Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Obama Drama At Western Wall Continues

My recent post about Barack Obama’s Western Wall prayer drew the attention of American Spectator contributing editor Jay Homnick, who was mentioned in it.
His comment:
How could I be said to be abusing a religious tradition for partisan ends? I criticized Obama and his team for crass behavior and I demonstrated the basis for the complaint. How is that partisan? And how is that abuse?
It is instructive that you do not mention the issue at hand; namely, the hanging of huge political posters in the Square in front of the Wall.
This is a “shining” example of the pot calling the kettle black? That is your fair-minded judgment?
And what is your second paragraph maintaining? That the Wailing Wall should not be viewed as a holy place that inspires the Jews of the world? This essay leaves me utterly befuddled.
Posted by: Jay D. Homnick | July 27, 2008 11:15 PM
My response:
Well Jay, I love that you read the post and hope that you will see this as well. Even more, I hope that you read and comment regularly.
Your “abuse” of the tradtion (admittedly a harsher term than one which I would normally use, but fair in this case because it wasintroduced by you to the conversation), comes in the form of sharing an isolated midrash to prove a particular political point. There is a midrash to “prove” anything, which is a strength of rabbinic literature, but a fact which demands greater modesty on the part of those who use it.
And while I appreciate your saying that you are “befuddled”, we both know that is not true. You are far too smart for that. What you are is poorly informed about Jewish history. You assume a false dichotomy between “a holy place that inspires Jews” and one which can be used, as it always has been, for politcal purposes.
Not to mention that you keep insisting that it is a place of inspiration for Jews, suggesting that it can be one others as well. That too is disturbing but for other reasons and to be discussed at some other time.
What do you think?

  • Jay D. Homnick

    That does not constitute use of an “isolated” midrash. It represents an important theme in Jewish thought; i.e. the special value of the donations scrounged by the poor, however meager. Are you against teaching Jews that Midrash? Are you against teaching it to visitors at the Kotel?
    Isn’t the endurance of the Wailing Wall something historically fascinating? Isn’t the fact that a Midrash predicted it 1800 years ago worth some wonderment?
    I did not use the midrash to prove a political point. I used it to prove a point of proper etiquette and respectful behavior. Where in my article did I make a single political point?
    As to the idea that it is a false dichotomy to argue that a holy place that inspires Jews should not be used in this way, I assume you maintain that it would be appropriate for a candidate to visit the Vatican and have his staff hang huge campaign posters in the square to herald his arrival. Then he could do the same thing at Mecca.
    I am perfectly prepared to poll Christians on the first proposition and Moslems on the second. We can let the outcome of those polls reflect upon who is making a reasonable point and who is reaching.

  • eastcoastlady

    Wow, interesting.
    There’s one thing we Jews surely excel at – arguing our different points of view!

  • Dan

    Why would Herod’s Temple wall be a Holy place for Jews?

  • Genie L.

    It seems to me that some places are inherently holy, and others are made holy by their use. When I visited the kotel, the power of the place for me was knowing that for thousands of years, women like me had stood in that very spot, praying for the same things I prayed for – health and happiness for my children, long life for my parents, peace in a fractured world. At the same time, in today’s world, we must recognize that everything is political (at least here in the U.S.). The various denominations of Christianity make their positions clear, candidates vie with each other to appear to be the most pious, and laws are introduced based on personal religious convictions. Oh, wait – it’s always been that way, eh? Kudos to you, Rabbi Herschfield, for addressing the subject.

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