Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASh90
Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay (Shas)

Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay (Shas) who last year told Army Radio that Reform Jews are not really Jewish, on Thursday told an assembly of ultra and modern Orthodox Rabbis in northern Israel that he has no intention of approving the new rule sanctioning a separate portion of the Western Wall for Reform style mixed prayers, as long as the Council of Torah Sages does not order him to.

“A Reform Jew, as soon as he does not follow the religion of Israel, then let’s just say there’s a problem. I can’t allow myself to say that he was a Jew,” Azulai said on radio back in July.

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to meet with Israel’s chief rabbis to consult with and solicit their consent for the proposed change in the Kotel Plaza. The meeting comes following the claim by the Rabbinate that the cabinet’s decision on the Reform prayer deck was reached without the consent of either the minister of religious affairs or the chief rabbinate.

“I’m not afraid of the Supreme Court, let the whole public cry out, they won’t defeat us,” Azoulay reassured the northern rabbis. “I will only do that which the council of sages and chief rabbinate order me. It is in my authority to sign, and I won’t give it up. The issue is one of ‘suffer death and not transgress.’ Israel’s rabbis must go out and cry.”

A Jew is permitted to transgress most of the commandments to preserve life, such as ingesting non-kosher medicine. But there are three commandments about which most sages say one should martyr himself and not transgress them: murder, illicit sex, and idolatry. There are conflicting arguments among Torah scholars regarding this concept, when some say that even in these commandments one should seek out a way of staying alive at the cost of temporary sin (Maimonides recommended pretending to accept Islam and then fleeing at the first opportunity); other scholars suggest that in extreme circumstances an order to transgress elevates any commandment to the level where it attains the status of “die rather than sin,” because the honor of God is at stake.

The assembled community rabbis, including the Acre county’s Rabbi Yosef Yashar, and Nahariya’s Rabbi Yeshayahu Maitlis, expressed their firm support for Minister Azoulay, saying there is no room at all to recognize the Reform, and no possibility of enabling prayer by the Kotel in any way other than that of traditional Judaism. They noted that there’s no compromising with a movement that erased Zion and Jerusalem from its prayer books.

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