Latest update: December 15th, 2011
Secretary of State Clinton’s sudden concern for Israel’s future as a democratic state in the shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victory in Egypt and Iran’s irrational march to nuclear martyrdom is perplexing (“Clinton and Panetta Put Israel in the Cross Hairs,” editorial, Dec. 9).
With the Mideast beset by growing violence and unprecedented instability, it is incomprehensible that America’s top diplomat would focus on the voluntary busing preferences of religious Jews (men and women) who reside in the only legitimate democracy in that region.
Israel deserves to be applauded and held up as a model for its steadfast commitment to religious freedoms, afforded to all its citizens – Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Clinton’s misplaced concerns might be better focused on the Jewish state’s many Islamic neighbors who strictly forbid members of non-Islamic faiths from practicing their religion in their countries.
Barack Obama professes a strong commitment to Israel’s safety and an inviolable tie between our two nations. That’s wonderful, except for the fact that he has a rather strange way of showing it. Is this what is meant by “tough love”? If so, I I’d prefer honest and open disdain, which leaves no questions about truth and sincerity.
The 1967 borders speech was bad enough as betrayals go, but more significant has been the ongoing sense of hostility to Israel, while Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are treated as equals. The rudeness to Prime Minister Netanyahu was something that would never have been displayed to an Arab leader. The Obama administration has made it clear that it views Israel as a thorn in its side. Building homes for Jews in Jerusalem has been decried far more vociferously than the random murders of Jews by Muslim terrorists.
And now Obama comes to New York for a fundraiser and is pledged $2 million by a Jewish gathering. What does this tell us? Does it make sense to anyone reading this?
New City, NY
I read with interest Richard McBee’s Dec. 9 Arts column, “Jewish Women and Chanukah at Sotheby’s,” on the upcoming auction of Judaica at Sotheby’s. There is something else your readers should be aware of.
On August 1, the 43 professional art handlers at Sotheby’s in New York City were locked out of their workplace and prevented from entering the facility, even though both management and the union that represents them, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 814, agreed to continue contract negotiations. These workers, loyal employees of Sotheby’s, some of whom had worked there for decades, have not been allowed to return to work since; they have been out of work for more than four months now, creating situations of extreme hardship for themselves and their families.
Two days after the workers were locked out, Sotheby’s reported the most profitable quarter in its 267-year history. Second quarter revenues were up 31 percent from the same quarter last year and profits were up 48 percent. We have read that Sotheby’s wants the locked-out art handlers, who are responsible for the transportation, preparation and display of the pieces, to give up their 401(k) plan, work a reduced 36-hour week (which means effectively a ten-percent reduction in their wages) and limit their overtime, among other demands.
Our Jewish tradition teaches us to treat all who labor with respect and dignity, not just when it is convenient but even when tough labor-management negotiations are taking place. Sotheby’s may be putting Jewish tradition on display in the form of art pieces, but its behavior is certainly no reflection of the values represented by our tradition.
Martin M. Schwartz
Jewish Labor Committee
Tribute To Rabbi Schonfeld
As one who was brought out of Austria on the first kindertransport by Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld, I would like to appeal to any Jewish Press readers who were also brought out by him. In February, we will mark a century since his birth and I hope to arrange a memorial tribute in Jerusalem on February 27.
I would ask any of those kinder or their children who would like to attend to please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at PO Box 18279, Jerusalem 91182.
More On Torah And Science
The Chazon Ish And Reb Moshe
Reader Avi Goldstein writes that the Sages of Israel were frequently wrong regarding matters of science (Letters, Dec. 9). He cites several examples where he feels the Sages erred.
In one example he says the calendar devised by the Talmudic Sage Shmuel errs in its calculation of the solar year. I would like to cite the Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 138:4) and Reb Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 4:17) on this issue.
Reb Moshe begins with very harsh words for the individual who asked the question. He says it seems the person regards himself as greater than all the Rishonim and Achronim and Gaonim in that they erred and he has caught their mistake. Forgive me, but it is extremely arrogant to even think this way, let alone to speak and write in such a manner. You should know that it is incumbent on a person to follow something that all of Klal Yisrael is accustomed to doing even if he believes they are mistaken – because something done by all of Klal Yisrael is correct.
Both Reb Moshe and the Chazon Ish acknowledge that Shmuel knew his calendar was not accurate and even by how much it was off. Nevertheless, he established it the way he did. The Chazon Ish says we find that Chazal often estimated, even when they had the ability to be exact, and the estimate became included in the halacha. They had reasons in each case for estimating; sometimes it was to enable a simpleton to perform the mitzvah.
Reb Moshe explains that it is not imperative that we begin reciting tal umatar 60 days after the tikufa; rather, that day was selected because in most years it would be beneficial for the rain to begin falling at that point. Even if it is off, it does not make a difference; estimating in this scenario was not problematic.
The Chazon Ish concludes, “You should know that the calendar devised by Shmuel is part of the [Oral Law] that was revealed through the Sages of the Gemara. There are times that their words came from a tradition passed down from generations, and other times they merited Divine Inspiration in expounding on the Written Torah and the Mishnah in remembering that which was forgotten from Har Sinai.”
He then quotes a sefer that claimed Shmuel based his calculation on outdated theories. The Chazon Ish wrote that “the author mistakenly thought that it was permissible to say things of that nature; however, he has mistakenly performed heresy!”
It seems the Chazon Ish and Reb Moshe did not draw the same conclusion as did Avi Goldstein from the mistake in Shmuel’s calendar. And their strong words on this topic are indicative that this is not something to be taken lightly.
Rabbi Menachem Fried
Before we take out our erasers in order to modify the statements of our holy Talmud and replace them with new and updated findings from modern scientists, perhaps we should reevaluate our appraisal of modern science.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, in several of his books discusses scientists and their false anti-Torah theories (evolution, for example). It is extremely dangerous when individuals take the Talmud and begin to suggest changes and alterations because we are more “enlightened” these days. The Talmud was, is and forever will be emes.
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