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The Lie of the Halachic State

Through a series of unfortunate events, the center-left side of the political spectrum were handed a crushing defeat. Make no mistake, this was a result of their own doing. The hubris of Michaeli and Galon and the arrogance of Lapid plus the apathy of their voters resulted in Meretz being wiped off the political map and Labor squeaking in. Gantz and Saar were less than stellar, Liberman is Liberman, and the only one that came out not too shabby is Lapid. All in all, this left those opposed to Netanyahu (the anyone-but-Bibis) and the diehard leftists to lick their wounds and howl at the moon.

So, they are howling at the moon.

If I could some up those howls, it boils down to this.

  1. Israel is going to become undemocratic.
  2. Israel is going to alienate all American Jewry.
  3. Israel is going to become anti LGBTQ+
  4. Israel is going to become a Halachic State
  5. Israel is going to turn into Iran redux.

THE POPULAR VOTE

Before addressing these issues, it is important to clean up one big lie which factors very much into this issue. The Left and the press have claimed that although the Knesset seats are heavily in favor of the Right, the actual difference between the Right and the Left in the popular vote is very little (I heard statistics as low as 8,000 votes).

I do not agree with this contention.

I looked up Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Israeli_legislative_election) and downloaded the voting statistics and threw it onto an Excel chart. I sorted the information based on the following criteria. Right and Left (so Likud is Right, Yesh Atid is Left), Those who got seats in the Knesset and those who did not, and those that are contenders vs not. So while Meretz, Balad and The Jewish Home are contenders, we can all agree that Ale Yarok with 1,524 votes is not. Here are the results.

If we look at the Knesset breakdown (i.e. actual seats) then the result is;

Knesset Seats
Bloc Seats Votes %age
Left 56            2,042,378 46.98%
Right 64            2,304,964 53.02%
Total 120            4,347,342 100.00%

 

So that’s a difference of 262K votes. Not a shabby difference.

If we look at contenders then the results are;

Contenders
Bloc Votes %age
Left    2,331,788 49.68%
Right    2,361,739 50.32%
Total    4,693,527 100.00%

 

That is still a difference of 30K, yes, much smaller, but still not immaterial.

However, that assumes that we count the Arab vote as part of the Left bloc. I would argue that the Arabs are a bloc and a sector of their own and are not indicative of the Jewish direction. If my contention is correct, then the result is as follows.

Ethnic
Ethnic Bloc Votes %age
Jewish  Left            1,820,389 38.79%
Jewish  Right            2,361,739 50.32%
Arab  Left                511,399 10.90%
Total            4,693,527 100.00%

 

The difference now is 540K! which is substantial.

So, assuming my premise is correct, the popular vote is actually more skewed to the Right than the actual Knesset spread.

HALACHIC STATE

The notion that somehow with the advent of the new government Israel will turn into a halachic state is a nice soundbite but lacks any reality. It is pure scaremongering without a shred of truth.

The obvious implication of a ‘Halachic State” is a Judaized version of Iran, a state run by Mullahs who would flog, or even worse, kill, anyone transgressing a “religious” sin. It conjures up a nightmare of stoning for homosexuals and Shabbat transgressors much as we see happening now in Iran where protesters against the Mullah regime are being sentenced to death for committing “crimes against G-d”.

A corollary of this canard is the “end of democracy” claim. Once a Halachic state is imposed, much like in Iran, there will no longer be any elections, or at least fair elections, because the “Halachic” state will only allow their “approved” candidates to run much as is happening now in Iran.

The claim is utter nonsense and has no basis in reality.

Halacha is not like Sharia. There does not exist any central authority that can impose a halachic state. It would at the very least require a Sanhedrin to convene which, according to the vast majority of opinions, cannot be done nowadays. In fact, an early attempt by Rabbi Beirav, one of the teachers of Rav Yosef Karo (15th Century), was shot down by most of his contemporaries and no subsequent attempt has been successful (including Napoleon’s). Thus, the main ingredient for the imposition of a Halachic state does not exist. There is no possibility of a halachic state coming into existence. No Haredi or Dati rabbi worth his salt would back such a process. It is a non-starter.

Rabbis get their authority solely because their followers give them that authority. I listen to my Rabbi because I know him, I respect him and his wisdom.  If he decides something I usually go along with it, but I do not necessarily extend that courtesy to another Rabbi whom I do not know. Obviously, amongst other groups like Chassidim, this is a little oversimplified, but at the end of the day, no rabbi has any more legal power than any other person and has no ability to enforce his will on someone else other than by his own moral authority. Anyone has the legal ability to walk away from their rabbi and his decisions.

To summarize, there exists no process in Judaism at this point in time that can create a central Halachic authority.

THE RABBINATE

The Chief Rabbinate can regulate Kashrut, marriage, and conversion. This authority is not granted to it by any halachic authority, but rather by the secular government and is based on the original agreements at the time of the creation of the State. Since this authority is not constitutionally protected it can be changed. This then is the fight between the Left and the Right. The Left wants to water down or even eliminate this authority. The Left would like nothing more than eliminate the Rabbinate and allow anyone to get married in any which way and allow any food, kosher or not, to come into Israel. The Right (okay, maybe Likud is less enthusiastic) would like the opposite. Stronger kashrut guidelines, a more rigorous conversion process, and Jewish marriage and divorce. So ultimately this becomes a political fight. In the last government the Left, led by Kariv and Kahane fought hard to water down the authority of the Rabbinate, and now you have the Right that will fight hard to strengthen the Rabbinate. This is a political battle.

The Left, through arrogance and apathy, lost the election handing the ability to move the football to the Right. The time to howl was before the election, not after.

Elections have consequences.

 SHABBAT

The most unfortunate casualty of secularization is Shabbat. The State began as a secular state and cessation of public transportation on Shabbat was not uniformly enforced. However, as part of the Status Quo agreement, public transportation in most Jewish cities was not allowed on Shabbat. Once again, since this is not constitutionally enshrined, it is subject to change by any government. So yet again, a halachic way that was agreed upon at the outset of the State by its secular caretakers is once again a political football.  The argument made by the Left is that preventing public transportation is forcing religion on them. Merav Michaeli has attempted to increase public transportation, the new government will move it back to the original place it was. Michaeli wanted to do away with the Status Quo agreement, the new government is enforcing the Status Quo agreement. The decision to enforce or do away with the Status Quo agreement is a political fight (obviously with religious underpinnings). The time to fight this fight was during the elections. You cannot cry foul because you didn’t bring your quarterback to the game.

Conclusions

In summary, the election was not a close election at all. The popular Jewish vote was very much on the Right spectrum. The rumormongering by the Left to the threat of a halachic takeover is not based on any reality. The true tragedy for the Left is that they were out to lunch during the elections. In their own arrogance, they refused to take Netanyahu and his allies seriously and this hubris has led them to a resounding defeat.  Crying over spilled milk after the fact will not change the outcome. Threats of insubordination is undemocratic. Prophecies of doom, of the demise of democracy and the death of freedom are the ravings of the false prophets of liberalism.

About the Author
Aron Epstein is a certified public accountant. He made Aliyah with his family in 2009 from Cleveland, Ohio. Aside from an active business Aron enjoys outdoors sports, particularly skiing, although doesn't get enough time to do it.
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