Fourteen rabbis lined up last week to declare a preliminary winner in the heavyweight parliamentary coalition vs Supreme Court showdown, declaring the governmental “majority” the only legitimate authority in the country. Did G-d tell them this? Did they find a Talmud ruling to support their declaration? Actually, it turns out these rabbis are affiliated with the ultra-right-wing parties, and some have appointments as chief rabbis of influential cities. As far as I can tell, they only need the black hats and beards to support their declaration.
In other news, a different set of rabbis threatens to take down that very same parliamentary coalition. They are angry about the delay in the draft law, which could ultimately put an end to exemptions for Haredi men. Those rabbis, as opposed to the first set, actually invoke G-d in their reasoning, explaining that those studying Torah and praying to G-d, from the safety of their yeshivas, can protect Israel as well as fighter pilots and intelligence officers. They don’t actually care one way or another about the Supreme Court or even the possibility of a dictatorship, as long as they get their extortionate coalition agreement demands met.
In yet a third news story, Bibi and MP Meir Porush, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage, have been spending countless hours working at diplomacy with Ukrainian president Vlodymyr Zelensky (whom Bibi had previously insulted by refusing to back Ukraine after the Russian invasion). They are trying to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of religious Israelis who are, as I write, sneaking into Ukraine’s war zone to pray in Uman. If COVID didn’t stop them a couple of years ago, a few Russian missiles won’t scare these true believers. (Though I might ask, if G-d will protect them, why do they need Ukrainian security?)
These three items, to my secular mind, are either signs of what happens when you put no limits on the intervention of religion in state affairs, or of a world gone berserk. But things clicked for me when I read about a Trump rally in South Dakota: “I’m being indicted for you,” he told his supporters in a true Jesus moment. He then warned that if he is not elected, “they” will destroy the country. It was an eerie echo of Knesset members’ warnings to the Supreme Court that if they declare the newly-passed unreasonableness law illegal, its judges risk plunging the country into anarchy.
If G-d will protect them, why do they need Ukrainian security?
Like Trump, Bibi’s coalition members have elevated themselves to the status of savior. They are above the law, not beholden to anyone. They do not believe they need to answer – not to the Supreme Court, which is the voice of secular, democratic law, nor to the true majority of Israeli voters, who, at least in polls, have expressed waning faith in this government. (And that is where things begin to fray, because if messiahs need anything, they need the faith of their followers.)
These Knesset members darkly hint at an apocalyptic, all-hell-breaking-loose, biblical kind of anarchy
The anarchy these people are referring to is not the current state of affairs in which the Prime Minister says one thing, the Justice Minister says the opposite, and no one seems to be in charge or know what’s going on. It is not the regular blocking of the Ayalon freeway by protesters of every stripe. It’s not the rise in terror attacks we’re going to see when Interior Insecurity Minister Ben-Gvir slashes family visits to security prisoners.
No, these Knesset members, starting with Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, darkly hint at an apocalyptic, all-hell-breaking-loose, biblical kind of anarchy. No details have been offered on exactly how this anarchy will befall us, who will draw the first weapons, or even whether G-d him/herself will make a guest appearance.
What I’m trying to say is that if we could admit that our present plagues – loud protests, crime, terror, unsmitten enemies, ineffective government, racism, apartheid, a high cost of living and a slipping economy – are the result of human folly at the highest levels, we might attempt to fix things. If, on the other hand, the reigning government is always, de facto, in the right and its enemies are sent to test them – devil’s agents causing the holy mess we’re in – then we’ll just keep on going down the road we’re on.
Let’s put it another way: Next week, Jews will be praying to be included in the Book of Life. Not the book of fat subsidies and graft; nor the books of burning and looting; shirking responsibility; lying; nationalist supremacy; selling a country down the tubes to avoid jail time. I’m willing to leave life and death to G-d. As for the rest, I hope we can agree that if our political leaders want us to think of them as messiahs and prophets, it is because they anointed themselves. Not one of our leaders, not even one of those 14 rabbis, not even on twitter, has received a personalized message from G-d telling him how to run the country. That means we need to hold our leaders accountable on normal human terms, on the precepts of democracy, and not on those of messianic religious faith.