Sunday, March 08, 2015

Is a Halachic State of Israel Possible?

Bostoner Rebbe, R' Meir Alter Horowitz
Those of us that are observant have always sought to have Halacha guide the Jewish State of Israel. We believe it can be done – even in the modern era. We believe that if done right, it can work for everyone. How can we not believe that? There are n fact Poskim that deal with this issue.

But how many of us have actually thought about the consequences? How would it be done? Running a modern State according to Halacha is no simple matter.  The religious parties I’m sure would jump at the chance to rule the State of Israel that way. But what would the State of Israel look like if they were in charge? It almost seems like impossibility if one starts thinking about the details.

Lest anyone thinks this sounds a bit blasphemous, I am not the only one that has feelings like this. A prominent Charedi leader has actually expressed those same feelings. An article in a Hebrew language online newspaper features a story about a press conference with the Bostoner Rebbe (of Har Nof - I believe). Here is a more or less free translation of part of it: 
‘Thank God we don’t have a majority in the government,’ said Rav Meir Alter Horowitz, the Rebbe of Boston, during a press conference (last Monday) at his home in Jerusalem.  The Rav spoke openly about issues he generally does not deal with in public - among other things, the possibility of a Halachic  State. ‘I fear the day there will be 61 (religious) Knesset members, because I don’t  know how you can run a country with the responsibility of Torah observance. For example, to close the airport on Shabbos, in the modern world I do not know how it is possible to do this.’ Adding, ‘Thank God no one came to ask me questions like this.’  
It is refreshing to hear a Charedi rabbinic leader talk with such candor. Especially one that is on the council of Torah sages in Israel. I wonder, though, how such talk is received by his Rabbinic colleagues? I have to believe that they view this with alarm. For a rabbinic leader of such stature to speak so candidly about the difficulty of having a state run according to Halacha must be shocking to them. 

I am 100% convinced that given the opportunity they would grab it. But would Israel then be able to compete in the modern world? What indeed would it look like? Would it resemble anything like it is today?

There are probably more than a few people that are incredulous about this story. They simply do not believe that a religious leader could question running the State of Israel Halachicly. But this was a press conference. I’m sure it was attended by a lot of people. And probably recorded. I don’t see how anyone could misrepresent what he said without fear of being contradicted by people that were there or refuted by a recording of what he actually said.

I have had my issues with the Bostoner Rebbe. But there is no question about his intellectual honesty. He is an Ish Emes – a man of truth. He has the courage of his convictions and is unafraid to express them publicly. No matter who it upsets. And for this I applaud him. 

Hat tip: Marty Bluke