Contributed by Doron Beckerman
לְדָוִד בָּרוּךְ ה’ צוּרִי הַמְלַמֵּד יָדַי לַקְרָב אֶצְבְּעוֹתַי לַמִּלְחָמָה:
(1) To David. Blessed is Hashem, my Rock, Who trains my hand for battle, my fingers for war.
[Every victory I accomplish in war does not come from the strength of my hand, for Hashem is He who trains my hand in war (Metzudos). May this strength and prowess be dedicated to the fulfillment of His will. It is solely for this purpose, and not out of vain lust for fame, that I cultivate these skills (Hirsch).]
חַסְדִּי וּמְצוּדָתִי מִשְׂגַּבִּי וּמְפַלְטִי לִי מָגִנִּי וּבוֹ חָסִיתִי הָרוֹדֵד עַמִּי תַחְתָּי:
(2) My loving-kindness [whatever skill and achievement I can call my own is all a generous gift of His loving-kindness (Hirsch)] and my fortress; my tower and my deliverer. My shield, and in Him do I take shelter; He who flattens nations beneath me (Radak).
ה’ מָה אָדָם וַתֵּדָעֵהוּ בֶּן אֱנוֹשׁ וַתְּחַשְּׁבֵהוּ: אָדָם לַהֶבֶל דָּמָה יָמָיו כְּצֵל עוֹבֵר: ה’ הַט שָׁמֶיךָ וְתֵרֵד גַּע בֶּהָרִים וְיֶעֱשָׁנוּ: בְּרוֹק בָּרָק וּתְפִיצֵם שְׁלַח חִצֶּיךָ וּתְהֻמֵּם: שְׁלַח יָדֶיךָ מִמָּרוֹם פְּצֵנִי וְהַצִּילֵנִי מִמַּיִם רַבִּים מִיַּד בְּנֵי נֵכָר: אֲשֶׁר פִּיהֶם דִּבֶּר שָׁוְא וִימִינָם יְמִין שָׁקֶר:
(3-7) Hashem! What is man that You should know … Read More >>
The Nation of Israel and Operation Protective Edge Uri Shachter – Deputy Brigade Commander Nachal (Res.)
After almost a month of fighting in the Gaza Strip, with all the reactions, I find it important to clarify to the Nation of Israel that we won, decisively. Both from a military and civilian point of view, we have been victorious. From a military perspective we can begin the victory parades. Hamas is on the ropes, the most they are able to do is poke their heads out of their hidey-holes for a second to declare victory (until it gets struck by the next missile). They are unable to rearm from Egypt (something they were able to do with a free hand during the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood). For years Hamas has been building tunnels beneath our towns to use to attack them and we have been able to destroy all the tunnels. Every military goal Hamas set for itself has failed, on land, in the air and by sea.
So why are we giving them the idea that they won?!
Every contact with the enemy resulted in our overwhelming victory.
Every town we wanted to conquer, we conquered within a … Read More >>
by Harvey Tannenbaum
Shavua Tov to the world.
I looked back at my clock which flashed back to 2002. We drove to Kiryat Arba for the PTA meeting at the Ulpana where our oldest daughter was a high school student. The drive from Efrat was always an extra careful one due to the risks of a terrorist in his car waiting for the Jews on highway 60 during those years. We made our rounds with the teachers to hear the reports of how our daughter was doing in the school year.
We sat with Michal Sar El, one of her teachers, who smiled and had such warmth and excitement to share the ‘status’ of our daughter’s learning in the Ulpana of Kiryat Arba. Michal was Orit’s ‘Israeli literature’ teacher.
