Beware The Greens

The article on Ralph Nader (“Ralph Nader’s Curious New Allies,” front page essay, Aug. 13) comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the Green Party, from which Nader now pretends to distance himself. The Green platform is Judeophobic and pro-Palestinian and Muslim. It calls for the withdrawal of Jews from liberated territory as well as the dismantling of Israel’s security wall and the disarming of Israeli citizens. It also demands the discontinuance of U.S. aid to Israel. (Just Israel, not any other country.)

If any of your readers doubt this, I suggest a visit to the Green Party website. If we Jews don’t start to expose and oppose groups like the Green Party, we will wake up one day and realize it’s Berlin, 1937.

Ira H. Margolis
(Via E-Mail)

Preaching To The Converted?

Dr. Yitzchok Levine once again enhanced the pleasure of my Shabbos reading with his cogent op-ed article of July 30, “The World As It Actually Was.” Unfortunately, those who most need to read material like this are precisely the ones who won’t read it – or who, if by chance they do read it, will never grasp its message.

Baruch Werschel
(Via E-Mail)

Dislikes ‘Wonder Bios’

Although I agree with Dr. Levine that the book The World That Was: America 1900-1945 is somewhat more mature in its approach than the usual ‘wonder biographies’ of Torah personalities that monopolize the Jewish market, it still manages to dance away from several areas of controversy that raged throughout the period covered in its pages.

Alas, the intellectual rigor that Torah Jews supposedly value in their studies is nowhere to be found in the biographies of Torah giants put out by frum publishing companies.

Susan Lampel
New York, NY

Practical Advice Needed

Thank you for putting Marvin Schick’s cry of alarm on the front page where it belongs (“Turning Our Backs on Orthodox Education,” Aug. 6). Now I would like to know what I, as a parent and longtime grant writer for yeshivas, can do to rectify the situation. Is there some sort of protest, a letter-writing campaign, or high-level meetings going on?

Because this issue adversely affects so many families in our community, we must do something. I hope Mr. Schick can advise us on what to do.

Yocheved Aron
Brooklyn, NY

Curmudgeon’s Corner

You could have blown me away with a feather. Imagine anyone suggesting that Orthodox Jews eschew the world’s Pesach pleasure palaces and use the money instead to pay their children’s yeshiva bills.

Well, that’s just what Rabbi Moshe Shochet proposed (Letters, Aug. 13) in response to Marvin Schick’s sobering assessment of the financial state of yeshiva education. Rabbi Shochet’s letters always contain rational and lucid arguments befitting a true Torah personality. While his positions may not jibe with popular opinion, they are correct – and unlike a certain well-meaning curmudgeon (that would be me), he delivers them with nary a scintilla of malice.

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Puzzled By Rabbi Epstein

Rabbi Benjamin Epstein’s July 23 column on the weekly haftara was a real puzzle to me. For a moment, I thought I was reading a column written by a Reform rabbi castigating the Orthodox for imposing halacha on Jews. But no, this was The Jewish Press, not the Jewish Week.

Rabbi Epstein obviously has a hard time accepting mussar. When an invited rabbi spoke ”fire and brimstone” at a Torah dedication, it was too much for him to bear, so he proceeded to ridicule this rabbi as a ”rocket scientist” peering into a microscope looking for bugs in the water.

For your information, anyone can see the bugs. By holding a black cloth under the faucet for several moments you can actually see the little white bugs yourself. No need for a microscope and hardly an unimportant halachic issue. Rabbi Epstein’s condescension and mockery are totally misplaced.

Then Rabbi Epstein goes further. He is bothered by those who put signs in synagogues stating, ”If you talk during davening you deserve lashes.” Again he demonstrates an inability to accept mussar. But in this case he equates davening with talking when he writes, ”How can prayers be answered if those who pray are declared punishable for doing so?” Did the sign say, ”If you pray during davening you deserve lashes?” Rabbi Epstein equates his talking to davening and doesn’t want anyone deriding him for that.

It might interest Rabbi Epstein to know that many gedolim of the past generation felt that the Holocaust was brought upon European Jewry because of the talking and socializing that was prevalent in European synagogues. Sephardim, on the other hand, who demonstrate tremendous respect and utmost silence in their synagogues, were largely bypassed by the Holocaust.

What a sad commentary on Orthodoxy when a rabbi dismisses and denigrates those who attempt to bring Jews to a higher level in their observance.

Yoseph Gross
Brooklyn, NY

Rabbi Epstein Responds: Thank you for taking time to express your feelings. I have heard mussar shmoozin from the greatest of the previous generation (I only feel bad that my children can never learn from them). R. Benzion Bruk of Novardik’s Elul shmoozin were so heart-rending that in the middle of his shmooze the lights would go out so that nobody would be embarrassed in front of his friend. Multitudes would gather for R. Chaim Shmulevitz’s shmoozin. At the end of his Kol Nidre shmooze there was not a dry eye in the yeshiva. Neither R. Chaim Shmulevitz nor R. Benzion Bruk would entertain the thought of say these shmoozin at a Torah dedication – an event which should be a simcha to everyone involved. If it would be your sheva brochas you wouldn’t appreciate it. Why should Hashem?

