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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Retter’

Jew Vs. Jew

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed due to sinas chinam, baseless hatred. With the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av now behind us, have we learned anything from this national tragedy, or is history repeating itself?

Recently, Abraham Burg and Alon Liel published articles in the European press expressing their support in principle of the boycott of Israeli goods produced in the settlements.

That this boycott is supported by two prominent Israeli political figures is indeed ironic, since employment of Palestinian workers in the settlements by Israeli employers was authorized in both the Oslo and Paris accords, signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993 and 1994 and since Burg and Liel were, respectively, a Knesset member representing the governing Labor Party and the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry at the time those accords were signed.

The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement has become fashionable not only among Israeli leftists but also with a number of left-wing American Jewish organizations which, while not calling directly for BDS, nevertheless express respect and understanding for those who advocate it.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Giulio Meotti, a (non-Jewish) Italian journalist with Il Foglio, wrote: “The late, great historian Raul Hilberg explained that the economic boycott of the Jews in business and employment was the first step in the Holocaust…. The Nazi appeal “Kauft nicht bei Juden” (Don’t buy from Jews) is back.”

As we know, this is not the first time in Jewish history that Jew has turned against Jew. During the destruction of the Second Temple, there were Jews (called Baryonei; see Gittin 56a ) who burned the reserves of wheat barley and wood stored by their fellow Jews. They did this because they disagreed on how to deal with the challenge of the Roman siege of Jerusalem.

Now, in the name of Jewish sympathy for the Palestinian cause – and even, they say, as a means of helping Israel – these no doubt well-intentioned Jews are helping put the West Bank economy at risk and are jeopardizing the jobs of more than 23,000 Palestinians legally employed in the settlements.

Each one of these jobs indirectly affects ten more Palestinians, for a total of 230,000. The wages and health benefits Palestinians earn from those jobs not only improve their own standard of living but also fuel the Palestinian economy as a whole.

So these boycott activists hurt the people they so vociferously claim to defend. Indeed, all they really appear to care about is furthering their anti-Israel political agenda and gaining media exposure. Perhaps somebody should ask the Palestinian workers on the ground what they think of the boycott.

Let us consider a few undisputed facts: The average wage for a Palestinian worker in areas under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction is approximately one-half that of Palestinian workers in the settlements while those in Gaza earn about one-third of what Palestinian workers in the settlements make.

And the salaries paid by Israeli companies to Palestinian workers in the settlements include a “basket” of Israeli social benefits including retirement, maternity, unemployment, disability, and medical benefits.

The real questions are: Can the Palestinian Authority give alternative jobs with comparable salaries and benefits to the 23,000 workers currently employed in the settlements? The answer is no. Can they give up the taxes they collect from those employees? No. Can they forever rely on grants from Europe, the U.S., or Arab states to sustain their economy? Again, the answer is no.

So what will eventually happen to the factories Burg and Liel wish to shut down? What should happen is that if and when parts of the West Bank are transferred to the Palestinian Authority as a result of negotiations between the parties, the Palestinian leaders will decide whether or not they want to keep Israeli factories there open.

From a purely financial standpoint, closing factories in the settlements would not necessarily harm the Israeli companies currently located there, as some would simply move their production to China where labor is cheaper. A company like SodaStream, for example, which converts seltzer into multiple soda flavors using its own manufactured “soda machines,” currently maintains production facilities in the settlements only because it wishes to set an example of mutually beneficial cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. But for how long?

Honoring One’s Parents (A Modern-Day Doma Ben Nesina)

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

There is hardly a Jewish child who has not been taught the story in the Talmud (Kiddushin 31a) of Doma Ben Nesina. He was the son of a jeweler who refused to wake up his sleeping father when representatives of the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) came knocking on his door, wishing to buy certain precious stones for the Kohen Hagadol’s breastplate (urim v’tumim).

It so happened, that the key to Nesina’s diamond vault was lying under his pillow and Doma refused to wake his father, even at the cost of a fortune in a lost diamond sale. As a reward, the very next year, representatives of the Beis Hamikdash once again came to Doma, searching for a parah adumah (red heifer) that was in his father’s herd. This time his father was not sleeping, and the previous year’s loss was fully recouped, and then some. The Talmud lauds this selfless act of kibud av (honoring one’s father and mother).

