" Thou comest to me with a sword and a spear and a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the L-rd of Hosts, the G-d of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast humiliated..." (I Samuel, 17:45-47)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The RCA Is (Still) Dead: Part II

"What will the goyim say?"  

Recently, a group of Israeli Rabbis disseminated a letter regarding one aspect of the Halachic status of non-Jews in the land of Israel. They correctly stated that according to the Torah, Jews are prohibited from selling or leasing property to gentiles in the Holy Land. The responses to this honest but politically incorrect statement came from all ends of the political and religious spectrum. The secular leftists condemned the declaration as racist and contrary to democratic values. Unfortunately, there is little to be done with people who have no concept of Torah, and whose ethics are premised on self-indulgence, hedonism, and the diseased ideology of moral relativism. 

The real tragedy in this whole affair is that too many orthodox Rabbis (both in Israel and abroad), publicly condemned this statement and declared it to be a distortion of the Halachah (Jewish law). To my knowledge, these Rabbis consistently neglected to cite even one Torah source to support their position. Regardless of how one chooses to interpret the Halachah (assuming that it is done with intellectual honesty and the fear of Heaven), a Torah scholar always brings a Torah source to validate a position. 

One prominent opponent of the letter in Israel was Rabbi Druckman, who after expressing his own dissatisfaction with the letter, went about revising the statement and drafting a more parve version.  (I don't know whether or not the original group of Tzfat Rabbis agreed to sign the revised "Halachah" or whether they're still standing by their original position. Naturally, if they agreed to follow the latter statement, it would negate their original action.) Several other prominent mamlachti (state-worshiping) Rabbis chimed in with their dissatisfaction. An absolute chillul Hashem (desecration of The Almighty's name).

Religious opponents of the "extremist" letter received a boost from across the Atlantic, when the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) stuck its nose into the affair. Had the RCA stood up for Torah and not the perceived interest of American shtetl Jewry, their interference would have been appreciated. Unfortunately, the RCA took a stand against the Tzfat Rabbis. As the old adage goes, they should have stayed home.

For an excellent treatment of this subject, check out my friend and fellow blogger's post, Esser Agaroth On The RCA. He covers all the bases. But I wanted to make a few comments of my own about this latest disgrace from the RCA. (For some of the RCA's previous "winning moments", see my older posts The RCA Is Dead (audio), and Where Is The RCA?)  In the interest of presenting my objections to this recent RCA position, I have included the entire statement below. My own comments (in blue) follow each paragraph:

Statement on Renting to Non-Jews Tsfat
RCA Statement Regarding the Sale or Rental of Property to non-Jews in Israel

Dec 14, 2010 -- The Rabbinical Council of America places great value on the judicious balancing of halachic and ethical principles of policy and action. The brilliance of the halachic tradition lies in its ability to affirm the Torah and rabbinic teachings of past generations, in a way which elevates and ennobles contemporary life, while bringing honor and respect to the Torah. This requires a special sensitivity to societal realities, widely-held ethical principles, and historical injustices. This is true no matter the particular circumstances that might militate in favor of policies or actions intended to protect a narrow community concern or interest.

The Jewish Fist Commentary: A whole lot of pseudo-babble without any Torah sources. The opening statement sounds like it was drafted by the Rabbinical Assembly, which is the international association of Conservative Rabbis. (I've often said that the RCA should drop the "c" and merge with the former group.) It pays homage to Halachic commitment while affirming the need to recognize "societal realities, widely held ethical principles, and historical injustices." Let's be honest. This is really a call for a malleable halachah that can be melted and molded to the times. What they really mean to say is that the Halachic prohibition of selling land to goyim in Israel is somehow affected by the fact that Jews (in America, and elsewhere) refuse to pack their bags and make Aliyah. This statement was written by people who are uncomfortable with an uncompromising politically-incorrect  psak Halachah coming out of the mouths of a minority of Israeli Rabbis. They don't want to be labeled "Jewish fundamentalists" by their goyish American neighbors.

