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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
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Letters To The Editor

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Torah Study And Military Service

Bravo to Rabbis Jeremy Gimpel (“Torah Study and the Defense Of Israel”) and Nachman Kahana (“King David Drafted Torah Scholars Into His Army,” March 21). At last someone had the courage to clear the air and set forth the true Da’at Torah on this painful subject.

Rabbi Gimpel is correct; it is difficult to find in Tanach or in the Talmud a case where Jews refused to join their brethren to defend Eretz Yisrael against its enemies.

To the contrary: It is written that when Moshe Rabbeinu asked the tribes of Gad and Reuven to join their brethren in conquering the land, they replied enthusiastically that not only would they join the battle, they would be in the front lines ahead of everyone else (Bamidbar 32:6-27).

The tribes of Gad and Reuven did not suggest to Moshe that they be permitted to stay home and study Torah. There was no such concept.

Further, the Torah lists four exemptions from war duty: one who’s built a house but hasn’t dedicated it; one who planted a vineyard but hasn’t partaken of its fruit; one who’s a newlywed; and one who’s fearful or softhearted (Devarim 20:5).

Torah scholars are not on that list. In fact, our sages tell us that those the Torah refers to as fearful are afraid because of their sins. In other words, those who were burdened with sin were sent home. Those going to war were a select group consisting of strictly observant Jews, tzaddikim, and Torah scholars. There were no exemptions for yeshiva students and kollel yungeleit.

Bezalel Fixler
Kew Gardens, NY

Plenty Of Chutzpah To Go Around

As the crisis in Crimea unfolds, we are seeing the ripple effects of failed diplomacy. President Obama was soft on Russia’s ally Syria, so Putin took this as an invitation to invade Ukraine. Now that’s chutzpah!

Not to be outdone, Secretary of State Kerry displayed some chutzpah of his own. In attempting to come to a diplomatic agreement with Russia, Kerry reached out to Russian-born Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. First Kerry fails to break Israel, then he comes crawling back when he needs Israel. Chutzpah!

Howard Jay Meyer
Brooklyn, NY

Needed: More Rav Kamenetskys And Rav Pams

I applaud Dov Shurin’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek March 21 column but I wish he hadn’t felt the need, for reasons of political correctness, to downplay his true feelings. I myself have often wondered why certain gedolim have not advocated for causes that do not directly involve the functions of their yeshivas.

Mr. Shurin’s grandfather, the great Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, was able to state forthright that Rav Kook was a tzaddik shalem because Rav Kamenetsky was more than a tzaddik or a gadol. He was what is referred to as a yashar – a person who continuously rejoices in the portion Hashem gave him and would never consider deviating from the straight and true path.

Rav Avraham Pam, zt”l, was also such a person. He reportedly once sent his rebbetzin back to a local store the day after a purchase to ensure that she had not received any special treatment from the proprietor.

Rav Kamenetsky and Rav Pam were as completely removed from self-interest as they were from insincerity and falsehood, but unfortunately not everyone is on that level.

As long as self-interest, politics, and angry sentiments pervade the yeshiva world, the response to the new draft legislation in Israel will be less than candid. And it should be clear that no persecution complex, however subjectively justified, can be allowed to color the truth when we are talking about matters that pertain to the viability and sustenance of the Jewish state.

Lawrence Kulak
Brooklyn, NY

Neocons = Jews?

MSNBC never lets up. From Chris Matthews on the left to Pat Buchanan on the right, they’re still telling us it was the fault of the “neocons” that America went into Iraq. (For a while, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd jumped into the neocon fray but seems to have stopped when too many Times readers recognized the complaints against the neocons for exactly what they are: pure old-fashioned anti-Semitism.)

Whenever MSNBC’s pundits and others of like mind actually name names – that is, identify who, exactly, the neocons are – the names are always Jewish. In other words, a group of Jewish advisers used their tenacious influence on George W. Bush to send our troops into Iraq, practically against his will.

And all along you thought Bush’s main advisers were his vice president, Dick Cheney, his secretary of state, Colin Powell, and his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld – none of them Jewish.

Saul Grossman
Flushing, NY

Minyanim That Don’t Drag On

As a practical answer to reader Alex Lapin’s Feb. 28 letter regarding Shabbos morning services, I would advise Mr. Lapin to move to a frum neighborhood with many minyanim.

I know of several minyanim where meaningful Shabbos services are completed in under two hours. It’s straight davening without the chazzanut.

Lawrence Fleck
(Via E-Mail)

Shul Decorum

Jewish Press readers bothered by fellow congregants who disrespect a shul by talking and using cell phones (adult pacifiers) should know there is an organization that can help them if they feel they need some chizuk in the matter.

The Shul Decorum Association has a range of programs and products to help us be more respectful of the shul. There are posters to combat talking and texting. There are speakers who deliver inspiring lectures. There is a youth program that rewards young people for showing respect for davening.

The organization can be contacted at 917-306-1940 or shudec@hotmail.com.

Most people say they don’t want to get involved. They say they feel uncomfortable criticizing others. But if your wife were to declare that she didn’t want to get involved in Pesach preparations, or if your child decided he or she didn’t want to keep the mitzvah of kibud av v’eim, what would you say? We don’t get to pick and choose the mitzvahs.

It is incumbent on all of us to help each other out. If you see someone disrespecting the shul, you have an obligation to help him out. Of course, we have to be careful not to embarrass someone while doing this mitzvah; it has to be done with love, not anger. But it has to be done. We must all stick up for the house of Hashem.

By increasing our respect for shuls, we increase our merit to receive the Beit HaMikdash.

Chaim Cohen
Shul Decorum Association
Lakewood, NJ

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One Response to “Letters To The Editor”

  1. To Mr. Gerald Jacobs: Re your comments praising Rabbi Steven Pruzansky's sc athing "Exchange with an OLd Haredi Friend." Rabbi Pruzansky continually criticizes, vilifies and ridicules positions that Israelis take. Virtually all of them are none of his business as a non-citizen, non-resident of Israel. When is he going to put his money where his mouth is and come join us here in Israel. Then, at least he will be able to vote in elections and make his convictions known.

    Avi Sussman, Beit Shemesh, Israel

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