A Tough Choice for Lakewood Voters

Frum voters in New Jersey faced what was in many ways a wrenching decision in last week’s gubernatorial election. On the one hand, the incumbent Democratic governor John Corzine had proven to be highly responsive to the concerns of the Torah community in his first term in office, a fact attested to by Agudath Israel of America’s New Jersey representative and the endorsement of the Lakewood Vaad and senior figures in Bais Medrash Govoha in their private capacities.

Given Corzine’s record on matters of immediate concern to the Torah community, including school funding, there was a strong argument to be made that he deserved the community’s support as an expression of the basic Torah middah of hakaras hatov. Even leaving aside any ruchnios considerations, the Torah community has an important practical interest in being seen as a community that remembers its friends. And that consideration applied even though the Republican candidate Chris Christie led throughout the campaign. Those who are seen as fair weather friends will end up not being trusted by either party.

Once the Lakewood Vaad endorsed Corzine, there was yet another practical consideration in favor of supporting the incumbent. The more that community leaders are perceived as being able to deliver a bloc of voters, the greater their pull in the corridors of power. That ability to deliver a bloc of voters is why, for instance, Hillary Clinton so assiduously courted Skver in her first run for the Senate from New York.

On the other side, there were a number of factors in favor of Christie, or, perhaps more accurately, against Corzine. As a liberal Democrat, Corzine staked out unambiguously anti-Torah positions on a host of social issues. Nor was his conduct in his private life anything to hold up as a model for our children.

I am neither a citizen of New Jersey nor the son of a resident of New Jersey, so I have little to say about local issues. Suffice it to say that Corzine started the campaign with extremely low approval ratings, even in a heavily Democratic state, in large part due to the nation’s highest property tax rate and increases in tolls on the state’s highways. The latter issues are of no less concern to homeowners in Lakewood than any other New Jersey resident.

COMPLICATING MATTERS FURTHER was the fact that the New Jersey gubernatorial contest was not just a local one, but was being touted as referendum on President Barack Obama’s term to date. With only two gubernatorial races on the 2009 ballot, those in New Jersey and Virginia were being closely watched for portents about the 2010 midterm elections and as an indication of voters’ feelings about the policies of the current administration.

And by no one were the results being so carefully watched as the more than eighty congressional Democrats representing districts that were carried by George W. Bush in 2004 or John McCain in 2008. To the extent that the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats detected voter anger over the most ambitious attempt to transform the American economy and society since the New Deal, the less likely they would be to support the administration’s ambitious healthcare reform and cap-and-trade bill on carbon emissions, both of which come with a huge price tag in terms of taxes and likely job loss.

The Virginia electorate more closely resembles the make-up of the Blue Dog congressional districts than did that of New Jersey, and national issues played a much larger role in Virginia. But by election day it was a foregone conclusion that Republican Bob McDonnell would claim the Virginia statehouse (though the magnitude of his victory was still a shock). Thus all eyes were focused on New Jersey.

Because of Governor Corzine’s deep unpopularity, voters knew that the Obama team would have little trouble spinning a Democratic loss in New Jersey as a vote on local issues rather than an expression of dismay with Washington D.C. Still, the election had major national implications. If Corzine somehow managed to eke out a victory, after President Obama campaigned for him in the state three times in the last two weeks, it would be taken as a sign that the President retains his star quality and still has the coattails to aid Democratic candidates. That too would be an important factor for the Blue Dog Democrats to consider.

I think it safe to say that if most frum voters in Lakewood were given the chance to vote in a referendum on the Obama presidency to date, the vote would be overwhelmingly negative. And it is clear that many Lakewood voters did view the New Jersey governor’s race through that prism, as an extremely articulate letter to the American Yated Ne’eman from “A Working Stiff” the week before the election emphasized.

Obamacare can only result in severe rationing of medical care, particularly for the elderly. (In Britain, National Health will not pay for an arterial stent for anyone over 59, no matter how healthy he or she otherwise is.) One of Obamacare’s chief architects, Dr. Ezekiel Rahm, brother of the White House Chief of Staff, is not inappropriately nicknamed Dr. Death. He has written extensively on the lesser claims to health care of older citizens. Rationing will confront Orthodox Jews with many heartrending halachic shaylos.

Similarly, there is widespread skepticism in the Torah community about the global warming alarmism of the Obama administration, and certainly about the wisdom of the proposed cap-and-trade bill, which would constitute a massive hidden tax and lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when the real unemployment level in the United States is approaching 20%.

Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi managed to ram through a 220-215 House vote on Obamacare, even after the election results had been digested, 39 House Democrats deserted her. Obamacare is expected to have a much harder time gaining passage in the Senate, and the impact of the election results will be felt there. Cap-and-trade legislation was already bottled up in the Senate, after having passed the House, and the election results certainly reduced its prospects of eventual passage.

THE STRONGEST FEELINGS OF LAKEWOOD VOTERS about President Obama’s job performance, however, concern his foreign policy, particularly that towards Israel. From nearly its first day in office, the administration, including both the President and Secretary of State Clinton, adopted a confrontational tone with Israel diametrically opposed to its velvet outreach to the Muslim world. Indeed, distancing himself from Israel was the olive branch held out by tPresident Obama to Muslims. The administration called for an absolute freeze on Israeli construction beyond the 1949 armistice lines, including construction in Jerusalem. In another extremely worrisome step, which has gained too little attention, the administration put the legitimacy of Israel’s nuclear program on the table. Only tiny Honduras – whose constitution the State Department interpreted differently than Honduras’s own supreme court – has endured the same degree of American pressure.

The administration’s push for a quick Israeli-Palestinian settlement has only made the achievement of any such settlement less likely than ever. All Obama succeeded in doing was convincing the Palestinians that they need do nothing to achieve their maximalist demands because the United States will deliver Israel on a platter.

Even more scary to most of those in Israel – where President Obama’s approval ratings hover in single digits – is the total failure of the administration’s policy of engagement with Iran. Iran is ten months closer to achieving its nuclear enrichment goals, without having felt the first taste of American pressure and after having snubbed every American overture. Even the ruthless suppression of widespread demonstrations, after Iran’s stolen presidential election, aroused only a belated and timorous response from President Obama. American passivity has made Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, or the necessity of Israel undertaking a highly risky attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, almost a near certainty.

On the domestic front, the administration has closely allied itself with the new “pro-peace” group J Street. National Security Advisor General James Jones was the keynote speaker at the organization’s inaugural conference, where he promised that the administration would be an enthusiastic participant in all future J Street conferences. Just a few days earlier, Jones gave a flat address at an AIPAC conference, which left delegates sitting on their hands.

