A Shabbos By Any Other Name

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The renaming of the national treasure of the Jewish people may prove to be a breach of kedusha (holiness) that will make the Gay Pride parade look like a Tehilim rally.

Unbelievably, it is the National Religious Party which is sponsoring a bill making Sunday a day of rest, and officially allowing some public transportation on Shabbos, as long as it is for entertainment and the like, rather than for ordinary work schedules. By adding an hour on to the work day the rest of the week, the bill also provides that Sunday should become a day of rest, giving observant families more time together, according to Zevulun Orlev, the bill’s sponsor.

The account in Haaretz (5/16; seems to have disappeared from the archive) is worse yet.

The name of the draft law is an eye-opener – “The Sabbath – a day of culture and rest.” The religious-Zionist rabbis are not proposing a religious Sabbath, or a holy Sabbath; they are seeking a cultural Sabbath, a Sabbath of rest. A stranger would not understand that the word “culture” is a rude word in certain religious contexts. The only time this word appears in the Bible is in the phrase, “the culture of people who sin.”…The contents of the draft law reveal it is strikingly distant from the world of religion. From the point of view of Jewish traditional law, there is no difference between desecrating the Sabbath by “industry, commerce and services,” by operating public transportation in “a vehicle whose capacity exceeds 12 places,” and desecrating the Sabbath in a manner of “culture, entertainment and leisure,” by having public transportation in a smaller vehicle. The rabbis are proposing to exchange the religious status quo for a new Israeli Sabbath arrangement, one not based on religious principles, content and norms…The rabbis of the cities and the heads of the yeshivas have taken it upon themselves to further an all-Israel agenda that is not a religious agenda. They have exchanged the aspiration for religious legislation with the aspiration for Jewish legislation that is not based on reasons that are basically religious…The inner core of the proposal shows us that the rabbis are interested in maintaining the Jewish face of the State of Israel even outside the framework of halakha. “Judaism” is also a unique culture as well as a national framework. “Judaism” is not merely the observance of the 613 religious precepts but also a system of social values, a social stance and a tapestry of joint historical memories. Halakha is a strong spice in a Jewish dish, but it does not say everything there is to say about it.

Orlev claims that his bill was drafted in conjunction with leading rabbis in his camp, and does not explicitly permit forbidden activities on Shabbos. It simply doesn’t mention them. Why would any rabbis go along with this? Haaretz’s analysis is possible, but not plausible.

Possibly, they have bought into the argument advocated by others that a half a Shabbos is better than none. Better to have secular Israelis connect to a ghost of Shabbos, than have no recollection of it at all. Furthermore, it is claimed, if Shabbos is a de facto day of work, it will be much harder to win back individual Israelis to observance. It will be much easier to promote Shabbos observance if it is at least a recognized non-work day.

This may or may not be true. Regardless, it comes at a price that we should not contemplate paying. Sometimes, changing a name hopelessly changes the character of its bearer.

Those of us privileged to know the beauty of Shabbos recognize its multifaceted blessings. Depending on our backgrounds, we may feel it as a time in which we refer all creativity to the Creator, instead of ourselves, as Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch explained it. Alternatively, we may sense the Divine influence flowing through conduits reattached to the world as they were during the process of Creation, as the Ohr HaChaim has it. There are other positions between these polls, but they all possess some understanding of Shabbos as a spiritual gift, predicated squarely on our sharing twenty-four hours in close association with and heightened sensitivity to our Creator. Without Him, it just doesn’t happen. When we hear others speak of Shabbos as social legislation to protect workers, or a day of ecological healing through our non-interference with Nature, we may or may not be sympathetic with their cause, but we know that it has little to do with Shabbos, and that they are hopelessly mangling its importance by getting it all wrong. There is no “cultural” Shabbos in our tradition. Create one, and it is no longer Shabbos.

What we call something, what we sense it is all about, is not incidental to its experience. Neither are its details. If, for lack of a shofar on Rosh Hashanah, we sound a trumpet instead, we have not fulfilled an incomplete mitzvah of shofar, but none at all. The American black ribbon for the mourner is not a partial kriah(tearing of a garment required by Jewish law) – it is a foreign gesture. Reading a Jewish book is no substitute for Torah study. There may be some value to it in increasing Jewish identity, but it does not occupy the same conceptual continuum as a blatt Gemara.

Even if the contemplated cultural Shabbos would have some intrinsic value, it would be forbidden to us to back it. I remember listening to Rav Dovid Cohen shlit”a field questions at an AJOP convention regarding attending family semachos at non-Orthodox shuls. Under certain circumstances, he leaned to allowing it. One of the exceptions, however, was a bas mitzvah held at age thirteen. By repudiating the Torah’s definition of majority, which comes a year earlier for girls, such a ceremony he said is a forbidden adulteration of Torah. Joining in it is a much more serious breach than giving the appearance of granting legitimacy to non-Orthodox innovations in customs of prayer.

