letters good 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - I found nothing to dispute in Rabbi Boteach's "The tragic end of Michael Jackson" (June 28), except that some words were badly lacking.
When young, Michael was viciously and continuously beaten by his father, which cured him for life of feeling loved or wanting to grow up. He wanted to stay a boy among boys.
From many such people we can learn to see children. I did; and Boteach has written before of how Michael helped him to see his own children.
Left alone with their spiritual equals but bodily unequals, such people might lose it and attempt sexual encounters with kids. We don't know if Michael ever did, but if so, he never advocated this as desirable or in need of recognition.
We do know that he was an advocate for children. He also showed that when you have not been loved, you can still love.
Given the hand he was dealt, he played it well. May he rest in peace.
M.M. VAN ZUIDEN
Sir, - It's normal to speak only good of the dead, but in this case the media have gone mad.
I couldn't believe my ears when I heard an announcer on British TV describe Michael Jackson as a role model. Model of what?
The death of someone his age is always a tragedy, but tributes shouldn't be questionable. Thousands of young people around the world do exemplary work but receive no recognition.
Let's keep everything in proportion.
Sir, - Michael Jackson was a tragic figure, idolized by many, including, it seems, Rabbi Boteach. Maybe he should look inward and ask himself why he too was smitten by this tragic, talented and destructive figure. Would he have shown such adulation if Jackson had not been rich and famous?
Sir, - In many ways, Shmuley Boteach and Michael Jackson have much in common. Jackson was a superstar, which is what Boteach strives to be in his world of "kosher sex" and other topics. Rabbi Boteach's powerful relationship with Oprah Winfrey helped propel his radio show and celebrity status, and that is no secret.
Using his haredi garb, beard and Yiddish name "the whole nine yards" succeeds in today's pop world. But, really, we here have little interest in his sensational tabloid exposes, which do well at supermarket checkout counters all over Brooklyn and London.
Sir, - Shmuley Boteach would have us pray for Michael Jackson, and pray for America. He points out that seeking fame is often a substitute for love. One wonders: Does this also apply to self-promotion by "spiritual leaders" who write front-page articles about their relationships with deceased celebrities?
Sir, - There's no denying that the "King of Pop" was a fantastic, talented performer; and, sadly, there's no denying that he himself destroyed his talent and credibility through a series of unfortunate scandals.
The talent will remain through the magic of CDs and DVDs. Let's remember the good, and forget the bad and the ugly.
Missing the point
Sir, - Someone as senior in the Bush Administration as Elliott Abrams would not for nothing have written two pieces for the Wall Street Journal in recent months regarding US-Israeli agreements on settlement expansion. He quite rightly feels that he needs to set history straight ("Abrams: Clinton is 'incorrect' in saying there were no tacit understandings on settlements," June 26).
So when Americans say that Barack Obama is so popular that settlements are not an issue with much support in Congress, that is totally missing the point.
That the issue is settlements, however popular or unpopular in US eyes, is irrelevant.
The real issue is not honoring past agreements of the US administration while at the same expecting Israel to be exemplary in honoring past agreements. It is a crucial issue that should involve everybody in the US concerned with the integrity of government.
The Jewish state...
Sir, - In "The only state in the world whose existence is deemed negotiable" (June 25), Evelyn Gordon did a great job of explaining why it is important to the State of Israel to be recognized by the Arabs as a Jewish state. She answered many of my questions.
...and an illegal claim
Sir, - With respect to Israel's requirement that the Palestinian Arabs recognize Israel as a Jewish state, there is an additional significant distinction between Egypt and Jordan, on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand.
The former tried to annihilate Israel by means of war and terrorism over many decades. But they never used as a pretext the claim that "Palestine" (i.e., the State of Israel within its 1949 armistice demarcation lines) actually belonged to them - or either of them - because the Jewish people illegally colonized and then, via an unprovoked war, stole the land by expelling most of the inhabitants and subjugating the rest.
Rather, these two countries and the split leadership of the Palestinian Arabs all teach their respective populations that the Jews committed these crimes only against the Palestinian Arabs.
This falsified history is what has created an irredentist and revanchist Palestinian claim to the Jewish state that is not currently part of the national ethos of either Egypt or Jordan.
Sir, - Demonstrating on behalf of Gilad Schalit is a waste of time; Hamas is not listening, and neither is the Red Cross ("'Gilad is 'begging for his life,' Noam Schalit tells third anniversary rally in Tel Aviv," June 26).
Seal the Gaza border completely. Nothing goes in and nothing comes out until Gilad Schalit is home safe and sound.
Rooting for Beit Hillel
Sir, - More power to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar for standing firm against the Just-Say-No High Rabbinical Court, and in particular Rabbi Avraham Sherman ("Amar moves to bar controversial rabbinic judge from conversion cases," June 26).
The Talmud records a long series of disputes between Beit Hillel, whose adherents generally toe a more accommodative line on halachic matters, and Beit Shammai - the strict, rigid decisors. You need no more than your 10 fingers to count the number of times Halacha follows Beit Shammai.
So is the situation today, with the High Rabbinical Court playing the role of Beit Shammai. Let us hope that in the not too distant future, we will be fortunate enough to witness the eclipse of Rabbi Sherman and the other members of his court, and the rise once again of a Beit Hillel-type of approach to halachic decisions.
MICHAEL D. HIRSCH