True Contrition

I recently received three 100-dollar bills in the mail from ‘Ploni Almoni.’ Enclosed was a note from the sender, who confessed that many years ago he accidentally dented my car. He asked to be pardoned for that act.

I vaguely remembered the incident, but most impressive to me was that this gentleman did real teshuvah. Of course I fully forgive him and am forwarding the $300 to tzedakah. May it be a zechus for Ploni Almoni and all of Klal Yisrael for a year of shalom.

Danielle Cohen
Lakewood, NJ

Inspirational Visit

Yasher koach for Zalmi Unsdorfer’s heartwarming, informative front-page essay “Field of Dreams” (Sept. 24). I was fortunate to have personally experienced his wonderful words on my first trip to Israel in August. We first stayed in Safed and later in Jerusalem. Nothing, however, moved me more than our trip to Hebron. When I heard it would be in a bullet-proof bus, under armed guard, I didn’t want to go. Yet, as Mr. Unsdorfer wrote, I never felt safer in any of the other areas we visited.

We were in Hebron on the 75th anniversary of the 1929 massacre. We learned that the grandson of one of the survivors learns in the same yeshiva where his grandfather’s companions were murdered. We visited the cemetery where our tears watered the graves of these martyrs.

I wish to convey the plea voiced to me by residents of the many settlements we visited, by the many soldiers I stopped to thank for their vigilance, by storekeepers in Jerusalem, by friends who have made aliyah, by nearly every Israeli I spoke with: Ask the people of the United States to vote for President George W. Bush.

Jocelyn Ruth Krieger
Southfield, MI

Spreading The Word

I propose that in order to honor the memory of your late columnist Yechezkel Goldberg, a”h, and also to increase support for Israel and spread knowledge of Torah, readers purchase gift subscriptions to The Jewish Press for one or more Jewish publications in their communities.

Doing so we will enable editors of Jewish publications to read about authentic Judaism and to see what it means to strongly support Israel in print. Hopefully they will absorb these ideas and values and share them with readers of their own publications.

Miriam Schraer
San Diego, CA

Hard Choices Ahead

I congratulate The Jewish Press for its attacks on Federation’s weakening of support for Torah education. But we must prepare ourselves for a general drop in funding, whether we accept it or not. In the near future, the catastrophic national debt will require more and more government programs to be canceled. Even education programs crucial to the Orthodox community will be cut.

Companies are sending jobs to India and China. Parents are already squeezed to the end of their endurance from paying yeshiva tuition. Soon they will find it impossible to continue.

We must learn as a community to cut down on consumption – drastically. We must turn our rhetorical guns not just on Federation but on those able to help in our own community who don’t do enough. The sight of large homes in a community where the local day school or yeshiva has large debts is troubling.

From now on, we must examine carefully every expenditure. Schools can no longer go on as they once did. We are going to have to think the unthinkable, especially about young married men spending years learning while being supported by aging parents. Yom Tov trips to Florida are surely expendable.

If we plan properly, the future will be an improvement. Otherwise, it will be a disaster.

Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn
Monsey, NY

Communal Negligence

Having read Rabbi Yackov Saacks’s ‘Open Letter to the Boro Park Jewish Community’  (Letters, Sept. 24), I must sadly concur with his indictment of that community’s leadership for their unconscionable behavior following Gidone Busch’s execution.

Upon viewing posters put up in Boro Park shortly after the incident, I was convinced that the primary objective of the community’s leadership was to maintain relations with the police, even at the expense of Gidone and his family. Not only did the posters loudly (in bold print) urged residents not to demonstrate, but they were completely devoid of any plea for witnesses to come forward and truthfully testify before the appropriate authorities.

Shlomo D. Winter
Brooklyn, NY

Communal Support

Rabbi Yackov Saacks’s strong words of accusation against the Boro Park community struck me very deeply. I understand that as the Busch family’s rabbi, he has a clear understanding of what occurred and what has been occurring. Nonetheless, his letter seemed to contain certain misconceptions.

What did the Boro Park community do at the time of the Busch killing? According to one newspaper account, “Hundreds of Chassidic Jews took to the streets Monday and Tuesday…” in order to protest the atrocity. This was not mentioned in Rabbi Saacks’s letter. The protests clearly demonstrated communal support for the Busch family.

What about ongoing support? I believe the majority of Boro Park, and a good majority of the Jewish world, believe the police acted with extreme brutality and therefore support the Busch family whether they say so or not. (Many did voice their outrage in The Jewish Press.)

Why weren’t there any further demonstrations? One reason, as Rabbi Saacks mentioned, was that the rabbonim of Boro Park thwarted them. The Village Voice reported that “Within days, posters headed ‘Urgent Plea from Rabbonim’ called upon all members of the Jewish community who ‘fear the word of G-d, to stay away from any demonstrations and chillul Hashem.'”

