October 30, 2017: Sabbath and the High Court

The holy and the law, judges, and Balfour.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sabbath openings
With regard to “High Court rules TA shops can remain open on Shabbat” (October 27), there is something very disturbing for me on at least two counts: 1. The ruling came under the aegis of a woman Supreme Court president. In traditional Judaism, while the man may be the halachic authority, the woman of the house sets the religious tone. She is the one who navigates the waters of Jewish ethics and religious identity for the children. Shabbat has little meaning except if she shows her family its serenity and beauty.
2. The ruling sets the Supreme Court above the dictates of democracy, for in a democratic society, the cry of the minority must be heard first and foremost by the judiciary system. With this ruling, there is little to prevent stores across Israel from opening on Shabbat and destroying the livelihood of the significant minority who will be hardpressed to compete. Worse still, by the court’s act, another marker of what sets Israel apart from the United States and much of the rest of the world has been demolished.
Sadly, I can see a day when the question “Who is a Jew in Israel” will be moot.
The High Court of Justice made a decision allowing the profaning of the holiness of the Sabbath in Tel Aviv.
I wish to remind our prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, that before he demands recognition by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel is a Jewish state, he should remind the High Court.
A few years ago, when I went with my family on a root-finding trip to Cyprus, we arrived on a Sunday. We wanted to buy fuel and milk but found all petrol stations, supermarkets and shops closed in two cities. On asking the locals, they told us that on Sundays, everything is shut.
I think what is good for Cyprus is also good for Israel.
May I remind those who object to Tel Aviv supermarkets opening on Shabbat that Israel is the home of the Jewish people, not just the Orthodox?
Feeling sarcastic?
With regard to “The new chief” by Yonah Jeremy Bob (Frontlines, October 27), I’m not sure whether “Rule of Law,” the label given his piece, was an exercise in sarcasm.
I feel it necessary to point out that “rule by laws” is not necessarily synonymous with “rule of law.” Why this became a question for me is Bob’s description of newly installed Supreme Court President Esther Hayut as a “moderate-activist” judge.
A judge cannot be an activist and still be considered moderate.
Any form of activism from the bench is by definition extreme. If one applies such monikers to other professions upon which peoples’ lives depend, the very idea would be laughable.
If an engineer performs his tasks just by personal judgment and does everything by eye without bothering with the maths, the material testing and the historical performance of previous builds, no one will hire him. Or a surgeon who approaches surgery without any preliminary tests or medical imaging, and instead decides to open you up and rummage around for what feels wrong to him? There is a stark difference, of course, between my examples and judges, because if engineers or surgeons preformed their duties so negligently, they’d likely end up sued, in jail or both.
Judges, on the other hand, face absolutely no recrimination for performing their job negligently and with the capriciously caviler attitudes that Israel’s Supreme Court boasts about.
While these legal elites undermine the very values they are hired to safeguard, they complain about others undermining the rule of law and attacking democracy when it is others who are trying to rectify a blazingly unjust situation. Tell me: Who should be looked at first when democratic institutions lose their foundation? Those who notice the problem or those whose job it is to protect against the problem in the first place?
Not quite the example
While well written, Rabbi Dr.Eugene Korn’s thesis that Parshat Lech Lecha supports the idea of land for peace (“Parshat Lech Lecha: Modern conflicts and an ancient text,” Observations, October 27), the piece is historically and conceptually flawed.
Rabbi Korn recounts the biblical story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot, quarreling when they arrived in the Land of Canaan, and Abraham’s suggestion that they separate and choose different parts of the country for grazing their herds.
He cities Rashi’s explanation that the quarrel was based on Abraham’s moral objections to Lot grazing his cattle on land belonging to local residents, and then argues that Abraham was willing to divide the very land that God had promised him – which he knew was indisputably his – for the sake of peace.
This is presented as the biblical “land for peace” precedent.
A reading of the entire Rashi sentence that Rabbi Korn cites, rather than just the excerpted snippet, shows something other – that Abraham considered Lot a thief because the grazing land he had appropriated was not his. While it had been promised to Abraham for the future, as of then, it was legally the property of the resident Canaanite tribes.
Abraham and Lot were at the time two itinerant nomadic shepherds who had arrived in a foreign country ruled by legitimate local powers. Abraham simply devised a practical arrangement to prevent further confrontation. He was not “dividing” the land with Lot since the land did not belong to him. It is thus very clear that Abraham’s offer was not an instance of “land for peace,” as one cannot give away what one does not own.
Equating the Abraham-Lot interaction to our current situation, furthermore, is inappropriate.
Abraham actually risked his life to save Lot. Lot was Abraham’s nephew, not his enemy. Lot was not determined to displace – let alone obliterate – Abraham. Since Abraham was childless at the time, he, in all likelihood, believed that Lot would be the beneficiary of the land God had promised him.
Notably, after he and Lot separated, God made sure to tell him that the promised land would go to his direct descendants – not to Lot.
If one is inclined to search for biblical precedent for our current political situation, one might instead focus on the narrative of the various encounters during the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The pervasive stance is pointedly inconsistent with “land for peace.”
More on Balfour
In “Christian Zionism and the Balfour Declaration” (Comment & Features, October 22), Eli Kavon mentions Prof. Shalom Goldman’s study of the impact of religion on the Balfour Declaration. Other items also appeared in The Jerusalem Post about the document.
In 1976, my husband, Prof. Isaiah Friedman, gave a lecture to the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies on “The Meaning of the Balfour Declaration.”
It was taken from a chapter in his book The Question of Palestine, British-Jewish-Arab Relations.”
The opening words of this chapter are: “Few pledges or statements of British Middle Eastern policy were so thoroughly examined at all administrative levels as the Balfour Declaration. It was not issued in haste or lightheartedly....
Still less was it issued in ignorance of the facts of the case.
It was made as a deliberate act of the British Cabinet.”