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Piskei Halacha On Missionary Who Posed As Sofer, Mohel & Mesader Kiddushin

It’s over a month since the shocking story of the Christian missionary family who infiltrated themselves into the frum community in French Hill hit the news but the repercussions are still being felt. Michael Elk was recently spotted in Beit Shemesh, sans his Chareidi disguise, in an apparent attempt to check out the neighborhood as a place for his family to live.

Meanwhile, chashuve Rabbanim have issued piskei halacha on thorny issues caused by the fact that Cohen, who is completely non-Jewish, served as a sofer, mohel and mesader kiddushin. Additionally, Elk’s wife, Amanda, who died of cancer shortly before the family’s true identity was outed, was buried in a Jewish cemetery – Har Hamenuchos.

The piskei halacha were issued by HaRav Shlomo Shraga, Av Beis Din and Rosh Kollel, and a mekurav of HaRav Yosef Yitzchak, who was consulted on the halachic decisions and signed on them.

The shailos presented by the kehilla were 1. Unfortunately, Elk served as mohel to Jewish babies. What is the din? Is his milah considered valid or do they require הטפת דם?

2. He also acted as a mesader kiddushin. Are the couples considered married or is another chuppah v’kiddushin required?

3. What is the status of the tefillin he wrote and sold? Should they be discarded in the geniza (shaimos) or be burned?

4. Elk’s wife was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem in a “double depth” kever [in which the mesim are buried in layers, one on top of another with at least six tefachim in between, a common practice in Israel due to a shortage of burial spaces.] There is a frum woman buried underneath her. Should she be disinterred? It is clear that Elk will not agree to have his wife disinterred under any circumstances.

The teshuvos were lengthy and dozens of sources were quoted but will be summarized in brief here:

1. The babies should undergo הטפת דם ברית by an experienced mohel.

2. Regarding the chuppos, if Elk didn’t serve as the eid and there were kosher eidim, there is no need for another kiddushin and they are considered married k’das Moshe V’Yisrael. If Elk himself served as an eid, another kiddushin is required and the kesuvah should be replaced.

3. Regarding the st’am he sold, since there is evidence that he wrote them, or if he didn’t, one of his corrupt friends did, the din is that they should be burned. And Elk should be sued to return the money.

4. Regarding whether the Jewish woman should be disinterred, the Rav wrote that the fact that she is buried on the first level and the non-Jewish woman is on a different level and there is daled amos between them (although the daled amos is vertical rather than horizontal), it’s possible to be meikel and it’s not required to disinter her since there’s a hefsek between them, both because she’s on a different level and there are daled amos between them.

On the other hand, the Rav also brought the opinion of HaGaon Rav Shlomo Kuger (Maggid of Brody) that a mechitza is required between the burial place of a Jew and a non-Jew. And since it’s possible that the ground itself is not considered a mechitza, it may be worthwhile to add another mechitza of plaster under the level where the non-Jew is buried.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

10 Responses

  1. Since he entered Israel fraudulently the State of Israel should retroactively cancel his citizenship or residence rights. The State should sue for any assets to get back the costs they paid for health care based on fraud.

  2. I don’t understand how he can be allowed to continue to live in Israel with this identity fraud. Is he even a citizen and, if so, was it obtained honorably?

  3. I’d like to clarify- Michael Elk has not left the neighborhood of French hill. He ditched the kippah for a baseball cap but he’s very much around, mocking the very neighbors he took advantage of, lied to and stole from. The authorities refuse to deport him as they have ‘bigger fish to fry’ and ‘not enough proof of his non Jewishness’ when indeed, there is no more proof that can possibly be added to what we already KNOW with certainty is true. The liar and swindler has the chutzpah to keep strutting around, scout out new Jewish communities while he locks his children in the home under the lie that they are ‘not safe to be seen around the community.’ He is a pathological liar and a sick man, and only in Israel do the authorities have no power- or interest in properly dealing with Mike or his cronies.

  4. Who is Cohen? They went by Elkohen, so it’s either that or Elk. I may be wrong, but I don’t Cohen was a name they used.

  5. He was seen in Ramat Beit Shemesh looking at properties with a realtor. He is still trying to move in on frum communities, so please keep reminding us he is still slithering around..

    And why is the holy guf of a frum woman moved? Why isn’t this shiksa dug up and given to a Christian cemetery to bury? That is also appalling. A shiksa buried on Har HaMenuchos, in the same cemetery as my relatives and so many Gedolim? Am I the only one who thinks something is wrong here?

  6. I don’t understand the shailoh about bris milah – it’s accepted halacha that every baal teshuva who had circumcision at a hospital need only hatafas dam bris; why would this person be any different? Maybe a circumcision in a hospital is like mis’asek, but with this guy it’s being done leshem avodah zara… like those who learn the daf yomi know that shechitas kodshim is kosher with misasek, but not with machshava for pigul etc..

  7. This reminds me of an amazing story about rav shlomo zalman aurbach which shows how to avoid machlokes without capitulating to foreign corruption of Torah. There was a certain rabbi who was openly kofer in toras hanistar, and he was supposed to be an eid by a chupah, while rav shlomo zalman was to be mesader kidushin. When this rabbi was chosen as an eid, rav shlomo zalman told him “I should be mesader while you’re just an aid? That’s not bakavodik for you(of course, someone brazen and chutzpahdik enough to say that all the gedolim of every sector of klal yisroel were wrong for accepting kabalah…. obviously is on a kovod trip), rather I’ll be an aid and you’ll be mesader…because you don’t really need a mesader to make a marriage work; we do it to avoid shailos, but it’s not a din. The only din is that if you are going to be involved in it, you must know what you’re talking about and know it very well.

    This preserved the harmony and avoided both an illegitimate marriage and machlokes all at once…. this is why we need gedolim, to teach us how to live.

  8. I live in french hill near the elks. Michael walks around looking pretty happy in his new look. He did not flee, he is not hiding from anyone. He keeps his kids mostly locked up in his miniscule apartment with no outdoor space because of the “the rumors”. So they see it as that. Rumors that are a little inconvenience. But they are continuing with their life, and their beliefs and no one is stopping them. Shame on us and our society that allows an impersonator to live here. They are Christians and made aliyah on forged documents. They are criminals and cheated 10,000 of dollars from our community. You can come here anytime and see him taking walks around here, waiting for the bus on main streets. He has no shame. We should because we let him get away scot free.

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