I do not know if it is fair to judge the residents of Boro Park for listening to the instructions of their rabbonim. Should the neighborhood have defied them? Perhaps, perhaps not. I have read that the rabbonim, as well as many lay leaders, were convinced that such an obvious case of brutality would be dealt with strictly by the government and, I think, they believed additional protest was unnecessary.

Rabbi Saacks’s letter makes it sound as though there was a lack of witnesses. I have not read of this in any newspaper, and the ones who were rounded up by Assemblyman Dov Hikind did testify against the police, though originally they were not heard.

What about monetary support for the Busch family throughout the ordeal? I’ve always believed that the rabbonim closest to the family should be responsible for that. Rabbonim who experienced the family’s distress should rally additional rabbinic support for the proposals advanced by Rabbi Sacks in his letter, such as forcing witnesses to testify and showing a presence at the upcoming trial. Action is not automatic; its fuse must be lit by those who are passionate about the case.

I apologize to Rabbi Saacks, and to the Busch family, if I have offended them. I meant no such thing and I beg their mechila. I just feel that such harsh language against an entire community needs to be completely justified.

Shifra Bronstein
(Via E-Mail)

‘Chad Gadya Simplicity’

“Don’t rush into writing,” advised Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra (Shirat Yisrael), for haste makes waste. In the spirit of the times, I forgive two of your September 17 letter-writers (Mr. Yisrael Levi and Dr. Yaakov Stern) for their erev yom tov dash to judgment and misplaced rebuke, and suggest that perhaps, when all the Elul hustle and bustle is over, they find a quiet moment of concentration and re-read that which they misunderstood the first time.

The main issue was the claim by reader Yoseph Gross (Letters, Aug. 20) that a million-and-a-half Jewish children met their Maker through Hitler’s chimney stacks and ovens, that rivers flowed red with scores of bloodied Jewish bodies, that dying Jews in market places squatted alongside clucking geese and chickens awaiting the executioner – all as a result of their “parents talking and socializing in shul.”

In my letter of response, I quoted the Chazon Ish, an undisputed halachic giant, at length because his was one of the few courageous attempts to put Divine retribution into historic context; a humble reminder that after the inexplicable inferno of Auschwitz, Jews are not God’s scorekeepers.

The Chazon Ish was painfully (and personally) aware of the sheer scope of Jewish suffering throughout Jewish history. Cognizant of the different generational standards of Jews that existed during the destruction of the ancient Temples and the construction of modern Treblinkas, he was motivated by a concern that the Mourners of Zion – in their heightened state of spiritual agony, vexation and bitterness, and at a time when they were most likely to feel alone and angry, scarred and scared – not be further subjected to more Mr. Gross-style heartaches.

Your letter-writers may prefer the Chad Gadya simplicity of the dog that came to bite the cat that ate the kid, but Torah giants actually struggle in humility with tzidduk hadin – trying to reconcile a “good” Deity of rachmanut with a “bad” history of anti-Jewish frenzy. That all yissurim are a form of God’s penalty is a common myth; yes, all punishment contains yissurim, but not all yissurim are punishment. Some, as in the case of Job or Abraham, are challenges, not castigation; others are merely the normal aches of life (it would be absurd, for example, to claim that a bricklayer’s pain from laying bricks is Divine “punishment”!)

Your morally abusive cause-and-effect mavens exist in their own cul-de-sac of ‘culpability Torah.’ This is religious nonsense. When Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev cried, “I do not want to know why, only if I suffer for Your sake,” he placed the context where it belongs, in the higher scheme of things.

When Rav Ami, a student of Rabbi Yochanan, tried to explain why bad things happen to good people, he accurately quoted the Deuteronomy doctrine of mipnet bateinu (“on account of our sins”), linking each tragic occurrence to Torah transgression. The result? Rav Ami was scolded by the angels in Heaven. Why? Because of context!

The Jews of eastern Europe, accustomed to weeping and mourning for the millions lost by fire and by water, by pogrom and by gas, from starvation and from disease, from the stake and from the Cross, proclaimed as an article of faith: “In life, be careful! Ask God questions and He may insist you come up to hear the answers!” (Jews generally are satisfied with the belief in a Divine reckoning, without concerning themselves with the manner of how it is effected; in Yiddish, our survivor parents would express it with typical wit – “God waits long, but he pays with interest!”)

So if your rabbi or chaver tells you he knows exactly what causes the blut un boden of others, find yourself another rabbi or chaver – one unburdened by such spiritual arrogance.

Joe Bobker
(Via E-Mail)