I really enjoyed reading “Fighting Carter: Memories Of 1980” (op-ed, Dec. 19). As a college activist, I particularly appreciated how it demonstrated that not everyone of my age group – and this was as true in 1980 as it is in 2003 – is necessarily a liberal.
We often picture in our minds young people at leftist demonstrations and their elders on the right side of the political divide. These stereotypes are false; today there are growing numbers of young people who are abandoning campus leftism to support both our president and the state of Israel. As a Hillel activist at City College, I know that not everyone in my school hates Bush and supports Arafat.
Like most Jews, I remain a Democrat in terms of party registration. But don’t let that
fool you. My family voted for Mayor Bloomberg, and we don’t intend to vote for Howard
Forest Hills, NY
Jimmy’s Lesson For Dr. Dean
Wonderful column by Larry Domnitch on his experiences campaigning against that soneh
Yisrael (enemy of Israel) Jimmy Carter.
I am confident that the American Jewish community will deliver the same message to
Howard Dean, should he emerge as the Democratic presidential nominee, that it did to
Carter 23 years ago. Not that I expect a majority of Jews to vote for a Republican (the
American Jewish community, especially the more secular among us, has, as we all know,
long since substituted allegiance to the Democratic party for adoration of the G-d of Israel),
but I believe that many Jews will follow the lead of the former Democratic mayor of New
York, Ed Koch, who has announced that he will vote for George W. Bush in 2004.
Democrats like Dr. Dean need to relearn the lesson learned by Jimmy Carter in 1980
– namely, that when someone running for president, whether a challenger or an incumbent, has raised enough red flags about how he views Israel and the Middle East, there are enough Jews out there who will put their interests as a people ahead of political ideology and party loyalty.
New York, NY
Invisible Bride (Continued)
Reader Barry Koppel last week complained about a recent “Machberes” column which
failed to include the kalah’s (bride’s) name in an item about a young man’s engagement to
“the daughter” of the Williamsburg Vishnitzer Rav.
I found Mr. Koppel’s comment very interesting, as I have made similar observations upon reading engagement notices in certain weekly publications (no, not The Jewish Press) where, except for details on the kalah’s yichus (pedigree), she is never dignified with a mention of her name. While it is important to maintain a high level of tzinius (modesty), it does seem a stretch to think that modesty is being violated if anything about her, including her name, is mentioned.
Your readers may have noticed that in some chassidish or “heimish” publications, the
faces of women are blurred or blacked out. I leave it to the editors of those publications to
determine how far one should go to insure tzinius. I don’t, however, think a mention of a
bride’s name violates anyone’s standard, especially since she was probably named for an
important and righteous relative (who, because of this practice of not including the bride’s
name, also remains anonymous).
Although the subject has not, to my knowledge, been covered in The Jewish Press, I feel
it worth the while of our community to at least consider revoking of semicha of Orthodox
rabbis who accept pulpits or positions in non-Orthodox institutions.
Regarding semicha, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, writing on the pasuk “ve’samachta es
yadcha a’lav” (when Moshe Rabeinu placed his hands on Yehoshua, parshas Pinchos 27:18)
explained that the reason for the leaning of the hands is unclear. Perhaps it was meant to
symbolize that Yehoshua should be attached to and subordinate himself to Moshe’s teachings for the rest of his life. This is the idea of semicha as conferred in subsequent generations, done not by the placing of hands but rather by calling the recipient ‘rabbi’ (Sanhedrin 13b) and based on the tradition that the recipient is to be subservient to his master (Darash Moshe, page 264, ArtScroll Publications).
It is clear that conferring semicha should not be solely based on passing a Yoreh Deah
exam, but also on a person’s yiras shomayim, etc. and the criteria described above. So, if
a semicha recipient of an Orthodox institution takes a Conservative pulpit and allows mixed
seating, driving to shul on Shabbos, using a microphone, etc., then he has broken the
allegiance he made to all those who signed his semicha. He can no longer be relied upon
Rav Aaron Soloveichik, zt”l, required that all prospective recipients of his semicha sign
a document pledging they would not accept a position without his prior approval. That was
an act of true emes. Rav Aaron was careful to protect the honor of the institution of semicha.
Semicha is not a license to practice Judaism according to one’s own whims, dictated by
political correctness or financial interests. It is a privilege, bestowed on those who, with
sincerity and humility, report to a Higher Authority.
