Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When the Mighty Fall…

I cannot tell you how much this issue grieves me. I had tremendous respect for Rabbi Dovid Cohen. I thought he was a ray of light on the world of Torah and Halacha - a man who was fearless in Psak - unafraid to go against the tide.

He is certainly very knowledgeable. And he is respected enough to be trusted by both the Modern Orthodox world and the Charedi world. His Psak on controversial issues was respected by many – even by Charedim - even if he contradicted Poskim greater than himself!

However, although I still maintain that a man is innocent until proven guilty - it is becoming harder and harder to be Dan L'Kaf Zechus about a lecture he delivered in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Here is a letter from Yisroel (Jeff) Hochberg posted in the comments section. It is too important to be buried at the end of a long series of comments in a post from last week. I re-post it here (edited only for clarity):

Someone brought the comment by "Enough" (Pseudonym for a commenter on this issue) to my attention. I am proud to be one of the more than seven people who contacted the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and I am proud to have been the first one to do so after I was directed to do so by the most respected Roshei Yeshiva at Yeshiva University.

I was at Rabbi Cohen's speech and I have spoken to him many times since. He has been very clear and unequivocal that tax evasion is permissible and that Chilul HaShem is often not a concern. He has privately told me on many occasions that gezel akum is also permissible. While I was not involved with the Jewish Week article and I wish that it had not appeared, everything that it said about Rabbi Dovid Cohen was completely correct.

Yes, I have known Rabbi Cohen since my youth. But the accusation that I have had issues with him since my youth and that I might have a personal vendetta against him is a scurrilous motzei shem ra of the worst kind. I had a very fine, but not close, relationship with him for my entire life. He had beracha acaharita at my wedding and I asked him sheelos for many years.

That is why it was so painful to have heard his terrible words at Beth Abraham and in my subsequent conversations with him. You can contact me at:


If you have any questions. Anyone else who has any questions about the veracity of what Rabbi Cohen said can contact me as well.

"Enough" please stop hiding behind your anonymity -- you can contact me directly if you want to know the truth. And by the way the other letter writers did not grow up in Brooklyn so unfortunately you cannot attack them in the same way.

And one further thing about the RCA --the heads of the RCA are very open in private conversation that the Vaad HaPoskim was disbanded in order to kick Rabbi Cohen off the RCA. Just ask them - I did and they were very open about it.

Yisroel (Jeff) Hochberg

When a Frum, Ehrlich, and knowledgeable Jew:

- who was there
- who identifies himself by by name
- who is a product of Yeshivos
- who had close enough ties to RDC to give him the Bracha Acharita at his own wedding
- who asked him Shailos
- who spoke with Rabbi Cohen afterwards to be sure that he understood him correctly
- who even regrets that this episode ever came to light...

comes forward and tells the world the truth, it is hard to believe that it did not happen exactly as he - and so many others who were there say it did!

Apparently there are some who were there and deny it. They are either trying to protect Rabbi Cohen even though they know the truth - or just plain do not remember what they heard - or heard it through their own ethical filters.

Those who deny it 'from afar' no matter how respected - or Ehrlich - or forceful they are in that denial - cannot be relied upon since they were not there. Only those who were there can be trusted to tell us what really happened.

If the accusations are true – which is increasingly becoming evident - and one wants to defend Rabbi Cohen by saying that he has a right to Paskin as he did (a Psak that virtually all other Poskim disagree with) that does not make him any less foolish. Has he never heard of Halacha Ve-Ein Morin Kein, Davar Ha'Tamu'a LaRabbim?

One may ask - why bring it up at all? What purpose is there to keep this in the public eye? It can only damage us when things like this are spread.

To this I say - don't blame the messenger. The damage was done - not by me. It was done by Rabbi Cohen (if he is indeed guilty). And it was made public in a widely read newspaper (in print and electronically) in the Jewish community - by many Frum people.

It is now in the public domain for all to see and analyze. To allow this now widely known event to go without public comment or protest can only harm us more. It must be vigorously protested loudly and clearly to anyone who will listen - to as many people as possible!

In my view - if the accusations are true - Rabbi Cohen has committed a huge Chilul HaShem and should no longer be consulted for any Psak by anyone.

Updated: 6/16/09 11:44 AM CDT