letters to the editor 88.
(photo credit: )
Sir, - As a member of the Second Generation who lost two grandfathers and several other close relatives in the Shoah, I was glad to see your talented Larry Derfner tackling in "Et tu, Israel?" (March 30) the urgent issue of returning property and money that has been kept - more, I suspect, out of laziness than intent - from the heirs of those who perished in the Holocaust.
The indomitable Avraham Roet is a tzadik - a truly righteous man. May he be granted the health and boundless energy needed to continue with his blessed task; and may one result of his labors be, as Mr. Derfner writes, that "hundreds of millions of badly-needed dollars [become available for the basic needs of elderly, impoverished Holocaust survivors living in Israel], who number, by conservative estimates, 70,000."
Coming just a few weeks after Mr. Derfner's heartrending cover story detailing the sad neglect of those Holocaust survivors in Israel, this article was a timely and very necessary continuation. We must not rest until there is not one Holocaust survivor remaining who suffers from hunger, cold or the inability to procure needed medication.
Kudos to your paper for taking up this vital, not so "sexy" cause.
Easy does it
Sir, - I enjoy Sarah Honig's columns immensely, but "Drowning out reality" (March 30) was too strident. David Ben-Gurion, she says, intuitively sensed that our youth's "Zionist selflessness... would fade fast opposite the glitz" of pop culture, therefore he delayed the introduction of TV to Israel. She argues that "Israel's mainstream today proves how right he was."
Yet - a few, much-publicized draft dodgers apart - today's young soldiers have repeatedly risked their lives to keep us safe. Had Ben-Gurion's troops known that their war would last, on and off, for over 60 years, they too might have appreciated the distraction that the likes of Bar Rafaeli and Leonardo DiCaprio have to offer.
TV did not erode the selflessness of my neighbor who gave his life defending us up north last summer. I think that compassion for each other and the belief that every Jew is necessary for Israel's redemption is the heart of Zionism. Let's leave asceticism to the monks.
JOHN A. KENNEDY
Sir, - David Forman's take on "Orthodox" tradition regarding women's role in the Pessah Seder is sadly distorted ("Why not an egalitarian Seder?" March 30). At our seder, as well as at all the other Orthodox Seders I have attended for the past 35 years, it is the youngest child - girl or boy - who asks the four questions, to everyone's delight. In the same issue Rabbi Shlomo Riskin refers to the broader meaning of the Hebrew word ben to refer to a child, not necessarily a son.
Women are obligated to fulfill all the mitzvot of the Seder, one of the main reasons being, as our sages continually point out, that it was only thanks to the resilience and faith of the Israelite women that we were redeemed at all! The men had lost hope and didn't want to sire any more children; it was the women who turned the tide.
The practical result of this is the constant admonishing by major rabbinical authorities that while Pessah cleaning must concentrate on doing what is halachically demanded to remove hametz from the home, it should not have the women of the family working so hard that they cannot complete the Seder, or enjoy the holiday.
...in the Seder
Sir, - David Forman opposes "the current fad" that seeks to give Miriam a prominent place at the Seder table. Since "Moses's name is excluded from the Seder night, why should Miriam's be included?" he asks. However, a distinction should be drawn between the traditional text of the Haggada and commentaries and customs interpreted as also referring to Moses.
For example, a responsum which has come down to us in the name of Rabbi Sherira Gaon (c. 906-1006) mentions that the two cooked foods placed on the Seder table - traditionally an egg and a shankbone - are in memory of the two emissaries, Moses and Aaron, and that some add another cooked food in memory of Miriam.
Furthermore, in his classic work Shnei Luhot Habrit Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (c. 1565-1630) explains - in connection with Rabbi Gamaliel's saying that whoever has not mentioned these three things: Pessah (Paschal Lamb), matza and maror (bitter herbs), has not fulfilled his obligation - that Pessah is symbolic of Aaron, matza of Moses, and maror of Miriam.
Thus there seems no apparent reason to exclude Miriam from the Seder.
Sir, - Amotz Asa-El's evaluation of Moses as a leader was most perceptive, but misses one point ("Who was Moses?" March 30). He wrote "Moses was not a man of war," quoting Ahad Ha'am: "Not once do we find Moses personally leading an army." However, according to a close reading of the biblical text, and supported by the commentator B'chor Shor, Moses personally led the Israelite ex-slaves in battle with the Amalekites after the crossing of the Red Sea.
Brought up in Pharaoh's court, Moses undoubtedly participated in intensive military training with the other young courtiers. He even developed an international reputation for military leadership (Midrash). His training included close combat, evidenced by his killing a burly taskmaster in hand-to-hand engagement.
Moses led the Israelite army to victory by hand signals from a hilltop. When he was able to follow the battle he continued hand-signaling (and praying) with upraised arms, and the Israelites prevailed. When, periodically incapacitated by weariness, he lowered his arms and stopped signaling, the Amalekites prevailed.
Moses was the consummate general who excelled in "reading the battle" - directing intelligence gathering, logistics and military and diplomatic negotiations, all detailed in the Torah!
S. H. BLONDHEIM
Sir - Jonathan Rosenblum's "Embrace the abnormal" (March 23) was an exercise in generalities while pursuing a specific agenda. A glance at the everyday scene in the Knesset most surely portrays to what extent abnormality has grasped the nation. But if Mr. Rosenblum wishes to examine Zionist aspirations and visions, he needs to extend his enquiry beyond deficient socialist Zionists.
Gershon Winer's The Founding Fathers of Israel portrays visionaries, zealots, prophets, nationalists, mystics, existentialists, philosophers, marxists, rebels, socialists, repentants and iconoclasts as a statement in the variance of the earlier Zionists' objectives. If we are to choose a Zionist who was neither obsessed with security ("peace at any price") nor isolation, we need look no further than ambassador Ya'acov Herzog, son of Israel's first chief rabbi and brother of a former president.
Herzog did not believe in a distinction between the secular and the spiritual realms, and did not think it had any place in Judaism. Nor could he understand the significance of the return to Zion against the background of historical continuity without a spiritual conception.
Mr. Rosenblum should not judge us by the lowest denominator of human behavior of both secular and haredi society. Nor should he desire our goals to be determined by them.
For the record
Sir, - In "Don't you be my neighbor!" (March 16), Erica Chernofsky referred to Beit Orot as operating "a yeshiva of 10 families on the northern side of the Mount of Olives." But Beit Orot also has a vibrant group of some 125 committed young men who combine Torah studies with army service within the Hesder framework. One of them happens to be our eldest son, and we're exceedingly proud that he is part of this wonderful enterprise, which is creating the first living Jewish presence on the Mount of Olives in 2,000 years.
SHARON YELLIN WEINGARTEN