Title: State of Halakha
Rabbi Aviad Tabory
In 1959 Professor Charles Wright Mills wrote that “neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both.” Mills described how the study of sociology is the consolidation of the complete comprehension of both the movers and shakers of our collective past and the events which occurred. Rabbi Aviad Tabory, Ra’m at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi and Rabbi of Camp Stone, in his groundbreaking work “State of Halakha” does something similar.
Rabbi Tabory brings us along on a historical tour of the modern State of Israel, yet instead of sporting 3D glasses the reader is adorned with the lenses of the illustrious Halachic Man. Over the course of thirty-four breathtaking chapters the reader rides down memory lane visiting many of the most instrumental moments in modern Jewish History. Each chapter embarks upon a journey exploring a new period of time, a different historically significant event, as Rabbi Tabory grapples with what halacha dictates should have happened in that specific scenario.
Each chapter begins off with a brief historical background of the incident at hand, followed by a breakdown of the halachic questions to be grappled with, capped off with a tremendous analysis of the relevant sources, and how the leading poskim of the generation practically dealt with the issue. Should the government raise the Dakar submarine from its resting spot on the seafloor after over thirty years to bury the forty-seven seamen, or is burial at sea halachically considered burial and thus it would be inappropriate to lift the vessel? Is there ever a time where a civilian is allowed to take the law into his own hands? Is one allowed to go on vacation to Egypt? What if one is going for work, such as a news reporter during revolutionary peace talks? Was it permissible to lay siege to Beirut during the First Lebanon War? May a soldier eat non-kosher food during wartime? Can a country target civilians during wartime? Is it better to actively destroy a synagogue or leave it standing for the enemy to come and disgrace it? These and so many more riveting questions are discussed and dissected in this superb sefer.
Rabbi Tabory dedicated the sefer in memory of his late father, Rabbi Binyomin Tabory, longtime Ra’m at Yeshivat Har Etzion and a close student of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik. Towards the end of the introduction the author pens “I was raised in a home that believed in and practice Torah V’Avodah and thus the main theme of this book – the integration of Torah with the State of Israel – from the inspiration and education I received from him.” In chapter twenty-seven Rabbi Tabory discusses a question which was posed by a student of the yeshiva to his father. His father was asked regarding a Kohen whose commander was killed in battle, due to the situation, there was no way for a helicopter to evacuate the fallen commander’s body. Is a Kohen allowed to help carry to stretcher of a fallen soldier out from battle? This question prompted a broader discussion of whether a Kohen may even go to wage war?
This wonderful work is an embodiment of the true Halachic Man. One who intuitively experiences the world as if he were wearing a pair of “halacha-tinted” glasses. One who assesses not only what lay before of him, but asks himself what would the Torah verbalize about this. As Rav Soloveitchik so eloquently elucidated:
“Halakhic man explores every nook and cranny of physical-biological existence. He determines the character of all…there is no phenomenon to which halakhic man does not possess a fixed relationship from the outset and a clear, definitive, a priori orientation. He is interested in sociological creations, the state, society, and the relationship of individuals within a communal context. The Halakhah encompasses laws of business, torts, neighbors, plaintiff and defendant, creditor and debtor, partners, agents, workers…war, the high court, courts and the penalties they impose, all are just a few of the multitude of halakhic subjects…Halakhic man orients himself to the entire cosmos and tries to understand it by utilizing an ideal world which he bears in his halakhic consciousness” (Halakhic Man, Page 22-23).
Rabbi Tabory takes this charge and strolls through the hallowed halls of the history of the modern State of Israel assessing what a true Torah perspective would dictate. Rabbi Tabory succeeded brilliantly at finding the precedent rooted in the tremendous Torah tradition and bringing them to the forefront of the Knesset floor and the battlefield to apply them to contemporary halachic realities. Each chapter will leave you wanting more, knowing that each chapter is a mere taste of what could easily be a book unto itself! Rabbi Tabory truly paid an incredible homage to his late father, by writing a book embodying his late father’s worldview as inherited from his great teacher. One cannot simply go through this sefer without recalibrating their worldview as they walk through life. It is not only a fascinating sefer, where each chapter is more interesting than the next, it is a way of life. Finding the Hand of Hashem in history and asking oneself what He wants from us while writing His story.