April 7: Start at home

We should concentrate on improving ourselves as loyal Jews instead of trying to “fix the world” at our nation’s expense.

April 6, 2013 22:45

Letters 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout )

Start at home

Sir, – The article by Charles Jacobs and Karin McQuillan (“Passover’s unlearned lesson,” Comment & Features, April 4) raises an interesting and vital point: Those self-styled “progressive” Jews who invoke tikkun olam, not only at the Seder table but in their political exhortations, have long used the term as a fashionable mantra divorced from its original religious context.

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I doubt whether most of the do-gooders realize that tikkun olam derives from the second paragraph of the Alenu prayer, which observant Jews recite three times a day. It expresses Israel’s Messianic hope that “we may soon behold the removal of abominations [such as race hatred and slavery] from the earth” and “the utter destruction of idolatry [such as the current anti-Israel obsession].” This hope is linked with a key phrase – “letaken olam bemalkhut Shaddai” (when the world is perfected under the kingship of the Almighty).

“Let My people go” has likewise become a watchword that omits its continuation – “that they may serve Me” (Exodus 9:1).

In both of these expressions the context is all-important since they remind us of the Divine imperative to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

Ignorance of Jewish sources reduces tikkun olam to a meaningless phrase. We therefore should concentrate on improving ourselves as loyal Jews instead of trying to “fix the world” at our nation’s expense.


The writer is chairman of the Jewish Bible Association

No sympathy at all

Sir, – It was shocking to read the words of Jonathan Rosen (“In their shoes,” Inside Out, April 4): “When we, as Israelis, put ourselves in the shoes of that average Palestinian who voted for Hamas in 2006, it is hard not to be sympathetic, even if we justly abhor the choice he made. The results, after all, have been terribly discouraging for him.”

All that seems to matter to Rosen is the fact that Hamas has largely (and, thankfully) failed in its goal to kill, maim and injure as many innocent Israeli civilians as possible.

It is not hard for me, as well as for all decent moral people, to have no sympathy at all for those who voted into power an evil and murderous regime. My sympathy goes, rather, to those who truly deserve it – Hamas’s innocent victims.

Beit Shemesh

Sir, – In response to Jonathan Rosen’s request that we put ourselves in the Palestinians’ shoes, as hard as I might try (I admit that I do not try very hard) I could never imagine being part of a nation that is willing to murder members of another nation in cold blood.

I could never imagine blowing myself up just to kill other people, no matter what the cause. I could never imagine saying on television that I wish I had more children so that they could all be ‘martyrs.”

I would never allow my children to blow themselves up, no matter how desperate I might be. I would never allow my children to go down to the road to throw cinderblocks on passing cars.

The Jewish people suffered from thousands of years of pogroms and persecution, and never took up arms against innocent people. I am proud to be part of the nation whose people wear shoes that epitomize morality and kindness.

Rosen also mentions that after terror attacks, life in Israel goes back to normal.

I don’t think any of us who live in Israel have gone back to normal after seeing close friends and relatives killed in attacks. We worry that our soldiers might fall in battle or be lynched or kidnapped.

We worry that our kids might flag down a ride and end up in Ramallah. We worry when our kids drive home to Judea and Samaria, and we worry every time we hear sad songs on the radio that mean something awful has happened.

Excuse me, Mr. Rosen, that is not normal.


Struma storm

Sir, – Moti Zimrat (“Turkey owes us an apology over the ‘Struma,’” Comment & Features, April 4) says that “maybe” the Holocaust-era Jewish refugee ship Struma “was mistakenly hit by a Russian submarine torpedo.”

The beginning of revisionism, perhaps? In “Feiglin: Turkey should apologize for ‘Struma’” (April 2), your reporter correctly asserts that “the Soviet submarine Shch- 213 torpedoed the ship” on February 24, 1942.

The vessel was commanded by D.M. Denezkho, who ordered the firing of a single torpedo on the Struma, calling it, according to Soviet military archives, “an unprotected enemy vessel.”

Soviet authorities commended the crew for “having shown courage.” What an outrage! In 1964, Jurgen Rohwer, in The Sinking of the Jewish Transporter Struma in the Black Sea, established beyond dispute that the Russians sank it intentionally. The Soviets admitted to the fact, and all research on the matter is conclusive.

The fascist Romanian and heartless Turkish regimes of that era have blood upon their hands, but it was the Russian Communists who fired the torpedo that killed all but one of the Jewish refugees.

Any international criminal lawyers out there?


Middle class woes

Sir, – I have to defend Finance Minister Yair Lapid against detractors and critics regarding his recent comments about even the middle class, with a monthly income of NIS 20,000, being in financial straits (“Lapid: I won’t let Israel become Cyprus or Greece,” April 2).

People even in the upper-middle class (but not the wealthy) earn high salaries only on paper because they are so highly taxed. They also struggle to pay for their kids’ education and worry how to pay for even modest weddings for them. Forget about helping their kids buy a home or saving for retirement.

If the upper-middle class is struggling, then those earning much less are in horrific straits.

Using the upper-middle class as an example shows just how hard it is to make ends meet.

High tax rates plus exorbitant costs for food and housing must be tackled by the government. If this will be good for the uppermiddle class, it will be better for the working poor.

Israel is an amazing place in which to live. Our leaders must take the lead in creating tax reforms and reforms to the market, regulating the prices of basic goods, especially food, for which exorbitant sums are presently charged by the industry.

Beit Shemesh

Call them WOS

Sir, – With the month of Iyar approaching we most probably will be treated to another vociferous demonstration at the Western Wall. I suggest that the group calling itself Women of the Wall change its name to Women of the Shawl.

I suggest this for two reasons: 1. Wearing a prayer shawl seems to have become a prime issue for many of these women.

2. There are many other women present at the Kotel, either on a daily basis or on a regular basis during Rosh Chodesh, who could equally go under the name Women of the Wall.

For the great majority of women praying at the Western Wall – the last visible remnant of our historic presence on the Temple Mount – the site inspires and connects us with our history and the Almighty.

Among these devoted women are members of the religious Zionist organization Emunah, who pray at the Wall every Rosh Chodesh, followed by breakfast and a study session, very often led by women. There are countless haredi women, young and old, who are also at the Wall any day of the week.

The “Women of the Shawl” have been allotted a separate section where they can pray with mixed genders and using their preferred rituals. For their own sake and for the sake of unity, they should use it.


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