I just read Marty Kaplan's Alan Greenspan article ... truly amazing journalism ("Alan Shrugged," Oct. 13). I rarely read news columns with such insightful and poetic language ... especially financially related.
Thank you -- it's nice to know there are some columnists who express their vision through the style of their words and not through the self-indulgence of their intellect.
Sit, Stay a While
Last week's Torah Portion, "Sit, Stay a While," made the rather astonishing claim that Jews who recite the blessing "lei-sheiv ba-sukkah" and subsequently sit down in fulfillment of the literal meaning of the words of the blessing are committing an error (Oct. 17). It is particularly remarkable coming from a Sephardic rabbi, since the basis for this custom is rooted directly in the words of Maimonides -- a pillar of Sephardic Jewry -- near the end of the sixth chapter of his rules on the Sukkah where he says explicitly that the "custom of the Sephardic rabbis" was to say the blessing standing and then, immediately afterward, sit down.
This view is then quoted by Rabbi Yosef Karo, the Sephardic author of the Code of Jewish Law. For Sephardic Jews, the practice of sitting after the blessing of "lei-sheiv ba-sukkah" is well founded, and should not be subjected to ignorant scorn.
Rabbi Bouskila's responds:
I refer the soft-spoken, respectful writer to the commentaries on Maimonides, who writes: "The meaning of 'leshev' is not 'yeshiva mamash' (actual sitting), for even if one stood in the Sukkah throughout the day and never actually sat down, he has still fulfilled the commandment." Rav Yosef Karo -- the authority in Sephardic halacha -- does quote Maimonides, but his Shulchan Aruch immediately states that "this is not the custom." In Sephardic communities, we follow Rav Karo, not Maimonides.
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila
Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel
In Morris J. Amitay's article, he destroys all credibility of his pro-McCain statement ("McCain for America -- and Israel," Oct. 10). He claims that, for too many of us Jews, our concern for preserving abortion rights takes precedence over caring about the security of America and Israel. That declaration is insulting.
Does Amitay not recognize that people can have opinions on two (or even more, gasp!) issues at the same time? I believe that the expression of an opinion like Amitay's can be the result of either stupidity or political dishonesty.
He cites also Joe Lieberman's support for McCain because he rises above "the negativism and pettiness of our politics." This, when practically all of McCain's advertising consists of vicious negative attacks on his rival?
I hope that Mr. Amitay is ashamed of himself, but he probably isn't.
Perhaps his mother is.
First the puff piece by David Suissa extolling Sarah Palin ("Shooting Sarah Palin," Sept. 19), and now the article by Morris Amitay on why Americans should vote for McCain.
In the interest of brevity, just two points: First, even if one were to agree with Amitay's statements, I found it rather revealing that he did not consider it significant to address the fact that if anything were to happen to McCain, Palin would assume the presidency. Now, if all the issues that Amitay raises regarding Obama's experience are accurate, how does he rationalize that the governor's experience is sufficient for the presidency? If the prospect of Palin assuming the presidency does not raise great concerns for Amitay, then he is completely blinded by his parochialism.
Second, it is not the issue of abortion that is a concern to many Jews with whom I speak; it is McCain's own statement that he would "select Supreme Court justices in the image of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas."
So, with McCain, we have the prospect of Palin as president and several more right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court! No, I don't think I'll be voting for McCain, even though, as a Holocaust survivor, I appreciate the criticality of Israel's survival as a haven for Jews, perhaps even more so than Mr. Amitay.
Nevertheless, I am not willing to subjugate my American interests to those of Israel.
Reading The Journal's articles and ads, one might conclude that Jews automatically must be Democrats and Barack Obama supporters ("Why Obama Is Better Than McCain for Israel," Oct. 17).
In truth, more and more of us are concluding that the Democratic Party is no longer the party of Harry Truman, JFK, "Scoop" Jackson and Joe Lieberman, no longer is strongly supportive of Israel, and therefore no longer merits our unquestioning support.
Liberal Democrats have controlled the California Legislature for decades, and the result has been fiscal disaster for this state. They have had the same impact on the federal government since they took control of Congress two years ago. Now they are close to taking control of the presidency, too. If so, we are likely to see a repeat of the late 1970s Carter administration, which was the worst domestic and foreign policy disaster in American history.
In contrast, John McCain has always acted as a centrist, reaching across the aisle in a way Obama never ever has, whether in Illinois or Washington, D.C.
The only hope to prevent that is if enough Americans -- including we Jews --think twice about their unquestioning support for this questionable candidate, and support the better candidate to be commander-in-chief, John McCain.
The Great Schlep
The Great Schlep of young Jews to Florida for the express and only purpose of convincing their elderly grandparents to vote for Barack Obama is a disgusting display of the arrogance, the chutzpah, of some of our young Jews ("My Great Schlep Pays Off in Politics and Grandma's Food," Oct. 17).
Can you imagine how the thinking in our community has been reversed? For how many generations have most societies recognized the truth, the common sense that generally speaking, our young learn from their elders? Elders are venerated in many societies.
So, now it's the young life experience and abilities to make sound decisions that are superior to that of their elders -- what gall! There seems to be an element of insulting condescension to their grandparents displayed in the stories about these grandchildren.
Rob Eshman, never missing an opportunity to smear Sarah Palin, inveighs against Westbrook Pegler a mid-20th century colorful journalist from whom Palin quoted on the virtues of small-town America ("Wall St., Main St., Jew St." Oct. 10).
Before Pegler became a journalistic crank, in his earlier career he was an outspoken critic of Nazism and communism; he weighed against U.S. participation in the 1936 Olympic games as a vote against Hitler's ideology and expressed sympathy and empathy for Hitler's Jewish victims in the Holocaust.
Eshman's reading of the current crisis as being driven by latent anti-Semitism bespeaks a narcissism that virtually all conflicts contain anti-Semitism at its core. The leading factor in Wall Street's crisis emanates from the unregulated abuse of Fannie Mae, a protected stepchild of the Democrats who refused to allow investigations by the Republicans since 2003.
Aside from Barney Frank and Chuck Shumer, I don't believe Nancy Pelosi, Christopher Dodd and Joe Biden, nor James Johnson and Franklin Raines (Obama's financial advisers) are Jewish.
It looks like Eshman may have a reprieve from buying his plane ticket.
So Rob Eshman feels that an October release of the film "Obsession," which concerns the threat from worldwide Islamic radicalism, turns "a serious if flawed movie and a life-and-death issue into a partisan campaign ploy" ("Return to Sender," Oct. 17).
It is interesting that Eshman assumes that a film that takes the Islamist threat seriously, but does not endorse any presidential candidate, must somehow be intended to boost the election prospects of John McCain. Be that as it may, is Eshman advocating that life-and-death issues not be the subjects of partisan political debate? Isn't it precisely such serious matters that should command attention in this presidential campaign? Or does Eshman feel that political partisans should confine their discussions to trivial issues?
Ralph B. Kostant