Soldier Of Zion
The entire Jewish community should be in mourning for Howard Adelson, the longtime fighter for Jewish rights who has been taken from us.
First, we send our sincerest condolences to his family. Second, let us reflect upon the great doings of Dr. Adelson, a”h. He was a lover of Zion who stood steadfast against the treacherous act of appeasement called “Oslo,” correctly comparing it to another delusion
of “peace in our time” – Munich, which helped pave the way for the Holocaust and World
Dr. Adelson tirelessly used his pen and his mouth against modern day Hitlers and spoke
at several Jewish Defense Organization protests. He wrote of how JDO went directly to
Louisiana to fight David Duke. Not only did he rip the Nazi swine Duke to shreds (while
taking on the do-nothing Jewish Establishment for sitting on its hands), he encouraged
readers of his popular column in The Jewish Press to attend our anti-Duke protest meetings.
It was also Dr. Adelson who went head to head against Professor Leonard Jeffries and
was, in fact, the first to demand that Jeffries be fired. Dr. Adelson spoke at our anti-Jeffries
rallies and also spoke out loudly during the 1991 Crown Heights pogrom.
Most people may not understand what made Dr. Adelson tick. The answer is threefold: his love of Israel, his love of Jews, and his being a follower of the Zionist warrior Zev Jabotinsky. In fact, the last time I spoke with him was a month ago, when I was trying to locate the exact address of the training camp where Jabotinsky died suddenly in August 1940.
Let me conclude by quoting from the anthem written by Jabotinsky for his movement – a movement to which Dr. Adelson dedicated his life:
“Even in distress a Jew is a prince, no matter if a slave or a tramp.”
These are the words by which we remember Dr. Howard Adelson, lifelong soldier in the
army of Jabotinsky. May Hashem comfort Zion and all its mourners.
Jewish Defense Organization
Intermarriage American Style
When the Enlightenment began making its mark on Western European Jewry more than two centuries ago, the rabbinic leaders of the time, notably Rabbi Moshe Sofer, zt”l, the Chasam Sofer, attempted to combat the very dangerous and very short-sighted goals of the haskalah leaders.
Unfortunately, that secular movement succeeded in robbing many millions of Jews of their ancient heritage. Traditions that had survived horrible pogroms, and outlived the countless bloodbaths of Christian Europe, were lost to the pursuit of equality.
Then came the Holocaust, which proved with stunning finality that assimilation, far from stifling anti-Semitism, actually ignites it.
There is a very clear difference, however, between intermarriage in America and intermarriage in pre-Nazi Germany.
A Jew in Europe who was disillusioned with the hatred that his very existence inspired among his fellow citizens often intermarried in order to escape that hatred, which in many cases had preventing him from effectively assimilating. American Jews today, by contrast, are not confronted with anything close to that level of hatred, and intermarry for love, without any thought of escaping persecution. In all probability, most of these poor souls know less of our Torah than do their non-Jewish spouses.
Out top priority should be introducing Torah-true Judaism to those Jews who, despite being intermarried, still want to share the bond to our eternal heritage, to our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We must approach them and try to light the fire of teshuvah in their hearts. What will hopefully follow is either an amiable break-up or the conversion of a loving spouse (Shulchan Aruch 268:12).
Our people are experiencing a Holocaust of the spirit. In this case, however, we have it in our hearts and pocketbooks to do something about it.
Taken Aback By Editorial
I must admit to having been shockingly dismayed when I read that my Torah commentary in Toldot was considered “dismaying” and a “shocking affront” by The Jewish Press (editorial, Dec. 12).
In my commentary, I attempted to understand why our Patriarch Isaac initially chose to bestow the blessing-birthright on Esau, who, after all, had just taken two Hittite wives causing a “bitterness of spirit” to his father. I explained that I believe that the key is to be found in Isaac’s confrontation with Abimelech, King of the Philistines, a biblical narrative which interrupts the story of the blessings-birthright which is the main subject of parashat Toldot.
In this narrative, Father Isaac is exiled from Gerar, an area which is part of the promised borders of Israel and in which there had been guaranteed Hebrew settlement in previous treaties with both Abraham and Isaac. Moreover, both Abraham’s and Isaac’s wells are stopped up by Abimelech’s citizens. Hence my suggestion that Isaac felt that he had been humiliated by Abimelech; he now realized that the land of Israel which he loved would have to be defended by aggressive military might. And so he turns to the more aggressive Esau to receive the blessing-birthright.
