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Archive for the ‘Halakha’ Category

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Holy Living in Human Bodies: 2010 Edward Bronfman Family Foundation Annual Lecture at Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, Israel. Part of the 2010 International Theology Conference, January 2010. Speakers were Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, Shalom Hartman Institute, Prof. Rusmir Mahmutehaji, University of Sarajevo, President, International Forum Bosnia, and Rev. David M. Neuhaus, SJ, Vicar for the Hebrew and Russian-speaking Catholic communities in Israel, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Opening remarks were made by Rabbi Prof. David Hartman. The moderator was Dr. Hami Verbin, Shalom Hartman Institute.

The Hartman Institute gratefully acknowledges the Bronfman family for supporting this annual initiative.

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I don’t usually mention the same column by Donniel Hartman twice, but clearly this issue is one that is not only not going away, it is heating up: In articles such as this one and this one, we are learning more about the rabbis who are preaching disobedience of orders that may occur in the IDF to participate in evacuations of illegal outposts and settlements and those who are struggling with the issue.

Donniel Hartman, in his latest column, referenced here and also below on this blog, has come out forcefully and clearly as to why this just cannot happen. And Donniel doesn’t just criticize, he, as usual, puts the matter into context and calls on all of Israeli society to engage in the deep and complex debate of how the Jewish religion must be intertwined – or not – with the political and civil life of the Jewish state.

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Donniel Hartman writes about how the Israeli army must limit the reach of the army rabbis, and how Religious Zionists must declare their loyalty to the State of Israel over the religious aspects of the Land of Israel:

A soldier may thus rationalize that if the army cannot command him to violate the Shabbat, and such a command is deemed illegal, it is even more evident to him that the army cannot command him to dismantle a settlement, as settling the land of Israel is deemed even more important than observance of Shabbat.

I therefore suggest the following practical direction: not only must the army be free from pursuing internal political debates, so too it must be free from any religious discourse outside of the private ritual practices of its soldiers. Every soldier must be told upfront and recognize that he or she must follow unquestioningly the orders of the civilian government of Israel and the laws that it enacts, and the military chain of command so long as those laws are legal….

Anyone serving in the army must swear allegiance to this principle. If they cannot, then they must be designated as conscientious objectors who are not allowed to serve. Religious Zionism and religious communities have thus a critical decision to make: If they believe that their commitment to the holiness of the Land of Israel is so central that it must override all other concerns and that the State has value only to the extent that it brings more Jews to live in more of the land of Israel, then they must declare up front their conscientious objection to serving in the army, and go the path of the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews.

Click here to read the full article.

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Israel – parts of it at least – promotes itself as the most tolerant country in the Middle East. Gays and lesbians have a freedom to live openly unheard of in the Arab world. Transsexual singer Dana International is a popular entertainer and TV personality. Yet… Yet… Late Saturday an unidentified shooter opened fire in a Tel Aviv club that provides a haven for gay teens and youth. Two are dead. Another 10 are wounded, some critically.

Mainstream and ultra-Orthodox politicians have risen to condemn the shooting. The Mayor of Tel Aviv pledged his city will remain friendly to and supportive of gays. Yet…there is often open talk in this country about how homosexuality is the root of many problems – even earthquakes!

Shalom Hartman Institute has made a point of being an open, pluralistic center that is a place where gay and Orthodox rabbis study together. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman has several times on our website condemned the hateful speech of anti-gay political and religious leaders.

Read his recent posts:

This summer in Jerusalem – heat and holiness
The ultra-Orthodox, gays and the future of Jerusalem
and one from last year: When an earthquake is not just an earthquake

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In a lecture this week to rabbis at Shalom Hartman Institute for the annual summertime Rabbinical Torah Study Seminar, Donniel Hartman mentioned that he had just finished a session with senior IDF commanders attending an ongoing program at Shalom Hartman Institute, the Lev Aharon program.

This program teaches Judaism, Jewish moral philosophy, and other related matters to senior officers of the IDF (majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels), in an effort to help them better understand their roles as defenders of the Jewish nation, and to explain the same to their soldiers, some of whom have rudimentary Jewish knowledge. The program is not about teaching kashrut, Shabbat observance, or ritual, but the historical, cultural, and moral underpinnings of the Jewish nation.

So, Donniel was saying how the officers were complaining that some religious soldiers are taking extreme stands on matters and, for example, are not willing to listen to a female singer during Army celebrations or ceremonies. Or, the commanders asked, what do we do when we go away for a unit retreat and some soldiers want single-sex swimming hours in the pool. Donniel said the commanders are struggling with such real, “tachlis” (detailed) conundrums.

It seemed to me that some of the rabbis in the room were skeptical that the situation was so complicated, or at least found it difficult to believe that such internal problems could occur in a Jewish army. I’ll admit, I thought so, too, to a degree.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw this article today on Ynetnews: Rabbi Eliyahu warns of rabbis who ‘kowtow to women’:

Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu warned this week of the rising prominence of the liberal stream in religious Zionism and slammed rabbis who “kowtow to women.”

During a Torah lesson he delivered on Monday, the prominent national religious leader spoke in length about the importance of observing chastity codes. He advised soldiers to cover their ears during military ceremonies that include women singing. “It’s better to go to jail than to obey the commander and hear a woman sing or play.”

….Eliyahu’s son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, also referred to the issue of women performing in military events. He commented on a recent statement by the chief education officer, who said religious soldiers must stay put during such ceremonies, despite the halachic problem.

“This order is clearly illegal,” said Eliyahu. “A person cannot be forced to go against the Torah. Today it’s singing, tomorrow it’s singing plus half naked women… a breach in such a question is like fire – you don’t know where it’s going to end.”

Just when you thought you had heard it all: “Today it’s singing…you don’t know where it’s going to end.” I don’t mean to make light: this is an important matter. Donniel did not say what he counseled the officers to do. But it is clearly a matter in which the Shalom Hartman Institute can play an important role in helping the jewish army of the State of israel remain both Jewish and democratic.

Hattip to the excellent blog, Religion and State in Israel.

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Haaretz reports on a conference on Judaism at Israel’s far north Kfar Blum, in which Shalom Hartman Institute scholar Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard, director of the Institute’s Be’eri program of Judaic studies for secular Israeli high schools,  offered an innovative way to break the deadlock for those Israelis who cannot marry under current rabbinical law and standards:

Picard proposed having marriages be carried out according to traditions associated with Noah in halakhic texts. Such partnerships, he says, would offer an alternative to partners who aren’t recognized as Jews.

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Four lectures about Serving God in the Jewish tradition by leading scholars of Jewish studies from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, pluralistic Jewish learning and leadership training. Soon on the Shalom Hartman Institute website.

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