Friday, July 06, 2012

Interesting Posts and Articles #375

1. World's oldest movies discovered in prehistoric caves.

2. Emes veEmunah on the percentage of instances of sex abuse in the Hasidic community.

3. On the Main Line tracks the career of a most interesting Jew, Rabbi Hirsch Daenemark:
A couple of years ago I posted about Rabbi Hirsch Denmark, who dazzled audiences all over Europe in the 1840s with his apparent ability to demonstrate that he had memorized the entire Talmud, not only its words, but the very form of the pages. Furthermore, he seemed able to do it with any text given to him. (link)

I wondered what became of him...
4. Rationalist Judaism on the other siyum hashas, and with a monograph on the economics of Torah scholarship in Medieval Jewish Thought and Practice.

5. I give my answer to the following question at Mi Yodeya: Why did [the Amalekim] change their language without changing their clothes. If anything, changing uniforms is easier than learning a new language.

6. As a followup to a story from the previous roundup, where the story was:
A Bronx tow-truck driver gave a big boost yesterday to a stranded couple — he delivered their baby.
Antonio Paulino, 50, was driving in East Harlem yesterday afternoon when a man flagged him down.
“He said, ‘My wife is giving birth,’ ” Paulino said. But the Orthodox Jewish father-to-be said his religion forbade him from touching the baby or the mother.
“I reached in and took the baby out,” Paulino said
I referred to the Jewish person as a chassid shoteh. As a clarification, I was not saying that the Jewish fellow was necessarily chassidish. (See comment section of previous roundup.) Rather, it was a reference to a Mishna, and gemara, in Sotah. The Mishna in Sotah 20a cited Rabbi Yehoshua:
and the gemara in Sotah 21b elaborates:
HE USED TO SAY, A FOOLISH PIETIST etc. What is a foolish pietist like? — E.g., a woman is drowning in the river, and he says: 'It is improper for me to look upon her and rescue her'.
Or, in Yerushalmi Sotah 16a:
אי זהו חסיד שוטה ראה תינוק מבעבע בנהר אמר לכשאחלוץ תפילי אצילנו עם כשהוא חולץ תפיליו הוציא זה את נפשו.
"Who is a foolish pietist? He sees an infant drowning in the river, and says 'when I remove my tefillin I'll save him. Meanwhile, while he removes his tefillin, this one loses his life."

So, this fellow in the story above seems to fit well into this classic case. One cannot surmise with total certainty because of the brevity of the report, but, to explain: Once a woman goes into labor, she has the halachic status of niddah. This is because, if I recall correctly, there is an assumption that אי אפשר לפתיחת הקבר בלא דם, it is not possible that the womb opens without blood. And once there is this assumption of blood, and accompanying niddah status, the harchakot would apply -- and so the husband cannot touch her. These are rabbinic, rather than Biblical in nature, and are designed to prevent the couple from engaging in forbidden relations. Now, personally, I think that in the present case, where there is a baby coming out of the woman, there is little practical purpose to the harchakot -- if the husband would try to engage in intercourse with his wife, she would rip his head off! But if you want, say lo plug rabbanan, that we do not distinguish between cases.

With this as background, I was surprised to see the defense of the chassid shoteh by Rabbi Gil Student, at the Hirhurim blog. In R' Student's defense, he makes it clear that he is trying to be melamed zechus on the fellow, rather than saying this is the best, and proper, course of action. Yet, just as it is possible to be a chassid shoteh, improperly guided by false piety, it is possible to be a luftmentch, an intellectual out of touch with practicality; and to be a "posek shoteh", be driven by halachic analysis when it is clear what needs to be done and that one should not take the time to calculate what the halacha may be -- or even, if I may say it, follow what one believes is the proper halacha, where it goes against what obviously should be done.

I also don't think the halachic defense is a strong one. Let us consider it:
However, if she is sick and needs assistance that requires touching, then the husband may help her. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 195:16) rules that if a sick woman who has a nidah status has no one to assist her yet greatly needs help then her husband may do anything necessary (mutar ba-kol). The Rema requires two conditions before the husband may help his wife: 1) she greatly needs help, 2) there is no one else to help. Meaning, the husband is forbidden to touch his wife if there is someone else to help. The Radbaz (Responsa vol. 4 no. 2) rules that the husband must even hire someone if no one will help for free. If we take the Rema at face value, then the husband who looked for someone else to help was doing the right thing.
You can read this in Yoreh Deah here. But the situation is of stam niddah, where she is an actual niddah and there is a real concern that they will end up having intercourse. The harchakos make sense. It might also apply when there is a baby coming out of her womb at the moment, but being machmir for a derabbanan in an implausible case because of lo plug should logically weaken it.

Leaving aside the Gra who says this is talking about a deathly ill wife, we read on that:
However, most authorities assume that the Rema is talking about a woman who is seriously, but not deathly, ill. In such a case, a husband should hire a nurse to take care of his wife but if he cannot, then he can help her himself (Chokhmas Adam 116:11 [implied]; Arukh Ha-ShulchanYoreh De’ah 195:27;Beis She’arimYoreh De’ah 274; Darkhei Teshuvah 195:51; Badei Ha-Shulchan 195:187).
And this case, of a woman in labor away from a hospital, without medical care for her and the baby, is of the more serious type of scenario. He continues:
I have not seen any authority rule that the Rema’s second condition does not apply in a case of a deathly ill wife, and for good reason. If someone else can help her in a fashion equal to or greater than the husband’s ability, why should he do it in an otherwise forbidden way when the other person can do it in an entirely permissible way? Let’s say the husband and a female nurse are standing beside the bed of a deathly ill woman who is a nidah and requires an arm massage to increase circulation. Of course the nurse should do it. She has no prohibition to override while the husband does. Better to do it permissibly rather than by overriding a prohibition.
One should not engage in such halachic philosophizing in this case. Granting his point, can someone help her "in a fashion equal to or greater than the husband"? I can understand if we are talking about a nurse, who has training and competence. But a random tow-truck driver will have just as much skill as the husband in this matter. And a random truck-driver is not the same as someone who professionally takes care of sick people. And this utterly disregards the emotional needs of the woman in labor! Would she rather have a total stranger, a truck-driver, help her when she is so vulnerable and in this time of emergency, or would she rather have her life-partner help her through it? This is callous disregard for the woman's feelings, at a time when distress is certainly not needed and might even complicate matters physically (if that is what one needs to appeal to)!

And standing by the side of the road looking for someone else to do it is parallel to the drowning baby case in the Yerushalmi -- wasting time in an emergency while trying to reach the halachic "optimum". This is misguided.

Also, where the truck driver (rather than trained nurse) is the other person there, it makes sense that he would like some assistance, and not have to do it all by himself. There surely was something the husband could have done to aid, in this situation.
However, delivering a baby is more complicated. We are not dealing with just the prohibition of a husband touching his nidah wife but also gazing at and and touching a woman’s private area (albeit during childbirth). Every Jewish man is forbidden to do this, regardless of whether the woman is his wife, absent a life-saving need.
Though I think there is room to disagree here, I'll leave aside analysis of most of this. But this seems directly the case of the Bavli --
a woman is drowning in the river, and he says: 'It is improper for me to look upon her and rescue her'
According to variant nuschaos (Ktav Yad Oxford), it is לא מסיקנא לה משום דמסתכלנא בערוה.

This is long enough, so enough for now. I'll end with:

7. Balak sources -- 2012 edition.

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