Though J Street sometimes claims to be “pro-Israel” (its campus wing has dropped that designation), it would be hard to think of one thing it has done to earn the title. It enthusiastically supported the U.S. administration’s call for a settlement freeze, including Jerusalem; has opposed every sanction resolution or bill aimed at putting pressure on Iran; and even hosted a staging of Caryl Churchill’s anti-Semitic play Seven Jewish Children, which draws an explicit parallel between Israel’s actions today and Nazi atrocities.

While considerations of the security of nearly six million Jews in Israel appear to have played a large role in the vote of Lakewood residents, it is far from clear that their votes will have the same impact on the implementation of Obama’s policies as they will have on the administration’s domestic agenda. Even weak presidents have much more control over foreign policy than over domestic policy, where Congress can be a restraining influence.

Ironically, by lessening the chances of the administration pushing through the most ambitious parts of its domestic agenda, voters may have actually increased Obama’s chances of being re-elected in 2012. Were the true implications of cap-and-trade and Obamacare to be fully appreciated by voters, they would constitute an electoral albatross around Democrats’ necks. But if these bills are defeated, Obama can run again in 2012 as a moderate conciliator, just as Bill Clinton did in 1996, after the early defeat of his health care proposals.

THOUGH I’M FAR FROM CERTAIN OF THE impact of the New Jersey results on the administration’s future Middle East policy, I must confess that as a Jew living in Israel I am heartened by the fact that so many of my fellow Torah Jews in Lakewood took our fate into consideration in casting their ballots. Christie carried every precinct in which Torah Jews are found in large numbers. From those who voted for Christie, out of a desire to protest the Obama administration’s foreign policy, I learn that those same concerns were felt even by those who voted for Corzine. The latter had perfectly valid reasons – the desire to express hakaras hatov to Corzine against the uncertain impact of a protest vote for Christie (ein safek motzi m’dai vadai.)

One of the hardest things about the past year in Israel has been the apparent indifference of the vast majority of American Jews to the threat to our existence. American Jews are the last group in America to have awakened from Obamamania. As I have quoted many times, half of Jews under 35 say that the destruction of Israel would not constitute a personal tragedy. Recently, the Forward carried a widely discussed piece by a young Jew who whines that it has simply become too fatiguing trying to defend Israel to his liberal friends.

To have detected such indifference and fatigue among Torah Jews would have been heartbreaking for those of us living in Israel. Baruch Hashem, we were spared. Thanks.\

Yated Ne’eman, November 11, 2009

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62 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    I have no inside knowledge of how Lakewood works, so I can only base my ideas on what I have read on blogs, like Matzav.com. If their take is correct, the one and only issue of concern was gay rights or as they prefer to call it “toeiva rights”. I didn’t see any discussion of the multitude of political issues raised by Joanathan Rosenblum.
    Upon inquiry, I was told that this is not a new machlokes. Rabbi Moshe Sherer and Rabbi Herman Neuberger supported Congressman Steven Solarz who helped save thousands of Iranian Jews. They were vehemently opposed by Rabbi Avigdor Miller, who supported Solarz’s opponent only because he was a liberal democrat and thus supported social issues that the rabbi felt were anathema.
    This machlokes is tearing apart the Catholic community with some clerics forbidding even giving communion much less voting for a Catholic who isn’t 100% opposed to abortion.
    I sat next to Congressman Jerrold Nadel two years ago and he told me that he represents a district with a large number of gays and a large number of chassidim and that the later do not care one whit about his strongly held social views as long as they get what they want, he called it a “transactional relationship”.
    Who was right, the Moetzes Gedolei Hatorah who sided with Rabbi Moshe Sherer or the other point of view? I cannot say.

  2. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    Agree or disagree with the author’s political stances, IMHO, the politics-to-Torah ratio in this piece was far too high for what I’ve come to expect from this website.

  3. Becky says:

    “the total failure of the administration’s policy of engagement with Iran. Iran is ten months closer to achieving its nuclear enrichment goals, without having felt the first taste of American pressure and after having snubbed every American overture.”

    Carter was the same, but then we had the blessing that the crisis was at the end of his presidency.

  4. dr. bill says:

    to many the conflict had overtones of good for the general jewish population – school vouchers/tax credits or good for a select few in kollel. whatsmore as the Rav ztl and many gedolim before him argued, the overall good of the entire population, Jew and gentile, is of paramount concern. The Rav once suggested in this vein, to look carefully at the 4 additions to the tefillah of aseret yemai tshuvah – in the first two in avot we pray for all living things, then for all bnai brisecha – including righteous gentiles and finally for all Jews. u can also argue that the first two are everyone and the last two are both just our people (depending on which brit is intended); in either case we have first universal concerns and then particular ones.

  5. mb says:

    (In Britain, National Health will not pay for an arterial stent for anyone over 59, no matter how healthy he or she otherwise is.)

    Why should anybody take anything you say seriously when you publish this nonsense?
    Well, it is Yated, I suppose.

  6. Chaim Frazer says:

    I do live in New Jersey, though in the more YU part (Bergen County) rather than Lakewood.

    I usually vote for Democrats, and did vote for Corzine in his first run for governor. I also count State Senator Loretta Weinberg, his running mate for Lieutenant Governor, as a friend.

    Unlike Rabbanim in Lakewood, our local Rabbanim did not endorse anyone, so I was on my own.

    My sense was that the most important issue in the election was the state’s solvency, which is highly precarious, and much more shaky than at the beginning of Corzine’s term. Corzine came into office with the reputation of a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, a man with the skills and judgment to overcome at least a decade, and probably more, of bipartisan financial irresponsibility. He failed, and he failed big.

    We are in much, much worse financial shape than 4 years ago.

    Many people wanted a change on just this one issue, and they either voted for Christie, or simply stayed home.

  7. Ori says:

    As I have quoted many times, half of Jews under 35 say that the destruction of Israel would not constitute a personal tragedy.

    Would most Israeli Jews consider anything that happens to the Jews in the US a personal tragedy? The basic fact is that heterodox Jews in the US and Chiloni Jews in Israel don’t have a lot drawing them towards each other.

  8. Miriam says:

    So often the schools and yeshivas will endorse a candidate that will help the school with some funding, or help build a building, when that candidate is really not helpful to the greater Jewish Community. If a candidate is going to heavily tax the municipality, and the wealthy therein, the wider Jewish Community (read:charities) are not helped. If a candidate is a “friend” to the Jewish Community, but his policy make the quality of life unbearable (see: Monsey, NY), I don’t think the whole community needs to support the candidate so that a school can be built.

