‘I Want You To Come To My Funeral Naked’

Rabbi Michael Broyde, a dayan (rabbinic judge) in the Beth Din of America, was in Los Angeles recently and he gave a lecture presenting four cases he’d presided over.

“One you’re going to hate me for,” he said at the beginning.

In the first case, he noted that it was generally a mitzvah to follow the wishes (be it a will or burial instructions or whatever) of someone who has died. But there are exceptions. If the person asks you to violate Jewish law, you don’t have to follow him.

“If he says, ‘I want you to come to my funeral naked,’ you don’t do that.”

“You don’t have to follow his wishes if it humiliates you.”

In this case, the woman could destroy the husband’s burial instructions and recuse herself from overseeing the burial.

Rabbi Broyde said he’s changed his burial wishes more often than he’s changed his will. At one time, he wanted to be buried with his congregants.

Now he believed that he and his congregants were going to different places.

Case four was the most interesting and got people the most angry.

Rabbi Broyde said that Leah, the 15yo girl, consented to the sex with Reuven, 55, and afterwards did not regret it. She did not want the matter made public (among other reasons, she did not want to get kicked out of her yeshiva). She would not assist in any prosecution of Reuven, be it before a Beit Din or a secular court.

Rabbi Broyde said that statutory rape with those over 14 are rarely prosecuted in the United States (particularly not in the state of New York where this took place), particularly if the minor and the minor’s parents do not cooperate.

By strictly halcachic reasoning, Reuven was entitled to a monetary settlement for the beating he took from Shimon and company.

Rabbi Broyde: “Reuven did not expect to get beaten up. He expected, at worst, to not get invited back.”

The Local Orthodox Rabbi (LOR) who told Shimon to get some people together and beat Reuven “paying particular attention during the beating to the body part of Reuven that committed this sin” would’ve loved to have been taken to court over this. The LOR said the instruction he gave was “the best given a very bad situation, and one that he would give again.”

Rabbi Broyde would not disclose the Beit Din’s ruling in this case.

He repeatedly described the case as a “Mexican standoff.”

Many of the women in the crowd got angry. They claimed that Reuven should be turned over to secular authorities who would prosecute him. They said they knew. They said the law of the land must be the law to the Jew.

Rabbi Broyde said that that rabbinic dicta demanding that Jews observe the law of the land applies only to laws enforced in the country. That statutory rape cases where the minor is over 14 are rarely prosecuted. Rabbi Broyde noted that he often broke the law speeding.

He said he is publishing an article in Hebrew permitting the use of marijuana by chemo-therapy patients (even though this violates federal law).

Rabbi Broyde said that if statutory rape laws were enforced, many shuls would lose a lot of congregants (because of the number of 18-year olds who have sex with those under 18).

Rabbi Broyde said you can’t criminalize consenting teenage sexuality. That Jewish law says that once you reach the age of bar mitzvah (13 for boys and 12 1/2 for girls) you are considered an adult and therefore there is no difference between a 15 yo girl having sex with a 16 year old or a 55 yo.

Rabbi Broyde said it is obviously not good for a 55yo to seduce a 15yo but it is not in itself a violation of Jewish law.

Many, perhaps most, of the women in the crowd were horrified by this and they loudly vented their feelings.

One thing that I love about Rabbi Broyde is that he does not seek to be liked. He just stood up there like a man and gave it to people straight.

Rabbi Broyde noted that he is a rabbi of a Young Israel shul and that it therefore has stricter standards than your run of the mill Orthodox Union shul.

Audience members kept wanting to change the details case but Rabbi Broyde insisted on dealing with the case as presented.

He refused to speak about things where he had no expertise.

Much of the female audience could not conceive of how a 15yo girl could have sex with a 55yo man and not regret it. They claimed that if she didn’t regret it, it was because she was a child not responsible for her choices.

One woman, who was a psychologist or something, said that 15 year old girls are not developmentally mature enough to choose to engage in sex.

Rabbi Broyde pointed out that 18 year old may not be mature enough to do many things yet by secular law they are adults, and by Jewish law, 13 year olds are adults.

Some took it for granted that this was the girl’s first sexual experience (which it probably was, said Rabbi Broyde).

After speaking for over an hour, Rabbi Broyde said the lecture was over and people were free to leave. But nobody left. They wanted to keep pounding him over this case.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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