New York – An Open Letter to Yossi Sarid by Rabbi Yair Hoffman


    Dear Yossi Sarid,

    The horror that the overwhelming majority of Chareidi Jews are feeling at the actions of the extremists is certainly deep. The sickening demonstration of “cousins” of ours in holocaust garb is just another illustration of how out of touch these Meah Shearim extremists are with true Torah sensibilities. The Beit Shemesh extremists, whose horrifying attitudes and behaviors lie in stark contrast to all that the Torah way of life holds dear, have also caused much hurt. The Chareidi world realizes that their actions should have been stopped long ago.

    Our silence is partially the cause of how their actions have gone so out-of-control.

    There is no question that the results of their actions are indeed, quite distressing. But there are other repercussions too. One particularly sad repercussion is the tragically noxious and toxic fumes of your pen, Mr. Sarid.

    In your 12/30/11 “op-ed” in Haaretz, you write (sic), “what is happening in Beit Shemesh and its mandated by halakha.”

    Mandated by halacha? Spitting upon young girls and throwing rocks is mandated by halacha? This is just wrong and completely untrue. Spitting upon people and throwing rocks is never mandated by halacha.

    My dear Yossi Sarid, with these unbecoming lies and fabrications, how are you any different than the greatest of the anti-Semitic writers and orators that history has had to offer?

    Your article reads straight out Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic rants, or of the transcripts of the Beilis trial – specifically, the false testimony of Father Justinas Pranaitas, author of “The Talmud Unmasked” or of the false testimonies of the Jewish apostate Pfefferkorn when facing the gentile scholar Johann Reuchlin.

    Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I assume you have unknowingly falsified quotations and not purposefully taken them out of context.

    The Talmud (Niddah 45b) tells us that women possess Bina Yesaira – more so than a man. Bina Yesaira means greater understanding. “Bina” is a word that lies beyond the word “Chochma.” Far beyond. Yet according to Yossi Sarid, the Talmud states the opposite – “The mind of woman is not suited to be taught, but only to words of nonsense.” Or “Torah should be burned rather than given to a woman.” But if one looks at the passage (Yuma 66b) and reads it carefully, it was a one line response of an individual. This phrase cannot mean what you have it mean – the Talmud itself, two lines earlier describes the woman who posed the question as a wise woman! And, according to all counts, it was a highly intelligent question that she posed – why did each of the violators of the sin of the golden calf have different punishments? What then is the meaning and context? The Talmud is pointing out that he did not have an answer and thus responded in this fashion. Thus, instead of reflecting the Talmud’s alleged negativity about women – this passage conveys the exact opposite meaning!

    Yossi, Yossi, Yossi, you have misconstrued and misinterpreted hopefully not for some bizarre Machiavellian end. The sages of the Talmud accorded the highest respect and honor to women. You must know this to be true.

    Let’s start with Kesuvos 2b. A maiden marries on a Wednesday. Why? So that her husband will toil steadily in the wedding preparations for three entire days. At the very onset of a wedding the sages were concerned for the honor of womanhood. So that men would not look at them cheaply and objectify them. Compare that to your precious secular societal ideals – where Israel, unfortunately, is only a Tier 2 country in complying with the UN’s attempts to eradicate sexual trafficking. Had you and other members of the Knesset imbibed the Talmud’s high ideals of respect for womanhood – we might have been a Tier 1 country.

    Your tone and comments, I am sad to say, seem to have you relish in objectifying women. The sages (Nedarim 20a) advise against excessive flirtation with women because it can lead to inappropriate behavior. Yet you take the sages to task for expressing this thought! The sages tell us (Brachos 24a) not to even objectify a women’s pinky – yet you denounce this passage as well as hateful of women. No, sir. The Talmud is scornful of the objectification of women, but not of women itself, heaven forbid. With your criticism of this passage, on the other hand, you have opened the floodgates of pornography and its detrimental societal repercussions.

    The Gemorah in Yevamos 62b discusses our obligation in treating women – that we should extend to them more honor than our own bodies and selves. And we should treat them with the same affection and care that we have for ourselves. You make no mention of this, of course, because it entirely undermines the veracity of your thesis.

