Flushing, NYEditor’s Note:
We believe the road map to be fatally flawed in the same way that the Oslo Accords were. Both are premised on the notion that peace will break out once there is a new Palestinian state. Both also are premised on Palestinian good faith and therefore contain the seeds of their own failure. What is different now, though, is that George W. Bush, not Bill Clinton, is in charge. We are hopeful that President Bush’s heretofore demonstrated forthrightness and resolve will make a difference in the Palestinian mindset. If it doesn’t, we trust the president will respond appropriately. Should he fail to do so, we can assure you The Jewish Press will strongly reconsider the support we’ve given him from the 2000 election onward.Unconvinced By Follow-Up Letter
In his response last week to readers who criticized his first letter to the editor, Mike Senders proved the old adage about leaving well enough alone, no matter how bad it is.
For one thing, Senders waxed obviously disingenuous in trying to shrug off his initial derision of a rabbi for urging greater concern for the proper brachot to be recited for cereals and against wearing baseball caps on Shabbat (out of a concern for the limits of ohel).
Senders had introduced these comments about the rabbi by saying, in his initial letter: “Lately … we have been passing off many chumrot as halacha in our daily lives.” He then went on to disparagingly refer to the particular rabbi who had issued the two alarms as the “Cereal Rav.” When we follow the Cereal Rav’s approach, Sender said, the Hashem’s true image true
image “is lost in the shuffle of legality.”
Last week, however, after acknowledging the negative reader reaction, Senders wrote: “What I meant to say was that the rav who compiled the detailed list of the different cereals was the
same rav who evaluated the wearing of a baseball cap on Shabbos through the halachic principle of ohel (tent). I in no way wish to impugn his Torah knowledge or cast aspersion on
Mr. Senders, give me a break.
And then, in trying to impress his audience that he really hadn’t intended to denigrate the pursuit and observance of any of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s prescribed rules – even the obscure
ones – but had another point to make, he slips into outright absurdity with this statement: “My point is that unless we incorporate into the teaching of brachot the idea that a child should be saying, “Gee thanks, Hashem, for this delicious candy bar,” we may have fulfilled halacha and yet not conveyed to the child (or to ourselves) an emotional or spiritual charge of hakaras hatov to Hashem. At best then, the child ill say, “Boy I can now eat this cereal cause I have fulfilled every aspect of halacha.” This may be satisfactory to some readers but certainly not to me.” Pursuit of this extra dimension, he adds, is the “agenda” of the Modern Orthodox and what separates Modern Orthodoxy from the “ultra-Orthodox.”
Mr. Senders, you have got to be kidding. The whole thing was a joke, right?Zvi Lehrer
Abuse Is Real
I agree with you that Newsday fell far short of the mark in documenting an alleged sex abuse “crisis” in our community (“Newsday And Abuse In The Jewish Community, editorial, June 6). However, I hope your criticism will not serve to diminish interest in the underlying issue. From what I have read in the media - including The Jewish Press – the past few months, we surely do have a very, very serious problem.Carol Heymann
Great Neck, NY
Valid Point On Babysitters
Re Robert M. Solomon’s letter (‘Anti-Gentile Bigotry,’ Jewish Press, June 6) about two letters recently featured by Rebbetzin Jungreis in her column:
Mr. Solomon was mistaken when he referred to a non-Jewish babysitter who kept on making treif sandwiches for the young boy she was caring for. In fact, the letter in the Rebbetzin’s
column clearly mentioned that the babysitter was in fact a secular Jew.
Who knows whether she intentionally gave him treif sandwiches? But the babysitter was a Jew, and I think the person who wrote that letter to Rebbetzin Jungreis has a valid point. These parents, who I’m sure have good reasons for getting outside help, need to keep their eyes open and to be more involved in parenting.Shoshana Ziskind
(Via E-Mail)Give Peace A Chance
As a strong supporter of Israel’s right to live in security and prosperity, an opponent of all acts of terror, and the father of two daughters living in Israel, along with their husbands and my eight grandchildren, I understand why there is much skepticism about the “Road map” for peace in the Mideast. At a time of widespread Palestinian terror which has resulted in Israelis being very much afraid to live their normal lives, go to public places, even to ride on buses, and the hatred that is being taught in Palestinian schools, and much more, I fully understand the feeling that peace is not possible at this time, and I recognize that previous Israeli efforts toward peace have been rebuffed.
However, I believe that we have a choice today between, in the words in the title of a book by Buckminster Fuller, “Utopia or Oblivion.” As difficult as it will be, if the Israelis and Palestinians, with the support of the United States and other nations, can find a way to live cooperatively in peace, using modern technology and the world’s resources, there can be far
better conditions for all the people in the Middle East and beyond. However, continuation of present animosities and policies threatens ‘oblivion’: endless violence, terrorism, war, economic recession, and environmental degradation, not only for the Palestinians and Israelis who are already suffering in so many ways, but potentially all the world’s people.