Years ago, some Chabad menorahs (which arguably give a huge boost to Jewish consciousness and morale among the non-observant) were challenged by some local governments. In at least one law suit, a Chabad official argued that a public menorah ought to be tolerated for the same reason that a Christmas tree was acceptable. Just as Christmas has become a secular symbol apart from its religious origins, so has the menorah.

To many of us, that argument was a travesty of the nature of Chanukah, and should not be made, regardless of the cost. Turning Shabbos into a cultural expression is no different.

Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” What holds true for Shakepeare’s rose breaks down when applied to HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s Shabbos. Accept no substitutes

[Thanks to Yale Harlow]

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46 Responses

  1. HILLEL says:

    “Nivnu Oseh Risha, BochaNu E’ VaYemiLaTu”–Malachi

    The apparent success of evildoers did not impress the prophet malachi, and it does not impress me.

    The people of the Second Aliya were hard-core atheists–ReShaIm. People like BenZvi, BenGurion, Golda Mererson, etc. They were intent on creating a Torah-free ethnic-Jewish-nationalist-socialist enclave in Palestine, and they succeeded.

    Hundreds of thousands of religious Jews were brought into this atheist enclave and stripped of their religius heritage–outright Shmad!

    I find it hard to chracterize this as a success that should be celebrated–mourning is more appropriate.

    As to the the remarkable growth of the Torah community in Israel, it succeeded–against remarkable odds–only due to the stubborn mesiras nefesh of our Torah leaders.

    To this very day, the Torah community must fight to avoid being engulfed in the degenerate secular culture of the Zionist-atheists. see this article:

    (Note: this article is written by secularists who don’t like Hareidim, so you must read between the lines to get the true picture of the assault on the Torah community of Jerusalem)

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?c=JPArticle&cid=1181813042196&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

  2. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Hillel,

    This is exactly what Rabbi Adlerstein was talking about. The out of context passages you selected referred to Herzl’s thinking pre-Dreyfus. The Dreyfus affair completely changed Herzl’s world view. It didn’t make him frum, but it was the catalyst that drove him to seek a return of Jews to their homeland.

    Hadley writes about the effect the Dreyfus affair had on Herzl just a few lines after the section you quoted that, “…it caused Herzl to conclude that total assimilation of Jews was impossible, thus awakening his interest in the Zionist movement.”

    And this quote of yours is just untenable, “The religious community that lived in the Holy Land before the secular communists and atheists arrived, was much more beloved by G-D and, therefore, would have been much more instrumental in bringing the Messiah.”

    Did G-d tell you this Himself? If so, can you find out who’s going to win the World Series this year for me?

    I certainly don’t want to in any way denigrate the amazing people of the First Aliyah, but those “rabidly anti-G-D kibbutniks” met with an exponentially greater measure of success than did the earlier pioneers. A level of success that actually does fit into true prophecies. A success that paved the way for the greatest Religious Jewish presence in Eretz Yisroel since Churban Bayis Sheini.

  3. michoel halberstam says:

    In general, is is fair, I think, to say that any position which seeks to place the blame for everything on a particular group or philopsophy is really covering for another, hidden position which if it were revealed in its totality would be far less likely to withstand scrutiny that the simple, “These guys are no good” argument.

  4. HILLEL says:

    Menachem:

    You’re right. The Second (secular-Zionist) Aliya brought in many more Jews. But, in Judaism, quality is more important than quantity. Our Father Abraham fought 4 kings and their armies with a small band of men; ditto, the maccabees.

    The religious community that lived in the Holy Land before the secular communists and atheists arrived, was much more beloved by G-D and, therefore, would have been much more instrumental in bringing the Messiah. The arrival of the rabidly anti-G-D kibbutniks disrupted the process of spiritual rebuilding and prolonged our exile.

    To quote an unlikely source, “What can I do against the Tehillim of Rav Gertman (in Meah Shearim)”–King Hussein during the Six-Day War, 1967.

    p.s. As to your question, concerning Herzl’s advocacy of mass conversion to Christianity to solve “The Jewish Problem,” here is a good source of Herzl’s Europran-assimilationist philosophy:

    http://gainesjunction.tamu.edu/issues/vol4num1/dhadley/

    “Herzl’s assimilation theories and patriotism sometimes led him to extremes in thought. Around 1893 he envisioned appearing before the Pope in order to gain papal support against anti-Semites by promising to lead a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. Although he would remain Jewish, his would be the “final generation.”

