Blame Tenet For Pollard

The revelation that CIA Director George Tenet offered questionable information to President Bush concerning Iraq and uranium brings to mind how strongly Tenet opposed President Clinton’s promise at the Wye River Conference to release Jonathan Pollard as a goodwill gesture to Israel.

At that time Tenet declared that he would resign his position if Clinton followed through. He misled his president then and has done the same a second time. Because of his misdirected concern, Jonathan Pollard remains an imprisoned man even unto this day.

Sidney A. Green
(Via E-Mail)

He Said, She Said

I am no fan of Ariel Sharon’s, but in all fairness I don’t know if the following statement in Rebbetzin Jungreis’s July 11 column is accurate: “Can it be that today this very same Sharon has labeled the very same land ‘Occupied Territory’ “?

I thought I recalled that when I first read Sharon’s statement in May, he was not referring to the Land but to the problems associated with the non-Israelis in it. Indeed, I just did an Internet search and this is what I found reported in late May: “But last Monday, Mr. Sharon told angry legislators from Likud: ‘You may not like the word, but what’s happening is occupation. Holding 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy.’ “

Yisrael Levi
(Via E-Mail)

Multiple Hashgachas

Re the question of multiple hashgachas on products (Letters, July 4 and 11):

I too recently inquired about the procedures employed, and found that there is usually only one agency that actually sends out a mashgiach. Although the second agency of the four on the product in question claimed to have a separate rabbi, I could not verify that from an independent source. In fact, both the agency whose symbol is imprinted on the product and the manufacturer denied having more than one rabbi. It seems that the product, which originally had a single hashgacha, just had a label slapped on it with three more hashgachas
– and of course there  was a sudden and significant price increase.

My question is, if there is only one agency that actually sends a mashgiach, and the rest just agree to use him, why do we need four hashgachas with such a huge markup? Isn’t it fraudulent to charge consumers for something they believe they’re getting, when in fact they’re not? Kosher food is expensive enough without the consumer having to pay extra for unnecessary and non-existent additional supervision.

Joseph Finkelstein
Brooklyn, NY

Political Brawl: Pro-Dear

Re the article on the Dear-Hikind political feud (“Dear, Hikind Both See Vindication in Judge’s Decision,” Jewish Press, July 11):

I have never been a fan of term limits. I believe that they unnecessarily restrict voter choice. What exactly is wrong with voters being able to vote for someone who has accumulated a record with which they agree? Think about it. The theory underlying term limits is the removal from consideration of someone who might otherwise be the voters’ choice.

Though I do not live in Noach Dear’s district, I support his attempt to run. Your article does not get into it, but there is some ambiguity in the term limits law which the courts could resolve in Dear’s favor. I am referring to the question of whether the term limits law, which requires an officeholder not to run for reelection for a “full term,” necessarily means for four years. Because of reapportionment, a “full term” can mean only two years – and if found to apply to his case, Dear would be allowed to run.

As reader Alan Weinberg pointed out last week in a letter to the editor, this issue is fraught with raw politics, as demonstrated by Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s efforts to keep Dear off the ballot in order to protect his prot?g?, Simcha Felder.

Gil Wechsler
(Via E-Mail)

Political Brawl: Pro-Hikind

While I cannot speak to why Assemblyman Dov Hikind and not Simcha Felder went to court to block Noach Dear’s efforts to get on the ballot in the upcoming City Council elections, Alan Weinberg’s criticisms are way off base. Not only is he being unfair in ascribing untoward motives to Mr. Hikind, he actually misses the central point in this dispute: The bottom line is that the law prohibits Mr. Dear from running and he should not be allowed to fool people by acting as if it doesn’t.

Craig Epstein
Brooklyn, NY

More On The Singles Dilemma

Many in the frum community oppose social interaction between single men and women, even for the purpose of finding a marriage partner. Some hold that socialization is halachically prohibited. Others feel that such behavior violates the spirit of the Torah. I’ve asked a variety of individuals to cite the halacha or responsa that documents these positions. My requests have met with intense and bitter anger, but no direct reply.

Recently I asked the owner of a kosher restaurant to sponsor a singles night. His initial reaction to this request was to glare at me. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he said ‘That’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think so.’ Upon my questioning him, he said that he didn’t think the kashruth organization that provides supervision to his restaurant would approve. He further predicted that sponsorship of singles programming would ruin his business. He quipped, ‘Jews have long memories. If I held a singles night, some married people would stop dining at the restaurant for as long as I owned it.’ He also predicted that his wife and daughters would face prejudice as a result of his sponsorship.

Keep in mind: the restaurant owner never said that his kashruth organization prohibits singles programming. Nor did he state that singles programming is a violation of halacha. He merely rejected sponsoring a singles night based upon what he perceived the kashruth administrator’s reaction would be and the effect he felt the programming would have on his business and family.

