Thursday, August 28, 2014

The "Anti" Legislator

By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute
"Words of Controversy at Your Gates" [Devarim 17:8]
A Legislative "Blitz"
The head "educational" MK from "The Movement" Party, Eliezer Stern (who in the past was the Education Chief of the IDF), strikes again: "Hesder Yeshiva students should be conscripted into the IDF for three weeks in the summer, during the 'vacation time' between the Ninth of Av and Rosh Chodesh Elul." The former general fires away in all directions, but his aim is always pointed at those who are (evidently) the "objects of his hatred," all of the accepted institutions of religious Zionism. The "knitted kippa" MK, whose entrance fee for becoming part of the Movement seems to have been based on a continuing "controversy with religious Zionism," wears out his brain with a daily key question: "What can I do to teach a lesson to religious Zionism, including its rabbis and leaders?" And the energetic MK has an ultimate weapon at his disposal: a multitude of proposed educational laws in the realms of religion and the state, the state and religion, Judaism and society, society and Judaism, and anything remotely connected to such subjects.
In spite of the fact that hundreds and thousands of the Hesder yeshiva students are serving on the frontlines and in units that participate in the fighting and that provide logistical support, the frantic MK has turned to the Minister of Defense and the IDF Chief of Staff to demand that they draft into Operation Protective Edge all the reserve Hesder soldiers who have not yet been called up. He has an ongoing war with the Hesder yeshivot, and here is yet another opportunity for him to gain some points in his efforts to irritate them. The general's personal weapons are always ready: He can propose a new law! And we have already been told that he is evidently preparing a law to draft the Hesder soldiers for the next round of fighting.
The MK's favorite "baby" is the "Conversion Law." In spite of the heated operation going on in the south, the general is showing stark dedication to the cause and he does not relent in his efforts to promote the controversial law (or an equivalent government decision), now that it has passed its first reading in the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee of the Knesset. Even though he knows very well that the law will not increase the number of conversions in Israel if the Chief Rabbinate is opposed (which it is), he has nevertheless played a precious and desirable card: He has managed a legal operation which can weaken the power of the Chief Rabbinate and the existing religious Zionist system of conversion. Those who are in the know about constitutional and legal matters claim that what lies behind this proposal which seems so innocuous is a sophisticated operational objective: to open the conversion process to Reform and Conservative rabbis...
The "Operation Legislator" Program
Well, by methods which we cannot reveal here, we have received a list of laws soon to be proposed by this energetic MK. I cannot guarantee that all the laws will appear in the public realm soon, but we can assume that these ideas and other similar ones are waiting in the pipelines for the "right" opportunity. To tell the truth, I do not understand them all, and we might even agree to some of them, but the important thing is to get the overall picture. The goal is not merely anti-religious legislation but to penetrate deep into the entire realm of the traditions of Yisrael throughout all past generations.
(1) The Law of the Silent Mikveh Attendants: An attendant will be forbidden to ask the women who come to the mikveh anything, or to talk to them at all. Preference in hiring attendants will be given to women who are dumb or who have a speech impediment, or to women who do not speak Hebrew. Here is what is written in the justification for the law: "Some of those who come to immerse are single, and some even wear makeup, and so on."
(2) Shemitta Leftovers Sanitation Law: Every public institution will be prohibited from throwing the remains of any food into a "Shemitta garbage can." As is explained in the justification for the law, this is related to: ecology, sanitation, economics, sociology, and chareidization.
(3) Electrical Equipment Law: (also known as the Refrigerator Law) – It will be forbidden for a salesmen to show equipment with a special setup for Shabbat unless this is directly requested by the customer. As is explained, this is related to "personal rights."
(4) Daily Times Law: (In professional slang, this is known as the Rabeinu Tam and Magen Avraham Law) – This law prohibits publishing in calendars or otherwise publicizing the times of sunrise and sunset according to stringent opinions without also noting the more lenient times. From the explanation of the law: "We sense a trend of religious fanaticism and a search for exilic stringency."
(5) The Kitniot Law: In a "mixed" couple, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi (no matter which is which), "kitniot" (legumes) must be eaten on Pesach. As is noted, "It is unthinkable that the halacha or customs should be allowed to interfere with the behavior of modern Israeli society."
(6) The Women's Kiddush Law: This will require that in any weekly gathering where the Kiddush is recited a woman will perform the service every second week. As is noted in the reasons for the law, "Any comment is superfluous."
(7) The Mi Shebeirah Law: Every congregation that has at least twenty-five members, men and women, must recite the "Mi Shebeirach" prayer for the good of the IDF soldiers every Shabbat. Failure to comply will incur personal criminal responsibility and financial sanctions on the rabbi, the head of the community, the head gabbai, and the chazzan.
(8) The Wedding Loudspeaker Law: At any wedding where there is a loudspeaker system for the band, a choir, or the rabbi's sermon, the system must be used during the wedding ceremony and not turned off. From the justification for the law: "Radical elements have recently begun to turn off the amplifier out of a fear that the groom will hear the blessings recited by the rabbi both live and through the loudspeaker. Such stringency stems from a lack of enlightenment, and the only way to uproot it is through strong legislative action, together with strict enforcement.
Other proposals are being considered, but we have run out of room. (To be continued...)

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