    “He even imagined how it would happen “in broad daylight, on twelve o’clock of a Sunday, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, with solemn parade and the peal of bells.”12

    “This example of Herzl’s extreme assimilationist ideas is not so far removed from another thought which he recorded in his diary, where he compared himself to Shabtai Zvi, a seventeenth century Jewish messiah figure. Benny Morris pointed out that Herzl “even toyed with the idea that he [Herzl] was the Messiah.”

    “This incident is telling because the movement created by Zvi, called Shabbateanism, involved a great deal of antinomian practices including conversion to gentile religions. Zvi converted to Islam in 1666 and his follower in Shabbateanism, Yakov Frank, converted to both Islam and Catholicism.

  5. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Hillel,

    You have a source for Herzl’s offer to Pope Pius? I know that he presented his plan for a Jewish state to the pope, trying to gain his support, but your assertion sounds a little sketchy.

    Given the problems that frum Jews are having now with kids going off the derech it’s rather specious to make anything out of the fact Herzl’s children intermarried.

    You’re playing a little shell game with the numbers. Maybe a majority of pre-Herzl Jews were frum, but as of 1900 there were only around 50K Jews in Palestine. The second aliyah brought an additional 600K, mostly secular so it’s a bit disingenuous to say that “Herzl Zionsists simply transformed a religious majority into a secular one.” And to say that they had already begun to “rebuild the Holy Land” is a tad misleading. Of the 35K who made up the first Aliyah, about 1/2 ended up leaving. A few moshaving were started, many didn’t last.

    Herzl was far from the ideal man that we would have envisioned G-d using as vessel to accomplish this holy mission. But maybe that’s part of our problem. Maybe we need to stop expecting G-d to “behave” in ways we expect Him to.

  6. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Herzl’s “kids” did not convert. They all led horribly tragic lives. One of them, in the midst of his mental illness, went through a series of conversions looking for some solace. I remember a psych. prof once telling us that sometimes the most sane reaction to unbearable pain is to go insane. Those interested enough in the facts can read them at http://www.jafi.org.il/education/herzl/articles1.html

    Herzl did not propose mass coversion to the Pope, although he definitely entertained the notion himself.

    Herzl was brought up with no Jewish education, other than awareness of his identity. As we wrote years ago in these pages, his piece on the Menorah shows that there were several layers of stirrings in his heart for the Yiddishkeit he never got to experience. Rav Kook wrote a beautiful hesped for him, that gave credit where credit is due, without glossing over the faults or turning him into a malach. (This was not a knee-jerk pro-Zionist reaction of his. Rav Kook had only open contempt and disdain for Max Nordau.)

    Disclaimer: I used to be an anti-zionist, until I had to face up to the huge amount of revisionism and falsity that some people, including some of our commenters, seem to have to rely upon in order to make their case.

  7. HILLEL says:

    To Menachem:

    I understand where you’re coming from.

    But, Herzl also made an offer to the Pope to lead all the Jewish People to the baptismal font to become Christians.

    I guess you would explain away this incident as an act of “mesiras nefesh” for his fellow Jews–save them by killing their souls.

    And, in fact, Herzl’s own children took this very route in “saving” themselves.

    You ignore the fact that Jews had already begun to rebuild the Holy Land, in preparation for Moshiach, before Herzl. The RAMBA”N, the disciples of the GR”A and the disciples of the Baal Shem were there before Herzl was even born. The “Second Aliyah” of the secular Herzl Zionists simply transformed the religious majority into a secular one.

  8. joel rich says:

    Hillel,
    I am not debating secular zionism( though there’s certainly what to discuss) just responding to your original post concerning religious zionism.
    KT

  9. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Hillel,

    “In fact, Hertzl was quite ready to accept the British offer of African Uganda for his “Jewish”-ethnic state (maybe with Idi Amin as the first President).”

    This is the typical one-dimensional understanding of Herzl that emanates from a world-view which needs Herzl-type villains to justify its lack of action in the face of the open miracles that led to the creation of the modern state of Israel. Of course the “failure” of Zionism as people like Hillel see it is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy generated by their inability to fulfill their (our) destiny of filling the beautiful vessel the secular Zionists created with Kedusha. It was largely the Religious Zionsists, led by gedolim like Rav Kook, who were able to see this amazing potential and act on it.

    Yes Herzl was willing to accept Britain’s offer of a place in Uganda. This, after a visit to Russia where he saw what was about to happen to millions of Jews there. In our parlance we call this hatzalos nefashos, but of course in your view when a secular person attempts this its just reason for scorn. One of the cornerstones of Herzl’s First Zionist Congress was the establishment of a Jewish home in Eretz Yisroel. He saw Uganda as a stop-gap measure to save lives. Ironically, it was the Russian Jews who led the defeat of this proposal at the 7th congress.

