Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Tammuz 5764 - July 7, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Chareidi Politics is Just Politics by Chareidim

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 activity.

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 and tzedokoh.

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 this.

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" (Yeshayohu 11:9).

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