Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Forced Religion In Israel

I have always been against forcing anyone to follow the Jewish religion. I think it is counterproductive and leads to enmity for the religion. Obviously, I think that Israel should be a Jewish state run by Jews and represent Jewish values, but I am opposed to forcing the religion on anyone in any way. The food should be kosher, the day off should be shabbos, but we should not force people to keep shabbos, or to keep kosher. That is not only pointless, but it is dangerous.

This attitude, of forcing religion on irreligious people is why there is such a divide between the religious and the secular people in Israel. The Rabbinate tries to control the marriages and the life styles of the secular people in certain ways (at least this is how the secularists see it). Also, they appear to force the secularists (to some extent) to pay for their Yeshivot and their religious lifestyle. Many refuse to serve in the army and this leads to contempt for the religious by the secularists. I don't think the secularists treat the religious any better, but they don't force their way of life on the religious. ( I could be wrong about the extent of the actual push to force religion on the secularists by the Rabbinate, but from what I read in the newspapers and hear from my secular relatives, this seems to be what is going on. Also, see this article

This is, surprisingly, not just my opinion, but the opinion of a very great man, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. From the book "Thinking Aloud" (Pg. 141-143)
"I am the one who opposes fully- I have said this at conventions- the whole business of legislating religion in Eretz Yisroel. To me it is ridiculous, it will obtain the reverse effect. You cannot make a Jew pious or observant by having a police force. You can ask many questions, I know. Many questions. It is not here the time, in general, to discuss halachic sanctions. Halacha knows of sanctions, and I have a theory about it, but it is not my job to discuss it now. But, to me, Mizrachi is committing the most terrible historical mistake. We should instead devote all our energies to an educational campaign, to display the beauty of yahadus (Judaism), to show people that we have a comprehensive philosophy, and make them come out of their free will to the fold. Legislating through parliament-- I cannot see it. It will never be as effective as an attempt to educate people.

I cannot see a rabbanut (Rabbinate) which is part of government. A few months ago they approached me about Chief Rabbinate, and I said 'No gentlemenn, I cannot become a part of the government.' A rabbi is sometimes opposed to government. If the rabbi's authority is constituted by legislation, the whole rabbinic dignity is gone."

There is not much else to say. The Jewish religion should not be forced upon anyone. Any type of force from the religion detracts from it more than it serves it. It hurts the credibility and the draw of the religion. Hopeful people will realize this and instead of rioting about parking lots being open on shabbos and instead of yelling about anyone who believes evolution to be true is a kofer, maybe we should be focusing on more important things. Maybe the great minds of the generation should lift their heads up from the Gemara and think real hard about why the vast majority of Jews are not religious and how we can influence them to want to become religious.

Observance of the Jewish religion, at least before the Moshiach comes, must be from love and free will. No one can compell anyone else to observe the commandments. In the notes on page 142 of "Thinking Aloud" Rabbi Holzer says, "The only time halacha seems to set up real coercion is in cases of social services and care for the community. For instance, Beis Din (Religious courts) would be kofeh (force) to collect charity (see Rambam Matanos aniyim 7:10)... The few attempts of certain kings and leaders to coercively uphold morality, as in the time of Yoshiyahu, seem to have been completely ineffective. Yoshiyahu was in fact killed because the nation was not reformed as he believed them to be."


Recreational Musings said...

From personal experience I think this has a lot of truth. Exposing people to the beauty of Judaism in a non-forceful way is certainly the way to go. When I was becoming religious I tried to make my sister and parents see things as I did and pick up observances. It backfired - they wanted little to do with traditional Judaism. After I laid back, they began to become more interested and open to my observances. Merely having a Shabbat dinner or eating in a Sukkah -- something 'religious' but not antithetical to the non-religious -- is sometimes the best way to "display the beauty of yahadus."

As for Israel: I have heard of the animosity between religious and secular, but I've been here three weeks and haven't seen anything of the sort. I'm sure it exists in the political sphere but it doesn't seem to on the street.

E-Man said...

I actually have a lot of friends that their families became religious because they became religious first. They are really sweet people and they were not pushy at all.

3 weeks in Israel will not let you see the animosity. I guess I was exposed to it because my relatives in Israel are secular.

elemir said...

>>> Observance of the Jewish religion, at least before the Moshiach comes, must be from love and free will.

couldn't agree with you more. However, there is another crucial aspect to the problems facing Judaism and that is forcing people to believe in things that their intellect tells them is simply not true. The most prominent of which is the authorship of the Torah.

E-Man said...

The DH? That is not a problem, but I don't wish to discuss it anymore, I have had this discussion way too many times with OTD people.

elemir said...

A couple of points ….

First, the DH is not the only argument used against divine authorship. In fact it’s a bit of a red herring as there are many other elements in the package, and taken as a whole are quite compelling. I suspect that someday, if you are not in a situation that prevents it, it might just hit you, as it did for me and many others.

Second, I wasn’t commenting with intent to argue with you. I was only pointing to the non belief in TMS, as this disbelief is growing among many who care to be part of the Jewish community and as their beliefs rest on solid intellectual reasons, it would make sense to NOT force people to believe many of the traditional beliefs.