    From a Torah perspective Herzl may have been flawed, but he was moser nefesh for clal Yisroel and only the spiritually blind can not see that he had s’yata d’shmaya in his efforts and vision.

  10. HILLEL says:

    To Joel Rich (part 2):

    Here is the real voice of secular Zionism today:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181228589620&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

    “…Burg with a distinct European flavor. As he told his interviewer, “I see the European Union as a biblical utopia. I don’t know how long it will hold together, but it is amazing. It is completely Jewish.”

    And explaining his vote, he expanded: “I am a citizen of the world. This is my hierarchy of identities: citizen of the world, afterward Jew and only after that Israeli. I feel a weighty responsibility for the peace of the world…”

  11. HILLEL says:

    To Joel Rich:

    Your comment is symptomatic of the confusion engendered by secular-nationalist Zionism.

    No, it is not the same as the yearning for a return to the Zion of our forefathers that we all pray for on Tisha BeAv. On that day, we pray for the opportunity to, once again, serve G-D fully, complete with the Bais haMikDosh, the Kohanim, and the LeviYim.

    Secular Zionism is a gentile-inspired nationalist movement that was created by a totally-secular Jew Theodr Herzl, at a time when all European nations sought to establish ethnic enclaves for themselves. It had nothing to do with a return to Zion or Judaism.

    In fact, Hertzl was quite ready to accept the British offer of African Uganda for his “Jewish”-ethnic state (maybe with Idi Amin as the first President).

    It was only at the vehement protest of the Eastern European Zionists that Herzl switched to Palestine as the “National Jewish ethnic Home.” They–corectly–understood that there would be little or no support among the Jewish masses for a Jewish home in Uganda, but there would be massive support for a home in the Holy land of Israel.

    It was all a cynical political and financial calculation–nothing to do with a yearning to rebuild Zion!

  12. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “I say this knowing that many of our yeshiva students, many close friends of mine, seem to think that it is fair to make such statements. In an age when everyone is makpid on every chumra, it would be wise, I think to let go of such rhetoric.”

    My sense is that the yeshivah world has developed and matured in its relationship with the media, and generally chooses its words with nunace and care in the more widely-published articles and public statements. While there sometimes may be a need to speak out on what charedi leaders consider to be a distortion of halacha or hashkafa(ideology), there is an effort made to avoid alienating people from other camps, both within and without Orthodoxy. Likewise, my sense is that responsible speakers and writers among Modern Orthodoxy, avoid the sterotyping or Haredi-bashing that one finds in some of the antagonstic secular-Jewish media.

    I agree that on the idividual level, or in an occasional editorial for an internal readership, there might not appear to be enough sensitivity to the impact of the article on the wider public. I think that there should be an effort made to make such writers or individuals aware that an intemperate and triumphalistic approach can lead to having a negative effect on the image of Torah community, especially in our internet and blog age.

  13. mycroft says:

    We made aliyah two years ago, and I can say B”H we’ve adjusted to no Sundays. And further, I’ve come to appreciate how a Sunday-Thursday workweek means some of my “spare day” is spent preparing for Shabbat – after all why else are we in this world, football Sundays?

    bECAUSE OF sHABBOS WORKS MUCH BETTER. Sunday-Thursday-leaves time for entertainment etc-but more important leaves ample time for Shabbos.
    Mon-Fri just won’t work-if one spends a couple of hours commuting which many religious working Israelis do-many live in Jerudalem and commute to TA area-busy enough as is-combined with pre Shabbos Traffic of people going for Shabbos would be impossible and add to chilul Shabbos.
    See the entrances and exits from Jerudalem any rush hour and see the Ayalon expressway zny rush hour.

  14. joel rich says:

    Hillel,
    You have an interesting view of history. Are you a zionist(one who pines for zion)? Do you say the kinot on the 9th of Av known as Zionides?

    Perhaps you protest the political parties in Israel involving orthodoxy?

    Perhaps your usage of wolf in sheep’s clothing was not well thought out since it implies a nefarious plot to destroy the sheep?

    KT

  15. michoel halberstam says:

    Regarding what kind of clothing religious zionism wears. It is clearly legitimate argument to qustion the wisdom or propriety of positions taken by the Mizrahi, as it is legitimate to question anyone’s decisions. It is not, to my mind, productive or even accurate to use language which suggests that the founders of religious zionism were deliberately, intentionally, and with malice aforthought creating a movement designed to undermined yiddishkeit, even though they knew it was wrong. Knowing who these people were casts grave doubt on the letimacy of such a position. I say this knowing that many of our yeshiva students, many close friends of mine, seem to think that it is fair to make such statements. In an age when everyone is makpid on every chumra, it would be wise, I think to let go of such rhetoric.

