Editor’s Note: The first few words of the second sentence in Ray Kestenbaum’s letter in last week’s issue should have read: “Over the years he [Sharon] developed the skills of a visionary.” We regret the error.
The New York Daily News carried a short piece on Monday, Jan. 16, about the temporary resignation of Ohio Rep. Bob Ney as chairman of the House administration Committee. Mr. Ney has been implicated in the lobbying scandal involving Jack Abramoff, an ostensibly Orthodox Jews. The headline the Daily News chose to give the story was a play on Bob Ney’s name, but to this reader, at least, it’s no laughing matter: “Oy, Ney! Ohio Pol Quits Over Abramoff Link.” Ney is not Jewish, and Abramoff’s Jewishness has nothing to do with his sleazy, criminal behavior, so what exactly was the News’s point?
Reader Zachary M. Berman totally misses the point when he chastises The Jewish Press for what he describes as “groundless fears” in its editorials concerning Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”
This is far from the first time that legitimate Jewish fears have been dismissed by those who fail to read the lessons of history. Mr. Berman seems to think that a movie must be harmless if the anti-Jew crowd does not immediately run out of theaters bent on violence. But that is not the way these things work, especially in the modern world.
Judging by the reaction to the recently released film “Munich,” it seems that a great many Jews have taken renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg to task for seeming to equate Arab terrorists who cold-bloodedly murdered the Israeli Olympic team with the Israeli agents who avenged their deaths.
While I believe that any attempt to humanize terrorists, or to find justification for their heinous acts, serves only to aid and abet them, why fault only Spielberg ?
After all, it was the government of Israel that decided to recognize Yasir Arafat as a peace partner, thus granting legitimacy to the PLO’s chief terrorist. Subsequently, despite thousands of Israelis slaughtered and wounded in Arab terror attacks since Oslo, Israel is widely perceived as the “oppressor” of the Palestinians, whose alleged plight has become a cause celebre for anti-Israel activists and guilt-ridden Jews the world over.
In his listing of “Saturday Night Live” skits that Jews over the years might have found offensive (Media Monitor, Jan. 6), Jason Maoz didn’t mention the Minkman brothers, Al and Herb, played by cast members Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal in 1984.
The Minkmans were a pair of cheesy novelty retailers (dribble glasses, plastic animal droppings, Chinese finger prisons, etc.) who came across as the most stereotypical of slippery operators, and indeed were shown on more than one occasion being grilled by a faux Mike Wallace (portrayed by Harry Shearer) for knowingly selling defective products.
Re “A New Yeshiva High School for Brooklyn” (news story, Jan. 13):
As a parent, whose son graduated Yeshiva Derech HaTorah (YDH) in June 2004, I can say from personal knowledge and experience that YDH is a great school. The administrators, rebbeim and teachers really prepared my son for high school. My only regret, in fact, is that YDH did not have a high school program in place at the time of my son’s graduation so that he and his former classmates could have remained in the YDH family. And it truly is a family – everyone associated with YDH was always kind and patient with both my son and me. Baruch Hashem, my son is in a good high school, but he still misses the school that helped him grow up to be thetalmid he is today.
Prime Minister Sharon’s recent series of strokes has focused public attention, particularly in our community, on the complexities and possibilities of current stroke care. Treatment for all types of stroke has improved dramatically in recent years, and continues to advance, with new therapies and approaches resulting in better care of patients.
One message is most important for all of us to appreciate. Regardless of the type of stroke, ischemic (interruption of blood flow) or hemorrhagic as in Mr. Sharon’s current case, immediate care is absolutely essential to insure the best possible treatment.
Anyone experiencing the signs of stroke should be transported without delay by ambulance to the nearest stroke center. No delays should be introduced. With early arrival, many more patients could receive the newest available treatments.
About That Prenup…
I read with great interest Ziona Greenwald’s Jan. 6 op-ed article “Building a Better Marriage: Two Modest Proposals,” in which the author suggests that all new couples sign the prenuptial agreement prepared by the Beth Din of America as well as engage in pre-marital counseling. Specifically with regard to the prenuptial agreement, I believe Ms. Greenwald is proceeding on a fallacious assumption and wishful thinking.
According to Ms. Greenfield, “In the second part of the prenup, the husband-to-be agrees to pay his soon-to-be wife a daily amount of support for every day he withholds a get or disregards a summons by the bet din.” The idea is to give those husbands who might choose to withhold a get out of spite, malice, a desire for leverage in a custody battle, etc., a financial incentive to give the get instead of dragging out the battle.
That’s what it should say. Unfortunately, that’s not what it actually does say.
