He Must Go
    The time is now for every Jew who cares about Israel and the Jewish people to sound off and register a demand for the removal of Ehud Olmert from office.
    I can’t remember when I have ever wished so hard to be proven wrong. When Sharon was stricken and relapsed into a coma and Olmert took over, my reaction was one of ominous dread. Attempting to find some relief, I reasoned that the citizens of Israel know better than I do whom to pick for prime minister.
    But now Olmert’s hesitation, lack of resolve, and failure to answer Hizbullah’s warlike provocations with an iron fist speak for themselves. He must go.
    The Aug. 11 “Quick Takes” column reported Olmert’s announcement that he planned to forge ahead with unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria despite the violence in Lebanon and Gaza that followed similar evacuations. This is irrational incompetence run amok.
    If it is not also reason enough to replace him, somebody please tell me why not. I need some peace of mind.

Norman Shine

Brooklyn, NY



Incompetent Troika
    There is a cease-fire in Lebanon. The war is over, maybe. Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz are smiling, but the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are not. They are mad as hell that the politicians snatched victory from them. The IDF has been dealt a severe blow. Morale in the military is at an all-time low.
    This is all the fault of one man: Prime Minister Olmert. A man with no military experience, he micromanaged the war to its humiliating end. He vetoed every plan the generals formulated to destroy Hizbullah. No wonder Gen. Udi Adam complained to reporters that Olmert was tying his hands. From day one, the generals wanted to launch a massive ground offensive but Olmert delayed time and time again. Finally, when the war was almost over, he gave the go-ahead. The military had 48 hours to do a job that would take three or four weeks. A golden opportunity to get rid of Hizbullah was lost.
    The truth is that Olmert never had any intention of winning. He just wanted to fight long enough for the UN to impose a cease-fire. For this so many of Israel’s young men had to give up their lives? If you don’t intend to win, why bother fighting at all?
    It is time for the people of Israel to rid themselves of the troika of incompetence and indifference – Olmert, Peretz, and Tzipi Livni. The people of Israel deserve and can do much better.

Rabbi Yakov Lazaros

Framingham, MA



Prayers For The IDF
    Rabbi Harry Maryles writes that we should show our appreciation of the IDF by praying for its success (“The Right Stuff: Showing Our Appreciation for the IDF,” op-ed, Aug. 18). Nothing wrong with that thought. To my chagrin, however, he unfairly excoriates Rav Sternbuch, a leading talmid chacham and head of the Jerusalem-based Edah Hacharedis, an important religious organization.
    According to Rabbi Maryles, Rav Sternbuch and his haredi followers are not patriotic enough. They should be praying for the IDF. Even though Rav Sternbuch called for prayers for all the people of Israel, that’s not good enough for Rabbi Maryles. In fact, he condemns this perceived lack of patriotism as a chillul Hashem.
    Give me a break. Nobody is stopping Rabbi Maryles from praying for the IDF 24/7. Rav Sternbuch never said not to do so. Instead of making negative statements that accomplish absolutely nothing, Rabbi Maryles should settle down in Israel so that he will be better able to daven around the clock for the IDF. (Incidentally, Rav Sternbuch lives in Israel. But I guess he is not as patriotic as Rabbi Maryles.)
    Just one question: Did Rabbi Maryles daven for the IDF’s success last year when it evicted the residents of Gush Katif? To tell you the truth, I did not.

Chaim Silver

(Via E-Mail)



Direct Hit
    May I correct Rabbi Harry Maryles’s anecdote about Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l, and the Mir Yeshiva in 1967?
    A shell actually hit the top of the beis medrash while everyone was sheltering down below ground in the dining room. Although subsequently several floors were built above the area where the damage was done, one can still detect the spot from the change in the stone work.

Yerucham Rosen

(Via E-Mail)



Kannoim And Their Methods
    Thank you for publishing Gil Sudent’s article (“The Slifkin Torah-Science Controversy,” front-page essay, Aug. 18). Many people close to this issue have come to realize that the kannoim (as they are referred to in the blogosphere) who brought Slifkin’s books to the attention of the various rabbanim who eventually signed the ban represent a real threat to legitimate Jewish intellectual life.
    The pasken-by-poster method they utilize sidesteps the traditional Jewish method of religious debate. As Student pointed out, the kannoim put up signs declaring Slifkin’s books heretical, yet no one put up signs espousing the views of the rabbanim who held Slifkin’s books to be kosher. That’s because the system is used mainly by those who do not care to hear the other side of the story.
    I heard in the name of Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik, zt”l, that when R’ Chaim met a certain kannoi back in Europe, he criticized the kannoi‘s tactics and enthusiasm. The kannoi countered that R’ Chaim himself used similar methods and exhibited zeal when he advocated issues he felt strongly about – even when doing so involved pointing out the wrongdoings of other Jews.
    R’ Chaim responded that there was a fundamental difference between him and the kannoi. R’ Chaim compared himself to a housewife who chases a mouse from her kitchen because she needs her house free of harmful and dirty rodents, whereas the kannoi was like a cat that enjoys catching mice and would even go out of the house to pursue them.

