Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sodomite Judge

There has been much discussion about an interpretation of the Chametz law by Israeli judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban. It has allowed for the limited sale of Chametz on Pesach in areas of Jerusalem.

I had not even known that such a law existed. If one listens to the typical bashing by Charedim of the secular Israeli government in Israel one would have thought such laws were an impossibility - the government being so anti religious. But - one would be wrong. Such laws do exist. It is forbidden to sell Chametz in public in Jerusalem on Pesach.

But thanks to a novel interpretation of the law as written, a Judge has ruled that Chametz may be sold in stores and restaurants as they are not considered public. I doubt that the ruling by this judge had anything to do with anti religious bias. It probably had more to do with her sense of interpretation of the law. In fact Judge Asher Zaban is herself observant and sends her children to religious schools

But that is not how it is seen by everyone.

This has caused an up-roar un certain circles. It has stirred up the typical bashing by some of the more extreme elements of the Charedi world against the ‘anti religious’ secular government. One such group is the Edah HaCharedis. And thus is the enmity between Charedim and the secular Jews in Israel perpetuated.

Before anyone accuses me of advocating the sale of Chametz on Passover in the holy land - I don’t. I think it’s great that there is such a law on the books - especially in a country that is supposedly governed byand for people who are anti Torah. How anti Torah are secular Israelis? Consider this. The vast majority of Israelis avoid eating Chametz in Pesach.

How many people knew that?

Most Israelis though not religious by Orthodox standards, do in fact follow various religious observances including this one. In an article in cross currents on this subject, Jonathan Rosenblum came up with the following statistic: 70% of (Israelis) do not eat chametz on Pesach, according to a recent Yediot Aharonot poll.

And the point of his column is well taken. Symbols of Pesach like not allowing Chametz to be displayed is an important feature of the national identity of a Jewish State, as he noted in the opening statement of his article:

This time Tzippi Livni got it exactly right. “Davka because I am not a religious person, I want to preserve something in Tel Aviv that symbolizes the Chag; something in the public square that does not coerce anyone to do anything or refrain from doing anything in the privacy of his home,” she said in a recent discussion of the Chametz Law.

But as he also noted, seeing Chametz on Pesach is not prohibited by Halacha. As long as it is not in your possession or owned by you, seeing it in the possession of others is not a violation of Halacha.

The Edah’s protest is vastly misplaced and in my view does more harm than good. (What else is new?!) Furthermore, reactions sourced in zealotry can lead some unbalanced people to do some really weird things.

What is their motive? Is it to paint the Zionists as evil incarnate every chance they get? That’s what it seems like from their statements on this issue. Consider the following quote from one of their newspaper – Haeda - in Ha’aretz:

"When the Sodomite judge, may the name of the wicked rot, decided to allow chametz on Pesach openly and in public, and found the necessary arguments and her brilliant theories, it is clear and simple that this should shock every Jewish heart everywhere, without exception."

Sodomite judge? May the name of the wicked rot?

This is a great way to win over the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. Calling a fellow Jew who was not raised religious a sodomite is perverse and disgusting. In my view it is more disgusting than her novel legal interpretation of the Chametz Law. The fact is that the law will probably be re-written properly and will restore the status qou ante. That is precisely what the religious members of the Kenesset plan to do:

Trade Minister Eli Yishai of Shas or MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism promise to pass a law that will bypass the ruling of Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban

If I had to pick one segment of the Torah world most responsible for extremist behavior it is the Edah HaCharedis. Do they think calling a secular judge a sodomite whose wicked name should rot will instill calm in their members?

There may be many things and people preventing the arrival of the Messiah. But the Edah has to be included among them.

Upated: 4/24/08 4:45 PM CDT