(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sir, - The debate between Shmuley Boteach and Dennis Prager as to who is to blame for the breakup of the family certainly made for a captivating talk show. But the "blame game" rarely offers solutions ("Self-hating Spitzer," March 17).
The problem lies at the core of our being. Thus did Rabbi Frand of Baltimore coin the phrase The Me-llenium. It's all about Me! We have lost the art of communication and active listening, which are the precursors to genuine and lasting intimacy. Men and women alike are engrossed in their respective careers, climbing the ladder of success, leaving little time for cultivating a meaningful and enduring relationship.
The US Bureau of the Census (1998) related that 30% of two-year-olds at that time were living in single-parent homes, and predicted that by the time those children were 18 - in 2014 - 60% of them would be in a similar situation.
To combat this frightening reality, my partner, Lori Lurie, and I have begun the Choices of the Heart organization, giving preparatory workshops to newly-weds and nearly-weds and teaching the forgotten skills and qualities that promote strong families.
"It's good to have money and things money can buy, but it's good to check once in a while, and make sure you haven't lost the things that money can't buy" (G. Lorimer).
SHERRIE B. MILLER
Twelve, not 60
Sir, - Re "For Israel's anniversary - electing MKs from 60 regions?" (March 11): I think 60 regions is too many. We are a small country, and even the US only has 50 regions. Why not 12 regions, modeled after the 12 tribes? The residents of each one would elect 10 members each; in case of a split vote, the PM would decide. For a system of locally elected officials, we substitute a truly representative government for our false democracy.
No surprise, really
Sir, - Dubian Nazirat, member of a terror-gang planning to blow up the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, has been sentenced to nine years in prison. Such a sentence for planning mass murder is a slap on the wrist and will encourage other terror cells to try to kill as many Jews as possible, knowing that a failed mission will not lead to serious punishment.
But I guess I shouldn't be surprised since other terrorists caught in the act who failed in their attacks have been exchanged in "good-will" gestures to our "peace partners" ("Would-be Azrieli bomber gets nine years," March 24).
Sir, - The Palestinian Authority is planning an "invasion" of Arab refugees to mark Israel's 60th anniversary. Nearly 70 quotations from Arab leaders, UN and British officials, memoirs, Arab and foreign press reports and refugees themselves attest that Arab leaders, not Israel, were responsible for the refugee problem. This propaganda ploy is clearly aimed at embarrassing Israel by highlighting the "right of return." Will our government seize this unique opportunity to publicize the truth? ("PA urges Palestinians to 'return' to Israel on 60th anniversary," March 18.)
Sir, - We Arabs know that Israel cannot survive without a peace agreement. The road map is a mistake we Muslims should not commit. Israel, little by little, will cease to exist due to Arab and Islamic pressure. The Three Noes of Sudan, in the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser, were very wise.
ABDEL HAKIM NUSSEIRY
Shmita: An act of faith
Sir, - I'd like to return to a topic which Gloria Mound tackled in "Shmita, creatively" (Letter, February 1). She asserted that the Torah does not stipulate which year of the seven-year shmita cycle is the actual one during which the land should rest, and suggests that farmers divide their fields into seven areas, farming only six each year and allowing one different area to rest; thus enabling all of the land to rest over the course of seven years.
Creative thinking, indeed - but the language of Leviticus: 25, in which the laws of Shmita appear, conveys that all of the land must rest and all its produce become ownerless. If God intended only one-seventh of the land to rest each year, what point would there be in His promise that "I will direct My blessing to you in the sixth year" - that the land will yield produce sufficient to carry us through until the new crop is ready in the eighth year?
Further, the same chapter stipulates that every 50th year is a Jubilee year. This is also a year of rest for the land, creating a back-to-back double Shmita in years 49 and 50. What does this suggest? That letting the land rest is more an act of faith, and not, as Ms. Mound writes, a technique for our ancestors, who lacked modern agricultural chemicals.
True, we don't observe the Jubilee year in our time because it applies only when the majority of the Jewish people reside in the land (which we hope and pray will occur soon). Our great Jewish leaders determined over 2,000 years ago that so long as we are a dispersed people we should continue to observe laws such as Shmita to keep us "in practice" for the day when the ingathering is complete, when we will be obligated to observe them precisely, in all their original detail.
We must be "educated consumers" of information and evaluate suggestions such as Ms. Mound's with the aid of the actual words of the Torah, combined with the writings of our great sages going back thousands of years. They were a lot closer to these events at the time they actually occurred, and their writings remain a reliable guide to observing God's commandments correctly.
We aren't angels
Sir, - Ron Kronish committed a telling error in "Gestures of reconciliation" (March 20), writing that a midrash regarding the crossing of the Red Sea "rebukes the Jews for singing when God's children were drowning." Actually, it is not the Hebrews but the angels of heaven, rejoicing as they look on, who are rebuked. From their lofty perspective, the angels should properly feel nothing but regret for the carnage, regardless of circumstances; the Hebrews, on the other hand, are fleeing for their lives and have every reason to rejoice in their survival, even at the Egyptian pursuers' expense.
Unlike a Buddhist or a stylite, a Jew is not supposed to transcend the conflicts life presents. A Jew must take sides, which means there is a limit to empathizing with the enemy, and there is gratification in victory. In fact, the Talmud quickly proceeds to quote Rabbi Elazar, who makes a distinction between the divine perspective and the human: "He Himself does not rejoice, but He makes others rejoice."
So was it then, so is it now. Nothing should prevent us from rejoicing when the Kassams stop falling, and no attempt at an angelic degree of empathy should prevent us from stopping them.
MARK L. LEVINSON
Sir, - On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the historic relief convoy to the beleaguered city of Jerusalem, I would like to propose the organization of an anniversary convoy made up of old trucks and vehicles, driven by veteran drivers to Israel's capital.
Under the same biblical slogan - "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem" - the convoy would carry vital foodstuffs donated by Israeli food manufacturers, which would be distributed to the needy population.
I would be pleased to act on this proposal personally and work out the details. Please email me at email@example.com if you are interested.
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