A Biblical Case for Ending the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Monopoly on Kosher Supervision

For most of Israel’s history, the chief rabbinate has held a government-enforced monopoly on certifying that restaurants and other places where food is produced are kosher. But, largely in response to allegations of corruption and favoritism on the part of the chief rabbinate and its approved supervisors, a number of rabbis have begun granting kashrut certification outside the official system. Now Tzohar—an Orthodox organization founded to challenge the chief rabbinate’s positions on marriage and divorce—has joined in this effort.

Eliezer Melamed, an influential rabbi and no one’s idea of a religious liberal, defends Tzohar’s efforts by appealing to traditional texts to argue that halakhah admits, and in fact encourages, a sort of federalism. Thus the council of elders Moses convenes in Numbers 11—traditionally understood as the precursor to the Sanhedrin, or supreme rabbinic council—is a representative body, with elders drawn from each tribe. And just as, in ancient Israel, different tribes were autonomous units that operated their own rabbinic courts, so, too, Melamed argues, different segments of Israeli society—the modern equivalent of tribes—should be allowed their own rabbinic authorities. He explains:

“Appoint yourselves judges and officers for your tribes in all your settlements that God your Lord is giving you, and make sure that they administer honest judgment for the people,” [commands] Deuteronomy 16:18. The sages say in [both] the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds, “It is a mitzvah for every tribe to judge its own tribe” (Makkot 1:8 and Sanhedrin 16b, respectively). According to the reading of Moses Naḥmanides (ca. 1194-1270), it’s possible there may even have been a commandment to appoint a high court or Sanhedrin for each and every tribe with certain powers over members of that tribe. . . .

Today, the [Jewish] nation is divided into ethnic groups [e.g., Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizraḥim, etc.] and circles united by ideology [e.g., secular Jews, religious Zionists, Ḥasidim, etc.]. . . . Torah scholars of one sector or group must not disqualify the scholars of another, so long as they are loyal to the Torah and its commandments. And even if a sector’s halakhic opinion is unacceptable to the majority, it is forbidden to disqualify their position regarding what they rule in their own communities, . . . and their opinions must be considered [in discussions of jurisprudence]. . . .

[W]hen groups and institutions try to impose their opinion on members of another circle, and attempt to deny the authority of their rabbis and prevent them from serving as rabbinical judges or in other positions controlled by chief rabbinate, [as has happened in several instances], we are no longer speaking of a situation where the rabbis of Tzohar may establish a kashrut organization, but rather a situation in which it is almost obligatory for them to establish one . . . in order to give . . . expression to their portion in the Torah.

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Read more at Israel National News

More about: Halakhah, Hebrew Bible, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Judaism in Israel, Kashrut, Religion & Holidays

 

By Recognizing Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan, the U.S. Has Freed Israel from “Land for Peace”

March 25 2019

In the 52 years since Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, there have been multiple efforts to negotiate their return in exchange for Damascus ending its continuous war against the Jewish state. Shmuel Rosner argues that, with his announcement on Thursday acknowledging the legitimacy of Jerusalem’s claim to the Golan, Donald Trump has finally decoupled territorial concessions from peacemaking:

[With] the takeover of much of Syria by Iran and its proxies, . . . Israel had no choice but to give up on the idea of withdrawing from the Golan Heights. But this reality involves a complete overhaul of the way the international community thinks not just about the Golan Heights but also about all of the lands Israel occupied in 1967. . . .

Withdrawal worked for Israel once, in 1979, when it signed a peace agreement with Egypt and left the Sinai Peninsula, which had also been occupied in 1967. But that also set a problematic precedent. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt insisted that Israel hand back the entire peninsula to the last inch. Israel decided that the reward was worth the price, as a major Arab country agreed to break with other Arab states and accept Israel’s legitimacy.

But there was a hidden, unanticipated cost: Israel’s adversaries, in future negotiations, would demand the same kind of compensation. The 1967 line—what Israel controlled before the war—became the starting point for all Arab countries, including Syria. It became a sacred formula, worshiped by the international community.

What President Trump is doing extends far beyond the ability of Israel to control the Golan Heights, to settle it, and to invest in it. The American president is setting the clock back to before the peace deal with Egypt, to a time when Israel could argue that the reward for peace is peace—not land. Syria, of course, is unlikely to accept this. At least not in the short term. But maybe someday, a Syrian leader will come along who doesn’t entertain the thought that Israel might agree to return to the pre-1967 line and who will accept a different formula for achieving peace.

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More about: Donald Trump, Golan Heights, Israel & Zionis, Peace Process, Sinai Peninsula, Syria