The Dangers of Comparing Israeli Judicial Reform to the Greatest Catastrophes in Jewish History

August 17, 2023 | Meir Soloveichik
About the author: Meir Soloveichik is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. His website, containing all of his media appearances, podcasts, and writing, can be found at

On July 24—the sixth day of Av, on the Jewish calendar—the Knesset passed a law limiting the ability of the Supreme Court to interfere with ministerial appointments and decisions. Opponents of the reform immediately drew parallels to the upcoming fast day of Tisha b’Av, the ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two Temples and various other national catastrophes. Meir Soloveichik comments:

[T]he rabbis of the Talmud connected the Ninth of Av to one other day in Jewish history—one that was not a moment for weeping, but in which Jews wept all the same. It was around the Ninth of Av, they tell us, that scouts sent by Moses returned from the Holy Land to Israel’s desert encampment and described the challenges facing the people in conquering and settling the site promised to Abraham.

The Israelites wept as they heard the testimony of the spies, unable to see the incredible opportunity awaiting them. According to the Talmud, God told Moses that though Israel now was engaged in an unreasonable act of mourning in failing to see the gift that the Holy Land embodied, in the future the Ninth of Av would be a day on which true tragedies would be remembered.

If those who suffered in the events marked on the Ninth of Av would have been shown images of our own age—a united Jerusalem featuring a Jewish government, a Judean desert in bloom, and Jewish homes rebuilt throughout the Holy Land—they would have rejoiced at this vindication of Jewish yearnings. And if they would have been told that during all this, the parliament of the Jewish state would then vote to limit the ability of a Supreme Court to pronounce administrative decisions as “unreasonable,” their awe would not be diminished by an iota, no matter the flaws or virtues of this vote.

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