Monday, August 30, 2010

Tshuva as the Foundation for the Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Discourse

By Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute

In a provocative and thoughtful column, my teacher, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, writes:
...The refocus of our High Holidays on the human responsibility to change is founded on a number of essential principles which are of great significance, especially this year. The first is the belief that change is possible. Our tradition is not naive about human beings. It knows that in general perfection is impossible and failure is endemic to the human condition. At the same time the deepest meaning of our belief in free choice is that no particular failure is inevitable, and at the same time that no particular failure is incapable of being overturned. 
...A Jewish society is one where there is a constant openness to confront one's own failings and which is in regular search for paths of self improvement. To assume one's righteousness and concentrate one's efforts on pointing out the failures of others is again to ignore the principle of tshuva and its spirit on which our tradition is founded. 
...Prime Minister Netanyahu, as you go to Washington, my bracha to you and through that to our people and to all people of our region, is that you go as a Jew. I pray that you allow the spirit of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to define the attitude and spirit of the policies you represent. It is not about being right or about winning this or that political concession in order to sustain a coalition. It is about transforming our future. It is about bringing back the belief in the possibility of a new and better future for us all. It is about recognizing that attaining this future begins with giving an account of what we might have done to impede it and what we can do to help make it a reality. It is about recognizing that greatness is not achieved by attaining atonement but by earning one's destiny through the difficult and noble path of tshuva.
I hope that our tshuva might bring peace. Let us indeed pray that Israeli and especially Palestinian leaders are brave enough to look within and change.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ki Tavo

This week’s Torah portion begins with the rituals we are to perform when entering the land that God promises us.

After harvesting the first fruits of the season the farmer performs a special ceremony.  He brings a basket of fruit to the priest who then places it on the altar.  The farmer then recites the following ritual formula: “My father was a wandering Aramean.  He went down to Egypt with meager numbers and sojourned there…  The Lord freed us from Egypt by a mighty hand, by an outstretched arm and awesome power, and by signs and portents.  He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  Wherefore I now bring the first fruits of the soil which You, O Lord, have given me.”  (Deuteronomy 26:5-10)

In this brief formulaic encapsulation of Jewish history, the Torah emphasizes our journey from wandering to landedness.  God brought us from slavery to freedom and from the wilderness to the land of Israel.

It is interesting to note that when we are in the land, as this Torah portion records, we remember our other condition of wandering and when we are in the diaspora we long for the condition of nationhood.

At every Jewish wedding, for example, we sing, “O Lord our God, may there forever be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voices of joy and gladness, bride and groom, the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the huppah, the voices of young people feasting and singing.”  At every Seder we conclude with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem!”

There are two competing paradigms in Jewish history: on the one hand, wandering and the diaspora, and on the other, landedness and Jewish sovereignty.  Throughout most of Jewish history our center was a diaspora community, as best exemplified in ancient Babylonia or medieval Spain.  There were other times when we enjoyed Jewish independence in Jerusalem, under for example, King David or the Maccabees.

We, however, live in a unique time when there is both a vibrant diaspora community and an equally vibrant, and powerful, Jewish state.  Today we are blessed with both paradigms.  Today it is not the diaspora or Jewish sovereignty, wandering or landedness.  It is both.  And so we lack historical parallels to emulate.  How do we further our unique historical situation when we only know how to remember wandering or long for sovereignty?

How can we live in both the diaspora and the land of Israel?  This is the question for our present age.  How can we both affirm Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel and assert the vibrancy of the Jewish diaspora?

And it is this question that hides beneath nearly every Jewish discussion, especially those about the modern State of Israel and its policies.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ki Tetze Discussion

At Shabbat Services we discussed the following mitzvot found in this week's Torah portion.

