witness, accuse a man or woman of committing adultery, G-d forbid, or, for that matter, any other immoral or illicit behavior.

In all other cases, the Orthodox community is swallowing up lock, stock and barrel, these accusations and charges, primarily relying upon information gleaned only through Lashon Hara, the internet, Google, blogs, newspaper reports, etc…But didn’t our Rabbanim clearly authorize us to distance ourselves from Lashon Hara and the internet? If so, shouldn’t our Rabbanim, true “Ohavei Yisroel, ” protest the total vilification of these Jews based on information and accusations found here? Shouldn’t our Rabbanim set an example and reach out to those ‘accused’? After all, in the Torah’s eyes they are completely innocent until proven guilty! And even then, they remain a part of Klal Yisroel and we must continue to love every Jew as we love ourselves.

Why have we forgotten the beautiful and eternal concepts of “Its ways are sweet and its paths lined with peace” and Always give every man the benefit of the doubt”? Especially, if the “defendant” may very well be on his way to Teshuva. And in the case of Talmidei Chachamim, our Rabbis have taught us (Kiddushin 49a) that we can assume they immediately performed Teshuva after their inappropriate behavior!

There is a precious but hardly-known responsum, (Zekan Aaron, 2, Y.D., chap. 30), from Ha’Gaon Rebbe Aaron Walkin (of Pinsk) written to his famous brother-in-law, Ha’Gaon Rebbe Zalman Sorotzkin of Slutzk, concerning a Shochet/ Bodek ,about whom the neighborhood women were spreading a rumor that he was seen a few times entering and leaving the home of a woman of ill-repute. Rav Walkin, in his responsum, shows that there is absolutely no halachic basis whatsoever to remove the man from his position. One of his arguments is that there are no reliable witnesses, except for the rumor. And the “rumor” itself does not address any specific illicit or prohibited sexual behavior.

It is worthwhile to quote an excerpt from this remarkable responsum:

I, too, from the distance, am shocked to hear this about a servant of Hashem who needs to excel above others when it comes to G-d fearingness. However, when I am required to make a Halachic ruling, I fear Hashem if I were to pour my wrath all over him and hurt the livelihood of this family man. My entire body shakes in fear to become a slaughterer and slaughter a father of children, a husband to a wife, based on these weak rumors. If a ritual slaughterer whose hands are unsteady is disqualified to perform ritual slaughter, when I am summoned to slaughter human souls and my entire body trembles in fear, I should certainly be disqualified, especially since there is no Torah basis for such a slaughter.

In many of the unfortunate scandals that have come to light in recent years, Rachmana Litzlan, the scandalous behavior, involving money or otherwise, the “accused” are rumored to have engaged in is nowhere as damning, illicit or suspect as the behavior of the ritual slaughterer in Rav Walkin’s scenario. Yet our Orthodox community, including many of our Rabbanim, have totally distanced themselves, short of excommunication, from the “accused.” Do they disagree with Rav Walkin’s ruling? On what basis? They must provide clear and authoritative halachic leadership.

In fact, even in those cases in which the scandal is not limited to the insulated Orthodox community, but has, unfortunately, become public knowledge, as part of the criminal judicial system, there is absolutely no halachic basis to “destroy” a person’s life, or, G-d forbid, not apply the all-powerful commandment of “vahavta lraiAcha kamocha” to these “accused.” Indeed, a misdemeanor or even a “felony” charge or accusation of guilt, without reliable witnesses, does not automatically constitute halachic liability. Even a plea-bargain admittance of guilt in a secular court, is not a halachic ruling of “guilty;” it is no more than that: a plea-bargain of “guilty” to avoid a trial, or, G-d forbid, jail. It might even be argued that in these three instances, what transpires in a secular court, without reliable witnesses, is no more than “rechilus” and “lashon hara.

Certainly, in all the scenarios discussed, an Orthodox Jew should consult his Rav or a Beis Din as to how to “handle” those “Baalei-Batim”or “Rabbanim” who have been rumored to.have indulged in inappropriate behavior. Google is not a substitute for a Rav or Beis Din! And until this Halachic Orthodox Jew receives guidance from his Rav or a Beis Din, there is no Halachic question that he is obligated to treat the “accused” and his family no less differently than the” warm manner” in which he treats other families in his Kehilla.

The “ways of the Torah are sweet” and we can only hope and pray that in most cases, our Rabbanim will be inspired by Rav Walkin’s approach and continue to lead and be an example to welcome and warmly embrace these ”accused ”into the community.