A modern version of the story may be found in a remarkable concurring opinion rendered by Judge Douglas McKeon, in a “run of the mill” landlord-tenant case, styled, Hudsoncliff Building Co. vs. Houpouridou, (New York Law Journal, Dec. 22, 2008, p. 27, col. 1, App. Tm., 1st Dep’t. Decision Davis and Schoenfeld, JJ. McKeon, P.J. concurs in a separate opinion).

The landlord sued to remove Mrs. Houpouridou from her rent stabilized apartment due to the fact that she had spent several years in Greece looking after her sick mother who eventually died in Greece. Upon her mother’s demise, Houpouridou sought to return to her apartment, but the landlord claimed she had abandoned it, as it was no longer her primary residence.

The decision rendered by the three-judge panel was to allow her to remain in the apartment. Moreover, one of the members of the panel, Judge Douglas McKeon, while in full sympathy with Houpouridou, not only restored her to her apartment, but in a most poignant, and yet pointed mussar statement, expounded in his concurring opinion:

“… There was a time in many cultures when the care of a sick or elderly parent by a child was the hallmark of familial responsibility. But, according to that frequently uttered refrain, times change. Mothers or fathers, sometimes both, would often live under the same roof with their offspring and the hands-on care provided would be substantial. To the outsider, considerable sacrifice seemed involved, but for the caregiver child, the care of mom and dad was the natural progression in life’s journey; those who reared and raised, and gave life, would be comforted and looked after in the twilight of their own. Sad to say, as with so many old-fashioned values, adherence dims with each new generation, and parental care in some instances has been reduced to an occasional call to a nurse’s aide or an infrequent, obligatory visit to a nursing home.

But there are those, undoubtedly dwindling in number who remain students of the old school, staying true to basic traditions and still giving life to words now seldomly spoke: “my mother will never go to a nursing home.” (Tenant) is one of those rare individuals and her heartfelt decision to travel to Greece to be at her mother’s side during a final illness should not visit upon her the draconian penalty of forfeiture of her long-held regulated apartment.”

Indeed, all of us can learn a lesson from this case, of what devotion to a parent entails.

As a postscript to this episode, I recall being zoche to spend Sukkos with Rabbi Shimon Schwab, z”l, at the Oppenheimer’s Hotel. I recall Rabbi Schwab commenting on the Doma Ben Nesina story, and asking “why was it that the maximum of kibud av v’em is retold using Doma Ben Nesina, who was obviously not Jewish, as the paradigm of kibud av v’em?”

Rabbi Schwab, a congregational rabbi in Baltimore for many years, recalled that a member of his synagogue, who was at least 80 years old, never said Kaddish after his father, and Rabbi Schwab asked him why? The man replied, “My father was a no-good bum, who had beaten my mother and was, therefore, not deserving of a Kaddish.” Rabbi Schwab replied, “You have it all wrong. The mitzvah of Kaddish for a father is not a mitzvah based upon returning a favor to a loving parent. It is the fulfillment of the mitzvah of kibud av, which is no less a mitzvah than all of the other 613 mitzvos. Your father’s conduct, although reprehensible if true, is not the criteria for your saying Kaddish”.

Rabbi Schwab then continued, “Recall the very last words of Moshe Rabbeinu as he addressed the Jewish nation before his petirah. He said, “ve’al bomosamo tidroch,” a most enigmatic expression. Literally this means, “You (Klal Yisrael) shall tread on their (the other nations’) heights.” He explained that Moshe told the Jewish people that the maximum of benevolence (the heights of chesed) found among the gentile nations is where the minimum of our chesed starts, i.e., Klal Yisrael treads upon the gentile nations’ heights.

Doma Ben Nesina presumably loved his father who must have been a wonderful provider and parent. In return, Doma achieved the heights of kibud av by foregoing substantial monetary gain in deference to his father’s sleep. This, said Rabbi Schwab, is the meaning of the Doma Ben Nesina story: “the maximum of the gentile’s kibud av reaches to where Klal Yisrael’s minimum kibud av’s obligation begins.” Kaddish must always be recited after a parent!

How much more so when a parent is also kind and loving do the words of Judge Douglas McKeon ring so true.

I would like to thank my colleague Scott E. Mollen, Esq. the real estate law columnist for the New York Law Journal, for bringing this decision to my attention.

Daniel Retter practices law as counsel to Herrick, Feinstein, LLP, and is a contributor to the Jewish Press.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/honoring-ones-parents-a-modern-day-doma-ben-nesina/2009/04/07/

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