Kiryat Arba-Hebron Rabbi Dov Lior is not cooperating with law enforcement and he
is receiving hardy support from laymen as well as lawmakers. About a thousand
people, including MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union), gathered outside the
rabbi’s home in Kiryat Arba on Tuesday to protest what Lior called “the
disparagement of the Torah” and what Ben-Ari called “McCarthyism.”
Yaakov Katz (NU) announced that “the Jewish people are embarrassed by Public
Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and police commanders for being overcome
by their hatred for the Torah.”
What’s truly embarrassing is the moral
support, including a written endorsement, that Lior has given to a morally
repugnant book called Torat Hamelech
which police are rightfully concerned could
incite to murder.
In one particularly abhorrent example, the 230-page
treatise, purportedly based on Halacha, advocates the killing of innocent babies
on the enemy side during warfare “if there is a good chance they will grow up to
be like their evil parents.”
The two authors, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and
Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, who live and teach at the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in Yitzhar,
a hotbed of radicalism, do not specifically mention Palestinians. But the
implication is clear. Nor do the two restrict their distorted, despicably
essentialist view of non-Jews as not quite human to the enemy
“Every citizen of our kingdom who opposes us and who
encourages [our enemies’] fighters or expresses satisfaction with their deeds is
considered an assailant and may be killed. Similarly, one who weakens our
kingdom, by speech and the like, is also considered an assailant.”
Jewish underground, Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir come to mind. With lots of
settlers with guns wandering around Yitzhar, the potential for disaster is real,
particularly given that the authors, in a footnote at the very end of their
book, advocate vigilante attacks even if they are not condoned by the IDF or
other official state institutions.
Yet, since August of last year Lior,
apparently assuming his rabbinical ordination places him above the law, has
refused police requests to come to a police station for questioning. Unwilling
to compromise its authority, the police has now issued an arrest
For the sake of a peaceful resolution, police might consider
accepting Lior’s invitation, issued Tuesday, to conduct the questioning in his
home, as long as it can be done professionally, though police would be justified
for insisting that Lior receive no special treatment.
remains whether Shapira and Elitzur should be charged with incitement to
violence. In 1996, Rabbi Ido Elba published a 19-page “halachic” treatise that
permitted the killing of non-Jews under certain circumstances.
Supreme Court, in the shadow of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, upheld a
Jerusalem District Court decision and he served a two-year jail
Nevertheless, it would be unwise for the judiciary to go down that
road again, unless it could be proved that the two authors, Lior or others
intended to incite to murder – no easy task.
A publicized court case
would only further popularize the book and its authors. Discussion might be
shifted from the book’s depraved contents to the issue of intellectual freedom
or to the question of whether extreme statements on the Left advocating violence
against settlers have been as vigorously prosecuted. More moderate rabbis who
reject the authors’ conclusions might, nevertheless, defend their right to make
Rabbi of Ramat Gan Ya’acov Ariel put it best when he said that the
battle against Torat Hamelech
should not be waged “via declarations to the
media, or via police investigations...rather by bringing to light true
Halacha after in-depth research.”
And that is precisely what has
happened. Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, a highly respected halachic authority,
retracted his endorsement of the book after a reexamination.
Lau, Yaakov Meidan, Menachem Froman and Yoel Bin-Nun have all publicly rejected
the book’s conclusions.
But the most impressive refutation of Torat
has come from a young rabbi from the Netivot-based Ahavat Yisrael
Yeshiva. In over 100 pages of well-argued points, Ariel Finkelstain has taken
apart Shapira’s and Elitzur’s claims, showing how they do not size up with
Judaism’s moral and halachic teachings.
As Finkelstain noted, it is open
intellectual exchange, in the free market of ideas, that is the best weapon
against bigotry and racism. And that’s why books like Torat Hamelech
at places like the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva, where intellectual openness and
dialogue with the “outside world” are particularly lacking.