If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow.  If your fellow does not live near your or you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him.  You shall do the same with his donkey; you shall do the same with his garment; and so too shall you do with anything your fellow loses and you find: you must not remain indifferent. (22:1-3)

If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or eggs, do not take the mother together with her young.  Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life.  (22:6-7)

When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone should fall from it. (22:8)

When you make a loan of any sort to your countrymen, you must not enter his house to seize his pledge.  You must remain outside, while the man to whom you make the loan brings the pledge out to you.  If he is a needy man, you shall not go to sleep on his pledge; you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit before the Lord your God. (24:10-13)

You must not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.  You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will incur guilt. (24:14-15)

When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow—in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. (24:19)

You shall not have in your pouch alternate weights, larger and smaller.  You shall not have in your house alternate measures, larger and smaller.  You must have completely honest weights and completely honest measures, if you are to endure long on the soil that the Lord your God is giving you.  For everyone who does those things, everyone who deals dishonestly, is abhorrent to the Lord your God. (25:13-15)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Peace Cannot Be a One-Way Street | We Are For Israel

Peace Cannot Be a One-Way Street | We Are For Israel
The following post by Rabbi Micky Boyden captures many of my sentiments about the current peace negotiations.  He writes:

I have friends, who today are supporters of J-Street, and were involved in Peace Now at the end of the 1970’s. I was there too, back in the old days. I voted for Yitzhak Rabin z”l, and remember him saying: “We shall fight terror as though there were no peace, and make peace as though there were no terror”.

I still have a bag bearing the stickers “Peace Now” and “A Whole Generation Seeks Peace”. But then came the 2nd Intifada, Intifada Al- Aqsa, which claimed the lives of over 1,100 Israelis and left many thousands more wounded, some of whom still bear the physical and mental scars of their injuries to this day.

None of us will forget how the Palestinians danced on their rooftops as Scud missiles fell on Tel Aviv, and rejoiced as the Hizbollah rockets pounded our northern towns and villages.

I understand them. They are weary of an Israeli occupation, which they have had to endure for over forty years. Not that they had ever enjoyed independence. Prior to 1967, the Jordanians were their masters, while prior to 1948, the British had held the reins of power, which they in turn had wrested in 1917 from The Ottoman Empire, that had conquered Palestine four hundred years earlier.

But today the Palestinians want a state of their own, although there are few signs that they are able to work together, or that such a state will be democratic. When and if it is ever established, it will most likely join the ranks of the dictatorships and the theocracies in our region. Nevertheless, most Israelis support them in their quest for independence.

However, statehood comes at a price. The Palestinians will have to forgo their ambitions to destroy Israel. They will need to recognize that no Israeli government will allow the Jewish state to be swamped with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the grandchildren of those who claim to have been displaced by the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

One year earlier, in 1947, the United Nations had presented its Partition Plan for the division of the territories west of the river Jordan between a Jewish and an Arab state. We reluctantly accepted the plan in spite of all of its disadvantages and limitations. After all, half a cake is better than none. However, the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, supported by the Arab League, rejected it.

More than 60 years later, the Palestinians are faced with the same dilemma: Compromise and accept less than what they want, or remain where they are.

As the US Administration tirelessly works to cajole Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) into direct negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is to be hoped that the president of the Palestinian National Authority will be more pragmatic than his predecessors. Were we seeing Palestinian moderates calling upon him to compromise for the sake of peace, then the chances of success would be greater. But I don’t hear them.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ki Tetze

Many people think that a mitzvah is a good deed.  Jewish tradition however understands this term to mean a God given commandment, a sacred responsibility.  According to the tradition there are 613 mitzvot gleaned from the Torah.

There is the familiar, “Be fruitful and multiply,” and the obscure, “You shall not wear a mixture of wool and linen.”  There are ethical mitzvot and ritual.  There are positive and negative.  There are laws that are dependent on the ancient sacrificial cult and therefore no longer applicable and there are other laws that are only incumbent upon those living in the land of Israel.

Genesis gives rise to only three commandments.  Exodus provides us with the familiar commandments to observe Passover and Shabbat as well as the demand that we not oppress the stranger.   Leviticus gives us the laws of keeping kosher and those surrounding the incomprehensible sacrifice of animals.  Numbers commands us to wear a tallis and Deuteronomy to give tzedakah and recite the Shema.

Deuteronomy provides us with the most commandments, 200 of the 613.  In this week’s Torah portion we find 72, far more than any other portion.  There are many interesting commands detailed here.  “If you chance upon a bird’s nest with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over them, do not take the mother with her young.  If you see your fellow’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it.  When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.”

Most interesting is the following: “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you do not bring blood guilt on your house if anyone should fall from it.”   This first made me think about that great roof top chase scene in Bourne Ultimatum.   On Long Island we don’t have too many homes with rooftop parapets.  And so I wondered, to what can this apply?  I began thinking about fences.  But here on Long Island we build fences for privacy rather than protection.  We build them to keep the neighbors out rather than to protect our neighbors from harm.

