Volume 15 Number 36
                       Produced: Thu Sep 29 12:10:14 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Amalek and Germans
         [Frank Silbermann]
Marriage - Part 1 (correction)
         [Shaul Wallach]
Racism (3)
         [Shaul Wallach, Steve Wildstrom, David Charlap]
Technology Devices in the kitchen and the house
         [Jules Reichel]


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 1994 18:19:04 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Amalek and Germans

Ronnie Schreiber (v15 #28):

> (Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitz) told me that every culture has some things
> of value, art and music and the like, parents loving their children,
> schools and cultural institutions etc. But what do we know about Amalek?
> Do we know about their art and literature and music?  No! All we know
> about them is that they did evil things to B'nai Yisrael.  So, by
> remembering only that which they did to us we have effectively blotted out
> their memory as a culture.
> I should add that as a modern example of this that if I say the word
> Germany, most mj'ers (and other Jews) will not think about Beethoven
> and Kant.

I may be an exception.

My father, who lost his parents and other relatives to the Holocaust,
was asked whether he hated Germans.  He said, "No, it is my experience
that every country or religion has its share of good and bad individuals."

He never discouraged me from socializing with, say, German exchange students
at college.  When I was growing up in Palatka, Florida, one of my mother's
closest friends was a German woman who, upon reaching adulthood the 1950's,
had married an American soldier.

Still, it's taken me a long time to come to terms with Germany's leading
role in the Holocaust.  No one can deny the enthusiasm which greeted
Hitler and his antisemitic speeches, but to be fair, Germans were hardly
the only people in history that experienced periods of rabid antisemitism.
I believe them when they claim they had no idea it would go so far as
genocide -- the German Jews themselves had no clue this was coming.
They had great faith that "it couldn't happen here."  By the time rumors
of genocide had spread, the government had already become totalitarian
in its power, to the point that public criticism was tantamount to suicide.

Of course, the Germans _were_ guilty for having allowed their government
to become totalitarian in the first place.  (As an analogy, one who
commits a murder while drunk cannot plead temporary insanity, as he
_chose_ to get drunk, despite the dangers).

Nevertheless, Germans are hardly the only people to invite their government
to become increasingly powerful and intrusive in the search for "Ordnung"
(relief frome the chaos of street violence), witness our recent "crime bill."
Instead of attacking the root of the problem (which we Jews, of all people,
should recognize as the recent decades' relaxation of moral standards
for family life), we, like the Germans, seek out scapegoats.

The Germans made us their scapegoats; I believe Americans are now
making scapegoats of guns and gun enthusists.  (A mere suspicion
that the Waco Branch Davidians might have violated a few technical
provisions of the federal firearms codes led to a brutal BATF attack.
This attack resulted in the deaths of fifty heretofore peaceful men,
women and children.)  Until we are willing to learn from the Germans'
errors, I don't think it's right to judge them too harshly.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 94 11:28:34 IST
Subject: Marriage - Part 1 (correction)

      One error in Part 1 of the series on marriage escaped my

>     Dr. Juni argues that this greater degree of intimacy is what
>justifies the need for a longer premarital acquaintance. Although this
>is certainly quite logical, I doubt whether it is necessary to solve
>the problems of modern marriage, as others have already pointed out.
>The reason is that it is virtually impossible to foresee all the kinds
>of marital interaction in advance. Courtship and marriage are different
>in kind, the former carrying none of the obligations of the latter.

     This should be "sufficient", not "necessary". I apologize for the


Shaul Wallach


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Sep 94 20:43:23 IST
Subject: Racism

     I find the whole discussion on racism quite distasteful and
disturbing, mainly for the reason that most of the participants take
the modern liberal value that "racism is bad" as the axiomatic starting
point and use it as their yardstick to judge the Torah and their fellow
Jews. It is a sad commentary on us that we are submitting to foreign
value systems, instead of using the Torah itself as the starting point
for all our morality.

     It was most saddening to read, for example, the following
statement in Vol. 15 #15:

>   How to defeat racism? Torah is obviously not the answer since so
>many Jews who spend their whole lives immersed in Torah are racists.

Apart from the terrible slander on the Torah and Torah Jews in this,
it carries the implicit assumption that defeating racism is the
supreme ideal, for whose attainment the Torah is only the means. Worse
than that, the author gives the impression that as Torah Jews we should
be ashamed of ourselves and feel inferior because the Torah is lacking
(Heaven forbid!) in that it does not give us the means to defeat racism.

    The truth is, of course, that the Torah, while owing nothing to 20th
century ideologies, gives us all the means we need to find favor in
the eyes of both Hashem and our fellow man (to borrow the verse we say
after Birkat Hamazon). Thus, the Torah does not teach us that "all
men are created equal", as the Deist authors of the Declaration of
Independence did. But it does teach us to ask the heathens about their
welfare, to visit their sick, bury their dead, and to support their
poor, all for the sake of peace. And if with the heathens so, all the
more with those who obey the 7 commandments of the Sons of Noah. And
on the verse of Qeriyat Shema` (Deut. 6:5) "And you shall love the Lord
your God ..." our Rabbis explained "that the Name of Heaven be beloved
through you"; i.e. by your actions. Thus we are commanded to pursue all
courses of action which lead to the sanctification of the Name in this
world and to the good name of the Jewish people. And we must do all this
without worrying whether Jews are superior to non-Jews or not. That is
not our business - we are the Chosen People only by virtue of having
chosen to accept the 613 commandments as opposed to the 7 commandments
of the Sons of Noah, not because we are either superior or inferior to

    If, in fact, some Jews do see themselves as "superior" to others,
or believe, for example, that blacks should be enslaved because Ham
was cursed, then it is highly inappropriate to reveal this in a public
forum such as mail-jewish. To do so is a great slander and a Hillul
Hashem, because many of these same Jews actually perform acts of
kindness towards non-Jews and Jews alike. In particular, it was most
disgraceful for the poster of the above statement to report what his
"spies" told him about Satmar Hasidim. This recalls how Yehudah Ben
Gerim informed on Rabbi Shim`on Ben Yohai to the Roman authorities
(Shabbat 34) on what he said about them in the Beit Ha-Midrash. This
informer was severely punished in the end (ibid.). I hope people will be
more discreet and respectful towards the privacy of their fellow Jews in
the future.

