Kahane’s Views Not `Abnormal’

Elliot Resnick (“Kahane’s Ideas, 15 years and 1,300 Deaths Later,” op-ed, Dec. 9) writes that “Kahane felt abnormal times required an abnormal response.” I highly doubt that Rabbi Kahane would have agreed with this presumptuous notion. His response to the demographic crisis in Israel could not be termed “abnormal” in the least. It was an answer and philosophy based on Torah values. His entire political platform was based on Torah. The rabbi would often quote the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim as a source for the laws relating to a ger toshav. He would often quote Tanach about purging the enemies from our midst.

None of the ideas that Rabbi Kahane extolled were predicated on hatred, racism, or his own personal or political philosophy. They were based on Jewish values from a Divine source.

The rabbi would often tell us that the way to penetrate the impurity of the world is to keep speaking the Torah truth. To never allow ourselves to be intimated and discouraged by the hostile reaction of the masses. The greatest tribute we could pay Rabbi Kahane is to keep speaking the truth – and to ask Hashem to give us the strength to gird our loins and courageously face our detractors and adversaries with His Word.

Fern Sidman
(JDL National Director 1983-1985)
Brooklyn, NY
Real Priorities

My heart goes out to the young lady searching for her bashert (Rebbetzin’s Viewpoint, Dec.16). Perhaps the question to be asked is not “What’s wrong with me?” but rather, “What’s wrong with them?” – referring, of course, to her so-called girlfriends, nay, married women, so busy with gossip at the attended wedding. What is wrong with people? Have we lost all sense of derech eretz? What are the real priorities?

Parents, educators and rabbis need to focus first and foremost on the essential task of instilling derech eretz in our youngsters. The banning of home Internet use (“Lakewood Rabbis Ban Home Internet,” Dec. 16) is all fine and good, if this is the derech chosen by some (from what I’m told, not all residents or rabbis approve of this ban) in the community. Naturally, some of us might retort: What’s next? The banning of appropriate educational television programming? Of Jazz music? How about the reading of “secular” American papers?

Kedusha, holiness, is an integral aspect of a Torah home Yet I would like to believe that appropriate use and editing of the Internet or other modern media in one’s home can be achieved through wise choice, education and discipline without the need for a ban. My real concern is the need for true, aggressive and visible religious leadership where it appears to be lacking – in emphasizing values of derech eretz to young people and in fact, to people of all ages.

A special message to the aforementioned young lady: As an observant psychologist, I would venture a guess that there is, in reality, nothing wrong with you. I am sorry that your “friends” and those around you have been so thoughtless and inconsiderate. May God bless you, heal you and bring you speedily to your true mate.

To the foolish, inconsiderate girls at the wedding, and those like them: Know that there is One above; an Ear that hears and an Eye that sees all. To parents, rabbis and the rest of us: Let us be ever vigilant and work tirelessly to raise the banner of the important values reinforced constantly in our holy Torah.

Hye Harris
Via E-mail

Learning From Yaakov

Just to add one thought to Chaim Silver’s fine letter of Dec. 16: I think it’s important to note Yaakov Avinu’s first interaction with “outsiders” after spending 14 years in yeshiva, out of touch with mainstream society. When he arrived at the well in Charan, he saw three flocks of sheep being tended by some shepherds. Yaakov said, “My brothers, where are you from?”

“My brothers.” It boggles the mind.

Why would Yaakov Avinu, a man used to interacting with angels and immersing himself in Torah for years at a time without sleep, feel any connection to the common, if not lower-class, idol-worshiping shepherds?

The answer is simple. Hashem’s Torah is not about elitism and being naive or out of touch. Hashem’s Torah is about engaging with the world and with its inhabitants and elevating everyone and everything to new levels of holiness. That’s what Yaakov Avinu was trying to teach us when he approached people who were as foreign to him as any he had ever encountered, and called them his brothers.

Halevai that we should approach our fellow Jews, let alone non-Jews, with that degree of love and sensitivity.

Yaakov Steinhart
(Via E-Mail)
On Being A `Good Jew’

Reader Herman Ganz (Letters, Dec. 9) attacks The Jewish Press for a recent editorial stipulating, as he paraphrased it, that the authentic way to be considered a “good Jew” is through the performance of mitzvos.

