A Modestly Bold Proposal

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13 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I can’t help but identify with the heartfelt plea of R. Cardozo, whom I and others greatly admire. If such a thing as a sea change in the attitudes of President Peres (how our hearts and stomachs pain us to hear that title with the name of that man!) were to happen, it would be truly a gift from the Almighty. I would give such a phenomenon a probability of very close to zero, not only only on the natural level. but also because we are in the culmination of an epic historical struggle between good and evil. This is a struggle which encompasses Israel and the entire world. Instead of making a soul-searching examination of his ways and changing them, he is more likely to reinforce his direction.
    If Mr. Peres were to answer R. Cardozo candidly about how he feels about this question of the identity of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, I believe he would say something like this:

    Dear Esteemed Rabbi Dr. Cardozo:
    While I respect your concern for the future of your people and its current predicament, I cannot agree with your prescription for the future. The Jewish genius has given many great gifts to mankind and has brought much progress to the human species. Most progress has grown out of deep inner conflict containing not a little human tragedy, and the current situation is no exception.
    The Jewish tradition is a great accomplishment in that it has produced the great minds which have encompassed the old and seen beyond it to the new. The Jewish consciousness has evolved from a tribal to a universal awareness. I am fully aware that there are universal values implicit in Jewish sources, but that is not enough. The seed must be planted in the ground of the greater world, decay and grow into a plant which will be the property of all mankind. It is time after 4000 years for the identity of Jews, which has protected that small tribe and its innate quality from destruction, to make a final sacrifice of its particularity for the sake of the greater western world.
    I am not such a fool as to ignore the pain, suffering and destruction which have been visited upon the Jewish nation for all these many years. But the existence of the Jewish nation, or any nation for that matter, is and can only be a means and not an end in itself. If we have left two millenia of exile for a new encapsulation of a tribe seeking survival uber alles, then we have failed. We must with wisdom and cleverness give over the true meaning of our existence to the world, beyond the exoteric narrative of G-d and people, even at the cost of our individual and collective existence. This is why it seems that I have often pursued policies which have seemed to many to be suicidal. The course which I pursue will not change and it must not change. Only the Jewish genius can save the Western world in general and Europe in particular from extinction. We must infect the secular Western culture with the Jewish virus, and it must be a secular Jewish virus. Anything else will not have the effect. This is the meaning of all of Jewish history, Israeli history and my political career. Those individuals who are unable to see any values except tribal values, and ultimately the tribal state, will face extinction. I am sure that a wise individual like yourself will find a way to contribute to such a new world.

    With best wishes, I am
    Shimon Peres
    (end of fictional response)

    The answer to this argument exists. The rest is commentary. Go and learn. Go and teach. Go and struggle. The war of Gog and Magog is beckoning.

  2. yitz says:

    Although HaRav Cardozo’s words resound with you, he is shunned by most if not all of the Charedim here in Artzeinu HaKedosha. Rav Adlerstein, I think that Yerushalayim needs you more than LA does. Come home!

  3. Garnel Ironheart says:

    First of all, a brilliant letter. There isn’t a sentiment expressed within it that can be argued against and its passion is evident.

    Second of all, a complete waste of ink. Since 1991 Shimon Peres has demonstrated far more concern for the implacable enemies of the Jewish people than he has for the Jewish people themselves. At the age of 80, still convinced that Yasser Arafat, y”sh, was a man of peace and that no mistakes were made by him in his attempts to bring “peace” to Israel, it is extremely doubtful this letter will ever get passed his screeners and reach his desk. Even if it does, it doesn’t fit his vision of a secular “new Middle East” in which religion is abolished and everyone builds hotels together.

    I should note, parathetically, that Juedische Wissenschaft should not be listed amongst those philosophies that detached Jews from Judaism. Juedische Wissenschaft is the philosophy of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary of Rav Azriel Hildesheimer which was very dedicated to created rabbonim who would be loyal to Torah as well as knowledgeable about the secular world.

  4. HILLEL says:

    VERY IDEALISTIC, VERY NOBLE, BUT TOTALLY UNREALISTIC!