Unfortunately, his pessimistic predictions may be on target. An individual whose agency sponsored an after-work singles boat ride told me there was ‘negative comment’ about it and exclaimed, “I will never do that again.”

Ba’alei teshuvah, geirim and Modern Orthodox singles report having difficulty finding a suitable shidduch. Throughout the 20th century, American Jewish couples met at singles events. During that period, secular and religious organizations, synagogues, hotels and social service agencies sponsored a variety of singles activities including dinners, lectures and weekends. These events were successful, resulting in many Jewish marriages. Today, comparatively few singles events are held in the New York City area.

Robert Ness
Brooklyn, NY

More On Discrimination Against Ba’alei Teshuvah

Concerning the recent letters to the editor on ba’alei teshuvah and their feelings of rejection in the shidduch scene, I think your readers would enjoy the words of the Maharsha on Baba Metzia Daf 58b. The Mishna says: “If someone is a ba’al teshuvah, you should not remind him of his former deeds. If he is the son of a convert, you shouldn’t remind him of his father’s past.”

The Maharsha asks why the Mishna mentioned the case of the son of a convert and not the convert himself. He answers by saying that there is no prohibition against hurting a convert by reminding him of his past because there was never anything shameful that he did. He adds that the convert is actually better than the ‘born Jew’ in that he made a complete turnabout from his past to become a Jew. He therefore is not hurt about something which he had no control over. For the son of a convert, however, to hear people disparage his father is quite hurtful.

The Maharsha adds that it is hurtful to remind a ba’al teshuvah of his past inasmuch as he was commanded (in the mitzvot) and he sinned. The Maharsha is referring to FFBs who went off the derech (path) and later repented. The definition of ba’al teshuvah today has changed from the time of the Gemara, and our present-day ba’alei teshuvah, having never knowingly sinned because they were brought up by non-religious parents, have nothing to be ashamed of. Being
a ba’al teshuvah is a badge of honor that one should wear proudly.

Unfortunately, as attested to by some of the letters you’ve published, certain elements in the frum world have still not accepted ba’alei teshuvah. Most of the letters have addressed the shidduch scene, but I know of at least one case where an assistant rebbe in a yeshiva who wanted to be a rebbe was told by the rosh yeshiva himself that he couldn’t be considered because he, the assistant rebbe, was a ba’al teshuvah! As we approach the Three Weeks, it behooves us to ask ourselves how we expect the beis hamikdash to be built when the cause of its destruction – sinas chinam – still plagues us.

(Rabbi) Mordechai Bulua
(Via E-Mail)

Thanks For Points (I)

On behalf of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, I would like to thank you for your very generous Points for Education program. We have been able to purchase wonderful ArtScroll books for our ever-expanding school library. We greatly appreciate The Jewish Press’s commitment to Torah education.

We look forward to participating in your fabulous program next year.

Janet Eisenberg
Torah Academy of
Greater Philadelphia

Thanks (II)

It has been a pleasure participating in the ‘Points for Education’ program. Bruriah High School has been the recipient of a large amount of ArtScroll gift certificates as well as Davka software from this program. Our library is proud of its Judaica collection, and The Jewish Press has helped give it a boost. We look forward to participating again next year.

Chava Goldstone
School Librarian
Bruriah High School
Elizabeth, NJ

Thanks (III)

Yeshiva Derech HaTorah extends its heartfelt thanks to The Jewish Press for its ‘Points for Education’ program. As they’ve done the past couple of years, our school’s students and parents once again made an all-out effort to collect as many points as possible, and as a result we’ve been able to stock our library and classrooms with seforim, books and Jewish software. This makes a tremendous difference for a yeshiva on a tight budget. Again, thanks for making
it possible – and you can be certain we will be enthusiastic participants in next year’s program.

Randi Sina
Women’s Organization
Yeshiva Derech HaTorah
Brooklyn, NY

Readers Respond To ‘Troubles In The Hood’

‘State Of Awe’

As someone who lived in Boro Park for more than thirty years (and is presently living in the
adjacent Ocean Parkway area), I’d like to respond to the two letters to the editor regarding people being unfriendly in the Boro Park-Flatbush area on Shabbos and weekdays (Jewish Press, July 4):.

It is difficult to say ‘Good Shabbos’ to hundreds of people passing you (compared to living
in a remote area where there are relatively few Yidden). Moreover, you would never make it home for the chulent if you stopped to greet each passerby.

But there is another reason why in frummer areas people don’t say ‘Good Shabbos.’ Simply
stated, in frummer crowds people are more focused on the holiness of Shabbos. I see many frum people (unlike many of the Modern Orthodox ilk) who are almost in a state of awe. When you are so focused on the holiness of Shabbos, you tend not to notice many things around you in the mundane physical world. In short, it’s not that they don’t want to be friendly to a fellow Yid. Rather, it’s that they are in an intense, uplifted state.