    Let’s move forward a page. Even you must admit that in the eyes of the sages there is nothing greater than Torah. Yet, the Talmud points out in Yevamos 63b – to what is this great Torah compared? To women. Of all the remarkable and precious items in the world, the Talmud points out that the Torah only saw fit to compare it to one thing – womanhood. The Talmud places womanhood in the highest esteem, Mr. Sarid.

    Let’s switch to a different order of the Talmud – Nezikin, that of torts. In Bava Metzia 59a it tells us that it is the women who are the source of blessing in a home and advises men to consult with their wives for advice.

    In Bava Basra 22a we learn about how merchants in a city may prevent travelling merchants from elsewhere to sell their wares in their city so as not to affect their income. Ezra, however, enacted that those merchants who sold jewelry are exempt from these regulations. They may sell their jewelry regardless of the economic damage to the local merchants.

    Why is this so? So that Jewish women may have access to jewelry. Ezra enacted that the needs of Jewish women are far more important than protecting business interests. Jews are not known for placing much above business interests. Yet the Talmud does so here, Mr. Sarid. By contrast, notwithstanding all the pro-women legislation in secular Israel – women in the managerial force are still 25% behind the rest of the world according to a YNET report (Aug 3/10). Secular society in Israel, it seems, places business interests above the general welfare of women.

    Furthermore, the halachic perspective of forbidden seclusion with women is to protect women. Precisely because of the Torah’s respect for the bodily rights of women did the Torah and Chazal promulgate these laws. The laws of Niddah, family purity, accomplish the same goals too, according to most authorities.

    Clearly, something is wrong here, Mr. Sarid. You have ignored all the beautiful sayings and lessons in the Talmud about womanhood and instead misconstrued and misrepresented other teachings.

    Is there perhaps some bias here? Some jaundiced eye that has caused you to employ something a bit more than “terminological inexactitudes?”

    Let us look at more of what you write, but quote the original of the piece. This will demonstrate how you take out of context.

    The Talmud in Shabbos 152a makes a sociological observation about the desire filled yearnings of men. Women, from the perspective of one un-attracted by desires of the flesh explains the Talmud, “are a leather jug full of excretions and filled with [menstrual] blood. Yet all run after her. It is an observation concerning the strength of attraction.

    Yet you, Yossi Sarid, write: “We will direct your attention to Tractate Shabbat, which does a good job of summing up halakha’s attitude toward women: “a sack full of excrement” with a bleeding hole.”

    Halacha? This was a sociological observation from the perspective of someone with no attraction. Yet you misconstrue it to reflect the worst ideas possible. And you place this falsely under the rubric of halacha – knowing full well that most of your readership will be unable to ferret out your mistake.

    You single out the Talmud for the institution of male kings and not female kings – yet much of European history reflected the same notion. But what about Devorah the prophetess found in the book of Shoftim? She both issued rulings and was treated like a Queen. The Ramban (Tractate Shavuos 30a) explains that the exposition about a king and not a Queen referred only to autocratic dictatorship – but one may voluntarily listen to them. Don’t forget that a monarchy is not the ideal in Judaism – but a concession to the realities of the time.

    We could go through them all, but perhaps another Talmudic statement is more applicable. There is another statement in the Talmud Kiddushin 70b. Perhaps you are familiar with it. Forgive me, but the passage states, “Kol HaPosel bemumo who posel – Whomsoever finds fault in others – finds fault in his own flaws.”

    Was it not just a few years ago when you embarrassed the Jewish world with what many read to be a misogynistic statement, “Only in Israel, there are those who are excited and fascinated by president Bush and his “Condoleezza” entourage.”

    Your statement (hopefully it wasn’t racist as well) embarrassed the Jewish community, both in America and in Israel. You never apologized. Neither to the Jewish community nor to Condi.

    There is another repercussion, of course, that we should speak about. I refer to the repercussions of your pen, your falsifications, and “out-of-context” quotes of the Talmud. You’ve, perhaps inadvertently, set us back a lot.

    How so? All the accomplishments of eliminating anti-Semitism are flushed away in your vitriol. Vatican Council II, the 1994 Vatican recognition of Israel, the apology of the Lutheran Church for Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic rants, all no longer necessary.

    Why not?

    Because a former Knesset member, Yossi Sarid, writes no differently than an entire cadre of world class anti-Semites.

