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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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Act of defiance preceded redemption

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I am perplexed by the words of the late Rabbi David Hartman, as published in The CJN (“Passover: a fine-tuning of the human soul,” March 21). He states that “Passover suggests a supernatural model of redemption… that positions us as passive and patient, waiting for an interventionist God to rescue us from our Galut realities.” However, Rabbi Hartman overlooks that brave act of defiance that the Jewish People needed to undertake before they were redeemed! Before the last plague, the Jewish People were required to take a symbol of Egyptian belief, a lamb, which was viewed as a god, and roast it whole – outside, for everyone to see! If that was not enough, then they took the blood of this god and smeared it on the outside of their doors! They ate this lamb in a festive meal and ate it with matzah. We are taught that the requirement of freedom is to first reject the norms of the oppressors, and then we will have the moral strength for freedom. It’s this meal that we re-enact at the seder – the night before we went out to physical freedom. In the Torah, the experience in Egypt is the rationale for many of our social justice commandments. It’s not much of a challenge “to find underlying spiritual and ethical meanings beneath the surface of Passover.” Rabbi Hartman states that Jews “can’t stand order,” but the festive meal at the beginning of Pesach, and the very name of our prayer book, means “order”! Yes, we needed revealed miracles at the birth of our people, at Pesach, but by the time we reach the end of the year, with Purim, we are taught to see God acting behind the scenes.

Yehudit Shier Weisberg,


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The Purim problem


Yossi Klein Halevi’s Perspectives piece, “Pesach Jews vs. Purim Jews: the agony of our dilemma” (March 14), is about those who worry about Amalek, who attacked the weakest of the Israelites as they fled from Egypt, and those who worry about taking care of Palestinian strangers. But the Purim problem – the problem of Islamism, isn’t only an Israeli problem. It’s a problem that affects all western nations. Its effects on Israel should not be separated from its effects on other countries, and to do so, takes it out of context. Only when Islamist attacks on Israel are seen in a universal light can the ideas of peace or annexation be genuinely investigated.

Jonathan Usher


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IAW incorrectly minimized


David Koschitzky’s guest voice, “IAW is really a non-event for students” (March 7), and its headline convey the wrong impression about Israeli Apartheid Week’s significance and minimize its strategic importance to Israel’s foes. Whether or not the IAW has been successful in attracting mainstream media coverage – Kotchitzky reports that it has not – it still remains the most universal and most recognized “calling card” of the multiple tactics used by those who would slander and vilify Israel on campus.

IAW’s proliferation, combined with a lack of an aggressive response, can and probably does spawn and encourage the other campus activity that Kotchitzky deems important enough to warrant a response – the harassment and intimidation of Jewish students, the misuse of student governments to promote anti-Israel sentiments and professorial “abuse of the podium.” Now the proverbial chickens have come home to roost in the form of a resolution passed by the York Federation of Students (YFS) on March 21 supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Jewish Federations of Canada says that serious efforts will be taken to reverse the trend that this resolution represents, not because the resolution has practical significance, but because the student body and Jewish organizations, all obliged to pay dues, were given little forewarning of the proposed resolution by their executive on a subject that he believes holds no real interest for the vast majority. How then did these guys get elected, one wonders?

I see this resolution as a followup to the recent IAW held at York University. Surely both are connected, with the lack of firm response to the one encouraging the other.

Ron Hoffman



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