November 18, 2018

Letters to the editor: Exodus, spirituality and anti-Semitism

Barking Up the Wrong ‘Free’

I must admit that each time I read a good argument supporting each position (1) the Bible is to be taken literally and (2) the Bible is not to be taken literally, I find I am moved by both positions (“Did the Exodus Happen?” April 18). They are both intellectually and emotionally fulfilling. The question then becomes, for me, what are my motives in accepting one position as opposed to the other. Which position brings me closer to God, a being I cannot prove exists? And if I cannot prove God exists, though I can experience his existence as I experience love, why am I required to prove these events occurred to a standard of scientific certainty? The desire for proof and certainty becomes the new prison, the new idol, the new Pharaoh, which prevents our heart from completely opening up to freedom so that we can then walk with God, as Moses did, and we can truly live the life of a free Jew.

Ilbert Philips via

To add another well-known name to the discourse, Freud described the story of the Exodus as a pious myth. And yet, in one of his controversial books he wrote profoundly and with reverence about Moses the remarkable national leader of the people of the Exodus. He followed his life from the time he was plucked out of the river until his death at the edge of the Promised Land. 

The story of Exodus, regardless how it happened, is a recurring event in Jewish history. It is the eternal struggle of monotheism in a polytheistic world with tragic results. The Exodus from Egypt probably was no different from the exodus of Jews from Muslim Iran, Czarist and Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or Catholic Spain. The Exile to Babylon and Rome would also classify as a reverse exodus. Whether Rabbi Wolpe or Dennis Prager is right is not the question. The issue is whether the unleavened bread displayed on a silver platter in a festive setting is the proper and worthy symbol of the struggle for freedom by a people willing to suffer and pay the price for it. So we ask: “Manishtana?”

Ken Lautman Los Angeles

To Thine Own Selfie Be True

Kudos to Danielle Berrin for her informative article on Alan Morinis and the Mussar Institute (“Selfie Spirituality,” April 18). I was privileged to learn about how effective this ethical system is when I visited the California Institute for Women where my friend, the Rev. Gabbai Shayna Lester, was honored on Pesach by inmates and her peers alike. The inmates — both Jews and gentiles — who took part in the Mussar classes, learned among other principles the importance of avoiding lashon harah — gossip and negative comments about others. And it was reported on several occasions that the parole board looked favorably on this program in their consideration of an inmate being found suitable for parole.

This was the most moving seder I have ever attended, written by the inmates themselves as part of a creative writing project. The inmates were also able to have a rare “real food” meal, and to socialize with outsiders like me who take our freedom for granted. I urge my fellow Jews to familiarize themselves with this program’s leader, Rabbi Moshe Raphael Halfon, and Am Or Olam. 

Gene Rothman, Culver City

Overseeing From Overseas

Adelson’s acquisitions simply because they are an interference in Israeli internal affairs from an outside entity would be just as wrong if they were from the left (“Why Adelson Newspaper War Matters,” April 18). We have the same problem in the UK with a Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev, buying up our press and now even owning a TV station, to say nothing of Rupert Murdoch and his all-pervasive influence in every corner of the media. It would be a simple matter for the state to pass a law preventing foreign influence in the media. Of course, the State of Israel will not do so until Netanyahu goes, but it is something for the opposition parties to think about before the next election.

Josephine Bacon via

Praying for the Enemy

I read with great sadness about the increased anti-Semitic violence in Los Angeles and the haunting viral hatred on the Internet (“Anti-Semitism sees decreased incidents, increased violence,” April 4). 

Those who hate to such extreme do so to mask an inner weakness that they will not admit to. They rise above their own shame through violence to prove themselves as brave. 

We saw it in the Nazi’s and we see it in people who use Nazi hatred for their self worth. 

The Jewish people have seen it all before. 

I pray not for the victims, but for those who use violence as a means of righteousness. 

For if we can turn hate into something better and useful, then society benefits in every way.

George V. Hill via e-mail