Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Cry me a River

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was recently detained by the police for about a half an hour of questioning regarding his endorsement of a controversial Halacha Sefer. That Sefer allowed killing innocent non Jewish children under certain conditions during a war.

The Israeli government rightly feared that this book which had received widespread attention would incite violence by the obvious targets of that statement – Palestinians Arabs. The increased attention was due in part to rabbinic endorsement of the book.

One can debate the propriety of arresting a Rabbi for exercising his right to free speech. But one can also not blame the government for being worried about security in a climate where the slightest provocation can end up with dead Jews.

After refusing to do so voluntarily Rabbi Yosef was detained, was asked a few innocuous questions and then released. He then went on national radio condemning the government for acting like a totalitarian government instead of the democracy it claimed to be. From Ynet:

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who was arrested Sunday morning and released shortly after, slammed the law enforcement system in Israel, saying that "only in a state without democracy can the police do whatever they want.

"They behaved in an ugly manner," Yosef said of the police in an interview with the religious radio station Radio Kol Hai. "Such brutal behavior cannot be forgiven."

Brutality? Give me a break! Read on:

Yosef, who was brought in for questioning over his endorsement of the "The King's Torah," a book that deals with the Jewish law's stance on killing non-Jews during wartime, said that the police asked him two or three questions about each page of the book, but noted that he did not go into an in-depth discussion with them.

I hope the paramedics were there to resuscitate him!

He added all the usual platitudes about the Torah (the law of God) being above the law of man and that discussions about Jewish law no matter how subversive were beyond the reach of government.

I’m sorry. Although he is technically correct about God’s law versus man’s law - Rabbi Yosef’s attitude has done nothing to advance the cause of Torah. Nor does answering a few questions about why they endorsed such a book constitute violating God’s law.

His right to discuss Torah without any government interference is irrelevant. No one will ever stop him from doing that. He can discuss any aspect of Torah with anyone in any place at any time. No one will stop him. Nor was it necessarily the government’s intent to force him to remove his endorsement. They just wanted to ask him some questions. Which in the end they did. He answered them and was immediately released.

This event has in fact set back the cause of Torah in my view. He should have complied and avoided the controversy. Instead of exalting Torah in the eyes of the world he has endorsed a book that is widely seen as racist.

And he has encouraged protesters to hit the streets! That is anything but a Kiddush HaShem. Instead of defending the Kavod of a Rav they reinforced the perception that religious Jews will result to mob action whenever it suits their purpose. It makes Israel look like the wild wild west instead of a country of laws.

Instead of endorsing that book and then refusing to cooperate with the government - he should have taken his father’s attitude and never endorsed that book in the first place.

From Arutz Sheva - here is what his father, Rav Ovadia Yosef said:

We should give considerable attention to the nations of the world and not assist in a writing that could be interpreted as racist,” the report quoted Rabbi Ovadia Yosef as saying. “The Torah respects everyone since everyone was created in G-d’s image.

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Crying foul now hardly makes him or the Torah look good.