Dealing with Children Who Have Gone Off the Derech – a Response to the Kiryas Yoel Publication

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

It is a publication authored by two Dayanim from the Satmar community, Rav Getzel Berkowitz Shlita of Kiryas Yoel, and Rav Avrohom Tzvi Vosner Shlita of Satmar in Monsey.  The Sefer is entitled, “M’lo HaNoseh.” It should be noted that both of the Dayanim who authored the new work are world-class Poskim – whose previous works thoroughly, completely, and brilliantly analyze numerous halachic sugyos. Rav Berkowitz’s Sefer Iglei Dvash is a remarkable responsa work that is well-respected among Talmidei Chachomim.  Both Dayanim are of the Rav Aharon faction of Satmar.

The publication in question deals with the halachic implications of children who, r”l, have gone off the derech. It is this author’s view, however, that many of the conclusions found in this work are seriously flawed, and even run counter to the thinking and philosophy of the revered Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l.

The authors, although brilliant and erudite Talmidei Chachomim, have, in this author’s opinion, made a number of fundamental errors in the Sefer, specifically in misunderstanding a contradiction in the Rambam upon which they base their rulings.

As a consequence, they have ruled that it is forbidden to show affection to and to attempt to bring closer those who have left Torah observance. They have further ruled that it is forbidden to accept Baalei Teshuvah from among those who have initially left the path of Torah observance.  They forbid to ask about their welfare and to maintain dialogue or conversation with them.

THE RAMBAM IN QUESTION

Their rulings were based upon the words of the Rambam in Hilchos Avodah Zarah 2:5. At first glance, the words of the Rambam would seem to indicate that the Halacha may be like what they say – that we neither seek out nor accept an Apikores’ teshuvah. There is, however, a contradictory Rambam found in Hilchos Teshuvah 3:14 that indicates the exact opposite – that we do accept his Teshuvah and seek it out.

There are a number of ways that the commentaries attempt to resolve the contradiction. The Merkeves HaMishna understands the stricter Rambam as dealing with someone who specifically negates the 13 Ikarrim articles of faith, while the more lenient Rambam deals with other issues that the person may have negated. Those who have discussed this Merkeveves HaMishna understand him to mean that one can never be sure if the Teshuvah that this one does regarding the 13 articles of faith – is truly one who did Teshuvah.

The vast majority of the resolutions, however, are predicated upon the fact that the Rambam in Hilchos Avodah Zarah is discussing a case where there is absolutely no hope of the “Apikores” doing a turnaround and or he is not considered to be a Tinok Sh’Nishba – like a child who was kidnapped and raised among non-Jews.

THE MIDRASHIM

This latter method of resolution fits in with the Midrash Tehillim 65 that states that the gates of Teshuvah are never closed. It cites the verse in Tehillim 65:6, “With awesome deeds, through [Your] charity You shall answer us, G-d of our salvation, the trust of all the distant ends of the earth and the sea.” The Midrash explains that just as the sea is open for all to rinse and bathe so to is Teshuvah open to all to partake. It also fits with Dvarim Rabbah 2:12 that the gates of Teshuvah are forever open.  The point of both of these Midrashim are that the terms “Never” and “Forever” are employed in this regard.  Although Midrashim are not considered halachic per se – if we can resolve a contradiction in the Rambam while fitting in with the import of the Midrashim – it is certainly preferable.

TINOK SHENISHBA

The Chazon Ish writes (in a footnote to Yoreh Deah 2:18) that everyone nowadays has the status of a Tinok Sh’Nishba, a kidnapped child.  Thus, this Rambam is also not to be applied. He cites a proof from the Gemorah in Makkos 8b – where a Kussi goes into exile if he accidentally kills an Yisroel. The fact that he goes into exile demonstrates that he is treated like a child that was kidnapped.  The Chazon Ish thus delineates a change in status of the Kussi from earlier times to later times.

THE TEXT MAY BE FAULTY

There is also the approach of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik Shlita cited in LeTshuvas HaShana page 329 by his student, Rav Yisroel Rappaport. Rav Dovid Shlita remembered how his father, Rav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik zt”l claimed in reference to relevant that the girsah was changed on account of the censor and that it was, in fact, worthy to seek out their Teshuvah.