    And can’t you lose your tax exempt status for “officially endorsing” any candidate?

  9. lacosta says:

    the publication of an endorsement of one candidate by the godol hador of israel [ and by extension, of the entire world, at least in the eyes of the haredi community] led to a breathtaking almost unrepentable chillul Hashem, as the publication of the district voting of Lakewood showed massive turnout for the other candidate precisely where haredi jews live. this slap in the face of Daas Tora should have led to widespread mourning in communities of yorei shamayim…..

  10. cvmay says:

    “THE STRONGEST FEELINGS OF LAKEWOOD VOTERS about President Obama’s job performance, however, concern his foreign policy, particularly that towards Israel”.

    Oh, Oh, how it pains me to write this to a kodesh who is living in Aretznu Hakedosha but the lakewood voters (who are friends/relatives/associates of mine) did not weigh in heavily against Obama’s policy/performance towards Israel as a factor in the Christie win. The talk on the street concentrated on high property taxes, corruption in the annals of Jersey government, lack of morality with future enactment of toava regulations and lastly — a vote against Obama.

    “To have detected such indifference and fatigue among Torah Jews would have been heartbreaking for those of us living in Israel. Baruch Hashem, we were spared” — There is a settlement freeze, an edict that forbids building homes on Jewish land and the indifference/fatigue among Torah Organizations is widespread. WHY? Complete unawareness and lack of knowledge….and….

  11. Baruch Pelta says:

    Obamacare can only result in severe rationing of medical care, particularly for the elderly.
    I don’t understand how this can be, especially since what might pass is a public option. Besides, aren’t insurance companies already rationing medicine?
    (In Britain, National Health will not pay for an arterial stent for anyone over 59, no matter how healthy he or she otherwise is.)
    This claim is false . I am confident that R’ Rosenblum will put a retraction in the comments here and ask the Yated to print a retraction in next week’s edition. R’ Rosenblum, if you would be so kind to answer a humble query: what was your source for this assertion?
    One of Obamacare’s chief architects, Dr. Ezekiel Rahm, brother of the White House Chief of Staff, is not inappropriately nicknamed Dr. Death. He has written extensively on the lesser claims to health care of older citizens. Rationing will confront Orthodox Jews with many heartrending halachic shaylos.
    This is extraordinarily misleading. What Dr. Emanuel has written is that when there is not an opportunity to save two lives and the doctor only can save one, said doctor should factor in age as well as other factors such as the likelihood of full recovery; he is against euthanasia.
    When it comes to the issues surrounding Israel, I must admit that like R’ Rosenblum, I am what many would refer to as a fundamentalist.
    Finally, perhaps R’ Rosenblum would be kind enough to elaborate on how he feels it was alright to vote for Christie when the Vaad of Lakewood felt otherwise .

  12. jf says:

    This comment is not for publication.

    “That ability to deliver a bloc of voters is why, for instance, Hillary Clinton so assiduously courted Skver in her first run for the Senate from New York” Given the events of the last few months, do you really think its wise to highlight one of the larger chillul hashems of the last decade?

  13. Bob Miller says:

    There were ample reasons to reject Corzine regardless of Obama’s behavior. Every governor does things for large voting blocs, and he was no exception. If we were perceived as voting en masse to reelect a corrupt or incompetent official because we valued our own narrow interest above the general interest, would that be good for the Jews? When one Jewish community voted nearly unanimously for Hillary Clinton in her Senate race, that was not exactly a Kiddush HaShem; it was taken (rightly or wrongly) as a sign that she had offered special favors.

  14. JoelG says:

    “Recently, the Forward carried a widely discussed piece by a young Jew who whines that it has simply become too fatiguing trying to defend Israel to his liberal friends.”

    Imagine how fatiguing it has become for Jewish liberals trying to defend Obama to their sensible friends. What an unmitigated disaster he’s been.

    An analysis of election returns from the 38 Lakewood Districts show that in all but two, Christie won handily; the two that he lost are predominantly African American. That means that the majority of Lakewood Jews were not interested in whatever deal the Vaad cooked-up with Corzine. Kol Hakavod to them!

  15. dovid says:

    “That ability to deliver a bloc of voters is why, for instance, Hillary Clinton so assiduously courted Skver in her first run for the Senate from New York.”

    This was a glaring example of what L. Oberstein called in his comment “transactional relationship”: voting for Hillary in exchange for Bill Clinton reducing prison terms for several members of the fold doing time for embezzling government funds. Too bad, the good rebbe did not use that exceptionally opportune time to put a good word for Jonathan Pollard. The Clintons, more than any other politicians, were and are willing to do anything for political gain.

  16. L. Oberstein says:

    Lacosta makes an important observation in comment #9. As I understand it, the Lakewood Vaad,not the yeshiva per se did the endorsement.Unlike Israel, this country does not allow tax exempt charities to endorce political candidates. What Rav Shteinmann said and what he meant is still open to clarification and I am sure others know a lot more than I do. It would be a Chilul Hashem if, after lengthy and rigorous study of all aspects of the question,taking testimony from all sides and asking the opinion of American gedolim, a formal teshuva were issued by Rav Shteinmann saying that the Toras Hashem demands that everyone vote a certain way and then it be overwhelmingly rejected by the Lakewood community. Does Lacosta think that is what actually happened?

  17. Joe Hill says:

    The Skver community did very well by voting for Hillary in 2000. As an aside, there vote didn’t put Hillary on top in any event. But most importantly it is a clear cut case of Pidyun shvuyim. They obtained the release of imprisoned Jews (in a completely legal manner to boot.)

  18. Ori says:

    Does obtaining the release of Jews from prison in the US count as Pidyon Shvuim? Is there any difference between a Jew imprisoned unjustly for being a Jew, and a Jew punished for a secular crime the same way as a gentile would be? Does it matter whether the crime is also a violation of Halacha or not?

  19. dovid says:

    “it is a clear cut case of Pidyun shvuyim”

    Joe Hill, please clarify in what respect does Jonathan Pollard is any less a case of Pidyon Shvuim than a bunch of crooks? The crooks were sentenced to jail for a well defined # of years, with the possibility of early release for “good behaviour”. Pollard’s sentence is life imprisonment. The Clinton team was ready for business. The rebbe had the right currency. Please explain w/o PC posturing, why the rebbe didn’t missuse the momentary leverage he had.