On Friday afternoon, we received the news that Benaya Sar El, 26, an officer of Givati brigade was killed during the Kerry/Obama/Dim Son Moon UN/ Bibi cease fire on Friday morning in Gaza. The name rang a bell in our heads, and it was not until our oldest daughter called to confirm that Benaya was her teacher’s son from Kiryat Arba. Benaya was killed by the suicide bomber terrorist who … Read More >>
by Asher Brander
As of last Friday, no soldiers had fallen. Now we have 32 korbanos. Hashem Yerachem
In a trip that started out for us with chasunos, we and the whole country are busy with shivas and levayas – even as one can not fail to acknowledge the revealed miracles of this war, B’chasdei Hashem.
There are almost no words of machlokes to be heard. People are packing anything (energy bars, tissues and t-shirts) and everything to send to the soldiers. Tehillim is said across the spectrum. Chassidishe Rebbes are “holding tish” in Gaza.
By now, most have heard the story of Max Steinberg – a free-spirited young man who hesitatingly came to Israel in 2012 on Birthright with his siblings, was touched in a profoundly personal and deep way, decided that this was the country of his calling, fought to get into Golani and fought and died in Gaza on that bloody Sunday this past week where we lost 13 beautiful young men. On Wednesday, among tens of thousands, we attended his funeral.
One wonders: How does a secular young man with almost no Jewish education, who barely knew hebrew, merit to have a funeral with aza … Read More >>
by Shaya Karlinsky
We have been witness to an increasing number of depressing revelations about Rabbis acting inappropriately towards women they have been counseling or educating. I have no intention of discussing any specific case. I would like to discuss a pattern that is all too common in these cases.
In response to accusations of improper behavior by Rabbis with female students or congregants, lots of well-meaning people come to the defense of the accused. These people will vouch for his tremendous integrity, meticulous observance of all appropriate boundaries in every interaction they ever experienced or witnessed, and the life-changing advice and counseling they or their friends received from the accused. Since, if and when breaches of ethical and Halachic behavior happen, they happen “behind closed doors,” the only way to verify the accusations is for victims to provide detailed testimony of what they claim happened. Frequently, the victims themselves are troubled individuals, or were having some specific emotional crisis which can make them vulnerable to advances from the predator, while compromising their credibility as plaintiffs or witnesses. People can become easily swayed and confused when weighing claims of somewhat unreliable plaintiffs/witnesses against the claims and testimony of obviously … Read More >>
Contributed by Doron Beckerman
Psalm 140 May Have Never Been More Apt
למנצח מזמור לדוד: (1) To the conductor. A song of David.
חלצני ה’ מאדם רע מאיש חמסים תנצרני: (2) Extricate me, O Hashem, from a wicked person. Protect me from a man of depravities.
אשר חשבו רעות בלב כל יום יגורו מלחמות: (3) Who scheme evil in their heart; every day they have war within their dwelling places (Rashi).
שננו לשונם כמו נחש חמת עכשוב תחת שפתימו סלה: (4) They sharpen their tongue as a snake; venom of vipers is constantly under their lips (as they foam at the mouth spewing their rhetoric; Radak).
שמרני ה’ מידי רשע מאיש חמסים תנצרני אשר חשבו לדחות פעמי: (5) Keep me, Hashem, from the hand of an evildoer, protect me from a man of depravity; those who scheme to make my steps falter (and fall into their traps; Malbim).
טמנו גאים פח לי וחבלים פרשו רשת ליד מעגל מקשים שתו לי סלה: (6) The haughty have set snares before me, and cords. They have spread out nets on the pathways on which I tread. They have incessantly placed stumbling blocks before me (even after multiple failures, … Read More >>
by Michael Broyde
The Supreme Court has spoken again on the place of religion: last week the Supreme Court decided (5-4) that closely held private corporations as well as individuals are not bound by the administrative rules of the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] that mandate contraception be provided as part of one’s Employer’s insurance plan. Furthermore, the Court did not mandate this result on any constitutional grounds, but purely based on the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act and its progeny. In essence, the Supreme Court held that the administrative regulations proposed by HHS violate a prior act of Congress. Although the Court does not say so explicitly, it is fairly clear that not a single justice (and certainly not five) would have any difficulty reaching a different decision if Congress were to change the laws protecting religious freedom.
