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What’s In A Beard?

Yishai Fleisher laments the fact that the reggae singer Matisyahu shaved off his beard and is therefore, in Fleisher’s opinion, no longer “outwardly Jewish, so proudly different” (“Culture Wars: From the Maccabees to Matisyahu’s Beard,” op-ed, Dec. 23).


But later on in the article, Fleisher praises the Maccabeats (who of course have no beards) for helping to make “Judaism look attractive.” Perhaps it is time for people like Fleisher to ask themselves what it is they really like about these performers. Is it that these singers really produce a uniquely Jewish sound and feeling or is that they successfully copy music straight out of the secular world, and make Fleisher proud that our boys can do it while wearing a kippah – and even better, a beard?

The truth is, the Jewish public is not stupid. They know when they’re listening to secular music, and are increasingly listening to the real thing because they recognize a fraud when they hear one, and realize a beard is nothing compared to a sound when it comes to Jewish pride.
Yosef Tannenbaum
(Via E-Mail)

Auschwitz A German Camp

In “Disaster Barely Averted in Modiin Air Crash” (news story, Dec. 23), your Israel correspondent Steve Walz referred to “Poland’s Auschwitz concentration camp.” This is an unfortunate and inaccurate formulation. It was Germany’s Auschwitz concentration and death camp, imposed on occupied Poland.

The Anti-Defamation League has stated that “As an organization devoted to nurturing Holocaust remembrance, we share Poland’s concern over the frequent description of Auschwitz as a Polish camp, which suggests the object was built on behalf of the Polish nation.”

Meanwhile, American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris has written: “The camps were located in German-occupied Poland, the European country with by far the largest Jewish population, but they were most emphatically not ‘Polish camps.’ ”

And the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin noted that “Auschwitz was a German death camp, built by German criminals on Polish soil.”

Poland and Poles don’t have a perfect record, but the Holocaust was carried out by the Germans.
Jan Niechwiadowicz
Cardiff, Wales

Christian Zionists And Israel

Re David Ha’ivri’s recent op-ed “Are Christian Zionists a Threat to Israel?” ( web exclusive):

There is no question that there are many fine, upstanding gentiles supporting Israel at this time. While certain strategic, moral and political alliances with the non-Jewish world are to be encouraged, it is both naïve and misleading to deny the serious costs involved in Israel’s unregulated relationship with impassioned evangelical Christians.

As content and research director of, an organization that monitors Christian activity in Israel, I regret to say that Mr. Ha’ivri has chosen to diminish the concerns of those working in the counter-missionary field and those investigating growing Christian influence in the Jewish state.

Certain Christian individuals and organizations with whom Mr. Ha’ivri chooses to work may not be aggressively proselytizing in the classical sense. However, they are on a religiously driven mission with the intention to draw Jews close, or they strive for a theological unification between Judaism and Christianity. In addition, these parties are supportive of messianic Christian sects in the Jewish state and aspire toward a Christian restoration in Israel.

If Jewish activists like David Ha’ivri choose to work with devout Christians, they should be honest enough to acknowledge the problems and wise enough to use foresight, seek guidance, and draw red lines in such relationships.
Ellen Horowitz
(Via E-Mail)

Science And The Sages: The Debate Continues

The Solar Year

My position that the amora Shmuel erred in his calculation of the solar year’s length came under sharp attack in the December 16 Letters section. I had argued, in an earlier letter, that due to Shmuel’s error we begin saying “v’sain tal u’matar” approximately two weeks too late; we also recite Birkas HaChamah, the blessing of the sun, at the wrong moment.

In refutation, a responsum of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, was invoked, in which he scolds a questioner who suggested that Klal Yisrael errs in setting the start date for “v’sain tal u’matar.” Rav Moshe insists that it is highly improper to propose that the entire people of Israel are wrong in how we practice a particular halacha.

One can debate this point; one certainly may not take it lightly, and I did not state in my letter that we should change the date for the commencement of “v’sain tal u’matar.” However, Rav Moshe goes further, by actually defending the possibility that Shmuel’s calculation of a 365-and-a-quarter-day solar year is correct. Rav Moshe writes that the Rambam was uncertain whether Shmuel’s calculation or a second calculation, attributed to the amora Rav Adda, is accurate. The Rambam leans toward Rav Adda’s view, but does not entirely discard Shmuel’s. We, therefore, cannot decide which position is precise.



  1. Your readers must be the most ignorant bunch. They talk about rabbis scientific accuracies and inaccuracies as if scientists don’t have this problem. Don’t they have any idea that scientific errors can fill this newspaper without a problem?

    I can’t believe a religious newspaper would print such a one-sided debate against rabbis. At least have the decency to show how fallible scientists are. Your moronic readers think your idiotic lopsided approach means they can take scientists word without a question but they should be suspicious of rabbis. Catholic newspapers have more respect for rabbis. Shame on you.

  2. The question “Is Jerusalem the capital of Israel? (Answer: yes or no)” is really stupid. What if someone honestly doesn’t know? Why not something real simple like how much is two plus seven?

  3. I think it is safe to assume that anyone reaching this paper from anywhere in the world will know that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and if they are visiting the site and don’t yet know that basic fact, then they’ll easily learn something important with a single click – and we’re glad to help them learn that.

  4. The difference, Mr. Schneiderman, is that scientists never made the claim to be infallible. Indeed, one of the underpinnings of the scientific method is that any theory must be falsifiable. If a theory is not falsifiable, it is not a scientific theory.

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