(photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Tzohar rabbinical organization has released a new scholarly periodical to examine some of the complex issues posed by those who adhere strictly to Jewish law and the requirements of a modern state.
The Tzohar Journal will include contributions from the organization’s more than 1,000 member rabbis, some in English, and is being aimed at the national religious community to stimulate discussion of issues such as the Shmita sabbatical year, Jewish conversion, the Sabbath, and others.
The first edition, released just before Passover, includes submissions on organ donation, rabbinic tenure, and an article by Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav on the principles of family planning.
The journal, which is partly funded by the Tikva Fund and the Maimonides Fund, will be issued three times a year.
Rabbi Rafi Feurstein, a member of the Tzohar board of management, said that the purpose of the journal is to create a space for the leading national religious rabbis to write publicly about the challenges of living within modern Israeli society and some of the problems this creates for various aspects of Jewish law.
“What data are we feeding into the equation of living in a modern country when making decisions on Jewish law?” Feurstein asked The Jerusalem Post. He gave the Shmita year as an example, saying, “One could look at it simply as an issue of what can and cannot be consumed, like kashrut, but we can also ask about the meaning of agriculture in Israel – does it have a connection to us living here, is it a way for us to have control over the land, and do we need Israeli agriculture and can it be abandoned for a whole year?” Similarly, he mentioned the issue of Jewish conversion in reference to the concern of some about the possibility of inter-faith marriages with the non-Jewish immigrant community from the former Soviet Union.
“Do we have to think about the demographics of Israeli society when making decisions about Jewish conversion? Do rabbis have to take responsibility for the State of Israel and not just the individuals and individual communities that live there?” asked Feuerstein.
The rabbi also talked about perspectives of the national religious community and its relationship to Jewish law.
“Many people have an assumption or feeling that religious Zionism is some kind of compromise, and furthermore doesn’t have serious Torah scholars,” Feurstein concluded.
“But the journal demonstrates that the national-religious community and its rabbis are faithful to Jewish law. We’re coming with a Torah perspective to the challenges we have today and we want to make this thought more broadly available.”