Letters to the Editor December 28, 2022: The whole Torah

Readers of The Jerusalem Post have their say.

 Letters (photo credit: PIXABAY)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

Kudos to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg for his very thoughtful article “Salanter vs the Deri law” (December 26), in which he cogently argues that passing a law enabling Arye Deri to be a minister in the incoming government despite his convictions for crimes is a “dismissal of the life and teachings of Rabbi Israel Salanter,” and very contrary to basic Jewish teachings. 

Rabbi Greenberg’s statement that Judaism today is stressing uniform ritual observance and instilling behavioral conformity rather than ethical behavior, and that the Torah has been turned into a sectarian weapon, is much needed analysis right now.

I hope that many more rabbis and other Jewish leaders will join him in his efforts to “launch a 21st-century renewal movement within Judaism to restore the observance of the whole Torah and to place building a just society... at the center of Jewish life.”


In my opinion, Yitz Greenberg’s op-ed is one of the most important articles I have read in the Post. The sad truth is, however, that it will not affect the world view of those who conflate religiosity with piety. 


Every square kilometer

Regarding “Erdogan threatens Greece with a missile strike’’ (December 25): Even though Turkey is a large country, it demands land and territorial waters that belong to Greece. Both democracies and dictatorships jealously guard every square kilometer of their territory, and even then many are greedy for more.

Egypt and Jordan demanded that all lands tiny Israel won in the Six Day War must be returned to conclude peace treaties. In Israel’s recent maritime border dispute with Lebanon, the latter gained more than it deserved.

The countries of Scandinavia, Russia, the US and Canada are vigilant over their sovereignty of the frozen, sparsely inhabited lands and seas of the Arctic region not only because of the natural resources and shipping routes, but also because all countries consider their territories sacred.

While China and Japan bitterly dispute control over the tiny Senkaku Islands, enormous Russia refuses to give back the four small southernmost Kuril Islands to Japan, seized in 1945. And then there is the ongoing big dispute of China with Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea with its important oil, natural gas and fisheries.

Unlike with Lebanon, if and when a Palestinian state is established on the West Bank, Israel has a major bargaining chip. Between 1932 and 1935, the Chaco War fought between Bolivia and Paraguay claimed 100,000 lives. Both were landlocked countries, but it was more important for Bolivia in the war to access the Paraguay River yielding an exit to the Atlantic Ocean.

Palestinians in the landlocked West Bank will also want a passage through Israel to Gaza for its beaches and commerce.


Wedding cake

In his article about the possibility of vendors being allowed to refuse service according to their religious beliefs, Eliav Breuer presented a series of hypothetical scenarios, mostly dealing with  the haredi community (“RZP MK Orit Struck: Vendors should be allowed to refuse service according to their religious beliefs,” December 26).

However in the United States, this became a legal issue, brought to light by the wedding cake case where a baker from Colorado refused to prepare a wedding cake for a gay couple on the grounds that it went against his Christian religious beliefs. He was accused of violating the civil rights of the gay couple and convicted, but appealed his case through the state courts all the way up to the US Supreme Court which ruled in the baker’s favor.

The story did not end there, however, and several other cases are winding their way up to the Supreme Court. Due to the intricacies of state and federal law, the final determination is yet to come.

The legal process is different in Israel, but what is important is to keep the law and politics separate from each other in order to ensure the rights of each citizen.

MARION REISS, Beit Shemesh

The RZP and Noam are very keen on negative discrimination and refusal of services to sectors they don’t like, and have even drawn up lists of enemies like a bunch of primary school girls. They should consider what will happen when the sane majority starts refusing service to people whose lifestyle choices they disagree with, such as people who don’t serve in the army, people who refuse to work, people who live off benefits while dictating to others how to live their lives, people who support corrupt and rapist rabbis, etc.

What will be their response when people abroad refuse service to Jews? Will they look in the mirror and cry “antisemitism?”


Truth in history

Gary Epstein’s article “Woke truth about the Maccabees” (December 26) is pure genius. His erudite account of Islam’s entry into events that were already well-established must go down as a classic.

His suggestion that for anyone who doubted a particular claim, “it would be a fairly easy exercise to pass confirmatory resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO and the UN General Assembly” cannot be faulted. Now at last I know why Israel graciously handed over its historic narrative to the ‘Palestinians’ and accepted the Muslim flag over what I had always thought of as Israel’s holiest site, the Temple Mount. Surely my sleepless nights over those questions will now be over.

