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Title Author Date
inquiry Kalchstein , Shlomo Dec 26, 2004
Dear Talkreason,

This email is for Alexander Eterman. I have read two of your essays and would like to know your position on two fundamental issues.

1. Do you consider "Jewish" as an actual category of humanity, such as oriental or black, or merely as a chosen, assumed, changeable and sheddable association such as a political affiliation or school enrollment?
2. If "Jewish" is an intrinsic trait or layer of identity in your view, meaning someone is born Jewish by nature, then what do you perceive as the SOURCE of Jewishness? In other words, what MAKES a person Jewish? What is the criteria?

I have asked these two questions to many people with your ideological mindset. I have never received a logically cohesive reply. Most of them say reluctantly that they never thought it out. However, you seem much more knowledgeable and analytical than others I have encountered. Would you please provide me with your thoughts?

Thank you.

 

Title Author Date
An obvious point poorly presented Rubin, Ephraim Jul 12, 2004
Reading A. Eterman's essay "On Orthodox Discourse" leaves the strange impression that its author was so eager to restate the obvious that he neither took time to work out a careful presentation nor gave thorough thought to the real point of contention between him and his opponents.
To begin with, it is quite risky to suggest that "a treatise devoted to the problem of charging interest among the Jews" and written in the vein of traditional Jewish scholarship would lead its reader to a conclusion that "anyone who charges interest or refuses to give interest-free loans to Jews is a sinner and a heretic, that real Orthodox Jews conduct their dealings without charging any interest, or that Orthodox business does not use bank credit as a matter of principle." The Rabbinic authorization for charging interest to Jews -- called heter iskah -- has long ago entered the mainstream of Jewish legal thought, and it is reasonable to expect it to be mentioned in any treatise dealing with these issues. Traditional Jewish scholarship -- at least its legal branch -- is not lunatic; it does its best to keep up with real life as the practitioners of this scholarship know it. On the other hand, of course, a treatise of the kind suggested by Eterman would likely note that although charging interest to Jews is technically permissible, it is a deed of righteousness to refrain from charging such interest -- and again, in the realm of the real life there are occasions when Orthodox Jewish individuals and organizations extend interest-free loans to other Jews in the framework of charity.

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