Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Some 30 years ago, the Hebrew slogan was coined: "Medinat halakha - halkha hamedina," which means more or less that if Israel becomes a state governed by Jewish law, that will be the end of the state. Is the end near? It is coming.

Something like this has never happened before, even though it seems as if everything possible has already happened - two rabbis being summoned to a police investigation, and announcing that they will not go. Even settlers are kind enough to turn up. True, they are instructed to remain silent, to lead the police astray, but they show up. Rabbis, on the other hand, are even more important people, and if a rabbi is also a settler, there is no one with greater airs than he. Even after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the authorities dealt with the killer but left alone those who had killed wisdom.

Only rabbis permit themselves, with the authority of the Torah, to pass their sacred water in public without fear, and the police keep quiet about this, as do the attorney general and the head of the prosecution, and the legislators and law enforcers.

Not only have they not reported to the police, they are assembling communities of supporters - 250 of their species gathered last week to lend support to their colleagues, Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef, who have approved the book of abomination, "Torat Hamelech" (The King's Torah ) written by one Yitzhak Shapira from the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar.

This theological treatise is a kind of guide to the perplexed - when it is permitted to kill Gentiles in general and babies in particular, and all of this according to Jewish law. Even the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, who does not particularly like police investigations, has declared the rabbis who did not report to the police as being in the right.

At the conclusion of the gathering, rabbis from among the religious Zionists who, as civil servants, get their salaries from the taxpayer, had the following to say: "The moral values of the Torah have to be the moral code for the Israel Defense Forces ... Our holy Torah is not a subject for investigation or trial by flesh and blood." Even their colleagues from the holy city of Qom would have been hard pressed to produce a more enduring manifesto.

With this in mind, let us reexamine the meaning of certain terms:

"Rabbis" - Judaism has never been blessed with so many rabbis; how happy is this generation to have so many. No other country has such a rare and generous ratio of clergymen per capita.

"Find yourself a rabbi" [as the Mishna says] - so they find one, why not? Just so there should be someone. Any good-for-nothing can be a teacher for them and any charlatan who gets a number of students together is called a rabbi. It is not clear who has ordained him, and it is not clear whether the one doing the ordination is ordained to ordain, and according to which principles. It is easier to be a rabbi than a professor, and even that is not very difficult.

"Halakha" - If the Torah has 70 faces then halakha (Jewish religious law ) has 700. The sages said that everything can be understood on different levels and in different ways, and everything is included, and if one person has given an interpretation, another can come and overturn it. After all, there is no religious authority that is recognized and accepted by all in these times, to whom people listen and according to whom people act. The halakha says that any bastard can be a rabbi, and he can even give his own kashrut certificates in return for money. And the Chief Rabbinate in Israel is nothing but a depleted organ in a body that is bruised all over.

These masters of Jewish law act as if they have not heard of Shmaya, and contrary to his recommendations in the Mishna tractate "Avot" (Ethics of our Fathers ), they actually very much like the rabbinate. Their halakha looks the kingdom straight in the eye, and the kingdom is humiliated.