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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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An Open Letter to Religious Zionist Rabbis

Would HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook have endorsed this party?

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Dear Rabbi:

With elections approaching in Israel, I am searching for a religious political party for which to vote. When I think about voting for Shas, I remember their support for Oslo, the surrender of parts of Eretz Yisrael, giving rifles to our enemies, and the terrible sea of Jewish blood that was spilled after the Oslo Accords were signed. That is not the Torah I am searching to find.

When I think about voting for Degal HaTorah and Agudah, except for a few lone voices, I remember their silence leading up to, and during, the Disengagement from Gush Katif, when fellow Jews were thrown out of their homes and pieces of Eretz Yisrael were handed over to our enemies. That is not the Torah I am searching for.

When I think about voting for the Bayit HaYehudi-National Union merger, I see that their leading candidate in the polls has chosen a very pretty young woman as a running mate. Please understand that I have nothing against women, and I am sure this candidate is a very talented and idealistic person, but I wonder if in a public situation like politics, it is appropriate to include a young attractive woman in the leadership of the party, especially for a party that promises to defend Torah ideals.

Modesty has always been a pillar of Judaism. In this week’s Torah portion of “Lech Lecha,” we learn that Avraham Avinu never gazed at his wife until they were on their way to Egypt and its illicit culture, when he realized that the Egyptians would lust after her beauty. I remember that HaRav Shlomo Aviner has written that it is forbidden to attend a lecture given by a woman, since one will have to gaze at her at length and thus transgress the commandment not to stray after one’s heart and eyes. In fact, I once I asked HaRav Aviner if I could write a screenplay, based on a popular novel, about a Haredi youth who was attracted to a non-religious girl, and Rav Aviner answered, yes, if the girl was 90 years old and not attractive. HaRav Mordechai Eliahu, of blessed memory, stated that in attending a wedding where men and women ate together without a mechitza, there was a problem with “Lo tachmod eshet rayecha,” the prohibition of lusting after your neighbor’s wife, one of the Ten Commandments. So, it is difficult for me to think about voting for the Bayit HaYehudi. Some people may say that all this is an exaggeration, that they can look at an attractive woman and not think any improper thought, but I recall that even King David himself got into trouble over a pretty married woman. So I wonder: is this the Torah party that I am searching for?

Could this occur in Shas? In Agudat Yisrael? Will this bring these parties closer to identifying with the goals of the Dati Leumi? Would HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook have endorsed this party? Yes, the unity of the ranks is a praiseworthy project, and yes, it is important to unite all Am Yisrael, religious and non-religious alike, but why with a pretty, young secular woman? Is this a sign of Torah leadership? Couldn’t non-religious voters be attracted to the Bayit HaYehudi by including on their list a young, idealistic , non-religious soldier from some top commando unit? Why does it have to be a young women who looks like a model? While many people long to see a new idealism and a new Torah-spirit in Israeli politics, which fosters a love for the Land of Israel and for all Am Yisrael, religious and non-religious alike – what possible good could come from this lack of concern for the modesty of our national life in the Holy Land?

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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