Shavuot's Spiritual and Cultural Treasure Chest
Shavuot legendry provides a veritable treasure of in-
spirational stories that offer a background for an under-
standing of the traditions we cherish in advancing cultural
A festival both of the harvest as well as of the Revela-
tion on Sinai. it is especially with regard to learning, to
piety, to the synagogue and the school that the Feast of
Weeks retains special significance.
An eminent Jewish scholar, Dr. Julius Greenstone,
w riting on our feasts and fasts, drew upon our legends to
describe Shavuot. and he commented that covetousness is
proscribed in our lore, but that one exception is condoned
in rabbinic traditions, and he explains the respected rule:
- Not only is one permitted to desire to possess
the learning and wisdom that another has. but one
is also .encouraged to entertain such a feeling. 'Jea-
lousy among scribes increases knowledge,' and this is
explained by the following example: If two men bar-
ter a dress for a diamond, only one of them is in pos-
session of each article. On the other hand, if two
students engage in learning. one teaching the other
a lesson which is unknown to him. and the other re-
turning the faror by teaching his neighbor a lesson
which was hidden from him, both are enriched. The
Tora cannot be bartered in the sense that the one
n-ho sells becomes deirrived of it. Both buyer and
seller are enri-hed by the transaction, so that in this
case to entertaM a desire to possess the wisdom and
learning that another possesses is not a desire to
take anything away from the other."
Thus it is learning that is the major interest in the
festival we observe today, and Dr. Greenstone relates an-
other well-known legend which has relevance for us in our
search for encouragement to continue to strive for the
highest spiritual and cultural goals. He draws upon the
following from our folklore:
"Israel was chosen to receive the Revelation
simply because all other nations to whom it was
offered refuse,' to accent it on the ground that they
would not submit to the rigors of its moral laws.
Israel. boweeer. joyfully submitted to all its proscrip-
tions he•amw they have been trained in their ob-
servance. Many of them had also been practiced by
the T■ atriarebs. Yet. in spite of the readiness with
a-bi e k the Israektes were willing to accept the Tora.
Gm! asked Them for some security that they would
al id r„t their promise. Sereral offers made by them
lvere re jted
for one reason or another until they
of fe-m? their cl•ildra as hostages. The children with
undertook the responsibility to urge
thrir oarents to observe the laws of the Torn."
Children remain the hostages. and often they do pre-
••are t h e ground for renewed Jewish loyalties. Often they
-rand watch on the towers that shield Judaism from de-
-traction. Perhaps Shavuot, like Passover. should be con-
sidered a children's festival. It is already the occasion for
Shavuot Gleanings . . Tradition of Reading
Pirke Abot During Summer Months... Lessons
in Our Ethical Lore for Men in Public Life
confirmations and consecrations, and it may as well be the
event for strengthening the unity in the family and the
forging of indestructible bonds between individuals and
Legends relate that Israel was not so willing to accept
the Tora• that force had to be used to compel acceptance,
that at Mount Sinai God lifted the mountain over the heads
of the gathered Israelites and threatened: "If you accept
the Tora it will be well with you, else your grave will he
covered by this mountain." It is then that the Israelites
exclaimed the famous acceptance in two words: :Conseil
still serving on the bench.
Fortas resigned in order to prevent "extraneous
stress" upon the entire court. He will be respected for it,
much as his friends wish the tragedy—and that's what it
was!—could have been averted.
Even if it might appear as unconvincing, our advice Is
for adhering to the practice of reading Ethics of the
Father on Saturdays. They provide proper guide for con-
duct. They contain codes for ethical practices. Perhaps
they can aid in averting personal blunders.
Cni-hina"—we shall do and then listen.
Even when under compulsion, the Tora emerges as the
strength for Israel in the eternal battle for survival. Out
of the experience emerges the indestructibility as well as
the deep-rooted loyalty to learning, the desire to acquire
knowledge, the role of Israel as a people of faith.
There is another bit of advice that is applicable to men
in public office. Every Sabbath Eve a very beautiful selec-
tion is chanted. In Leho Dodi there is the phrase "Sof
Inclose b'nzakhasha•a tekhila." It links with the tribute
to the Sababth as having been "last in creation, first in
God's plan." Its literal meaning is: "The cud of a deed
These experiences often are applicable to the secular
aspects of life. The desire to learn becomes a heritage.
That is why Shavuot is among the major festivals on our
and as an afterthought to Abe Fortas! If we could only
Shavuot is a good time to talk about traditional prac-
tices and seasonal studies in our synagogues and homes.
During the winter months it is customary to spend
Sabbath afternoons reading Psalms.
In the summer months. the Saturday afternoons should
devoted to reading and studying the Puke Abot—the
Ethics of the Fathers.