The prenuptial agreement is freely available on the web (i.e., the OU website). On the second page, in italics, it says, in part, as follows:
I hereby now (me’achshav) obligate myself to support my Wife-to-Be from the date that our domestic residence together shall cease for whatever reasons, at the rate of $150.00 per day…in lieu of my Jewish law obligation of support so long as the two of us remain married according to Jewish Law, even if she has another source of income or earnings.
Do you see anything there about the husband owing this money only if he withholds aget or disregards a summons from the bet din? I don’t. That’s because it’s not there.
The document treats every case the same – abusive husbands, perfectly fine husbands, husbands who delay, husbands who don’t delay, etc. (Yes, the penalty is waived if the wife causes trouble, but that’s not the issue at hand) Apparently, unless the get is available on the very same day the couple separates, the husband is in trouble. Does that seem fair to you?
I am sure the rabbinical powers-that-be who put together this document had the best intentions when crafting it. The problem is that in the real world, the document can cause seriously negative consequences for the husband involved – whether or not he does anything wrong. Penalties should be assessed upon some finding of fault, not just because one of the parties has a Y chromosome.
My bottom line is this: Any guy who signs this unfair document should have his head examined. Rabbis, this can be easily fixed. Won’t somebody do it?
Don’t Dismiss Scientific Findings
I see that my letter to the editor of Dec. 30 was not well received by some readers (letters, Jan. 6). Among other complaints, Rabbi Eidensohn and reader Josh Greenberger both protest that I did not explicitly describe any of the errors I had noted in the rabbi’s original letter of December 7. That is largely true, since those details were incidental to my main point about the malignant attitude toward science in areas of the yeshiva world. However, I can certainly attempt to provide a somewhat fuller account, although I doubt it will change any minds. As John Locke wrote, “It is one thing to show a man that he is in an error, and another to put him in possession of truth.”
Since the space available here is scarcely adequate even to show a man his error, I will have to forgo addressing the rabbi’s various confusions about modern cosmologies, anthropic principles, and Stephen Jay Gould.
It seems, however, that the rabbi’s most cherished argument is that evolutionary processes violate the second law of thermodynamics, which states that entropy within an adiabatic closed system cannot decrease. The rabbi’s first major error is in equating thermodynamic “order” with biological complexity, but a broader problem is that the second law does not even apply to the cases in which the rabbi believes it decisive.
An adiabatic closed system is one in which no heat transfer or mass transfer occurs across the system boundaries, and it is impossible to find a natural habitat in which these conditions are met. Indeed, energy, water, air, and all manner of other biomatter typically cross the system boundaries in both directions. The second law has nothing to say about such a system, and its entropy can increase, decrease, or remain the same.
Another of the rabbi’s claims relates to the case of industrial melanism in the peppered moth. It should be duly noted that H.B.D. Kettlewell’s classic experiments on these moths have attracted serious scientific criticism on methodological grounds. In any case, the rabbi gives us the following entertaining account: “It seems white moths became black due to the smoke of the Industrial Revolution in England. Chemicals from the soot, injected into white moths, made them black. But the evolutionists had another interpretation: The moths somehow knew that since they were white and the walls were becoming black from soot, birds would be able to see them and eat them. Therefore, the white moths just turned black.”
The rabbi has thus seemingly misunderstood everything about the case of the peppered moth. The dark (melanic) moths and light (typical) moths are naturally occurringgenetic variants of the same species. The dark moth is not a light moth that happened to inhale too much soot, any more than a red-haired child is a black-haired child who happened to inhale too many carrots.
Moreover, the rabbi’s exegesis of the “evolutionist” position is so breathtakingly at odds with any Darwinian theory that it makes one wonder whether he really ever understood Darwin’s idea. It was never anyone’s claim that individual moths change their color to avoid predation. Rather, polluted conditions make the light moth an easier target for birds, and hence the melanic gene in the dark moth is preferentially selected.
While there are valid questions about Kettlewell’s account, it seems clear to me that the rabbi has not bothered to understand the basic theory, the basic experiments, or even their basic deficiencies.
The point of my original letter was not to harass Rabbi Eidensohn for having misconceptions about science, nor was it to accuse the rabbi of insulting scientists. Rather, my point was that those who fling about half-baked and barely coherent indictments of scientific theories are insulting themselves and any standards of scholarship to which they might subscribe.
My initial reaction to the rabbi’s letter was thus not one of disdain but of dismay. It dismays me that many of my fellow Jews who are so passionate and proud of their own learning are so dismissive of the scholarship of others. The assumption that scientists are incompetent or corrupt is just crude escapism, and it discourages me to see it so conspicuously practiced by people whom I otherwise respect, and who certainly have the capacity to do better.