    I wish it could happen, but do you really think that Shimon Peres, the poster boy of left-wing Goyishkeit, is really going to make a 180-degree turn in his life simply because Cardozo has written and published a letter?

  5. Bob Miller says:

    I’m not sure that an open letter is the way to motivate Shimon Peres, but nothing is lost by it and maybe others reading it will reassess their own directions.

  6. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein: Some may cynically and perhaps correctly consider the notion a pipe dream. Yet it strikes me as close enough to the realm of possibility that it would be irresponsible not to make the attempt. Any effect, in whole or in part, it has upon the President could only be positive.

    Ori: I am one of those cynics. Not so much about the effect on the President himself, but about the effect on the country at large (the real audience for the open letter). The Israeli President is supposed to be a symbol of the country, like the British Monarch. However, most Israelis, especially the younger generation, don’t have that much respect for the presidency – it’s really a sinecure for aging politicians.

    If you want to influence young chiloni Israelis, you’ll need to try and influence somebody who won their respect, not somebody who is supposed to be respected because of their position.

  7. michoel halberstam says:

    This is a beautiful letter, with which cannot in good conscience disagree. However, I would like to suggest that we need to engage more with our fellow Jews, so that we do not appear to be preaching to anyone. The greatest risk of assertions like those in this piece is that anyone to whom you are speaking will assume, wrongly that your advice implies not just criticism, but the hidden message that you, or we, as observant Jews, really believe we are better than they are. I don’t know how to confront this, but we should always be aware of it, because it is the fly in ointment.

  8. David says:

    I could not agree more with every word of this letter, but unfortunately, one has to be crazy to think that Peres (or the vast majority of Israeli’s chilonim) would take this with any degree of seriousness. I guess it’s still worthwhile to publish in the hope that it will inspire some thought among at least a few people.

  9. Yisroel Moshe says:

    R’ Yitzchak,

    Sending a letter to Shimon Peres asking him to use his political power to help re-establish an authentic Jewish identity for Israel’s youngsters would be the equivelent of sending a letter to Menashe ben Chizkiahu asking him to lead a revolution against Idol Worship.

    There is no a Jewish person alive today that I can think of who has done more to try to destroy all vestiges of (Torah) Judaism from our midsts. Peres’s hatred of Torah and the Torah observant public not withstanding, he has lead the charge to destroy the Jewish people as a whole.

    *He entered into phony peace agreements with our enemies in the hope of destroying the JEWISH state.

    *He removed all references to Judaism in the Tzahal’s code of ethics.

    *He supported countless education bills that would help to educate Israeli children to not know they are Jewish.

    It is ironic that Rabbi Cardozo, who is a great Torah scholar and thinker that I admire greatly, would send this letter to the person MOST responsible for the calamities that befall the Jewish people today. It would take a book to highlight all of the treacherous acts perpetrated by this Rashah.

    There is some peripheral value in writing such a letter, but at what expense? When a person is a Rasha of historical perportions, perhaps we would be best not to call such a person as “a voice of greatness”.

    All the best,

    YM

  10. Yisroel Moshe says:

    R’ Yitzchak,

    Sending a letter to Shimon Peres asking him to use his political power to help re-establish an authentic Jewish identity for Israel’s youngsters would be the equivalent of sending a letter to Menashe ben Chizkiahu asking him to lead a revolution against Idol Worship.

    There is not a Jewish person alive today who has done more to try to destroy all vestiges of (Torah) Judaism from our midsts. Peres’s hatred of Torah and the Torah observant public not withstanding, he has lead the charge to destroy the Jewish people as a whole.

    *He entered into phony peace agreements with our enemies in the hope of destroying the JEWISH state.

    *He removed all references to Judaism in the Tzahal’s code of ethics.

    *He supported countless education bills that would help to educate Israeli children to not know they are Jewish.

    *He has made clear in many published statements that he dispises the idea of the Jewish people as a unique nation.

    It is ironic that Rabbi Cardozo, who is a great Torah scholar and thinker that I admire greatly, would send this letter to the person MOST responsible for the calamities that befall the Jewish people today. It would take a book to highlight all of the treacherous acts perpetrated by this Rasha.

    There is some peripheral value in writing such a letter, but at what expense? When a person is a Rasha of historical proportions, perhaps we would be best not to call such a person as “a voice of greatness”.

