Flickering Light

As a former fundamentalist Protestant I extend kudos to Ben Noach Roy Neal Grissom, who touched on many significant issues in his Oct. 3 letter to the editor.

Here’s a news flash – Torah isn’t politically correct. What is this insanity of Orthodox Jews who are registered Democrats? The Democratic party – that left-leaning tower of pseudo virtue; a party that proudly supports abortion, gay marriage, etc. Last year I worked at the polls for the first time and saw the registration list. Of the 100 or so Orthodox Jews I know in my polling precinct, only five were registered as Republicans and none as Independents.

And then there are all those museums that claim to be devoted to Judaism, Jewish history, Jewish life, and so forth. But many of these are really (or also) devoted to ‘tolerance,’ multi-culturalism, etc. There are Jews who are destitute, shuls with no Torah scrolls, and soldiers and security guards without bulletproof vests in Israel. Yet there are a lot of Jews, some of them Orthodox, who are giving money to support these museums. And, sad to say, they are proud of themselves. It makes me sick.

Finally, regarding the Bnei Noach: In my 10 years of Jewish life I have never heard any rabbi stress from any pulpit our obligation to teach the Seven Laws of Noach. In fact, I have heard the Bnei Noach spoken of only once, at a Shabbos table in an Orthodox home with liberal, intellectual pretenses. The attitude of those at the table was benign amusement at what they felt was a rather quixotic movement.

We have failed, and are failing, in our responsibility to be ‘a light unto the nations.’ We can and must do better. When I was an Evangelical Protestant we use to talk about the problem of ‘bless me clubs’ – people who essentially prayed that G-d would bless them, their family, their friends, and the people in their church. Oh, they wanted others to be blessed as well, but never lifted a finger or prayed for it to happen. In essence they wanted their own little club:
G-d and themselves.

I’m afraid that Judaism too has its “bless me clubs.” Their prayer seems to be, “Bless my family, my friends, my shul – and don’t bother me with the rest.”

I’ve been a Roman Catholic, an agnostic, and an Evangelical Protestant. I can tell you that there are vast numbers of people who would eagerly become Bnei Noach, and some who would convert to Judaism (yes, I mean Orthodox Judaism) if they knew what it was about and that it were possible. But then we would have to enlarge our tents and our little club would not be so exclusive.

I hope that those who read this letter will open their eyes and hearts a little to the vast potential we have in this new year. The potential to shift American culture back toward traditional values by voting for conservative candidates, to prioritize Jewish funding, and to be “a light unto the nations.”

Chavah bat-Avraham
(Via E-Mail)

Talking Tashlich (I)

Mr. David Love (Letters, Oct. 3) laments the lack of attendance at the Tashlich ritual since, in his opinion, it offers an opportunity for social interaction. In fact the Aruch Hashulchan, in Hilchos Rosh Hashana, states that it is preferable to avoid the Tashlich ritual entirely since it leads to prohibited social mingling.

Yitzchok Lieberman
Brooklyn, NY

Talking Tashlich (II)

You say that it was “a twenty-year hiatus” since your last visit to Queens for Tashlich, Mr. Love. And yet you express surprise at the change in “scenery” that greeted you on Rosh Hashanah afternoon. Unless you’ve been stranded on a far-away island, you must know that within that substantial time frame there was much going on – much that affected us individually and as a whole.

Let me explain. While I do recall looking forward to Tashlich in my youth – or, to be truthful, to the latest in fashion, gossip, and to catching the eye of that cute guy – I somehow fail to remember feeling remorseful for the past year’s misdeeds, the tears threatening to spill, or the beseeching recital of the meaningful words in my Machzor that were composed and assembled centuries ago for this soul-searching occasion.

But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone. Its lessons, though, have served to carry us baby boomers to a higher plateau – so necessary to fight the temptations that surround us in this increasingly decadent world.

Ahh … the innocence of a bygone era leaves us filled to the brim with nostalgia for the ‘good old days,’ along with a strengthened resolve to fight the ever-present yetzer hara – and to keep our own children from getting mired in its snares.

