Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Rush To Judgment (I)

The condemnation by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon of the soldier who may have broken the rules of engagement – but was using his judgment in shooting a terrorist who had stabbed an Israeli soldier – is just another in the long line of demoralizing actions by Israeli leaders (“Rush to Judgment?” editorial, April 1).


Clearly, the terrorist could have been wearing a homicide belt which, if detonated, would have killed many. It wasn’t the case this time, but it might have been. Since Israel is fighting a war, with a declared enemy that preaches Israel’s demise, shouldn’t Israel’s defenders be given the opportunity to fight rather than to be shackled by political correctness?

Another example of rushing to judgment is still in progress as some of Israel’s most ardent Zionists are sitting in prison, some in solitary confinement, for some imagined involvement in last summer’s Duma arson or for simply espousing beliefs that are out of the mainstream.

In addition, Israeli synagogues and homes, as in Amona, continue to face demolition while many thousands of illegal Arab homes continue to be built and are allowed to stand. The illegal Arab homes, built by the EU, which line the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, are just another example of a threat to Israeli sovereignty that is allowed to go unchallenged.

There are so many more examples, like the anti-Jewish discrimination on the Temple Mount, that demoralize the IDF, Israeli citizens, and Americans who want to support Israel without any reservations. We find the present “rush to judgment” against Jews totally self-destructive.

Helen Freedman
Americans for a Safe Israel


Rush To Judgment (II)

Can it be the Israeli government is so obsessed with political correctness that an IDF soldier was not accorded a full investigation before he was arrested and charged with the murder of a Palestinian terrorist?

Instead, he was expeditiously accused of “a breach of IDF rules of engagement and IDF values, conduct, and standards of military operations…”

What a regrettable case of hyperbole in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to pacify a hostile world that finds nothing to excoriate in the Palestinians’ ongoing attacks on Israeli civilians, police, and soldiers.

When will the Israeli government finally accept that such craven, conciliatory gestures will not have any effect on the belligerent behavior of Palestinians who have been incited by their leaders to kill Israelis?

It’s gratifying that an overwhelming majority of Israelis were demonstrably critical of the government’s hasty action, and no doubt it was that widespread sentiment that led to the murder charge being reduced to manslaughter – which is still “overkill” in the implementation of true justice.

Fay Dicker
Lakewood, NJ

Shandling’s Comedic Genius

Re “Comedian Garry Shandling Dies at 66” (Week in Review, April 1):

In a time when sitcoms still adhered to the set-up punchline, Garry Shandling skewered the conventions of the sitcom itself, satirizing the conventions of the form (most famously with the show’s celebrated tongue-in-cheek theme song), breaking the fourth wall, playing a fictionalized version of himself as a stand-up comedian often at odds with the absurdity of the world around him.

Without Garry Shandling, there would have been no “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – perhaps even no “Seinfeld.”

That his passing should come so prematurely almost feels poetic, somehow: in death, as in his art, Garry Shandling was sadly ahead of his time. But the comedy world would be a very different place had he not been there to shape it.

Brian J. Goldenfeld
Woodland Hills, CA


Slaves In Egypt

There are myriad commentaries on Jewish servitude in Egypt and the exodus. But not one (that I know of) really describes the day-to-day nature of that slavery.

Therefore, in our long tradition of asking questions at Pesach time:

We’re told that when an earlier Pharaoh freed Sarah generations before, he gave her the land of Goshen as a present. That is why Joseph sent his family there – they already owned the land. Did they lose it during slavery? If they still owned it, did they have the right to buy and sell land?

What did the slaves do for food? Did the Egyptians feed them? How? The same for everyone? More if they had spouses or children? We’re told that when the Israelites complained about the food situation in the desert, they argued that fish had been plentiful in Egypt. Did their Egyptian masters give them fish? Did the slaves go fishing at night after they finished their backbreaking work? Did they buy what they wanted? If so, where did the money come from?

What was life like for Jewish women? We’re told that Shifra and Puah were two Jewish midwives (most commentators say these were Yocheved and Miriam). For all those kids? What did other Jewish women do? Did they sew clothing? Did they work the family’s vegetable garden?

The Jews had huge herds of cattle in the desert. Where were those herds in Egypt? Where did they graze? On what land? Did they just have cattle or were there sheep and goats as well? If the men were all working as slaves, were the women the shepherds? How about camels and horses? Did the Jews have wagons or was all travel and transit on foot? We know they took their cattle when they left Egypt but what happened to the other animals, if any? (The Tabernacle was placed in wagons, so presumably there were animals to pull them.)

At what age did boys become slaves? What did they do before that? Were there Jewish schools? How could anyone afford tuition? Who were the teachers? If they weren’t paid (or given sustenance) what did they eat? What did they do for (one-room) schoolhouses? Who owned the land? Who paid for the firewood to heat the building in cold weather?

We’re told the Levites were not slaves. What does that mean? Did they sit and study Torah all day? If so, how did they pay their bills? Did they cook? Did they own stores? What was their life like?

Individuals presumably married across tribes. What were the implications for a Levite woman who married outside her tribe? She went from being (the daughter of) a free person to the wife of a slave. Why would a girl do that? The other way around, the daughter of a slave could marry a Levite boy and, in effect, become a free person.

Until 50 or 75 years ago, most secular history focused on the study of kings, governments, religions, and wars. It is only recently that there has been some emphasis placed on the life of the common people – what is often referred to as social history. It seems to me that the same emphasis on daily life should be extended to the study of the Jewish people in Egypt.

But it is more than a matter of mere intellectual curiosity. Halacha tells us that on Pesach night we need to feel as if we are slaves being freed from the Egyptian bondage. How, though, can we really feel like slaves if we don’t know what life was like for slaves back then?

Harold Marks
(Via E-Mail)



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