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Religious Zionism and Judicial Reform

The following is a transcript of Episode 73 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors.

Donniel: My name is Daniel Hartman and I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. And this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage Project. Major support for For Heaven’s Sake comes from the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation. 

Our theme for today is Religious Zionism and the Judicial Reform. And what we’re gonna be doing in this podcast, and in a number of podcasts that come down in the next weeks or months, is to try to put a spotlight, not on the meta issues, but on some aspects of Israeli society which might not be that broadly known, not fully understood, but in order to understand where Israeli society is, you have to get into some of the groups, some of the segments, and some of the ideologies. And so today we’re gonna focus on religious Zionism. 

And this week we’re really happy because Elana is back. She’s back from bronchitis, she’s back from Corona, she’s back from technical issues, and she’s here and loved and we’re really happy that you’re with us again, Elana. 

Elana: Me too.

Donniel: By the way, I just heard that your upcoming book is now available for pre-order on Amazon. People, look up Elana Stein Hain. A great book is coming soon, but we’re gonna talk about it more seriously at another time. But it’s a big deal, people, a big deal. 

Elana: Aw, thanks. Thank you. 

Donniel: Our topic today is the role that religious Zionism is playing in the current judicial reform. Now, the religious Zionist community numbers a little over 10% of Israel’s population, but it punches way, way, way above its size, and it has emerged as one of the most influential segments of Israeli society, both within the government and in the country at large, in the leadership of the country. 

Now when you go back in history, you could see a fascinating evolution of the religious Zionist community over the years. Originally, it was a very politically moderate party, and the community aligned with Labor Zionism in what was then called the Historic Alliance, which was the foundation of every government from 48 until Menachem Begin took over. 

But it moved from that role, post 67, to becoming a community which was at the vanguard of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria. And then they shifted from the Labor Zionism to being aligned with the Likud. And then there too, they became a permanent fixture in the government, government policies, and in the country. 

Now, today, we’re witnessing a new stage in the evolution of religious Zionism, and that is from a community whose concern was primarily focused on issues of territory and settlement, as well as security, to the religious Zionist community being the vanguard of the Netanyahu government judicial revolution.

Now, let’s just be clear from the beginning and we’re gonna talk about it, I’m using the term religious Zionism for about a million people. Three quarters of a million, a million people. And there is no such thing as a monolithic community. Now, while the vast majority of the community is politically right-wing, very small are left-wing on issues of security, when it comes to Israeli society and the relationship to liberal values, there is huge varieties within the community.

Now, while not let me say this, not every religious Zionist is at the vanguard of the judicial revolutional reform. A very large segment of those who are at the vanguard do come from the religious Zionist community. And if you go and look at the X number of people who were at the at the demonstration, again, some people say 90%, that’s too much. The, at the pro-Judicial Reform demonstration, which numbered again, depends who you ask, between a hundred to 200 and according to some 17 million, that just tells you statistics are always interesting when it comes to politics. But in any event, half three quarters, were kippa wearers.

So why, why is this an issue? What’s going on here? Since its founding, the religious Zionist community has traditionally seen itself as a bridge between different parts of Israeli society. They felt at home with all the different diverse ideological and ethical tribes, they’re able to pray with the ultra-Orthodox, serving in the Army with secular and traditional Israelis.

But now, instead of their role as built as bridge builders, a large segment of the community, and principally those who bear its name, and the political party that bears its name, have become leader leading players in Israel’s latest cultural war. What has caused this change? How deep has this new cultural identity of religious Zionism penetrated into the community? Is there our opposition to this development? And where is this community and with it, the state of Israel heading? 

This is our issue. What’s interesting is both myself, Elana, and Yossi, all of us at different parts of our lives and maybe even at the present, identify with this community, see ourselves as members of this community.

Yossi, this this move, why, dafka, the religious Zionist community taking such a prominent role on this issue?

Yossi: Well I think there are two sources, one positive and one negative. The positive source is that the religious Zionist community now feels so thoroughly integrated into Israeli society, that it feels that it has the right and the responsibility to reshape the society in all of its aspects and its image.

And this is relatively new for the religious Zionist community, because, as you said in your really terrific introduction, Donniel, that the community has evolved. It’s gone from really being preoccupied with foreign policy issues, settlements. Now it sees itself responsible for the entire state in all of its aspects. We see, for example, religious Zionist taking more and more prominent role in media, and this is also relatively new, so that’s the positive side of this.