  16. sima ir kodesh says:

    The Charadei parties have caused tremendous hatred towards religion, when their lobbying is felt as zero compromise and we are #1. When every decision negates security, provisions for anyone outside of the charadei world, or lack of concern for 75% of the people, the animosity grows. What’s to be done? Our country must reflect Jewish values, but how to accomplish this, the solution has still not been found. Something inbetween UTJ & Mafdal, maybe. Or a constitution? Maybe!

  17. mycroft says:

    Years ago Rav Shlomo Riskin pushed the concept of making Friday the second day of the weekend. That way work could end a little earlier on Thursday for people and allow them to both prepare for Friday tiyulim and Shabbos on time. Why has no one considered this?

    There are many vusinesses in Israel that work a 5 day week-Sunday-Friday. Note the Tel Aviv Stcok Exchange is closed on Fridays as are many businesses tied to fololowing the same schedule. The TA stock exchange is closed Shabbos/ Yom Tov-Erev Shabbos, Erev Yom Tov,Purim Tisha Bav

  18. cvmay says:

    Lekakvod Rav Adlerstein,
    As been noted throughout the years, the gedolim of each and every political group are not always consulted upon legislative decisions. You can be sure that Harav A. Shapiro shlit”a did not encourage or give a green light to Orlev’s plan.
    The idea of having a Sunday will alleviate the stress, busy ness, & offer free time to connect with family, friends, great time for sports events, tiyulim, and leisure. Keep shabbos holy with the status quo of no buses, closed stores, malls, cultural places…. No person thinks of Sunday as a Christian rest day, its the second or last day of the weekend.

  19. Ellen says:

    We made aliyah two years ago, and I can say B”H we’ve adjusted to no Sundays. And further, I’ve come to appreciate how a Sunday-Thursday workweek means some of my “spare day” is spent preparing for Shabbat – after all why else are we in this world, football Sundays?

    When I first heard of this idea, adjusting the work week to create a Sunday, it was to alleviate the either-or for the average Israeli: observe Shabbat, or have a free day. As described above, referring to Sunday as a sabbath, and legitimizing some chilul Shabbat, this is not what many of us imagined.

    The NRP could do better. With this approach they’re giving the charedi sector some real ammunition against them, and the bill as described doesn’t encourage any growth on the average Israeli’s part. Instead it seems to be saying, “Please give us an American Sunday; the rest of you can do whatever you want.”

  20. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Baruch, have religious parties been good or bad for Judaism on balance? Was there some better political path religious communities could have taken to safeguard their interests?”

    I do not live in Israel, and do not know the political situation enough to suggest a specific course of action. If there was a perfect path, I think it would have been thought of by others. My sense is that, like many things, there are strengths and weaknesses in the parties. I pointed out that it is not only Mizrachi that has it’s weaknesses, which is concerning one end of the scale of balancing halacha and nationalism; I am an equal opportunity critic in that I point out weaknesses about erring towards the other pole as well :)

    There are also some people who tune out religion if it is associated with politics, no matter how balanced the position is, so that is an inherent weakness which needs to be minimized which I assume that they are aware of. However one wants to judge both charedi and daati-leumi parties, one should note that they at least attempt to satisfy conflicting needs based on their value system.

  21. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Was Shinui the anti-religious party a flash in the pan, or was it a logical reaction to a real threat, a reaction that we should expect to repeat itself?

    At time passes, religious Jews make up a larger part of Israel’s population and voting public. As a result, their political power increases. If Halacha requires religious Jews to force observance of Shabbat to the extent of their political power, then Chiloni (= non religious) Jews will have two options:

    1. Give up and obey laws they do not accept.

    2. Fight it to the full extent that democracy allows. This means another party like Shinui.

    Shabbat Shalom / Shavua Tov (depending on when you read this)

  22. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Let me clarify.

    Like it or not, in the eyes of the rest of the world, the Jewish State represents Jews and Judaism.

    Rabbi Bulman zt”l used to say that the Torah community could find no way to escape from several paradoxes in its relationship to Israel. One concerned religious coercion. On the one hand, it was a clear failure, and probably worse. It strained relationships with non-observant Jews beyond the breaking point. On the other hand, he argued, is it thinkable that after davening for two thousand years for a return to our homeland that the most visible and essential dimensions of Jewish life not be embraced by the State? Is a Jewish State without at least a pro forma acceptance of Shabbos anything but an oxymoron? As with the other paradoxes he mentioned, he could offer no solution.