It is clear that the Mesorah of Klal Yisroel is to seek out their Teshuvah and to deal nicely with those who have gone off the derech.

Rav Gershon Edelstein Shlita, the current Gadol haDor of the generation and the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponovech -also clearly understands things in this manner. He has ruled that those that have gone off the derech should be treated with kindness and with great love and attention. This is seen in a question and answer forum on this very topic. See video below:

THE SATMAR REBBE AND THE CHILD OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

Finally, there is the well known story of a holocaust surviving woman who had asked Rav Yoel Teitelbaum zt”l to speak to her no-longer-observant son. The Rebbe approached him and asked what he did for a living. The man answered and the Rebbe then proceeded to ask his advice in various areas in which that man had expertise. He treated him with such respect and dignity that eventually the man came back and did Teshuvah.  He became one of the Rebbe’s most loyal Chassidim. The Satmar Rebbe was a master at Kiruv and would most certainly have agreed with the mainstream understanding of how to resolve these two contradictory Rambams.

Rav Yitzchok Meir Alter (1799-1866) was the very first Gerrer Rebbe and author of the Chidushei HaRim. He writes that Pesach Sheni, is a tikun for those who are perceived as beyond the pale – “B’derech Rechokah” – in his words. They are outside the scope of assistance. To them, to those who could not develop the closeness and Dveikus to Hashem that was emblematic of Pesach is the second chance embodied in Pesach Sheini.

The Psukim in Bahaaloscha tell us: There were men who were impure of the dead, therefore, they could not make the Pesach Korban on that day. They approached Moshe and Aharon on that day. Those men said to him, “We are impure [because of contact] with a dead person; [but] why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of Hashemin its appointed time, with all the children of Israel? Moshe said to them, “Imdu – Wait, and I will hear what Hashem instructs concerning you.”

The Chidushei HaRim writes that Imdu does not mean wait – but rather it means imdu in Teshuvah and Tefillah. It is not too late, just stand and pursue these two Avodahs and Hashem will help you along the way.

The Chidushei HaRim writes that this is the day for the off-the-derech kids that are now in every single one of our communities.

CONCLUSIONS

The vast majority of Gedolei Yisroel understand this stiras HaRambam in a way that reflects a loving approach to those that are off-the-derech. This was not just the view of the Chazon Ish, the Chofetz Chaim and the Chiddushei HaRim. It was also the approach of the Divrei Yoel, the Satmar Rebbe. It is also the view of Rav Gershon Edelstein Shlita.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com




37 COMMENTS

  1. How in heavens name could anyone take seriously the PSAK of so called DAYANIM of this vicious Jew hating and Israel hating cult.
    GEVALD,we have almost 7 million of our brothers and sisters living in our one and only holy land of Eretz Yisroel,that is half of all the Jews in the world and i think we would all agree it’s the best and the finest of our people,surrounded by hundreds of millions of murderous Arab enemies who claim that Jews stole their land openly declare their aim to slaughter each and every man woman and child living in the holy land.

    These vicious Israel hating Satmars people are out to destroy Medinas Yisrael and it’s seven million jews and bring another holocaust on the jewish nation, and if you are thinking that its an exaggeration,let me tell you its not,i am sure everyone remembers 2 years ago when Netanyahu begging the congress to spare the lives of the seven million jews and not let Obama go forward with that suicidal nuclear deal with Iran, Aron Teitlebaum wrote letters to all the NY state representatives in the house and senate not to listen to Iraels PM but to support Obamas deal with Iran.
    And in the meantime his brother, Zalmen Leib,has an organization called Netruna that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly in advertisements on print and radio and t.v media disseminating anti Israel propaganda by claiming that religious Jews don’t recognize the state and Eretz Yisroel does not belong to us before the arrival of the Messiah,and the rightfull owners of the land right now are the Arabs,this is the poison they brainwash tens of thousands of their chasidim.
    therefore anyone taking any of their PSAK’S and rulings seriously needs to have his head examined

    here is the link to that disgusting letter
    https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/287254/mayor-of-kiryas-joel-calls-on-rep-sean-patrick-maloney-not-to-attend-netanyahu-speech.html#comment-837823

