Latest update: July 2nd, 2013
Chanukah And Children (I)
In “Chanukah: Not Just a Children’s Holiday” (front-page essay, Dec. 16), Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb notes that because the emphasis is put on children, adults can feel left out in celebrating Chanukah. It was never intended to be so, of course; all are supposed to celebrate.
Rabbi Weinreb’s point can also be made about the Pesach Seder. Again, it’s for all to celebrate. So why is there an emphasis on children’s participation? For the same reason so much of the Chanukah celebration is geared toward children: to educate them from a young age.
Dr. Elie Feuerwerker
Highland Park, NJ
Chanukah And Children (II)
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is obviously correct in observing that among the general Jewish public, Chanukah is widely perceived as a children’s holiday. However, while he helpfully points to lessons grownups can glean from the Yom Tov, he chose not to focus on why Chanukah has come to be thought of as a children’s holiday.
He did point to “American culture” as one possible reason. I’m sure he was referring to the gift-giving tradition among Christians at Christmas. And it is unfortunate that so many of us have come to mimic our non-Jewish neighbors in this regard.
Also, there are few restrictions on this Yom Tov that emphasize its special status as is the case with Pesach, Sukkot and Shavuot. While in many respects the mitzvot of Seder, matzah, lulav, esrog and sukkah appeal to children more than adults in terms of fascination, the idea of restrictions is still there, reminding all of the serious and spiritual nature of those occasions.
I read with great interest last week’s news story about Magen David Adom’s reported plan to cease operating ambulances adorned with the Star of David in the West Bank. I recall that several months ago there were reports that MDA was thinking about ending its use of the Star of David as an emblem on some of its ambulances as the price of its membership in the International Red Cross and because of opposition from Arab states – something that was heatedly denied at the time by MDA spokesmen.
Now a newspaper like Haaretz has seemingly confirmed that MDA indeed has promised to make the above-mentioned changes. It would be an outrage if the Star of David were abandoned, either directly or indirectly.
Chazal And Science
In his Dec. 2 letter to the editor, Dr. Yaakov Stern stated “whoever believes the Talmud erred in scientific matters” is guilty of heresy. Rishonim and Achronim disagreed over issues and hashkafa. It is unfortunate, therefore, when someone today, whose views are based on some Rishonim and Achronim declares those who hold opposing views – based on other Rishonim and Achronim – to be heretics.
We see in the Gemara that Chazal often turned to “experts of the day” when they did not have the needed knowledge. Two examples: R’ Yochanan, afflicted with scurvy of the gums, turned to a wise non-Jewish woman for a cure. He then taught it to his students (Avodah Zarah 28a). Rav spent 18 months living with a cattle breeder to understand which animal defects are temporary and which are permanent (Sanhedrin 5b). Of course, the “experts and scientists” were using the knowledge of their day, which did contain errors.
Poskim today often turn to modern scientists before issuing a psak in related areas rather than using Talmudic science.
I have a question for those who say Chazal could not have erred with regard to science: Do they use a doctor whose training is based on modern science – or do they use someone whose medical practice is based on the medical knowledge of the Talmud?
Gingrich And The Palestinians
Israeli Leaders Should Learn From Newt
Newt Gingrich did something very unusual for a public figure. He told the truth about one of the great hoaxes of history. He said the Palestinians are not a real people. They are simply Arabs who migrated to the Jewish homeland for a better life. He also said the peace process is a delusion because the Palestinians do not accept Israel’s right to exist.
In contrast to Gingrich’s refreshing candor, every recent Israeli prime minister has accepted the lie of a Palestinian people and nation that never existed. They have subsidized, appeased and legitimized Israel’s mortal enemies who have no unique history, religion, culture, appearance or language to merit their own country on Jewish land and no right to call themselves Palestinians. Jews living in the British Mandate of Palestine were the real Palestinians before Israel was reestablished in 1948.
These historical facts are never mentioned by Israel’s prime ministers, whose first priority seems to be pandering to the U.S. State Department, The New York Times and European anti-Semites.
New York, NY
Newt Gingrich’s remarks about the Palestinians and history were 100 percent accurate. In the Six-Day War, Israel captured Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. But those territories weren’t captured from Yasir Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas. They were captured from Jordan’s King Hussein.
I can’t help but wonder why all these Palestinians suddenly discovered their national identity after Israel won the war. The truth is that “Palestine” is no more real than Shangri-La. The first time the name was used was in 70 AD, when the Romans committed genocide against the Jews, destroyed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. From then on, the Romans promised, it would be known as Palestine. The name was derived from the Philistines, a people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier. It was a way for the Romans to add insult to injury. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, but that had even less staying power.
Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in 1867, and published his impressions in Innocents Abroad. He described a forlorn place devoid of both vegetation and human population: “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds…a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route….hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
Palestine has never existed – before or since – as an autonomous entity. The vast majority of Arabs came to the area after the early Zionist pioneers began draining malaria-infested swamps and plowing the land. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.
It is important to note that there was a Jewish population in Palestine continuously. Even after the Jewish state was ended by the Romans, Jewish communities continued to exist. All of the successor governments tried to eliminate the Jews at one time or another, but none succeeded, as numerous accounts testify. When the Zionists started the modern “return” to Eretz Yisrael in the nineteenth century, they were joining Jews who never left.
So what’s the solution to the Middle East conflict? Frankly, I don’t think there is a man-made solution. But if there is one, it needs to begin with truth. Pretending will only lead to more chaos. Placing a 5,000-year-old birthright – backed by overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence – on equal terms with illegitimate claims and wishes gives diplomacy and peacekeeping a bad name. I applaud Newt Gingrich’s moral courage.
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