It is from such practices that the duties to oneself and
to fellow men is emphasized. It is in such studies that are
imbedded the obligations people in public office have to
the sacred duties they had assumed.
Not all who study ethics always practice them: some
abuse them: some do not understand; some fail to use
good judgment in relation to their responsibilities.
Mr. Justice Abe Fortas belonged to the class that
lapsed in applying good judgment. In his first explanation
of what he had done. how he had returned the Wolfson
S20.000 check 11 months too late, he apparently had not
yet realized how serious his error was. Else he might have
written a four-page statement earlier, as an explanation.
-rather than in clarifying his resignation.
It'n•Ild that the fine tradition of reading the l':1::c
on Sabbath afternoons could he strictly adhered to by all!
Perhaps Fortas then would have been more cautious and
might not have erred into a tragedy.
One is never certain that study. scrutiny of high
principles. analysis of ethical codes, mould Icail people net
to blunder unconsciously. Fortas erred in judging a finan-
cial arrangement and the scalp-hunters succeeded in forc-
ing him into a resigning situation.
In an earlier Supreme Court case. the only other one
in which a high court justice was threatened w ith im-
peachment. Federalist Justice Samuel P. Chase. sclio was
named to the high court by George Washington. fought to
a finish, won acquittal—in 1604—and died in 1St] w hile
truly begins in deliberation."
How well this applies to many people in public positions
have deliberation before action! But so many acts are
routine, acceptably normal, never considered wrong be-
cause they have become established practices. That's why
there is need for a code of ethics spelled out.
Desired codes already are spelled out in our traditions
and we glory in their existence.
On Shavuot we recall them and we hope for adherence
to them and their perpetuation.
The Abe Fortas case serves as a reminder of the actions
of other judges.
We recall the friendship with the late Harry B. Keidan.
We exchanged visits. Our wives served us dinners at de-
lightful social functions. In our home, after one such
dinner, Judge Keidan refused a proffered cigar. "I'll give
you one, but I do not accept anything as a gift from any
one." Exchange of social visits was different.
He may have gone to an extreme, but he gave thought
to a duty as a judge. How one wishes that all men in
public office would recognize the responsibility of thinking
in advance and not waiting (11 months in Fortas' case)
for amelioration of what eventually was branded a mis-
The cause for regret over what happens is the recogni-
tion of the man's genius and the realization that he is not
dishonest: he blundered; and what penalties men often
pay unfortunately for very minor blunders!
We have much to learn about life, men's relationships,
duties to country, fellow men, posterity.
We learn so much from the Tora which was given on
Sinai and adherence to which we now observe on this
There are codes of ethics that elevate man to the
higher standards in life.
What glory there is in so important a festival as
Mrs. Meir Outlines Views in 'Time': Israel Emissary's Ilission to Nixon:
'If We Lose a War, It Is tlle Last War' p
NEW 1- filIK ■ JT.-‘)--- Prime Min-
however, that Israel would never
Golda Meir of Israel said iicr
permit Syrian reoccupation of
eountry would he "much happier . '
:f the U.S. and otbser countries
saw the situation in the Middle
East as Israelis did. but she as-
serted that 'If I am to choose be-
tween a good press in the world
ith many things about an Israel
that isn't here any more, or un-
f.dr criticism of an Israel that is
tili in existence. then I choose
In an interview with
rionovan, editor in - chief. and
Henry Grunewald. managing edi-
tor of Time, appearing in the cur-
rent issue of the magazine, Mrs.
Meir expressed conviction that, in
the same circumstances. the U.S.
and other countries would act "ex-
actly as we are." She said Israelis
were vitally interested in an under-
standing between the U S. and the
Soviet Union, "hut, to say it vary
bluntly, not at our expense."
Mrs. Meir told her interviewers
that she found no difference in the
mood of President Gamal Abdel
Nasser of Egypt. and said that
while Israel. did not believe a new
war was imminent. "we have to
Ire prepa'red also in case we mis-
judge." She pointed out that "If
we lose a war, for us that is the
last war. Then we are not here
any more. If one doesn't under-
stand this. then one doesn't under-
stand our obstinacy."
Asked how she visualized a
settlement, Mrs. Meir declared:
"Agreed, secure boundaries.
Both adjectives have equal im-
portance." She declined to dis-
cuss what these boundaries
would be. asserting that when
Col. Nasser comes to the nego-
tiation table, the boundaries will
he worked out. She stressed,
2—Friday, May 23, 1969
the Golan Heights.
Asked what Israel would do if
the Big Four agreed on a Middle
East settlement that Israel did oot
like, Mrs. Meir said she had "no
illusions" about the difficulties
that would arise but insisted that
"we will say no. It won't he easy."
