Praising soldiers and concepts
The statement in the article by Rabbi Hartman that an Israeli who died serving in the 1982 Lebanon war did not somehow die in the sanctification of Hashem’s name is as obscene as it is idiotic (“Putting God Second,” September 2). The author asserted that since the war was poorly conceived this individual’s death was somehow less of a service to Hashem and the Jewish people. Anyone who dons the uniform of the first standing Jewish army in over two thousand years to protect the Jewish people in the Land promised to our people serves a religious duty. Their death is not diminished whether they die by accident, action, or war.
The author’s further contention to remove religion from politics is similarly ignorant. There is no separation of “religion” and “politics” in Judaism. Public service is infused with a holy purpose. If only our politicians today would have the same awe and respect for their responsibilities, we would not read of “pay-to-play” or trading political favors for donations to a politician’s “charitable” foundation. In Judaism, the weights and measures of a shop owner are mandated by Torah law to be honest. There is no line between secular and holy in terms of personal behavior. There is no way to keep morality as mandated by the Torah at arms-length.
To separate politics from Judaism is a foreign concept to our people. Foreign concepts modifying Judaism usually fall by the wayside. Whether a soldier or elected official, adherence to the set of rules established for us thousands of years ago will only be a positive. Straying from these concepts, as we often do, can lead to disaster. One only has to look at Jewish history.
Scott David Lippe, M.D.
Considering rabbinic leadership
Two articles in the August 8 issue point to the need to reconsider the merit of our rabbinic leadership.
One is by Rabbi Tzvee Zahavy responding to a reader’s complaint about mixed messages of guidance from rabbis on presidential preferences (“Dear Rabbi Zahavy,” September 2). The rabbi provided a critical review of historical rabbinic leadership and strategic thinking dating back to the destruction of the Second Temple. The second article was an interpretation of Rabbi Donniel Hartman’s views in his new book, “Putting God Second,” expressed by a reviewer (“Putting God Second,” September 2). The reviewer indicated that the author has a criticism of interpreted religious doctrine that should be of concern to the modern Israelis. Both rabbis have alluded to the need for a more progressive approach to search for religious ways to compromise longstanding classical religious interpretations to solve modern complex issues in a more compassionate, feeling way.
It is well known that there are multiple approaches in the spiritual teachings that often fall in the liberal–conservative ways of resolving behavior for complex issues. There is often no way to reconcile one procedure for the higher good over another. The liberal policies are based on a plan that no one need suffer and emphasizes the importance of government to guarantee to resolve problems compassionately. The conservative policies involve personal responsibility and individual liberty, where government should with classical restricted authority provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Both are laudable goals of conduct and certainly not sinful. It is up to each of us — as we were provided free will — to respectfully consider each way.
Both Rabbi Hartman and Rabbi Zahavy of course wish to be heard, but they fail to respectfully provide the reasoning of the competing ways to resolve issues. Rabbis are human and it is difficult to promote another view if it is not personally owned. It is also difficult to not only consider the repercussions of actions in the current environment but also in the immediate and generational future as well as the impact on the treasured opinions of the past and what has nurtured our common beliefs of our bonding as a local and expansive community.
If as the mythical rabbis have been known to say — that on the one hand there is this and on the other there is that — then the confused disciples wish there were only one-handed rabbis.
Through the ages, our rabbis have been known to go beyond their special focus of just Talmudic teaching. Perhaps both rabbis are trying to tell us that their way may be what they believe and there may not be the definitive clear written religious words to guide us. Among the world events it may seem scary to put the big picture in perspective and make a choice. I suppose that is what is meant by the gift of being a human with free will can also be a burden.