Rabbonim and askonim need to create fights in divorces, in fact I’d argue that they need to create divorces.
A top rov in a small community once told me that the $300 fee he collects from gittin helps augment his shul salary. Now that should come as no surprise, of course, $300 never hurt, but he didn’t merely say that it helps, he said he relies on it and then complained that “there aren’t always gittin”.
But finances aren’t the only motivation, not by a long shot. Askonim need something to askan about, otherwise they’re not askanim. So they create problems were there are none and then step in to rescue the victims they created. It’s a classic example of the drama triangle (look it up, they don’t teach you this stuff in yeshiva).
Now the savior of American Orthodoxy, Matisyahu Salomon, is being summoned to court over his incitement of a young girl against her mother who’s been divorced from her father for years. Salomon is helping the father, who’s frummer than the mother because he lives in Lakewood, create parental alienation.
This reminds me of this angry rant someone wrote to defend the rabbis of Cleveland, and especially Eli Dessler of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland from accusations that they had engaged in this same activity. People aren’t usually stupid enough to say these things honestly, when frum people are honest about their justifications for their crimes it makes for excellent satire.
We yidden are used to our enemies from outside. But loiy aleinu, sometimes, our own bnai torah lose their way and go off the derech. Most of them have the decency to hide their shame while we do our best to protect their relatives from the danger they pose. We are rachmonim and bnai rachmonim and do our best for their victimized relatives. But now I cannot stay silent. One of our own has turned, not just into an apikores, but a choiteh umachti, one who is mevazeh talmidei chachomim. I must rise to defend our rabbonim and name oisuh ha-ish, Eli Mandel. He had the chutzpah to write publicly and disseminate his vile words through the vile unfiltered internet, the following awful words (which should not be shared with women and children, or those of uncertain emunah):
“I’ve been bitten by rabid rabbis”
“the news of what they had done got out, they lied. They weren’t involved, they told everyone. It was a misunderstanding. Then they called my wife and asked her to lie for them too.”
“So you can continue to operate you have until now, bullying, lying, harassing, intimidating”
–Publications and letters from Eli Mandel
Eli Mandel wrote the above statements in reference to Rabbis Naphtali Burnstein, Eli Dessler and Yitchok Margereten, pillars of our holy community, and I think it is incumbent upon us to vigorously protest these words and defend our loyal rabbonim.
For close to five years Eli Mandel lived amongst us with his wife and children and he didn’t make any more noise than is expected of someone of his stature. He will be excused for being the impetus behind a night chaburah in Kollel Torah LIFE and for starting the organization Mesila Cleveland, which, although in its lifetime did help some families in our community, and was even praised by some rabbonim in the community, his later actions undermined all his earlier ones and made them null and void.
It may be true, as Eli Mandel claims, that in a conversation with Rabbi Burnstein about why he doesn’t believe in hashem anymore (ch’v!) Rabbi Burnstein told him he will have to get divorced if he doesn’t find the answers, and it may be true that in response to his question as to which sief in shulchan aruch requires this divorce Rabbi Burnstein didn’t have an answer. But to think that this means that there is no answer is only because of Eli Mandel’s appalling ignorance. Apparently all his years in yeshiva didn’t teach him much (which may say something about the yeshivos he attended – Stamford and Telz – but more likely this says something about his hasmadah while in those yeshivos). Didn’t he ever hear of the concept of da’as torah? And doesn’t he know that Rabbi Burnstein has acquired da’as torah through his years of learning? This may be one of those halachos that are only found in the “fifth volume of the shulchan aruch”. It takes incredible chutzpah to assume that because a rabbi cannot quote a source therefore the rabbi is making it up, and Eli Mandel is just the kind of michutzif to make this assumption. When a rav who has da’as torah says that someone must get divorced it is a mitzvah to listen to him.
It may also be true that Rabbi Burnstein followed up with his wife afterwards to remind her of her chiyuv to get divorced, but what of it? When the gemara in gittin says that the mizbeach cries over a couple divorcing it doesn’t mean a couple where the husband says that he doesn’t believe in hashem anymore. That’s poshut and only an am ha’aretz would think otherwise
Eli Mandel says that Rabbi Yitzchok Margereten advised his wife that she shouldn’t get divorced until she hates him but that she shouldn’t worry because she’d hate him soon enough – because he will commit adultery (which, of course he would, he doesn’t keep shabbos after all, duh!) and then she’d hate him. Plus this would have the added benefit of giving her the advantage over him in court. I think this is admirable, and the fact that Eli Mandel thinks this would be embarrassing to Rabbi Margereten just shows how low he has sunk. Aron Hakohen wouldn’t have advised any less.
Mandel has made a big to-do of the fact that Rabbi Margereten spoke about him in public, in a shiur he used to attend with the young baalebatim of Cleveland Heights, possibly repeating some things he heard from his wife in private. Is this loshon hora? Of course not! Mandel is a koifer b’ikar and there’s no issur loshon hora on koifrim. The fact that Rabbi Margereten knew of Mandel’s kefirah through loshon hora is besides the point, he was mechuyav to believe it because it was l’toeles.