    All the best,

    YM

  11. HILLEL says:

    I THINK WE ALL AGREE:

    Publish the letter, as written, but chenge the addressee as follows:
    “To the Jewish People who dwell in Zion”

  12. Yaakov Kayman says:

    Having had the great pleasure of hearing Rav Nathan Lopez Cardozo speak, I can say I truly respect and admire him. Even so, I must say that the chances of an evil person like Shimon Peres

    (I usually make the samekh into a shin, but that would result in my post being rejected)

    heeding the rabbi’s wonderful letter and then acting upon it are nil.

    Peres is one of the leaders of those Jewish citizens of this state of ours (I live in Yerushalayim) who confuse the adjective “Israeli” for a noun, and one of the leading promoters of the split between said “Israelis” and Jews.

    While I certainly wish the good rabbi, and all of us Jews in Eretz Yisrael and worldwide, the best of luck, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Peres to cease becoming an “Israeli” and become a Jew, let alone lead other Jews.

    Yaakov Kayman, Ramot Bet, Yerushalayim, (the Land and State of) Israel

  13. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Perhaps this will be our last Tisha B’av. A few paragraphs from HaAretz last week; forgive their rancor and read past it!

    Until ignorance divides us
    By Yair Ettinger

    Last Friday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert received three guests in his office, all with the double-barreled title of rabbi and professor: They are well-known scholars among American Jews and fairly well-known in Israel: Rabbi David Hartman, who heads the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and is associated with liberal Orthodoxy; Rabbi Arnie Eisen, the chancellor of the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); and Rabbi David Ellenson, the president of Hebrew Union College (HUC), the Reform Movement’s rabbinic seminary.
    Far from the discriminating eyes of the ultra-Orthodox, the earth beneath the prime minister’s office did not tremble when Olmert addressed each of his conversants as “rabbi” and devoted time to those who would like to find loopholes in the wall put up by the rabbinic establishment.
    The three found in Olmert a favorable view of initiatives to “increase Jewish identity among Jews” in Israel and abroad. They declined to elaborate on the content of the meeting, but a talk with Rabbi Ellenson, one of the most influential leaders among American Jewry, indicated which way the wind is blowing.
    During his visit to Israel, Ellenson had a hard time getting over the depressing impression made by senior Israeli figures a few days before his departure from the United States at an international gathering of university presidents. On Saturday night, he related, a rabbi recited havdalah [marking the conclusion of Shabbat] for all the participants, and Ellenson noticed the Israelis. “One of them, the president of a very large university in Israel, told me he had never seen such a service and never even heard of its existence.”
    He was greatly saddened, said Ellenson. “I hate the word ignorance, I prefer to be more gentle, but I know that’s how it is. What does it mean that an intellectual doesn’t know what havdalah is? How would you describe it? And he is not the only one among the Israelis.”
    Since 2001, Ellenson has been the world president of HUC, and is leading the Reform movement alongside Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. During those years, the movement has become more Zionist and also more halakhic [following Jewish law], processes that are associated with Ellenson, who is unique among those who have led the Reform movement in that he grew up in an Orthodox home. The smiling man with a neatly trimmed gray beard, even tells biting jokes about Reform Jews that he heard in his father’s home in Virginia.
    Halakha is also his area of academic expertise. In the 1970s he wrote his doctoral thesis on Rabbi Ezriel Hildesheimer, the founder of the Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Germany in the 19th century. Today he continues with searches of rabbinic rulings and the responsa of Orthodox rabbis from the 18th century to those to date and he writes on Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher, a leading Polish rabbi in the 19th century and one of the harbingers of religious Zionism; Rabbi Haim David Halevy, who was the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other rabbis. The common denominator of these rabbis is the halakhic solutions they offered for resolving the tension between tradition and modern life in a wide spectrum of areas. “It’s not that I always identify with all their responsa, but I appreciate the efforts they made to cope with the challenges of the time,” says Ellenson in Hebrew, which he prefers to use here. “I see them as a model and an example for me.”

    Who knows – perhaps Ellenson, then perhaps Peres, then…We are not allowed to give up hope.

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