    I agree with readers that the proposed bill may not necessarily lead to more chilul Shabbos than is already taking place. It may very well increase national shalom bayis, and diminish some friction. I simply don’t know. I have two objections to the bill.

    One is that as a representative of the Jewish people, the Israeli government is about to turn Shabbos into a man-made invention, rather than a day to honor Hashem. We could argue about the pros and cons of allowing governmental Shabbos restrictions to go unenforced, or even to be removed. But it is quite something else to rename Shabbos, to call it something that it is not.

    We are not always asked to stand up and tell the truth. Even then, sometimes we may not be allowed to lie. The Yam Shel Shlomo in Bava Kamma asserts that one may not misrepresent what the Torah says, even to save lives. (Note: contemporary poskim disagree as to whether the Yam Shel Shlomo is dispositive.) If terrorists approach a crowd and demand that all Jews step forward, halacha does not require them to do so. They may hide their identities to save their lives. Nonetheless, if asked directly whether they are Jewish, they may not deny their Jewishness, even to save themselves.

    The Jewish State might be able to turn a blind eye to Shabbos desecration, but it should not be able to lie about what Shabbos is.

    My second objection is that if the Israeli government will adopt such a bill, observant MKs must have no part in it. Their participation – certainly their sponsorshop – should be unthinkable.

    I cannot begin to imagine that Rav Avraham Shapira shlit”a would have anything to do with this. If he does, I will gladly eat my words.

  23. BY says:

    Thought experiment:

    What about a bill giving prostitution state imprimatur, which promised to reduce it in practice? Surely there is value in having society’s official position be against immorality.

    Even should chilonim compel the passage of a cultural Sabbath, misleading those who confuse Israel with Judaism, it would have been better had a party perceived as religious not proposed the compromize. I cannot say if it would be worth leaving a coalition and bringing down a government, though I suspect it would be, but the case is much worse here. There are potential benefits to the proposed arrangement, but that does not justify sending the message that Shabbos is negotiable.

  24. Garnel Ironheart says:

    There’s another solution which no one has suggested so far. A two day weekend with Sunday as the second day poses problems for the religious citizen as well. No preparing for that trip the day before, for example.
    Years ago Rav Shlomo Riskin pushed the concept of making Friday the second day of the weekend. That way work could end a little earlier on Thursday for people and allow them to both prepare for Friday tiyulim and Shabbos on time. Why has no one considered this?

  25. Josh says:

    Can someone please explain to me what is so bad about this? I am a religious Jew, pro shabbos and anti gay pride parade, but I really dont see what is so bad about this, and how it is so much worse than the gay pride parade! Our society is too work-a-holic, why not more family time and rest!?! Rabbi Adlerstein, I respect you very much, but I think you are blowing this out of proportion, unless someone can help me understand.

  26. Ori Pomerantz says:

    SM: part of the definition of an Orthodox Jew is someone who, whatever their personal practice, accepts that what the Torah dictates is what is required of them. In that we differ from all those who say that the standard alters from time to time. What is true on a personal level should be true on a National level.

    Ori: As you said, that’s the definition of an Orthodox Jew. Israel is not an Orthodox Jewish state. Most Israeli Jews do not observe that Shabbat, and there is no reason to believe they accept the authority of the Torah.

    Jacob Haller: Sometimes the psychology of one who resents Judaism (rather, how it’s portrayed by the media or by peer groups) is based on a search for meaning in life while those who remain “neutral” may not be easily moved by anything above and beyond workaday matters.

    Ori: You’re right, when it comes to people to resent Judaism for psychological reasons. It’s different when people resent it for being forced on them by law.

  27. Bob Miller says:

    Baruch Horowitz said, “On the other hand, one can also argue that the fact that all religious parties have, of necessity, entered the political arena”.

    Baruch, have religious parties been good or bad for Judaism on balance? Was there some better political path religious communities could have taken to safeguard their interests?

  28. Danny Rubin says:

    This bill is quite ironic in light of the reform movements continued adaptation of orthodox halachic nomenclature. Perhaps these 2 groups should form an identity crisis task force :-)

  29. Bob Miller says:

    There is a problem when a secular state dominated by secular Jews and recognizing no halachic or constitutional limits has been given the power to coerce in areas involving religious practice. That state then has the tools to coerce in favor of (for example) non-religion or anti-religion or a religion or philosophy other than Judaism. Even coercion it attempts, for some reason, in favor of Judaism can be carried out in a non-halachic fashion or cause a self-defeating backlash.

    I’d be interested to know what our major poskim, past and present, have said on this.

  30. Jacob Haller says:

    Ori’s comment

    “Would you rather have chilonim who are neutral, or who resent Judaism? Which do you think will be more receptive to Kiruv?”

