Thursday, March 02, 2017

Head Coverings for the Highest Judges!

By HaRav Yisrael Rosen
Dean of the Zomet Institute

“And these are the laws which you should put before them” [Shemot 21:1].
“ ‘Before them’ and not before idol worshippers... and not before laymen” [Gittin 88b].

Kippa Judgement

Shouts of joy can be heard in the national-religious community. Recently five new judges were chosen in Israel – four in the Supreme Court and one to serve as a regional judge. Three of them are religious (two men and one woman), and they can be recognized by their head covering . And according to reports, they all (?) lean more to the conservative side than to the liberal one. And in this way the Minister of Justice has fulfilled her promise to shake up the courts (and especially the Supreme Court) and make their leftist-liberal tendency more moderate. Our compliments go to the Minister for her energetic labors and her tenacity. And even if the new judges might not always provide “the goods” for the rightist nationalists, it is enough just to see how she was able to “twist the arm” of the existing President of the Supreme Court.

In our columns, we have commented regularly about the “leftist tendencies” of the Supreme Court of Israel. They have consistently turned their backs on nationalistic viewpoints, they made a religion out of the concept of equal rights, and they have maintained a close relationship with the ideas of post-Zionism. Today we will turn our gaze in a different direction: The challenge of “conquering” the Israeli justice system by judges (men and women) who are Torah observant. The ultimate vision of religious Zionism is for meaningful integration in all walks of life in the country. In Zomet Institute, we labor long and hard on the subject of fruitful halachic discussions which combine real-life situations and halacha. In thousands (!) of articles that have been published in the 36 volumes of “Techumin” (so far), we have set out a broad collection of essays encompassing such subjects as farming and economics, laws and government, medicine and science, family relationships, government and security, Shabbat and holidays, conversion, and the Temple. (See

In order to move from the realm of “writing” to practical action, the vision requires “live troops” – people in the field who will be absorbed in all walks of life and who will manage their lives according to the light of the Torah. We can thank G-d that our religious youths are taking on such a role, even if they are not always aware of its significance. In the pre-state era, religious Zionism made demands and succeeded in actively participating in such realms as settlement, security, absorption, and public administration. Today you can find hordes of people with head coverings and wearing skirts in medicine, academia, economics, the military, government, politics, the justice system – and in fact all over. I feel that in the legal system, and specifically among judges, there is a “goal of conquest” similar to the target of “military command posts” which has already been partially completed. The excitement of the media around the appointment of the newest judges strengthens my feelings about this “conquest,” even though this has never been declared as a formal target.

The Court System – Is this a Legitimate Target?

And this is the right time to point out a dramatic paradox. Anybody who has even a cursory knowledge of halachic literature is fully aware that the entire court system is given a derogatory name – “archa’ot ” (non-Jewish courts). See the quote at the beginning of this article. Many essays have appeared in Techumin in this context, starting with Volume 1 (Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, “Justice in the State of Israel and the Prohibition of Archa’ot”) and on through Volume 36 (Prof. Ron Kleinman, “The Attitude of Dayanim towards Civil Law and Court Rulings”). In the Chareidi and “Chardal” sectors, the civil courts are subjected to “shame by their enemies” [Shemot 32:25, referring to the sin of the Golden Calf]. Turning to the civil courts can be compared to “raising a hand against the Torah of Moshe” [Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin 26:7; Choshen Mishpat 26:3]. But now, wonder of wonders, the religious and Chareidi sectors are flocking to take on such roles as lawyers and are sitting on the benches in the courts, cheered on by their own colleagues.

Many years ago, Supreme Court justice Tzvi Tal (who was religious) reported that he had been given the blessing of the Rebbe of Chabad. Judge Kistner, who was close to the Chazon Ish, also reported that the rabbi encouraged him in his endeavor. Other judges who rose in the ranks also received the blessing of their rabbis and Chassidic Rebbes, from all the sectors. (Note that in the Torah anthology Emunat-Etyacha (published by Machon HaTorah V’Haaretz), an article by Rabbi Ariel Bareli was published recently - issue number 114 - which is quite stringent in this matter.)

Is this the Epitome of Hypocrisy? Absolutely Not!

I will dare to express an opinion here that has been bubbling up within me for many years, even though it may bring strong criticism. Without any doubt we can recommend that people involved in disputes should turn to the monetary courts based on halacha which have been established (Eretz Chemdah, for example, and many other similar courts). In spite of this, I cannot accept a declaration that a Jewish judge who rules according to Israeli civil law (either as accepted by the plaintiffs or if they were forced to go to court by law) can be considered as sitting “in a Gentile court.” I will give my details reasons for this at a later time... After all, this is not really “laws and behavior of the Gentiles,” but rather laws that were established by Jews living in Zion and as agreed to by the religious representatives. (See Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, “A Torah View of the Civil Laws of Israel,” Techumin volume 3.)

That is all I will say for today!

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