There is no commandment to believe in God.
The first of the Ten
Commandments is not really a commandment: All it says is, “I am the Lord, your
It is a statement. There is no need for a commandment to believe in
God; the Torah tells us the existence of God is obvious. Such a commandment
would be superfluous.
Similarly, requiring prospective citizens to take
an oath affirming loyalty to the State of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic”
state – or requiring the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a “Jewish”
state – is superfluous and unnecessary.
Demanding recognition of Israel
as a Jewish state goes against the values we learn from the Torah.
not supposed to take a vain oath. Swearing the sky is blue is considered a vain
oath. Anyone can see
the sky is blue. You don’t need to invoke God’s name for
that. Swearing Israel is a Jewish state would equally be a vain oath.
loyalty oath – and the insistence that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state
– are both racist and discriminatory.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
does not propose that Jews should have to take the loyalty oath – he knows many
would refuse. The government does not insist that other countries recognize
Israel specifically as a Jewish state – presumably because Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu does not want to be laughed at in the halls of the United
WHAT DOES it mean to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state?
Does it mean anyone who would prefer to see Israel as a secular democracy – a
country like America, for example – is disloyal? Does it mean anyone who does
not keep kosher or observe the Sabbath is disloyal? Oops, Netanyahu and
Lieberman probably don’t mean that, do they? If being Jewish means the haredim
can force women to ride in the back of the bus, if Jewish means the haredim can
force women to one side of a public street and men to another, if being Jewish
means the state can arrest a woman for carrying a Torah scroll at the Western
Wall, if being Jewish means the Chief Rabbinate can deny marriage to people with
halachicly correct conversions because they don’t like a particular rabbi – I
would not swear an oath to such a state either.
The Palestinians should
call our bluff. PA President Mahmoud Abbas should tell Netanyahu: “I’d accept
Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state if it started acting like a Jewish and
democratic state – including treating its citizens equally and displaying the
Jewish values of treating the stranger with justice and pursuing peace. Will you
agree to that?” One of the highest values in Judaism is peace. Peace, we are
told, is one of God’s names. A blessing for peace seals Judaism’s most important
prayer, the Amida
By bowing to the populist foolishness of Lieberman,
Netanyahu is putting form above substance. He is allowing things with no
significance – a completely meaningless oath and a call for an equally
meaningless statement from the PA – to be a barrier to something with great
significance: peace. He is causing a desecration of God’s name. He is causing
other nations to view Israel as racist. He is causing other nations to see us as
so insecure in our identity that we have to club others over the head in a way
other nations do not to reassure ourselves that we really are entitled to our
Jewish and democratic nation.
Instead of causing a desecration of God’s
name, our prime minister should be causing God’s name to be sanctified. This
will happen – in the eyes of Israel and of the entire world – if he manages to
reach an equitable peace with our cousins, the Ishmaelites, the
Instead of wasting time, energy, and damaging Israel’s
standing in the eyes of the world with meaningless new laws and nonsensical
bargaining positions, he should be making a serious drive for peace.
would be the truly Jewish thing to do.
The writer is a business executive
and cochairman of the board of Rabbis for Human Rights. The views expressed are