Monday, December 3, 2007

Orthodox Union, Talking About Freedom

The Orthodox Union talking about freedom in the Western sense of the word is a joke.

On its home page currently, it has this featured link:


"One Man’s Fight for Every Man’s Freedom
As he awaits further trials, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury shares his experiences fighting for freedom from Islamic terrorism and the need to support the democratic State of Israel. You can follow his case at www.freechoudhury.com. "

The thing is, the orthodox parties in Israel has names like Shas (named after the Talmud), and the duo of Agudat Israel (which is Hassidic) and Degel HaTorah (Haredi) which makes up United Torah Judaism.

On the face of it, do you think that these parties are democratic or theocratic? I'll put it to you this way, if they become the majority in Israel, prepare to be killed for playing a video game on Shabbat.

From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Torah_Judaism):

"Degel HaTorah's pre-eminent sages and guides are presently Rabbis Yosef Shalom Eliashiv and Aharon Shteinman, both well into their nineties. Rabbi Eliashiv lives in Jerusalem and Rabbi Shtainman is in Bnei Brak. Policy decisions are also weighed and decided by a Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah ("Council of Torah Sages"), a council of experienced communal rabbis, made up of mostly senior and elderly heads of yeshivas all very learned in Talmud, devoted to halakha (classical Jewish law), and guided by their knowledge and application of the classical "Code of Jewish Law", the Shulkhan Arukh.

The Agudat Yisrael faction takes its directions from the Hasidic rebbes of Ger, Vizhnitz, Boston and Sadigura also steeped in Torah law and mysticism, who exert much influence in the daily lives of their followers (the "Hasidim"). The Belz rebbe, a prominent political and religious figure in his own right, is also closely involved in Agudat policy-making, and his followers are loyal UTJ supporters, though inter-party politics resulted in Belz failing to get any of their representatives into a high position on the UTJ list in the 2006 Knesset elections, and consequently, resulting in a faction with no Belz members present, for the second Knesset in a row."

[end wikipedia]

As for Shas, "Shas is a strong advocate of Halacha playing a pivotal role and providing a fulcrum for the operation of the state and its identity, such as laws prohibiting various activities on the Shabbat." from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shas.


Orthodox Jews who speak of Israel in hasbara as being the only democracy in the Middle East (save for Iraq thesedays, hopefully things will go well there), should quite frankly shut the F### up. Its with no help from you people.

7 comments:

aj said...

First of all, Shas would want to prohibit public activities -- stores, etc...that go against Halakha. I don't think that they've ever introduced a bill that would deal with the private home (i.e. playing a video game on Shabbat). Actually, I think Shas would probably vote against such a bill, as a significant portion of their constituency are Traditional Jews, who are Shomer Shabat in public but not in private (as opposed to the Ashkenazic parties who probably would support such a bill -- however, my guess is most of them don't care that much about what happens in private and would therefore never introduce a bill (additionally, they would never introduce the bill for political reasons)).

Second of all, the OU has no affiliation with Shas, Agudah, Degel HaTorah, etc.... They are more connected to MafDaL (NRP - National Religious Party), who are more of the Bnei Akivaesque party, and are not anti-Secular.

Third of all, I know lots of Orthodox people -- both in Israel and in America who suppport Labor, Likud, National Union, Kadima (well, not Olmert - no one likes him) i.e. parties that do not have anti-Secular policies. National Union (which allied with NRP last time) actually wants to overturn the Orthodox Rabbinate as well. There is no reason that someone who is Orthodox can't believe in Israel's democracy.

SJ said...

>> First of all, Shas would want to prohibit public activities -- stores, etc...that go against Halakha.

It is still coercion. And would they ban utilities on Shabbat also? Like heat during the winter?

>> and are not anti-Secular.

I read about a National Religious rabbi in Mishpacha magazine who became pathologically antisecular after the disengagement.


Further, the NRP is still for the orthodox being able to control marriage and divorce amongst Israel's jews, even jews who are not orthodox, and the NRP wants Israel to disallow converts from other very large streams of Judaism from being covered by the Law of Return.

AJ said...

It is still coercion.

Yea, at some level it is. But not at the level you were claiming (trying to prohibit video games on Shabbat). Second of all, my guess is that a political theorist would tell you that prohibiting public actions, such as violation of Shabbat, is not incongruous with democracy, especially if you accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and you think it is good to attempt to strike the awkward balance between having a Jewish state and a free state. I'm not saying that it means you should agree with Shas on how to strike that balance, only that you see it as a legitimate opinion

And would they ban utilities on Shabbat also? Like heat during the winter?

