Category Archives: Archives 5759


Tammuz 5759 – Intermarriage

1 Tammuz 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I am studying at a university with a very small proportion of Jews and I am writing to you with my problem because I don’t know who can help. A friend of mine who I have known most of my life is going out seriously with a non-Jewish boy who she met at university. She has been seeing him for over a year and I joked at her that she was seeing a goy and hoped it would break off especially as he should have left this year. As it happened he stayed here and now she lives with me and she spends most nights away at his house. She does know that her relationship isn’t ideal and she comes from a “traditional” family so she hasn’t told them as they will go mad if they knew. I think she is hoping he will convert (eg. she rejoiced when he unconsciously used a Yiddish word… she was proud and it was like he was learning… it was strange) though she hasn’t said this to him. It is highly unlikely that he will convert as his family are quite observant Christians and anyway that is not really the point. I just don’t know what to do or say to her any more. I don’t want my friend’s children to grow up with an X-mas tree in the house. (My rabbi seriously suggested getting someone to seduce the boy but this isn’t very practical.)

I am especially concerned as next year I will be leaving the town but she will be staying here with him.

I wonder if you have any ideas,

Thank you.

Your friend is in a mess. She has no idea what she is involved in and the situation is out of control. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like she is terribly interested in facing reality. If you tell her the dangers of intermarriage she’ll tell you she is going to be different. If you tell her she’s not thinking rationally she’ll tell you if she wanted to, she could break it off at anytime. Her vague idea that he might convert is a perfect example. Even though he shows no sign of it, she feels like it’s a reasonable possibility. You are afraid what will happen when you leave, for good reason – if things continue this way (unless they break up for some external reason) they will get married. So what can you do?


As I mentioned. this will be extremely difficult, as she is not interested in hearing anything negative about the relationship. She will be very defensive. You have to help her face the consequences without becoming defensive. You can ask her “Do you plan on marrying him?” If she responds “No” then you can take his side – “Wow, I don’t know if it’s fair to lead him on like this . He’s going to be heartbroken”. This will reassure her that you are concerned for her boyfriend and might allow her the opportunity to open up and express her own doubts about the relationship.

If she says “Yes” then I’d ask her what she’s planning to do with their kids. My guess is she’ll respond “We’re going to raise them Jewish” (that’s the usual response). Again, address the issue for her, not you. “Do you really think that’s fair to the kids? How can you send them to cheder (Hebrew School) and know that their father isn’t participating in their religious life? Won’t they be confused? Is it fair to make them choose between you and their father? Why don’t you convert to Christianity – then your children will be brought up with less conflicts?” I find when people have to face issues from a supportive perspective rather than from a defensive point of view – it’s easier for them to see the whole picture.


Don’t go out to dinner as a threesome, hang out together, etc. If a person feels that their behavior is acceptable they won’t have to think about it. (NOTE: This is not a contradiction to the first point. The first point is to get her to see the situation – this point is to not accept the situation).


Although you don’t accept the behavior, you can be accepting of the person. Keep the door and the relationship open – be understanding and supportive. In case she wants to pull herself back from the brink, she should feel that she can come to you.


Never underestimate the power of tefillah. I heard from someone that the reason people are returning to Judaism today is because of all the tears of the Jewish mothers and grandmothers. Although they couldn’t stop the last generation from leaving, they provided the power for the present generation to come back. When we daven we usually have a list of names for the beracha “refaeynu”. We should also have a list for when we say “hashiveynu”.

Good luck and Hashem should help you deal with a very difficult situation. By the way, I would not use someone to seduce her. Sex should not be a weapon in the arsenal of kiruv.

Dovid Orlofsky


Sivan 5759 – Polygamy I

15 Sivan 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

How does one explain polygamy in Tanach and Judaism up until Cherem de Rabeinu Gershom? How do we explain the nature of marriage in those days with our modern day conceptions of the sanctity of monogamy?

