22 June 2011


The cyber-argument that is taking place at Goldblog, between Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic (and soon Tablet) and Village Voice editor Allison Benedikt, presents two classic symptoms of the current problem about American Jews talking about Israel.

Allison's original piece, "Life After Zionist Summer Camp," appeared in Awl and you can read it here.

Jeffrey responded to the piece with his own take, calling it "Giving Up on the Zionist Dream."  You can read it here.

From what I could tell, there was then a nasty Twitter post, followed by I believe what is called a Re-Tweet, our own era's manifestation of scrawling messages on bathroom stalls, and that seems to be where things stand.

In the world of electronic media ubiquity, anything and everything someone says about Israel, Zionism and Jewishness sticks around for ever.  When it's said by someone who writes from a well-known, New York City-based publication like the Village Voice, it carries a "weight" of credibility, even though the author is a film critic, not an expert on Middle Eastern policy and politics.

To complicate matters, both writers are, in relative terms, young.  They are representative examples of a generational debate about Jewishness and Zionism that is very much at the core of an American Jewish identity dilemma with regard to Israel.  It may best be summed up by the rabbinic dictum, "All of Israel (read, "the Jewish people") are responsible for one another."  How you respond to that idea from the Sages places you on one side or the other of the debate.

Allison Benedikt's piece, written in the voice of lost innocence, where post-camp reality and the sometimes dirty business of building an actual state in a hostile region, was certainly what raised my eyebrows when I read it.  Her internal travelogue of disillusionment, exacerbated by the painfully public recollection of her family's rejection of her non-Jewish spouse--who also happens to have strong anti-Israel feelings--made this a public fight waiting to happen.  Too many live wires there.

Everyone has the right to write what they please.  The question is:  to what degree are we responsible for what it is we say?

This strikes at the heart of Jeffrey Goldberg's response.  His reaction, like mine, I'll admit, was to be offended and almost insulted by the ruse.  In this day and age, can one really talk about "lost innocence?"  I always felt it was a stretch for Hemingway a hundred years ago.  Today?  American Jews for two generations at least have been phenomenally educated--naivete about Israel's realities cannot really be an excuse for anything, except an invitation to grow up and struggle with life's intrusive difficulties which are made manifest everywhere we turn when we leave childhood:  poverty and hatred; politics and war; hunger and homelessness.  This list goes on and on.  Bursting the bubble on the idealized world of Jewish summer camp is, arguably, what we're supposed to do when we leave that bubble.

"A Jew is an outsider with a critical mind," George L. Mosse used to tell his students in Madison.  This exemplar of Bildung, a towering figure of German Jewish secularism, whose own family's publishing house in Berlin eschewed Zionism, was a committed Zionist himself because he grew up in a different time and realized that the Jewish people needed a national home.  That doesn't mean one is not critical or blindly obedient.  But it means that one engages from a place of identification with your own--despite the pain of betrayal and virulent disagreement. 

I don't deny that Allison Benedikt knows this.  I am sure she feels it in her bones.  What alarms me about this whole debate occurred in the back and forth between Goldberg and Benedikt when Benedikt wrote the following:  "This is not meant to be snide, but John and I lead a seder every year and I've taken to making my own Haggadah because I'm not comfortable with many of the traditional stories and blessings. The wicked child bit is something I've deleted. But anyway, to you, aren't I the one who doesn't know how to ask?"

I was blown away by this.  The structure of the Seder is built on the number 4 (4 questions, 4 cups, 4 children) There is a long intellectual tradition of writing creative Haggadahs but to delete a core element, to delete a *child* seems to be severing a connection to the people that cuts to the heart of the Jewish peoplehood debate today.  A Seder without a Wicked Child is not a Seder.  A Jewish people without all its voices is not a people.  It's an American denominationalist religion where land, history and language gather dust.  That may work for some people; but it obviously doesn't work for others. 

As some American Jews throw up their arms and wash their hands of the Zionist project (some braggart named Kung-Fu Jew writes about this idea in the same messianic terms as fin-de-siecle Jews clamoring toward acculturation as the solution to the Jewish question):  " I salute her and hope so many others will also tell their elders to shut up, sit down and listen for once. Their control of the Jewish community is waning and they can listen now, or they can listen when we’re in charge."  That is, until some other Kung-Fu Jew comes along and kicks you off your pedestal, dude.