    Mr. Sarid, I think you have been deprived of something. Something very precious and dear. Your birthright.

    I invite you to really study the Talmud in the atmosphere of a Yeshiva for two or three months. Join the Ohr Somayach program where you will see the beauties of the Talmud and the remarkable relationships that Kollel men have with their wives. Get yourself invited to the warmth of a Shabbos table where you can see the honor and respect that the Torah demands. Then and only then will you see your real birthright – the birthright of Sinai.


    (Rabbi) Yair Hoffman

    Rabbi Hoffman can be reached via email at

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    1. Yair Hoffman, why would you waste your valuable time to write about one the great vile anti Torah individuals of our time? He will be tried shortly for treason by the sanhedrin iy”h.

      • If the letter was only intended for Yossi Sarid, you would be absolutely correct. However there will be many who read his dribble, believe it and, even worse, repeat it. It is absolutely invaluable for those who may not have the perspective that Rabbi Hoffman gives to the words of the Talmud.

    2. Yossi Sarid’s father, Yaakov Sarid of less than blessed memory, was personally responsible for the cutting of peyos in the maabarot in the 1950s. Enough said.

      • And so was his grandfather,k the son of Dr. Sarid, who was an anti-religious activist even before the establishment of the State of Israel. No hope for any good can come out of such progeny.

    3. Rabbi Yair I aplaude you on behalf of Jewish people everywhere for pointing out the obvious.

      I am really against all that happened in beit shemesh and meah shearim but by all accounts the chareidy community in Israel (about a million people) don’t agree with them and denounced the 50-100 lowlifes, yet the secular media took no note of that and have no problem ranting and raving against the entire chareidy community, its time for the community to stand up to their rights and denounce the media for their actions.

    4. What is wrong with Jewish life today? This group of ultra chassids; do they interrelate with Israel or just their own it seems? Where do these ways come [from]? I can not think that Israel of Moses and Torah could behave with the indignity and the reluctance to integrate as much as this group of jewish zealots conducts itself today. I am new to the Torah scene and I can not imagine that anyone would go to Torah by the looks of this type of community situation. It was the truth of Orthodox Jewish Torah life that inspired me. Where do these vagrants come in and become part of our Nation.

      • “I am new to the Torah scene and I can not imagine that anyone would go to Torah by the looks of this type of community situation.”

        I am not new to the Torah, and because of this, I have decided to stop donating money to Israel, after donating my entire life. Instead, I will donate to Sloan Kettering hospital where my gelt will be appreciated and maybe help someone in need. No more of my gelt will go to Meah Shearim because they are animals, and the State of Israel is letting them get away with this nonsense.

    5. While Rabbi Hoffman writes eloquently, here, our community is losing the battle outside, in the worldwide media. We need to heed Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz’s advice, i.e. to write letters to major media sources (NY Times, Jewish Week, Associated Press, etc.) denouncing these vile individuals. Furthermore, we need to press our leaders to come out, publicly and emphatically, against such extremism.

    6. In a world where haredi leaders condemn one thing or another on an almost weekly basis, yet have never issued condemnations of haredi intimidation and violence, perhaps Sarid could be forgiven for believing what he does.

      Add to that the home he grew up in, where his father was the sole survivor among his eleven siblings and parents.

      Hence, his changing his name to Sarid.

      One can only imagine how bitter it must have been in that home.

      Sarid is a tinok sh’neshba.
      What’s the excuse of those in EY who have still not spoken out?

      • Your post is one of the worst I’ve ever read. Defending a Antisemite like Sarid?
        Do you know the Din of Tinok Shneshba before you Pasken that he is one? You were just Megaleh Ponim B’Torah Shlo K’halacha! Do you have any idea -what the punishment is? Do you think that a T.S. is Putter if they kill s/o? I doubt you think they would be Putter because e/o knows it’s wrong to kill s/o. Did you think that perhaps that maybe he doesn’t know Torah & that would make him a T.S., but who gave him the right to say what the Torah holds? Simple common sense would tell him before I post what the Torah holds -maybe I should ask a Rabbi?
        You’re right I understand why Sarid is an antisemite because this is his lineage, but why are you an antisemite -do you have the same lineage?!?!

      • Thank you for offering such a well balanced comment on this very distressing situation.

