Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rabbi Schneierson Responds

Guest Post by Rabbi Daniel Schneierson

My recent critical post of Rabbi Schneierson’s views on TV and Shidduch dating has drawn a response. I invited him to write a guest post better explaining his positions and he accepted. 

At this point I wish to clearly state that in no way should the institution where he is a Shoel U’Meishiv be criticized. It has become apparent from the comments to that post that this is a fine – Shul based institution that deals with adult education and is not a Yeshiva in the classical sense.

I would also ask that any criticism of Rabbi Schneierson be done in the respectful manner that my commenting rules require. There is no need to insult anyone, least of all a man who is actually trying to do some good in the world of Shiduchim. One can disagree with him - even strongly - without being disagreeable. 

His post begins with a challenge put to him (in red) by the commenter calling herself “Wit”. The second part of his post deals with the comments made by the commenter calling herself “kweansmom” (also in red). As always the views expressed by Rabbi Schneierson do not necessarily reflect my own. His words follow with some minor editing for clarity. 

Part One

I don't know you, I am sure you are a fine person who means well, but even in this small clarification you do not relay what your message or initial message actually is.  You mentioned the idea of romanticism interfering in the shidduch process.  But you also mentioned how long ago the idea of romanticism infiltrated our Jewish communities and yet you speak about television TODAY.  I also really await a more refined clarification, but I do hope you can take your time with it so that it does just that, clarifies.

What is your message?  Is it about romanticism or is it about shmutz on TV (the two do not necessarily offer the same negative results)…  And who is it you are speaking to?

And do you think that even if that line in question was meant as a joke that it can still have implications that are offensive to members of the Jewish Orthodox communities?

Is it something that infiltrated years ago and was passed down or is it about the negative escalation of what what we see today?  My main message was to convey to the yeshivish, semi-yeshivish (who I thought were the main readers of theyeshivaworld.com- based on the name of the site and the flavor of  most the other stories read on theyeshivaworld.com)  the following.  

I knew I really would have liked to spend a few more days reviewing the article before posting it but with the freezer just opened in Lakewood and seeing so many young women and men in pain that they aren’t married yet;  I felt it urgent to get the main message out as who knows there could have been 1-100+ boys/men  girls/women just about to end a relationship after the 2nd date that was supposed to be their bashert  because there wasn’t enough chemistry/electricity being felt in their 1st 2nd or 3rd  dates. 

Only the Ribbono Shel Olam knows but having a small team who has set up about 300 dates over the past 15 months and made 6 successful shidduchim Bisiyata Dishmaya Bli Ayin Hara in that 15 month period; I feel BS”D I have good view of “what is helping” or on the other hand “what is messing up” a lot of people in their quest to find their bashert.

My message was that the notion that there must be romanic feelings and that they are crucial in deciding who to marry - is false.   Almost every Rav or Marriage Counselor will tell you that what really holds together a marriage is the gentle/kind way the wife and husband talk to each other and treat each other- in short “good middos”.   

Romance is a plus but Romance in a marriage without Middos will most often quickly dissipate with the results being a very bad marriage or divorce.   I really seek the Emes for the good of Klal Yisroel.  The Divorce rate has been sky rocketing in recent years.  So please help me find the Emes so we can reverse the trend. 

We all basically know at least a few people who are divorced and who in general have gone through Gehinom. Each one of us should try within their abilities to give these people Chizuk.  That would be an excellent Mitzvah, but at the same time anything that can be done to steer those people who haven’t been married yet (or are dating again for the 2nd time ) to the right spouse to establish a long lasting happy marriage/Bayis Ne’eman B’Yisroel would be  a tremendous Z’chus (merit) for those who can participate in this positive steering/guiding.

I don’t have exact figures but I would guess the following figures I am about to present are fairly accurate.

A Dating Relationship that lead to marriage that was mainly based on infatuation - likely 67% of those people are now divorced or close to divorce

A Dating Relationship that lead to marriage that was mainly based on Romance - likely 55% of those people are now divorced or close to divorce

However a Dating Relationship that lead to marriage that was mainly based on Kindness/Caring/Enjoying each other’s company/ feeling like best friends - likely 85-90% of those people are still happily married.