Understanding the Historical Path of the Law here is Important.
This decision is yet another in a long line of religion cases that has left our law and jurisprudence somewhat confused. Here is a brief review that might help us understand. The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us simply that “Congress shall make no law respecting an … Read More >>
by Asher Brander
We have rented their upstairs apartment and they are our super-gracious hosts.
He is a pashute baalabos (a simple working man) – the gabbai of a swift and small shul that runs like clockwork. She hails from Buffalo, grew up on a farm, and has been in Israel for over 50 years; He is a relative new-comer of about 48 years from Glasgow, Scotland – who has shed his kilts, but still sounds the part.
He saw action in the YK war and beyond. On average, during his tour of duty during the war he clocked 2000 kilometers a week looking for Egyptian paratroopers in the Sinai Desert. They got ’em all.
A few nights ago, I walk into a scene out of the 1950’s – he is in the kitchen – listening to the news by the radio. It is not great news. False rocket fire alarms in Mevasseret and Beit Shemesh. By now, practically the whole country knows the feeling.
Simple and smart, he talks about just opening both our eyes to see the miracles all around us. He means it. I probe and ask what he has in mind:
“If only we learn … Read More >>
by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman
If you are seeking from me words of comfort and consolation you will not find them. If you are reading this in order for you gain some sort of insightful understanding of the tragic events then I advise you to stop reading. This missive will not be one of comfort and consolation. If you are looking at me as the rabbi who undoubtedly has the proper response and is able to theologically articulate and make sense out of the tragedy, then you will be utterly disappointed. I have no words of comfort. I offer no consolation. I have no insight and no comprehension. I am numbed and I am left wondering and wandering in my grief and my loneliness. I cannot see the ‘good’ in this and I cannot comprehend the ways of the creator and certainly not of some of His creations. I cannot and hope to never be able to understand how a human being can murder three innocent human beings with the justification that they are following the word of their (imaginary) ‘god’? I cannot fathom the level of cruelty and savagery a person must lower themselves to in order to … Read More >>
By Alexandra Fleksher
Just before Shavuos, women in Cleveland, Ohio, got together to attend a panel discussion entitled, “Supporting our Husbands who are Working: Supporting him, Supporting you.” The panelists, in their 20s and 30s, were diverse, representing working women, stay at home moms, wives of men who learned full-time for years, wives of men who never learned in kollel, ba’alos teshuvah, and Bais Yaakov graduates. Their goal was singular: to provide personal insights into what it means to support our husbands who spend most of their day at work in the outside world, yet who make time for Torah study.
Girls are well prepared to marry boys who are learning. From Bais Yaakov to seminary, the ultimate “Torah life” espoused is one that is immersed in the kedusah and growth-oriented atmosphere of the kollel lifestyle. “Good girls” date and marry boys who are in yeshiva and “good boys” are immersed in full-time study. Yet while the highest ideal may be to marry a man with aspirations to learn Torah full-time for as long as possible, the reality is that most of these men do not continue to learn long term. Most leave the precious halls of the beis … Read More >>
by Dan Butler
The various news and social media have been crowing about the “modern Orthodox” 12-year-old who appeared last night on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT. This little caricature of the caricature “Jacob”-a painfully embarrassing and seldom funny woman playing a bar mitzvah boy on Saturday Night Live-told a few foul “jokes” to the utter delight( tinged with shock) of the crowd. By any objective standard, neither the kid’s delivery nor his material would have made the grade if he were not a 12-year-old wearing a KIPA. Getting prominent play for how supportive they are, his father- also sporting a yarmulke on stage, and his mother, who could not have appeared more delighted if she were at her son’s medical school graduation, were just so obviously proud. It would have been a cringe- worthy display under any circumstances. But, assuming that they are not just very savvy Gentiles(and bad parents), who just used the device of a yarmulke to get a leg up on the competition, I find their identification as “modern Orthodox” appalling.