The Biblical ethos is instead that each of us is responsible for our neighbors.  The parapet is akin to pool fences.  We have an obligation to protect our neighbors.  In our culture we remain fixated on the rights of privacy and shielding our lives from our neighbors.  The Bible insists that we must not remain indifferent to our neighbors.

All of the Torah is built on the idea that we are responsible for others.  It is not constructed around our rights and privileges but rather around our duties and obligations, most especially to our neighbors.  

The required list may no longer be 613 items long but the point is the same.  Our neighbors are not to be ignored.   The fences we build should not be about keeping our lives to ourselves. They must instead be about our responsibility to others.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Islam and the Two Americas -

Op-Ed Columnist - Islam and the Two Americas -
In yesterday's Op-Ed, Ross Douthat offers more on the debate that I suspect will rage for some time. He begins: "There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. An America where the newest arrival to our shores is no less American than the ever-so-great granddaughter of the Pilgrims. But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora — and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly." And then concludes, "By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a 'moderate Muslim.' But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as 'an accessory to the crime' of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam. They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum." That about sums up my mixed emotions!  On the one hand I believe that what helped my great grandparents make a home here was the American insistence that all religions are free to worship as they please.  On the other hand I recognize that what helped my grandparents succeed was their desire to become more American.  9-11 and this mosque may very well prove to be a fault line between these two impulses.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


This week’s Torah portion begins: “You shall appoint justices and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people with due justice.  You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. (Deuteronomy 16:18-19)

Last week Elena Kagan became a Supreme Court Justice.  In affirming this duty she took the following oath of office,  “I, Elena Kagan do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and grant equal rights to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as Associate Justice under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

There is a great deal of confluence between our American system of justice and that of the Jewish tradition. Both begin with a written text: the Constitution and the Torah.  Both are dependent on interpreters (judges and rabbis) to explain how we are to live by their laws.  In order for an ancient text to remain relevant it must be open to interpretation.

The Torah prohibits work on Shabbat.  The rabbis spent centuries interpreting the definition of prohibited work.  The Torah forbids the “boiling of a kid in its mother’s milk.”  The rabbis determined that this means you cannot eat a cheeseburger, must wait hours before eating milk products after eating meat and that you must have separate meat and milk dishes.  The Torah commands tzedakah.  The rabbis interpreted to whom we must give and how much we should give.  The Torah offers the famous phrase, “an eye for an eye...” The rabbis developed the principal of compensatory damages.  There is much in the Torah that requires interpretation for us to live by its words.

The Supreme Court interpreted the fourteenth amendment to provide a right to privacy that is the basis for our laws permitting abortions.  Decades of Supreme Court rulings clarified how capital punishment does not transgress the clause of “cruel and unusual punishment.”   Again it was the Supreme Court that interpreted our laws to say that “separate but equal” is false and that racial segregation has no place in public education. During her confirmation hearings many questions were asked of Elana Kagan dealing with her view on judicial precedent.  Why?  It is because our system is built on accepting prior court precedents.  To overturn a previous Supreme Court decision is a radical step.  To do so implicitly attacks the system of interpretation and its interpreters.  Gershom Scholem suggested that in a text based tradition innovation must be dressed up as interpretation.

It is therefore curious that liberal Jews argue against many rabbinic interpretations of Torah law, suggesting that the rabbis went too far in their interpretations.  They use the words of the self-conscious Talmud against itself, arguing that the laws of Shabbat are indeed a “mountain suspended by a thread.”  Centuries of interpretations obscure the core ideas contained in the Torah.  Conservatives argue that the authors of the Constitution never intended a right to privacy, the Miranda warning, or such a stark and absolute line between religion and state.  Interestingly, conservatives argue against what they view as judicial activism in Supreme Court rulings while viewing the Talmud as authoritative in their Jewish lives.  Liberals on the other hand argue against centuries of rabbinic precedent but in behalf of such Supreme Court interpretations.  What are we to make of these apparent intellectual inconsistencies?  When do we rely on the interpreters and their interpretations?  And when do we hearken back to the intent of the original text?