Avi Grossman

Kew Gardens Hills, NY



Divine Punishment
    Based on their responses (Letters, Aug. 18), some readers apparently misinterpreted my letter of Aug. 11. I was not attempting to influence anyone’s opinion of the Jerusalem gay pride parade, and my description of the parade as “silly” was not the ringing endorsement that some evidently took it to be. Rather, I was arguing that statements attributing the present suffering in Israel to a divine punishment for said parade are inappropriate and unjustified.
    Such statements are inappropriate because, as per the Gemara cited in my previous letter, we ought not suggest that an individual’s sufferings are caused by this or her own sins (and, at the risk of stating the obvious, I will point out that it is indeed individuals – and many of them – who are currently suffering in Israel).
    Such statements are also generally unjustified because we do not have any insight into the system by which God dispenses reward and punishment, which I believe is the message of R’ Yanai in Avot chapter 4. Even Ramchal, who is far from timid in exploring matters of divine jurisprudence, tells us that the details of God’s judgment are beyond the grasp of man’s understanding (Derech Hashem, 2:3:11).
    I would also suggest that, in general, the practice of attributing suffering and hardship to divine retribution may seriously interfere with one’s ability to address the actual underlying problems in an effective and appropriate manner.
    Finally, while I thank Dr. Yaakov Stern for his most temperate response, he is mistaken in thinking that my letter rejected the notion that God punishes Israel for its sins. Nevertheless, in Tanach, when particular calamities are identified as punishments for particular misdeeds, the individual making these claims is usually a person of prophetic stature, and the claims are usually the result of a prophetic experience. Since we do not have such individuals or such experiences today, my view is that we should not attempt to make such claims, especially when they tend to portray God as being capricious, vindictive, and petty.

David Fass

Highland Park, NJ






Historical Self-Hate


         Perhaps it’s more than coincidental that Ben Shapiro’s perceptive op-ed “Jewish Birth No Shield for Anti-Israel Views” appeared in the August 4 issue of The Jewish Press – the day after Tisha b’Av. While Mr. Shapiro vividly illustrates how Jewish self-hatred can be manifested against the state of Israel, the events surrounding the destruction of the Second Temple in 69-70 C.E. lend another dimension to his thoughts.
         Though the conduct of the Roman war against the Jews transpired under the ultimate leadership of Titus Flavius Vaspasianus, son of Emperor Vespasian, Titus’s chief of staff, Tiberius Julius Alexander II – who may have directly supervised military operations against the Jews – was himself a Jew. According to the website livius.org, Alexander II, “belonged to one of the most influential families in the Roman East, a family that stood in three cultural traditions: Jewish, Greek, and Roman. They had the status of Roman knights. Where the elder Alexander had been able to combine Judaism and a Graeco-Roman attitude, his son had to make a choice. He chose Rome.”
         Alas, Alexander’s actions during “The Jewish War” should not have been unexpected. Two years before the destruction of the Second Temple, Alexander, as prefect of Egypt, commanded the Third and Twenty-Second Roman Legions. According to Flavius Josephus, Alexander instructed his legions to punish the Jewish inhabitants of the Egyptian city of Alexandria, in order to assuage the rising animosity and jealousy of their Greek neighbors, and to suppress increasing Jewish nationalism, unity, and self-assertion. Alexander’s two legions indiscriminately slaughtered some 50,000 Jews – men, women, and children – his troops only ceasing their brutality when the surviving Alexandrian Jews begged him for mercy.
        Considering his upbringing, and the moral decision he made in aligning himself with Rome, it’s obvious that Alexander never identified with the Jewish people, to begin with. His example, albeit terrible and extreme, suggests that the term “Jewish self-hatred” may actually be a misnomer. In reality, such Jews do not hate themselves, for they do not see themselves as Jews. Taking their identity and beliefs from a value system in which they themselves stand condemned, it is really other Jews they are arrayed against.
         In this – the example of Alexander II, and the commemoration of Tisha b’Av – there may lie a lesson. Not only was the Beit Hamikdash destroyed because of sinat chinam but perhaps also because of something less dramatic yet ultimately far more insidious: Deliberate forgetfulness.
         May we redeem and sustain ourselves through remembrance, and may our people, especially now, stand united.

Michael G. Moskow

(Via E-Mail)