I will add one other thought.  On a number of occasions, I have counseled couples who struggle mightily with the sinful rejections they experience from families who cannot embrace a non-Jewish spouse.  It is deeply painful and can tear families apart.  Time, distance from the original hurt and the continued integrity of engagement, however, can bring families to a new place.  This is true for families and I believe it is true for the Israel-Diaspora relationship.

The family is in a crisis.  No hiding that.  But if all 4 children aren't at the table, the family falls apart.

The Sages have another teaching on the number 4 that is worth remembering.  At Sukkot, the holiday that commemorates our Exodus from Egypt and journey to Freedom in the Land of Israel, we are commanded to hold in our hands 4 species--a lulav (which produces sweet dates), myrtle (a sweet fragrance), an etrog (fragrance and taste) and willow (which has neither taste nor fragrance.)  One represents the Jew who learns; another is the Jew who does good deeds; a third is one who learns and does good deeds.  And the 4th -- the willow -- does neither.  But we hold all 4 together because we are diverse and most strong when we are united.

I teach that text every year at Sukkot.  Kids love it; and so do adults, especially those adults who have experienced the pain of disillusionment with how things turned out in life.  The notion of finding unity in diversity can be a quiet and fulfilling redemptive act.

You can't tweet that.


Dan Daoust said...

Want to know what blows me away? That you acknowledge a difference between Judaism and "an American denominationalist religion where land, history and language gather dust," yet you welcome interdenominational marriages.

Allison Benedikt's naivete about Judaism is an inevitable consequence of your version of it.

Andy Bachman said...

Hi Dan. I don't see what you mean. The welcome we offer couples who might come from different faith backgrounds is in order to engage them, welcome them, and support their making Jewish choices and raising Jewish children. I fail to see your logic. Thanks for writing. Andy

Dan Daoust said...

They're not going to make "Jewish" choices, nor will they raise "Jewish" choices. They will make their own choices and call it Judaism. Which is exactly what Allison Benedikt is doing.

How can you have a bigger problem with someone deleting a child from the Haggadah than someone marrying a non-Jew and still thinking they're leading a Jewish life? From a normative and common-sensical perspective, it should be abundantly obvious that the latter choice takes someone far further away from Judaism than the former.

Andy Bachman said...

Dan--I hate to be so direct but you're blatantly wrong. You should come visit our community and talk to our families sometime. You'd be surprised at how many Jewish choices they make. I cannot dictate who people love and build families with; but I can help educate them. It's that simple.

Yaacov said...

Rabbi -

I appreciate your essay. Well done and thank you.

As to your discussion with Dan, in the past I'd have been ferociously with him. Time can melllow people. Still, a very large question remains. The Jews are the descendents of previous Jews who were determined to stay in the fold; the others, and there were very many, dropped off, or drifted away, or left. Being Jewish has always demanded significant staying power; in the modern world and its freedoms, more than ever. It remains to be seen if the phenomenon of intermarriages will prove to have staying power. At the moment, the jury is still out, I'd say, but the signs, or many of them, aren't good. Benedikt being a fine specimen.

I say this as a historian, not a theologian. Seen from 2100, say, there will be a rather clear answer.

Rich said...

I struggle to understand why intermarriage is seen as a phenomena. It is just one person choosing to love and marry another person with the only debate being on the word "choosing" because frankly when love has you in its grip what choice do we have. Phenomena implies "beyond normal" and then would raise questions that should not play a role in determining who is or is not one thing or another.

More importantly, I would welcome a dialog with Dan if he took you up on your offer as I would like to hear his rationale for why my family's choices are less Jewish than his. In fact if we weigh our seemingly relative levels of tolerance and acceptance against each other in a Jewish context then wouldn't we be able to say my family's choices are automatically more Jewish than his? But I wouldn't want to exclude him from the big tent so I can't say that (That's some catch that Catch-22).

Dan Daoust said...

To the Rabbi and Rich,

We can have a dialogue in the sense that I would be talking and you would be talking, but it's clear that we would be talking past each other. The question here is how we define what Judaism is. I answer that by reference to the Torah and Mesorah. You answer it by reference to your own choices -- and that's assuming you think the question is important in the first place. I sense that you value personal autonomy and the ability to marry the partner of your choice over preservation of Jewish life and tradition, irrespective of how you actually define what Judaism is.

