Thursday, July 14, 2016

Religious, Educational, and Cultural Services according to Sector

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen 
Dean of the Zomet Institute

"And Bilam raised his eyes, and he saw Yisrael, dwelling by tribes, and the spirit of G-d came upon him" [Bamidbar 24:2]. "He saw each and every tribe dwelling alone, without any intermingling" [Rashi].

The Vision of Tribal Sectors

I have been dreaming for a long time of a vision of the tribal Jewish state, as was seen by Bilam, the hero of this week's Torah portion. "Each and every tribe dwelt alone, without any intermingling." And then – "the spirit of G-d came upon him." (See above quotes.) In the book of Bamidbar, the nation of Yisrael is organized tribe by tribe, "every man in his camp and every man at his banner" [Bamidbar 1:52], in an ideal Divine structure. In coming Torah portions we will read about independent geographic areas for each tribe. And there we have it – a challenge for all the generations and for the current generation in particular.

We have heard from Rabbi Chaim Vital, one of the most prominent masters of Kabbalah, that "in this matter my mentor (that is, the ARI) told me that in heaven there are twelve windows, for each of the twelve tribes, and each one sends its prayers through a specific gate that is dedicated to that tribe. And that is the secret of the twelve gates which are mentioned at the end of the book of Yechezkel."

This idea is close to my heart, but I will make do for now with a minimal separation into two segments and not twelve – separating between Sephardim and Ashkenazim. At this point we will not go into finer detail in each and every sector, such as Yemenites versus Hungarians, Tunisians and Americans, Ethiopians and Russians, and so on. Actually, if we go into great detail we can find twelve subcategories within each tribe, as is explained in a "Chavalah" book which is attributed to young disciples of the Holy ARI. Let me emphasize that I have nothing against multi-sector integration as such, heaven forbid, or "mixed marriages" organized without the help of a matchmaker (this has happened to some of my best friends, and even in my own family...). However, it is important for us to recognize that the nation of Yisrael is oriented towards the concept of tribal existence, and the description that "they do not mingle" is the most blessed and dominant theme in their existence.

Separation – Here and Now

Even though this principle cannot be widely implemented at present, we can at least start with matters pertaining to religion, culture, and education. Everybody who reaches the age of 18 will be required to define himself or herself: Sephardi or Ashkenazi? As far as the products of "mixed marriages" are concerned, I propose that every person be given the right of a free choice, without setting up in advance if the child follows the mother or the father. That is, within a single family it will be possible to have brothers and sisters living together who are not all from the same "tribe." Are we a single unified nation or not?

As an offshoot of this basic understanding, it will be necessary to strive with all our might (?) to establish two separate educational systems for all school grades, especially within the religious achools. (This corresponds to the spirit of the "Biton Committee," which recommended to appoint Sephardim to fill at least half of the positions on the Council for Higher Education – the "Malag." Actually, I have a much more efficient proposal – two separate committees should be established.) As it happens, such a solution will solve in a flash all of the scandals of Ashkenazi schools which refused to accept Sephardi girls, and it will automatically block elected Shas leaders from sending their children to Ashkenazi schools, something that will make their voters very happy.

The next move will be to establish two Culture Ministries, one led by Minister Regev, the Sephardi, and the other one led by a man or woman from among the Russians, who are well known for their cultural sensitivity. And here is the crowning peak of all of these suggestions: Both locally and nationally, there will be two separate Chief Rabbinates, two Religious Councils, and separate mikavot staffed by twin attendants, and of course separate cemeteries (if that is too complicated, then there will be separate areas). I am still not sure what to do about the burial of a mixed couple. And last but not least, laws will be passed to institute two separate kashrut authorities!

And here is the "cherry" to top it all off – There will be dual rabbinical court systems, both regional and for appeals, all staffed strictly along tribal lines. This will be a fulfillment of the vision of our sages: "How do we know that every tribe had its own judges? It is written, 'Judges for your tribes'" [Sandhedrin 16b]. Quoting this passage in the Talmud suggests to me another extension of the idea. There should be a separate police force for each sector, in accordance with the continuation of this passage in the Talmud: "How do we know that every tribe had its own enforcement officers? It is written, 'Officers for your tribes.'" [Ibid]. Should this perhaps be expanded to include Magen David Adom, the fire brigades, and establishing separate prison facilities? Time will tell how far we will go with these ideas...

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