I pray that Associate Justice Kagan, along with her judicial colleagues, interprets our Constitution in a manner that serves the public good.  I pray that our country might live by the Torah’s words, “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”  (Deuteronomy 16:20)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reeh Discussion

At Shabbat Services we discussed the mitzvah of tzedakah contained in this week's Torah portion.  Many questions were raised.  How do you determine a person's need?  Is it simply a matter of what s/he says s/he needs?  What if s/he refuses the offer of food or clothing and insists only on money?  Despite these praticial difficulties, Judaism counsels that it is our responsibility to support the needy.  Tzedakah is a fundamental commandment.  While it is our social responsibility to give tzedakah to those less fortunate than ourselves Judaism does not believe in a socialist ethic.  We must care for others, but we are not to impoverish ourselves in these efforts.  Most importantly, we discovered in Maimonides' ladder of tzedakah, that tzedakah is first and foremost about the recipient.  The giver's feelings are secondary.  The essence of tzedakah is about its root, tzedek--justice.  It is not about the charitable spirit but instead about re-balancing injustices and pursuing the path of justice.  We give to others because we must help others.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why Jews Should Support Mosque Near Ground Zero

Guest Voices: On Faith at by Rabbis David Ellenson and Robert Levine
The authors conclude:
Since 9/11, many Muslims have felt similar broad brush rejection just because they practice the faith of Islam. No distinctions among Muslims are made by their critics. Blame and derision are unconscionably hurled upon an entire faith. History has well taught us how indecent and immoral it is when an entire faith group is held culpable for the acts of a few.

An Islamic Center and mosque north of Ground Zero will make the powerful statement that persons of all religious faiths can stand together as children of God. Historic memory requires us to behave with simple decency and affirm the proposed plan of our moderate and law-abiding Muslim sisters and brothers to construct this Center. We look forward to the day when we can join together with our colleagues of all faiths in dedicating this religious center which will represent the triumph of love over hate, humanity over insanity.
While I agree with much of their sentiments, the authors' arguments and conclusion confuse the legitimacy of building mosques in the United States with building an Islamic Center so near to Ground Zero.  It should go without saying that the government should never interfere with or prevent the building of any religious institutions in any location.  This is the essence of our country's founding principle of freedom of religion.  The question at hand however is the propriety of building a mosque at Ground Zero or for that matter, any particular religious institution at this specific site.  I would again advocate that only an interfaith center would be appropriate.  I appeal to the leaders of Cordoba House to transform their particular Islamic vision into a universal American religious ideal.  Let us together build a uniquely American interfaith center.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Start Up Nation

This is a feel good video about the roots of technological innovation in Israeli society. We would do well to take to heart the observation that Israel is a nation of risk takers!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


This week's  Torah portion Reeh discusses the mitzvah of tzedakah.

“If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.  Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.  (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

In order to clarify this commandment, the great medieval thinker, Moses Maimonides, delineates a ladder of giving.
There are eight degrees of tzedakah, each higher than the next.
1. The highest degree, exceeded by none, is that of the person who assists a poor person by providing him with a gift or a loan or by accepting him into a business partnership or by helping him find employment.
2. Below this is that of the person who gives tzedakah to poor people, but the giver doesn’t know to whom he is giving nor does the recipient know from whom he is receiving. This constitutes giving for its own sake. This is similar to giving to a tzedakah collection. But one should only give to a tzedakah collection if he knows that the overseer is trustworthy and wise and conducts himself fairly.
3. Below this is a situation in which the giver knows to whom he is giving but the poor person does not know from whom he is receiving. This is like the great sages who used to walk in secret and put coins into the doors of poor people. It is worthy and truly good to do this if those who are responsible for collecting tzedakah are not trustworthy.
4. Below this is a situation in which the poor person knows from whom he is receiving, but the giver does not know the recipient. This is like the great sages who used to bundle coins in their scarves and roll them up over their backs and poor people would come and collect without being embarrassed.
5. Below this is one who gives before being asked.
6. Below this is one who gives after being asked.
7. Below this is one who gives less than what is appropriate but gives it happily.
8. Below this is one who gives unhappily. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:7)
It is interesting and important to reflect on this important commandment of tzedakah. Judaism believes that giving tzedakah is about rectifying injustice and re-balancing inequities. The feelings of the giver are secondary. Regardless of how we might feel it is our obligation to help others!

