Even religious people who pray for judges of old were horrified when Justice Minister Ne'eman suggested that we apply Din Torah to Israeli law. Many think that it is possible to adopt halacha into a modern legal system, but only after it has been adjusted for our generation.
Justice Minister Ne'eman’s idea that we should apply Din Torah to the Israeli legal system, one sep at a time, raised the ire of not only secular citizens of the state of Israel, but also of many of the national religious sector as well.
Religious Jews pray for the return of the “glory of old” and the “judges of ancient time.” They believe that the Torah includes the law of the just, and upright. But they don’t necessarily mean that we should apply laws today that were applicable thousands of years ago. Their point is that we should try and apply rules and values of the halacha as they appear in our corpus of laws only after they have been adjusted and modified for the 21st century.
Would the honorable minister please answer the following question: Would his imagined legal system allow women to testify? Would it allow a secular Jew to testify? Could women act as judges? Would there be equality between men and women? Between Jew and non-Jew?
Would it divide marital property equally between men and women, or would it divide that property in accordance with the halachic principle: “hers is his”? Would a women receive her half of the marital property if she were unfaithful to her husband, or would she have to leave the marital home with just the clothes on her back? Would wives inherit from their husbands? Would girls inherit from their fathers, or would inheritance rights be relegated to the male sex? I don’t think we see eye to eye with respect to issues of justice.
The minister has already expressed his opinion on the matter when he took a position with respect to the proposed expansion of the jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts. He supported expansion even though the suffering of women who appear before the rabbinical courts screams to high heavens. But Ne'eman does not hear or see them. Perhaps this is because he’s busy attending conferences organized by those who would deny women their voice.
A simple answer?
In the last few years, many organizations, including the Center for Women’s Justice, have worked to raise public awareness about what happens in the rabbinical courts by bringing the hardest cases to the media’s attention, or by publishing those cases of greatest interest and importance. But sadly we have not found a sympathetic ear with the minister.
Years ago I heard an informative lecture calling for the application of Torah to state law given by a religious jurist who was an expert on the matter. After the lecture I asked him: "Why should I, as a woman, agree to accept Jewish law if it discriminates against me and won’t accept my testimony in a court of law"?
To this he replied: "That's not a problem. When the day comes that it is necessary to make a decision on this issue, we’ll put two Torah scholars in a room for 24 hours and they will come up with a solution. If we need to, we will find a halachic way for women to testify in court.”
I was shocked by his answer. If it's so simple - why isn’t it happening already? I suggested to him that we first find the solution that will admit women’s testimony, and only after that happens should he expect me to support the incorporation of Jewish law into our modern legal system.
Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic advocate with the Center for Women’s Justice . Telephone: 972-2-5664390