friday, JuNe 24, 2011 .
letters to the editor the rabbi’s turn
“My mom always reminds me that I was reading the sports section of the
when I was 4 or 5 years old.”— Q13 sports anchor Aaron Levine, one of our 10 Jews under 40 making a difference. See page 9.
Write a letter to the editor: W w v f ! o g wg f www.jw./x.pp?/_g., p ppx 350 w. t f x J 28. F f .
israel must act
Israel currently controls the lives of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. I therefore
nd it difcult to understand Wendy Rosen’s dire prediction (“The coming Palestinian winter,” June 10) that declaring a Palestinian state will mark an end to Israel as a Jewish state. Itmakes signicantly more sense that to secure Israel’s Jewish majority and character, its lead
ers should act quickly to relinquish the occupied territories and make real progress toward atwo-state solution.The West Bank settlements are a huge impediment to this goal. Not only are they anobstacle to peace with the Palestinians, a security liability and an economic drain, but also aterrible moral burden and a major contributor to Israel’s growing international isolation.It is incumbent upon American Jews who care about the democratic future of an Israelthat is a “light unto the nations” that they not “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door” (inthe words of journalist Peter Beinart). They would do Israel a greater service by challengingIsrael’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by doing everything possible to bring
about a Palestinian state.
One cannot help but be concerned, as we watch current events unfold, that if more mean
ingful progress is not made in establishing a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders as astarting point, other forces will seize the initiative in shaping the Middle East.
hoW Will you act?
As an infrequent visitor to the area I was interested in the
and the opinionsexpressed in the letters written to your publication.The letter to Congress written in the J-Teen section (May 27) was interesting in what it didnot say as opposed to what was written. All the ethical reasons for not standing by and gettinginvolved in Libya were stated. What was missing was a personal statement of involvement, astatement of what part of “we should intervene” you personally will make. Will you talk fromthe sidelines, as in “send in the Marines” or will you volunteer to be part of the intervention?Will you join ROTC? Will you enlist to be an active part of the intervention?The letter was wonderful as far as it went in ethical thought, but it ended leaving methinking you are very willing to send someone else’s son or husband or daughter to do whatyou are wanting to be done. The ethical act is incomplete without you personally completingit. The letter by Pastor Niemoller was his regret for not personally acting. I think you missedthe whole point.There was a time that a president of ours said the same things as your ethical commit
ment. I believed JFK and volunteered. I was never sorry I did.
Jp svPkv, m.
unseal the Fortress
Just back from my seventh Israel teaching trip and read my favorite
Letters.Re: Mr. Israel Kochin’s letter, “In Defense of Mom” (May 11): I agree. Israel desperatelyneeds safety and security. Ditto Palestine. Mr. Kochin writes: “The author writes that mymother’s views imply that ‘she must have no moral compass’ if she cannot see the mitigat
ing historical factors that motivate these terrorists.” Mr. Kochin attributes words to me I never wrote regarding terrorism; his inference that Iam a terror supporter is so far out in left eld it’s outside the park.I have been a public critic of Israel’s failed military campaigns and of terrorism: Hamas andAl-Aqsa for war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially murder-suicide bombings.In Jerusalem the week of May 9,
published an ad urging Netanyahu to press nowfor a Palestinian state. The all-Israeli signatories included former generals, military and civil
ian intelligence directors, and police heads. Israelis (and Diaspora supporters of Netanyahu)run the risk of appearing to support terrorism by their rejectionist stance.Yet the forthcoming (nonbinding) planned UN resolution granting recognition to a Pal
estinian state is exactly what late Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Jewish andDiaspora Jews sought: Palestinian recognition of Israel’s 1967 borders.If both sides recognized the other today, these still need negotiation:
We just celebrated the hol-iday o Shavuot, and whenwe explain this holiday, wetypically say that we sanctiy God’s giving us the orah.But as modern Jews, is it pos-sible to believe in revelation?Did any revelatory event
take place? How do weknow which o these eventsare authentic and which arenot? And what was revealed— a Divine presence? Te Creator’s will?And how? In a book? In nature? In histor-ical events?Tis holiday led me to explore moreabout the nature o revelation, and I oundsuperb resources in Rabbi Neil Gillman’s
Sacred Fragments: Recovering Teology or the Modern Jew.
I oer three theologicalunderstandings o Revelation, each den-ing the Eternal and the nature o revela-tion dierently.Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, ounder o Reconstructionist Judaism, believed inreligious naturalism. He saw God as asalvational activity, an actualization o personal and social ulllment, and theelimination o all evils that stand in ourway. Our human “discovery” o how tolive religiously is the Eternal’s “revelation”to us — within the human mind.But i revelation and orah are out-comes o natural human activity, whatmakes them unique and authoritative?Kaplan would respond that orah isunique because it is ours. However, thelocus o authority shied rom the super-natural God to the human community;the Jewish community has the power todene itsel and to make changes as itdetermines appropriate. Some o us may wonder where our reinterpretations stop,and i anything can qualiy as “Judaism,”how seriously would we take orah and itshold on our lives?ackling the nature o “command-edness,” early 20th-century philosopherFranz Rosenzweig employed an existen-tial theology. Rosenzweig dierentiatedbetween
He main-tained that law was not part o the con-tent o Revelation, but the sense o “beingcommanded” was. While law is imper-sonal, universal, and written in books,commands are personal, subjective, andexperienced.What was revealed, then, was not thecommandments, but the act o beingcommanded. During revelation, our obli-gation was entirely spontaneous, a natu-ral yearning to acknowledge the Eternaland God’s covenant with Israel. Similarly,in our deepest relationships, we are “com-manded” or personally compelled to dem-onstrate our devotion andcloseness. In the same way,Rosenzweig argues, God’slove or Israel inspires Israelto live in a certain way.Te challenge is that ouroriginal spontaneous desireto acknowledge the Eter-nal’s command aded, andhuman beings changed thecommands into laws, intoan impersonal legal systemempty o the spontaneity and o theemotion that characterized the originalresponse to Divine presence.Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,another seminal modern theologian, elab-orated on our understanding o orah.Heschel maintains that our orah is notpure orah, but our ancestors’ and ourown understanding o its contents. Teorah is
, a report about revela-tion. Authority comes rom our under-standing o the text, not necessarily thewritten words.Tese theologies raise numerous ques-tions about Jewish authority and itsimplications or us. I the source o ourauthority is not the orah itsel, but ourancestors’ and our own understandingo its contents, what i we disagree withour ancestors’ interpretation? Is oral law,rabbinically generated, just as binding asDivine revelation? I the task or modernJews is to repossess the emotional com-mand to respond, what i rabbinic mitzvotdo not urther that intrinsic desire? Are wecalled to observe mitzvot without eelingan emotional connection?I believe that certain times call orobservance o mitzvot regardless o ourinnate anity. Jewish observance is notonly about what “eels good,” and uphold-ing tradition has its place. At the sametime, I connect to the Eternal and experi-ence revelation in ways that the rabbis didnot prescribe. Without a visceral connec-tion, Jewish authenticity and signicanceare severely attenuated.Our orah teaches that the old set o tablets containing the en Command-ments were placed alongside the new onesinside the
the tabernacle. Wekeep the laws with us, but we also carveour own new set o tablets. I the Eternal’srevelation is ongoing, and we are stirredto be in a relationship, then our everlast-ing command is to recapture our originalsense o revelation.
Rabbi Jessica Kessler Marshall serves TempleBeth Or in Everett and the Snohomish County
community. She also ofciates at lifecycle
events throughout the Seattle area.
Rabbi Jessica kessleR MaRshall
Temple beth or