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November 20, 2014 / 27 Heshvan, 5775
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Letters To The Editor

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Lying In State

I was horrified to learn that the casket of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died on Shabbos, lay in state all day Sunday outside the Knesset in Jerusalem.

In Jewish tradition, delaying burial is considered a grave dishonor to the deceased – the Torah insists that even the body of an executed criminal be buried before nightfall.

Lying in state is a non-Jewish practice that has no place in a Jewish state.

Martin D. Stern
Salford, England

Inspired By Neuberger

Kudos for yet another inspirational front-page essay by Roy Nueberger (“The Hidden Roots of Redemption,” Jan. 10).

Mr. Neuberger has a real knack for making the Torah and its prophecies come alive. After reading his articles I always look at the news stories of the day in a whole new light. I thank him for enlightening me and I especially thank The Jewish Press for giving him such an important platform.

Sheya Ettinger
(Via E-Mail)

New Jersey’s Jungle Politics

At the George Washington Bridge there are at least five lanes of traffic merging into just three, which means delays and backups there are inevitable. In traffic terminology, that constitutes a bottleneck.

But the liberal media are blaming New Jersey’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, and his aide, David Wildstein, for settling political scores by causing traffic slow-downs, as if they were the ones who designed the bridge and the roads leading up to it.

That is a vicious smear, which just goes to show you that politics is a vicious and dirty business in which anything goes and anyone can be targeted and considered fair game.

Clearly, when it comes to politics it’s a jungle out there, and the law of the jungle rules.

Harry Eisenberg
Glen Rock, NJ

Chazal And Science: The Debate Goes On

Reader Josh Greenberger’s comments regarding the Torah/science debate are contributory (Letters, Jan. 10) but beside the point.

Greenberger, in response to my letters asserting there are scientific errors in the Talmud, lists a number of instances where scientists presented fraudulent findings to advance their hypotheses. He may be correct – scoundrels abound in any field – but this has nothing to do with the issue at hand, which is whether the Talmud contains scientific errors.

The scientific issues that are in question include the shape of the earth, heliocentrism, the value of pi, spontaneous generation, and the length of the solar year. These are matters where all serious Torah and science students agree on the scientific facts. The only issue is whether the Talmudic sages had the correct science.

There are two Talmudic calculations for the solar year. One can make a weak case that the Amora Shmuel’s 365.25-day year is rounded off (despite the fact that almost all sources seem to treat it as exact). However, Rav Adda’s calculation of the year cannot logically be termed an approximation. While the length of Rav Adda’s year is in dispute, all the calculations are very specific. One example is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. If Rav Adda knew his calculation did not reflect reality, why didn’t he give the correct calculation?

As for the shape of the earth, Tosafos (Avodah Zarah 41a) states: “The world is agol. As it says in the Talmud Yerushalmi, Alexander the Macedonian climbed above until he could see the world as a ball and the sea as a platter, that is, the Ocean Sea that encompasses the entire world.” This comment is often cited as proof that the sages knew the world is round. That would be incorrect. Tosafos is merely saying the world’s covering is round, and that it sits atop the world and the sea, somewhat like a scoop of ice cream on a plate. Indeed, the Shevus Yaakov (3:20) writes that we cannot believe scientists in general, for the very reason that they hold the world is round, while the Talmud holds that it is flat!

The above are just two examples. Those who realize there are scientific errors in the Talmud may, upon being lectured that their approach is heresy, choose to abandon Judaism. What a tragedy it would be if we lose adherents because of a distorted theology.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway, NY

The Disappearing Wallenberg Street Sign

Raoul Wallenberg rescued tens of thousands Jews in Hungary. So it may surprise your readers to learn that the street sign at Jerusalem’s Rechov Wallenberg/Rechov Yaffo corner is chronically missing – it was gone for about a year until MK Marina Solodkin’s intervention led to the sign’s reappearance for Wallenberg’s centennial in 2012 (the municipality had declined multiple requests to replace it).

Unbelievably, the sign has been missing again for several months. An August letter to Mayor Nir Barkat did not bring any response. Neither did multiple complaints to the municipality ombudsman office, the state comptroller, director of the Sochnut and the Knesset public complaints committee.

