Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman on Husbands, Wives & Lies

Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman was kind enough to write me a letter regarding my former post. In the interests of truth, allowing everyone access to the same sources/ ideas he offered me, and with his permission, here's the letter!


Dear Chana,

Thank you for taking the time to read my book, "The Right and the Good", and for giving the issues discussed serious consideration. I want to thank you as well for giving me an opportunity, with your post, to clarify the nature of what was represented in the section you were discussing. The issue being presented in that chapter is the Talmudic license/obligation to obscure the factual truth when doing so will preserve peace and harmony. The question of whether or not such a strategy will actually be productive in acheiving that goal is a completely separate discussion, and, as you pointed out, open to both serious question and a wide range of variables. It is incumbent upon one who would avail himself of this principle to carefully analyze if this is indeed the case, and nothing in the halachic discussion prejudges that conclusion or absolves one of the responsibility of that careful and responsible analysis. If the circumstances are such that it is clear that falsehood will be more productive than full disclosure, only then does the halachic question present itself: does the prohibition of midvar sheker tirchak nonetheless obligate one in said disclosure? It is from that point that the discussion in the Talmud, the rishonim and poskim begins.

As to the intial analysis as to what approach is more appropriate and beneficial, your discomfort is entirely valid and understandable; however, to dismiss the conclusion of the poskim in the discussed case is to assert that there is no circumstance whatsoever, and no couple in the world, for whom the decision is appropriate, and that such an assertion can be made with such complete confidence as to make all halakhic ruling on the matter irrelevant. It would take quite an all-encompassing wisdom to stake that position, and I for one cannot make such a claim. It is also crucial to understand that the issue of disclosure before marriage is not even under discussion here (a different issue; see Responsa Minchat Yitzchak VII,139; Responsa Maharsham VII,152; Responsa Iggerot Moshe OC II,118), but rather the possible approaches after that stage has passed.

I acknowledge that I should probably have made that distinction more clear in the original presentation; when I first wrote the book, I was in my twenties, and accordingly more inclined to allow the views of the poskim to speak for themselves and to maintain a respectful distance (although the book has been expanded more recently, for better or for worse, I have maintained a similar inclination). But the point is important and I thank you for provoking its clarification.

However, I must protest that your extrapolation to concealing medical information is, with all due respect, completely fallacious. The premise of the poskim, whether it is accepted or not, is that the incident would not have any bearing on the couple's present or future life together. To assume that it would be expanded to facts that may indeed impact on their shared life is without any basis in logic, and ignores a very significant body of literature on the topic (of medical conditions and marriage) - to start, I would refer you to Sefer Chasidim 388; Yalkut Yosef, Hilkhot Kibbud Av vi-Eim; Responsa Iggerot Moshe Even HaEzer III, 27 and IV 73:2; Responsa Birkat Reuven Shlomo IV, 69; Responsa Tzitz Eliezer XVI,4; Responsa Chelkat Ya'akov III,136; Responsa Chavatzelet HaSharon 63; Techumin vol XXV, pp. 47-58; Diverei Chayil, 23:2; Responsa Divrei Yatziv, Even HaEzer 15 ; Responsa Yashiv Yitzchak, XXV, 44; Mishpetei HaShalom ch. 20; Beit Chatanim, pp. 16-22; Kehilat Ya'akov, Yevamot 44; Responsa Divrei Malkiel, II. 89; Reponsa K'neh Bosem I, 121; and Mishnat Yisrael ch. 21.

If it is indeed the case that there are aspects of the issue that were not fully considered in your post, is it equally possible that your assessment of the view of great poskim as "skewed", particularly in a public forum, may have been premature? If so, I hope you will reconsider the language; while I would be happy to accept such judgement about my own writings, I would feel terrible being the cause of the writings of great poskim been understood in that way.

I thank you again for your time and consideration.

All the best,
Daniel Feldman


Anonymous said...'ll_Ever_Take:_Genetic_Screening

discusses some specific guidelines for the telling/not-telling of genetic history.

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Maybe this will fit?
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

Very nice.
Chana, keep on posting and educating your readers. Thanks.