Tentacles Of Destruction

The tentacles of death and destruction are seen in print on the front page every day. The world is now getting a taste of the intifada.

Death and destruction are being caused by the spread of Islamism worldwide. Do we nip it in the bud, Bush style, or cut and run and appease the terrorists as Spain and the Philippines have done? Would John Kerry be another Neville Chamberlain and allow the terrorist threat to push the Western democracies into submission ?

Harry Grunstein
Montreal, Canada

Divine Curse (I)

Reader Joe Bobker quoted from a specific statement by the Chazon Ish that we should no longer punish heretics and that G-d will not hold this against us (Letters, Sept. 3). Mr. Bobker?s letter was published the very week we read the second of the two Torah warnings (Leviticus 26; Deut. 28) that the response to widespread violation of G-d’s laws will be a Divine curse.

Mr. Bobker seems to generalize that in these times of “Divine Hiding” these warnings do not apply at all. I wonder, however, if Mr. Bobker feels that according to the Chazon Ish the custom of reading these verses in a low voice should be abolished and they instead should be read in a normal manner.

Yisrael Levi
(Via E-mail)

Divine Curse (II)

Several weeks ago a number of “scholarly” women cited my apparently poor reading comprehension skills. On the possibility that their assessment was correct, I would ask Joe Bobker to do some “serious ‘splaining.”

In his Sept. 3 letter to the editor Mr. Bobker quotes the Chazon Ish and apparently subscribes to the gaon’s “theory” that Divine Retribution no longer exists. They seem to believe that we are too far removed from the Shechina to be able to appreciate suffering as part of G-d’s judgment. According to this model, punishments are meted out in willy nilly fashion following no rhyme or reason.

The implication is that one may act capriciously, since we are no longer obliged by the laws of the Torah. I hope I misunderstood Mr. Bobker’s intent and ask that he do a better job of clarification for those like myself who might be considered “litererally challenged.”

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY

Pans Levine Op-Ed

Notwithstanding the condescending tone of Dr. Yitzchok Levine’s op-ed piece regarding supposed Orthodox distortion of historical fact (“My Mind Is Made Up; Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts,” Aug. 27), the article had the potential to be informative and thought-provoking.

Unfortunately Dr. Levine has taken oft-discussed differences of opinion between the Modern Orthodox and the not-so-modern Orthodox and subjected to attack the opinions of those who do not support his vision of modernity by noting the claims of the ignorant and their fallacies. Two of these claims are obviously expounded by those with a less-than-favorable feeling toward Yeshiva University, and the other two appear to be claims made by those
with a “yeshivishe” upbringing.

A discussion regarding the validity of these issues could be addressed in a responsible manner, but instead we are led to believe – on the basis of some claims made by those ignorant of the past – that the Modern Orthodox are the only ones with an appreciation of historical truth.

I look forward to a more wholesome approach to this important subject – an approach without such an obvious agenda.

David Kahn
Lakewood, NJ

Praises Levine Op-Ed

The Jewish Press is to be commended for going against the anti-intellectual tide in Orthodox circles by featuring the work of contributors like Dr. Yitzchok Levine. His Aug. Op-ed piece was a refreshing breeze for those of us who feel that Orthodoxy should not be automatically equated with know-nothingism.

Please do not back down from continuing to speak on behalf of those of us who refuse to bow to the chumra madness that has already achieved such a choke hold on the Orthodox world. There are plenty of us out here who still believe passionately in an enlightened Orthodoxy and who appreciate having The Jewish Press as a publication that stands for a vibrant modern Orthodoxy and a vigorous religious Zionism.

Zev Milgram
(Via E-Mail)

Divided We Fall

In “Turning Our Backs On Orthodox Education” (front-page essay, Aug. 4), Dr. Marvin Schick laments our abandonment of the traditional communal funding model for elementary Jewish education and the systemic crisis that now confronts us in consequence thereof. Dr. Schick has commented elsewhere (RJJ Newsletter, May 2004) on another factor contributing
to the current crises that also merits serious attention – namely, intra-Orthodox competition.

With the fragmentation of Orthodoxy steadily on the rise over the last half-century, discrete Orthodox sub-groups have established separate educational systems to reflect their supposedly unique attitudes, behavior and even dress, thus stretching scarce communal resources beyond the limit and undermining the mission of the flagship day school servicing, and thereby uniting, the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy.

Like our abandonment of the traditional communal funding model, the proliferation of factional schools represents a profound departure from both halachic norm and time-honored practice, as Hagaon Rav Yom Tov Schwarz, shlita, writes in “Eyes to See” (Urim Publications 2004), pp. 36-54.

