Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Scope of the Ban

On September 14th I presented a guest post from an individual who is going through some very trying times dealing with personal issues. He is a Charedi, a rather brilliant Talmid Chacham, and is going through a painful divorce from his wife of 25 years. The marriage produced nine lovely children and many happy times, including marrying off children and seeing grandchildren. He presented his side of the story and admitted that some of the fault was his own.

But there is more to the story. The scope of the issue involved goes far beyond the tragic personal circumstances of this case. The following is written based on several e-mails I have received recently.

His current situation began when his wife first mentioned divorce to him by saying one night, "someone said we should get divorced." He called one of the Rabbonim (mentioned his original post) whom he thought might be behind this and after making some strong remarks and was absolutely stunned by the sarcastic retort: "Chaim (not his real name), you're a Gevaldike Talmid Chacham. You're right. And your wife is wrong. You're right and your children are wrong. You're right and Rav Elyashiv is wrong! "

That was the first indication that there were forces outside of the personal issues of his 25 year marriage that were being brought to bear on him… Issues relating to the ban on Rabbi Slifkin’s books!

He had not been having any disputes on this issue with his wife or children, and had spoken with this Rav a couple of weeks earlier in the most polite manner reflecting disappointment about the ban and the behavior of the Rabbanim whom he felt didn't really have enough scientific background to be getting involved.

This unprovoked mention of Rav Elyashiv in the context of his domestic dispute certainly suggested that the ban on R. Slifkin books was the motive behind his words. Apparently this Rav had discussed it with this individual’s wife whose own attitude had been formed at least in part by a standard Beis Yaakov education.

There is more.

1. In the spring of 2005, long before the divorce proceedings began, he wrote a letter to his very prominent Rosh Yeshiva that has also been his Mesader Kiddushin. It was about how disturbed he was about the ban. He asked his wife to mail the letter. He never got it. She now claims that it must have gotten lost in the mail. But I question if she ever sent it.

2. During the height of the Slifkin affair, a certain Rabbi whose son was one of those meddling in the divorce was being quoted widely with strong anti-Slifkin comments, to the effect that anyone who argued with the ban was an Apikores, (heretic).

3. Two of his very prominent Roshei Yeshiva with very strong anti Slifkin attitudes were asked to help change his wife’s mind about the divorce mind. Not knowing about his reservations with respect to the ban, they both promised to do so. But after his wife spoke to them (probably informing them of his feelings about the ban) they both refused to help him and have told him give her a Get, (divorce).

His wife now asserts that he has given the children "confusing messages" about Rabbanim and Emunas Chachamim. In her court claims she has written that he suffered a "crisis of faith" and that he "hates Rabbanim". This is absolutely untrue.

The bottom line here is that the ban on Rabbi Slifkin’s books while not the entire cause of his problems is certainly the very big Makeh B'Patesh …the final hammer blow that is ending his 25 year marriage to a woman he still loves.

The use of tactics like this by the people who want to suppress discussion of a vitally important issue in Emunah demonstrates the weakness of their position. But more importantly, in my view it is an outrageous abuse of power and influence.

This is so sad. Instead of good people trying to get them to work things out, they are advocating to just ignore 25 good years and the nine children who love him. They insist on breaking up this precious family. Period. He still loves his wife and misses his children and the innocent days of happiness …pre-divorce proceedings. He wants to try and make the marriage work and is undergoing professional counseling. His wife has been discouraged from doing so. Why have these anti-Slifkin Rabbanim ruled this out as an option? I’m afraid we all know the answer to this question.

Is the marriage salvageable? I don’t know. But, how can they not at least try and resolve the issues between them? 25 years! Nine children! Why is divorce the only option here?

Do a person’s honest thoughts about Torah and science deserve such treatment and such contempt by prominent Roshei Yeshiva just because it is not considered mainstream? Do such conclusions warrant a divorce from his wife and loss of his children? His views are no different than those of some of the greatest Torah minds in Jewish history, and some of the greatest Torah minds of our time. Is this the future of Torah Judaism? From this vantage point on this Erev Yom Kippur, it certainly looks that way.