Unite Behind The Winner

During a Thursday morning interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Boston Red Sox pitching star Curt Schilling looked into the camera and said, “Tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week.” Many were excited to hear this beloved pitcher endorse President Bush.

Well, the people have spoken. Our democratic electoral process is far from perfect, and improvements may well be needed. But as President Lincoln reminded us, government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” constitutes the best hope on earth. Once the people have spoken on Election Day, no matter how close the call, it behooves us to come together in unity behind the winner. Otherwise, the old saying “united we stand, divided we fall” just may prove to be literally true.

President Bush understands, like John Stuart Mill understood years ago, that war is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. President Bush understands that there can indeed be such things as a bad peace and a just war. We are fighting a just war today, the most important of wars – a war that will determine the existence or demise of the free world.

Brian J. Goldenfeld
Woodland Hills

The Sagacious Edgar

It’s fascinating how muddled one’s thinking can get when trying to justify aberrant behavior. Edgar Bronfman, head of The World Jewish Congress, proposes that Jews deem intermarriage permissible as long as “they … bring up their children as Jewish” (“Tevye the Milkman and the Clueless Mr. Bronfman”, editorial, Nov. 5).

If you’re going to permit intermarriage, which is against probably the most fundamental commandment responsible for our endurance as a nation for thousands of years, you’re not very likely to instill much respect for any other Torah commandment. So what exactly does Mr. Bronfman mean by bringing children up Jewish? That is, once you eliminate every
vestige of Judaism from your life, what have you got left to bring your kids up Jewish with?

During Chanukah, you’ll put latkas into your kid’s ham sandwich? At the Passover Seder, you’ll tell your kids stories about how we used to be a persecuted people – until G-d gave us the Borscht Belt?

Did G-d go through the trouble of gathering us at Mt. Sinai just to give us a Torah that’s optional? And what about the Ten Commandments? Are they multiple choice?

We have Jewish laws that are not applicable in the absence of the Temple and we have laws that do not apply to Jews outside the Land of Israel. If we had laws that ceased to have relevance in modern times, as Mr. Bronfman and other Reform Jews seem to believe, I’m quite confident the Torah itself would have informed us of this. It does not.

Furthermore, the notion that considering anyone a Jews as long as they marry a Jew would “double the amount of Jews” is not supported by any evidence that I’m aware of. If anything, statistics probably suggest the contrary; intermarriage in greater numbers would more than likely cause a reduction in identifiable Jews through assimilation.

Besides, if you’re going to include people as Jews in such an arbitrary, whimsical, non-Torah- compliant manner, why stop at marriage? Why not declare that all those living on the same block as a Jew are Jewish? We could go from a minority to a super race overnight. Eventually, we could upgrade our laws to include extraterrestrials. Imagine – we could have Jewish galaxies!

What a brilliant idea. Mr Bronfman, thank you for enlightening us.

Josh Greenberger
Brooklyn, NY

Rebbe’s Advice To Sharon

Thirty-five years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe advised Ariel Sharon to stay out of politics. The directive came at the beginning of a two-page letter dated 18 Menachem Av, 5730.

At this moment, when Sharon is wreaking havoc in Israel with his push to withdraw from Gush Katif, signaling weakness and defeat to our enemies and perpetrating pain and grief on our brothers and sisters, the time is right to publicize the Rebbe’s directive. Below is an excerpt. For a full copy of the letter, please call (718) 493-4848 to have it faxed.

Basha Oka Botnick
(Via E-Mail)

18 Menachem Av 5730

“As we discussed when you were here, it is my opinion that your proper place is in Tzahal, and it is there that with G-d’s assistance you are successful and will continue to be so. Of course, this is in addition to the benefit derived thereby by the general public – the Jewish Nation, the Holy Nation that dwells in the land of Israel, the Holy Land, which G-d has blessed you with the privilege of protecting by means of your exceptional abilities, effort and vigor.

… Based on the above-stated, one can readily appreciate my opinion, that it makes no sense at all for you to switch to a different occupation, and most certainly not in the political arena – even to become a government official – for that is not your mission, and you will not utilize your talents and experience thereby. Quite the contrary.”

In Defense Of Chumros

Dr. David Berger (“On the Prohibition of Water: An Appeal to Poskim,” op-ed, Oct. 22) implies that current religious leaders are adapting unwarranted stringencies and essentially playing “frummer than thou.” Did Dr. Berger speak to one of the poskim in order to get an answer to his question?

Dr. Berger tries to convince the unsuspecting masses that the p’sak is unfounded, but reader Michoel Strauss goes one step further in his Nov. 5 letter to the editor. He posits that this ruling is simply the latest manifestation of what he describes as a climate in the Orthodox community of “mindless ritualism and a ‘can you top this’ chumraism.” This is a particularly insidious approach, as Mr. Strauss derisively labels recent edicts chumros – which he clearly believes need not be followed.

For argument’s sake, let’s accept that the decision about New York City water is nothing more than a chumra. Mr. Strauss and those of his ilk should understand that chumros are an essential element of Judaism. Consider just a few examples – waiting six hours between meat and dairy meals, avoiding rice on Pesach, even the way we keep Shabbos. As my rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Zelig Friedman, shlita, has explained, the observance of Shabbos 2,500 years ago bore little resemblance to our present-day practices. Kiddush over wine had not yet been instituted, and people did not as a rule go to synagogue to daven with a minyan. The Gemara tells us that Avraham avinu kept the entire Torah including chumras which would later be instituted by our Sages.

Basically, chumros are legislated for one of two not necessarily exclusive reasons: either as a safeguard to mitzvot or to enhance our observance. The Gemara relates that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because the people “properly kept the Torah,” explaining that a Jew cannot be satisfied with simply keeping the Torah but must act “lifnim mishuras hadin” – beyond the letter of the Law.

Please consider that the rabbis being criticized are internationally and universally accepted poskim as well as men of impeccable character. That their opinions could be subjected to scrutiny boggles the mind. If this p’sak is rejected, just what role do Dr. Berger and Mr. Strauss expect gedolei Yisrael to play in the future of our nation? Would they like to set up a lay board which would approve all halachic decisions before they are promulgated?

Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NY