Finally Eli Mandel has made lots of hay out of Rabbi Dessler’s supposed violations of himself and his family. Rabbi Dessler’s involvement came at a crucial time for this disturbed family, his wife had finally given into the pressure Rabbis Burnstein and Margereten put on her to get separated, and although her husband was out of a job and couldn’t afford to move out she pushed him out like the shaygetz that he is. Did she have to wait till he found a job? Of course not, he was always a lazy good-for-nothing, and besides, their kids’ neshamos were at risk, he had already sat on his computer on yom tov in front of his two year old daughter, what would he do next? There’s no reason to assume he wouldn’t feed them traif, and his kids don’t belong to him anyway, our community had already invested too much into them to allow him to think they’re his, they’re not his, they belong to the community. Obviously he had to leave, he had lost all rights to his kids.
Rabbi Dessler had his wife over for a shabbos meal and decided to step in and help. He was concerned that Mandel would withhold the get, would stop paying tuition and wouldn’t support his wife and kids so he wanted a quick resolution to the matter. He told the wife to keep his involvement secret – not, as Mandel claims because there was anything wrong with what he was doing, but because good deeds need to be kept secret, it was purely out of anivus, the world doesn’t know of the many similar mitzvos our Rabbi Dessler is involved in behind the scenes.
Eli Mandel is now a worthless person, whatever could be extracted from him should be, and Rabbi Dessler was right to try to get him to pay tuition; Rabbi Dessler was doing him a favor, at least he’d have something to come to olam habah with.
One night while Rabbi Pesach Krohn was in Cleveland, Rabbi Dessler brought him over to give chizzuk to the wife. Rabbi Krohn was so impressed with her mesiras nefesh for torah that he said he’d write her story up in his next book. Then with a bolt of inspiration which can only be considered ruach hakodesh, Rabbi Krohn asked her for a picture of her husband, which she produced. It only took Rabbi Krohn a second to find the flaw “He looks pregnant!” exclaimed the magid in his inimitable style, which never fails to impress the ladies. Baruch hashem we have such brilliant rabbonim who even know how to help a wife learn to find their husbands ugly.
Seeing that the therapist Mrs. Mandel was seeing wasn’t helping her get ready for divorce Rabbi Dessler hired a specialty therapist based in Eretz Yisroel. This therapist had helped his own daughter make up her own mind when she wasn’t sure she wanted to get divorced and she would help convince Mrs. Mandel as well that divorce was the right thing; but more importantly she would share what she heard back to Rabbi Dessler and the rabbi would use that information to further convince her. We should thank hashem we have such wonderful rabbonim right here in Cleveland.
Rabbi Dessler suggested that the couple use Rabbi Landesman, who is a dayan who specializes in gittin, as their mediator. When that ingrate Eli Mandel didn’t agree to this offer of free help Rabbi Dessler had Rabbi Landesman write up a divorce agreement without Mandel’s knowledge. This is the kind of leadership we need more of, few rabbonim take the bull by the horns and get things done. Unfortunately the plan was scuttled when Mrs. Mandel shared the agreement with her husband, Rabbi Dessler yelled at her for her stupidity, but it was too late, a new plan was needed.
Since Eli Mandel wasn’t cooperating and was still out of a job Rabbi Dessler decided on a bold plan. He hired Wolf and Akers, a family law firm known for their aggressive tactics. He made the appointment himself for Mrs. Mandel knowing that she didn’t have the strength to do this herself. The kind lawyers at Wolf and Akers took Rabbi Dessler’s good advice and came up with a way to place a restraining order on Eli Mandel. Which, given the fact that he had never harmed or even threatened to harm anyone in his life is another open miracle that only Rabbi Dessler could pull off. They also sued for alimony and child support which that bum hadn’t paid until then with the silly excuse that he was out of a job. They claimed neglect because that bum had run off to live with his grandparents (claiming to be looking for a job).
When the Rambam said it’s assur to go to arkaos it only meant that it’s assur to go to goyishe court for cases of child molestation, as it says clearly in the pirush Agudas Yisroel on the side. But when it comes to taking children away from shkatzim it’s a mitzvah to go to goyishe court.
Unfortunately this plan too failed when Eli Mandel returned to Cleveland before he could be served his papers at his grandparents’ house. Hashem must have been looking out for him, I don’t know why he was though.
When Eli Mandel came back to Cleveland he got in touch with Rabbi Blau and wanted his wife to speak with him as well. This was a very obvious attempt to manipulate his wife into joining him in his kefirah and baruch hashem Rabbi Dessler saw through it. Although Rabbi Margereten told Mrs. Mandel she could speak with Rabbi Blau, Rabbi Dessler saw through this transparent attempt and told her not to, and spoke with Rabbi Margereten as well and told him to tell Mrs. Mandel not to, which R’ Margereten then did.
It’s very sad, and a big blow to our community, that despite all these efforts (or perhaps because of them) the couple got back together. My rosh yeshiva once told me that this is one advantage chasidim have over us; that their marriages aren’t as close as ours are. Mrs. Mandel never would have gone along with her husband if they hadn’t had a good marriage, and loy aleinu, that undermined the heroic efforts of our chashuveh rabbonim.
Nobody asked me to write this, it was simply my desire to defend our chashuve rabbonim from the loshon hora they’d been subjected to that caused me to undertake this. We cannot be silent while we are made l’laag u’lkeles.
A concerned member of the Cleveland Heights community