Rav Schwarz observes that, in contrast with the unified Torah education systems that generally
prevailed in pre-Shoah Europe, the current splintered approach habituates children to separatism from their earliest youth, and substitutes a lifelong orientation of insularity and polarization for the Torah imperative of love and unity among Jews. In addition, as a matter
of practical halacha, Rav Schwarz rules that the fragmentation of Orthodox education violates the prohibition of lo sisgodedu (Devarim 14:1), which proscribes certain manifestations of religious factionalism.

David Nadoff
Chicago, IL

Author’s Query

I am interested in obtaining copies of old issues of Hedenu. Hedenu was a publication of the student body of the Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Seminary (RIETS/YU) that first appeared, I believe, in 1925. I know that it was still being published in the 1930’s. I am particularly interested in issues that appeared before 1935.

I have been asked by the YU Commentator website (http://www.yucommentator.com/) to write an article about the history of YU, and I would like to use these issues of Hedenu as sources for this.

Only one of the issues that appeared before 1935 (December 1928) is available from the YU archives. I ask anyone who has copies of these issues from this time period to please contact me at: llevine@stevens.edu.

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
(Via E-Mail)

Bush = Sheker?

As a yeiras shomayim, I don’t understand your strong support for President Bush. I’m not
suggesting you support Kerry; I simply question your passion for Bush.

The Torah regards emes as fundamental, yet Bush has distinguished himself with many acts of

● During his first campaign, Bush belittled “nation building” – yet he now is nation building
in Afghanistan and Iraq to the tune of $250 Billion and climbing. Sheker.

● Bush promised a middle tax cut and delivered huge cuts to the wealthy, while the middle class now pays a larger share of the total budget, not less. Sheker.

● He promised to grow the economy by cutting taxes and regulations – yet his is the first
administration since Hoover to actually lose jobs; almost two million since he took office. Rather than help business, deregulation has been a disaster. Electricity prices were rigged in California, airlines are reeling, gas prices are soaring, and our electric grid is on the brink of collapse. High-paying jobs are outsourced, and jobs being created pay an average of $9,000.00 per year less. What small growth we’ve seen (144,000 new jobs in August) is
not enough to keep up with population growth. Sheker.

● Bush promised meaningful prescription benefits to seniors, and produced chaos. Drug
companies are canceling their discount plans, the “discount card” system is confusing and doesn’t work, and the plan that finally kicks in two years from now has a huge “donut” that results in huge consumer bills. Plus, seniors are barred by law from purchasing private insurance to close the gap – and Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating lower prices from drug companies. On top of it all, the Bush administration lied about the cost of the bill, and forbade government analysts from revealing the true costs! Sheker.

● He promised to civilize discourse in Washington – yet he presides over the most polarized government in history, paralyzed by partisan bickering. And his current campaign is the most vicious ever, with the convention’s keynote speaker calling into question the very patriotism of all Democrats, and the vice president declaring that a Kerry victory will inevitably lead to more terrorist attacks. Chutzpah and sheker.

● Bush promised meaningful education reform – yet “No Child Left Behind” has created
confusion on the state and local level, with costly mandates that remain unfunded. All impartial
reports indicated millions of children are still being left behind. And Bush’s secretary of education is the same fellow who was superintendent of Houston’s schools during a famous “turn-around” based on falsified records, lies, and even intimidation and the demotion of educators who refused to go along. Sheker.

● He promised he would involve the UN in any possible war with Iraq, and build a true
coalition – yet he brushed aside UN pleas to wait for inspections to end with the serious support of Britain alone. Sheker.

● Bush rationalized the war by claiming Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” so dangerous he couldn’t wait for UN inspection teams to complete their work. After more than 1,000 dead Americans, 200 dead Brits, scores of murdered civilian coalition workers and uncounted thousands of dead Iraqis, there are no WMD. Sheker.

● He linked the war in Iraq to the war on terrorism, yet several Congressional investigations
and the 9/11 Commission report that there were no such links. Sheker.

● Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld belittled the Army chief of staff for claiming the
war would take more than 200,000 troops to capture and hold Iraq. They ignored State
Department warnings that the aftermath of war would be a problem. They made war hastily, with no real plan and on the cheap, without adequate troops to establish and maintain security. To make matters worse, they stood by during looting, and actually disbanded the Iraq army and police forces. As a result, Iraq today is a lawless hotbed of terrorism, with entire zones that aren’t under U.S. control. Incompetence, arrogance, malfeasance and sheker.

These are but a few examples of Bush duplicity and prevarication. It may still be rational
for a frumme yid to reluctantly choose Bush over Kerry, in spite of his record. But it seems to me that so much enthusiasm is unseemly, if not downright un-Jewish.

Michael R. Burr
Long Beach, NY

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