No they wouldn't. First of all, they all use it -- if they thought it should be banned, they, at the very least, would not be using it now.

Second of all, Pikuach Nefesh Doche Shabbat

Third of all there have been Tshuvot since the founding of the state allowing public utilities on Shabbat

Fourth, is all basically automatic now anyway.

I read about a National Religious rabbi in Mishpacha magazine who became pathologically antisecular after the disengagement.

There were definately some, but not the majority. And even those, changed their rhetoric (in response to the virulent anti-religious rhetoric before/during/after disengagement) without necessarily changing their opinions about religious makeup of the state. Moreover, those Rabbis would probably reject the OU anyway, as the OU seems to be closer with Effie Eitam, and Zevulun Orlev, who are less angry.

I mean, last time, as I mentioned, NRP allied with National Union, which is a secular party.

Further, the NRP is still for the orthodox being able to control marriage and divorce amongst Israel's jews, even jews who are not orthodox, and the NRP wants Israel to disallow converts from other very large streams of Judaism from being covered by the Law of Return.

True. This is not incompatible with democracy, and it doesn't make it hypocritical to support Israeli democracy, especially in comparison with other local countries.

Lastly, my most important point was my last one -- that not all Orthodox Jews must support NRP, much less Shas, Degel HaTorah -- many support Likud, Labor, Kadima, and there is no reason that they are hurting Israel by using the democracy argument in their support.

SJ said...

>> , especially if you accept the idea of Israel as a Jewish state and you think it is good to attempt to strike the awkward balance between having a Jewish state and a free state.

Perhaps Israel can follow the British model in which there is an official religion, but with religious freedom for all.

Giving a government power to enforce religious rules is antithetical to American ideals, and there's a REASON for it.

As for the orthodox control of marriage and divorce, it is wrong. Do you think that its right for jews who serve in the Israeli army who don't want an orthodox wedding to have to go to Cyprus to marry?

Do you think its right for the orthodox to control the religious lives of the nonorthodox aj? Please give a direct one word sentence yes or no answer to this question.


One would think that Israel is the Jewish state, not just the orthodox-jewish state. In other words, Israel has to be accomodating of differeng viewpoints on Judaism, and I do feel that each individual has the right to approach Judaism in his or her own way, which is one very large reason of many why the Eastern European stream of Judaism makes me sick- they view individual opinions of religious matters as worthless. Frankly people who cede their ability to come to informed conclusions on their own don't belong living in a free country.

As for the relevance to the conversion issue:

reform jews and conservative jews by themselves totally outnumber orthodox Jews in the United States, it would be foolish for Israel to act in such away to make their interpretations of Judaism feel unaccommodated.

DK said...

SJ,

It is simply incorrect to bring contradictions to the OU from haredi organizations like Shas or Degel Hatorah. The OU is at its core, a right-wing Modern Orthodox outfit, not a haredi one. They DO believe in democracy, and MO Jews do take pride that Israel is much more of democracy than any other Middle Eastern county, even if not quite a liberal democracy as say, Holland.

Now, the parallels of the NRP is a better choice for parallels, but even that isn't quite fair, as these organizations have evolved separately. The NRP defines their religion much more by the state of Israel than the OU, even if Israel looms large in terms of focus and identity for its members. But still, there is a difference.

While the OU might prefer that religious laws not be democratic, they still do not seek to change the civil life of Israel, nor do they necessarily endorse the Messianism of the religious Zionists. This goes back to the difference between Rabbi Kooks (both) as opposed to the OU's redefinition of Modern Orthodox with RYBS (The Rav) who was not Zionist based in terms of his outlook.

SJ said...

Dk thank you for posting.

I would refer you to this article, and it was written as far back as 1998, so imagine what the situation is now.

The thing is, letting the government enforce religious rules invites a dangerous precedent as I am sure that you are aware, and our religious friends think that human nature on these things don't apply to them, i.e. "oh its ok if we do it. its not going to go too far."

Riiiiiight. Not if haredim have something to say about it.

no one said...

The people that vote shas are mesorti but shas itself is chardei.
I was in a shas yeshiva when after the tefila there was a public announcement to call for the member of the congregation to go into stores in which the women are not dressed by chareidi standards and tell them they will be boycotted unless they conform
You have to understand the people in charge of shas are getting more fanatical even though their power base in mesorati..