November 28, 2017: A comfortable Shabbat

Readers of the Jerusalem Post have their say.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A comfortable Shabbat

In “Shabbat in Zion” (Editorial, November 24), there is an odd assertion, nearly gratuitous, concerning Sabbath observance. In the third paragraph, there are statements seeming to imply that such observance in its strictest mode was characteristic of Jewish life in exile, and that today in Israel, in the modern era, it is necessary to view Sabbath observance in a different light.
Yes, the world has changed and the place of the Jewish people in their homeland has created a new set of circumstances. Yet what does this have to do with keeping the laws of Shabbat? I am national-religious, and for me and many others I know, our desire to observe the Sabbath is just as strong now as it was for our ancestors. Moreover, the technological innovations that are so characteristic of our times have made such observance easier and, in most cases, allowed for the integration of family, work and security in a much more palpable fashion.
From my perspective, the life of the Sabbath observer has never been more comfortable and meaningful in Jewish history.
I find your editorial alarmingly hurtful.
There is a law that bans work on Shabbat in order to preserve its sanctity as defined in the Torah. Do our rabbis not still think that this is what the Torah says? Are you relying on Rabbi Jerusalem Post, perhaps? Why are you making such a big deal about military operations on Shabbat? Do Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman and our rabbis not agree that there are exceptional cases, such as defense of the country? The definition of “life-saving operations” has not been “greatly expanded”; our rabbis have (not so) simply exercised their right and obligation to interpret Halacha for modern times. That includes addressing issues at hospitals, farms and in Haredi and non-Haredi dwellings. Many of the solutions are amazing and surprisingly hi-tech.
So what about maintaining trains? Who decides what is “reasonable” with respect to Shabbat? You or Litzman and the rabbis? The trains don’t run 24/7 or even 24/6, so there are a lot of non-Shabbat night-time hours for maintenance. Dividing the work over the span of an entire year would possibly be harder, but would almost certainly result in a much safer system.
As for your diatribe against Haredim and their leaders, suffice it to say that I would pit their value and their values against those of the rest of “the entire Israeli population” any day, and perhaps especially on Shabbat.
Petah Tikva

While I do not feel qualified to comment on the political issues your editorial addresses, as a Sabbath-observing Jew and a lover of Zion, I must object strongly to your understanding of both Shabbat observance and those circumstances where the safety and security of others allow for the laws of the Sabbath to be set aside.
While you rightfully note that “the age of passivity and exile are over,” you are sorely mistaken to suggest that the desecration of Shabbat to avoid the inconvenience of those who use the railroad system is an expression “a new era in which it [the Jewish people] must take responsibility for its fate.”
Our fate remains in the hands of those who understand the uniqueness of our people, a nation born at Sinai and a people that has distinguished itself through a respect for tradition and belief in God. To compare the repair of a railway system to the Israeli electric system is disingenuous, especially as you note that the primary reason to violate the Shabbat is a matter of convenience since it is “the national day of rest during which the vast majority of Israelis do not work.”
It was Ahad Ha’am and not a member of United Torah Judaism who is quoted as saying: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.”
It is my sincere prayer that the government will find a solution to this matter, preserving the observance of Shabbat and recognizing that a modern state must also be a state firmly grounded in tradition and committed to a deli - cate status quo that respects all of its citizens while retaining its unique character as a Jewish state.
The writer is a rabbi, co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, dean of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy and a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America.

Lapid is simply unqualified
Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid party and interviewed by Gil Hoffman for “Netanyahu’s ‘huge failure’ on handling Iran is why he must go” (Frontlines, November 24), seems to be a personable and charismatic man. However, since he declares his desire to become prime minister, it is only fair to ask what qualifications he has for the job, something Hoffman did not do.
Lapid left high school early and does not even possess a bagrut (matriculation) certificate, not to speak of an academic education. Because of health problems, according to him, he performed his army service as a correspondent for the IDF newspaper. Before entering politics, he was a journalist and TV broadcaster, and he also wrote a number of bestsellers, mostly fiction.
His political experience consists of an undistinguished stint as finance minister in 2013-2014.
With his lack of formal education and practical military expertise, and his paucity of political achievements, I suggest that Lapid is much too inexperienced to serve as prime minister of a country that faces existential dangers in a very volatile and menacing neighborhood.

Phillips seems to be unaware
Despite her British provenance, Melanie Phillips (“Worried about Jew-baiters? Give it straight back to them,” As I See It, November 24) is obviously completely unaware of the work done by British diplomats, scholars and military personnel who were in Palestine from the mid-19th century onward. Otherwise, she would not have said that “the Jews are the only extant indigenous people of the land.”
James Finn, British consul in Jerusalem (1846- 1863); his wife, Elizabeth Anne (author of Palestine Peasantry, written in the 1850s); and Lt. Col. Claude Conder were all of the opinion that the hill-country fellahin massively pre-dated the Arab invasion of 636 CE. The British, at that time, had no ax to grind. The conflict was yet to generate.
The West Bank Palestinians have a case. The truth of their origin needs to be settled – it is key to settling the conflict. And the Jews have nothing to fear – they, too, massively pre-date the Arab invasion.
Truth to tell, the Jews and the hill-country Palestinians are one and the same people. One part (the Jews) got transported to Babylon; the other remained behind.


Kashrut and nutrition
Kudos to the Dutch Jewish community for facilitating the only Jewish hospice in Europe (“Europe’s only Jewish hospice gives Holocaust survivors a dignified farewell,” Comment & Features, November 26).
The heartwarming description of Immanuel and some of the Holocaust survivors currently resident there will hopefully inspire other countries to provide similar facilities – with one major change. Although non-Jews are also accepted, I find it absolutely unacceptable that this hospice “has a second non-kosher kitchen so as not to limit the nutrition of non-Jews.”
Since when is nutrition limited by not eating dairy with meat and avoiding pig products and shellfish? Rabbis in the Netherlands, please, please impart some practical education to the Dutch Jewish community!