J Street And The Haggadah

J Street And The Haggadah

It is indeed a sad day for Jewish Americans when rabbis find their freedom of the pulpit stifled because they question or disagree with Israeli government policy (“New Reform Head Walking Pro-Israel Tightrope,” April 8).

We would all do well this Passover season to remember that the seder begins with four questions. The Haggadah then relates the parable of the four sons: the wise, the wicked, the simple and the silent.

The Haggadah clearly prefers the wise son who asks his questions from within the “Big Tent.” He understands, as a member of the Jewish community, the necessity of asking questions and encouraging dissent. The Haggadah is critical of the wicked or rebellious son and the simple or indifferent one.

But the most pitiful is the silent son, who does not know how to question and has to be encouraged and taught to do so.

J Street, like the wise son, engages discussion of the wisdom and the morality of Israeli government policy from within the basic assumption of the necessity and right of Israel to exist. The wicked or rebellious son puts himself outside the tent and questions Israel’s right to exist. The simple son remains indifferent. But in the Jewish spirit, J Street, out of concern for Israel’s survival and well-being, asks questions about the Israeli government’s policies. Curiously, it was [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s political forebear, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of Revisionist Zionism, who said that he disagreed with the philosophy of the Haggadah: he would kiss the silent son on the head for accepting without question the wisdom of his elders.

Happily, many of our rabbis know better.

Irwin Wall

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