Mr. Ganz, this is not merely an editorial position, it is the basic foundation of the faith. You advocate secular humanism – or, in Jewish-speak, being a mensch – as a substitute for observing the Torah. This constitutes a basic fallacy of the nonobservant – the belief that Judaism is a series of meaningless rituals divorced from proper etiquette. The Torah speaks of laws between God and man as well as those between man and his fellow.

In fact, as our Sages teach, Hashem is more exacting with the latter group of laws; therefore, it is impossible to be a “good Jew” without doing what Mr. Ganz calls “acts of kindness.” That said, if one dismisses those regulations that are unique to our religion and concentrates instead on being a nice guy, he is no different from a pleasant gentile. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we are enjoined to reach higher. So yes, Mr. Ganz, it is entirely appropriate to stress the performance of mitzvos as the key for one to earn the moniker “good Jew.”

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY
Painful Parting:
An Open Letter To The RCA

A newspaper is not the address that one generally chooses to send a letter of resignation from a major Jewish organization such as the Rabbinical Council of America.

I chose this unusual route because I have come to the conclusion that I have no other recourse, as there appears to be no one in the organization’s hierarchy I can turn to.

I have been a member of the RCA since 1986 when I assumed my first position as a pulpit rabbi after having spent fifteen years in the Lakewood Kollel. I was embraced by finerabbonim and outstanding leaders, who, despite recognizing that my hashkofos swung way to the right, were bold enough and honest enough to invite me to serve as executive treasurer for six years. I have always considered this a display of their religious integrity and an expression of the broader scope of interest and responsibility that the organization embraced. The RCA had good and honest leadership – then.

I am afraid that I no longer have the same confidence in the RCA’s leadership. It no longer matters who is right and who is wrong in the Tendler affair. (Of course it matters to all of us that Rabbi Tendler has been vindicated, but I now speak with regard to my resignation from the RCA.)

I am so dismayed by the conduct of people whom I respect and call colleagues. I say to them:

Your utter disregard and disrespect for the Bet Din in Yerushalayim is appalling. Do you really believe that traditional “rabbi double talk” is going to fool the rabbis themselves? Do you really believe that your constituents are so simpleminded that they will fall for “Well, we don’t have to listen to a bet din butyou do”?

To be declared a “lo tzayis dina” by the Jerusalem Bet Din of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is not a slap on the wrist. It means shame on you, shame on everything you are associated with. It means that on public record you are in defiance of the laws of Torah. This is a public pronouncement made by the holy bet din humiliate you into submission. Yet not only do you show no remorse, regret, or contrition – you continue to show defiance. (At least be creative. Come up with something that appears logical instead of continuing to debase yourselves with inane innuendo and lame explanations).

I will tell you what disturbs me most of all. I will tell you why I resign from your midst. In 1987 Rabbi Aron Shurin, z”l, told me this story. The Rav, zt”l, said to him that he was jealous of Reb Aharon Kotler, zt”l, who had “real”talmidim. “But you also have talmidim,” protested Rabbi Shurin. Answered the Rav: “Reb Aharon’s talmidim ask him ‘Rebbi, can I do this?’ Or, ‘Rebbi, can I go there?’ Or, ‘Rebbi, can I say that?’ My talmidim say, ‘Rebbi, I did this. Rebbi, I went there. Rebbi, I said that. Is it ok?’ He lamented what he perceived to be a lack of real and absolute loyalty by some of histalmidim (not most, who were and are talmidim n’emonim).

I am not atalmid of the Rav. I know, however, that the Rav expected, and had the right to expect, obedience from his talmidim. There was no one who protected the honor of and demanded subservience to theBet Din of Yerushalayim more than did the Rav. B’ksav and b’al peh.

For his talmidim to violate and shame the memory of their rebbi by brazenly ignoring his edict makes those of us, who studied under the tutelage of otherrebbeim, carefully contemplate and more clearly understand the words of Rabbi Shurin.

My rebbi, Reb Chaim Shmulevits, zt”l, has a well-known shmues in which he attributes the foibles of Chielwho sinfully attempted to rebuild Jericho – to his having been sucked into a whirlpool of mistakes, from which he was unable to extricate himself because his understanding became more and more obscured as the mistakes kept piling on. The same has happened to you, unfortunately. I pray that Hashem gives you the einayim lir’os and oznayim lishmoa to recognize and reverse those mistakes.

Until that happens I can no longer be affiliated with an organization whose leadership is declared a violator of Torah law by the Bet Din of Yerushalayim. I sadly submit my resignation from the RCA.

Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz