A few weeks ago, a Chassid named Yisroel Valis was arrested in Israel and charged with murdering his infant son. Police claimed physical signs of injury, plus a confession from the father, proved his guilt — allegedly the baby had weak neck muscles and other developmental issues, and police say the father could not tolerate his son’s “defects.” Widespread Orthodox demonstrations protested Valis’ innocence, nonetheless.
Thanks to the demonstrations, we were treated to an incredible barrage of anti-Orthodox vitriol. The basic line was that “the Orthodox want a child killer released,” despite the statements from various Rabbis that, simply put, they did not believe he was a killer. What makes the slander especially outrageous is that no credible source doubts the incredible value and love of children in the Orthodox community.
Newspapers confidently informed us recently that Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv and Rav Chayim Kanievsky, two of the greatest Torah scholars alive today, had issued a “psak,” a “halachic ruling” that Valis was innocent.
In our forums, one reader posted what actually appeared on walls:
The text says, in translation:
“Holy Call” from our masters and teachers, great scholars of Israel, may they have long lives. [This is relatively standard.]
Since several of the dearest of our city (Jerusalem), among them the Rabbis of the student Israel Asher Valis, are working with all their strength to bring out the right and the truth to light, and to prove that he is clean of transgression, and to remove him from prison. Therefore we call upon our brethren the Children of Israel in every place to help them, and ever person should do what he can to work with them, and to also help the family because the expenses are great and the family doesn’t have in their hands enough to withstand the expenses. And all who help and assist shall be blessed from the Source of Blessings.
Signed by Rav Elyashiv, Rav Steinman, Rav MY Lefkowitz, Rav Karelitz, Rav Kanievsky, Rav Shmuel Auerbach, Rav G Edelstein, and Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman.
As you see, not a word about a “psak,” rather, “innocent until proven guilty.”
According to Mr. Valis himself, the “confession” was coerced, and the death of his son was a tragic accident. The title of this entry was suggested by the reader who forwarded that article to me. We don’t know if he’s innocent or guilty, but we do know he should have been released on bail before Pesach, not after. The Rabbis are, of course, right — and as usual, the anti-Orthodox media is showing its fangs.