Obviously we are not the first ones to have had this discussion. But I will leave you with one question: do you know any families that have remained devout in their observance of Judaism in the Reform tradition for, let's say, three consecutive generations? By which I mean, do you know any families in which the grandparents, parents and children are all observant, Reform Jews, without a single child, spouse or sibling having given up their affiliation altogether? (And as far as I'm concerned, marrying a non-Jew means giving up your affiliation, but let's even assume that's not a disqualifier.) My bet is that that family doesn't exist. If I'm right, it's evidence that your definition of Judaism does not work. Moving the goalposts by redefining Judaism doesn't help.

If I'm wrong, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Jon said...

Rich: Phenomena is actually the plural of "phenomenon" which is roughly synonymous with "event". Many individual intermarriages are indeed many individual events, or phenomena. The way the word is used, a group of events like these intermarriages can also be referred to as a single, extended phenomenon.

You are correct that when people refer to the "intermarriage phenomenon", they imply that this phenomenon is abnormal. The implication is correct. Up until 200 years ago, intermarriage was largely inconceivable, or altogether impossible, depending on the specific century and location. Even 50 years ago, intermarriage was quite rare. So it's unclear, to me at least, why you struggle.

Finally, "being tolerant" does not make you Jewish. Moreover, there was no evidence of intolerance in Dan's comments. I challenge you to present evidence thereof.

Now that that's over with, Rabbi Bachman:

I agree with everything you said in this piece, and I give you credit for writing it - except one detail: it's unclear, historically, whether the "wicked son" was quite as integral to the Seder as you present him. Indeed, if I recall correctly off-hand, a version in the Mekhilta de-R. Shimon is missing the wicked son as well. But that doesn't stop the rest of what you said from being correct.

Andy Bachman said...

Dan--3 generations of affiliation and observance in my Reform shul? Absolutely! It's an amazing thing to see, those bar/bat mitzvahs. Very proud moments for the family and community. The implication in your question, however, is that observant communities are in total sync with each family member's observance--surely you can't mean that! I know several families where the parents are observant and the kids are not. There is a spectrum to practice that you seem to be ignoring. It's all more complicated than it seems, if you ask me.

Rich said...

And in every single on-Reform Jewish family every single child, spouse and sibling have never given up their "affiliation"? (your definition/word which only emphasizes how narrow thinking the discussion become). If you can prove this to be the case then I would be pleasantly surprised!

I value my ability to personal choice while also having complete confidence that I preserve Jewish life and tradition in my family.

Discussions of goal post moving on any ideology are so disconcerting to me because then we need to determine who has the power to set the line. I for one would never want to hold that power over someone else and I do not believe the words (spirit!!) of the Torah presume to do so.

At least we'll agree to disagree.

Dan Daoust said...

What it seems is that you indeed moved the goalposts. I'm sure there are bar and bat mitzvahs in your Temple. I asked if there are families of three generations where no one has left the fold. To that, all you could do is offer bromides about spectra of observance and life being complicated. But when all is said and done, you said it yourself: "I know several families where the parents are observant and the kids are not." Bingo. You should be heartbroken if you have one family like that in your community.

No one can keep every member of every family observant, but at least strive for that! Yet you just tell yourself, and your congregation, "No problem, they're just practicing the way they feel is best for them." Accomplishes nothing.

Andy Bachman said...

I meant to say I know several *Orthodox* families where the parents are observant and the kids left the fold. I also know that in my community as well. That's the bromide: it happens everywhere. You see us liberal Jews moving the goalpost--we in fact get several formerly orthodox Jews back--but in a liberal setting they prefer. I'm a pluralist--I'm just as happy seeing Liberal kids becoming more observant or observant kids becoming liberal. My job is to try my best to keep them Jewish.

Anonymous said...

I think it is worthwhile to ask why we describe a child as "wicked."

To question this characterization is not to "delete" the child, but rather to defend him.

Why is this wrong?

Andy Bachman said...

you raise a very good point, anonymous. the characterization is harsh--exceptionally so. and one must admit that at certain periods of jewish history, we have ostracized our own for their refusal to be a part of us; and at other times in our history, we have had to push away those whose behavior was destructive to the well-being of the community. a spy or collaborator giving away jews to an anti-semitic governing authority can be seen as a "wicked child." questioning Israel is most certainly NOT wicked, which is what saddens me about this whole debate, i'll grant you that. haggadot historically have defined the wicked child with some variation, leaving us to understand that past generations have struggled mightily with the question you're asking. remember, allison used the term "delete." i'm arguing for inclusion, despite the discomfort of the questions being asked.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post, Rabbi. It was the most poignant part in the whole Zionist Camp discussion


Anonymous said...

