Letters to the Editor: Week of Oct. 12, 2011

D’var Torah response receives its own critique

The Oct. 5 commentary, “Torah portion deserves critical examination,”  David A. Rubin writes, “I was disappointed by the Sept. 14, 2011 D’var Torah. Rabbi James Stone Goodman’s prose was certainly interesting, and it would be to the Jewish Light’s advantage to publish it more often, perhaps in a column dedicated to our local poets and writers.”

I do not feel that Mr. Rubin’s leading remarks introducing his commentary should have been included with his otherwise fine discussion. In the Talmud we learn that any discourse “for the sake of heaven” is fine but we should avoid discussions which involve lashon hara, (Hebrew for “evil tongue” or bad language about others).

Mr. Rubin’s critique of Rabbi Goodman did nothing to enhance his comments.

The Torah itself is a poem, an epic poem much like the Iliad and the Odyssey. The critique of a poem is itself a poem so I am very comfortable with Rabbi Goodman’s piece. 

Moreover, I feel the Light should not publish items in which our community members voice lashon hara toward others in our community.  It is not worthy of their mission as the voice of the Jewish community in St. Louis.

Stephen Mandel

St. Louis

In his Oct. 5 commentary, “Torah portion deserves critical examination,” David A. Rubin suggests that poetry has no place in commentary about the Torah. I very much disagree. I find that poetry is a great way to communicate the spirituality in the Torah. It sounds like Mr. Rubin feels there is only one way to comment on the Torah and that is in the fashion in which he does it.

Rather than beginning his article with a criticism of Rabbi Goodman’s contribution, I would have liked it better if Mr. Rubin had just said his were added thoughts that he had about that particular portion.

Linda Pevnick

St. Louis

Mideast metaphors

In the Sept. 28 commentary, “How to checkmate the Palestinian gambit,” by Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Robert A. Cohn, the clever reference to the chess gambit is flawed. Using such a move in chess presumes 1) a desire to win the game and 2) to take on an opponent. Currently, neither outcome is available to Israel.

First, from the outset, neither side can win. Thus, the game must be played so the eventual outcome is an honorable draw. Deciding which approach to take is not as critical as defining how the” endgame” will in fact end.

Israel has seen time and again that although it can speak and act from strength, politically, it cannot overpower. Second, and more troubling, who is sitting across the board? Who in the Arab world, let alone any leader within the Palestinians, is willing to negotiate in good faith, to make the necessary and obvious compromises? The fear of a bullet in the head is the cost of entering to the really serious discussion – who in their right mind would negotiate a settlement that either relinquishes land in the Muslim world or a divided Jerusalem? Will the new “Arab Spring” safely give us this new voice?

A new courage and conviction is needed to “begin at the end”: to announce in Arabic and to the rest of the world that a “draw” is a two-state solution and Jerusalem either as a divided city or an international city. He/she will not only gain “grandmaster status” but the Nobel Peace Prize if they survive to secure the promise.

Ray Cooper

St. Peters