I am modern Orthodox.
Want to know what that means in my world? It means we adhere to an age-old tradition with as little compromise … Read More >>
by Yaakov Rosenblatt
One year ago, on June 14, 2013 daredevil Nik Wallenda crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge, in Rocky Mountain, CO, walking high above the span on a two inch cable. The canyon below was 1500 feet deep. The length of the rope was over a quarter mile. The shoes he wore were leather moccasins, hand stitched by his mother. The soft skin let him feel the cable with the bottom of his feet, heel to toe, as he rose and fell with its gentle flow. He carried a balancing rod across his back, weighing 45 lbs. and spanning 12 feet. He shifted the bar from side to side, slightly at first, more and more as the winds picked up. He walked steadily and deliberately and prayed as he walked. A number of times, the strong winds forced him to stop and crouch close to the wire. Gusts, during his journey, were up to 30 MPH.
The remarkable event was sponsored by National Geographic. Shortly after he crossed the span I watched a bit of his feat online. Recently, I watched the entire episode again, slowly. I saw Nik’s father, an experienced ropewalker himself, reassuring his … Read More >>
transcribed and edited by Yaacov Dovid Shulman
A Few Introductory Words
The import of the following essay is that throughout Jewish history Torah learning has always been of preeminent important: “and you shall study it day and night.” Yet at the same time, the normative role of the man has been to earn a living to support his family, and only a small elite of scholars has studied full-time. The purpose of this piece is not political. It supports full-time learning when appropriate and takes no position on issues such as government aid to chareidi families and the like. Its purpose is simply to provide a Torah-based and historically informed perspective on a Jewish man’s obligations to learn Torah and to support his family, and on the interplay between these obligations. The essay is based primarily on a shiur by Rabbi Mordechai Zilber, the Stutchiner Rebbe. Rabbi Zilber has been delivering a series of shiurim delineating the path of Hasidism. These have been transcribed, and Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, mara d’asra of Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY, has been giving shiurim based on those transcriptions. The essay below is a rendering of such a shiur combination. The transcription of … Read More >>
by Jeremy Rosen
In my schooldays one of the favorite punishments of our teachers was to get the whole school, when it got too noisy or out of hand, to remain on silence, sitting or standing, for five minutes. Those five minutes seemed to last for hours but in fact they had the effect of quietening us down, of dampening our rowdiness. But I cannot say that that silence had any positive impact on me.
The next kinds of silence I experienced came when I was a teenager sent off to study in Israel. Prayer time in the Mussar Yeshiva of Beer Yaakov was an amazing experience unlike anything else I had encountered in formal religious settings. There was a complete air of concentration, of commitment to words and ideas in which everything was savored and dwelt on with intention and expectation of encountering God. In that part of the morning and evening prayers just before we recited the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6.4) there was complete silence, a tense, expectant silence and then miraculously every one of the hundred or so voices broke out simultaneously in powerful unison, loudly,”Shema Yisrael.” That silence before the explosion of sound, was not the … Read More >>
by Doron Beckerman
The year 1977 witnessed a watershed event in the history of Modern Israel. Chaim Yavin, famed Israeli news anchor, announced the mahapach – the transformation of the political map; the right wing, led by Menachem Begin, had taken hold of government’s reins. A traditionalist, philo-Sephardic attitude permeated the halls of power. A firm commitment to dramatic expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria created facts on the ground. The Charedi parties basked in new-found sunshine and glory days. Money was showered on Yeshivos and limits on draft exemption numbers were abolished. Happy days were here for ideologues of non-Labor Zionist persuasion.
