Baruch Dayan HaEmet: Dr. Daniel Kliman
Kliman was an active member at an Orthodox shul in Oakland. The synagogue's rabbi told The San Francisco Chronicle, "The first words that come to mind for me when I think of Daniel are 'vibrant' and 'alive.' That's why this is such a shock. Whenever he was in the room, he was such a huge presence."
I frequently read Kliman's posts to the VeggieJews discussion group, and we corresponded several times. Kliman passionately believed in animal protection issues, Judaism, Israel, and other causes. I always appreciated his quest to balance all those things in his own life, particularly in discussions about the use of leather in ritual objects and a vegetarian restaurant's support of a rally he felt was anti-Israel.
In my "Are You Religious?" post in April, I quoted one of Kliman's VeggieJews e-mails: "People do indeed define down Judaism and often use the 'buffet method' for their mitzvot. … On Yom Kippur, my Rabbi talked of how it is nearly impossibly for anyone, even a great tzadik (righteous person), to fulfill all the commandments; therefore, we should think in terms of bettering ourselves rather than achieving perfection."
In my "Vegetarians and Tefillin" post in October, I quoted Kliman as saying, "Someone very honestly said on [VeggieJews] some time ago that he indeed understood that non-leather tefillin were not the mitzva in its purest form, but he felt something is better than nothing. . . . The Hebrew word 'Chet,' which we often define as 'sin,' is actually a 'missing of the mark.' Due to some people's convictions, they are willing to 'miss the mark' on tefillin being made completely from leather in order that they should at least pick up the mitzva of binding of the arms with the proper words. The only caveat is that you should not fool yourself into thinking you are getting the full mitzva." (Kliman noted separately that he did use kosher tefillin.)
Just yesterday, before I learned of Kliman's death, I was going through some old e-mails and found a gem that Kliman had written about leather kippot in November 2006. It shows Kliman's open, honest, insightful struggle to balance his passions. When I asked his permission to use the above quotations on heebnvegan, he replied, "I would be honored," so I don't think he'd mind that I'm quoting him here:
I am currently celebrating my cousin's becoming a Bat Mitzva. Needless to say I am the only one of my family who has a vegetarian consciousness. Fortunately, the parents of the girl being Bat Mitzva'd are sensitive to the issues and made sure I had a real main course (spiced tofu and eggplant) at the dinner and did not have to scrounge side dishes.
Still, there is the issue of the "souvenir kippa." In many places, these are the cheap "Jew for a day" type of shiny cloth. My shul often has the knit type that many of us put into general day to day use.
My cousin elected to go with fancy leather.
So here is the deal. The kippot are already bought. Regardless of how many people take them, no more will be bought and future sales from the same company will not be affected. They are all embossed with my dear cousin's name and date of Bat Mitzva ceremony.
Do I take one knowing that all harm is already done and nothing I will do will change that?
Do I not take one out of principle?
I honestly don't know what the best course of action would be.
WWJVD? (what would Jewish vegetarian do?)