I will stick with what I said and what I saw by gedolim. “There are ways to accomplish everything, and there is a time for everything. If your message is derogatory, condescending or inappropriate, you are accomplishing nothing.”

Next, the rocket scientist was not the rabbi. The rabbi is too involved in learning to have time to put his food under a microscope. I do not know how you, Mr. Gross, drink water, but I let the water settle in the glass and do not see bugs. However, since you apparently do see bugs, are these the ones the Shulchan Aruch says are permissible? Space limitation doesn’t allow a halachic discourse, but I haven’t seen any current written responsa explaining the New York water system and showing how it deviates from the Shulchan Aruch. Have you checked the air filter in your house to see if you can breathe the air?

The problem with talking in the synagogue was originally noted by the Tosfos Yom Tov who composed a special prayer for those who refrain from talking. Since his time (over 500 years ago), the gedolim (including the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Yisroel Salanter and others) did not debase a shul with these signs (which are probably created on Madison Avenue).

Finally, I am glad you think you know why the Holocaust happened. Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, said he did not.

May we both witness the building of Jerusalem with mercy.

The Meaning Of Menachem Av

In last week’s Letters section, Rabbi Marshall Gisser reiterated his criticism of my July 16 Expounding the Torah column, wherein I stated that the month Menachem Av also means that we console Hashem, our Father in Heaven. Rabbi Gisser noted in this and in his previous letter to the editor that Hashem has no human form or human emotions, and He needs nothing from His created beings. Certainly this is true. I responded by stating that there are various Talmudic and other sources which speak of Hashem’s painful feelings for Am Yisrael in exile, such as Shechina B’golusa – the Shechina is in exile. I also noted that all Jewish souls are ”a part of Hashem from Above,” which is stated in Tanya (ch. 2).

Also in last week’s Letters section, Rabbi Joshua Maroof criticized my article by stating, ”It is blasphemous to suggest that the Creator of heaven and earth – a being with no weakness – would turn to His creations for help or fulfillment.”

My statement that Menachem Av means we console Hashem is brought out by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Likkutei Sichos (Vol. 23, p. 215). (Being a talmid and chassid of the Rebbe, I usually do not cite specific references from the Rebbe’s extensive writings.)

It is true, on the one hand, that ”If you sin, what do you effect against Him” (Job 35:6). Yet, due to the deep, innermost relationship between Jews and Hashem, there is a strong and direct link between our service and Hashem.

Thus the Talmud asks (Yevamos 64a): Why were our Patriarchs barren? Because Hashem desires the prayers of tzaddikim (certainly not a human desire but a ”desire” of Hashem).

Thus Tanchuma (Naso 16) states: Hashem desires to have a dwelling place in this low world (in the Mishkan and in every Jewish heart).

Further (Moed Katan 16b): Hashem decrees and a tzaddik nullifies it.

In Sanhedrin 106b: Hashem wants the heart of a Jew (i.e. his feelings and emotions). Besides this, Hashem wants our mitzvos and good deeds, as seen in numerous places in Chumash. As I noted from the Shaloh, our service is also for the needs of Hashem.

Hopefully, this clarifies my original article on Menachem Av.

Hashem created the world in a way that, through Torah and mitzvos, we enhance Hashem’s pleasure. May we strengthen our Divine service and outreach to our fellow Jews, and thereby elicit Hashem’s blessings for a kesivah v’chasimah tovah – a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Rabbi Abraham Stone
Brooklyn, NY

Shul Member Ticketed For Speeding

I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard at our morning minyan. I knew that unmarked police cars were out on Route 95 to catch speeders – but at shul? And yet I saw a davener being ticketed for speeding! I recorded the confrontation between the law and the offender.

Speed Patrol Mashgiach: I had my eyes on you since you started as chazan to lead the second Shachris minyan. I followed your speed in my glatt kosher radar-equipped siddur. I clocked you traveling far in excess of normal speed in an Orthodox davening area. You were so far ahead of all others that they appeared tense, anxious and under constant pressure to catch up to you. Many hoped that the shul’s safety patrol would banish you from the tefilla highway as a menace to those wanting to pray to Hashem with dignity and kavana. So, although you are a member in good standing, I must do my duty and ticket you for dangerous driving (davening).

Speedy Driver: I don’t know why you’re picking on me. First, it’s my mother’s fault. My uncle, Yankel Freud, will verify that even during my toilet-training stage she was always pushy, expecting me to be far ahead of everyone. Second, I’m not the only one at shul who’s a speed addict when it comes to davening. And, third, I saw no warning signs near our shul reading -Slow down – entering davening area.”

I had to leave the scene and am unaware of further developments. But the experience etched itself deep in my mind. I thought of my revered grandfather and what he would have advised. I can visualize him saying, ”When someone is permitted to serve as a sheliach tzibbur (leader of the service), it is to be seen as a distinct honor. It becomes his holy responsibility to conduct the davening with dignity, derech eretz and at an appropriate pace. It is surely disrespectful to race through the most meaningful and inspiring words of our holy prayers. All daveners can share together in unity as a tzibbur – a congregation united in prayer.

Whether on the highway or at our shul’s davening, let us resolve to obey the speed laws.

Dr. Simon L. Eckstein
Hollywood, Florida