Hello from a Goldblog reader . . . hope you're enjoying the traffic :-)

I think your point about the species of Sukkot is even more applicable to the 4 sons of the hagadah. Any way you read the 4 sons, you can't escape the message that we have an obligation to include all of them in our seder. And not only on our own terms - the Sages are saying that the Torah obligates us to address their individual needs and reckon with their questions, even when they are arguably "out of line."

It's rather inclusive and modern, especially considering the time-period that it originates from.

So what's bugging her? I'm going to speculate that it's the terminology - the "wicked" son, the combative reply, make him gnash his teeth. It makes me squirm a bit too. And it the squirming increases a bit every year, as my children grow into teenagers and I make conscious efforts to avoid that dynamic in our family.

Personally, I don't favor making any changes to the classical text, but for those who do I would hope there are amended versions out there that avoid throwing out the (not-exactly-wicked) baby with the bathwater.

P.S. If the "big tent" argument isn't enough, there's more: one of the great rebbes (I think the Kotzker) said that the Sages put the wicked son right after the wise son (and before the simple son) because at least he's learned enough and engaged enough to ask tough questions.

Anonymous said...

excellent piece. your blog just got bookmarked.

Migdalor Guy said...

A very thoughtful and sensible commentary. However, I wish we had an opportunity to have Allison Benedikt parse for us what she meant when she spoke of deleting the wicked child. We may be operating on some assumptions here. It's unclear to me from what she wrote whether she was referring to completely eliminating all reference to the wicked child (and note that she didn't say whether or not it had been replaced for another type) or perhaps referring to the whole "4 sons/children" segment as a whole as the "wicked child" thing, sort of lumping them all together.

I do agree with your take that, in terms of Judaism, we need all 4 children at the table. Might it be possible to stretch the idea of the absence of one of the four as itself being one of the four. After all, the "wicked child" is somewhat representative of one who is absent...

Reading your thoughtful post does encourage me, having just returned to living in Brooklyn after 3 decades away from NY, to include CBE in my shul-shopping, even with the schlep it is from out here in Yemesvelt (Starrett City.)

Commenter Abbi said...

Dan, your demands to hear about about Reform Jewish families with 3 generations of observance are absurd. I come from an Orthdoox family- my mother's side is European, Chassidish/Charedi Holocaust survivors- two of my grandfather's brothers (survivors) aren't frum and my cousin, who also grew up in a charedi family in NY, also left observance as an adult.

My father's side, American, Modern Orthodox- on of my grandfather's brothers left observance, but all of my father's siblings, and all 30 of my first cousins are modern orthodox or charedi.

But that doesn't really prove a whole lot. As Rabbi Bachman said, people come and go from observance in even the strictest Orthodox families or the most liberal reform. Read the Unpious blog if you want to hear from ex-chassidish Jews:http://www.unpious.com/

ADDeRabbi said...

Reb Andy,
Your excellent critique can, and in fact has, been tweeted. Gershom Scholem "tweeted" it to Hannah Arendt in the wake of her coverage of the Eichmann trial: "Your problem is that you have no Ahavat Yisrael."

Anonymous said...

As Jeffrey Goldberg has written so eloquently and on so many occasions, until all Jews believe without question in the democracy that is Israel and the unmatched greatness of Zionism, ours will never truly be a free and just Israel.

Thankfully, as the Torah tells us, G-d has sent the one man to unite Jews in strength and power and lead us to glory. That man is, of course, Avigdor Lieberman.

Rabbi Bachman noted above the shame brought to all Jews and Greater Israel when the weak, like Allison Benedikt, among us marry outside of our one and truth way of life. Leader Lieberman will assure that such blasphemy never again occur, banning the marriage of Jewish women to Gentiles in Israel and the supreme lands of Judea and Samaria.

Leader Lieberman will further prohibit the sale or rental of our Jewish lands to Gentiles, forever assuring the purity and supremacy of the Jew and the Israeli nation. We will have one united Israel, democratic and without question from its Jews, and Leader Lieberman will give us this shining nation of triumph and glory.

Leader Lieberman will bar the self-hating Benedikt from Israel until she has renounced her pathetic, impure husband and begged for mercy for her crimes against Israel, democracy, Judaism, and, most of all, the Zionist Reality.

