Sunday, August 23, 2009

Today's Talmud Lesson: Does Zionism violate rabbinic law?

Editor's Note: Here is an interesting short sketch of how the chameleon-like rabbinic law (halacha), which is often situation ethics, except when a core principle is at stake (such as the alleged ethnic and ethical supremacy of "Klal Israel" i.e the "Jewish" nation over the depraved goyim) ---is decided based on the demands of the zeitgeist. For hundreds of years it was a heresy in Judaism to seek to found the Israeli nation-state by armed intervention before the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah). With the success of Zionism however, other halachos were conveniently excavated which justified what had once been forbidden. This is the same spirit that informs the US Supreme Court's situation ethics approach to the US Constitution. This is why Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, the alleged "conservative," is such a keen student of rabbinic halacha.

Glossary note: "Gemara" = Babylonian Talmud


Question: How was it possible to establish the "State of Israel" when the Gemara (Ketubot 111a) says that it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world?

Answer: While the Gemara in Ketubot does mention the prohibition of rebelling against the nations of the world, it is not found in the law codes – not in the Rambam (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) or the Shulchan Aruch (of Rabbi Joseph Karo).

There are two possibilities why this is so:

1. It is a dispute and we did not hold this way (Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, Le-Netivot Yisrael, vol. 2, p. 217).

2. This is not a legal (halachic) issue but a homilectic (aggadic issue) (see Shut Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah #454 and Ha-Rav Menachem Kasher's "Ha-Tekufah Ha-Gedolah," p. 187).

There is a commentary to the Rambam's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot called "Megillat Ester" by Ha-Rav Yitzchak Leon and he did in fact write that it is forbidden to conquer Eretz Yisrael since it is it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world.

He (Ha-Rav Yitzchak Leon ) argued with the Ramban who said that it is a mitzvah to conquer the Land of Israel throughout all generations (Additions to the Sefer Ha-Mitzvot, positive mitzvah #4).

It is thus a dispute between the Ramban and the author of "Megillat Ester." According to the general rules of deciding Halacha, we must follow one of them. The Ramban is well-known to all and there are many of his rulings (included) in the Shulchan Aruch, while there is not even one law from the "Megillat Esther."

Furthermore, the Rambam did not cite the Gemara that it is forbidden to rebel against the nations of the world.

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maimonides "Situational Ethics" is obviously long hand for "lying". What a silly pipsqueek he must have been. Even sillier those that would drink from his poisoned well.

Anonymous said...

This article is even more convoluted than it may appear at first, bacause the Kabbalist Ramban(Nachmanides-1194-c. 1270) and Rambam. who was ostensibly primarily a Talmudist (Maimonides- 1135-1204)seem to be conflated here.

Anonymous said...

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war and until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation, until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained... now everywhere is war.”
- Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Michael Hoffman said...

To Anonymous 8:38 a.m.

This is the famous quote that is a pillar of Rastafarian/reggae culture. The problem is Selassie was a tyrannical dictator who Marcus Garvey despised. One cannot be for Garvey and Selassie without being double-minded. Garvey was a decent fellow. Selassie was a despot.