[Name withheld upon request]
Darchei Binah 5756

Polygamy, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is having more than one wife (the prefix poly meaning many as in polytheism – the belief in many gods or polyglot – many glots. Marrying two wives is bigamy as in the famous scene with Grouch Marx where he asks two different women to marry him. “But that’s bigamy!” one of the women exclaim. “I know it’s big of me too” Groucho responded. None of this is necessary to answering the question, but what else can I do with a line like that?)

The simplest answer is polygamy is not viewed as a positive thing. Avraham had only one wife until Sora insisted that he take another. Yaakov didn’t want to marry two wives, he was tricked into it and the meforshim state that if Leah wasn’t pregnant he would have divorced her. Likewise Elkana married Penina on Chana’s insistence. So Polygamy is not viewed as a positive thing. Why then does the Torah allow it?

The basic approach is that a woman wants to be married. It’s fascinating that the Torah does not obligate a woman to get married or have children, but HaKadosh Boruch Hu gave them a drive to want to get married and have children. The gemara goes so far as to tell us that a woman would rather be married to a mukas schin that be single (and if you see some of the guys out there who are getting married, you know what it means).

Now what do you do in a situation where there are too many women and not enough men? Most of shevet Binyomen was wiped out in a civil war and without polygamy most of those women would never have gotten married. They chose that arrangement as a better choice than loneliness and childlessness.

But how is this arrangement possible? What about one man and one woman as the ideal like Adom and Chava in Gan Aden? The answer is that is the ideal – but polygamy is possible because of the nature of men and women. As we all know from a thousand classes on the subject, men are external and women are internal. This is true physically as we know from hilchos brachos (i.e. a woman can make a bracha undressed because the airva is internal). It’s true spiritually as we see from tefillin (men have to take a box and tie it on their arms and heads whereas women have it internally). It’s also true emotionally. Men can connect to many people in many intense relationships whereas women will connect to one person very deeply. I could also get into the whole chomer/tzura thing but I think this is enough on the subject.

As time progresses and we get more and more limited, these lofty possibilities become more difficult if not impossible. In the time of the mishna we already see that the chazal didn’t feel people had the proper intention to perform yibum. Reb Yehudah HaChassid saw people couldn’t have the correct intentions when marrying their niece, so he forbade it. And when it was felt that that polygamy was beyond the ability of people, Rabbaynu Gershom forbade it as well. But as I mentioned, it was never viewed as an ideal, only a possibility. That’s what rashi at the beginning of Ki Saytzay points out that if you marry two wives, you’ll come to hate one of them, etc. etc. All the bad things that comes from such an arrangement.

That’s about it. In my Question and Answer Tape series I have two tapes where I develop further the idea of marriage. My Question and Answer Tapes are now available at Eichlers, Kitov and Giftworld or through Long Island NCSY [(516)371-0500].

Dovid Orlofsky


Iyar 5759 – Negiah Regarding Developmentally Disabled Individuals

1 Iyar 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I am a sixteen year old girl who volunteers to participate in various Yachad activities. (Yachad is a group for the developmentally disabled.) A few of us girls were wondering what to do when the boys (this refers only to the DD), pull out their hand for a slap five because they shot the basketball in the basket, or did something and felt like they deserve a hug, and stretch their arms out. Are we supposed to treat them like a tinok she’nishba? If we don’t slap them five, they become angered, and have bad attitudes throughout the day’s activities. We are confused, regarding what to do……


Your letter brought back special memories for me. The first Yachad shabbaton that ever took place was in West Hempstead when I was Long Island Regional Director. Rabbi Butler was the National Director at the time and told me that he wanted to start a program for developmentally disabled teenagers and intergrate them with regular kids. Now I had been a Regional Director for a number of years and had yet to meet any normal kids, so I felt I had my hands full as it was and I certainly didn’t have the training to get involved with kids who had real problems. When I expressed my hesitation to get involved to Rabbi Butler, he told me he had felt the same way when the person had first approached him with the idea but since the person’s sister was developmentally disabled, he felt like he should try to do something. Remember this was about fifteen years ago and no one knew how it would work.