In our own day and age we are confronted with requests from many worthy organizations and needy individuals.  How do we apportion our giving?  How do we decide to which organization to donate?  Do we agree with Maimonides’ formulation and his approach of a ladder of giving?  Notice that even the person who gives unhappily fulfills the mitzvah of tzedakah.  It is not of course number one on the list, but it is still tzedakah.  Notice as well that the highest form of giving is not to give anonymously but instead to help someone become self-sufficient.

Tomorrow evening we will explore this commandment in more depth.  Think about these questions.  Think about this commandment.  Email me your thoughts.  Giving tzedakah is fundamental to our Jewish approach to the world.   This why Jewish law dictates that even those who are dependent on tzedakah are obligated to give tzedakah.  Giving shapes the heart of the giver and transforms the hands of the recipient.

It is  through righteous giving that we will realize the promise with which our Torah portion begins.  “See, this day, I set before you blessing and curse...”  (Deuteronomy 11:26)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero

For several months I have been reading with keen interest the controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic Cultural Center at 9-11's Ground Zero.  The $100 million center would be called Cordoba House.  You can read more about the proposal on the group's website.  I have a mixture of feelings about this idea.

First the positives.  It appears that this initiative and in particular its leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a moderate Muslim who is at home in America and most importantly at home with its ideas.  He has as well been active in interfaith affairs for many years.  In an age where religion in general and Islam in particular is becoming increasingly radicalized we would do well to help nurture moderate forces who wish to integrate Islam with Western values.  I am even willing to support their efforts despite their apparent refusal to distance themselves from the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah.  I must say that I prefer and most admire denunciations of specific terrorists and their particular organizations rather than of terrorism in general.  Everyone hates terrorism.  It is the particular ideas that spawn terrorists that are more important to abhor and confront.  Nonetheless, Feisal's identification with the victims of 9-11 and his opposition to terrorism is at times moving.  I have hope as well in his Sufi roots.  (Sufi Islam is in general associated with an openness to other cultures and their ideas, as opposed to for example Wahhabism.)  The more we can help Muslims to become an active part of Western society and not feel disenfranchised from these societies the better for all.

Now for my negative feelings.  Where are the donations coming from?  This is no small matter.  Would we want a Saudi financed center at the place where Saudi terrorists destroyed so much?  (The 9-11 terrorists were by and large from Saudia Arabia, not Afghanistan or Iraq.)  Let us be clear, the United States does indeed have enemies, in particular from the Muslim world.  Money from those who preach against our values would be contrary to the proposed mission of the center.  Let's find out more about the center's supporters.  Second, Ground Zero is sacred ground, sanctified by the murdered blood of thousands.  I do not believe that all Muslims are terrorists.  To suggest this or even worse to suggest that Islam can only foster terrorism is discriminatory, but 99.9% of terrorists who attack Americans are Muslim.  I do not believe that Feisal is correct when he says that 99.9% of Muslims reject terrorism.  Part of the problem is this very point. If more people were like Feisal who stood up and said that terrorism is an anathema to Islam much would be corrected.  I want to support Feisal, but I have my misgivings.  Better that we should be building an America House, an interfaith, multi-cultural center that would serve all people.  The 19 and their Al Qaeda and Taliban sponsors attacked us for our very embrace of diversity.  The only appropriate center on this hallowed ground would therefore not be a Jewish center, or Christian center or Muslim center, but a center jointly run and financed by people of all faiths.

And finally, the name.  Cordoba, Spain was once a great cultural center, where Islam and Jewish philosophy, as well as Jewish and Muslim poetry flourished alongside each other.  In 1148, the year the great Moses Maimonides became a bar mitzvah, his city of Cordoba was invaded by fanatical Muslims, the Almohades.  They presented the Jews, and all non-Muslims, with a choice: conversion or death.  Maimonides and his family fled Spain, never to return again.  For the leaders of Cordoba House, they hear in their name the flourishing of Islamic culture in an open, worldly, and perhaps even pluralistic society, one that by the way continues to influence Jewish philosophy and poetry to this day, but one that sadly collapsed in bloodshed, religious extremism and intolerance.  To my Jewish ears I hear in Cordoba the trauma of my hero's childhood.  I hear him wandering for years before finally settling in Cairo over ten years later.

Let's change the name.  Let's change the location.  On this sacred ground let's only embrace the religious diversity that did not outlast the name Cordoba.

By the way you can read my earlier post on the subject here.  Then I had less questions and misgivings about the project than I have today.