If colossal failures experienced during the Lebanon War (along with the passing of Aliza Begin) spelled the end of PM Begin’s political career, 1990 marked the point at which the bearers of Jabotinsky’s ideology essentially conceded the game. The Gulf War saw Israel subcontract its defense to a world alliance, and Yitzhak Shamir got dragged to the Madrid Conference, setting up the current reality where massive territorial concessions to the Palestinians are the only real show in town. Concomitantly, the traditional hawk-dove dividing began to blur, as every ostensibly conservative Prime Minister gave up progressively … Read More >>
[Editor’s Note: Given the large place that Rav Schachter’s thought has contributed to the discussions on the blog, the request to post the request that follows seems eminently reasonable.]
In honor of Rav Schachter’s continued and unflagging ahavah and mesiras nefesh for Torah, Am Yisrael and his talmidim in particular, we are soliciting your personal thoughts, remembrances and anecdotes of Rav Schachter that will be assembled and presented in book form to Rav Schachter personally this Pesach. Your submission can be in long or short form, in any language, and on any topic, but should principally be a message that demonstrates your hakaras hatov to Rav Schachter and the influence and impact that he has had on your life and those around you.
We have already received nearly 50 submissions, but each additional submission adds immeasurably to the whole collection, and we would appreciate if you would take a few moments to provide your own.
Please feel free to send your message to this email (RHSGIFT@gmail.com). If possible, please also include some brief biographical information about yourself: if you were a talmid in the Shiur, where you now live, your profession, and any other information you think would … Read More >>
My late rebbi, Rav Dov Schwartzman z”l, once told me that the essence of the sin of the spies dispatched by Moshe is that they were motzi dibat ha-aretz in chutz la-aretz [they defamed the Land of Israel at a time when they were outside that land]. I can very well understand those who would contend that there is a substantial difference between motzi dibat ha-aretz and motzi dibat ha-medinah; nevertheless, I am profoundly disturbed by the postings and comments – and even more so by the tone – of those who permanently reside in the Diaspora and choose to analyze the questions and challenges raised by the current draft situation in EY based on hearsay evidence, isolated incidents or the agenda driven reporting of the chareidi and non-chareidi press.
Moreover, I am deeply troubled by the total self-denial characteristic of many elements in the yeshiva world that we – the chareidi world of which I consider myself a member in good standing – may well be at least partially at fault for the success of Yair Lapid and his cohorts. The question of national service is not new and has been festering in Israeli society for … Read More >>
by Rabbi Doron Beckerman
Many of the arguments regarding the hot-button topic of drafting Yeshiva boys unfortunately seem to suffer from profound confusion. In an attempt to clarify the issues as seen from a mainstream Charedi viewpoint, I present a list of questions and the answers as I understand them.
Q: Why don’t Charedim go to the army?
A: Do you mean Charedim, or those studying full-time in Yeshiva or Kollel?
Q: Start with those studying full-time.
A: Because there was always a portion of Klal Yisrael that was dedicated to full-time Torah study and that did not serve in the army.
Q: Is there halachic basis for this exemption?
A: Yes. While it is a matter of debate among the Poskim, the preponderance of Poskim maintain that those studying Torah are exempt. Sources include: R’ Yechiel Michel Tukaczinsky (HaTorah VeHamedinah, 1952); R’ Yitzchak Arieli (Einayim LaMishpat, Bava Basra 7b); R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah IV, 33); R’ Eliezer Waldenberg (Sefer Hilchos Medinah II, Sha’ar 3); R’ Moshe Tzvi Neriah (Bnei HaYeshivos Vegiyyusam).
Q: Is part of the calculus that Torah study provides protection to its inhabitants?
Q: Do Charedim believe that there is no … Read More >>
Both sides on the chareidi draft issue in Eretz Yisroel see the other as an existential threat. The current coalition government apparently thought that they did not need to compromise on the imprisonment issue when they unilaterally negotiated and recently passed their draft bill. On the other hand, the various chareidi communities do not think they need to compromise in their total opposition to the law in any form and believe their show of solidarity on the issue at the Atzeres Tefillah gathering in Yerushalayim backs up that position. All they need to do it wait until the next election and give a majority to any coalition government which agrees to repeal the law.