Anyway, as my friend Rabbi Hanoch Teller likes to say, to make a long story longer, Rabbi Butler appealed to me to make the shabbaton, since he felt he could count on me to help out national (this was based on our close working relationship and not my regional deficit, I’m sure). So we all jumped in not knowing what we were in for. Mrs. Chana Zweiter had just been hired to run the new program, Yachad with the new logo, a group of girls holding hands on one side of the NCSY logo and a group of boys holding hands on the other side. (My friend Jack Abramowitz was once inspired by this logo to suggest a new division called yichud, but I digress).

That first Yachad Shabbaton was an enthusiastic undertaking. I brought a selection of my best Long Island NCSY’ers and we all felt the event was history in the making. Now I come to the point of my long rambling rememberance. It was at Shabbos lunch (seuda shnia around these parts) when I started to wonder about your very dilemma. I asked Rabbi Butler what was the halachic status regarding negia with these kids. He said he didn’t know, but difference did it make, what was I worried about? I said I didn’t know, but you never knew what could happen.

At that seudah, Karen Pollack, a Yachad legend, gave her first of many divrei Torah. Her presentation was riveting and at the end there was wild applause. Overwhelmed with emotion, she ran over to Chana and threw her arms around her. After what seemed like a long time she ran over to her uncle, Rabbi Yussie Lieber and threw her arms around him. It was a powerful moment for everyone witnessing it. As they were embracing I stood up to introduce the benching when Karen suddenly ran over and threw her arms around me! Stunned and unsure how to respond I stood there with my arms in the air as she hugged me, oblivious to everything except the sight of Rabbi Butler laughing hysterically. The point is, I can relate well to your question.

I am not going to give you a psak. I have heard from poskim that an advisor has the din of a nurse and I’ve also heard that depending on how high functioning they are the usual laws of negia apply. My advice is that you ask your personal Rav and then ask the director of the program if they are comfortable with your halachic position. If not, as I have advised in the past, don’t be a loose cannon – if you are not comfortable following the orginazational position I don’t think you should attend.

Having said all of that, let’s say for argument’s sake that you get a psak that negia applies and the directors of the event concur with that position. How should you proceed? I discussed this problem with Yechezkel Goldberg, a special ed proessional and a longtime friend. He said that special kids at that age are quite concious of their emerging sexuality and that the laws of seperation should be honored. However if they feel that “high five” is an important way of expressing approval, the correct thing to do would be to substitute a different means of expression. Tell them that to you, for example the most meaningul way of expressing accomplishment is thumbs up. An enthusiastic “thumbs up” to a kid can be just as meaningful as “High five”. More than that, since these kids are so sensitive to how people are feeling, they will appreciate the fact that they are expressing themselves in the socially correct way.

Keep up the good work.

Dovid Orlofsky


Nissan 5759 – Strengths in the Wrong Places

1 Nissan 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

I have a 15 year old girl in a kiruv organization who, plainly, isn’t very good at a lot of things. Not very popular, not very smart, and has rotten luck in a lot of things. She’s into the frum scene, but not highly religious yet, and neither are her parents. She has one great koach though- singing. That’s what she wants to do with her life. How can I encourage her in her one area of success while simultaneously discouraging her from trying to make a career in the secular world out of it? I don’t want to alienate her from myself or frumkeit, but I’m afraid to push too hard.

[Name withheld to protect privacy]
B’not Torah Institute 5756-7

The story you wrote reminds me of the psychologist who had to treat a patient who was suffering from a variety of serious problems. The doctor realized it would take years of therapy to solve all of the mans problems. But at the end of the session the patient told the psychologist that he didn’t have the money to pay. The doctor was taken aback, but after some thought explained that he would treat all the other illnesses and save the kleptomania for last.