        Yasher koach. Seeing there are still rational people out here is comforting.

        • Thank You for letting me know that my comments were not posted in vain and that there are others out here who appreciate nuance.

          I once heard a Rav (Rav Yoel bin-Nun) tell over a story of a Shabbos he spent in a secular Kibbutz on a panel with Yossi Sarid. He was astonished to see that Sarid, a known chain smoker, did not smoke publicly even once the entire Shabbos.

          He asked Sarid about it, assuming he had maybe quit.
          Sarid told him that he had not quit, but did not smoke in public that Shabbos as a sign of a respect for Rav Bin Nun’s having come to the secular kibbutz (which Sarid recognized as having been a great sacrifice for Rav Bin Nun) and engaged him in respectful discussion that entire Shabbos. (Mind you, Rav bin Nun is a very Orthodox Rabbi and disagreed with Sarid about most things.)

          Shows you how far one can get by being respectful.

      • There is a question about the accuracy of that statement for the reason he changed his name to Sarid. Because it is a known fact that his grandfather, by the name of Dr. Abraham Sarid, was a practicing physician before the establishment of the state of Israel. The story that I have read is, that Dr. Abraham Sarid was the only one in the neighborhood who owned a radio at that time. And all the big fish came to his house to listen to the news.

      • The Shoah is NOT an excuse. The father was a roshe merushe who in essence created all of the social problems of the development towns and slums by his actions as education minister. He was responsible for a spiritual Shoah, as well as indirectly being responsible for today’s vicious EY organized crime gangs, which formed due to the forced secularization of the camps.

        When the judge put away a famous repeat insurance arsonist from Willy, and the gonif had the chutzpah to say he was in the dock because he was a Holocaust survivor, the judge read him the riot act.

        So too, here. I am sure that the true Judge read the riot act to Yaakov Sarid (should be Saris) of less than blessed memory, and when Yossi peygers, I will listen to happy music as I do when a non-Jewish rooshe peygers.

        • So, being raised by a Rooshe merusha embittered by losing all his family in the holocaust is not a mitigating factor when it comes to how a Yid should be judged?

          And you’ll celebrate his death?

          You sound like a lovely person, someone who it would be a pleasure to spend time with.

          How about the other part of my post?

          Please share with us how you judge those who were raised in frum homes and become Talmidei Chachamim, yet don’t denounce anti-haredi violence?

          • ‘beavod reshoim rina”no matter what he was raised with there is no excuse to go to war against ribono shel oilms torah There was .a rasha apikores (the original reformer after oiso ish)told the noda beyshuda that he desecrated all mitzvos except ‘meabot atzmo ledas'( e)so the noda byehudu told him you cant because you’ll be making a mitzvah of’ ubuarta hutah mikiracha’ so i will join him in mispallel for sarids early demise .Beruchos 10a with reb meier is different see all hageulah veal hartmutah

            • correction ‘Beavod reshoim rina’.No matter what he was raised with there is no excuse to to war against the Riboni Shel Oilom and His torah.There was a ‘maskil’ (aka tipish) that bragge to the Noda Beyehuda that he desecrated all mitzvos of the torah except ‘meabed atzmo ledass’ (suicide) so the Noda Beyehuda told him you cant desecrate it because you will be melkaim’ ubiarta hurah mikirbacha’ So i will join him in mispallel he and his coherts for early demise. Beruchos 10a reb meir is different see al geulah val hatmutrah

    7. As an average joe, I applaud rabbi Hoffman on his wonderful response to sarid’s venomous rant! I for one was at a complete loss as to how to respond to Sarid’s libel. Yasher koach

    8. Thank you Rabbi Hoffman! I am really astounded by your proficiency and absolute grasp of the Talmud. Your article is very well written, and literally takes apart Mr. Sarid’s argument point by point. Now let’s see if Mr. Sarid will have the gall to (try to) respond to this – that would actually be very funny!

      Isn’t interesting to realize that all the people who use quotes of the Talmud out of context have never extensively studied it? They just copy and paste the same arguments that were used [and refuted!] already numerous times. Let’s challenge Mr. Sarid to learn just the first daf (Mr. Sarid: it means “folio”) of Tractate B’rochos all on his own, without Artscroll, then we’ll see his “mastery” of the Talmud.