  20. lacosta says:

    lacosta doesnt know any facts on the ground other than this . the perception is the haredi world unlike the rest of yiddishkeit holds firmly to the principle of daas tora in the unlimited modern sense — any and everything is the purview of daas tora –from hashkafa and shidduchim , to the minutest detail–what color to paint the living room .

    when the haredi world’s undisputed gadol hador is asked a shaaleh , and the opinion is published , can one imagine a greater chillul hashem on G-d’s earth— then the residents of the yerushalayim of the galus, ignore this call???

  21. Joe Hill says:


    Pollard too is clear cut case of Pidyun Shvuyim. That is not a contradiction. As to why the Skver community pressed its own case rather than Pollard, the numerous reasons for that are both legitimate and obvious. 1) They have a greater responsibility to members of their own community over members of other communities. Thus they prioritized the limited leverage they had. 2) Even if they had pushed for Pollard, they would have gotten nowhere on that issue, as it was a both a highly visible case and one the national security community made clear they would oppose (remember Clinton already promised Netanyahu to release Pollard in return for Wye, but Clinton backed out of his promise due to the threatened resignation of the CIA Director if that happened.) So releasing Pollard was not a realistic possibility.

    As for your referring to the Jews who were jailed as “crooks”, I won’t rehash all the reasons that is disagreeable, but will point out that on the same token you could as easily refer to Pollard as a “traitor”. Neither takes away from the fact that it is Pidyun Shvuyim, despite any arguments that treason is traditionally a capital offense, etc.

  22. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by lacosta — November 15, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

    A simpler explanation is that typical Lakewood voters never held the view of Daas Torah that Lacosta imputes to the “haredi world”. They recognize when an issue is local and best understood by locals.

  23. Ori says:

    Dovid, releasing a few crooks would be quickly forgotten, and wouldn’t hurt Hillary Clinton’s political career. Jonathan Pollard is a different case. It is an article of faith for many US citizens that loyalty to the US trumps loyalty to any other country or group (such as a Jew’s loyalty to Israel).

    It’s quite possible that the rebbe tried to secure Pollard’s release, and that the Clintons decided the votes aren’t worth the future political cost.

  24. JoelG says:

    “The Clintons, more than any other politicians, were and are willing to do anything for political gain”

    Yes, and one of those things was to dangle Pollard’s release in front of Netanyahu in 1998 to convince him to sign the Wye accords and then renege after he signed, thus setting him up for his loss to Ehud Barak, who they backed.

  25. Rachel W says:

    I live in Lakewood. I voted for Christie. The two uppermost reasons (and there were others) were (1) NO way am I voting for someone who will drag the moral atmosphere even lower than it is now. (2) To show my displeasure for President Obama’s policies by voting “no” for the man he went to bat for.

  26. dovid says:

    Ori, were you referring to Pollard when you wrote about a Jew imprisoned unjustly for being a Jew? Both types of crimes you were referred to are violations of Dina d’Malchuta which require us to observe the laws of the land. Pollard did violate the law. Had he been sentenced to 2-4 yrs. in prison like everyone else who committed comparable crimes, I would have said that he gambled, lost, and was made to pay, and wouldn’t qualify for actions on our part defined as Pidyon Shvuim. Pollard’s treatment by the judiciary, however, is unprecedented. He was singled out not for being Jewish, but for being a Jew who risked a lot to help Israel. What makes him a captive, is the fact that he has been held imprisoned way over what anyone else got for similar crimes. That’s why I would venture say that Pidyon Shvuim applies to him. The scoundrels Clinton set free got what anyone routinely gets for comparable economic crimes. In what sense are they Shvuim? In America, such people once caught usually do time. In Jewish law they have to pay back what they stole plus a fine usually equal to the amount they stole. In Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Somalia, etc. they have their hands anputated, get flogged, etc. In the Roman Empire, they got crucified. In Romania in the time of Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula), theives were impalled. I trust you agree they got the best deal even before their sentence was reduced subsequent to their rebbe’s intervention.

  27. dovid says:

    “dangle Pollard’s release in front of Netanyahu”

    JoelG, you can trust the Clintons on this one. Dangle a monolithic block of votes at the crucial time in front of Hillary and they will close the deal. In his last hours as president, there was nothing that could have stopped Clinton from pardoning Pollard.

    “greater responsibility to members of their own community over members of other communities.”

    Do you have a source for such a statement? Since when is the blood of a Sqver chassid redder than that of Pollard? If you argued that on the one side of the balance is a talmid chacham and on the other side is a regular Joe, there is something to talk about. The rebbe settled for small fry because rebbes today are accountable to their constituancies.

    ” Jonathan Pollard is a different case.”

    In the big scheme of intellegence and unceasing political turbulence, Pollard was a small player. He would have been forgotten the day after securing his freedom.

    I find it easier to defend Pollard because I am not American. American Jews find the topic very touchy and veer away from it, or accuse him of things he hasn’t done. A case in point is calling him a traitor. The crimes Pollard committed are not classified as treason by American law. So stop calling him a traitor.

  28. Joe Hill says:


    Traitors in the U.S. routinely receive life sentences. Can you name a single crime similar to Pollard’s committed in the U.S. — namely where a U.S. Government employee spied for ANY foreign nation — that received a lesser sentence?

    The Jews who Clinton pardoned received a harsher sentence than typical due to their being Jewish, just as you pointed out happened to Pollard. The bottom line is both situations are clear cut cases of Pidyun Shvuyim. Indeed, even a sentence in line with normal secular sentencing standards would not disqualify the case from being Pidyun Shvuyim.

  29. Ori says:

    Dovid, I was not referring to Pollard when I wrote about a Jew imprisoned unjustly. I was trying, in general, to ask about the mitzva of Pidyon Shvu’im. I’m glad to learn it does not really apply when the courts are honest in this and age.

    We don’t know if Pollard was treated worst than comparable offenders. One of the criteria for punishment is the degree of damage caused. In the case of espionage that depends on the destination of the information and the information itself. We know the destination in the case of Pollard, but not what he revealed.

    Another criterion is deterrence value. Ideological criminals are willing to suffer a lot worse than those who commit crimes for money. This means that to deter the new Jewish intelligence analyst who decides his ultimately loyalty is to Israel and not the US requires a scarier punishment than the one typically given to those who sell information for money.