If one would see the kohen gadol doing the avoda in Yerushalayim, it would be easily
understood why he couldn’t be distracted with greeting everyone. The same is true of the lofty
spiritual people of Boro Park. They are no different than the kohen gadol in the bais hamikdash. Don’t forget, it’s these very same frum Yidden who help all in times of crisis, be it through Hatzoloh, Shomrim, Chaveirim, etc.

With love for all Yidden,

(Rabbi) Yaakov Silver
Brooklyn, NY

Tongues Cleaving

Re the letter written by the woman whose greetings of ‘Good Shabbos’ when she walked with
her family in Boro Park were ignored:

I myself have had that experience on Shabbos in Boro Park – to the point where I now do not say ‘Good Shabbos’ to anyone for fear of being ignored. I have several theories about why this unfortunate occurrence happens primarily in places like Boro Park as opposed to other neighborhoods.

As Rabbi David Hollander pointed out in his Jewish Press column (on Parashas Shelach), the
worst sin of all is hypocrisy. When people hold themselves as being more frum than others but do not necessarily behave in a manner that juxtaposes nicely with frumkeit, they can become ashamed of themselves in front of those Jews who do not hold themselves as being so frum to begin with.

In addition to the widespread incivility and rudeness that one encounters all too frequently in
a neighborhood like Boro Park, there is also the fact that many Boro Parkers have practically cut themselves off from their brethren in Eretz Yisrael, except for perhaps a peek here and there at the headlines of newspapers they will not purchase.

As the pasuk in Tehillim says, ‘If I forget thee O’ Jerusalem, let my right hand wither and let
my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.’ Being unable to mouth a ‘Good Shabbos’ to a fellow Jew is perhaps what is meant by one’s tongue clinging to the roof of one’s mouth.

Lawrence Kulak
Brooklyn, NY

The Army Can Teach Us A Thing Or Two

The letters by Rochel Frankel and Hindy Leibowitz about how so-called frum Jews often
ignore others and do not even respond when greeted on Shabbos or Yom Tov raise an issue that I have been concerned with for many years. How can anyone who considers himself or herself an observant Jew not greet others warmly? After all, Pirkei Avos (1:15) says that we are to receive everyone with a “saiver ponim yafos (cheerful countenance).” Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch says this means that our conduct with and approach to all persons should be so genuinely friendly that they will be convinced we are kindly disposed towards them and ready to do all the good that is reasonably possible to do for them.

In Pirkei Avos (4:20) there is the statement, “Rabbi Masya ben Charash said, “Initiate a greeting to every person.” Given this, one would expect that when two observant Jews encounter each other there would be a “race” between them to see who could greet the other first. Instead, we find that one party often ignores the “Good Shabbos” that the other person has proffered.

It is worth pointing our that both statements in Pirkei Avos referred to above use the terminology “kol odom (every person),” not every Jew. Thus one is also required to greet gentiles in a friendly matter. This is most important, since the Jewish nation is supposed to serve as a light unto the other nations and teach them the truth. How can we do this, if we walk by people without even acknowledging their existence?

A few years ago I was a visiting professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how I was greeted. “Good morning, Sir.” “Good afternoon, Sir.” “How are you today, Sir?” were the standard. And by the way, these sorts of greetings were not limited to the cadets. The civilian employees associated with West Point also greeted me in a friendly way, and I constantly was referred to as “Sir.” Many, many times when I got to the door of a building, the person in front of me or behind me would step ahead, open and hold the door and then greet me as I walked into the building. Unfortunately, this is not the standard that we find among observant Jews. To the contrary, in addition to not being greeted, I have often had someone younger than me push in front of me while entering shul.

It seems that those associated with West Point are fulfilling the precepts of Pirkei Avos to a
much larger extent than many who consider themselves meticulously observant of all mitzvos.
Perhaps what we need a program whereby every observant Jew is required to spend a few weeks at West Point learning how to greet others!

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ

Concrete Measures Needed

The appearance of the letters from Rochel Frankel and Hindy Leibowitz was very timely, as
we are now entering the Three Weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. Any school child will tell you that the main reason was the lack of love and caring between Jews.

We learn in Pirkei Avos: Shamai said: “Greet every person with a friendly face.” The
commentators do not say that the word “every” refers only to chassidish people on your block, or only to people who daven in a yeshivish minyan, or only to the Young Israel crowd, or only to Sephardim, or only the people you recognize from ShopRite, or only the people who went to your summer camp in 1966, or only marrieds, or only people who ride bicycles, or only those who don’t ride bicycles…. okay, you get the drift. It says every person.