In the case above regarding the “Shochet”, there is no question that the “Shochet” was liable to some serious “control” and “punishment” for his suspect behavior. Rav Walkin, therefore, suggested the following:

  • The Shochet should appear before a Beis Din and accept upon himself, under oath, to distance himself from any suspicious behavior, whatsoever.
  • For an entire year he must have his knife checked twice a week if he is to continue serving as a ritual slaughterer

In our present day situations, our Rabbanim can certainly come up with controls and a custom-fit Teshuva prescription, without hurting the “accused” in any harmful way and without ostracizing him and his family from the community. Ha’Gaon Rav Yecheskel Landau, of Prague, the “world- Posek” in the second half of the 18th century, in one of his most popular Teshuvos (Nodal BYehudah, vol.1,Orach Chaim, #30 ) prescribes a “teshuva” process for a distinguished Rav who admitted to have actually indulged in adultery over a period of three years. For our purposes, a teshuva cocktail for inappropriate behavior (but not in violation of any Biblical or rabbinical commandment) is certainly advisable. What is especially amazing about this responsum is the tremendous sensitivity Rav Landau displays in trying to upkeep the honour of families involved and ensuring that the entire episode does not become more “public”. We need to learn sensitivity from the “Nodah BYehudah”!

Rav Walkin himself realized that his lenient ruling would be looked at disapprovingly by the Charedim” (Rav Walkin’s terminology) but as he remarkably concludes his responsum:

I realize that my ruling will not satisfy the Charedim but I know that his honor (Rav Sorotzkin) seeks true justice and all our ancestors, from many generations, were Rabbanim whose hands were not defiled by spilling the blood of Jews. We, too, their descendants, must continue their tradition and ,G-d forbid, not contaminate our hands with human blood.

As Yom Kippur approaches and we ask for G-d to forgive our sins and seal us in the Book of Life, may our Rabbanim rise to the occasion and be inspired by the sensitivity and “Ahavas Yisrael” of Gedolim like the “Nodah BYehudah and “Ha’Gaon Rebbe Aaron Walkin, of blessed memory to be the examples of kindness, love, acceptance and forgiveness and inspire their communities to act in the same way.

 

Jewish Heritage Tours A LICHTIGE CHANUKAH!!

Jewish Heritage Tours for the very first time is sponsoring its popular Chanukah and Ski program on the magnificent Mont Tremblant, the winter capital of Canada! The program will take place from December 5 –10 with extensions possible until December 12! The program offers delicious cuisine with three nutritious meals daily, nightly entertainment for kids and adults and excellent shiurim and lectures! Other features of this wonderful program include: sauna & state of the art exercise room, indoor & outdoor hot tub, indoor pool (convenient separate hours available), game room, free return shuttle to Tremblant ski, comment deer, seaplane tours and internationally-famous health center (12 treatment centers) where you can choose between massage therapy, hydrotherapy and beauty and body care, and discounted ski and snow shoe rental. A wonderful day camp and baby-sitting service with experienced and devoted counselors will also be available.

  • The hotel hashgacha will be provided by Harav Shmuel Fishelis shlita (son in law of Ha’gaon Rav Dovid Feinstein shlita ) and his excellent staff.
  • Rachel Silverstein of Montreal will serve as Program Director.
  • Chana Russell of Montreal will serve as Special Programs Coordinator.
  • Rabbi Dr. Nosson Dovid Rabinowich will serve as Rav and Scholar in residence.

!! Very reasonable ($325 !) r/t airfare from NYC and NJ

Reasonable pick-up from Trudeau Airport

($125; up to 6 people)

Choice of Accommodations:

The state of the art suites and condos come with large salon, wood fireplace, dining table, extensive kitchen, gorgeous view of the lake and mountain, balcony or terrace, cable television and private parking.

  • One BR Condos = for a family of up to 4 or 5 people.
  • Two BR Condos (and bathrooms ensuite) = for 2 families of up to 3 or 4 ppl *** each, comfortable & large common living room. Or for one family up to 9-10 people.                                              
  • (2)Three-Bedroom Condos = for 1 family of up to twelve , or for 3 families: of up to 3 or 4 ppl. each *** (3 complete and separate bathrooms)

________________________________________________________________________________

***For families who are familiar and comfortable with each other, another 3 people can sleep in the living room area on large sofa double bed and folding bed.