  30. JoelG says:

    “Had he been sentenced to 2-4 yrs. in prison like everyone else who committed comparable crimes”

    You have no idea what crimes Pollard committed and the damage his espionage caused (despite his spying for an ally) because the file is sealed as “Top Secret”. Over the past 60 years, dozens of people have been given life sentences years for their espionage and spies do not receive 2-4 year sentences. Those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.

  31. dovid says:

    Pidyon Shvuim applies to real captives. Someone found guilty of a crime in America and subsequently incarcerated is not a captive unless his penalty does not fit the crime. Pollard became a captive approx. four years after his incarceration. That’s what others got for crimes similar to his. For the past 20 years, Pollard has been a captive for whom we must exert effort and invest resources to secure his freedom as prescribed in the Torah. OTOH, the swindlers that we alluded to in previous comments, they paid for their crime, like Pollard did in his first 3-4 years of incarceration. These are not captives. Pidyon Shvuim doesn’t apply to them.

    Interesting to note that only anti-Semites and American Jews call Pollard a traitor. The majority of the Americans don’t know and / or don’t care about Pollard. Rudy Guliani had no problem stating that Pollard’s sentence is disproportionate to the crime he committed. Joe Lieberman on the other hand, is vehemently against Pollard’s release to this day. The same law that sent Pollard to jail, does not define his crime as treason, but passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States. No one in the history of the U.S. got a life sentence for it but Pollard.

  32. Joe Hill says:


    Both Pollard and New Square are clear-cut cases of Pidyun Shvuyim. See Shulchan Aruch YD 252:3 and Rambam Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 8:10. Guilt judged by a secular court based on secular laws resulting in a punishment determined other than on Halacha, does not mitigate the “Mitzvah Rabbah” (Bava Basra 8b) of Pidyun Shvuyim.

  33. dovid says:

    “The Jews who Clinton pardoned received a harsher sentence than typical due to their being Jewish”

    You are the first one to make this assertion. The American justice system has a good track record and it is by-and-large color and ethnic blind. If someone thinks he got a rough deal, he can appeal his sentence. Pollard was denied even the this right based on a technicality. I personally know of cases where Jews were caught in large-scale Medicare fraud. Two of them had to return $12.5 million and got no jail terms. There are anti-Semites in the justice system, but the system is not anti-Semitic.

    “You have no idea what crimes Pollard committed”

    Actually I do. It’s in his charge sheet: passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States. The fact that the authorities have denied access to Pollard’s file 20 years after the events, speaks for itself. Military secrets have a short shelf life. What were military secrets 20 yrs ago, today are common knowledge. The reason Pollard’s file is still unaccessible is what Ori was alluding to above: the deterrence value.

    “Those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.”

    Here are several people who do know and do talk:

    James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA: “… at this point I think he [Pollard] has served long enough.”

    Giuliani, for Attorney General, familiar with Pollard’s file, said he is “probably serving the longest sentence any spy has ever served” and deserved a pardon.”

    Alan Dershowitz, a long-time supporter of justice for Jonathan Pollard, also familiar with the case, holds that “the courts have been very unfair to him”.

    “Can you name a single crime similar to Pollard’s committed in the U.S. — namely where a U.S. Government employee spied for ANY foreign nation — that received a lesser sentence?”

    Lieutenant-Commander Michael Schwartz (not Jewish), arrested for providing classified U.S. intelligence to Saudi Arabia. A U.S. Navy grand jury indicted him on the charge of espionage, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment. His punishment? An “other than honorable discharge.”

  34. DF says:

    Agreed with Bob Miller above. What the election showed vividly is that despite official and pro forma notions of “daas torah”, even folks in lakewood can think for themselves. This is especially true for younger people.
    It’s true in Israel too, to less of a degree. That is one reason [there are others] why the Charedi parties, despite high birthrtes, kenaninahora, have never grown beyond the same five seats. Because not every Charedi votes for Charedi parties.

  35. dovid says:

    Just in case my previous comment was not clear, Michael Schwartz, indicted on charges of espionage for Saudi Arabia, never spent a day in jail.

  36. dovid says:

    “Guilt judged by a secular court based on secular laws resulting in a punishment determined other than on Halacha, does not mitigate the “Mitzvah Rabbah” (Bava Basra 8b) of Pidyun Shvuyim.”

    That’s your understanding of the Gemara in case. Rabbi Shimon Schwab זצ”ל was asked to intervine on behalf of a person sent to jail for cheating at taxes. His answer was to the effect that let him rot in prison. I trust you agree that Reb Shimon knew Bava Basra 8b.

  37. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    Lt. Cmdr. Michael Schwartz was NOT convicted of espionage. In fact, the Navy had dropped its court-martial case against him. The ONLY thing he was convicted of was lying to an investigator and mishandling classified documents. So he maintains a full presumptions of innocence (on anything else), and any comparison of his case to Pollard is 100% invalid.

  38. dovid says:

    Joe Hill, if you were consistent, you should start a Pidyon Shvuim campaign on behalf of Bernie Madoff. The poor fellow got a rough deal. Had the court sentenced him according to Halacha, Bernie would have be asked to kindly return the principal he stole, which he valued at $50 billion, plus the kefel which should be another $50 billion.

  39. Ori says:

    Dovid, I think I owe you an explanation why we, US Jews, are so antipathic towards Pollard.

    Disclaimer: This is my opinion, as a Yored from Israel. It agrees with what I heard from other Jews who were born here, but they are obviously not a representative sample.

    We’re equal citizens here, in fact rather than just in name. So are Muslims, Hindus, and so on. However, we have the history of the diaspora behind us. We don’t take it for granted the way many others do. As a result, we consider anything that might jeopardize that status as a threat.

    A Bernie Madoff doesn’t jeopardize anything. He’s just a crook who happens to be Jewish. Jonathan Pollard, however, is a different case. He did not commit a crime because of a general human fault. He committed a crime because he was Jewish. Furthermore, the crime he committed was one that is likely to make it hard for other Jews to serve the US in certain capacities. The security clearance process is not required to be fair or politically correct.

  40. Ori says:

    It’s quite possible that Saudi Arabia pulled strings for the benefit of Michael Schwartz. It may have been done through corruption, or even by legitimate negotiations. Military justice is not about justice but about the military. It might be considered better to let a spy go than lose US bases on Saudi soil.

    However, if Saudi pulled strings out of loyalty to Michael Schwartz and the Israeli government chose to abandon Jonathan Pollard, that’s just diplomacy. It doesn’t mean Pollard was dealt unjustly by the US, but that Michael Schwartz was dealt with unjustly – in an overly lenient manner.

