Photo Credit: Jewish Press

To Spank or Not to Spank

I always find Rabbi YY Rubinstein’s articles and speeches informative, captivating and entertaining. However, I was rather surprised by his public encouragement of spanking a child under certain circumstances (“Authentic Psychologists,” July 21). His (seemingly) unequivocal assertion that “an infrequent spank on that area, when the child’s behavior has been particularly bad, will do no harm at all and probably do a lot of good,” is particularly troubling for a number of reasons.

  1. There are many gedolim who have either strongly discouraged spanking or stated outright that it is prohibited. Rav Elya Lopian, zt”l, is quoted as saying, “I have come to regret every spanking I gave my children when they were young!” Rav Shteinman, zt”l, said that “hitting was not said for people like us (in our generation).”
  2. Rabbi Rubinstein referenced Rav Wolbe’s position that times have changed and the “spare the rod spoil the child” approach no longer works for his generation. Is Rabbi Rubinstein arguing with Rav Wolbe? Is he saying Rav Wolbe would agree with a spanking approach nowadays? Where is the supporting evidence that this is true? I would posit that as the generations weaken, Rav Wolbe’s position is even more applicable.
  3. Even those gedolim who maintain that spanking is permitted, whether in the past or even in the present, all agree that spanking is only permitted without anger. If there is anger involved, the parent is potentially violating numerous Torah transgressions. I would like to meet the parent who can honestly say that when they spank at the time “a child’s behavior is particularly bad” (quote from Rabbi Rubinstein’s article) it is done calmly and without anger. I believe this is hardly ever the case.

It would be unfortunate if anyone mistakenly concludes from reading the article that there is a blanket sanction for spanking a child when the child’s behavior has been particularly bad. I’m sure Rabbi Rubinstein did not mean to convey this message.

Rabbi Tzvi Noble, LMFT
Brooklyn, N.Y.


Profit vs. Values

Rabbi Moshe Taragin (“Israel Is Not a Start-Up Nation,” July 14) presented a well thought out description of the flaws inherent in “blind” “transactional capitalism.” Individual profit has too often become the measuring rod against which economic decisions are made. Rabbi Taragin then cites Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in making clear the distinction between contract and covenant, a contract benefiting two individuals, whereas a covenant benefits the community.

Our sources abound with examples of the balanced relationship between individual needs and communal obligations.

Abraham Avinu was the most successful capitalist of his generation. Yet when his nephew Lot was kidnapped by the four kings, he did not hesitate by consulting a board of directors concerning the cost-effectiveness of his rescue. Rather, he rushed to gather his 318 servants to battle against four armies. As related in Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 14, Rabbi Nechemiah (answering the doubts expressed by Abraham’s servants) said: “Abraham turned a green face to them and said: Nevertheless, I will go out and fall, if need be, for the Sanctification of G-d’s name.”

Judaism seeks to balance individual desire with communal responsibilities. The Shemittah year and the Jubilee Year are examples of Torah values taking precedence over individual profit. The same can be said when the Beth Din decides the legality of a commercial business opening up shop directly next door to its competitor. In such a case, transactional capitalism, “isolated in a world of free markets,” is tempered with halacha.

Rabbi Taragin ends his perspective with the advice that Jews should remember that Israel’s blessings as a “start-up nation” should not be misused as a tradeoff with our mission as a Jewish nation of bringing light to the world.

In order to transform our well-intentioned thoughts into action, Jewish values need to be strengthened in the Israeli public school system and in its universities. An unprecedented opportunity has arisen now that Israel’s religious parties have formed a majority coalition with Likud for the first time in Israel’s history. The guarantors of our heritage are our children.

David Ferster
Great Neck, N.Y.


Give Native Americans Their Due

In the July 7 issue, Charles Winfield wrote a letter titled, “What Makes/Made America Great?” There are so many questionable issues in the letter that I feel compelled to respond. The first issue is his statement that the Native Americans lacked “human capital, meaning knowledge of how to improve their lives.” Mr. Winfield later states that “Human capital includes whether there is honesty and integrity in the population, technical knowledge, law and order, physical safety and social animosity.” I don’t understand what is meant by “social animosity.” I have heard of “class struggle,” “social strife” or “class warfare,” but “social animosity” seems very unusual. Is Mr. Winfield trying to say that the Native American tribes and societies had absolutely no honesty, integrity, law and order, physical safety or technical knowledge? If so, how would he explain the fact that historians, archeologists and ethnologists agree that the Native Americans lived and thrived in North and South America for thousands of years?

Winfield states that “America was blessed with an abundance of natural resources… But this does not answer the question of why, before the arrival of the Europeans, most of the indigenous population was frequently on the verge of starvation….” Mr. Winfield totally ignores the factual story of Massasoit and how he and his tribesmen gave the Plymouth colonists seeds, taught them how to grow the crops (without depleting the soil) and saved the colony. He also ignores the fact that the colonists, while they were deeply religious, had to request help from England because none of the colonists had any of the useful skills (farming, animal husbandry, blacksmithing, carpentry, etc.) needed to establish a colony. The British had to send skilled tradesmen and their apprentices to save and build the colony. Everyone should also keep in mind that the descendants of these “deeply religious” people were the ones responsible for the torture and executions that occurred as a result of the Salem Witch Trials.

Harold Rose
Via Email


The Palestinians’ Real Enemies

While the left and the world media focus on the war between Israel and the Arab world and how the Arabs feel “disenfranchised,” they seem to ignore the abominable treatment Palestinians have been given by Arab governments. Where, in the great population exchanges of the 1940s, Muslims were absorbed into Pakistan, Hindus into India, Silesian Germans into West Germany and Jews from Arab lands into Israel, the Palestinians were an exception.

Rejected by their fellow Arabs, who largely kept them cooped up in camps and fed a diet of hatred and revenge from birth, Palestinians were meant to be a tool for a war of total destruction against the Jewish state. Eventually, the plan backfired and, after the (barely) failed attempt of radicalized Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, they became too dangerous to absorb. To this day, they suffer from their exclusion by their fellow Arabs, while directing their passionate hatred toward Israel.

The Oslo Agreement intended them to become citizens of a Palestinian state, which was offered by Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008. During what was supposed to be a transition period, Oslo granted them autonomy under the Palestinian Authority. But the PA has flatly refused all those offers of statehood and promoted terrorism, even making payments to Palestinians who kill Jews. By their policies of unreasoning vengefulness, the Arab states created a monster that terrifies them and also has made the two-state solution, one sensible in theory, a practical impossibility.

The Palestinian leadership’s last card has been posing as victims. While that has succeeded in whipping up a worldwide wave of Jew-hatred, it has done nothing to help the Palestinians.

Brian Goldenfeld
Oak Park, Calif.


Legislators Should Stay on Vacation

Congress adjourning and leaving Washington for the traditional August recess to return to their districts is actually great news. Our civil and economic liberties are continually at risk when any legislative body – be it the New York City Council, New York State Legislature, or Congress – is in session. Elected officials of both parties routinely pass legislation to increase spending, taxes, borrowing, and deficits. They also pass bills benefiting their “Pay for Play” contributors, funding pork barrel member items along with new rules and regulations infringing on our day-to-day lives. When Congress is not working, they can’t cause mischief and grief for the rest of us.

I wish they would stay home even longer.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, N.Y.


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