What would Halacha say now, Rebbetzin?

Eighteen months ago—during the brouhaha surrounding the impending Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and the teenage crimes he was accused of—an ostensible Halachic analysis appeared in the pages of the Forward which concluded that one was required as a matter of Jewish law to oppose the confirmation.  The author claimed that the “crimes” of Kavanaugh’s youth, even of unproven—nay, even if unfounded—left him with a reputation unbecoming of a leader and therefore not fit for the bench.  She underscored this analysis with reference to her “my husband (my local Torah scholar)” and the conclusion that “a [] candidate’s already-disgraced reputation matters….[e]ven halacha says so.”

To start with—as the author noted in a rejoinder to the piece at the time—forcing a halachic analog between a Jewish religious judiciary and a secular judiciary, as if we were to apply halacha to secular judges, especially ones who aren’t Jewish, should be certainly considered illegitimate on the grounds of American law; one might also be puzzled when those of an ostensibly liberal bent would suddenly forget about separation of church and state.

(In theory, Rabbi Dov Fischer might have made this mistake when he insisted that Halacha urged Kavanaugh’s confirmation; however, as opposed to insisting that reputation become the only deciding factor as the Forward author did, Rabbi Fischer’s admonitions regarding discounting the accusations (which now, in face of the Biden mess, some previous advocates are quietly backing away from) merely left everything else as being equal, and amounted to more of a shev ve’al tassel rather than as a wholly inappropriate command to act against the nomination.)

Furthermore, at the time, the author completely undermined any halachic premise the instant she introduced the term “Judeo-Christian”: in an attempt to troll Kavanaugh’s “Orthodox Trump supporter” right wing allies to better hoist them on their own ostensible collective moral petard, she became just as complicit in Bannonian supersessionism, even if contra her intent.

All that was even before the series of accusations leveled against Joe Biden, the gradual revelations that Tara Reade’s accusations have a lot more credibility than Christine Ford’s ever did—even to the point that some of the more forceful proponents of #MeToo have been forced to qualify their previously inviolate ikkarei Emunah of “Believe Women” and “Accountability” in order to preserve Biden’s “electability”.

Kavanugh’s name appears a total of five times in her original piece. Certainly it would not be an onerous task of editing to replace Kavanaugh’s name with Biden’s in the essay, and dayenu; but no: until she at least did that, she would be forced to admit that it was never about halacha, and that she was using halacha as a “spade” [pace Avot 4:7] with which to beat her political opponents.  However, she no longer has to ask her local Torah scholar husband for a psak.  She can ask Kirsten Gillibrand.  Or Alyssa Milano.  Or Michelle Goldberg.  Their analyses would carry as much halachic weight as hers would.

Even halacha would say so.

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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