Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for April 12th, 2009|Daily archive page

Goldblog and Roger Cohen are at it…again. Two Jews in a "passing water" contest.

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Roger Cohen once again draws attention to Bibi’s objection to the Iranian regime. Jeffrey Goldberg revels in his honorable mention by Cohen as Bibi’s “stenographer” read, apologist, when all Goldberg did was score an interview. Goldberg is happy to be trashed by an NYT columnist, claiming that he has gotten under Cohen’s skin.

It reminds me of R. Yossi Ben Kisma and R. Hanina Ben Tradyon. R. Hanina was the defiant scholar who studied Torah publicly knowing that if he were caught, he would be executed. Yossi collaborated with the authorities under the assumption that the Roman victory indicated that God’s favor was with them and not with the Jews.

R. Yossi became ill and, lo and behold, Rabbi Hanina went to visit him even though it seems there was very little upon which they agreed. That level of concern for each other in spite of their differences, always struck me as particularly powerful given that there was so much at stake. R. Yossi Ben. Kisma was a collaborator after all, and R. Hanina was anything but that.

R. Yossi dies from his illness, and the Romans eulogize him with great fanfare and then on their way back from the funeral, they “catch” Rabbi Hanina teaching to the multitudes with a Sefer Torah in his lap. It is here he utters the most famous four words in Jewish martyrdom, “Gvilim nisrafin, v’otiyotav porchot” (The Parchments are burning, but the letters are flying free.)

I ascribe the most noble of motives to Cohen and Goldberg, but if Cohen turns out to be wrong about Iran, he loses very little in that he has cast his lot as a citizen of the world who is willing to mortgage Israel’s future on his enlightened perceptions. Goldberg, on the other hand, would lose much more for his attachment to Jews, Judaism and Israel is well documented. He would have certainly been on Hanina’s side in this argument, while there is no doubt where Cohen would be.

The question is would one visit the other if he was ill?

For the Talmudic rendering of Rabbi Hanina’s trial with R. Eliezer Ben Parta and the subsequent tale of his visit to Rabbi Yossi Ben Kisma, click here.