Recently The Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel repeated the opinion of their predecessors, prohibiting the enlistment of women in to the IDF. The Rabbis’ instead suggest girls serve in the national service program.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid posted on his Facebook page that the Rabbis’ opinion was a national scandal and in essence a tone of how dare these state employees who enjoy a good salary as well as other publicly funded perks speak against women serving in the Israeli Military. Minister Lapid railed against the Rabbis’ opinion as an insult to all women serving in uniform and in particular to those women serving in command or in educational roles. Minister Lapid is so enraged that he pledged an all out campaign to oust the Chief Rabbis.
Though there have been some efforts to smooth over the relationship between Minister Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and the Chief Rabbinate what remains is quite disturbing. In the interest of full disclosure this writer identifies with Haredi Jewish practice and ideology, however my issue with Minister Lapid’s posting is more rooting in my capacity as an attorney.
In essence Minister Lapid asserted that as State Employees Rabbis Lau and Yossef should not and indeed inappropriate to express an opinion on a matter of Jewish Law that is contrary to State policy. Such an assertion offends basic tenants of democracy. Certainly Minister Lapid understands the independence of a democratic state’s judiciary is sacrosanct. An expectation that a Judge have his or her decisions be mere a rubber stamp of state policy, offends all principles of Justice... Among a Judge’s core duties is to tell the State when it is wrong. Indeed the notion of being a state employee as a basis for restraining a jurist’s judgments/legal opinions evokes images of tyranny, not democracy.
It cannot be denied a core function of the State Chief Rabbinate is the articulation of Jewish Law, Halacha particularly in public matters such as service in the IDF. To hold the Rabbis’ opinions hostage to their ideological compliance with those in power at the moment should be considered equally absurd being analogues to muzzling Supreme Justices’ in exercising their duties.
Further it is distressing that Minister Lapid has that profound degree of contempt for religion or complete ignorance about the fundamental aspects of any religion let alone Judaism. Perceiving the Chief Rabbis as being bought and paid for by the State and therefore they had better spin the Halacha to fit the State’s policies. Such an understanding of the Chief Rabbis is reminiscent of the Former Soviet Union‘s official Chief Rabbinate. The thought that Minister Lapid could make such statements and threats seriously calls in to question how committed he is to democracy.
The larger question is on the Rabbis affiliated with Minister Lapid’s party how they could remain affiliated with someone who holds such deep seeded disdain for Judaism? How could anyone religious or devoutly secular with even a modicum of understanding of democracy allow the Minister’s outlandish posting to stand?