Tashlich is not about standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by. Nor was it instituted as a shidduch social event. Rather, it is an exalted opportunity to connect with our Maker and to cleanse ourselves spiritually before the day of reckoning. Somewhat of a challenging task, in view of the physical (gashmius) enticements that beckon to us from all directions.

That rebbe you mention in your letter, Mr. Love, is on to something. And you can bet he isn’t the only one. Today’s tzores (troubles) awaken us to the reality that our Father in Heaven is the One to turn to. A social gathering is hardly conducive to such solemn supplication.

Find a remote spot by the edge of a lake – a stream, a deserted stretch of beach – and allow yourself to contemplate the natural wonders of our Creator. Let humility and reverence wash over you. Those who’ve missed the opportunity to get in touch with their spiritual selves via this age-old lofty custom – take heart. You have till Hoshana Rabba to tune in, to hear the late autumn wind whistle its melancholy tune to your soul. Do let the sun catch you crying. It
will warm your heart.

Rachel Weiss
(Via E-Mail)

Big Bad Bush

The Bush/Cheney team constitutes a danger to the U.S. For years after he leaves office, President Bush will continue to negatively impact our future with consequences that defy comprehension. Bush’s childish beliefs that the realities of the world should be defined by him alone have – and will – cost America dearly.

Bush’s reasons for invading Iraq are now different from what they were during his State of the Union address, and he would have us believe that things are going well over there. His sole concern is that the wealthy are not rich enough; providing tax cuts to the wealthiest is his definition of acting righteously.

America was the leader of the world. Under Bush, the U.S. is a feared superpower that appears to be a rogue nation. We are defined as a selfish oil-grabbing aggressor interested only in the spoils of Iraq. Reliable, dependable and faithful allies no longer trust America. We have made ourselves outcasts in a world we once led.

Edward Horn
Baldwin, NY

Praise For Community

One of the things a Jew must do is be grateful for what Hashem has given him or her. I just wanted to write this letter to sing the praises of the Jewish community of Dallas, Texas.

My husband and I have been warmly welcomed by this community. There are such lovely people here, and such wonderful organizations. We have the Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA) which reaches and teaches no matter what your level. I’ve been taking classes through them for some time, and on a busy erev Shabbos Shuva one of my teachers took the time and trouble to call to see how we were doing and to offer his best wishes for the yomim
tovim. Often, as I take my lunchtime walk around one of the frum neighborhoods where I work, a rabbi will be passing in his car and slow down and even toot his horn to make sure I see that he is greeting me. (It’s very rare around here to hear anyone honking a horn!)

Some of the members of the community live in modest apartments; others live in grand, opulent homes. There is one lady of my acquaintance who lives in a breathtakingly beautiful home, and yet she is so down to earth. There is no arrogance about her at all. She attends the same classes I do. She and her husband are raising beautiful children, and I’m sure that has everything to do with the good middos of the parents.

One of our Dallas rabbis, Aryeh Rodin, graces the pages of The Jewish Press with his columns. We are so fortunate to have him here. He is a beacon of light that shines from here throughout the Torah world.

May this community continue to grow and prosper.

Phyllis M. LaVietes
DeSoto, TX

Sorry For The Oversight

Re ‘Sixty Years Since the March of the Rabbis on Washington’ (Jewish Press, Oct. 10):

Not to take any luster away from Rabbi Eliezer Silver, but the sponsor and leader of the delegation that marched on Washington was Rabbi Israel Rosenberg (of blessed memory), who was at the time president of the Agudas HaRabbonim and who happened to have been my grandfather. There was no mention of his name in the article.

Alice Pekelner
Brooklyn, NY

Kosher Twice A Year?

It is with great interest that I read the ‘Machberes’ column dealing with the Satmar Bes Din allowing an eruv in Williamsburg. It is something I have a tremendous difficulty understanding.

How is it that an eruv is permissible and kosher for two Shabbosim during the year and invalid the rest of the year? If the eruv is kosher for these two weeks, it is obviously kosher for the
other 50 weeks. If anything, we should be more machmir before Hoshana Rabba.

Has Yiddishkeit become a religion of convenience?