Asked why she thought the Arabs
would respect a signed agreement
in view of her references to "Arab
perfidy." Mrs. Meir said the ans-
wer was in the phrase, "secure
She made it clear that the new
borders would have to he wide
enough to prevent Israel from be-
ing cut in two and she stressed
that "I am not prepared that any-
body should safeguard for me the
free shipping through the Strait
She said that Foreign Minister
Abba Eban "will never have to
do what I had to do in 1957: "o
stand up before the United Nations
and say, we will withdraw. I did
it on behalf of the government,
but that was not my greatest hour."
Earlier, Mrs. Meir told Time
that a negotiated peace settlement
with the Arabs would lead to a
collapse in the present coalition
government because of "differ-
ences of opinion" among Israelis.
If a settlement were worked out
and the details were brought - to
the cabinet, she said, the cabinet
would have to discuss it and take
a position. "The cabinet will break
up. We will go to the Knesset and
have new elections."
She said that if a settlement
were reached, parts of the Golan
Heights in occupied Syria and sec- i
lions of the West Bank would not
be returned to the Arabs.
remier eir s PI
anne d U . S . Vi sit
Linked to Issue Over Big Four Talks
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Diplo-
matic sources linked plans for
Premier Golda Nleir to visit the
United States within the next fecv
weeks with growing concern here
that there may be some erosion of
the hitherto warmly pro-Israel
position of the United States in its
bilateral talks in Washington with
the Soviet Union. The American
Embassy in Tel Aviv was reported
today to he in communication with
the State Department on the time-
table and schedule for the proposed
The concern over possible erosion
of the American position stems
from a mounting realization here
ihat the Israeli position is not
fully understood abroad and that
without a full appreciation of the
situation that confronted Israel in
1967, foreign powers and their
statesmen cannot fully understand
the reasons for Israel's unyielding
demands today on direct negotia-
tions with the Arabs for peace and
secure and agreed borders before
Israel will cede any military or
trading advantage it won by the
occupation of territories in the Six-
One reason for Mrs. Meir's visit
to the U.S. would be to explain
these reasons to President Nixon.
For the same reason, Israel's
diplomatic representatives abroad
will be instructed to stress the
events preceding the Six - Day War
in 1967, reminding foreign states.
men of the massing of the Arab
Israel's utter isolation when no
or combination of powers
eti me to its help or even promised
to do so within a reasonable time.
Premier Meir's mission to con-
fer with President Nixon will be
in line with a recommendation
reportedly made to the cabinet
by Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's
ambassador to the United States,
that Israel's position on the Big
Four talks at the United Nations
and the United States-Soviet bi-
laeral talks in Washington on the
Middle East should be explained
personally to the President by a
In a radio interview Gen. Rabin,
ho is here for consultations, said
that the Soviet position seemed to
have moved closer to the American
one. Ile added, however, that at
present that movement could not
be assessed as to extent and con-
tent and that there was still a
large gulf to be bridged between
the positions of the two major
powers. He also said that even if
the U.S. were seeking a solution
unacceptable to Israel, the U.S.
must still be considered a friendly
Gen. Rabin reportedly feels that
that it would he prepared to with-
dra• its forces from the occupied
areas—a position it has not taken
so far. Such an Israeli admission
would be designed to forestall the
United States and the Soviet Union
from becoming involved in such
armies on Israel's borders, the
I details as map-drawing, the cor-•
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS i closure of the Strait of Tiran and 1 respondent wrote.
Mrs. Meir dissociated herself
a book charging that Defense
Minister Moshe Dayan and In-
telligence Major Gen. Aharoa
Yariv gave the cabinet exagge-
rated information about Egyptian
troop movements just before the
1967 war broke out. The book,
"Six Years and Six Days," was
written by A. L. Gilboa, a mem-
ber of the executive of the His-
tadrnt, Israel's Labor Federa-
tion. The implication of the
charge was that the information
had been given to force the hands
of the "doves" in the cabinet.
Gen. Dayan has formally asked
the government's legal adviser
to investigate the possibility of
charging Gilboa with libel.
Gen. Dayan withdrew at the
cabinet meeting his proposal that
Israeli law should be applied to all
occupied areas. In place of that
suggestion, a committee was
named to study what changes in
ordinances by military governors
of the various areas might be
needed to resolve the problems
which led. Gen. Dayan to make
his proposal. Gen. Dayan had
contended that the varying laws
applying to the territories made
administration difficult and were
often confusing both to the Israelis
and the local population. He had
suggested abolition of the Jordan-
ian dinar as legal tender on the
West Bank. The cabinet committee
will be headed by Justice Minister
'Yaacov Shapiro 'and will include
the army's-judge -advocate general.