Dinner and lunch vouchers for outside guests can be purchased from Rachel Silverstein; reservations must be made the day before by contacting her at hotel or @ (514) 243-5235

For Information, Itinerary & Reservations, Contact us :
E-mail:
JHTours@gmail.com; Jewisheritagetours@hotmail.com
Website:
www.ahavathtorah.com
Telephone :

  • 917-753-5178 ; in Canada: 514-924-9447
  • Toll Free: 1-888-253-9167

 

Chanukah Program (12/5-12/10*)

Earlybird Prices**:

For your special vacation we offer a choice of accommodations:

Prices are in $US

Entire OneBR Condo ppl 2 st1 One BR(sharing a condo)

ppl 2   st1                           ***

Entire 2BR Condo –

1st

4 people

Entire3 BR

Condo – 1st

5 people

All 5 nights****

949 899 949 949

Week-end

419 399 419 419
One Night 209 209 209 209

*Extension until 12/12 available.

** Special Earlybird Prices Ends 11/20.

*** Single Occupancy: Add 65% ;

1) Children: under 3: FREE ;

2) Children between 3-11:  5 nights: $499 ; single night: $125

3) Additional adults (12 & over): 5 nights: $699; 2 nights: $299;

     one night $169.

4)****Three or four nights, pro-rated based on 5-night rate.

5) Week-end = Friday dinner-Sunday breakfast .

PAYMENT INFORMATION:

Payment is in US $ (or $ Canadian equivalent) and is all-inclusive!

Only a 15 % service charge must be added to these prices!

All major credit cards accepted.

 

Reserve ASAP! (1- 888-253-9167 ; 917- 753-5178 )

A 25% (of total cost) non-refundable.

DEPOSIT is REQUIRED TO RESERVE SPACE !

Do not delay for these low prices!

Full payment required TWO WEEKS before arrival !

Space is VERY limited.

INQUIRE ABOUT DISCOUNTED AIR FARES TO MONTREAL!

An Unforgettable Shavuos in Magnificent Italy

Jewish Heritage Tours is sponsoring  a wonderful vacation this Shavuot (6/6 -6/11) @ The Grand Hotel Michelacci  in the gorgeous coastal town of Gabbice Mare, located right on the  eternally serene and  soothing  Adriatic Sea . Gabicce Mare reflects  the  changing face of nature: Over a few kilometres,  sandy, beautiful  beaches alternate  on the coast with inlets of rocky gorges and small  coves that overlook  the deep waters of the sea, ideal for scuba diving. Nearby is the tiny tourist harbour of Vallugola and the ancient legendary Roman city Valbruna with its underwater harbour.

Jewish Heritage Tours will take care of your travel & transfer needs, including a direct flight to Bologna from JFK, arriving June 6 and VIP transfer to the hotel.

Renowned all along the Adriatic coast  for its excellent facilities and classy service, this state of art hotel is located on the promenade of Gabicce Mare, one of the most elegant seaside resorts in Italy. Facilities include a large indoor heated pool, as well as two full  size outdoor swimming pools and a kiddie pool. The internationally-acclaimed Beauty Centre on premises offers customers hydro massages, sauna, two Turkish baths and a selection of beauty and health treatments. A beautiful synagogue and well-stocked Beis Medrash is also available.

Delicious Glatt kosher (pat and Chalav Yisrael) cuisine will be served thrice daily under the strict Rabbinical supervision of the Milan Rabbinate supervised by Rav Yitzchak Belinow and his dedicated staff of Mashgichim. A wonderful , properly run, tea room, Italian- style will be available 24/7 .

Harav Dr. Nosson Dovid  Rabinowich, a leading Talmid  Chacham, Historian, prolific author of important scholarly works, popular lecturer and expert Italian guide is scheduled to serve as Rav and Scholar-in-Residence during Shavuos [ and on the weekends of 7/18-7/20 & 8/22- 8/24 ]. He will be giving Daf Yomi, lomdishe shiurim, lectures on Jewish history and sermons in the synagogue throughout this program. He has also offered to take the guests on a wonderful day [early departure with our lunch boxes in hand] of touring to Florence on Erev Yom Tov (only 2.5 hours away!) to visit the Great Synagogue there and spend a few hours strolling through that fascinating city. On Wednesday (6/11), Isru Chag, he will take the group on a short tour of the hot spots of Le Marche: San Marino, Europe’s oldest Republic; Pesaro, the home of the the first printing of the Talmud and Fano, the residence of the great Kabbalist, Rebbe Azaraya de Fano. There will be ample time for touring since the return flight to the USA leaves @ 4:45 pm , arriving in JFK at 7:50 pm.