It is my opinion, that without further ado, Mr. Epstein should be awarded the Mahmoud Abbas ‘Truth in History’ award. It’s really a no-brainer.


Church and state

Regarding the editorial “It’s getting dark” (December 27): Secular, liberal Israel is slowly coming to the realization that there is no democracy in religion. A democratic religious Israel is the ultimate oxymoron. The US is the greatest democratic power because of the wisdom of the founding fathers in the Constitution, which carved in stone the “separation of church and state.”

Before it is too late, Israel needs a constitution which will adopt the same fundamental wisdoms. The Smotrich, Ben-Gvir, Deri coalition of Orthodox demands is a wake-up call which should alert anybody interested in the long-term survival of a democratic Israel. The writing is on the synagogue walls.


I heard an interview with Religious Zionist Party MK Orit Struck on Reshet Bet. As usual Struck was eloquent and convincing in her arguments. I listened very carefully to the entire, long interview. She never attacked the LGBT community; far from it.

What she said was that religious Jewish doctors should not be required to carry out medical procedures which are against Halacha if there is another doctor available who can do so. That sounds quite reasonable to me. Distorting her words is neither fair nor honest.

I also believe that the shock and horror widely expressed at the very idea that religious Jewish doctors might be unwilling to act against the Jewish Halacha is very disturbing. One can argue cogently that it might have been better had this bill not been included at all in the coalition agreements, but now that it has been, criticism of it should be objective.

It is unjust to imply that the rights of all sections of the Israeli public should be respected except those of religious Jews. After all, what is this entire outcry about? The religious are the only section of the population which is expected to act against its beliefs.

I cannot get over the impression from what you write in the editorial that the right of religious Jews to act according to their conscience can be trampled on with impunity, and that the very idea that they should want to do so is regarded as outrageous. How sad.


Well-being and desires

Regarding “On a collision course” (December 23): My response is – hardly. While the incoming prime minister and his governing coalition will most certainly be facing some very troublesome crossroads on the issues your story covered, decisions taken must consider first and foremost the well-being and desires of the Israeli citizenry. The reactions of both allies and enemies must not overly influence the policies Israel adopts and implements.

I’ll not deny that positive and mutually beneficial relations with international players – US, EU, Russia, China – are nothing less than crucial in the upcoming weeks and months, but as long as Netanyahu remains steadfast and understands the priorities of his administration, there will be no collision with those mentioned in your article, or even a fender-bender for that matter. The question is whether we can count on Bibi to not stray from the commitments he made to the electorate.

What the government can expect – to continue the road-related metaphorical images –- are deep potholes that can do serious damage regardless of the road taken. Diplomatic inroads with Saudi Arabia – a key player both regionally and internationally – are being made but will most certainly come to a grinding halt if the issue of sovereignty returns to the top of the agenda.

The sorely needed modification to the Law of Return that is being discussed will likely result in some sour feelings among the more liberal Jewish communities throughout the world, but they will, in time, accept the change. And if liberal media outlets such as The New York Times issue subtle threats that Israel’s new hardline government may negatively impact positive perceptions of Israel by both the White House and Congress, well, so be it.

I’m not, frankly, without apprehension on where we will be taken once this new government is inaugurated. What was once a proud party that stood for religious Zionism is now a travesty, and civil liberties is not something that should be complacently compromised. So, while I see no collisions coming involving those with whom Israel routinely interacts, there will likely be some road rage on our internal highways, and not only metaphorically.

BARRY NEWMAN, Ginot Shomron

He’s dreaming

When Uri Pilichowski wrote his latest “Living the Dream” column, titled “Middle East manifest destiny” (December 25 ), he truly was living the dream.

If he thinks Israelis are “confident that a day will come when they will be the sole inheritors of the land,” he’s dreaming. Nobody expects the Arabs to disappear or to go unrepresented.

If he thinks “neither side has demonstrated a willingness to consider the demands of the other,” he’s dreaming. Or he’s unaware that the Palestinian Authority’s very existence has anything to do with such a willingness on Israel’s part.

It appears that Pilichowski is determined to elevate himself to a position of high moral objectivity above a balanced dispute. But the weight is uneven. It’s like trying to balance a lollipop in mid-stick.