    Perhaps the following story will help. In Benei Beraq I know an
elderly Jew from San`a in Yemen who worked as a mason in the court of
the king, the Imam Yahya. His son told me yesterday that once he saved
an Arab girl of noble ancestry - a Sharifeh - from drowning. As a token
of thanks, the girl's family offered him a dish filled with silver
coins, but he refused to accept it. At this, the family exclaimed,
"He has bought the Garden of Eden!" The son told me also that the
mother (his own grandmother) had the job of taking care of the royal
family's summer home, because she could be entrusted not to steal
anything from it. Now did my friend's father and grandmother regard
the Arabs as equals of Jews? Whether they did or not, I'm sure they
didn't let the royal family in San`a know. But by their deeds they
certainly sanctified the Name in the eyes of the Arabs.



From: Steve Wildstrom <swild@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 94 11:50:05 EST
Subject: Re: Racism

     In MJ 15:30, Joseph Steinberg <steinber@...> writes:

(2) OF the three 'Western' religions Judaism is BY FAR the most
universalistic.  We do not believe that to be good a person must be
Jewish -- unlike the Christians who believe that to achieve salvation
one must believe in Jesus or the Moslems who feel the same way about

     The last clause is a bit like saying "or the Jews do about Moses." 
     Moslems, who are every bit as monotheistic as we are, assign no hint 
     of divinity to Mohammed. He is called "the Prophet" because Islam 
     regards him as the last and greatest in the prophetic tradition of 
     Moses. And "salvation," as used here, is an exclusively Christian 

From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Fri, 23 Sep 94 13:39:56 EDT
Subject: Racism

<bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal) writes:
>...and Mike Grynberg writes:
>>I am just wondering how this whole thread on racism fits in with the
>>concept of "am segula", the chosen nation. If we are the chosen
>>nation, which we assume, then everyone else isn't henceforth there
>>must be something different about us to make us chosen. By default,
>>is everyone else 'not as good, or able' as we are? or is there
>>another understanding of am segula,

I must have missed this when it was originally posted.

The answer I choose to believe is the traditional answer: that God
chose us because we chose God.  God offered the Torah to all the
nations of the world before offering it to the Jewis nation, and each
one rejected it for some reason.  Only the Jews accepted it.

>Mike gets big points for this! As they say - half the answer isincluded
>in the wise man's question. So are any of you out there goint to answer
>this?  Or are you willing to admit that we're better? [Of course, as
>Spiderman always said - with great power comes great responsibility!]

I'd reverse the quote here.  With great responsibility comes great
power.  God gave us the Torah - 613 commandments - to obey.  A very
great responsibility.  If we put our personal ambitions aside and live
up to this great responsibility, God will intercede on our behalf and
grant us great power.  The many miracles that have happened to our
sages all throughout history is evidence of this.

So, so answer your question, I will say that a Jew who lives up to his
(very great) responsibility is better than a non-Jew who lives up to
his responsibility.  But I'll add that there are very few Jews alive
today who do manage to completely live up to the Jewish
responsibility, and I don't think those Jews are any better than other

Jews have the potential for great power.  God is the source of that
power, and the Torah is the way to channel that power.  But without
the Torah, a Jew has no more power than any other human being.


From: <JPREICHEL@...> (Jules Reichel)
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 1994 20:13:41 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Technology Devices in the kitchen and the house

All technology devices in a modern home have the same serious
problems. For example, my home heat is gas burning forced-air. When I
open the door in the winter, the furnace is ignited, the blower is
turned on, and the heat lost through my action is returned to the living
space. Notice that the door is a kind of switch which is functionally
connected to the furnace. In reality, I turned on the fire if I go out
or in to the house. Same for the refrig.  It's not just the light which
can be unscrewed. It's the compressor and the fans. Open the door and
you turn it on. Same for the stove, even if you never touch the front
panel. Open the door and the flame or electicity goes on. Here's a rule:
If engineers created it, it has these closed loop properties and it has
even more switching for safety. One answer, which may not satisfy all
concerns, is to say that you really can't do anything about it. So let
the machines live their own "life". Our need is to limit our activity to
what is permissable as defined in the pre-technology era of open loop

In an earlier posting, a further complexity was raised. New ovens in the
U.S.  have safety shut-offs to reduce the risk of fire. The proposed
solution was to buy ovens made in Canada and presumably ignore
safety. Oy! I know that you'll like this solution even less, but I think
that the only reasonable behavior is to return the oven to it's prior
setting if you continue to need its heat.  But above all don't bypass
safety devices whose history you don't even understand. As far as I
know, there are no wonderful solutions. My answers are pragmatic. Some
people try to use artifices like catching machines in their on or off
cycles. Unfortunately, that's not very meaningful if you understand that
there is a closed loop cycle built in. It's all the same regardless of
how you do it. Please do not change your practice based on my posting. I
only explained since many posts seem to be unaware of what the problem
really is.



End of Volume 15 Issue 36