Aug 1, 2016

Interesting Psak: Chinese slanted eyes are not a blemish

Kikar brings an interesting psak from Rav Yitzchak Zilbershetin, the rav of Ramat Elchonon in Bnei Braq.

A question was brought to him by a husband who was asking about his wife. He claims to have recently discovered that she is of Chinese origin. A few years after they married, they had a baby who was born with Chinese slanted eyes. Unable to hide it any longer, the wife then admitted that she was originally Chinese and had had a surgery to straighten her eyes and remove the Chinese appearance from her.

He was very angry at the time, but did nothing about it. After having two more children together, suddenly he decided that enough is enough and he can no longer stay married to her. His children will have problems with shidduchim, he assumed

This fellow asked Rav Zilbershtein if the marriage is valid as he had been deceived. Perhaps it is a mekach taus.

Rav Zilbershtein responded that this is not considered a blemish and is not a valid cause for declaring it a mekach taus. Upon further investigation, upon the insistence of the husband, Rav Zilbershtein found a similar case in the Ben Ish Chai of a woman who couldn't close her eyes all the way, and the Ben Ish Chai declared it a blemish and therefore the marriage a mekach taus. However, Rav Zilbershtein said, that was actually a blemish, while the slanted eyes is not a blemish - perhaps the slanted eyes are normal and ours are the incorrect way.

So, Rav Zilbershtein paskened that he has no room to declare it a mekach taus. If however the woman would ahve been discovered to have been black originally and the child had beenborn black, that would be enough reason to declare mekach taus, as being black is a descendant of Cham, the accursed son of Noach, whereas slanted eyes of Asians is not a curse -as a third of the world has them.

I would suggest three more points for consideration:
1. the fact that he discovered the issue and then stayed with her and had two more children together. Perhaps had he complained right away there might have been room to discuss it, but after he discovered the issue and chose to stay with her it seems to me that would be an implicit acceptance of the situation and negate any further claim of melach taus
2. geirus. was she originally a Jew or a convert. Perhaps that would also be an issue for consideration, but it isn't discussed here. His children would not be allowed to marry kohanim if she was a convert. Would it make a difference if he is a kohein?
3. divorce: without declaring it a mekach taus, if it bothers him so much he can always divorce her. It seems he wants to get out of the marriage without paying her the required payments of the kesuba and perhaps legal payments such as alimony (I would assume he couldn't get out of child support), and that is why he is looking to have it declared mekach taus. But he does have other options, though they cost.

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25 comments:

  1. The children of a giyores are allowed to marry Kohanim - unless both parents are geirim.

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  2. As far as divorce, he is not allowed to divorce her without her consent.

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    1. I would assume that they must have been fighting about this and maybe she would agree to a divorce. It seemingly wasn't even discussed as an option

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  3. Agree with Rafi's three assessments. Found it strange that there was no mention anywhere of her being (obviously) a convert or daughter of converts. By omitting the fact to her then potential husband that she's of Chinese origin should already be reason enough for him to be granted a divorce. Duh! \

    Something is wrong with everything (most basic common sense things) today.

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  4. I think we should all assume that we don't have the whole story. We have no reason to believe that divorce wasn't considered. After all, he doesn't have to ask a Sh'aila to give a Get.

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  5. 1. If the father is a cohen, it could be a 'mum' with regards to 'avodah'. RMF discusses (tshuvah in IM to RMKahanah hy"d with regards to artificial leg.)

    2. According to rav zilberstein's logic, the parents don't have to disclose this with regards to children's shidduchum. Further proof you can't trust rabbonim in this regard.

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  6. Hello!! Does it not bother anyone that a leading posek in 2016 is saying that "being black" is a blemish because such a person "is a descendant of Cham, the accursed son of Noach"? Tell that to the black gerei tzedek in my community. And please stop referring to Asian eyes as "slanted" -- such a description is a false and silly racial stereotype.

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    1. please explain your point about slanted eyes. that is what he noticed and complained about, and that is a strong feature of the Chinese and some other Asian nationalities. What is wrong with using that description? it wasn't meant (by me - can't vouch for the guy in the story) in a negative way, just descriptive.

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    2. Here is a good explanation from an online source: "It's called an epicanthal fold...please, NOT 'slanted eyes'. Many people consider this to be a derogatory description of the descendents of those of Eastern Asia (as do I, being half Korean), but most people are unaware of this and say it anyway. I'll assume you didn't know this. :) ... The purpose of this 'fold' is to protect the eyes from extreme sunlight and cold weather. Most people of this part of Asia originated in Mongolia where the weather conditions were very cold and harsh."

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    3. I never heard of this epicanthal fold before and will try to use it in the future (if I can remember the name) if I ever have a reason to

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    4. There happens to be zero reference in Tanach to Cham or Canaan having dark skin. Their descendants mostly lived in Israel and Egypt, which are mostly not populated by black people.

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    5. so where does the general assumption of those with black skin (not including Ethiopian Jews, I guess) being descendants from Cham?

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    6. it comes from the rashi about the punishment of the children of cham - that they were sent to become the people of Ethiopia etc..

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    7. From a Midrash. Of course, *some* of Cham's descendants did wind up in Africa- Kush, for example. But Ethiopians aren't really Africans racially.

      Medieval European Christians artists liked the idea that Noach had three sons and there were three races (European, African, Asian) and so depict the three sons that way. But that's not really based on p'shat. When the Egyptians showed three races, they showed Egyptians (Ham), Canaanites (Shem), and Hittites (Indo-European, Yefet), who were different cultures with different languages but all had the same basic skin color. The difference is shown in Egyptian art via different clothes, hairstyle, and hats.

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  7. I honestly can't believe that having black heritage is considered a blemish that could annul a marriage.

    How are people ok with this?

    How can any of you hear something like that and nod your heads and say, well if god cursed them then god cursed them, we just have to accept that blacks are cursed and having black blood is a blemish.

    Seriously - WTF is wrong with people? And you think this Zilbershtein guy is worthy of respect and admiration?

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    1. the blemish is only an issue when deception is used to hide it. if she had gone through a Michael Jackson type surgery to change her pigmentation and then hide that information from her potential husband, and he later discovered it, he could then claim the blemish as a way out.
      just putting his words into context. not justifying what he said, which I have no need to do.

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  8. I hear that, but at the same time - it's not about the lie, it's about what the lie was about - as indicated by the epithelial fold vs skin color

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  9. This story is really weird. Asian people look different from Europeans in a number of ways- not just their eyes (which aren't slanted, by the way) but also their skin color and hair color and texture. I'm assuming this woman was part Asian only.

    Furthermore, you find "Asian eyes" among Europeans, even Jews, every now and then. Sometimes it's a genetic quirk; sometimes it's because of mixing at the edges- lots of Russians have semi-Asian features- and sometimes it's because the Mongols raped and pillaged their way through Europe hundreds of years ago. They estimate that about a quarter of Asians have Genghis Khan as an ancestor, and probably even some European Jews do.

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    Replies
    1. Rav Shach ztz"l looked a bit Asian, in fact.

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