Even If It Does Say So

Halacha says so.

One can’t be sure that the piece  “‘A Good Name’: What Jewish Law Says About Crimes Committed In Youth” that appeared in the Forward on Friday was the first time a quasi-p’sak halacha appeared on those pages, but one can assume that it remains a fairly rare occurrence.

Halacha says so.

Aside from the entire tikkun olam project, this most recent instance of the cultural misappropriation of  classical Judaism for a blatantly political end — in this case, proving that the most credible Jewish response to the Kavanaugh brouhaha is to oppose his nomination — isn’t the first time that Halacha has been twisted in this manner.  Around 2004, an eminent Jewish Studies professor took an article about pacifism written by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan far out of its original context in order to express his opposition to the second Iraq War, ending his piece with the pithy “War is assur.”

Assur.

Halacha says so.

One might as an aside point out that most of those who argue for either more reasonable if liberal interpretations of halacha — even those who don’t necessarily ascribe to hard progressive tenets — usually might not be inclined to borrow an ostensibly fundamentalist right wing trope and insist that their stated viewpoint is the only legitimate Jewish view.  Apparently, the culture wars have dictated that there is also liberal “da’as torah,” no matter how self-contradictory that concept appears to be.

In any event, since “halacha says so” with respect to denying Kavanaugh the nomination seems to close the debate on the question, one might for argument’s sake accord it the level of settled psak and not venture to challenge the supporting points made from classical sources.  That can be left to — in the author’s words — “my local Torah scholar.” (In theory, as long as one is dragging halacha into the debate, one can counter with the concepts of evidence, witnessing, false suspicions, and slander, but — again — let’s leave that to “my local Torah scholar”.)

Rather, there are more salient ways to undermine the entire premise, to the point that, to paraphrase another famous progressive, “the shaila is moot.”

One need not mention that the author — like those intersectional progressives (much) further to her left — forces a halachic analog between a Jewish religious judiciary and a secular judiciary, as if we are to apply halacha to secular judges, even ones who aren’t Jewish. (One would think that those of a more liberal bent would fiercely advocate for a separation of halacha and state, but apparently, Brett Kavanaugh might become the next av bes din.)

One need not mention that the author has expressed severe misgivings with her other Orthodox co-religionists on the other side of the political fence, admonishing “[t]he posek himself!!” to “Spend more time in yeshiva” when a conservative viewpoint of an ostensibly halachic issue was expressed.  (Additionally, the gratuitous reference to her counterpart as “yingele” indicates that she isn’t above employing adhominy, which would legitimize pointing out that “halacha says so” sounds rather pretweenish.)

One need not mention that it’s rather unlikely that the author would apply the same concepts to liberal political personalities (e.g. the Clintons) who seem to have difficulty “acquiring a good name.”  Irrespective of her actual party affiliation, the author’s history of repeated public castigation of “Orthodox Trump supporters” is a pretty strong political tell.

In fact, the author completely undermines any halachic premise the instant the term “Judeo-Christian” is introduced into the argument. As the author certainly would agree that “Judeo-Christian” has nothing to do with Judaism, applying halachah under that premise is equally inappropriate. In an attempt to troll Kavanaugh’s “Orthodox Trump supporter” right wing allies to better hoist them on their own moral petard, she becomes just as complicit in Bannonian supersession, even if contra her intent.

Finally, the piece’s full closer — “Even halacha says so” — buries the premise for good; again, even if contra the author’s intention, it comes across as “I’m right about this, and even halacha agrees with me.” Would you be right about it if perchance halacha didn’t agree with you?  Or would the Babylon Bee headline “Success: After A Full Day Of Hearings, Everyone Believes Exactly What They Already Believed About Kavanaugh” apply?  Irrespective of what one believes about Kavanaugh or his accuser, one would be best advised to leave halacha out of it.

To do otherwise might be — less than halachic.

About the Author
Jon Taub is an ex-Upper West Sider, now-married Riverdalean who has two MA's, plays three instruments, and consults for biostartups.
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