    No cut & dry answer to that. Sometimes the psychology of one who resents Judaism (rather, how it’s portrayed by the media or by peer groups) is based on a search for meaning in life while those who remain “neutral” may not be easily moved by anything above and beyond workaday matters.

  31. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The identification of camps with political parties and agendas can itself cause problems. The day that an Orthodox rabbi acts as if votes for his camp are more important than halacha is the day he effectively ceases to be Orthodox.”

    That has been a criticism of the Mizrachi political party over its history. On the other hand, one can also argue that the fact that all religious parties have, of necessity, entered the political arena, using terms and labels like “Miflega Datit Leumit” or “Yahadut Hatorah”, which inevitable associate Torah with parochial groups and interests, has also led to problems, as far as the public’s perception of religious Jews and Judaism, although the parties try to minimize that effect. I think that the wedding of politics and religion in Israel in the first place, is a necessary evil, and is an issue for all religious parties, in different ways.

  32. HILLEL says:

    To Joel:

    The Zionist enterprise was always an anti-traditional revolutionary movement, intended to “normalize” the Jewish prople and turn them fro “A nation that dewlls separately ( with G-D) into just another gentile nation, like all the other nations in the world.

    Theodor Herzl, the creator of Zionist-nationalist idea, was a thoroughly assimilated Jew, completely ignorant of Judaism, who was shocked out of his complacency by the Dreyfus trial in France, which he covered as a reporter.

    As you may know, Herzl’s children married gentiles.

    Herzl’s idea appealed to the assimilated Jews of Eastern Europe, who yearned to get outf rom under the yoke of the “Rabbis.” Zionism was just another assimilationist movement, alongsode the socialists, Yiddishists, and communists. These movements swept the Jewish community after World War two.

    The religious-Zionists attempted to accomodate Judaim to Zionism–It never worked.

    The Mizrachi was the lead movement of the religious-Zionists. Although they had many good people in their midst, the trend was always accomodationnthrough compromise, similar to what is happening today with the Conservative-Jewish movement.

    Now, we are reaching the logical culmination of this process, and we see clearly where it has led.

  33. Tzioni says:

    So many tzadikim im pelz to the battlements on this!! How this change could hurt the observant is beyond my comprehension. On the other hand, it could result in huge shalom bayis within Eretz Hakodesh.

  34. SM says:

    The trouble is that legislation is such a blunt tool. If you aren’t going to enforce it, why have it at all?

    I think that, as Baruch Horowitz says, the State of Israel positions itself as a Jewish representative in the secular world. If that is right then – although the honey approach might (just might) work within Israel – that chance is less beneficial than dropping the keeping of Shabbat as part of the State’s legal obligations.

    We have an obligation to acknowledge the standard set in Torah as the ultimate standard. We might not reach that standard, but part of the definition of an Orthodox Jew is someone who, whatever their personal practice, accepts that what the Torah dictates is what is required of them. In that we differ from all those who say that the standard alters from time to time. What is true on a personal level should be true on a National level.

  35. Jewish Observer says:

    “Religious Zionism has always been a wolf in sheep’s clothing”

    – i think he is extolling religious zionism for having the tenacity of a wolf in its passion to effect change, while presenting itself with the gentleness of a sheep regarding how it interacts with opponent forces”

  36. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “However, legislation IMO, will never make someone realize the beauty of keeping Shabbos or of learning a blatt Gemara.”

    I agree that the goal of Shabbos legislation is not to directly influence secular Jews, certainly not in the short-run, and perhaps, not all, in a direct way. People have to want to keep Shabbos, and that is done by exposing people to the beauty of Shabbos, which the best legislation can not accomplish.

    Rather, I think that since the standards of the State of Israel are viewed by world Jewry as an official position on Judaism(that is why American groups, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, want their positions recognized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, for better or for worse), Jewry on a whole, takes a turn away from Torah towards Reform and assimilation, if Israeli public life doesn’t recognize Shabbos, on a public and official level. Therefore, one needs to recognize the actual Torah concept, not a humanly created one. Although the official recognition is only on the public level, in limited ways, and does not necessarily change or motivate people’s private life, there is a chance that by living in a Jewish State with authentic Shabbos and other Jewish concepts and values being acknowledged publicly, over generations, some people will increase their Jewish identity, actually become observant, or at the least, not become further assimilated.

