Dear Matan| December 7, 2021
This is not about you but about a line of dangerously naive policy that you now spearhead
We haven’t met, but since we share an interest in military jets — myself in watching them, yourself in flying them — we’d have lots to talk about over a drink in the Knesset cafeteria in between your duties as religious affairs minister.
Until that happens, let me explain my reason for writing: A few weeks ago, we ran a cover story in which I didn’t mince my words about the revolution you’re driving forward in everything from Israel’s kashrus to the country’s conversion and marriage systems.
“An unholy alliance of secularists such as Lapid and Lieberman, the Reform movement, and the liberal fringe of the national-religious world represented by Bennett and Kahana has taken charge,” I wrote, “that’s bent on destroying the status quo that has guaranteed Israel’s Jewish character since the days of Ben-Gurion.”
You’ll be glad to know that a number of readers took exception to lumping you — a proudly Orthodox Jew — together with the Reform movement and Avigdor Lieberman. One asked why Mishpacha regularly condemned identity politics while engaging in the same in-group / out-group dynamic when it comes to halachic issues.
So here’s an opportunity to clarify both for you, and for our readers, our line of thinking.
Firstly, it gives me no pleasure whatsoever to attack Israel’s first kippah-wearing prime minister or his party over their religious policies. Distasteful jibes about relative frumkeit aren’t my style. And your struggles to maintain halachic observance when serving in the air force — still a very secular branch of the IDF — were admirable.
So this is not about you but about a line of dangerously naive policy that you now spearhead.
In the view of an overwhelming majority of qualified rabbanim, your liberalizations of kashrus, to be followed by conversion and marriage, are deeply problematic for the halachic Jewish future. By “qualified” I mean a broad tent of chareidi, Modern Orthodox, and national-religious rabbanim.
That conclusion came after conversations with community leaders and rabbanim from across the spectrum, as presented in the original article. To put it bluntly, you know there’s something wrong when the religious affairs minister has managed to stitch together a coalition against him ranging from Ponevezh Rosh Yeshivah Rav Gershon Edelstein to Kiryat Arba chief rabbi Rav Dov Lior.
It matters not a whit that you are motivated by sincere thoughts of bridge-building across society, not secularism. To paraphrase Ben Shapiro — halachic facts don’t care about your outreach feelings.
The notion that hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Israelis — imported by the left to dilute the demographic advantage of the traditional public — are waiting for lenient halachic standards in order to flock to Judaism is laughable. A fire sale of halachic standards to solve a problem that we didn’t create is not our duty as religious Jews.
Yes, there are very real problems with the chief rabbinate’s provision of kashrus and marriage services, but instead of working to make the process more user-friendly, your solution is to throw out the baby with the bathwater by destroying the authority of the chief rabbinate.
So this is not “my” rabbanim versus “yours,” or an instance of intra-Orthodox cancel culture — but an unprecedented, broad coalition who is very worried by your policies and those very same halachic facts.
Given the government’s positions on matters of religion and state, I won’t be able to wish you every success. But allow me to support your reported stance against the Reform takeover of the Kosel.
So long until our meeting,
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 889)
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