As it should be. With Leader Lieberman's firm hand. Without the weakness and pathetic cries of the self-hating, anti-Semitic Benedikt.

Allison said...

This comment line ended a while ago, but I thought I'd write in to say that I am a member of the 4th generation of a Reform Jewish family, and none of my relatives have given up their Jewish identification. My cousins have a Jewish mother and an Episcopalian father, and they identify as Jewish.

One of the things I've always loved about Judaism, at least in my practice, is the fact that there are many ways to be Jewish. The orthodoxy you encounter at even relatively reform Catholic churches never seemed, to me, to be a feature of Judaism. And that's always something I loved. There isn't a Jewish Pope, and I think many Jews intuitively understand that there isn't one way to be authentically Jewish.

Yaacov said...

Allison - and Rabbi Bachman, too -

You may be more sanguine than can be justified. In more than 3000 years of history, there have been only two shortish periods in which the diversity of Jewish expression was as wide as it is now: in the second half of the 2nd Temple era, and since the 2nd half of the 19th century. The first experiment went horribly and ended worse. The second is still underway. Significantly, in both periods there was a strong and universally accepted geographic center of the Jewish world, in Judea or Israel.

When there isn't that clear center, the Jews preserved their culture by adhering to rather narrow limits. These included endless arguments about everything, of course, and quite a bit of innovation, but the limits were quite clear. Lurianic Kabala, one of the greatest of all innovations, for example, happened in the halachic capital of the Jewish world of the day.

The limits of Judaism today are not at all clear, with an emerging group, mostly in America, who claim that the mere fact that they define themselves as good Jews means they must be so. Whether they can still comunicate in a recognizably "Jewish" manner with the rest seems not to interest them; the reality is that they increasingly can't. Were they to accept the centrality of Jerusalem, as the Roman-era Jews all did, this might still work. As the Allison Benidikt spat has just demonstrated, however, some of them wouldn't dream of that. Indeed, they're growing ever more strident in not showing the slightest interest in how the Israeli part of their people sees the world.

Seen from the Jerusalem, it appears that parts of America's Jews are drifting in a direction which will result in a sundering of the Jewish people. Not in one day, and not this decade, but it has already begun, and eventually it will be irrevocable. That same 3000-year history shows that such things can happen, and entire Jewish communities can truly be lost.

Alex said...

Great blog post and interesting comments!

On intermarriage - In my view, the question for the Rabbi is not whether he embraces intermarried couples with a view to bring them into the fold (on this point I would expect wide agreement ... and congrats!), but rather what does the Rabbi counsel about marriage?

Does the Rabbi tell his community that intermarriage is acceptable (according to the Torah, Oral Law, tradition, etc.)? Or does the Rabbi discourage intermarriage in his community? Or does the Rabbi say nothing since he cannot dictate "who people love and build families with"? Does the Rabbi officiate at intermarried weddings? If so, does that legitimize the practice (assuming, that is, that the Rabbi thinks it's illegitimate to begin with).

And on the topic of the 4 sons - interesting and topical is the answer that the Haggadah brings: "Since he excludes himself from the community, he has denied a basic principle of Judaism."

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Bachman,

I earlier wrote a sincere message indicating how G-d and the Torah clearly have chosen Leader Lieberman to guide our nation, Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish people to unquestioned world power and greatness.

You have chosen not to publish my statement. As the operator of this site, that is clearly within your purview.

However, my statement and your decision not to publish it have been forwarded to the appropriate parties in Judea and Samaria. You are clearly an anti-Semite and self-hating Jew who like Goldstone and Dagan attempts to attack your former people, the greatest the world has known or will ever know.

Even worse, you have chosen to smear G-d, the Torah, and their unquestioned beacon here, Leader Lieberman. A pox on your house. Leader Lieberman will rule the world. You and your feeble followers will not stop him.

Anonymous said...

Can you answer Andrew Sullivan's question, Benedikt's, and my own, which is is how a self-described liberal Jew can prioritize helping and favoring "all Israel" while serving the notion of tikkun olam? In my view, a true liberal (and I use it more in the European than the American sense, but they overlap here) is a humanist, first and last, who has no tribe. Sure, we can have symbolic attachments - mine is to the Georgia Bulldogs. But I don't believe, much less would I be caught dead writing and preaching, that God has a special place and role for the Bulldogs above all other teams. And it seems that to say this, even out of tradition, is to suggest that Jews must thereby put a special bit of their life aside worrying about both little Israel (the country) and "all Israel" (Jews in general) more than the poor rest of us in the olam.

