Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Can’t You Leave Toddlers Alone?

Pro-Palestinian supporters in the U.S. seem to be opening a new front in the war on Israel by targeting toddlers.

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The Highland Park (N.J.) Public Library, with the cooperation of some board members, scheduled an outrageous one-sided pro-Palestinian program for toddlers led by an Iranian-born BDS supporter using her self-published children’s book, P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book.

Supporting the program were the ACLU, the American Library Association, and many anti-Israeli groups, including The Council of American-Islamic Relations, Palestine Legal, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Jewish Voice for Peace, which said the program will be the first of many. The ZOA was the only Jewish organization openly calling for its cancellation.

As matters stands now, the original P Is for Palestine program will be rescheduled, and a pro-Israel program based on the book I is for Israel will also be scheduled at the library. Many in the Jewish community, though, are not satisfied with this “compromise” and are still wondering why such an inappropriate event is being held for toddlers at a public library altogether.

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park, N.J.

 

A Radical?

I find it amazing that MK Bezalel Smotrich can be deemed “radical” for yearning for a Jewish justice system based on Jewish law in the Jewish state.

Forget the laws of kashrus or Shabbos for a second. The Shuchan Aruch includes civil law, too. How much should Person A pay Person B if he damages his property accidentally? What if it’s unclear if he caused all the damage? What if he dies and his children claim their father already paid up?

All these basic legal questions are answered in Jewish legal literature. Why in the world should a Jewish state answer such questions based on Turkish or British law (as it currently does) when it could just as easily answer them based on Jewish law?

Jewish civil law is not some mystical system with non-comprehensible principles. It is eminently rational and logical and could easily become the basic of civil law in Israel if people actually cared. But non-religious Israelis are happy with the status quo, as are many religious Israelis to whom it doesn’t occur to lead rather than be led.

Charedim, meanwhile, live in their own bubble, creating mini shtetl utopias even though the door is open to create the national utopia envisioned by the prophets. Why think big when you can think small?

Joshua Bernstein
Brooklyn, NY

 

Sources, Please

Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer’s op-ed last week opposing Rabbi Daniel Landes’ ordination of an openly homosexual student may work well with an audience that respects poskim, but for less knowledgeable readers, he provides little support for his position.

In contrast, Landes cites passages in the Talmud, the Rambam, and Chazon Ish to demonstrate that scientific discoveries impact halacha and that homosexual individuals do not really have free will to be “cured,” let alone live a celibate life.

To counter Landes, Rabbi Gordimer must provide sources to explain the distinction between free will and duress; condemn the quackery that hasn’t “cured” anyone; and offer compassion while remaining firm to halacha.

If Orthodoxy is to hold the moral high ground, it must do so with intelligent arguments consistent with halachic case law.

Sergey Kadinsky

 

Rabbi Gordimer responds: I thank Mr. Kadinsky for his letter. The reason I did not include halachic refutations of Rabbi Landes’ attempts to obviate the prohibition of homosexual relations is that I am confident that Rabbi Landes himself realizes his suggested arguments do not hold water, which is why he uses tepid and evasive language in his op-ed (e.g., “some halachic eyes have read the situation,” “Homosexual life may indeed be a candidate for that rubric of Nishtano HaTeva,” etc.) rather than present his points with conviction.

I also did not want to treat Rabbi Landes’ arguments as having halachic gravitas, as they are gross misapplications of halacha. That said, Rabbi Landes’ halachic arguments fail on the following grounds:

1) The principle of ones (duress) can exempt one from punishment, but in no way can it be used to permit one to commit a sin. In fact, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 75a) relates that the Sages would not allow a man to become even visually aroused by a woman who was forbidden to him even though he claimed this arousal was necessary to save his life.

2) Halacha specifies that ones does not pertain to the male role in forbidden physical relations, as that role is active rather than passive (Yevamos 53b, Rambam, Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 1:9).

3) The principle of “nishtaneh ha’teva” (nature has changed) does not permit what the Torah forbids. The Torah scholars cited by Rabbi Landes utilized this axiom only in relation to practical applications – such as the efficacy of certain ancient medical suggestions. They never deemed it capable of overturning core Torah prohibitions. Rabbi Landes’ suggestion that “nishtaneh ha’teva” can somehow cancel a severe Torah prohibition contravenes all halachic literature on the subject.

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