Posted by Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Representative Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat close to the Obama administration, is circulating a letter through the House of Representatives calling for clemency for Jonathan Pollard. There is a lot we do not know about Pollard’s case, but what we do know is that his sentence – a plea bargain! – was way beyond anything anyone else has gotten for spying for an ally (Israel) and that even those who pushed for his harsh sentencing – such as Sec. of Defense Casper Weinberger – have expressed long ago that Pollard has been in for long enough. Even though Pollard violated American law, he acted out of devotion to Israel. We may all have to admit that there is a little bit of Pollard in any American – Jewish or gentile – who loves the State of Israel and is passionate about helping her survive against those who wish to destroy her. Yes, we all need to respect the laws of our country, and never put American lives at risk, as Pollard may have done. At the same time, we have to be understanding and sympathetic to what motivated Pollard, and we have to honestly feel for his passionate sacrificing of his life for the State of Israel.
My Representative in Chicago, Jan Schakowsky, who is on the House Select Intelligence Committee, has signed on to this letter. If you agree that 25 years is enough prison for Jonathan Pollard, and that it is important not to forget about someone who was acting to help Israel, then please call or email your Representative, and ask if they have signed on to the Barney Frank letter. Rep. Frank has said that if this letter gets enough signatures, he will present it to the president. This is an rare opportunity to make a difference – I hope if you feel it is the right thing that you just pick up the phone and call your Representative and let them know how you feel.
Right after all our prayers to change the world, we have a real opportunity for positive change. Let’s not squander it.
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October 5, 2010 | 9:41 pm
Posted by Rav Yosef Kanefsky
There’s no shortage of reasons that Simchat Torah might be one of your least favorite days in shul. It’s another long morning in a season of long mornings. Dancing might not be your thing. The kids running around with joyous abandon might get on your nerves. I have known similar feelings over the years. Yet, there is something about Simchat Torah that tugs at my heart, and sends my soul flying. I find that it’s worth every second of the hangin’ around shul all day.
Even though I know it’s coming, and I’ve experienced it so many times before, I find the moment when we start B’raishit to be just thrilling. Chills-running-down-my-spine thrilling. The words – so familiar, so simple, so austere – are unexpectedly moving when I hear them in the context of this craziest of days in shul. The reading, along with the pomp, ceremony and song that accompany it, feels like an affirmation of something primal and deep.
I think, when it comes down to it, that B’raishit is actually our raucous, primal
re-affirmation of our belief in the continuity of the Jewish people. We know that every Braishit will end in a V’zot Habracha, as we know that all who were once young will become old. Every cycle that begins is a cycle that will end. We know it. We live it. But instinctively, responding to our deepest intuition, we always start up all over again. With all of the joy with which we started last time, and the time before that. All of us start again, together. The little ones beneath the canopy of tallitot, the elders sharing the too-many sweets, parents, children, generations, all starting B’raishit together. All the people of Israel. All over the globe.
We read B’raishit – again, anew – as the holy days of Tishrai reach their end, placing the coda on the year now past. Tomorrow we begin. With hope. With faith. With a niggun. Every cycle will end. But every end will be followed by a beginning.
October 4, 2010 | 10:27 am
Posted by Rabbi Barry Gelman
Modern Orthodoxy – Can We Have It All?
Below is a link to an article from colleague, Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf who is a Senior Lecturer in the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan University. His article uses the recent participation of Esther Petrack on America’s Next Top Model to focus us on an important issue facing Modern Orthodoxy. Esther comes from a Modern Orthodox background. You can find the article here. - http://myobiterdicta.blogspot.com/2010/09/another-noah-feldman.html
I think Rabbi Woolf, who is a Modern Orthodox Jew makes a very good point and challenges the Modern Orthodox camp in a serious way.
Excerpt from the Tablet Magazine article on Esther Petrack.
“After letting Esther say a bit about herself—namely, that she was born in Jerusalem—Ty Ty asked her about her Orthodox Jewish practice. “Do you honor the Sabbath?”
“Yes I do,” Esther responded, proceeding to explain the rules regarding the usage of electricity, computers, cell phones, and cars on Friday night and Saturday. Tyra sternly informed her that ANTM contestants work all the time, seven days a week. (I never realized that modeling was so urgent!) Would Esther, Tyra wanted to know, be able to adhere to the ANTM work schedule? Her Jewish identity was all of a sudden squarely on the spot, not unlike that of her Biblical namesake….” (for the full article follow this link – http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/45110/%E2%80%98antm%E2%80%99-contestant-to-forego-observance/