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Discourse and Far East Artistry: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers about the sanctity of debate in the Jewish community and Judaica made in China

December 11, 2015

Editor’s Note: On Fridays we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published the week prior on Tablet.

On Julian E. Zeliger’s “The Closing of the American Jewish Mind

The Talmud and a great deal of the subsequent exegeses are certainly framed in the language of debate. However, a consensus position was always in place and formed the basis of one People, one Nation, one God, during Israel’s dispersion over time and place. I believe the sanctity of debate has been overemphasized in America as a consequence of the western liberal tradition.

In the period that the Talmud took shape, Judaism had a history of a millennium and a half. During that time, debate did not characterize the tradition. The Old Testament claims exclusive authority for God and his chosen emissaries. Even in Pirkei Avot, the linear transfer of the oral tradition and authority is traced from Moses to the Talmudic sages. In the communities of the dispersion, the authority of the rabbis was never questioned. They were the spiritual and community leaders. Their arbitration was final.

Debate should never be stifled, but it should not be sanctified as the central quality of Judaism.

Yehoshua Sharon, Givat Haim (Ihud), Israel

On David Zvi Kalman’s “China Dolls

As a Judaic artist I take pride in my efforts to serve Hashem with the work of my hands. After reading David Zvi Kalman’s article, I am considering moving to China in order to have my handiwork validated with a “Made in China” hechsher!

— Mordechai Edel, Vancouver, Canada