Friday, the day of arrival, the afternoon will be devoted to hotel orientation, discovering the beach and some quaint shopping in town, with candle-lighting no later than 7:37 pm, enough time for all the above. On Motzoei Shabbos, there are a variety of shows and musical entertainment in the area . Art enthusiasts can also enjoy a Mini Montmartre, where dozens of painters and sculptors work and converse with the public. A charming road zigzags up to Gabicce Monte, part of the Mount San Bartolo Regional Park, set up in 1994. From there a breathtaking panorama can be enjoyed, as the mountain blossoms offer a colourful contrast to the absolutely crystal-clear waters of the coast.

The all-inclusive 5 night (6 day) package with airfare from New York and one free transfer (tours are not included but are very reasonable) ranges from  as low as  $1799 to $2199 to $2399 PP/DO, depending on accommodation level. Children under twelve y/o receive up to a  40% discount on hotel stay in parents’ room !  Other children discounts available. These prices include taxes and gratuities.

Due to last year’s tremendous success, the hotel will once again be also offering a kosher program throughout the summer . Indeed, reservations can be made for a hotel stay only or as an extension to one of Jewish Heritage Tour’s excursions to Italy or even Spain.

Call JEWISH HERITAGE TOURS NOW to reserve for Shavuos or for your summer vacation at their unbelievable EARLYBIRD rates:1-514-702-4292 or 514-924-9447 ; www.AHAVATHTORAH.COM ; chayas92@hotmail.com . Space is very limited.

The dedicated staff at Grand Hotel Michelacci, will aim to turn your holiday into a relaxing and unforgettable period in your life. Whatever your interests are, they will endeavour to provide  you with assistance : from excursions of Jewish historical interest,  art  and music events,  recreational sports to tailored prices and use of the Beauty Centre,etc. In short, everything you need for an ideal vacation !

Payment

Our prices include hotel stay, air & hotel transfer, taxes and gratuities ! Does not include any tours or airport transfer.

Accommodation (pp/do) :

A) 3*Maremonti residence (50m from hotel) :$1899 ; B) 4*residence (across the street from hotel) : $2199 ; C) Hotel : $ 2399

Land only (pp/do): A) $165 B) $200 C) $220

CREDIT CARD AUTHORIZATION for PAYMENT(Fax to: [514] 485-7966)

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Address____________________________________________________________
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I, ____________ hereby authorize the following charges to Ahavath Torah Institute:

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ASSUMED RESPONSIBILITY:

The AHAVATH TORAH INSTITUTE acts only as agents for the owners and/or contractors providing means of transportation, hotel accommodations and/or other services. All tickets, exchange orders and/or vouchers issued are subject to any and all terms and conditions, under which such means of transportation, hotel accommodations and/or other services are offered or provided. The issuance and acceptance of such tickets, exchange orders and/or vouchers shall be deemed to be consent to the further condition that AHAVATH TORAH INSTITUTE and/or its tour escorts shall not be or become liable or responsible in any way whatsoever, in connection with any loss, injury (whether or not resulting in death) and/or damage, howsoever caused or arising. In addition, no responsibility or liability is accepted for additional expenses, losses, delay, injury, death or damage to property arising out of sickness, weather, acts of war, strikes, revolt, insurrection, military action, acts of violence, changes in air or other services or other causes beyond our control, whether occurring in the country of origin, destination or during travel. Baggage and personal property are carried at the owner’s risk entirely. The AHAVATH TORAH INSTITUTE reserves the right to change the itinerary or to cancel any tour .

As a condition to acceptance of any application, each applicant must agree to and sign the statement set forth below:
The undersigned has read the schedule of activities for this tour and recognizes and accepts any risks thereof. The undersigned also understands and hereby agrees for and on behalf of himself/herself, heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, to abide by the conditions set forth above, and to release and hold harmless the AHAVATH TORAH INSTITUTE and any of its officers, trustees, agents, licensees, or representatives from any and all liability for delays, injuries, death, or for the loss of or damage to, his or her property however occurring during any portion , or in relation to the AHAVATH TORAH INSTITUTE’S tour described herein.

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