Goldberg says there's a traditional and difficult Jewish "balance" between these imperatives. But you can't "balance" caring for one group especially and caring for all humankind equally, because these are mutually exclusive.

Disclosure: I'm one of those gentiles who was never accepted by an ex-girlfriend's parents. I have to admit, though I found wonderful love and marriage since, it still pisses me off in principle. I've just never understood it.

Anonymous said...

Am I a bad Jew if I also hate the "wicked son" concept in the haggadah? He didn't do anything actually wicked--he just asks what this festival means to the other participants, asking for their opinions / emotional linkages. The so-called "good son" just asks for a list of facts that have been readily available on paper for thousands of years. Which experience of an event is more "good"--feeling a personal collection to it, or reading written words out loud?

Chaim said...


Hate inter-marriage, love the inter-married?

@the whole meshugganah back & forth

I think the bottom line is Allison personifies the modern, me-oriented child. She just happens to be Jewish (jew-ish?)
Torah is the constant, she can redo a haggadah all she wants, add commentary, play up certain parts.
But to delete a fundemental - the fourth son - is un-Torah and hence un-Jewish. THIS is her problem, she doesn't get that she can't just change the religion to meet her expectations - ESPECIALLY when she has (I'm fairly certain) NO Torah training, no basis.
Would she and her husband like to live in Egypt, Syria, Jordan?? How about Iran or Saudi Arabia?
No, Israel has it's faults for sure, it's Allsison & her jerk hubby's hubris that demands that Israel conform to THEIR ideas, their values.

Very typical and sad.

Andy Bachman said...

To the anonymous post-er referencing Andrew Sullivan: I'm sorry for the rejection you once experienced--all I can say with regard to Jewish identity and tikkun olam in the liberal way you describe it is that going all the way back to the prophetic period, Jews have lived in a paradoxical place between the particular message of their particular tradition along with the call from the same particularistic God to adhere to a universal responsibility to all of humanity. This is a constant tension in Jewish thought and can seem, to some, as alienating. But for me it's an honest and even exhilarating place to stand--at the continual cross-roads of my "self" and the "other" that I encounter. Perhaps it's best summarized in what the sage Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." A particular knowledge obligates you universally. You can't have one without the other; you need both. Our insistence upon uniquely staying ourselves does annoy some people--but hey, that's just the way it goes! Thanks for writing.

Dan O. said...

Does anyone else see the irony of (directly) questioning the sincerity and (obliquely) questioning Jewishness of a person, while defending the centrality of the wicked son's question and rebuke?

I mean, this whole debate sounds like a couple of people asking the other, "And who the hell are you?"

In defense of Ms. Benedikt, at least she's aware this even if her solution (i.e. deleting the wicked son) is lacking.

Secondly, the family is not in crisis; certainly not among the well-educated late marrying class likely to intermarry. The concept of extended family is in crisis, but that has nothing to do with Judaism. Many Jews feel Judaism is in crisis. Whether they're right or not, that's not the same as saying the family is in crisis.

Thirdly, some people seem to be missing Ms. Benedikt's theme of how Israeli culture (part of that peculiar Levantine mix) interrupts and transforms the continuity of Jewish diaspora culture even apart from the politics. I'm of Israeli descent and grew up in the New York suburbs. The cultural differences between my family and those of my Jewish peers was pretty striking. Unfortunately, without the IDF uniform and accent, I lacked that dark mystery and sex appeal. Our piouslessness was clearly less acceptable in the American cultural context. In any case, so much of Benedikt's essay was really about Isrealiphilia and its discontents. I think it's sad to see that chalked up to being as a falsely naive "ruse". (If we all worked as Rabbi Bachman suggests, we'd be done with romantic infatuation after our first broken heart.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am on Orthodox Jew and I am thrilled at your thoughtful & subtle response to Allison, Rabbi.

Thank you for standing up for Jewish traditions. And thank you for standing up for critical thinking.

Shabbat Shalom, Shmuel

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

adamrdavis said...


"The structure of the Seder is built on the number 4."

Uh, sorta. The Fir Kashes were not always thus, nor were they always the same questions. At one point there were but three, and at another five.

No doubt four is a nice number. Four corners of the earth from which we are redeemed. Four cornered garments on which to place tzitzit. Four Matriarchs.

Just a clarification.