A few good menschen

A few good menschen

An American serving in the Israeli army was sentenced to military jail for bringing nonkosher sandwiches to his base and offering them to fellow soldiers…. The soldier, who said he was given the pork sandwiches by his grandmother, who lives on a kibbutz, reportedly told the army he was not aware of the rule. — JTA


(As the scene opens, Lt. Daniel “Dani” Jaffee, an inexperienced IDF lawyer, is defending Corporal Alan “Ari” Kaplan on charges that he distributed unauthorized ham sandwiches to fellow members of the Israeli Army. The prosecutor is Jaffee’s friend, Captain Yaacov “Kobi” Rosen; on the witness stand is base commander Colonel Natan “Georgie” Jessel, a by-the-books martinet who looks like the Joker in Batman.) 

JAFFEE: Col. Jessel, these are the base logs. Is it correct that the log lists no meal service after 11 p.m.?

JESSEL: That’s right.

JAFFEE: So unless a soldier has a “care package” from home — maybe a few bags of Bissli, a kugel wrapped in foil, a nice piece of fruit — he’s bound to get hungry, isn’t that right? 

ROSEN: I object, Your Honor!

JUDGE: Yes, Lt. Jaffee, where are you going with this? 

JAFFEE: Your Honor, it is important that we establish a timeline. Earlier we heard from the accused’s savta, Ida Kaplan. She testified, and I quote, “He’s a growing boy, he gets hungry. He should eat something so he doesn’t come home all skin and bones.” I am trying to establish that Cpl. Kaplan loves his bubbe, and what with the training and the running and the marching he gets snacky before bedtime.

JUDGE: I’ll allow it.

JAFFEE: Tell me, Col. Jessel. A moment ago you said that you ordered your men not to touch outside food unless it came with a hashgacha, correct?

JESSEL: That’s right.

JAFFEE: But that rule could not have applied to home-made treats, could it? Unless, of course, every home in Israel has to hire a private mashgiach? (Smiles charmingly, courtroom erupts in laughter.)

JUDGE: Order, order!

JAFFEE: Furthermore, the accused does not deny that the sandwiches he was distributing were treyf. But he claims that he didn’t know the rule. Isn’t it true that most Jewish scholars believe that divine punishment is only exacted for knowing violations of the kosher laws?

JESSEL: Perhaps, but….

JAFFEE: And yet the very army of the Jewish state holds a soldier to a higher standard than the Almighty?

ROSEN: Dammit, Jaffee!

JUDGE: Order, order! 

JAFFEE: One more question, Col. Jessel. One of your lieutenants testified that he only discovered that the sandwiches contained pork when he took, and I quote, his “fifth or sixth bite.” But you wrote down in the log book that he discovered the pork product “immediately.” Colonel, you doctored the log books, didn’t you?

ROSEN: Dammit, Jaffee!

JESSEL: You want answers?

JAFFEE: I think I’m entitled to them.

JESSEL: You want the truth?!

JAFFEE: I want the emes.

JESSEL: You can’t handle the emes

(The courtroom goes still.)

JESSEL: Boychik, we live in a world that needs walls — around the base, around the country, and around the Torah. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? Lt. Weinberg? Actually, Weinberg is a pretty good choice, since he went to hesder yeshiva. But never mind that. I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. This is a Jewish army, and, grant you, most of these men have no more compunctions about eating a slice of bacon than they do watching a soccer match on Shabbat. So you weep for Kaplan and you curse the army. But you have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Kaplan’s punishment, however tragic, probably saved lives. Okay, maybe not lives. But careers. It certainly saved careers. Or at least my career. Do you have any idea what would happen to me if the Chief Rabbinate found out that I allowed a soldier to eat a BLT? 


Where was I?

JUDGE: Something about a wall.

JESSEL: Oh, right. (Recovers) I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who hasn’t seen what I have seen: The naive recruit who brings a pitcher of milk to a fleishig meal. The sap who thinks swordfish is kosher. And, has v’halila, the poor bastard who serves gebrokts to a hasid on the first seven days of Passover. I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way.

JAFFEE: (Quietly) Did you eat one of the sandwiches?

JESSEL: (Pause) You’re goddamn right I did.

(Rosen looks stricken. Jessel looks strangely, quietly relieved. Jaffee looks like the guy who played Joel Goodsen in Risky Business.)

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