    CHAIM

  2. this is illustrative of a serious divide in how the halakhic process works. many poskim would never give a blanket psak of any kind, but carefully adjust their view based on the nature of the people in question. also, there are many poskim of the centrist/modern world who have addressed this issue based on advice from professional psychologists. no one would address medical shealot with a medical doctor’s advice at least given; this should be no different.,

  3. I dont necessarily always agree with yair Hoffman’s take on halacha matters but here i must agree with him.
    Its very simple why the satmar dayanim paskined this way. It goes along with many other drakonian rules that they institute. Its called control. thier thinking is like this. If a potential boy/girl is thinking of leaving the fold , they may think very very hard before doing so based on this psak of losing contact with their loved ones forever even if they are chozer bitshuva.

  4. And what about this famous Zohar:
    זוהר חלק ב דף קכח/ב
    . אוף הכי ההוא זכאה בעי למרדף בתר חייבא, ולמקני ליה באגר שלים, בגין דיעבר מניה ההוא זוהמא, ויתכפיא סטרא אחרא, ויעביד לנפשיה, בגין דיתחשב עליה כאילו הוא ברא ליה, ודא איהו שבחא דיסתלק ביה יקרא דקודשא בריך הוא יתיר משבחא אחרא, ואסתלקותא דא יתיר מכלא, מאי טעמא, בגין דאיהו גרים לאכפיא סטרא אחרא, ולאסתלקא יקרא דקודשא בריך הוא, ועל דא כתיב באהרן, (מלאכי ב ו) ורבים השיב מעון, וכתיב (שם ה) בריתי היתה אתו. תא חזי, כל מאן דאחיד בידא דחייבא (ותב לגביה), ואשתדל ביה למשבק ארחא בישא, איהו אסתלק בתלת סלוקין, מה דלא אסתלק הכי בר נש אחרא, גרים לאכפייא סטרא אחרא, וגרים דיסתלק קודשא בריך הוא ביקריה, וגרים לקיימא כל עלמא בקיומיה לעילא ותתא, ועל האי בר נש כתיב, בריתי היתה אתו החיים והשלום, וזכי למחמי בנין לבנוי, וזכי בהאי עלמא, וזכי לעלמא דאתי, כל מארי דינין לא יכלין למידן ליה בהאי עלמא, ובעלמא דאתי עאל בתריסר תרעי ולית מאן דימחי בידיה, ועל דא כתיב (תהלים קיב ג) גבור בארץ יהיה זרעו דור ישרים יבורך, הון ועשר בביתו וצדקתו עומדת לעד, זרח בחשך אור לישרים וגו’.

  5. With intermarriage hitting 70% in Europe & US are these authors ready to write off anyone who doesn’t daven in their Shtiebel?
    Lo zu ha’derech ve’lo zu ha’Ir.

  6. Before debating contradictions in Rambam, we first have to define the facts on the ground, namely: (i) can someone be labelled an apikoirus if he knows nothing of the principles of faith? (ii) Can he be labelled OTD if he cannot coherantly explain one single mitzva?

    I humbly submit that NOT. I know of no educational institution for FFB’s that teaches ‘faith’ in a coherant fashion – because we all believe, don’t we? Neither do I know of a single institution that teaches clearly the meaning of the mitzos – that’s just for BT’s, right?

    No one from the FFB community (particularly the chassidic variety) can be labelled OTD in any form, unless he is also to be labelled a poiresh mi-darchei hatsibbur (by learning such works that teach in depth what faith is and what mitzvos are for).

    However, to claim that the OTD’s are tinokos she-nishbu, based on the ruling of the Hazon Ish is also patently false. He was talking about a completely different generation and time – unless we admit that our educational edifice is doing nothing to instill even the basic basics of Judaism in our children. This something I would actually sign up to, but I doubt if many others would.

    The vast majority of OTD’s in any shape or form are the innocent victims of faults in the education system, of dysfunctional homes, of psychological issues and of abuse of all sorts.

