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The Knesset Photo: Gabi Menashe
The Knesset Photo: Gabi Menashe

Rabbis, leave politics

Op-ed: Most severe damage to Judaism caused by convicted rabbis who gave Torah a bad name

Rabbi Chaim Shein
Published: 12.25.12, 10:38 / Israel Opinion

Jewish political history has shown that rabbis cannot engage in political activism because they lack the spiritual structure for it. Rabbis are supposed to represent dignity and the truth, in accordance with the Torah. Political activity, which is in essence negotiations between representatives to promote the interests of their constituents, calls for a lot of lying, flattery and hypocrisy.


In general, the rabbis who are elected to Knesset fall into two categories: The first one includes those rabbis who never understood how the Knesset operates and in what way religious and national matters could be advanced through its various committees. The other category includes rabbis who ended up in prison, and in doing so desecrated the name of God. The most severe damage to Judaism in the State of Israel has been caused by convicted rabbis who gave the Torah a bad name.

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Therefore, it would be best if rabbis avoid the ugliness of politics and instead promote religious education in the spirit of the Torah and mitzvahs.


Rabbis should focus on spiritual matters and leave the political issues to the politicians. Da'at Torah, a concept according to which Jews should seek the input of rabbinic scholars not just on matters of Jewish law but on all important life matters, is new and does not, as far as I know, have any halachic validity.


The disconnect between politics and morality exacts a heavy price: Global crises (including the economic ones) call for a new way of thinking. In order for democratic institutions to function properly, they must coexist with a commitment to morality, values and the obligation to the community.


Reconnecting values and political activism is a necessary condition for Tikkun Olam during this time of crisis. In his work, John Rawls, the most prominent political philosopher of the 20th century, contended that citizens who believe political society promotes personal good will be less inclined to act out of jealousy and hatred.


Today, it is incumbent upon the rabbis to create the necessary connection between politics and morality, but without being subjected to the Knesset's problematic norms. They must have the freedom to express the truth without fear or bias.


Rabbi Dr. Chaim Shein is a member of the Beit Hillel rabbis organization



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