Misbegotten

May 17, 2013

Joseph Feld’s spirited defense of Haredi practice (“Jewish law for Israel,” May 5 ) is misbegotten. For example, he offers the clothing ban of Deuteronomy 22:5 as halachic justification for those offended by the sight of the Women of the Wall draping themselves in a tallit. First of all, the standard interpretation of the Biblical prohibition applies to cross dressing, not to any single item of clothing. Secondly … Maimonides in Hilkhot Tsitsit 3:9 explicitly permits women to wear a talit, albeit without reciting a blessing. … Feld also implies that Deuteronomy 7:3 is a blanket prohibition of intermarriage. Not so. It banned intermarriage only as reg-ards the Seven Tribes of Canaan. Much later on, with no scriptural justification, Ezra the Scribe arbitrarily extended it to include others.

Finally, as to Feld’s opposition to the view that American Jewry needs to apply pressure in Israel in support of far-reaching reform because “Israel is too important to be left to the Israelis,” responsibility and decision-making go hand in hand. The hard, cold fact is that without American Jews’ political influence upon the U.S. government and communal monetary largesse, it is unlikely Israel would be around today to celebrate its 65th birthday. American Jewry helps pay Israel’s bills, both directly and indirectly, both diplomatically and financially, and therefore is entitled to an important voice in its affairs.

Issachar Friedmann
Baltimore

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