Re Professor Yitzchok Levine’s March 11 op-ed article, “PETA’s Real Agenda”:
I would like to encourage readers to see for themselves the content and tone of our campaign against AgriProcessors (www.goveg.com/feat/ agriprocessors/) before coming to any conclusions about PETA or our stance on shechita. It would seem that Dr. Levine is asking of his readers that they write off our campaign simply because he does not fully support our founding mission statement. This, I think, does a disservice to all those involved and brings us no closer to a better, kinder world.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
‘Equal Opportunity Critic’
I think Dr. Levine should get beyond the semantic wrangling and focus on the issue of cruelty to animals. I have supported PETA’s efforts to protect animals for many years, and there is always a pattern. The abusers try to shift the focus to other abusers, or try to discredit PETA. PETA has never hidden its agenda, which is to save as many animals as it can. PETA is an equal opportunity critic of all groups, religions, industries, etc., that harm animals. There is no discrimination here.
Molders Of Our Children
I read with interest Rabbi Moshe Shochet’s March 11 letter to the editor regarding my own letter that appeared the previous week (“From the Heart”, March 4). Rabbi Shochet’s attack on my character notwithstanding, I have no lack of kavod haTorah; my emunas chachomim is just as strong as his; and I take no issue with his statement that he’s “seen many roshei yeshiva at conventions, simchas and other gatherings, and they show beautiful derech eretz to their wives, talmidim and in general to all people.”
I did not impugn the derech eretz that roshei yeshiva show to others, nor did I harshly criticize them. What I did was address some very serious issues facing Klal Yisrael.
The crux of the problem is that today, in North America, we do not have gedolei roshei yeshiva like the Brisker Rav, the Chazon Ish, Rav Aharon Kotler, or Rav Elya Meir Bloch. If the gedolei roshei yeshiva of yesteryear were alive today in North America, the problems of shidduchim, abuse and agunos would not exist.
Am I saying that all the blame rests on roshei yeshiva? Of course not; parents bear a share of it, as do the bochurim themselves. Yes, there are many bochurim who are the very personification of kiddush Hashem, but there are too many others who are the very personification of chillul Hashem – before, during and after their marriages. And too many of our roshei yeshiva either minimize the problem or deny that a problem even exists.
When we as parents send our children away to yeshiva at a relatively early age, we are entrusting their spiritual care, their development of midos tovos, to the roshei yeshiva and their staffs. At that point, we parents no longer have the input we did when our children lived in our homes. We only have our children bein hazmanim; the roshei yeshiva are the ones who mold the character of our children, and all we as parents can do is pray that these roshei yeshiva imbue in them the proper torahdig hashkofos and mentschlichkeit.
It remains my opinion that many of our problems with shidduchim, abuse and agunos stem in no small measure from the failure of our roshei yeshiva to transmit to their talmidim what the roshei yeshiva of previous generations transmitted to their talmidim.
Ben M. Joseph
Angered By Remark
I am writing this several days after having attended the satellite screening of the Daf Yomi Siyum HaShas. I felt privileged to attend an event that was being celebrated by so many great scholars and religious authorities. But while I’d anticipated only positive and enlightening words from the many wonderful speakers, I felt sadness and, yes, even anger at a remark made by one of those individuals.
I am alluding to a story about a group of women who, after drinking some tea during their husbands’ study session, were, according to the speaker, engaged in frivolous conversation that may possibly have included complaints about their husbands. Does such a statement not denigrate the ability of these women to determine for themselves what is or what is not appropriate? These women should not be treated like dummies or scatterbrains.
It seems to me that those rabbis and scholars in attendance would not have been able to realize their goals and religious aspirations were it not for the support of the deeply committed Jewish women who keep kosher homes, observe the laws of mikvah, raise children in a Torah environment and do whatever else it takes to provide an enriching Jewish way of life.
I am aware that one rabbi at the event did acknowledge the contribution of women. Nevertheless, I still take issue with the rabbi who chose to use a portion of his speaking time to insult the intelligence of women. I sincerely believe that giving more credit to Jewish women will insure their honored place in this world.
It is becoming clear that this creeping of extremism into our lives is chipping away at our ability to experience the joy of being Jewish. The moderate voices of the religious community are being silenced by the more strident among us. The sparks emanating from an event such as the Siyum HaShas would have burned a lot brighter without this touch of negativity.
After going through the effort of waking up early, going to shul, and saying all the words page after page, it’s frustrating to often leave shul unchanged and uninspired. That’s where “davening glasses” come in handy.
Recently, while davening in my shul in Charleston, South Carolina, I found myself struggling to find the inspiration to connect to Hashem. It then occurred to me why I was unable to ignite my prayers: Tefilla is not service of the mind or the intellect, but service of the heart – avoda shebalev.
The heart is the organ associated with emotion. Therefore, the more numb or devoid a person is of emotion, the more stale and uninspired his prayers will be. Emotion is the fuel that launches prayer.
Contrary to popular belief, this emotional fuel that comes from our hearts need not be emotions of joy or love. Rather, a person may take his “emotional flavor of the day” and use that as a springboard for inspiration.
The people who are most connected through prayer are the heartbroken parents of a sick child, or the joyous, love-struck couple recently engaged, or the father who is struggling to support his family’s financial needs. The thread that ties these people together is that their existence is overflowing with emotion, positive or negative, and it makes its way into their prayers.
Hashem often sends us various curve balls and bumps in life as a gift to stimulate and ignite our otherwise “boring” prayers. The challenge that many of us face (myself included) is to find that inspiration on a normal run-of-the-mill day – one not filled with a family simcha or, God forbid, a tragedy.
Therefore, the next time you go to shul, be sure to bring your davening glasses so that you can see the words of the Siddur through the lenses of your own emotions. If you feel happy, angry, depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, annoyed or ecstatic, use those emotions to help you connect to Hashem. Learn to filter the words through your heart before they leave your lips.
Anyone who attempts to daven without first putting on those emotional glasses will simply be approaching prayers blindly. Alternatively, if we welcome our emotions into our prayers, we are sure to stimulate that vision in others as well.
Rabbi Ari Sytner
Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation
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