      • Yossi Sarid in his present state (He can still do T’shuvah.) is performing a greater Mitzvah by not getting close to any part of the Torah. As it states in Sefer T’Hilim. ולרשע אמר אלוקים מה לך לספר חוקי . (Translating.) And Hashem said to the wicked (singular) “What (concern) have you to recount my Laws”! Let him continue to eat lobster and pork and live happily ever after without looking in the direction of the Torah.

    9. Rav Hoffman: You evaded what Sarid wrote at the beginning. He said that according to Halacha, a woman can’t be a judge, can’t be in a position of authority and can’t be a witness. If I, a Modern Orthodox Jew, explain these laws, dinim, to a secular Jew or a Gentile, they’ll laugh at me and declare how primitive my Yiddishkeit is. Please, Rav Hoffman, explain to me how — in the twenty-first century — if a thousand women witness a murder, they can’t be witnesses in a court, a Beis Din. Do we let the murderer escape justice???

      • Erlich, you do realize that in modern secular courtroom, the testimony of eyewitnesses (whether they are men or women) is less reliable than crime scene evidence. Yes, 1,000 people (men or women, doesn’t make a difference) may be eyewitnesses to a murder, but without objective evidence the different testimonies may contradict each other.

      • A murderer does not escape justice if “a thousand women witness a murder” in the 21st century or 3,000 years ago. What they may have escaped is the “Kaprah” that comes from dying at the hands of Bais DIn.
        In Jewish history, murderers were dispatched by royal fiat. If the King was convinced of the murderer’s guilt, he could simply say “Off with his head”. This King could take into account the words of a thousand women or even one.
        Additionally, in situations where a by the book conviction could not be handed up, a Bais Din could (and did) incarcerate people under conditions that would intentionally hasten their death.

      • Let’s put a few things in perspective. We must remember the “social Contract” for society 2,000 years ago. I’m pretty sure that some of these ancient rules concerning the status of women in Jewish religious society can and should be modified. Allowing women to take part in elections. There is no reason from an Halachic point of view to prohibit them from voting. Or assuming a civil leadership position. Deborah the prophetess was also a judge in ancient times. A lot of these bans or strictures on the role of women in society grew out of ignorance.

    10. I thought this was a fantastic reply and a good point that we should have stopped this rock-throwing activity long ago. I have cousins in meah shearim and most of my siblings stopped talking to them…

    11. The response,is apologetic,in its nature.
      There are passages,in The Talmud,that does not conform to modern thinking,and the place of a woman.
      One can site the halakha,that women are not acceptable as witenesses,they don’t have the nemonos,by a d’eoiraisa,when there is a tircha,by certain halakha.
      There is prohibition,for women,to assume management,in Klal inyonim,in frum circles.
      The halakaha that to learn Torah with women,is like teaching her Tiflus,is also degrading,as well as the statement Noshim daton kalois.
      More to the point is,that women in frum circles,are held in respect,and deferrence.
      There is always room for improvment.

    12. are we starting to wake up and realize that the main story here is incitement against all chareidim? finally!! maybe now us Americans will start seeing this story for what it is- a few isolated incidents of violence blown out of proportion to demonize all of US CHAREDIM. In fact this story started way before there was any violence with vitriolic media coverage of any story relating to frum yidden.

    13. Rabbi Hoffman!
      You should take a page from the ultra orthodox they don’t answer when criticized because answers don’t change minds with certain agendas.
      You won’t change Sarids mind even when you are right just like the charedim won’t change your mind when they are right

    14. All of you commentators as well as Rabbi Y Hoffman have missed the point. This is not an attempt to belittle chareidim as much as an attempt to promote a leftist agenda and ultimately a leftist vote in Israel.

      See this excellent article written by Caroline Glick.

      ………”ALL OF this brings us to the issue at hand. Stories highlighting the deviant behaviors of marginal social forces tend to be simplistic and misleading, and to serve identifiable political forces. And so, with our national discourse suddenly dominated by stories describing the demise of Israeli democracy, women’s rights and the rule of law at the hands of modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, we need to consider who benefits from the stories”……………………

      • That quote you brought from Caroline Glick is only understood by people who follow the Israeli media/politics. The problem is, that a lot of commentators here (even some quite intelligent ones) don’t really follow Israeli politics and/or media and have a very poor understanding of all this, so they will all just come out again with their slogan “stop playing victim”.