Often when we start working with someone in a kiruv setting we are confronted at the outset by certain problems that the person appears not to be able to deal with, and apparantly never will. This, for some strange reason, pushes us to IMMEDIATELY begin addressing exactly the problem that the person made clear to us they refuse to deal with! Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture!

This is like the stories with Hillel in Gemera Shabbos. A man comes to him and says teach me the Torah shebksav, but not the Torah shebaal peh. Hillel says fine. And he comes up with a method to show the person his position is untenable. But he doesn’t start fighting with the guy on his issue right away.

The other story is even more powerful. A man comes to him saying he will convert to Judaism, but only if he can become the Kohen Gadol. Hillel says sure. Now there is no clever trick waiting up his sleeve, he just knows that once the person sees the beauty of yahadus and all that Torah has to offer, he will overcome his block. To start right away fighting with him about his issue, will prove fruitless in the short run.

Now based on your description of this girl, she probably isn’t going to make it professionally as a singer (although I understand Jewel used to live in her car, so go figure). Let her enjoy her dream. When she has developed in all the other areas of her Jewish life, you can eventually deal with this issue.

When that time comes, I can only say that there are several female groups here in Eretz Yisroel that manage to perform. There are female musicians and dancers and singers (I haven’t heard of any magicians or jugglers, but I don’t get out much), so a person with a talent can (and should) find an avenue to express their talent in a kosher way.

Good luck and I hope you continue to enjoy much success in reaching out to Klal Yisroel.

Dovid Orlofsky


Adar 5759 – Different Mourning Periods for Parents vs. Children

15 Adar 5759

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:

Why does one have a year of aveilus after the loss of a parent but only a month after the loss of a child, when the loss of a child is ususally felt to be a greater tragedy and is harder to recover from?

Rivka Kolchin
Michlalah 5756

Dear Rivka,

Your question is a powerful and poignant one for me because of a personal situation that involved this very point. I had a neighbor who lo aleynu lost a small child. Needless to say, as difficult as a shiva call is usually, this was harder than usual. What can you say? How do you comfort a mother who said at one point, “The saddest part is the fact that I’ll never get to see her grow up”.

I prepared a thought to share, but when I showed up there was a fellow there who know one knew. He was not a friend or neighbor of the family. He introduced himself as someone who years before had lost a child to Tay Saks. Since then, he had made a point of seeking out parents who had lost young children to share with them his experience.

The one thing that had meant the most to him he explained, was the question you asked. When Rabbi Shneer Kotler, the Rosh Hayeshiva of Lakewood was sitting shiva for his son, Rabbi Ruderman from Ner Yisroel and Rabbi Solovechik from YU came at the same time to be menachem aval. At that point soemone asked the question, why we observe shiva for a year when we lose a parent and only a month for a child. He said that he drew solace from what Rabbi Solovechik answered. When your parents get old, our roles reverse. Instead of our parents taking care of us, we take care of them. We might start to see them as a burden and when they pass away there might even be the attitude that it’s for the best. They were old, maybe sickly and they’ve moved on. We need more time to appreciate the fact that it was a terrible tragedy. But when we lose a child, the pain is so overwhelming that we think we can never go on. Then we are told – no, you must continue to live life. Pick yourself up and go on, even in the face of such difficult circumstances.

Personally, I know when I lost my father, I drew tremendous solace from Rabbi Rudermans response. He explained that when we mourn, we mourn for thirty days. But for a parent we are not only mourning a personal loss. We are also mourning the loss of a generation. Our parents bring us back to an earlier time, to a generation closer to Har Sinai. I heard Rabbi Frand once say this about Rabbi Ruderman himself. He said when you shook his hand, you were shaking the hand that shook the hand of the Alter of Slobodka. So the longer mourning period is not just for the personal tragedy but for the loss of the link for the entire Jewish people.

As I’m writing this I have just observed the second yarhtzeit for my father, Moshe Yehudah ben Zvi Meir Hakohain. May all of us only know simchas for many years to come.

Dovid Orlofsky