Are there limits to the exercise of power?

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12 Responses

  1. joel rich says:

    The issues of how we relate to our non-religious neighbors and to Israeli democracy in general are not trivial, and they will not go away. They require the attention of our finest Torah scholars.

    Agreed, yet thses issues are not new. What has the response been on closing roads etc? Given the proclivity in this community to run one’s total life by daat torah, surely the question has been raised.

  2. Ori says:

    Well said. May I add something from the perspective of somebody who grew up Chiloni in Israel? This fear of religious coercion is very real, and the hostility it generates causes great harm.

    If there are Halachic limits on religious coercion, it would be great Kidush haShem if Gdoley Israel were to articulate them in a way that Chilonim would understand and be able to trust.

  3. Harry Maryles says:

    The issues of how we relate to our non-religious neighbors and to Israeli democracy in general are not trivial, and they will not go away. They require the attention of our finest Torah scholars.

    Fascinating article. I lean heavily to not ‘shoving religion down people’s throats’ …and I think that was the CI’s point. But if you feel that we still need to ask ‘our finest Torah scholars’ …the question in my mind is who exactly do we rely upon that is in the category of ‘our finest Torah scholars’?

    Do we speak to a R. Elyashiv? …or do we speak to a Rav Lichtenstien? I’m not trying to say that they are equally qualified or that they have equal Torah knowledge. I’m not the one to judge that.

    But Torah knowledge alone is not necessarily enough. Free access to a Posek and the ability to transmit all relevant information accurately to him… in a non biased way… is a necessary component for him to be able to Paskin correctly. Furthermore, a Gadol’s Hashkafic orientation is a factor too. And that can easily result in two opposite Halachic decisions on the part of two very qualified Poskim. Who do we listen to then?

  4. zalman says:

    Well said.
    Perhaps our finest Torah scholars will determine that an evaluation of our actions should ab initio take into account the impact on all Jews, such that the impact on “not-yet religious Jews” will be more than a “valid consideration.”

  5. dr. william gewirtz says:

    Beyond the issues of religious coercion, the charedi leadership will need to positively address broad issues. Prof. Ish Shalom during his famous interview on conversion that I assume many have heard about, said as follows:

    “Many questions arise from the establishment of a Jewish sovereign state, questions that never arose in the Diaspora,” he notes. “How do we build a national economy? On what values do we base our national budget? The rabbinate has no view on this. We have an army now, we deal with counterterrorism, fighting in the middle of a civilian population, facing situations of kidnapped and missing soldiers, roadblocks. What are the ethics a Jewish army should have? How much should we pay for [kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl.] Gilad Schalit’s release?

    “Judaism doesn’t have an opinion on this? Of course it does! But the rabbinate is silent. Or social justice – Judaism has nothing to say about social justice? Of course it does! But the rabbinate doesn’t say it. Should Israel conduct foreign relations with dictatorial regimes? Is Israel permitted to supply weapons to certain countries, according to Judaism? Is there room for moral considerations in all this? Of course there is. But the rabbinate doesn’t deal with it….

    “There are many more questions connected to the meaning and structure of a Jewish state, for which the rabbinate could have been the intellectual and spiritual resource that inspires [us] and to which we turn to hear Judaism’s opinion on legislation, policy, and such. Not merely an enforcing body on marriage, divorce, mikvaot and kashrut. But all these great and important national questions aren’t heard in the rabbinate.”

    And this has been a major factor in the rabbinate’s current irrelevance, he adds. The secular public doesn’t turn to the rabbinate, nor does the rabbinate attempt to speak to the secular public.

    The challenge for what Rabbi Rosenblum terms “our finest Torah scholars” is much deeper than imagined. Dealing with these issues would have profound impact for all sides.

  6. YM says:

    These policies must be set by the G’dolim in Israel. Hashem should bless them with wisdom.

  7. Garnel Ironheart says:

    If the one of the main purposes of being a Torah-observant Jew is to cause the name of Heaven to be loved by all, as on Yoma 86a, then religious coercion is certainly not a tactic that should be adopted even when Chareidim become 95% of a neighbourhood.

    Koheles tells us that the words of the Sages are heard when said pleasntly. Mishlei tells us that a kind word turns away much wrath. If 95% of the neighbourhood is Chareidi, the biggest way to get the last 5% to agree to separate hours at the pool and a BaDatz eiruv is to live an exemplary Torah lifestyle that they wil be attracted to. Religious coercion will receive only a backlash and episodes of chilul HaShem, chas v’shalom.

  8. Phil says:

    “The issues of how we relate to our non-religious neighbors and to Israeli democracy in general are not trivial, and they will not go away. They require the attention of our finest Torah scholars.”

    Since these issues have been around for decades, surely no one has to bring them to the finest Torah scholars’ attention. Can a reader of Cross-Currents please link to an essay in which a great Torah scholar addresses this issue? (besides the Chazon Ish and Rav Shach, since they’ve already been mentioned.)

  9. YM says:

    If Garnel Ironheart’s reasoning is taken further, we could also say that Hashem could have made his name more beloved by commanding us to pursue pleasure and by not prohibiting anything that anybody wants to do.

    I’m not even sure where we draw the line concerning what is and what isn’t “religious coercion”. Prohibiting murder, I think we agree is not religious coercion; Banning mixed swimming, we would agree, is. What about prohibiting pictures of almost naked women on bus stop shelters? What about mandating monetary disputes be adjudicated according to halacha? Isn’t the fact that Israel uses civil law for monetary disputes coercion?

  10. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “There is no greater hot button issue for the secular population than religious coercion, or one that does more to provoke hostile responses to religious Jews.”

    It’s important for both religious and secular Jews to at least be able to enter the mindset of each other and to understand where the other is coming from. If the Torah community has no choice but to inconvenience people on issues of major importance, it needs to be able to demonstrate good-will, by being able to compromise in other, lesser, areas. This is based on assigning a relative level of importance to various issues.

    Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz mentions this point in “Is Everything a Ten?”, linked below(I remember that this was also mentioned in a Jewish Observer article following the Tommy Lapid victory). As Dr. Richard Carlson writes(“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”), “if you choose your battles wisely, you’ll be far more effective in winning those battles that are truly important”.

  11. szn says:

    in addition to ”The issues of how we relate to our non-religious neighbors and to Israeli democracy in general are not trivial, and they will not go away.” , the issue of how charedi community should relate to the RZ or MO community also needs to be explored. sometimes one needs to push harder at the ‘closer relative’, lest they influence each other…

  12. cvmay says:

    “One involved a woman allegedly attacked on a bus in Ramat Beit Shemesh”, why is there still an alleged assumption for this attack on a woman in RBS?
    I would imagine that it can be verified by now. This event on the bus and the attack on the Pizza shop are NOT examples of religious coercion, rather RELIGIOUS BULLYING, which is quite different and much more different to contain and rein in.

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