Monday, May 19, 2008
Dr. Marc Shapiro’s article about the controversion of the Supereme Rabbinical Court’s annulling all the giyurs done by Rav Druckman’s bais din best reflects how Modern Orthodoxy sees the issue. There are two separate yet intricately intertwined subjects at hand; the purely halachic aspects of the ruling, and the ideological conflict, with many social-judicial issues deriving from them. The latter is obviously the main issue, as far as the spectators are concerned.
Shapiro makes many a salient point, and raises the painful and complicated question of the haredim’s legitimacy in dealing with a State they reject. He concludes that Religious Zionists and Modern Orthodoxy should totally divest from haredim. Not a bad idea in itself, but not too practical either. Though I sympathize with a systematic purge of all haredi rabbis from the rabbinate, this runs contrary to the democratic ideology of ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו.
But more realistically, the Agudists would probably join ranks with the Aida Charedis and all collaboration with the rabbinate would cease. This would cause a major rift within Religious Zionism itself. When all is said and done, most would condone that the State – even if its existence and functioning are a tremendous mitzvah – does not supersede the Torah. This would leave the left-wing RZ/MO drifting to Conservatism and Reform, finally creating two completely segregated nations – probably ending in civil war. (Which is not very civil, come to think about it.)
He also makes a few largely true, but somewhat wily statements. “The haredi community survives due to Israeli government subsidies,” he states, forgetting that the heiliga Medinah survives due to American subsidies. In fact, Patrick Buchanan claims Israel intervenes too much in American affairs - I’m not sure Shapiro agrees with him. Haredim don’t serve in the army, he charges – an army that recently dragged Religious Zionist Jews out of their homes and systematically refuses to protect its citizens. On the other hand, he is not in the least bothered by the fact that Rav Goren served in the Hagana – the military arm of the Leninist Mapai (Labour) that carried out the establishment of the state with an assassination or two. (De-Haan, 17 people of the Altalena, not to mention the passengers of the Patria…)
The claim that the dayonim were disqualified only because they are Religious Zionists is not entirely false. Shapiro in fact openly acknowledges that the source of the conflict is a collision of ideologies, and that the RZ courts admittedly base their rulings on ideology. And this is the very core of the problem: people blindly following ideologies and placing them above everything else. That is how distinguished rabbis call other dayanim “apikorsim”. Haredim are a tad bit disingenuous in claiming that their way is no ideology, but it is safe to claim that at least in theory, "haredism" consists in living the Torah in the most undiluted way possible. Once other avowed ideals are woven into the Torah fabric – be it evolution, the State of Israel or baseball – there is nothing stopping these external ideals from overriding and finally replacing it. When בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך and כי הם חיינו are starting to be taken allegorically, all the rest goes through the window.
The very same Torah that states ואהבת לרעך כמוך also says לא תחוס עינך עליו. The Torah cannot be made into some wishy-washy, touchy-feely ding dong school just to conform to someone’s ideology – be it lofty as it is.
An oft-recurring argument is that haredim use and abuse “orthodox unity” to force their view on everyone else, and he is right about that. There is no such thing as “orthodox unity”, there is only Jewish unity. The haredi rabbinate doesn’t give a hoot about any kind of unity. But venal and sold-out as they are, there still is a flicker of a yiddishe neshome in them, a vestige of the most primal loyalty to the Torah, to G-d (as opposed to some ideology) their peers lack. So far, even completely unobservant Jews can somehow belong to the Jewish nation, despite being sinners. This is possible by anchoring the laws that pertain to the coherence and continuity of the nation –marriage and conversion- in the hands of halachic authorities. Once that is gone, secular Jews are gone with the wind, like the ten tribes, and with it the excuse for the state's existence. Yet specifically those whose ideology is that non-Torah Judaism is valid and legitimate, and halocha should be bent to accommodate such “Judaism”, now demand control of these key elements.
Had the same exact annulling occurred between two courts of the same ideology, we’d all witness haredim and Religious Zionists unite against the Stalinist left. But since someone’s ideology did get hurt, they now prefer to run with the tramplers of the Torah, murderers, adulterers and idolaters, whose ideal is to become עם ככל העמים.
The power of ideology.
© Joseph Izrael 2008