  41. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by DF — November 17, 2009 @ 6:07 pm :

    DF referred to “official and pro forma notions of ‘daas torah'”

    I have no doubt that typical Jewish Lakewood residents who voted for Christie accept the principle of Daas Torah. However, they seem to have realized in this case that

    1. Insufficient information might have been conveyed to Rav Steinman, Shlita.

    2. In any case, this was not the type of matter that should be addressed or decided by even the greatest Gadol living abroad.

  42. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    Why, do you oppose the halachic method of punishment and prefer the secular version? If so, indeed we must differ.

    (BTW, if Madoff could not pay back what owed + kefel, the result would be he would be sold as an Eved Ivri — for a maximum of 6 years. Halacha is what it is, and it must be accepted.)

  43. dovid says:

    “Saudi Arabia pulled strings for the benefit of Michael Schwartz”

    Two factors worked to M. Schwartz’s benefit: (1) He wasn’t Jewish, and (2) the benficiary of his spying was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia didn’t need to whisper a word. The Americans understood it was bad for “business” to antagonize Saudi Arabia. Hence, the chose not to make waves and let him go.

    ” It doesn’t mean Pollard was dealt unjustly by the US”

    Ori, instead of our speculating whether Pollard got what was coming to him or not, let’s listen to people in the field, that have first-hand knowledge of the case.

    Senator Chuck Schumer said: “ Pollard should have been punished; he spied on the United States. But the sentence he received is disproportionate. When I got the top secret briefing you alluded to, it didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t know from open sources.” (http://www.meforum.org/82/charles-schumer-the-peace-process-has-been-one) The Senator continues: “I conclude from it that the animus against Pollard is very deep. At first, I thought it was just [former defense secretary] Caspar Weinberger, who was known as anti-Israel; many observers had doubts about his motivation in this episode. Now I know that the matter goes much deeper.” Read as well post #33 above.

    I find it extremely galling American Jewry’s hostility towards Pollard. If there is one good thing that came out of the Pollard affair that should be: Stay away from jobs requiring security clearance. As an honest Jew, you will be faced with a choice between loyalty to your host country and loyalty to Eretz Yisroel. America has its interests which at times won’t coincide with those of Israel. No matter how you choose, you will be wrong.

  44. dovid says:

    Joe Hill,

    I checked out two of the three sources you listed in your post #32: Rambam Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 8:10 and Bava Basra 8b. Neither one supports your assertion that an inmate in a minimum security American penitentiary where people sentenced for economic crimes are typically sent to fits the description of the fate of a שבוי given by Rabbi Yochanan in Bava Basra 8b or Rambam in Hilchos Matanos Aniyim. Such inmates don’t suffer of hunger and thirst, and are not in permanent danger of being killed. It’s more dangerous to drive a car than to be an inmate in such places. They get kosher food, have minyanim (to our great shame), Daf Yomi, etc. I don’t see how people in such living conditions would earn the דין of שבוי. In addition, their sentence is for a fixed number of months/years, which never holds true for a captive. These fellows don’t have the status of captives. Pollard on the other hand, is held in a medium security penitentiary together with murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. His life is in danger. His sentence is open-ended. He is a שבוי in the full sense of the word for which Chazal, as well as the Rambam exhort us to spare no effort and resources to help regain his freedom. You and I have a Torah obligation to do so. Rabbis Eliashev and Aharon Steinman wrote personal letters to President Bush to pardon Pollard. They didn’t write on behalf of those swindlers. Rabbi Shimon Schwab didn’t hold that such characters deserve the דין of captives for whom we must exert ourselves.

  45. L. Oberstein says:

    If there are riots against Intel hiring gentiles to keep vital projects going on Shabbos and the leader of the Eidah comes to America to pressure Intel, then we will return to the poverty of the Old Yishuv. Israel is a world leader in technology and Intel is key to that. Breaking windows and smashing furniture and riots every week seems to happen too often. Then these same people come to America where they collect the money that enables them to continue to live without working. I don’t understand how Israel puts up with this?

  46. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    There is no justification in your comparing a duly convicted traitor under the law, a crime that historically carried capital punishment whereas in this case it was a lighter (life) sentance, to Lt. Cmdr. Michael Schwartz was NOT convicted of espionage. Based upon YOUR own criteria of שבוי, the life sentence is more than just.

  47. lacosta says:

    with all due respect, the ‘daas tora’ commenters are trying to move history back 50-100 years to the way daas tora usd to be , before it was redefined to include everything from tora to toothpaste.

    the fact that the followers of daas tora deny their own leadership is pittiful at best, massive chillul hashem at worst…..

  48. dovid says:

    ” traitor under the law”

    One thing is to be uninformed. A totally different thing is to wittingly perpetuating a lie. An even worse thing is to repeatedly slander a fellow Jew in public. Joe Hill, you are perpetuating a lie. Jonathan Pollard was indicted only on one charge: passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States. I am quoting from a letter written by Pollard’s attorneys: “Pollard has never been charged with or convicted of treason. He was charged with, and pled guilty to, conspiracy to commit espionage. The distinction is significant. Treason entails aiding an enemy of the United States. Mr. Pollard was charged with and pled guilty to, conspiracy to deliver classified information to the State of Israel, an ally of the United States. He has never aided any enemy of the United States.”

  49. dovid says:

    “Based upon YOUR own criteria of שבוי, the life sentence is more than just.”

    Maybe you will be more explicit and enlighten me.

  50. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    He plead guilty to one count of “conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government”, which is defined as espionage. You can split as many legal hairs as lawyerly possible between espionage and spying, but “espionage” is a synonym for spying.

    My point is despite this, according to your aforementioned defined criteria of שבוי (which incidentally is not correct), Pollard would be less deserving than the Shomer Shabbos Jews discussed. My definition of שבוי, includes Pollard as well as his fellow Jews.

  51. dovid says:

    “My point is”

    Joe Hill, you made your point loud and clear. You make allegations but you don’t support them with evidence. You are slandering Jonathan Pollard in public, you are Richard Goldstoning him, that’s your point. I only wonder what your agenda is. The American law system has it clearly defined what constitutes treason, espionage, conspiracy to aid and ally, conspiracy to aid an enemy, etc., etc. By now, I realize there is no purpose in debating with you. Per American law, Jonathan Pollard is not a traitor.

    For the benefit of the readers, I would like to add to the names listed in comment #33, Benjamin L. Hooks, a former judge and long-time director of the civil rights organization, the NAACP. This is what he wrote in a letter to Bill Clinton in 1993, “I have rarely encountered a case in which government arbitrariness was so clear cut and inexcusable.”

