The Paths to the Truth
At the risk of engaging Dennis Prager’s considerable wrath, I find it necessary to defend Michael Tolkin’s comments regarding Prager’s arguments on God and murder (“Did the Nazis Like Life?” Jan. 18). Surely, Prager knows that our Tanakh commands that people be killed for offenses such as blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16); picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:35); adultery (Leviticus 20:10); practicing witchcraft and wizardry (Leviticus 20:27); stubbornness, rebelliousness and gluttony (Deuteronomy 21:18-21); not crying out loud enough as a rape victim (Deuteronomy 22:23-24); and being a nonvirginal wife (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). I would like to assume that Prager has chosen not to follow these and other similar commandments, but rather heeds “Thou Shall Not Kill” (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17).
Prager, like the rest of us, may have developed the disdain for murder from sources other than selective reading of the Bible and God’s commandments. If he needs any further convincing that there are paths toward morality and ethics other than belief in God, he need only study the five precepts of Buddhism, the first of which is to avoid killing or harming living beings.
The problem with Prager’s statements is that in defending his own rigid ideology, he often overlooks the complexities and nuances of life and declares that there is only one correct answer and one path to the truth.
John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks
The Spirit of Frequent Fellowship
As David Suissa’s most recent column notes (“Birthright Shabbat, Part 2,” Jan. 18), there are some existing initiatives to offer a meaningful Shabbat experience to young adults. From 1995 to 2005, Los Angeles was home to one such program, Makor, conceived and implemented by Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin, rabbinic director at Milken Community High School. On the last Friday night of each month, Makor, a pluralistic, grass-roots, Shabbat-centered community for Jews in their 20s and 30s, hosted 100 to 150 young Jews in apartments and homes throughout Los Angeles. After optional prayer, small groups of 10 to 15 participants shared a kosher vegetarian potluck meal in one another’s apartments and homes. Dinner was followed by discussion of classical and contemporary Jewish sources, issues and values, led by Makor facilitators. Afterward, participants from the various groups converged in a central place for optional singing and shmoozing.
Makor was primarily funded by the Covenant Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation, and received a small synagogue startup grant by The Jewish Federation. Unfortunately, financial backing ran out and Makor was forced to shut down in Los Angeles (though the program continues to flourish in Chicago and Baltimore).
Let Mr. Suissa’s column challenge our Jewish organizations to re-create Makor and connect young Jewish adults to one of our tradition’s most meaningful and enduring experiences and one that can be easily learned and imported into one’s life — setting the Shabbat table with enjoyable food, meaningful conversation and lasting experiences.
Melissa Patack Berenbaum, Los Angeles
From Setback to Success
I appreciated reading this valuable Torah Portion column (“Opportunity of a Setback,” Jan. 18). I had been working for 15 years in a career that I did not enjoy. I longed to leave my job, but was too fearful. Out of the blue, the funding for my job was lost and I was in a tailspin. With a wife, two kids and a mortgage, I was in a panic and in “Why me?” mode. But in keeping with the narrative described in Rabbi Dov Fischer’s article, this setback was indeed an incredible opportunity. I seized on my dream of working to serve the Jewish people. I applied for a job as a synagogue administrator and got the position. I have never been happier or more satisfied and it was all born out of a life event that initially felt tragic and scary. Indeed, for every door that closes, a new and potentially wonderful new door opens.
Things do happen for a reason.
Ross Berg, Northridge