I believe, respectfully, that it is time that we moved beyond finding reasons to demonize our opponents, and started using our wisdom and resources to seek creative ways to end the present horrors and impasse and seek a long lasting solution that will benefit all of humanity. George Bush, Ariel Sharon, and Mahmoud Abbas deserve much credit and support for their
initial steps toward peace.Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
College of Staten Island
Staten Island, NY Dr. Stern’s Turn
A few years ago, in the wake of a number of monetary scandals which sullied the frum community, a group called the Orthodox Caucus promoted stricter adherence to the principle of dina d’malchusa dina (following the law of the land). I mentioned this Modern Orthodox offshoot to an incisive rabbi who remarked, “For the Modern Orthodox to chide the frum over financial indiscretions is one thing. For the frum to return the favor regarding the neglect of learning is another thing. But if the Modern would criticize itself for not learning, and the frum would chastise itself over money matters, now that would be something!”
I was quite heartened by the readers (Letters to the Editor, May 30) who took Mike Senders to task for insinuating that there are paths to Hashem which do not revolve around Torah study and mitzva observance.
Certainly there are differences among the various camps of Orthodoxy, but there are also
significant commonalities. We are all unwavering in our belief in Torah and mitzvot. We are all
concerned with the plight of our brethren, both here and abroad. And we are all united by the
belief that we can hasten the coming of Moshiach by following the directives of the Torah and the guidance of our religious leaders.
What we must be mindful of is the principle “eileh v’eileh divrei Hashem” – two seemingly
different positions are nonetheless capable of reflecting G-d’s wishes. Hillel and Shammai were
both right. The Baal Shem and the Vilna Gaon were both right. For contemporary Judaism, Rav Moshe and Rav Soloveitchik were both right. That there are individuals in each group seeking to sow discord, is simply a reflection of the attitudes which keep us in this bitter exile.
Admittedly, the task at hand is enormous. We must root out those in the yeshiva world who use the “system” for personal gain rather than spiritual growth. Similarly, we must call the lie of
those who play fast and free with halacha yet hide beneath the blanket of Modern Orthodoxy. And of course we must find a way to restore the primacy of ruchnius over the gashmius which has engulfed religious Jewry.
Impossible you say? Let’s recall the words of the saintly Chofetz Chaim, zt”l. “When I was
young, I tried to change the world and got nowhere. Later I realized that the first step was to change myself. When I accomplished this, the world changed.”
If we work on self improvement instead of carping on other people’s faults we can effect great
changes. Hopefully the baseless and idiotic – yes idiotic – charges that I am against any valid form of Judaism have been refuted. Those who have objectively read my contributions over the past year would admit that the message has been unremittingly positive, which is to say pro-Torah and its true practitioners. But those in the opposing camp will not be persuaded, because they are, in a word, untruthful.
As Exhibit A we present Mike Senders’s “half-vast” attempt at damage control. After unequivocally stating his vision of Modern Orthodoxy, “pick and choose” halacha, Zionism,
secular study above Talmud Torah and disdain for religious leaders, Mr. Senders offers a series of “I didn’t mean it.” In the course of this “apology” Mr. Senders invokes the name of the revered Rabbi Soloveitchik, hoping to legitimize his stance. This is a common practice: to advance a form of Judaism absolutely antithetical to the gaon and then suggest that he would endorse it. This is similar to a treif restaurant placing an unauthorized teudat hakashrut, but it’s worse because Rav Soloveitchik is not here to distance himself from these claims.
For many years our gedolim railed at the illegitimate brands of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, etc.) While I have no fondness for those halachically challenged movements, at least they don’t pretend to be authentic versions of Torah Judaism. Instead they promote a watered down version of the religion, seemingly amenable to the modern milieu.
But the militantly Modern Orthodox are guilty of just such deception, not owning up to the
fact that their concept of Judaism is at odds with our longstanding traditions and beliefs. If truth is beauty …Dr. Yaakov Stern
Brooklyn, NYShidduchim: There’s Got To Be A Better Way
Like a lonely cry in the night, I fear this letter will be the only protest to the idyllic shidduch as
described on page 30 in your May 23 issue. So much craziness has become mainstream and
everyone is afraid of everyone else when it comes to shidduchim. But it is a sin to remain silent.
(Before I begin, a caveat. Based on recent controversies in this section, I recognize that certain readers may attempt to stamp me with a hashkafic label and proceed to challenge my
motives in writing this letter based on that assumption. In blindly defending the status quo,
they will scour my letter for a peripheral point or phrase they can pounce on and ridicule, while
ignoring the essential content. I ask you to resist that evil temptation.)
