September 20, 2007
Cake is taken; happiness is not a warm gun; go veg, young man!
Frankly, I've read other articles in The Journal that I haven't agreed with before, but this one, written by Daniel Sokatch, takes the cake ("We Must Teach About Israel -- Warts and All," Sept. 14). It's nothing but a pure leftist propaganda piece disguised as a thoughtful solution to the disaffection that so many American Jewish youths have toward Israel.
In reality, the author had no real solution other than to attack and make claims about the Israelis living in Judea-Samaria (Yesha) which, for the most part, are entirely unfounded. Further, he attacks the State of Israel unjustifiably for the conditions in which the 2 1/2 million Arabs, also in Judea-Samaria, live.
I am not sure Daniel Sokatch is aware of the pervasive contradictions in the article he wrote. Let me help clarify the many "complications" he alludes to.
When he says that "Israel has for almost 40 years engaged in an occupation of the West Bank," it shows he hasn't got a clue of the historical and legal realities of the region. Otherwise, he would have realized that: a) by calling Judea and Samaria the "West Bank," he already engages in a semantic distortion of reality; b) that Israel could not possibly "occupy" a territory that has been legally attributed to the Jewish people by the international community 85 years ago and which did not belong to any sovereign power before or since.
Sokatch may call his alliance "progressive," but I shiver at the thought of an organization harboring his confused sense of reality trying to spread its sheer ignorance of the facts to young American Jews.
Amy Klein's fascinating article about happiness elides one great truth about happiness: It is not actually the principle end of life ("Can Happiness Be Taught," Sept. 14). Rousseau observed that "even in our keenest pleasures, there is scarcely a single moment of which the heart could truthfully say: Would that this moment could last forever!" He was making clear that we want more than pleasure, more indeed than happiness.
Philosopher Robert Nozick proposed an experiment years ago, the "experience machine." It would give a virtual experience of everything the person wanted, so that it would all seem real and be perfect.
Most people would reject such a life. Why? Because although we all want to be happy, happiness is not all we want. We want something deeper, richer, harder than happiness alone.
This is hardly a new observation. It is ancient and survives through Greek tragedy and modern literature. As the years have passed, Aldous Huxley's novel, "Brave New World," has grown in relevance. Remember the words of "The Savage" in his book, rejecting the SOMA drug that made everyone happy: "I don't want comfort. I want God. I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
The Torah teaches us to "serve God with joy" but to get there, we will have to make our way through disappointment, sorrow and struggle. In the Midrash, Rabbi Johanan reminds us that the eye has a dark part and a light part, but one can only see through the dark part. Darkness grants insight and vision. Seek happiness alone, and you will never find joy, which is deeper; for the road to joy is not always through the level ground of happiness.
Rabbi David Wolpe
H. Eric Schockman surely means well by telling us that eating for $3 a day is a "near impossibility" ("Food Stamp Diet Underscores Need to Aid Poor," Sept. 14). Actually, it's really easy to do. All it requires is eating a plant-based diet, shopping in the right places and bypassing prepared foods.
Doubt the appeal of a plant-based diet? I have been cooking delicious, well-balanced, infinitely varied meals for my wife and myself for years with common, inexpensive ingredients. We're healthy and well-nourished and neither of us has ever fainted from protein deficiency.
If he only knew what to buy, where to shop and how to cook, skills which are easily learned by even a non-Ph.D., Schockman would have more energy and enthusiasm and wouldn't have to dread his next Food Stamp Challenge meal. He may find it ironic that some of the most nutritious foods in his local market cost the least.
If I took him shopping, I'd point out the aisles with whole grains, nuts and legumes and would show him how easy they are to prepare. We'd add a few well-chosen spices, some leafy greens and an assortment of other vegetables and fruits to round out the week.
Then, I'd show him where I regularly buy avocados for 50 cents each, red peppers for $1 a pound and a wide variety of exotic greens for $1 a bunch. His cooking would no longer be a joke among family and friends, and some of that $21 expenditure for a week's food could be used to feed them, too.
I want to thank David Suissa for a beautiful story on my life and challenges as a cancer survivor ("Selma's Sermon," Sept. 14). I also want to make clear that my cancer was successfully treated. I am healthy and well and happy that my work with Vital Options International allows me to help others.
I also wish to thank The Jewish Journal for supporting Vital Options' goals and mission to facilitate a global cancer dialogue.
Selma R. Schimmel
Founder and CEO
Vital Options International
How ironic that book reviewer Michael Feuer, whose main objection to Tova Reich's "My Holocaust" is her use of mean-spirited satire, chooses to illustrate his point with his own brand of mean-spiritedness ("Shoah Satire Crosses Line Into Nasty Territory," Sept. 7).
Apparently, he found it necessary to demonstrate an example of bad tourist behavior in Israel by recalling an incident from his childhood, when he witnessed a busload of loudmouth, obnoxious tourists unloading for a trip up Masada. Without any evidence, he determines that they are "probably from Hadassah" and henceforth ridicules them relentlessly by name as though his assigning that identity makes it true.