When both sides look at the other, they feel simultaneously vulnerable and powerful. In reality, this is the perfect opening for leaders on both sides to participate in an open-ended dialogue that, based on past history, has a strong potential to not only enable them to reach a peaceable resolution to the conflict, but to bring them closer together. That framework for conversation is called “transformative mediation.”
The Transformative Model
The chareidi and non-chareidi communities in Eretz Yisroel need some framework … Read More >>
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
It seemed to us, the residents of Beit Shemesh, as if the whole world stood still to follow the elections. Politicians from Netanyahu on down all made statements and took sides (strictly on party lines: everyone against the Chareidim). As they put it, the entire future of Beit Shemesh — and of Israel for that matter — depended on the outcome. This was the final hope for Beit Shemesh, they declared. Would it be a forward-looking city welcoming to all, or yet another (backwards, intolerant, impoverished) Chareidi stronghold?
What happened that pit this usually easygoing, peace-loving, heavily-Anglo city against itself in some cataclysmic, no-holds-barred struggle for survival? And why did some consider the outcome an awe-inspiring kiddush Hashem while others called it a disgrace to all the Torah is supposed to hold dear? We all know there are hotheads and troublemakers among us — on both sides of the fence — but in all honesty, I think all of us here know that the vast majority of us are proud of our city and proud of the fact that we live in peace and harmony 99.9% of the time. To most of us Beit Shemesh … Read More >>
by Doron Beckerman
My analysis of this issue will be short and succinct, for a reason. If one considers Israel’s current situation to be active milchemes mitzvah, one who lives in chutz la’aretz and is physically able to serve in the IDF is more obligated to do so than those studying Torah in Eretz Yisrael. (Sources are available upon request.)
In that light, I propose the following law, called “The HaAcheichem Law,” which shall consist of two basic clauses:
a) All Jews entering Israel between the age of seventeen and thirty implicitly agree to submit to a draft for up to three years should the IDF determine this to be in their interests.
b) Exception: Those who come to study Torah. Of those, 20% will be free to study here undisturbed, but the other 80% must agree to the same conditions as other Jews. Additionally, all Yeshivos that fall below a 50% draft rate among their students from the Diaspora will no longer be eligible to any government funding.
By Dovid Landesman
One of the more famous stories about R.Levi Yitzchak zt”l recalls his visit to the local marketplace. There he came across a wagon driver wearing tallit and tefillin, busily digigng the wheel of his cart out of the mud in which it was mired. The gabbai who accompanied his master was aghast at the insensitivity of this simple Jew, hastily reciting his morning prayers in such an unsuitable fashion. But R. Levi Yitzchak saw something else. Looking up to heaven, the Rebbe raised his voice and declared: “Ribbono shel olam, what nachat you must have from your children. Even when they are working in the mud, they think only of you!”
I remembered the story as I watched the IDF video of the sailors who had interdicted the Panamanian ship carrying missiles bound for Gaza. In case you missed it, the clip shows the crew of one of the destroyers singing Shalom Aleichim and then listening to Kiddush. Obviously the film was taken on Shabbat and initially I was disturbed by the needless act of chilul Shabbat that it represented. But then I thought, “Wow! Here was the crew of an Israeli destroyer along with members … Read More >>
[from R. Yossi Huttler, Cross-Currents’ poet laureate]
if in middle of night I cannot sleep may I disturb Your peace open Your book of remembrance read to You though I know You don’t forget
may I point to where and when I did some good so that I merit mention for some chayim tovim
By Chaim Saiman and Yoel Finkelman
[Editor’s Note: Publishing what follows may seem out of character for Cross-Currents. While it does not violate our editorial policy, it does challenge what has become a theme of several writers: the illegitimacy of Open Orthodoxy. Nonetheless, we are going to publish it. Here is why:
We do encourage readers to familiarize themselves with different points of view, so long as they do not involve prohibited kefirah. The authors penned their piece respectfully. Both are known to me personally, and are worthwhile emulating in important ways.
