Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO
Israel's chief rabbis. 'One cannot talk about unity – and take part in a separatism campaign'
Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO
Yoaz Hendel

Chief rabbis' shameful conduct

Op-ed: How can senior civil servants participate in protest against state they are meant to represent?

Sunday's protest was not about Torah studies, but about life in a sovereign Jewish state. The shtetl approach versus the sovereign approach.



Despite the declarations made during the demonstration, it is permitted to study Torah in the State of Israel. There is no persecutor and no enemy. On the contrary. There has never been such a great amount of learners and of yeshivot in the history of the Jewish people. Such a great amount of learners without a profession. The State of Israel made this possible. It will likely make it possible for them to study Torah in the future as well. There is no one waiting around the corner – not Ahasuerus, not Nebuchadnezzar, and not even a military policeman.


The Shaked Committee did not impose destruction decrees and, as a matter of fact, not even decrees for an equal share of the burden. The only thing that has been created is a new law and an attempt to produce an outward appearance of a drama. Outward appearance is the name of the game. Both as far as the haredi parties are concerned and as far as Yesh Atid members are concerned. The same applies to those from the Chardal (nationalist haredi) faction who took part in the rally.


In the Jewish Halacha there are entire prohibitions for fear of outward appearance: What will the others say, what will the others think in their hearts. The message is important both in the Halacha and in the life of a state. The participation of Israel's chief rabbis in Sunday's protest rally was more problematic than a matter of outward appearance. It contained the sin of the essence.


The chief rabbis are senior civil servants, part of the symbols of the government and the Israeli sovereignty. One cannot represent the State in the name of comfort and honor – and when it's inconvenient, treat it as the Diaspora. One cannot talk about unity – and take part in a separatism campaign.


About a month and a half ago, when it was revealed that the Chief Rabbinate was active in preventing the enlistment of religious girls with the IDF, their supporters argued that it was "Da'at Torah" (the knowledge of Torah). You can't argue with the Torah, you can't argue with chief rabbis. The Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party didn't want to confront them, other homes failed to show any special interest.


In principle, the majority of the secular public doesn’t care what the chief rabbis say. Most religious Jews tend to ignore them and find other rabbis. The price of this disregard is being paid by Judaism. And so an archaic body, which is supposed to provide religious services to an entire state, continues to represent the political interests of only one sector.


If one is already crying over man-made decrees – they can be found in this mixture between politics and religion, in the ongoing humiliation of Judaism and its institutions.


The chief rabbis' prayer on Sunday will not cancel the new law. It will not do more or less than the others who were there. As for the Rabbinate, there actually is something to pray for.


פרסום ראשון: 03.03.14, 17:22
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