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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Letters To The Editor

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An Agunah’s Tribulations

I was absolutely floored by the grace and dignity found in every word of Batya Israel’s op-ed article on her tribulations as an agunah (“The Torah Never Intended a Get to Be a Weapon,” Jan. 3).

If her heartbreaking story won’t change the fossilized mindset of those who refuse to consider the need for rabbinical leaders to once and for all put aside their petty differences and come together to formulate some way out of this mess, then I fear noting ever will.

Selma Goldstein
(Via E-Mail)

 

FDR And Religion

I liked Rabbi Steven Pruzansky’s “Religion in America, Past and Present” (front-page essay, Jan. 3), especially his quotation of President Franklin Roosevelt’s announcement of the D-Day invasion and of Roosevelt’s prayer to God on that vital and pivotal occasion.

So many Americans lost their lives in the D-Day battle. The president referred to them as “Our sons, the pride of our nation.”

Many years ago my grandfather Samuel Solomon, who was a barber, told one of his customers about that my growing interest in the Jewish religion. The customer, a World War II veteran, gave my grandfather a Bible for me that had been used by American Jewish servicemen during the war.

In the endpapers there was the following message, dated March 6, 1941:

“As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”

It was signed by President Roosevelt.

Reuven (Raymond) Solomon
(Via E-Mail)

 

More On Chazal And Science

Re the recent discussion in The Jewish Press on Rabbi Moshe Meiselman’s views concerning science-related statements by Chazal:

It seems whenever there is an apparent contradiction between Torah and science, some people automatically question the veracity of the Torah. But is science always right? Hardly.

There are ample revisions, errors and even outright fraud in science for one to first investigate the accuracy of science.

One example of how wrong science can sometimes be is the discovery of “dark energy.” After decades of being certain that the universe’s expansion was slowing down, scientists in the 1990s discovered it was speeding up. They named this outward force dark energy. The expansion of the universe is the foundation of cosmological physics, yet no one has any idea what dark energy is or whether it even exists.

Another example is the long-held belief that radioactive decay is constant. This notion has been thrown into turmoil by experiments in 2006 by Professor Claus Rolfs of Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany. Prof. Rolfs showed that radioactive decay can be greatly accelerated under certain conditions. That means a fossil dated as being millions of years old could conceivably be only thousands of years old.

One of the numerous cases of scientific fraud is that of Dr. Yoshitaka Fujii, a Japanese researcher in anesthesiology who held an M.D. degree. In 2012 it was discovered he fabricated data in some 172 scientific papers. Obviously, science, like any other field, has its share of bad apples.

The point is that to reflexively doubt the Torah when it disagrees with science is plain and simple bias. An honest search for the truth would dictate, at the very least, equal scrutiny of science. There are enough discrepancies between scientific dogma and scientific facts for one to thoroughly investigate science before questioning the Torah.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Editor’s Note: Mr. Greenberger is the author of The V-Bang: How the Universe Began (Cambridge International Science Publishing).

 

The Post’s Shameful Headline

A family mourns today. A community mourns today. And I, as a New Yorker, mourn today.

I do not mourn for a man I did not know. I mourn for the family he leaves behind.

I mourn for the children who will grow up not only with the knowledge that their father was brutally murdered amid suffering and degradation, but with the shame and pain of knowing that people were able to treat his death lightly.

I mourn for the generations of human beings those children will bear who will be scarred by the callousness of a newspaper.

The New York Post’s irresponsible reporting, suggesting that the cold-blooded murderers of Menachem Stark did society a favor, encourages a callous attitude toward the value and sanctity of human life.

[See news story, page 3; op-ed article, page 6; editorial, page 7.]

The Post’s coverage alleged that Max Stark put his own greed ahead of the welfare of others, that he didn’t care what happened to anyone who got in his way as he pursued the almighty dollar.

But isn’t that just what the New York Post did with its shameful headline in a bid to sell newspapers?

I challenge all of us to rage against this insensitivity, not merely by letting the New York Post know you’re offended, but by determining not to fall into the same trap.

I challenge all of us to be sensitive to those who are suffering and not to pass judgment on them and say “they got what they deserved.”

Judgment is reserved for God, but if we want to play God let’s do it by emulating Him through forgiveness, compassion, and sensitivity.

Let’s show the world that the Post’s heartless attitude doesn’t accurately reflect what New Yorkers are made of. We are kind; we are sensitive; and we are not afraid to sacrifice some our own success for the benefit of others.

Shea Rubenstein
Brooklyn, NY

Editor’s Note: Mr. Rubenstein is executive vice president of the JCC of Marine Park.

 

Torah And Vegetarianism

This is an open letter to Professor Steven Plaut, in response to his December 27 op-ed article, “Judaism and Eating Meat: Letter to a Vegan Animal Rights Activist.””

As president emeritus of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), I assure you, Prof. Plaut, that we are not telling you what to eat. We recognize that Jews have dietary choices. But we believe these choices should be made after considering the inconsistencies between animal-based diets and agriculture and basic Jewish teachings.

Your arguments about health are way off base. There are many articles in respected peer-reviewed medical journals indicating the negative health effects of animal-based diets.

We believe Jews should (should, not must) be vegetarians (and preferably vegans) to be most consistent with Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, and helping hungry people.

We also believe that shifts to plant-based diets are important to help reduce the current widespread killer diseases that are afflicting so many Jews and to help avert a looming climate catastrophe and other potential environmental disasters.

Please note that the late Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel Shlomo Goren was a strict vegetarian (he became one after visiting a slaughterhouse), as are Shear Yashuv Cohen, former chief rabbi of Haifa; Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the UK; and David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland, among many other Orthodox Jews. So abstaining from eating meat is certainly not contrary to Jewish values.

You wrote, “The children of Israel ate quail while wondering through the Sinai wilderness.” The Torah did give permission for Jews to eat meat, but it was a reluctant permission according to Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook and others, and limited by many restrictions, which were an “implied reprimand,” according to Rav Kook, designed to keep alive Jewish teachings on reverence for life. According to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, “The dietary laws were designed to teach us compassion and lead us gently back to vegetarianism.”

You argue, “You [animal rights activists] would rather that millions of humans die of cancer than subject lab hamsters and monkeys to experimentation for the advance of science.” Actually, the best way to reduce cancer deaths is through shifts to plant-based diets. This was found by many studies, including the China/Cornell/Oxford study (called the “grande prix of epidemiology” by The New York Times), which showed cancer and other disease rates correlated to the amount of animal protein in the diet. Animal experiments have often led to misleading results since animals are so different from humans and because artificially induced diseases often are poor models for human diseases.

In conclusion, Prof. Plaut, I hope you will use your scholarly background to look further into the issues. If you do, I think you will find that plant-based diets are most consistent with Jewish values and have the potential to lead to a healthier, more compassionate, just, and environmentally sustainable world.

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.
(Via E-Mail)

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