Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres said in a recent speech
that he is against religious parties. Since religion is
absolute and uncompromising and politics is anything but,
religious parties do not fit in, he says.
In fact there is a basic misunderstanding on his part, shared
by many political commentators, about what the religious
parties are all about.
There is no question that the chareidi parties do not view
their own involvement in politics as a fundamentally
religious act. (We are not discussing the National Religious
Party and what we have to say may or may not apply to them.)
Generally the main political goals of the chareidi community
are formulated in the same terms that all political parties
use: securing funding for the party's constituents and the
causes the party stands for, and dealing with various quality
of life issues. In these activities, the chareidi parties
have successes and failures and constantly engage in normal
political give and take.
Malicious politicians and their allies in the press paint the
normal chareidi political activity in loaded terms of light
and darkness, even when it is fully mundane. For example,
money given for building school classrooms is depicted as
chareidi blackmail in the service of medieval religious
motives, while if Shinui wangles a deal for university
tuition this is rightfully recognized as a normal political
It is definitely not part of chareidi political goals to
impose religious rule on the State of Israel. On the emphatic
contrary: religious rule is a purely religious goal and as
such is totally separate from all political activity. It is
pursued using only religious means: teshuvoh, tefilloh
If we want buses not to run on Shabbos, it is not because
achieving that is the first stage in a plan to force
shemiras Shabbos on every Jewish citizen and to run
the State of Israel according to Torah, but rather because of
our vision of the nature of the society we wish to live in.
Our understanding of a Jewish society -- in any sense worthy
of the term -- is that Shabbos, the historic social symbol of
the Jewish people, should be an important and integral part
of the fabric of society in Eretz Yisroel.
This was once recognized even by leading anti-religious
figures. In 1931 a number of them, including Yosef Klausner
and C. N. Bialik who had impeccable anti-religious
credentials, signed a statement that read (in part): "There
is no Jewish people and no Jewish nationality and no national
Hebrew homeland without Shabbos."
This is a fully accurate statement of our views and not a
special cleaned-up version for "outside" consumption. This is
clear if we recall the justification and motivation for
entering politics as given authoritatively half a century ago
by HaRav Reuven Grozovsky zt"l.
One of the major issues -- then and now -- that frames the
approach to the issue of participating in politics is the
prohibition against associating with reshoim. That
prohibition must be dealt with before going ahead, and it
will continue to inform the relationship as long as it
continues. There is no heter to associate with
reshoim in order to bring about religious control.
HaRav Grozovsky explained, "If we live in a state we are
ipso facto partners in it, and the government rules
over us whether we want it to or not. There is no possibility
of evading its laws, nor can a campaign to abolish, or at
least mitigate, their wicked decrees be carried out other
than through their laws. Therefore the Mishnah's
warning, "Do not join a wicked person" (Ovos 1:7),
is irrelevant in our case--since we are together with them
anyway. On the contrary, if we do not use the rights that
they left us in their laws to fight them--for example, if we
do not participate in the elections-- we are actually
relinquishing our right to maintain our own views. We are
handing our opinions over to the wicked [to form], and it is
as if we are assisting them to strengthen their control over
us, and to lead us and our children to the three cardinal
sins: idolatry, gilui arayos and murder."
From our perspective the reality is harsh. But this is the
religious reality. The practical effect is to make our
representatives in the Knesset as political as anyone else
(and as law-abiding as anyone else).
The fact that our representatives bring with them the weight
of Jewish tradition when they deliberate and that our
rabbonim determine policy and priorities does not affect
In the meantime we send politicians to the Knesset to
practice politics for us, and we hope and pray in the
shuls and the botei medrash for the speedy
arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, when all parts of the Jewish
people will be united under one banner and all facets of life
will be focused on one thing since, "the entire world will be
filled with knowledge of Hashem like water covers the oceans"