    The only instance where one would be justified in distancing an OTD is when s/he is actively trying to draw others away from Judaism or, perhaps, is just too disturbed and argumentative. Otherwise, each case has to be discussed on its own merits.

  7. It could be that they are looking at members of their own community only that have gone off the derech. It is now many years after the war where people and communities were broken. These kids have grown up completely immersed in Torah and chassidus and have chosen to go off the derech in our tumah filled generation. It is very different from the post war man who went to the Satmar Rebbe.

  8. I’ts clear that the Avi Fishoff video is heavily edited.

    The idea that parents of children “Off the derech” should be open to everything their child wants, is foreign to judaism. Not only is it foreign to judaism, but it doesn’t work with the vast majority of people. Most “experts” on this situation, say that each situation has to be looked out separately.

  9. I will rather except the peak of this 2 big dayunim then just a writer,
    they are totally right… they talking about people who are against אמונה בהשי”ת with them it’s forbidden to talk, but plan OTD thet have a bad childhood & are not against hashem it’s np to talk
    (& to comment #1 chugibugi: isreal has nothing with Judaism 70% are not even keeping Shabbat & there is a gay parade in all city’s,)

  10. “……As a consequence, they have ruled that it is forbidden to show affection to and to attempt to bring closer those who have left Torah observance. They have further ruled that it is forbidden to accept Baalei Teshuvah from among those who have initially left the path of Torah observance. They forbid to ask about their welfare and to maintain dialogue or conversation with them…”””

    Completely against out Torah, so much evidence against it. Scholarship and genius is no guarantee of what’s right.
    Ki Lo Yidach Mimenu Yidach.
    ” Chachochim,! ! hizaaru bedivreichem.”

  11. I don’t know who’s right or wrong

    I do know that this sentence is wrong.

    “Rav Gershon Edelstein Shlita, the current Gadol haDor of the generation…. ”

    Says who?????? Because he’s the RY of Ponovech?????

    The KJ rabbis can argue with him. Their opinions are just as valid as his.

  12. As someone who went OTD, I can tell you that not all of us want to “come back”. I can also tell you that not all of us were abused, neglected or ignored. I love my parents, loved all my rebeim and had a wonderful experience through all my years of yeshivah. The attitude that every OTD person is in pain, or flawed or broken is part of the problem

  13. The only reason my wife is frum is exactly because her grandparents (on born sides) were not “merachek” their children that went OTD in the early years of the medinah in Israel. They were mekarev them and their daughter/ my wife who now has a large frum family b’chasdei hashem.
    The Bais Yisroel even came to be Menachem Avel my non religious shver (an only child, and his mother) when his religious father was nifter.
    “Chachomim heezaharu b’divreichem…..”

  14. very nice observation from Rav Hoffman. I also think Satmar is OTD in this matter.

    Shame that they mix up frumkiet with yeras shamiyim and end up keeping good people out and nice so great people in…

  15. @pilpel harif You are a lowlife shein kidugmaso. Beyond shocking. Why don’t you find out where Rav Don Segal is right now. I’ll tell you, you pathetic shoita. He is in FLORIDA at his sons house. He goes there every year. Check out how frum his son is. You animal what you are! Rav Don embraces his son.

    His brother was a psak from many poskim after he openly called for the most horrific things about Frum Yidden. He was a rasha merusha.

    Your an idiot and a rasha to even say this about Rav Don. He embraces his son. What an animal you are.
    Appalling and shocking how you wrote this.

  16. ALTERG1
    (& to comment #1 chugibugi: isreal has nothing with Judaism 70% are not even keeping Shabbat & there is a gay parade in all city’s,)
    ============================================================================
    And that is why these criminally insane Jew hating RESHAIM calling themselves REBBES are justified in encouraging and helping our bloodthirsty murderous enemies Iran and the Arabs to annihilate the seven million Jews in our holy land.
    you know ALTERG1, 75 years ago after the war,Jews like these had a name called “KAPOS”

    CHAIM

  17. Satmar & child rearing, too funny.

    Ask Weberman & school principals how to discipline challenging children – torture would be preferred. Does anyone take this seriously? & if so….WHY???

