October 31: Sources of our national being

It is rather sad how some secularists seem to disdain any whiff of Jewish tradition out of hand.

letters 88 (photo credit: )
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Sources of our national being
Sir, – Regarding Eran Baruch’s “A secular Jew is no less Jewish than any other” (October 28): It is almost impossible to categorize a Jew as secular, orthodox, haredi, traditional orthodox, traditional secular, or any combination of the above, without really knowing the individual’s inner Jewish soul.
Therefore, the statistics cited in this op-ed are somewhat questionable.
However, Baruch is absolutely correct that Jewish culture and tradition are the heritage of all of us, no matter how one embraces them.
It is rather sad how some secularists seem to disdain any whiff of Jewish tradition out of hand. This apparently stems from the early Zionist ideology of trying to break the ties of traditionalism that prevailed at that time, which opposed any change in the Jewish condition of the Diaspora.
Today, however, we are a free people in our own land, and it’s time for all of us to try to understand the sources of our national being.
Ganei Tikva
Staying grounded
Sir, – Professor Gil Troy writes symmetrically of “the perpetual conundrum – how to give the Palestinians enough concessions to feel satisfied while giving Israelis enough assurances to feel safe” (“It’s not us, it’s them,” Center field, October 27).
There’s no symmetry, though. At any time the Arabs can simply decide to feel satisfied – and they’ll be satisfied. Israel can’t simply decide to feel safe and be safe. We felt safe in 1972 and weren’t safe in 1973.
For a Canadian professor, and even for an Arab contemplating the condition of his people’s dignity, the important issues may all be in the mind. But we Israelis must always consider the dangers on the ground.
Tutu: Patron of what?
Sir, – Regarding “Tutu urges opera not to tour Israel” (Arts in brief, October 27): Is there a clearer example and justification to call on the Cape Town Holocaust Centre and the new Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre to remove Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a patron?
Cape Town
The next Palestinian leader
Sir, – What are we to make of Dennis Ross’s statement enjoining Israel not to lose the chance to make peace with “unique” Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad? After all, said Ross, they have rejected violence (“Ross: Failure in talks could imperil gains made in security,” October 27).
His characterization of Abbas notwithstanding, examples abound to the contrary. Was it not in fact Abbas who opened the first Fatah Congress in 20 years with the declaration that “resistance” remains an option? Periodic reports of similar calls for armed struggle by the misperceived-as-moderate leader have surfaced before and since.
But even if we could accept Ross’s spurious claim for a moment, shouldn’t we still worry about the next Palestinian leader, one who just as well may not reject the use of violence?
Director, Israel office Zionist Organization of America Jerusalem
PC paralysis
Sir, – Ray Hanania (“Racism is in the eye of the beholder,” October 27) sees a discriminatory skeleton in the closet of those who would protest the sacking of Juan Williams by National Public Radio.
Hanania fails to mention that the call for Williams’s sacking came from CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), a front group for Hamas in the United States.
Hanania’s comparison of Williams’s comments to those of three high-profile media personalities falls far short of the mark.
Helen Thomas, in a moment of candor, said: “Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine.” Octavia Nasr lionized a Hizbullah terror chieftain on a social network, and Rick Sanchez gave traction to a timeworn anti-Semitic canard on the air. Williams was dismissed for stepping over the red line of political correctness that prohibits criticism of Islam.
Ironically, Juan Williams also noted on O’Reilly’s program that “political correctness can lead to a type of paralysis where you don’t address reality.”
NPR’s dismissal of Juan Williams demonstrates exactly the type of political correctness of which he spoke.
Codes without magic
Sir, – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, in “Rise of the religious charlatans” (October 26), has unjustly characterized all Torah code efforts as magic, soothsaying, profiteering and fraud.
Various groups and individuals do indeed misuse the tools of Torah codes study, both in print and on the Internet, and it is indeed a problem. To whatever extent dishonest presentation, flawed methodology, and distortion of results are in fact involved, warnings to the public are called for, and are well-founded.
But Boteach’s careless words of dismissal across the board are comparable to one who would advise discarding the Bible because of its misuse by missionaries. He thereby promotes a gross misperception of the scientifically disciplined codes research which has been conducted quietly over the past three decades.
It has been our privilege to serve on the team of professors, computer scientists, mathematicians, linguists, and scientists working with Professor Eliyahu Rips of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, for the past 20 years.
The idea of Torah codes was first recorded by the sages Rabbi Bahya ben Asher (commentary on Genesis, 11th century) and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Pardes Rimonim, 16th century). Its study was renewed in the 20th century by Rabbi Michoel Dov Ber Weissmandl, who searched for codes by hand while in hiding from the Nazis.
In our times, Dr. Rips was the first to conjecture that if such codes were real, computer programs could be designed that would be able to identify such patterns, and a protocol could be developed to distinguish between random and non-coincidental occurrences, using standardized statistical procedures accepted in the world of scientific research.
Random occurrences can be found with irregular frequency in any written text, even on a cereal box, and certainly in any text the length of War and Peace or Moby Dick.
However, those who are familiar with the research, are technically qualified, and have taken the time to study the findings observe that such patterns occur in the Torah with a statistical significance not remotely approached by searches of comparison texts.
Contrary to Boteach’s incorrect characterization of the research, it is entirely unrelated to foretelling the future or making predictions.
Dr. Rips has publicly stated, in remarks posted on the Internet, that all attempts to make predictions based on Torah codes are futile and of no value.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from the scientific research regarding the Torah codes is that they exist and are not a mere coincidence.
Documented at www.torahcodes.net are 10 scientific papers that have passed peer review in three scientific journals, along with letters of support from a number of leading Torah authorities of our generation.
Boteach’s condemnation helps keep the veils drawn over a gift for our age.
Senior Cryptologic Mathematician (ret.) United States Department of Defense Baltimore
Out of the way, gov’t
Sir, – Kudos to Abraham Israel for his articulate depiction of one of the problems faced by non-profit organizations in Israel (“The tax on charities,” October 25).
You would think that the government would get out of the way of “third sector” services and let them do their jobs.
Executive director, Darche Noam Institutions Modi’in