Chag Sameach.

Melvin Heching
Monsey, NY

Making Enemies Over ‘The Passion’

I read with interest both Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s and Rabbi Tovia Singer’s op-ed pieces on Mel
Gibson’s movie ‘The Passion’ (Jewish Press, Sept. 26). They both agree that the chances of an
explosion of anti-Semitism in America is an unlikely result of the film, though it seems that
Rabbi Singer is focusing on the possible reaction in Europe while Rabbi Lapin feels that the Jewish backlash against the movie risks alienating and causing a rift with the American Christian community, possibly leading to less of a welcome in this land and less support of Israel from them.

While I agree with Rabbi Singer that anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe, I strongly feel that Rabbi Lapin’s scenario is a likely one in this country, and wonder how Rabbi Singer
would answer these questions:

1) Rabbi Singer implies that in the Mel Gibson film, “the Jews get all the credit for committing deicide.” I have read many articles about the film from people who have actually seen it, but I never learned this. He also expressed hope that the film not show Jews screaming “His blood
be on us and on our children” or “there will be celebrations on the streets of Ramallah.” Again, my understanding is that this line was cut from the film. Why raise hypothetical inflammatory

2) If the issue is Europe, why are American Jewish groups defaming Mel Gibson in American
papers like The New York Times? Perhaps if he had been approached with respect rather than assault, with an assurance that only European distribution was the issue, he might have worked with the Jewish community. But self-proclaimed representatives of the Jewish community are working on getting the movie stopped from distribution in this country, not abroad, and I’m afraid may be making enemies in this country by their strong-arm tactics.

3) Rabbi Singer has correctly pinpointed the location of today’s anti-Semitism in post-Christian secular Europe and the radical Islamist world. Does he really think that those anti-Semites are not already aware of the anti-Semitic interpretations of the Gospels along with the
“Protocols of the Elders of Zion?” 

4) Most religious Christians put even yeshiva students, let alone uneducated Jews, to shame
with their knowledge of the Bible. Why are we acting as if they would not know what the Gospels say without a movie to inform them?

5) Rabbi Singer also correctly points out that the Catholic Church in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) “changed the way the Roman Catholic Church officially views the Jewish people” and “declared that the Jews, as a nation, are not culpable for the crucifixion of Jesus.” But what he left out is that the Church did not renounce or rewrite the Gospels. He appears to be confusing “scholarly” analysis of the Gospels by academicians with the actual words that remain in the Bibles found in every Christian’s home and most hotel rooms.

6) Why did organizations like the ADL give approval to and not protest movies like the just
released “The Gospel of John” which has the most anti-Jewish remarks of any of the Gospels while making such a fuss about the Passion, which I understand never quotes any of those incendiary lines? As Rabbi Singer states, “As far as the Book of John is concerned, it is the Jews who bare the sole responsibility for murdering Jesus.” Has Rabbi Singer also protested this film, which is in English and features major actors? Why only protest Mel Gibson’s film, which is in Aramaic and Latin and which at one point Gibson was planning to release without subtitles?

7) Rabbi Singer suggests that if Mr. Gibson disagreed with his father’s remarks he would say
so. But don’t Christians revere the Ten Commandments – including the one that says “Honor your father and your mother? – and aren’t they the ones fighting to keep them in public view
while Jewish organizations are fighting to remove them?

8) It is as insulting to say that American Christians care less about what happened to Jesus
3,000 years ago than what happened two years ago to the World Trade Center as it would be to say that Jews don’t care about what happened thousands of years ago to our forefathers. I bet Rabbi Singer cares, but he didn?t realize when he wrote that how patronizing and insulting it sounds.

I share Rabbi Singer’s concern for European Jewry, but I fail to see how causing ourselves to be hated in this country will help. And I can assure you, as an Orthodox Jew who talks to Christians regularly, that it is the attitude manifested by Rabbi Singer (and the groups maliciously criticizing Mel Gibson in the name of Judaism) that is responsible for creating the basis for a completely unnecessary backlash against Jews in our home, the United States of America.

Samuel Silver
Chairman, Toward Tradition
Atlanta, GA