  18. In all likelihood the psak is meant to send a loud and clear message to all the Tuna Beigels their system has created. Shape up or you’re out for good! Clearly there is an explosion of those who have bucked the system and want out. It’s high time that Satmar invest heavily in Kiruv Kroivim and deal effectively with kids and adults at risk before they bolt. Tough times require tough system changes. Wake up my friends, read the writing on the wall! Psokim like this will do nothing to solve the underlying problems of your society. Start putting true meaning into Yiddishkeit. Zionizm is all but dead. If 75% of the education of your children are invested in Anti-Zionizm, instead of Emuna, Bitochon, Middos, and Geshmak in Learning, then what do u expect??

  19. nowecant says “daas Torah ruled, what is there to question?” Nothing if you asked the shaileh, you are bound. However I didn’t ask so this psak is not relevant to me, or anyone who didn’t ask directly.

  20. look at these comments. How is it possible yeshiva world lets them remain on their website. especially comment number 1. absolutely disgusting!!!

  21. Dear Rabbi Hoffman shlita,
    You yourself in an article several months ago acknowledged that once OTD are off several years they are usually gone for good. They aren’t children any more, they are adults in their 20’s & 30’s living a completely secular life. They look at you Rabbi Hoffman as the rachmonus, not themselves. I believe the conversation in the video was regarding children or teens OTD, not adult kofrim.
    I spoke to a well known mechanech that is mekarev the OTD community & he told me he finds it very difficult to call the long term OTD’s tenokos shenishbue. The Chazon ish was certainly not referring to them his Teshuva.
    Please don’t use one video with limited context as Daas Torah for Klall Yisroel.
    Every person should consult their moreh derech about how to deal with their situation. Each case is unique & requires an individual plan of action.

  22. Haimy:

    Sounds like you also need a bit of education here. I don’t think you have the picture correct at all.

    First, you cannot generalize about OTD’s, regardless of the age, whether they will return or not. As you seem to realize at the end of your comment, no two situations are identical.

    Second, the focus that Reb Avi has is young people, and trying to set age ranges on this is artificial. The discussion with Rav Gershon is not limited context.

    Thirdly, the Tinok Shenishba issue is not the halachic use of the term. It refers to an individual who is unable to make correct choices and decisions. There is something that needs to have appeared in the discussion, that is a glaring omission. The OTD issue is an emotional issue, not an intellectual one. Engaging in philosophical discussions about emunoh are completely useless. It is not the “apikores” that has a flawed belief system. In fact, I venture to say that the greatest proportion of these OTD’s have greater emunoh than the mainstream frum yeshiva bochur of similar age. The OTD kid is responding to a variety of situations and events, and these fall in the categories of trauma, rejection, hypocrisy, and shame. They have not been attracted to the outside stimuli. They felt pushed out of the warm embrace of a Torah lifestyle, and the escape took them to where they feel far more welcome. These OTD’s are just the symptom of our failure. And we continually resist looking in the mirror. So statements from Rav Gershon and other Gedolei Yisroel that guide us to look at ourselves as the source of the problem are typically rejected. And we listen to the voices that encourage additional rejection so that we still never face our own flaws, like this Satmar publication.

    Lastly, one must consult Daas Torah for guidance. But there is one caveat. Can any Rov pasken shailos on mikvaos? How about ribis? How about kashrus? There are many experts in each field. But if one lacks the experience and training, they might give a great Daf Yomi but be perfectly incompetent to address kids at risk and OTD issues. How many poskim understand psychiatric problems? How about shalom bayis issues? The greatest poskim utilized professionals with expertise to guide them in the metziyus matters before they could pasken. Well, Daas Torah must have that requisite background to qualify to pasken. I do not know the authors of this Satmar book, but I suggest they know way too little of the factual aspect of OTD. I can thus dismiss their book as irrelevant to practical halacha.