    Regarding American agents that gave over confidential information to allies or to enemies and the substantially lesser punishment they got than what Pollard got, here is information freshly off the press from Jerusalem Post

    Ronald Montaperto, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who admitted passing classified intelligence to the Chinese during a 14-year period, was sentenced to three months in prison.
    CIA agent David Barnett, who sold the Soviets the names of 30 American agents, was given an 18-year sentence and paroled after 10 years. Michael Walker, for many years a key figure in the Walker family Soviet spy ring, was sentenced to 25 years and released after serving 15. William Kampiles, a CIA officer who sold the Soviets the operating manual to the KH-11 satellite, America’s eye in the sky, received a 40-year sentence and was released after 18 years.
    Abdul Kedar Helmy, an Egyptian-born American, transmitted classified materials to Egypt that were used in a joint weapons program with Iraq to vastly increase the range of ballistic missiles, including Iraq’s Scud missiles, which were later fired on US troops during Desert Storm. Helmy received a prison term of less than four years. John Paul Lindh, an American who joined the Taliban terrorists fighting the United States, received a 21-year sentence.

  52. Baruch Pelta says:

    I just want to note that my comment above was edited by a Cross-Currents blogger and the links taken out, in accordance with their policy. However, I actually provided indisputable sources for all of my assertions; I also emailed R’ Rosenblum with the comment while it was in “moderation limbo” for several days so he’d have time to ask the Yated to print a retraction. I find it unfortunate that R’ Rosenblum deigned it unnecessary to print such a retraction and the readers of the Yated (and probably a significant proportion of readers of Cross-Currents) are now under the impression that anybody in Britain over 59 can’t have an artery stent and that Dr. Emanuel’s positions (see my comment above) would somehow lead to rationing.

  53. dovid says:

    Joe Hill,

    What’s abject and perfidious on the part of those who allege that Pollard committed all the crimes under the sun and accuse him of treason is their peace of mind at the court’s breach of the plea bargain reached with Pollard, as well as their witnessing over the years the American establishment’s refusal to allow Pollard’s attorneys to examine his file and enable them to rebut all the allegations under the excuse of confidentiality. 25-year old military secrets are today’s unread footnotes in history books.

  54. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    I am pleased if you recognize you’ve slandered the Shomer Shabbos Jews from New York. Just as you object to Pollard being called a convicted spy guilty of espionage having been convicted of “conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government” (the precise language of the guilty plea), you’re calling them swindlers was equally reprehensible.

  55. Sammy Finkelman says:

    Re: Comment 1. Rabbi Avigdor Miller did not merely “support” Representative Stephen Solarz’s opponent in 1984 – he got Rabbi Yehuda “Lew’ Levin into the race. I believe Rabbi Yehuda Levin was some kind of a Talmid of his. The issue that motivated him was some kind of “gay rights” bill that Solarz had sponsored, which actually was a throwaway position of no practical consequence at the time and that nobody else paid any attention to.

    Once the race started, other issues affected things. Solarz appeared before a lot of Rabbis and found he was having trouble. The district had a rather high number of refugees from Communism. His foreign and defense positions became a bit better known. Solarz was actually having the most trouble in portions of the district that previously had been considered the most solid for him – heavily Jewish and Democratic.

    By the way I never heard that about Iranian (visas I presume) as a reason for supoorting Solarz, but then I don’t know everything.

    In the end he got 66% instead of 82% or so, and later on the radio I remember one time he claimed that it was just that normal Republican vote was cast because there was a candidate – most Congressmen would “give their eyeteeth” he claimed, for such a district. But he knew he had had the beginnings of a close call, and a real campaign throughout the district might do something.

    I think he got himself on the subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee that dealt with aid to Israel – he had not been on it — I may be wrong about his going on it but I thiink he did – he wasn’t on it in 1984 – and he began searching for some foreign country issue to be anti-Communist – and to turn the entire Democratc Party in that direction with him, because he wasn’t going to be alone in anything.

    The issue he chose was: Pol Pot. Yes, Pol Pot.

    That is, he supported Pol Pot, or more precisely, the allies of Pol Pot in Cambodia. Vietnam had invaded Cambodia in 1979 after being provoked and put an end to the genocide, but, because of influence from China, and too much false legalism, first, Jimmy Carter (who had earlier stopped Thailand from invading Cambodia in 1977) and then Ronald Reagan took the position that that the Pol Pot government was the legitimate government or at least not illegitimate and they kept the UN seat – and a bit of a war near the border with Thailand – going for around 10 years. The United States was actually supporting some of these Communist Chinese created front groups – I think there was more than one of them – that were fighting alongside Pol Pot.

    So , after his too close for comfort call, Solarz chose to demonstrate anti-Communism’ – or love of liberty? – by supporting the allies of Pol Pot. He supported giving them more aid. That is Solarz.

    He is no longer in Congress because of redistricting in 1992. A good portion of the distruict was joined to the west side of Manhattan and some more carved out to create an “Hispanic” district. He decided to run in the Hispanic district claiming in part as sort of an excuse that since he was a Sephardic Jew he could claim to be Hispanic. This didn’t help anything – but then that was just to save face among liberals.

    Then, just before the primary, Congressman Ted Weiss died. The district leaders had to pick a new congressional candidate. But since first a candidate for the remainder of the term from November to January 3 had to be picked, it was only the people from the old district that picked, it even though the new district was 60% in Brooklyn. They picked Jerrold Nadler,, who did have some roots in Brooklyn, in Bensonhurst. and inasmuch as he was the candidate for the old district he was also picked as the candidate for the new district. The district wasn’t much changed after the 2000 Census so for all these years, a good portion of Brooklyn has had a Congressman from the Upper West side of Mnhattan who gets no primary challenges except the occasional super liberal. And Brooklyn is a majority of the population of the district.

    Now if Solarz had run in the primary for the closest continuation of his district, he would have been in. But he ran in a different district, and he lost the primary. That must be galling to him.

    Regarding Pollard – he probably got his sentence and is probably still in jail because of Saudi Arabia. It isn’t just that the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was close to Casper Weinberger, a man without whose efforts Pollard never would have gotten a life sentence.