    Jonathan Rosenblum made the point about the State of Israel conveying messages about Shabbos observance:

    “The battle over El Al’s Shabbos flights, despite the fact that El Al is no longer a national carrier and is well known to do preparatory work on Shabbos and to fly planes of its wholly owned subsidiary on Shabbos, shows a keen sensitivity to the messages conveyed to Israeli and world Jewry. Israel may not be in our eyes “the Jewish state,” and certainly not “the first flowering of the Redemption.” But it is perceived as “the Jewish state” by many Jews around the world. And so long as El Al is still perceived by many as Israel’s national airline, its flights on Shabbos convey a negative message about the sanctity of Shabbos to world Jewry…”

  37. Bob Miller says:

    It seems to me that “Comment by HILLEL — June 8, 2007 @ 9:43 am” was meant to convey that the R in RZ is secondary to the Z, and that RZ will always follow plain Z at crunch time.

    1. That may not always be so, but we have seen many examples over the years.

    2. While Z holds the State in high esteem, the State has increasingly abandoned Z. This is a big challenge for RZ that calls for new thinking, but I haven’t seen much of that.

  38. joel rich says:

    Hillel,
    Perhaps you might expand on your comment, as it stands it is a bit too pithy for me to fully understand.
    KT

  39. Harry Maryles says:

    Wrote about this issue on my blog:

    http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2007/06/earthquake-in-israel.html

    I tend to agree with you but as is Steve Brizel, I’m a bit torn on the issue. The truth is that sometimes the ends DO justify the means.

    It is possible that by changing the law from one which mandates Halachic observance of Shabbos to one which is silent on the Halachic observance it… that there will be no increased Chilul Shabbos. Those who want ton be Mechalel Shabbos now, nothing stands in their way. The net result might be more Shabbos obervance.

    How so? Many secular Jews who were turned of by the “coersion through legislation of the rabbis” …will no longer be. They may then become more receptive to observance. In effect it changes from a vinegar approach to a honey approach.

    I’m not discounting your point at all. As I said I tend to lean toward it for the same reasons you do. All I’m saying is that I do not believe it is a totally black and white issue.

  40. HILLEL says:

    Religious Zionism has always been a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    Note that it religious ZIONISM, not Zionist JUDAISM.

  41. michoel halberstam says:

    The issue is not what the halacha says about this, since that should be clear to everyone. However, it does appear naive, at the least, not to realize that in the world in which we live, which seeks to pit those who believe that Yahadus is a faith, indeed the faith that justifies our existence as a people, against those who have bought into the general world view that faith is an annoyance, a hindrance or at best a “lovely” artifact. In such a world we are witness to the ultimate Eis Laasos LaHashem. Before we express extreme opinions, it bears remembering that what matters is what this generation will leave to the next. I for one have yet to be convinced that there is such a simple answer as the one given here.

  42. Steve Brizel says:

    I am torn about this bill. In an ideal world, we would be able to have a Jewish state that is composed of citizens who all accept Shabbos and see no need to work on Sunday and are all willing to accept all of the halachos of personal status such as kiddushin, gittin, etc. I think that there should be halachic control over all issues of personal status to the point where this is enforced by some sort of status quo and legislation. However, legislation IMO, will never make someone realize the beauty of keeping Shabbos or of learning a blatt Gemara.

  43. Bob Miller says:

    “Orlev claims that his bill was drafted in conjunction with leading rabbis in his camp.”

    Do we know the names of these rabbis? Do we know if any other rabbis in his camp dissented, and, if so, who they are?

    The identification of camps with political parties and agendas can itself cause problems. The day that an Orthodox rabbi acts as if votes for his camp are more important than halacha is the day he effectively ceases to be Orthodox.

    On the main topic: “half a loaf is better than none” thinking has been the defining idea of the Conservative movement, which has predictably led to its decay and decline.

  44. Calev says:

    A serious miscalculation by the NRP.

  45. Ori Pomerantz says:

    There are other positions between these polls, but they all possess some understanding of Shabbos as a spiritual gift, predicated squarely on our sharing twenty-four hours in close association with and heightened sensitivity to our Creator. Without Him, it just doesn’t happen.

    Therefore, chilonim (non observant Jews) who don’t accept the Creator or the Torah are not going to observe Shabbat anyway. The only issue that this law addresses in relation to them is if those who don’t have access to cars will feel they are stuck at home or not.

    Would you rather have chilonim who are neutral, or who resent Judaism? Which do you think will be more receptive to Kiruv?

  46. Joel Rich says:

    If all is as reported, it seems there are 2 drachim here – try to influence our not yet observant brothers and sisters by maintaining “our” legal definition of shabbaton the books but let the rest of the society in actuallity do as they please (current status quo) or try to influence the general society to something closer that keeps them from falling away totally by allowing “on the books” definition to be changed. One could argue either case, aiui current trends (which are not necessarily the acid test) indicate that the former approach doesn’t seem to be working particularlly well, don’t know if the proposed one will but that’s a matter for those on the ground to decide
    KT.