  23. wait, you should allow relationships in your house? so pinchas was wrong for killing zimri? not so clur whats going on. torah says they should be killed

  24. As a parent of several children whom I will call spiritually challenged I must say using the term OTD is so behind the times. Today the terms are, tuna baigels,, with it , wanna bees, and a host of other terms. A truly OTD in 2018 is a child who is totally off, no Shabbos, kashrus etc.. The other type of children consider themselves “frum” and would be insulted if you told them otherwise. Of course its a very slippery slope, however to most of these children the Torah is a big suggestion book. You can pick and choice what you want to keep. It can be from considering every type of bread to be a mezonos bread to wearing short skirts to being shomer negia. One girl told me she can wear short skirts because she is not chasidish any more. If you tell them something a rav said the retort will be what do the rabanoim know about todays kids.. I didn’t read the pesak of the Satmar rabonim but I would say this, in these situations every child is different, every family dynamics is different there may be times that a parent may be told by a therapist and ,or rav to break the relationship with a child. I am beginning to cry as write because deep down every parent wants their child to go bderech yisroel saba. It is with much pain, anguish, and tears that a parent will throw a child out of the house. May we only see yidishe nachas from all our children.

  25. The Satmar Dayanim don’t have to follow the the Chazon Ish’s da’as yohid. It is only kofrim that we as a community don’t accept accept with teshuvah (though Ha’SHem does).

  26. frumroshyeshiva: i totally agree with you…
    but as ‘thecommissioner’ did mention – each situation must be treated seperately, and we must not take an example from this one and use for that.
    yitzchokm: the newpapers are still debating who is the next godol hador… so we have to wait and see…
    yep, that’s the sad case nowadays – it’s politics, not godol hador.
    each person should stick with their rov and daven hard that moshiach should come and help this discombobulated generation!!!

  27. Chugi, your comment is really out of line. “How in heavens name could anyone take seriously the PSAK of so called DAYANIM of this vicious Jew hating and Israel hating cult.”

    How was he Jew hating? Is the secular state synonymous with Judaism? Chaim Soloveitchik and the Chofetz Chaim also opposed the state as did many others. Are they all Jew haters?

    Judaism is a religion. If you are in love with a secular state, maybe you are the Jew hater.

  28. One of the big problems is we don’t teach children about emunah, about Hashem. We push a culture instead.

    Also, with the boys, Gemara study is usually deemed the cure, when in many cases what they need is a job, a wife, and gentle instruction in faith and basic observance.

  29. Ah Yid:

    You wrote: “It is with much pain, anguish, and tears that a parent will throw a child out of the house. ”

    With the exception of these rabbonim from KJ, throwing a kid out of the house is also with much frustration, rishus, and absence of Daas Torah. There are countless documentations of Gedolei Yisroel proclaiming that this throwing out is completely assur. There is a clip of a direct quote from Rav Elyoshiv ZT”L telling a parent to scatter the rest of her 9 children among family and friends, and retain the OTD daughter and to concentrate on her. If you search, there are many such clips, either from eyewitnesses of clips of the gedolim themselves. There is a horrible myth that keeping the kid at home has a domino effect and ruins the other kids. That is a rare occurrence. It is perhaps less rare, but certainly uncommon for this to happen in a yeshiva, and the use of this to expel a talmid is hardly rooted in fact.

    Bottom line. This ultimate rejection is a very, very rare exception, as it is the ultimate rejection, and it turns out to be the final nail in the spiritual coffin. Yes, I call it retzichah. This has been said by gedolim, and I am not the originator of such a pronouncement.

  30. @Haimy I don’t know why you assume as OTD people get older they become more aware of the consequences of the decision they made to drop Yiddishkeit, making them more accountable. I’d say the exact opposite, they become so engrained in their new lifestyle that they get less clarity…

  31. I don’t know to who to listen.
    I’m also not understanding this letter from this 2 DAYANIM But who should I trust this 2 DAYANIM who or learning a whole day in they know a lot they also know of this zohar in all other safrim
    I’m working in don’t have the zacia to learn a whole day
    So who am I to ask questions

  32. This is a very tough sugyah. My rabbeim clearly followed a very different shitah, pushing unquestioning love and acceptance of people, without giving a hashgacha to their actions. Rabbosai, if we have a different mesorah or disagree, that’s OK. Just do it with respect.