Furthermore, with this interpretation I attempted to set the stage for Rebecca’s ruse, in which she demonstrates to Isaac that the “Torah-true” Jacob is capable of utilizing the “hands of Esau” to secure what is rightfully his, that he is not as “naive” as his father had thought. And, from this perspective we can now understand why when Isaac discovers what Jacob has done, instead of being angry, he exclaims, “And indeed, he shall be blessed.” He realized that Jacob too has the capacity to be aggressive, if need be.
Wherein lies my sin in this commentary? Is it that “I reduced cosmic matters to modern-day notions of nationalism”? Since when is defense of Israel by battle “modern-day notions of nationalism”? I thought the Holy Torah deems it a milchemet mitzvah.
Was I “intellectually presumptuous” by trying to understand Father Isaac’s motivation? If so, all the commentaries throughout the ages have been intellectually presumptuous. And, after all, I was only attempting to buttress the famous interpretation of the Malbim, who suggests that Isaac from the beginning had intended to give the material blessing to the more materialistic, aggressive Esau and the spiritual birthright to the more spiritual and religious Jacob!
Was it that my “insights seem to have escaped transcendent commentators throughout the ages”? Whatever happened to the primacy of attempting to discover a chidush and to the concept of “no biblical verse might be removed from the plain meaning of the text,” which I attempt to do. I am even accused of “shameful stereotyping and gross denigration of the principle of Torah as the fount of the Jewish people” by my referral to Jacob as a “naive dweller of tents.” How else would you translate “ish tam, yoshev ohalim”? After all, tam can be “whole” or tam can be “simplistic”! I think “naive” is as good a translation as any!
Or was my sin in referring to young Jacob as “Yankele”? Certainly I meant absolutely no diminution of honor by using this appellation of love. After all, Jacob emerges as the hero, who receives both blessing and birthright which he rightfully deserves, by combining chesed and gevurah, the Kind Torah voice of Jacob with the more militaristic and aggressive (when needed) hand of Esau.
(And the famed Rav Yitzhak Blazer was lovingly called Rav “Itzele,” and a school of Meah Shearim chassidim to this day follow Reb “Arele.”)
Nevertheless, if, G-d forbid, my use of “Yankele” was seen by anyone as a denigration of a towering biblical giant who is to be venerated and admired, I humbly and sincerely apologize.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
Editor’s Response: While we welcome Rabbi Riskin’s apology in the event that anyone may have misinterpreted his remarks, we disagree with his references to Reb “Itzele” and Reb “Arele.” It’s one thing for someone to be known by an appellation. It’s quite another for someone to coin one. It would be as if an individual were to suddenly begin referring to Rabbi Riskin as “Reb Shloimele.” Surely this could not be taken as anything other than a slight – if
the opportunity presented itself, we would be among the first to protest.
Moreover, in context, it certainly appeared that Yaakov Avinu was being slighted in Rabbi Riskin’s article. His father Yitzchak was portrayed as leaning toward choosing the militaristic Esau over the Torah student “Yankele” because Yitzchak was obsessed with overcoming the humiliations he suffered at the hands of the more powerful Abimelech and the need to secure Canaan. How could anyone have taken this as anything other than a statement of Yaakov’s unreliability and the correlative denigration of Torah as the fount of the Jewish people?
On another point, we certainly did not mean to question the right of someone of Rabbi Riskin’s stature to offer commentary. If that was what some read into it what we said, then it is we who apologize. Our concern was rather that the extraordinary notion that Yitzchak Avinu was prepared to define Klal Yisrael as a militaristic nation for eternity had to be based upon the teaching of Chazal, rishonim or acharonim.
This concern is all the more pointed given the fact that just prior to the events surrounding the conferring of the blessings, Abimelech prostrated himself before Yitzchak specifically because Abimelech felt that G-d was with Yitzchak. Thus, in no way did we imply that the defense of Israel today is not “milchemet mitzvah” as Rabbi Riskin’s letter suggests we did. We stand second to none in that regard. But we continue to believe that not everything one asserts in defense of Israel is necessarily on point.
Rabbi Riskin’s letter is also welcome for the clarifications he provides on some other points in his original article. We admit to not having read his article in the way he now says it should be understood.
Finally, our editorial was offered to readers in the same spirit of “chidush” referred to by Rabbi Riskin. We read and we reacted according to our understanding. We certainly had nothing else in mind. We would certainly look forward to a continuing exchange of ideas.
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