Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks
Rabbi Marvin Hier blindly toes the Likud, right-wing line (“Palestinian’s Fantasy World,” Feb. 15). I once thought like him — more than 30 years ago, before moving to Israel. Not for one day have we Israelis stopped settling. How does he expect any Palestinian leader to talk to us? Why does Hier help perpetuate a situation that can lead only to war? Netanyahu et al. come to the United States, share their views and inside information, and make millions. Then they return to Israel and do what they want, including verbally pillaging all Palestinian leadership and besmirching the left, like any good Republican does in the States. This must stop. If Rabbi Hier is not part of the solution, he’s part of the problem.
Hasn’t Israel learned by now that there can be no peace with murderers and terrorists (“Needed: A ‘Peace Frame of Mind,’ ” Feb. 15)? Israel should make no peace agreements with the Palestinians, who are Jordanian citizens and belong in Jordan. The West Bank belongs to Israel. I am certain Israel has learned its lesson by now by giving away Gaza to Hamas, and now the Sinai is in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Aren’t these lessons worthwhile?
Mitzvot (performance of the commandments) require intent (“Behavior Matters Most” by Dennis Prager, Feb. 15).
To assert that actions alone, without the prerequisite intent, are all that Judaism is, is to reject the entire concept of “why”: Why was the Torah given? Why are we commanded to perform a mitzvah? And why does intent form the prerequisite of much of life?
Otherwise, we wind up eating matzah brei on Passover just because grandma makes it tasty.
Dennis Prager responds:
I fully agree with Mr. Hoffman. In fact, a major part of my Jewish work has been devoted to explaining the “whys” of Jewish law — from kashrut to, yes, sha’atnez (not wearing linen and wool in the same garment). I never accepted the view that there are Torah commandments whose purpose we cannot understand.
Having said that, even within ritual law, Judaism assumes observance before understanding. Na’aseh v’nishma, the famous words uttered by the Jews at Sinai mean, “We will do, and then we will understand.”
But my column was about human-to-human behavior, not ritual law. And here feelings are usually irrelevant. We don’t care why people seated next to us on the airplane are kind and courteous. We only care that they are.
My general rule is: In ritual law, motives matter; elsewhere they do not. So, if a Jew prays hard in shul in order to appear pious, his praying is pointless. But if a Jew gives a hospital millions of dollars so as to get his name on a building, that’s very valuable.
Children Not of the Tribe
I was born a Jew; I didn’t choose to be one (“A Jewish Peace Process” by David Suissa, Feb. 15). About half of my friends have married non-Jewish women and have wonderful wives and families. However, their children are halachically not Jews. Alas, that is the “penalty” for having married out of the tribe. Israel is a very tiny, densely populated country today. The decision of so many [Jewish men] to marry out means they have chosen to cut out their offspring from being part of our tribe. This is not cruelty on the part of the rabbis. This is a necessity if we are to have the moral high ground to say that Israel is the Jewish homeland and not a place for imposters.
Families of Special-Needs Youth
Thank you to the Jewish Journal for keeping the Jewish community aware of the issue of Jewish special-needs families (“Neal’s Prayer” by Rob Eshman, Feb. 8).
In 1999, a support group for parents of children with special needs was started at Sinai Temple, co-sponsored by University Synagogue. Two people showed up. The next day, Sinai Temple planned to cancel the group. Devoted parents kept the group alive over four years. It created the Zimmer Museum day (held this year on Feb. 18) and was the impetus for Elaine Hall’s The Miracle Project as well as other programs for the special-needs community. For Inclusion Awareness Month, Sinai Temple, through its partnership with Vista del Mar, brought “Autism: The Musical” to be screened; more than 70 people attended. Through the Sinai/Vista partnership, Sinai Temple now has a bar/bat mitzvah preparatory religious school program for children with special needs (Beit Bracha) featuring Vista del Mar’s Nes Gadol program.
We have come a long way. Let’s keep moving forward.
Unfortunate Ad Placement
I was sickened to see an ad for a new movie called “Hitler’s Children” right under the Torah Portion column in the Journal (Feb. 15). If you had to run this ad, couldn’t you have put it in a less sacred place, like the arts section?