The chronically “missing” street sign is especially troubling since Jerusalem has no streets named after the other “Wallenbergs” – those human beings who risked their livelihoods and their lives to rescue Jews.

Foreign Ministry bureaucrats have twice declined the suggestion that a plaque be placed in their building thanking Wallenberg and other diplomats for rescuing many Jews during the Holocaust. The Knesset similarly twice declined to honor three members of the first Knesset, Hillel Kook and his colleagues Samuel Merlin and Eri Jabotinsky, though it was their U.S.-based rescue committee’s activism that led to Wallenberg’s mission in Budapest, among other rescue-related activities.

The question concerning the regularly disappearing Wallenberg sign is why is this happening – and is it happening at anyone’s instruction? Are we trying to score points with Wallenberg’s abductors, the Russians?

Is it too much to ask that Mayor Barkat immediately have the street sign replaced by January 17, the 69th anniversary of Wallenberg’s abduction from Budapest by the Russians?

Larry Pfeffer
Jerusalem

Every Child A Gem

As a mother and grandmother, learning specialist and educational psychologist, michanechet, milamedet, and educator/administrator, I was touched but not surprised by Rabbi Eliyahu Safran’s Dec. 27 front-page essay, “The Disposable Student.”

There are several issues attached to the distressing and stressful situation of children being rejected by a yeshiva or day school; three main ones are: capability/training; funding; and community culture/values. Unfortunately, I cannot expound in detail on these here.

On “one leg”: Whether due to environment, social/family dynamics, etc., or more accurate diagnostic tests and advancements in neuropsychology, there has been a tremendous increase in bona fide learning challenges since the years when yeshivot accepted everyone with joy, and not only are teachers not properly trained to understand how children learn (and apply that understanding) and how to accommodate different learning, they are often working from inappropriate curricula and models, and individuals who are not educators are setting policy for education.

As for community culture and values, there are issues of stigma, status and prestige that prevent parents (often concerned about shidduch chances and family reputation in the community) and administrations (often with a vision of “class” beyond the classroom for their students and the parents) from making decisions that are best for children.

Another factor is specialization: a generation ago there may have been one big school for a community and that was it, and though parents were just grateful to have a Jewish school, it was often frustrating to parents who wanted a different approach for their children.

Now that there are, ke”h, ken yirbu, more children in our communities, it is possible to specialize according to subculture and/or academic emphases – “chanoch l’naar al pi darko.” Not every school is right for every child, and it is unrealistic and idealizing to think that yeshivot in the “good old days” could educate every child: if children had learning or behavioral or emotional challenges, they were usually punished or swept along, uneducated, miseducated, often with feelings of inadequacies and disenfranchisement for lack of ability to keep up. Though theoretically any school could educate any child, it would require a tremendous amount of funds for well-trained staff, enough staff for necessary ratios, supply and space accommodations, etc.

If an administration feels a child is “not a good fit” for a school, there are steps it can take: understand why it is not a good fit (are there challenges the school does not know how/wish to/is unable to handle?); help the family help the child and the school so that the child can fit, and/or help the family find a school that would be right for the child.

To simply toss out a child without helping to find an appropriate alternative learning situation is unkind, to say the least. It disenfranchises a Jewish child (and perhaps the family) and throws away a precious jewel.

This is a problem of the Jewish community on the whole. Since we are responsible for each other, we need to make sure that Jewish children are getting what they need – not just physically but also socially, spiritually, emotionally, and educationally. Kicking out a child does not help meet any of these needs. This should be a community issue that all rabbis of all walks and approaches address.

In the meantime, I offer my services to any families who are forced to home-school their children because schools have rejected them. I cannot help full-time with educating your children, but I can help with curriculum, addressing learning issues, etc. I also offer my services to schools who might like to help students with differences but do not know how. And I offer my services to rabbonim, who I hope will rise to the task to provide a network or framework or safety net so that all Jewish children can be educated with love and joy.

Not every school is right for every child, but every child is a gem that needs the right setting.

I can be reached at every1aGem@aol.com.

Nechamah Goldfarb
(Via E-Mail)

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