Letter-Writer's Assertions Were a Little Skewed
Although I appreciated someone reading and responding to my March 24 opinion piece, "Jews Have a Right to Live in Israel, Anywhere They Choose," it is unfortunate that the gentleman who wrote is not entirely accurate in his assertions.
First, the Ramban (Nachmanides) does not say that the mitzvot are required to be observed only in the Land of Israel. In his commentary to the Torah, Nachmanides states that the mitzvot are required outside of Israel so that when we return to our homeland, we will be comfortable observing them at the highest possible spiritual level.
Though this shows the holiness of the Land of Israel, it certainly does not mean that Jews aren't required to observe the mitzvot in the Diaspora. The Ramban himself observed the mitzvot both outside and inside the Land of Israel.
Second, while it is correct that the Rambam (Maimonides) does not include living in the Land of Israel as one of the 613 mitzvot, he also doesn't count belief in God either.
This is because, according to the Rambam, overarching commandments upon which much of the Torah depend aren't part of the 613 specific commandments. However, they are most certainly required by God.
The proof of this is that the Rambam includes many commandments (such as the conquest of the Land, building of the Temple and agricultural laws for the Land of Israel) that presume the requirement of living in Israel. Similarly, he includes ritual commandments that presume belief in God.
Finally, even suggesting that the Land of Israel was promised to the children of both Isaac and Ishmael is an obvious misreading of the Torah.
The Torah is quite clear that God promised the Land of Israel to the Children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- the Jewish people. This promise is confirmed to Moses. Even the sections of rebuke in the Torah that speak of exile for sins also make mention of our eventual return to the land God has promised.
Many of us would argue that the establishment and strength (both physical and spiritual) of Israel is clear evidence of this eternal promise.
Despite the letter-writer's assertion, I have neither "sinned," nor sought to "spin." Rather, I have simply stated to my fellow Jews that we all have a right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel.
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon
Principal, Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia
Watch Your Language! It Does a Great Disservice
The Jewish Exponent does a considerable disservice to both Israel and the Jewish people by using the following language in the article about the murder of five members of a Jewish family in the West Bank (Israel & Mideast: "Attack Questions Real Goals of Palestinians, March 17): "Violence between Israel and Palestinians rose sharply this week" (the emphasis is mine).
Have your writers not noticed that the violence flows in one direction -- from the Palestinians to Israel.
Five innocent Israelis are murdered in their beds.
Could the point be any clearer?
That 'J' in J Street; Just Who Does It Stand for?
After reading the opinion piece, "Finding a Place for Passionate Debate on the State of Israel," which you published in the March 24 issue, I thought to compare Jews who back J Street with Jews for Jesus, but I realized that wouldn't be fair.
At least Jews for Jesus are honest about whom they support.