There may be plenty of rationalizations, but that’s all they are. Be friendly to everyone. That is
the Jewish thing.

I live in Brooklyn and, unfortunately, can well identify with the sad experiences of the two letter writers. What a stark difference when I visit my family and friends in Baltimore, where I am truly a stranger. When I walk there on Shabbos, every single person – man, woman, child, ba’al teshuvah, yeshivish, chassidish – will make eye contact and say ‘Good Shabbos.’ Once in shul, every person will acknowledge my presence and find out who I am and if I need a place to stay or a meal. The feeling of genuine interest, kinship, kindness, and openness is palpable. It’s cataclysmic!

I would like to begin a grass-roots movement, to be called Am Echad, by which we Brooklynites undertake to personally rectify this terrible situation, one person at a time, one block at a time, one shul at a time, one rabbi at a time, and one school at a time. Every person and family can undertake to do one brave action against the tide, such as saying ‘Good Shabbos’ to everyone on the street no matter how foolish we feel; warmly greeting new neighbors, even if they are not ‘our type’; and teaching our children that we are all one people in spite of our differences.

I would like to see classes in ahavas Yisrael become part of the school curriculum, and
rabbanim of all types of shuls give shiurim on this topic to their congregants, just as they do on
shmiras halashon.

If anyone is interested in starting such a project for his or her block or neighborhood, please
contact me at

Looking forward to the geula as we reach out to our fellow Jews,

Chaya Chava Shulman
Brooklyn, NY

Defending The Dor Hamidbar

The provocative remarks by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his Jewish Press column of June 27
demonstrate the ignorance and irresponsibility that plague this generation.

The victims he picked on are none other than the maapilim, the determined group in the desert
who were ready to risk their lives in attempting to ascend to the Holy Land. Even if they were not to succeed in their mission, they would be content to be buried in sacred ground as explained at length by the Gaon R. N.J. Berlin of Volozhin in his commentary on the Torah.

Let us quote a view on this matter by the first chief rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish community of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, the Gaon Rabbi Joseph Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt?l. He once happened to be present when some scholars were reviewing the chapter of the meraglim. The rabbi asked them, ‘How do you explain the unbelievable sin of speaking badly of the jewel of the Jewish people, their sacred Holy Land, and whose consequences were a ‘crying and weeping for all generations’ until the arrival of the true redeemer?’

The rabbi answered, ‘Today I see what prompted the meraglim. They foresaw that thousands of years later the Land of Israel would be under the reins of the secular Zionists who disrespect everything which is holy to us. They then decided that it would be better to live and die in the desert than have the Holy Land fall into the hands of wicked people. They were published so badly because human beings should never interfere with G-d’s decrees, even if they are beyond human comprehension.’

Rabbi Riskin’s terminology helps us understand somewhat a puzzling Rashi at the beginning of Parashat Korach, which follows the chapter of the meraglim. Rashi makes a statement which departs from his usual style of ‘merely’ explaining the text itself, writing that ‘this parasha is sufficiently explained in the Midrash Tanchuma.’ Rashi may have foreseen a time when certain religious leaders would raise their voices with unforgivable insults against the holy dor hamidbar, which despite all its shortcomings was the greatest generation in Jewish history.

At this point I’d like to shed light on the arrangement of Parashat Chukas after the two preceding ones, Shelach and Korach. It has been told about a traveling maggid who happened to arrive in a town on erev Shabbos Korach. He went to the local shul and couldn’t help observing the unethical behavior of the people. Talking, shouting, insulting was the order of the day. At the morning service the maggid asked to deliver a sermon. This was the right moment for the maggid to speak up. After all, it was the Shabbos of Korach, the rebel who enticed his followers against the leader and prophet of their generation, Moshe Rabbeinu. The maggid drew a picture of what happens to people of that type and their punishment in the end.

On the following Shabbos of Parashas Chukas, the maggid visited again and to his surprise he witnessed a complete change in the behavior of the congregants. No talking, shouting or insults were heard. A very dignified Shabbos indeed. When the maggid got up to speak, he didn’t
have enough words to express his pleasant surprise. What a change, that in only a week’s time
this disgraceful mob had transformed themselves into such a venerable crowd.

How do we explain this? The answer lies in the first sentence of the parasha, ‘This is the Law
of the Torah.’ ‘Chok’ is a category of laws whose reason has not been revealed. However, the
mysterious power of Torah can change them from bad to good, purify the tainted, bring forth light from the darkness and raise the sunken from the deepest depth to the greatest heights.

Let us drink from the continuous flow of Hashem’s Torah, and not G-d forbid from polluted
waters. And finally, let us be close to those whom the Torah has been handed down from Sinai, namely the responsible guardians from generation to generation.

(Rabbi) Jacob Eisemann
Elizabeth, NJ