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It’s Not About Freedom Of Torah Thought

When the recent spontaneous protests against the arrests of Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef gave way to official spin, the provocative initiators from the Attorney General’s office likely breathed a sigh of relief. Once again, the “enemy” had painted himself into a patently irrelevant corner, and the partisan justice system – growing public disgust with it notwithstanding – remained the only show in town.

 

When a small, radical cabal has unlimited sovereign power and uses it for its own unbalanced and callous ideological agenda, the responsible citizen cannot cooperate with the abomination. This is not an issue for rabbis only. Since the expulsion from Gush Katif, the Israeli justice system has designated itself as being on one unabashed side in Israel’s political debate. Every responsible person who understands this must conclude that it is no longer reasonable to cooperate with the system and lend it legitimacy. That is why I did not turn to the High Court when my election to the Likud roster for the Knesset was unceremoniously overturned.

 

“Refusal marks the borders of the coercive power of the majority,” wrote Professor David Henshekeh. This holds true for all types of government coercion that is deemed unreasonable by a large enough group willing to pay the price of its disobedience. This is not anarchy but rather the preservation of democracy in the face of the majority’s tyranny, or in our case the unelected minority’s tyranny that has taken control over the majority. The danger of anarchy – at least moral anarchy – lies at the doorstep of the regime. The responsible citizen who refuses to cooperate with the moral bankruptcy of the regime is actually protecting society from it.

 

But it doesn’t end here. Official spokespersons for the protests turned the latest struggle from a civil issue to a religious struggle; they portrayed the protests as a defensive battle fought by Torah adherents against the state that is “attempting to control it.” Not only is this claim unfounded, but it forces the average Israeli – his natural support for the settlers and disgust with the High Court notwithstanding – to stand behind Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

 

Let us imagine what would happen if a young rabbi would write a column in which he would prove (in his view) that according to Jewish law, we must slaughter sexual deviants. Isn’t it possible that a confused youngster might take his words seriously and run to slaughter people in the streets? Is the state supposed to ignore the danger only because it is wrapped in halachic garb? Let us imagine that the Attorney General’s office is fair and also investigates incitement from the Left. Let us further imagine that when rabbis are investigated, it is done with the honor they deserve. Isn’t it still viable to make the claim that the state must protect its citizens? Does the religious system have enough will and ability to exchange the existing regime for its own system?

 

When the protestors’ claim becomes religious, it is untenable at both ends. The state cannot conquer the Torah because it is the religious who have surrendered it. There is no national Torah to conquer. The only Sanhedrin that actually exists and makes its opinions heard in an authoritative manner is the “Sanhedrin” of the High Court.

 

On the divide’s other side, the Torah for which the protestors took to the streets is a contracted Torah. It is a Torah of exile that does not deviate from the realm of the individual, his family and community. The state has no interest in controlling this Torah. It is no coincidence that Professor Hillel Weiss’s attempts to institute a new Sanhedrin and to restore the Torah of national freedom to Israel were met by the religious establishment with a cold shoulder. It is no coincidence that this same establishment is fighting the process of return to the Temple Mount, to the Torah, and to sovereignty.

 

The average Israeli instinctively feels that the religious have nothing to offer, that they themselves do not relate to their Torah as relevant on the national plane. How can we expect him, as sympathetic to the cause as he may be, to jump off the High Court ship to the Torah ship that does not really exist – because of us?

 

Many people feel that this conflict will be resolved with internal demographics and the ongoing integration of religious youth into the army and other state institutions. But this is not a question of majority vs. minority. The struggle is not against the secular but rather against the exile mentality of the religious, against their lack of willingness to take responsibility for national leadership in the name of the Jewish value of liberty. As long as this conflict is not resolved, we can be a large majority – but the High Court rule will still be able to sleep soundly.

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