        No, we are in no way downplaying the danger of the Sikrikim, they should be taken care of once and for all, but please do some research to understand what’s behind the major “outrage” of the Secular media.

        • Thank you , I suppose I can agree with you , even though I am not so sure if everyone on this blog , or most people on this blog , are so not aware of the political/media spin in Israel.

          One thing we need to be aware of , which Caroline Glick never misses a beat on this matter, is, that not everything is the way it seems on the surface. On the contrary Everything, absolutely Everything done is Israel, whether its media or political moves, has an agenda.

          My underlying feeling is that all of the things going on recently in Israel were paid for George Soros. He seems to like being a king without a crown. To him all kings are his pawns to play his game the way he wants to play.

          • Actually, your “underlying feeling” regarding George Soros seems to be right on target. In fact, it was reported today that the lady who pushed this whole story into the media is someone by the name Libby Beikin, who has very strong “links” to the NIF. We all know what “links” mean……. Follow the money!

    15. The chumras are out of control. Some Yidden now don’t even have their own children of the opposite gender sit at the same shabbos table. DOS IS NISHT YIDDESHKEIT!

      • You probably forgot to mention that’s when there are other men around. So whats wrong with that halvei we should all do that moshiach would long be here

    16. Ehrlich: The short answer is that the Torah treats women differently than men, but that does not mean that they are considered less than men. It is a fallacy of modern Western life that if two groups of people are treated differently, that must mean that one is worse than the other, rather than being merely different. (To a great extent, this is a legacy of how African Americans were once treated in America. Their treatment as different clearly was intended and designed to place them in a second class status. Unfortunately people generalize from that history to other differentiations, such as gender.)

      R. Moshe Meiselman deals with the differences at length in his book Jewish Women in Jewish Law. You should get a copy. To give an oversimplified, too short summary, the Torah assigned to women a more private role in the Jewish people’s mission as a holy nation. The halakhos reflect that.

    17. I recently switched my home page from another frum media outlet to VIN. I lived in E”Y for 10 years and moved back to America a year ago. I miss E”Y and I want to be updated on whats going on there. However the previous media outlet that was providing me my news had no idea of the complexities of life in E”Y and spoke as true outsiders. Today, the first day that I switched I feel vindicated. The news articles are more aligned with what I am expecting from a frum media outlet and that letter to Yossi Sarid was really a work of art. Thank you VIN!

    18. I am secular but outraged by Sarid’s lies about Talmud. Shabbat 152a doe NOT say “women are a sackful of excrement with a bleeding hole.”

      In criticising MEN (not women) and lecturing men to restrain their baser instincts, the tractate gives as an example of male failure to control impulses, “Even were a woman a pitcher of filth with blood (of disease) in her mouth, all men would still lustfully chase her.” The passage is clearly referring to one hypothetical evil woman and not to all women existing in any way.

      Sarid mis-quoted Talmud in a way typical of gentile anti-Semites.

    19. Yasher Ko’ach to those who replied to my question at #22. Still, in today’s Western societies it would be very difficult to argue for women’s nonexistent (discriminatory?) roles as witnesses, judges, figures of authority. Look at the U.S. Supreme Court where there are two Jewish judges: Elena Kagan and Ruth Ginsburg.

      • And how many women have ever sat in the בתי דין, either in Israel, the United States or for that matter in any country on the face of the entire planet?

    20. Here’s a response I sent to Ha’aretz

      I don’t think there is much point in responding to Yossi Sarid point by point as Rabbi Yair Hoffman (כבודו במקומו מונח) has done in Sarid’s piece is super-ignorant at best, intellectually dishonest at middle, and downright malicious at worst. Anyone with an ounce of understanding of the Talmud knows you can find EVERYTHING there. You can find how great men/women/Jews/goyim/etc (take your pick) are, and you can also find how miserable each of the above are. Selecting gems out of context as Sarid has done (כמוצא שלל רב) proves absolutely nothing. Does he know that a woman also can’t walk between two men, pigs or dogs? Maybe our rabbis were anti-men?


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