    (Casper Weinberger was a man so malevolent against Israel – or close to the Saudis – that he inserted false notes into the library of Congress that had Ronald Reagan approving selling arms to Iran on a date in January 1986 that he did not in fact approve it – a note which also said that the idea came from Israel. This note was later used by Iran-contra Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh to indict Casper Weinberger for perjury just before the 1992 election. The twist here is that it was his “contemporaneous notes” that were the lie, and not so much his testimony, and pretty obviously too – I meaan it has President Reagan approvinmg the sale of arms to Iran on a date he did not.)

    That’s not the most important fact to know. It’s this:

    …Jonathan Pollard had THOUGHT he was not just going to be just a spy, but a spymaster. Pollard had been bothered by the idea of taking money from Israel and he wanted to pay the money back. Along comes a Saudi who works for Prince Bandar and he’s going to set him up in business and enable him to make lots of money from which he cam pay back Israel and in the meantime too he’ll give him information taken from the Saudi Ambassador. This is all in a book by Wolf Blitzer. But this Saudi, of course – perhaps Pollard doesn’t realize it yet – was of course a double agent from the beginning. And he set up the meeting at which Pollard was arrested.

    But we have to ask another question. How came the Saudis to know that Pollard was spying for Israel? And how was Pollard discovered in the first place?. Pollard has said it was NOT because of carelessness – and the story as to how he was discovered is not true.

    So then what? Well, possibly one of his Israeli handlers was secretly working for the Saudis. It’s far from impossible. Thhe history of espionage ifs full of stories like that. That could explain a lot. It could explain some of the things he was asked for. It could be that the it was the Saudis – that is, the Saudis, not Israel – who had other spies who knew some document indexing and filing data but who didn’t have access to the documents themselves. It could explain even how Israel was accused of not returning all the information. Maybe not all of the information got to Israel. And that, in turn, means then that maybe some of the information actually did get into the hands of countries not really friendly with the United States. The spy may not be the person most n the know.

    This could be a big enough secret that some people wouldn’t want discovered that would remain undiscovered so long as Pollard stays in prison. Of course all those people would either be Saudis or people currently or reviously in the pay of the Saudis.

  56. dovid says:

    “you recognize you’ve slandered the Shomer Shabbos Jews”

    Where did you get this that I recognized I slandered? Where and when? You are attributing to me deeds and statements that I did not commit, just as you attributed to Pollard deeds he did not commit.

    “you’re calling them swindlers was equally reprehensible.”

    On what basis do you find it reprehensible? Because they are not swindlers and I am מוציא שם רע in a public forum? Or because they are swindlers but by calling them so, I commit לשון הרע?

  57. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by lacosta — November 19, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

    This and previous comments by Lacosta assume that Jewish Lakewood residents as a group bought into a greatly expanded concept of Daas Torah which they have now violated in their recent voting. Maybe, just maybe, their concept has been more nuanced all along, which Lacosta, living in his rather different world, did not detect.

  58. Joe Hill says:

    dovid –

    Is one of the two possibilities (מש”ר or ל”ה) less of an issur than the other?

  59. L. Oberstein says:

    This post originally dealt with a definition of daas torah and then went off onto a tangent about Pollard. Is it possible that there is more than one correct way to look at these issues and there is no need to denigrate one who holds a different view. I personally could not be part of a group that demanded such total mind control that I would have to ask a infallible intermediary to tell me what color the Creator wants me to paint my living room. If that is Judaism, my religion needs a different name. As far as Pollard, everyone I speak to who works for NSA or other intelligence agencies feels he deserved what he got and that he did harm to the USA. I have no personal knowledge,but would hope he would get a pardon after all these years, enough is enough.Many people feel that Pollard himself is harming his own cause and that his tactics help keep him in prison. I do not know.
    Why are some orthodox Jews so angry at everyone and so judgemental of anyone who doesn’t share their way of looking at the world. They give Judaism a bad rap.

  60. Joe Hill says:

    L. Oberstein —

    The claim that the so-called Ultra-Orthodox believe in the infallibility of their Torah leaders is an old canard.

    Pollard hurt his case with his tactics prior to trial/sentencing. I don’t know of anything he’s done in the many years since his sentencing to hurt himself. Nevertheless despite his guilt under secular law, as Jews it is incumbent upon on all of us to work to win his release.

  61. dovid says:

    “I personally could not be part of a group that demanded such total mind control that I would have to ask a infallible intermediary to tell me what color the Creator wants me to paint my living room.”
    LOberstein, you are mocking a feature of Yiddishkeit, the absence of which is responsible in a great measure for the mess we, Jews find ourselves. The problem of our time is not that we ask too many shaalos, but that we don’t ask often enough, on the assumption that we know the answer, or that the rabbi is ill-qualified since he is not Moshe Rabanu. I doubt anyone asks shaalos to the effect of “what color the Creator wants me to paint my living room.” This is your contribution to ridiculing the process. Shaul, who was among the גדולי הדור in the time of Shmuel HaNavi, did not hesitate to consult the Navi as to how he should go about finding his father’s donkeys. He did not find the issue too trivial. Three shaalos that few Gd-fearing Jews consider asking [I anticipate a torrent of scorn from LOberstein on account of this] are: (1) what type of car one should buy, (2) which gas station franchise one should patronize, and (2) whom one should vote for. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, said to the effect that every time we pump gasoline for our cars, we finance Arab terrorism, since Middle Eastern oil revenues are the grease that ‘oil’ the terror organizations. That being the case, Jews shouldn’t buy SUVs which use an inordinate amount of gas and whose utility is equal or inferior to cars that use substantially less gas. Nonetheless, Jewish locales (we know which they are) are littered with SUVs. We should also not buy gas from companies that import it from the Middle East, such as Shell, Texaco, Exxon, or Amoco, but rather from Citgo, Sonoco, Conoco, or Hess which import it from non-ME sources. With regards to elections, you, LOberstein, shared with this forum that you voted for Obama. Had you have asked a shaala from any Gd-fearing rabbi, he would have advised you against. The writing was on the wall. Everything Obama has done since he was elected is consistent with the information about him available before the elections. All one can say is that we are our worst enemies.

  62. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by dovid — December 3, 2009 @ 3:40 pm :

    1. Citgo belongs to our enemy Hugo Chavez of Venezuela!

    2. Oil is traded such an extent that we may not know the origin of the gasoline in a pump at a given station Dovid favors.

    3. Regrettably, some genuine rabbis may have erred and voted for Obama, and they might have advised doing this last year.

    4. The suitability of a given car for a given owner or family involves many considerations beyond MPG and emissions. If a rabbi had to sort this out properly for each car-buying Jew in his jurisdiction, this would eat up an enormous amount of the rabbi’s valuable time.

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