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Letters Week of April 27, 2011
'Liberty' Plaque Actually Contains Modern Hebrew
Kudos to Joel Wolowelsky, Ph.D., my fellow Yeshivah of Flatbush High School classmate, for his role in securing the Liberty Bell Hebrew-language plaque (Cover story: "Liberty Bell Rings Out With a Whole New Timbre," April 21).
When I read the famous quotation in Hebrew on the plaque pictured in the Exponent, I read the exact five words that are written in the Torah. I do not read, as the article says, "a modern Hebrew rendering of the King James English."
The explanation on the plaque below the quotation is, as would be expected, in modern Hebrew.
City's Pro-Israel Students Deserve Our Support
Pro-Israel students who attended Norman Finkelstein's recent anti-Israel diatribe at Temple University told me that most audience members were not from the university, but from Philadelphia groups promoting Third World causes.
But the undergraduate sponsoring organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, was reported to include as many as 25 percent of young Jews in its participating membership. When I communicated this to an acquaintance who is a well-respected national, pro-Israel journalist, his response was, "So what else is new."
What is somewhat new is that high-quality pro-Israel students are stepping forward who communicate with each other, are well-informed and not easily intimidated. They are graduates of Birthright and other structured Israel programs. Their core orientation can be described as Ahavat Yisrael, "a love of Israel."
They, too, are interested in peace and democracy, but are driven primarily by a desire to broaden their Jewish identities built on their shared experiences with their peers, many of them which were transformational, in the Jewish state.
Our now-splintered adult Jewish community will benefit by listening and supporting them. These college students are the future leaders of the American and, of course, Philadelphia Jewish community.
Chair, Israel Center of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia
Rabbi Is Learned, but He Got One Thing Wrong
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon's letter ("Letter-Writer's Assertions Were a Little Skewed," April 14) is very scholarly, and shows the depth and breadth of an individual as knowledgeable as he so obviously is.
However, I must interject one point.
He is totally correct when he asserts that Ramban (Nachmanides) considers living in the Land of Israel as a mitzvah (commandment 1 of the 613 commandments -- Bamidbar 33:53).
He then says that Rambam (Maimonides) holds the same opinion, even though the Rambam never said this explicitly.
I must disagree. We all know that the Torah has as many interpretations as a kaleidoscope has colors. All of this is in the spirit of the Torah.
Many great rabbis, such as the Munckatcher and the Satmar rebbes, are of the opinion that this is not the correct interpretation of the Rambam.
The source of this opinion is the Tosefas in Kesubos, who quotes Reb Chaim saying that today, there is no mitzvah to living in Israel because there are many mitzvahs we cannot keep, as they depend on the land and we cannot be meticulous to observe them.
Furthermore, the rabbis say "not to storm the fortress." This means that Jews should not make aliyah all at once. Today, this is the opinion of hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews. How can we not count their opinion?
And even if we disagree, the magnitude of the number of people cannot be discarded.
Thus, it is true that the respected Rabbi Jablon did quote the Ramban correctly. However, he did not tell the entire story of the Rambam (Maimonides). Evidently, Rabbi Jablon's opinion follows the Chzon Ish and the Chofetz Chaim.
He omitted (probably by accident) the opinion of others who interpret the Rambam in a more lenient manner -- that, in fact, there is no mitzvah to living in Israel at this time. The Rambam never said there was a Torah obligation.
Rabbi Dr. Yakov Gorin