Professor Saiman has deep roots outside the haredi world. Yet he does not shy away from going wherever he has to in order to enhance his own Torah study. I was introduced to him through and because of the many hours he spends at the Philadelphia Community Kollel. The rest of us should be so accepting of what we could gain from those outside our immediate community!
Dr. Finkelman writes some of the most trenchant criticism of the haredi world. That is one of his professional subjects of interest. But in private discussion, I have found him to be just as trenchant in his criticism of his … Read More >>
by Raphael Davidovich
In the latest attempt to quell the ongoing culture wars in Israel, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni last year gave Law Professor Ruth Gavison a formidable task. Gavison was asked to help prepare “a constitutional arrangement dealing with Israel’s identity” as “a Jewish and Democratic state.” The task is a fascinating one, one I love discussing because it is an area of personal interest for me. But it is a task that should not be fulfilled.
Whenever someone in the Israeli Leadership advocates a new constitutional arrangement, it should be mandatory to reread the history of why Israel presently has no formal constitutional arrangement as most other countries do. The brief history is as follows: The Constituent Assembly charged with the writing of a Constitution for the State of Israel ended its task in 1949, its job undone, and instead became the newborn State’s first Parliament. It would be simple to conclude that the document wasn’t written because of the machinations and political ploys of Ben-Gurion, or this group or that power-hungry faction. It would also be simple to argue that the group couldn’t come to agreement because of the old truism that Jews are argumentative, like that old joke about Ben-Gurion being the Prime Minister of two million prime ministers. But these arguments would be wrong. We need to properly understand what happened, and it says something about Jewry in Israel and throughout the world.
The constituent assembly could not write a constitution because a true constitution can only be a viable document when applied to a group that has certain basic outlooks and principles in common that they wish to codify and establish as axiomatic, virtually unarguable, to future generations of leaders who might be tempted by the need for political expedience to ignore those principles.
To be clear, what Israelis who say they want a Constitutional Arrangement really mean is that they want a two-tier system of laws: One set of Supreme Laws, which usually includes a Bill of Individual Rights, and one set of all other laws passed by the Knesset which would be subservient to that first set. This concept originated in our times with the American Constitution.
The American Constitutional experiment contained a feature that was novel to the world of political realism at the time, even though nowadays it’s so common that it’s taken for granted; that a State should have an upper tier of Law and a lower tier of law. The higher level of law, with fewer words, usually loftier, dominates; it insists that all other laws passed by the legislature conform to it or be declared null and void. This is specifically what is meant nowadays by people when they speak of a country having a Written Constitution. This is actually sloppy wording, as it leads to such sentences as “England does not have a written constitution”, or “Israel does not have a written constitution.”
The reality is that of course, both England and Israel have written constitutions. What they lack is the legal framework that mandates that some laws be subservient to other laws. Their constitutions are in the laws that set up the government. They have laws that provide for various freedoms, civil and political rights and limitations. They do not set up a hierarchy among those laws, one trumping the other. They adhere to the older principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty, rejected by the US Constitution, that one Parliament cannot limit another. For example, one Parliament cannot pass a law that states that it may not be revoked except by unanimous consent. All laws are equal to each other, even the ones that scholars call “constitutional”.
Why do countries, such as the USA, want a two-tier system? The answer, briefly stated earlier, is that the founding people and founding leaders of a nation want certain laws enshrined at a level that later legislatures or leaders will not be allowed to override because of the political expediencies of the moment.
Now in many countries, including Israel, it is well known that different groups of people have different ideals they believe are worth preserving at all costs. If a nation has several groups of people with conflicting ideals, the differences cannot and should not be resolved at the “Constitutional” level at all! Put another way, if one group that does not have behind it the true political will of the vast majority of the people, tries to take advantage of a propitious moment and attempt to enact certain reforms at the constitutional level, trouble will usually ensue for one of several reasons:
Continue reading → On the making of Constitutional Arrangements