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Read­ing Brian Blum’s col­umn “My Prob­lem with ‘Maoz Tzur’” (Ob­ser­va­tions, De­cem­ber 7) was a painful ex­pe­ri­ence that left me pro­foundly sad­dened. Blum doesn’t re­al­ize that his rail­ing against vengeance was orig­i­nally a vi­cious at­tack on Ju­daism by the apos­tle Paul. When Jews re­jected Yeshu, Paul left to bring the good news to the gen­tile and pagan world. He made cer­tain to strike a blow against the God of Is­rael, the To­rah of Is­rael and the peo­ple of Is­rael.

He coined the idea that Yeshu is the God of love and the God of Is­rael is the God of Vengeance. He con­sciously and crim­i­nally dis­torted the mean­ing, in­tent and no­bil­ity of To­rah.

There is a cru­cial dis­tinc­tion that must be made. If some­one strikes me and I strike him back, that’s called re­tal­i­a­tion, but if I strike his five-year-old son, that’s re­venge.

All the vengeance that Blum talks about is not re­venge at all, it is jus­ti­fied re­tal­i­a­tion that puts the evil ag­gres­sors of the world on no­tice that there is a heavy price to be paid.

A world with­out re­tal­i­a­tion dis­in­te­grates into chaos. That’s what To­rah “vengeance” is all about.

God save us from Chris­tian love that spilled oceans of Jewish blood – till our very day.

I would ad­vise Blum and friends not to make any changes to “Maoz Tzur” or “Aleinu.” The Re­form move­ment’s changes all blew up in their face. They re­moved Is­rael and Jerusalem from the sid­dur in the 19th cen­tury and had to put it back in the 20th.

A few years in yeshivot Ohr So­may­ach or Aish HaTo­rah would go a long way to­ward help­ing Blum un­der­stand the eter­nal truth and beauty of To­rah.



Brian Blum and the Re­form He­brew Union Col­lege have a prob­lem with “Maoz Tzur.” A look into the Otzar Me­farshim Hanukkah (Ma­chon Yerusha­layim, 5776), an en­cy­clo­pe­dia on “Maoz Tzur” among many other top­ics, might be of help.

“L’et tachin matbe’ah” (When you pre­pare a slaugh­ter) has been also un­der­stood by our sages as “When you pre­pare a fes­tive meal for Hanukkah.” This cor­re­sponds to the orig­i­nal use of these words in Ge­n­e­sis 43:16.

As far as “mitzar hamenabe’ah” is con­cerned, since now as ever the Jewish state and Jews world­wide are con­fronted with not only “bark­ing foes” but also “bit­ing foes” with, God for­bid, deadly con­se­quences, there is no need to change our beloved

“Maoz Tzur.” Cer­tainly not in the home­land of the Mac­cabees.




Rabbi Reu­ven Ham­mer (“The mir­a­cle of Hanukkah,” De­cem­ber 7) seems hes­i­tant about the prove­nance of the Mishna in Shabbat 21b but sure of its spir­i­tual mes­sage.

We can­not rule out an­other tack; ‘Mai Hanukkah,’ which men­tions the oil mir­a­cle, is a near copy of the ear­li­est writ­ten rab­binic doc­u­ment ex­tant, Megillat Ta’anit, which was com­posed or redacted by Rabbi Yo­hanan ben Ye­hezkel’s group shortly be­fore the de­struc­tion of the Tem­ple and about 170 years af­ter the Mac­cabees. On the other hand, I Mac­cabees, which is al­most con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous, says noth­ing about the oil.

The re­bel­lion was about pre­serv­ing Jewish tra­di­tions in the face of forced Hel­lenist pa­gan­ism which was spread­ing among the pop­u­lace. Iron­i­cally, the zealots’ de­scen­dants, who formed the Has­monean dy­nasty, them­selves be­came the most prom­i­nent of Hel­lenists. Worse yet, their po­lit­i­cal wrangling brought in the hated Ro­man rulers, who re­placed the last Jewish monar­chy with their own gover­nors.

Ven­er­at­ing the orig­i­nal zealots, the rab­bis had es­tab­lished eight days of “praise and thanks­giv­ing.” Now they were “stuck” with a hol­i­day glo­ri­fy­ing the founders of the Has­monean king­dom. Not able to re­scind the hol­i­day al­to­gether, they changed its con­tent by em­pha­siz­ing the can­dles, which rep­re­sent spir­i­tu­al­ity. In one more gen­er­a­tion the rab­bis sup­ported yet an­other failed re­bel­lion by Bar Kochba. Fear­ing that Bar-Kochba and the Mac­cabees might in­spire more failed up­ris­ings lead­ing to the annihilati­on of our peo­ple al­to­gether, they stressed the spir­i­tu­al­ity of the hol­i­day.

Thus, the mir­a­cle of the oil – whether true or le­gend – led Di­as­pora Jews to be­come mar­tyrs in­stead of he­roes, un­til mod­ern Zion­ism res­ur­rected the he­roes of old.


Pe­tah Tikva


Is­raeli stu­dents came to strug­gle for Soviet Jewry in 1969 (“The Fall of the Com­mu­nist Gar­den of Eden,” Novem­ber 30). They were re­ally very late.

In Bri­tain, the Uni­ver­si­ties Com­mit­tee for Soviet Jewry was formed in about 1964. It was led by the late Mal­colm Lewis, Gor­don Haus­man and Jonathan Lewis. It was these three in­di­vid­u­als who fought ex­tremely hard to get the Jewish com­mu­nity, by way of the Board of Deputies, to stand up loud and clear for our brethren in the USSR.

I joined the UCSJ in 1965, and we held demon­stra­tions and or­ga­nized pe­ti­tions with the even­tual help of the Board of Deputies. I clearly re­mem­ber a ma­jor march and demon­stra­tion lead­ing to the Soviet Em­bassy in Lon­don in 1968 – a year be­fore the three Is­raeli in­di­vid­u­als men­tioned in your ar­ti­cle were even in­volved.

There were also some im­por­tant Is­raelis in­volved way be­fore 1969 when the Is­raeli stu­dents woke up – peo­ple such as Aryeh Kroll (who even­tu­ally re­ceived the Is­rael Prize), Ephraim Tari (an Is­raeli diplo­mat who be­came Is­raeli am­bas­sador to Ar­gentina) and Meir Rosenne (later Is­raeli am­bas­sador to the UN), and many oth­ers were work­ing clan­des­tinely for the cause. And one mustn’t for­get two other Bri­tish in­di­vid­u­als who did so much for the re­lease of Soviet Jewry, the late Michael Sher­borne and also Colin Shindler (who is a reg­u­lar book re­viewer for The Jerusalem Post).

The Amer­i­can stu­dents formed a group called the Stu­dent Strug­gle for Soviet Jewry. I be­lieve that this was also well be­fore the Is­raeli stu­dents started to get their act to­gether.

Many peo­ple fought for the cause of Soviet Jews, but to high­light in your ar­ti­cle the three in­di­vid­u­als who “came late to the party” seems very odd. It sim­ply is not cor­rect to say that these three in­di­vid­u­als per­suaded the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment to get in­volved – see, for in­stance, Elie Wiesel: A Re­li­gious Bi­og­ra­phy by Fred­er­ick L. Down­ing and The Strug­gle for Soviet Jewish Em­i­gra­tion, 19481967 by Yaa­cov Ro’i.



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