The gleeful mother of the bride describes her first encounter with her future son-in-law: “‘The
boy’ knocks on our door. Right on time. Black suit? Check. White shirt? Check. Black velvet kippa? Check. Yeshivish.
Tall, dark, handsome. Blue eyes peer out from behind wire-rims. A learner. We already know his essential details, as much as a 20-year-old life can have acquired.”
After some polite chit-chat, the daughter descends the stairs like a princess coming to greet
her knight in shining armor. “Their eyes lock. A spark. Off they go: Date #1. Date #2. Date #3. Then the decision: is there a Date #4? Yes! And then they get married. Well, OK, I’m exaggerating. But that’s how quick it seemed.”
This article is described as Part 2 of this family’s “whirlwind adventure” as their daughter gets married. I can only hope that Parts 5 and 6 of this adventure do not appear in the Agunah
Chronicles, which your paper commendably prints week after week. It is no coincidence, after all, that the tremendous increase in unsuccessful marriages (from unhappy to abusive) is concurrent with a “shidduch crisis” unlike any the Jewish people have seen before. The correlation is unmistakable. One only has to look.
Many readers will scoff and say that the shidduch system as described above works just fine
for many people. To that I respond, quite bluntly, that Hashem (sometimes) watches over fools. There are many imbeciles who are blessed with wealth and happiness. Their success is not a vindication of their methods, only a testament to Hashem’s supreme authority. Chazal adjure us not to rely on miracles, but to perfect our earthly efforts in anticipation of divine assistance. Are we lemmings to blindly adhere to a perverse shidduch system simply because it works for some people?
And a perverse system it is. The mother in this story claims, on first glance alone, to already
know the “essential details” of her daughter’s suitor. The color of his attire and style of his kippa render him “Yeshivish” (a meaningless label - but this is not the place to discuss labels). Presumably, she has already determined that the boy in question is of sterling religious background who studies Torah with extreme diligence (most likely to the exclusion of all else), with an impeccably refined character to boot. In this assessment she has surpassed Hashem Himself, Who thoroughly analyzes the totality of a person’s heart and actions before arriving at a conclusion. She did it with a single glance at his attire.
There was a spark, a hint of “love at first sight” between the new couple. After three dates
(perhaps the number has some mystical significance), it was necessary for them to decide
whether their relationship was to become “serious.” Now or never. Take it or leave it. Whirlwind adventure, indeed!
Emshol lachem mashal. As an educated educator, I am well aware of a serious conflict facing teachers today: standardized testing. There is tremendous pressure on everyone for students to
do well on such tests as Regents, Advanced Placement Exams, and the SAT. As a result, many teachers do what’s called “teaching to the test.” In other words, they teach students over the course of the year whatever is necessary to do well on the test, but the students learn little of the actual material. The test, which is supposed to measure their knowledge of the subject, actually measures only their ability to do well on that particular test. The results are essentially meaningless.
Similarly, this shidduch system relies on a host of superficial assessments to appraise one’s
suitability. The boy knew full well what to wear and say in order to make a good impression, so what does it prove that he adhered to the script? Both the girl and the boy were carefully coached on how to conduct themselves on the first three dates, so what did they really learn about each other – how well they can follow simple instructions, how well they can conform to societal pressures? No wonder there are so many disastrous marriages. People try to devise creative questions to ask about a potential shidduch, or they enlist professional gossipmongers and character assassins to conduct “investigations.” But this has achieved nothing other than to make everyone paranoid at all times about harming their or their children’s shidduch chances. This can’t be the way Hashem intended it.
In this same issue of your paper, a ba’al teshuvah wrote a letter bemoaning the way ba’alei
teshuvah are treated like garbage in this shidduch world, which has no mercy for an imperfect history. (Strangely enough, he commended the community’s shift to the right, a shift that is surely responsible for his shidduch woes. To the right of what I can only wonder, as the Torah commands us to veer neither to the right nor to the left of the truth.) I’d like to remind your readers that Moshe Rabbeinu married a convert, the daughter of an idolatrous priest. Yehoshua married a convert as well, someone who, according to most commentaries, was a former harlot. And Rabbi Akiva’s wife, whose father had enough money to buy the husband of her choice, “settled” for a lowly shepherd. It seems our greatest leaders were not “yeshivish.” Perhaps we should look farther back in history than the Europe of a hundred years ago to
determine what values the Torah truly holds dear.
Hashem has not decreed a shidduch crisis upon us. We have done it to ourselves. Let’s truly
analyze our ways in an open and honest fashion, and surely He will bless us with an end to this
terrible suffering. Chananya Weissman
Far Rockaway, NY