For this reason, the Rabbinical Council of America finds the recent statement by certain rabbinic leaders in Tsfat, Israel, regarding rental and sale of residences to non-Jews, to be objectionable. The halachic issues at hand are indeed complex, and we are surely sympathetic to the impulse to protect a Jewish community in the face of intermarriage, communal conflict, or unsafe neighborhoods. We are also mindful of the need to respect the halachic and policy rulings of rabbis in other countries and specific locales, given their general familiarity with the facts on the ground.

The Jewish Fist Commentary: The Halachic issues are not complex. Playing pilpulisitc gymnastics with the Halachah because it makes you uncomfortable, isn't the definition of a complex issue. On this particular point, the Halachah was as clear to the Chazon Ish as it was to the Rambam

Rambam-Laws of Foreign Worship 10 4 [3] 
"One does not sell them houses or fields in Eretz Yisrael; but in Syria one may sell them houses, but not fields. One may rent them houses in Eretz Yisrael, provided that one does not make them a neighborhood -  and there is no neighborhood with less than three [households]. One does not rent them fields; but in Syria one rents them fields. And why were they strict regarding fields? For two reasons -[because they would] expropriate the tithes and be allowed to settle the land."
Keep in mind that there is unanimous agreement among the Rabbinic decisors (from the medieval periods to modern times), that only a ger toshav (Halachic resident stranger) who accepts 'tribute and servitude' can remain in the land.  It is important to note that while there are disagreements among these decisors regarding the exact criteria that must be met for one to be called a ger toshav, no gentile in Israel (Arab or otherwise) fulfills these criteria.

Chazon Ish-In a Letter to Rav Betzalel Zolti, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem (Kovetz Torah Sheb'al Peh, 11 pg. 44)
"I can find no pretext to allow selling land either to a non-Jew or to a Jew suspected of selling land to non-Jews."
Presumably, the RCA has sources that the Chazon Ish was unaware of. They just don't want to disclose them to us.

In spite of all of these considerations, we find it necessary to express our views from afar insofar as the statement in question affects not just Jewish communities in Israel, but communities in North America as well. In addition many rabbis across Israel whom we hold in high regard have spoken out in opposition to the statement.

The Jewish Fist Commentary: Within this statement, we see the typical reaction of shtetl Jews who worry about the goyim of the world. They pick and choose their religious Zionism. On the one hand they acknowledge the great miracles that The Almighty performed (and continues to perform for us) with the creation of the State of Israel. I'm fairly certain that most of the RCA membership would admit that the Israeli wars (past and present) constitute a Milchemet Mitzvah. However, when it comes to applying the Halachah as it pertains to goyim, the RCA suddenly becomes uncomfortable and plays what essentially boils down to as the "Satmar card." You can't upset the goyim before the Messiah arrives on eagles wings. (Of course, if a non-Jew entered Williamsburg and tried to entice Satmar girls to sin, they would hang him from the lampposts. On this issue I applaud the Satmar approach, despite their inconsistency.)

Recently, a group of religious Israeli women (their husbands are Rabbis) came out with a statement urging Jews to refrain from dating Arabs. What does the RCA make of this? Are the issues pertaining to intermarriage too complex to make such a blatant statement, or were these women correct to state what every observant Jew already knows? Isn't the RCA concerned about how American x-tians will react to such intolerant beliefs? If they are, I present Exhibit # 2 for the RCA to merge with the Conservative movement. If they agree with the position, then they need to immediately take the following actions:
  • Draft a letter in support of these strong women, regarding the dangers intermarriage poses to the Jewish people.
  • Make a retraction  for their recent statement and publicly acknowledge that some issues have to be stated outright regardless of how gentiles will perceive their statements.
It is our view that in spite of the concerns of the authors of the statement, it is wrong and unacceptable to advocate blanket exclusionary policies directed against minorities of other faiths or ethnic groups. Of all people, Jews should know that such practices are beyond the pale, having ourselves suffered from them in the past. This is especially so, when as in the statement issued by the rabbis in question, the halachic sources and arguments are a matter of debate, and even disagreement. And even were that not the case, it is not at all clear that the principles in question would apply in the State of Israel in the 21st Century.