In regards to Chemistry I agree there should be what is loosely called “chemistry” as the dating progresses. I just feel that there doesn’t always have to chemistry by the end of Date #2 or Date #3.

That was the question and that is what I was addressing when I said those who think there should be chemistry the 2nd or 3rd date in order to continue (dating that person) are WRONG.

Please note I saw in the famous Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky’s book Dear Rabbi Dear Dr. 2 - that he even says that he asked a  Gadol if there needs to be attraction before marriage and in that particular case the Gadol said “no that can come after marriage”  [ he does say each person should ask their own Rav on such a sensitive issue- but he was addressing a case where the boy found exactly what he was looking for he just didn’t have physical attraction for the girl but it was clear he was attracted to her personality etc etc.)

Part Two

I would answer the kweansmom when she says:

“And exactly how many illicit sexual relationships have been precipitated by watching TV?”

I don’t know only the Ribbono Shel Olam knows- all we know is that there have unfortunately many unfaithful spouses especially in the last 20-30 years- and something must have sparked them-It is an Issur D’oraisah (a prohibition on a Jewish Biblical level) according to the Talmud (or at least Biblical Prohibition according to many which the Shulach Orech brings down as being the real halachah (whether the Shulacha Orech Paskens it is Biblical or Rabbinic I don’t recall but he certainly codifies in the acceptedCode of Jewish law- the “Shulach Orech”) to even look at 3 dimensional sculptures of humans- so we see a major precedent based on the Torah/Chazal that even looking at something is problematic not only on a hashkafic level but even on a halachic level. 

Also in Parshas Nitzavim in Sefer Devarim Perek 29 Pasuk 16 the Torah states: “Vatiruh es Shikusaihem V’ais Gilulaihem Eitz Vaw’even Kesef V’zahav Asher Imahem” and immediately follows in the next Pasuk 29:17 Translated in English:

“Lest there be among you a man or a woman of a family or a tribe whose heart turns away this day from Ha-shem our G-d to go to serve the gods of those nations, lest there should be among you  a root which will bear as fruit a poisonous herb and wormwood.”

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch writes”now, “Pen Yais Bachem” on 29:17 now even today there could be an individual or a family or tribal circle amongst you who mind already to-day turns away from G-d and inclines towards heathenism, or such a misleading thought might not yet have been definitely formed, but is today just a shoresh a root, just a beginning out of which only later on, perhaps only in the descendants, bitter fruit might grow………….”

The next P’sukim continue this person won’t be forgiven by Ha-shem and …. Ha-shem will show his wrath against this person and a few p’sukim later “the whole land is burned and destroyed”

All these terrible punishments were directly preceded by Jews just being amongst the Mitztrim and just seeing the Mitzrim’s serving of these Alien Gods.

So there is Biblical precedent/basis for the fact that seeing forbidden things/gods can lead to terrible actions/aveiros and then lead to major Punishments to the Jews.   So while many individuals might think/write that what they see has no effect on them- even if in their individual case it hasn’t had an effect on them, the Torah is pretty clearly telling us that what we see can have a terrible effect on our actions leading to even Cardinal Aveiros.

In addition, the  Gemarah (Talmud) is very clear that a man shouldn’t be Mistakel at a woman lest this lead to aveirah (Gemarah Brachos on pasuk in Mishlei “Yad L’yad Lo Yinakeh….” Even if a man looks at a small finger of a woman intending to get pleasure out of it- he won’t be saved from the Din of Gehinom”

I don’t want to debate this- but at a certain point if TV, certain stations or Cable TV stations have a record of having a certain decent percentage of Avodah Zarah Gilui Arayos and Shficus Damim- even if one says I am not watching the station to get pleasure out of the scantily clad woman etc.- there is a decent argument to say getting that forbidden pleasure is unavoidable when watching such stations and should be halachically forbidden- but everyone feel free to ask you own personal Rabbi on this matter.  

This is the tradition I got from my Rebbeim at what most of the readers would describe as Modern-orthodox Institutions.  So feel free to ask you own Rabbi/Rav but this is what I was personally taught at basically all yeshivos whether Hesder, YU, more right wing etc.

My goals are to help Klal Yisroel- make more happy marriages reduce/eliminate divorce and unhappy marriages- again I am very sorry if I was unclear and irked many people please accept my heartfelt apologies.