The Jewish Fist Commentary: First we have an appeal not to use "blanket exclusionary policies against minorities..." Then the authors remind us that we have an obligation as Jews to remember that we suffered from discriminatory practices. First of all, to equate the Halachah with the kind of treatment we received at the hands of our muslim and x-tian hosts is the stuff of nausea. As if the motivations of the proper application of the Halachah have anything in common with the kind of psychopathic hatred that the goyim of the world visited upon us. Furthermore, the fact that we were treated brutally by gentiles doesn't  change the Halachah. For example, the Torah commanded us to wipe out the 7 Nations, despite the fact that we as Jews had already experienced a genocidal enemy known as Amalek. Nevertheless, the obligation to wipe out the 7 Nations (as well as Amalek) stands. Would the RCA like to cut out all sections of Tanach that make us look intolerant? 

We thus respectfully call upon the authors of the statement in question to reconsider their position, in the interest of communal harmony, societal peace, and the public sanctification of God's name, which are as always the hallmarks of the Torah way of life.

The Jewish Fist Commentary: There you have it in a nutshell. The RCA is calling upon Rabbonim to alter the Halachah so that it's more palpable for goyim to digest. It's bad enough that the RCA is unwilling to abandon the American exile and change the name of their organization to the RCI ("I" for Israel). But to call for the sanctification of G-d's name while trampling upon basic Halachic truisms, is another degree of outrage.

I remind the reader that in their entire statement, the RCA did not include one Halachic source. which permits Jews to sell or rent land to non-Jews. The problem is that there are no sources. Throughout history, this issue was never contested by those who know the Halachah. You can be certain that if there was a reliable source, the RCA would have included it. 

The Halachah is clear that the status of the non-Jew (any non-Jew) in Israel is not the same as a Jew. Only within the framework of very strict and specific conditions, (which includes acceptance of tribute and servitude) may a limited number of gentiles reside in Israel under the category of ger toshav. Without this status, no gentile can even remain in the land! This crucial point has been overlooked during this public outcry. The first Halachah that the Tzfat Rabbis (and indeed all Rabbis) should have stated is that gentiles who don't meet the criteria of resident stranger cannot remain in the land. Unfortunately, only Rabbi Meir Kahane (may G-d avenge his blood!) had the courage to state this without apologetics. The whole issue involving the prohibition of selling land to non-Jews only arises in the context of the "resident stranger", who can remain in the land with strict limitations.  Obviously, the murderous, thieving, non-Noahide Arabs do not fall in this Halachic category!

The RCA purports to represent a Torah position.  It's bad enough that they lacked the courage to state the truth.  At the very least they should have remained silent. (Not a high level, to be sure, but light years ahead of where they are now.) Instead we have this tremendous chillul Hashem that will never go away. It doesn't matter that the RCA presented their objections "respectfully" and at least superficially with respect for the Rabbis in question. That was all a veneer. They threw mud at the handful of Rabbis who had the courage to state the Halachic truth. They threw mud at the Torah, when they twisted the Halachah and declared that the impure was pure. Given the prominence of the RCA, another sin they can add to the list, is that they did it in front of the goyim. 

We can learn two important lessons from this affair:
  1. After 2000 years of degradation and despair at the hands of gentiles, we have whole communities of neurotic Jews today who behave like grasshoppers. Tragically, this includes learned Rabbis who make Halachic decisions on controversial issues, while ruminating about what goyim will think on the matter. As we've already seen, this is a disease that crosses oceans. In this particular case, the first grasshoppers that chirped were heard in the Holy Land.
  2. Anyone who acts like a grasshopper has no business making Halachic decisions, regardless of their intellectual brilliance or Torah accomplishments. Follow the advice of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Forefathers) carefully. Choose for yourself a rebbe (teacher), not a grasshopper.
The RCA is (still) dead. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

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