The negative side is that, and and this is really a contradiction to everything that I’ve just said, is that the religious Zionist community is a traumatized and wounded community. They’re still living the aftereffects of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, when they found themselves opposed to a majority, I would even say a strong majority of the country, the unilateral withdrawal happened under the Likud’s auspices. It was not a left-wing-initiated project. 

And so they felt isolated, not from from the left and the center but even within the right. And there is this deep sense of grievance, I would go so far as to say a certain feeling of revenge, that they were left alone. And not only that they were left alone to oppose the withdrawal, but that the rest of the country, and I’m doing a kind of breast-beating here, we didn’t stand with them in their trauma. 

Now I fully supported the unilateral withdrawal, and to this day, I have no regrets that we are not occupying Gaza. I think we had to cut it. Sharon was right. But we left religious Zionists bleeding, wounded, without giving them an embrace, without standing in solidarity. We removed thousands of people from their homes. We destroyed people’s lives. And then we thought we could just go on with business as usual and we assumed it was over. I certainly thought it was over. And now this government has has returned to show us that you can never circumvent trauma. You have to acknowledge it and go through. 

Donniel: So Yossi, let’s play with this for a few minutes, cause let’s notice what you argued and what you didn’t explain. Your explanation is actually a fascinating one, which says, the religious Zionists don’t wanna be bridge builders anymore. That to be a bridge builder, you have to feel safe. You have to feel that you’re at the center, accepted by everybody. You have to have a larger vision of where you wanna go.

And when you’re traumatized, you’re not interested in being a build bridger, you’re being a naval grazer. So like, so I’m okay. 

Yossi: Exactly right. Exactly right. 

Donniel: Now, that is interesting. But they’re trying to move the whole country. And I, the particular issue, see, like there is a segment of the religious Zionist community, very, very small, tiny, who became ultra-Orthodox because of this trauma, they don’t say Halel, they just walked away. 

Once the state of Israel could give up on the land, and let’s just remind our readers, the settler movement is not about settlements. The settlements are a manifestation of a vision of the world and a messianic process in which when the Jewish people are firmly in control of the holy land, then the redemption will occur. And the whole telos of Israel was enable not the national rebirth of the Jewish people, but the reclaiming of the land with national rebirth, but for the sake of a Messianic end.

The state is not the end. The state is just the first step, first stage in a much larger process. When the state itself then mandates you leave the land, the state is violating its telos. So some of them said if you’re doing that, then I’m no longer a religious Zionist. 

But religious Zionists, they’re serving in the army. 30% of the junior officers in the top combat units come from the religious Zionist community. They’re still serving. So they haven’t disconnected. But what they’re trying to do now, and I’m gonna interpret your comment, the country that betrayed them, they wanna make sure that they’re strong enough to stop that betrayal from ever happening again. 

That if the army dismantled the settlements, we’re gonna take over the army. If the media is against us, we’re gonna take over the media. And so instead of being a bridge builder, they wanna make sure that they’re not gonna be transparent anymore. 

But then comes the question: why judicial reform? What is it about the judicial reform, that is activating? Is it again, about controlling anybody or trying to undermine anybody who they see as their enemy? Is that all it is, Yossi? Is it just like the media was always left and against us, therefore we have to now play major roles in the media? Just like the Army was in control by the kibbutz Labor, now we have to go there? Is the Supreme Court the same story in your mind, Yossi? 

Yossi: No, for me it isn’t, but I think that for many religious Zionists it is.

Donniel: No I’m talking for them.

Yossi: Yes. If you listen to the way that they characterize the Supreme Court, they call it, the Supreme Court is a political party. It’s not the national court, it’s the party of Meretz, of the far left.

Now I don’t know if that characterization was ever true. It’s certainly not true today. And one of the ironies for the religious Zionist community is that the next the next scheduled Supreme Court Chief Justice, according to the seniority laws, is going to be a justice who is a religious Zionist and lives in the settlement of Ofra. That’s who’s coming up next. 

And so at this moment, you choose to to target the Supreme Court as the as the enemy of your community? And there’s something so counterintuitive. So I feel there’s something irrational being played out here, in this particular case, and that’s why I go back to the unilateral withdrawal, which Smotrich and others constantly cite as the great trauma, because the Supreme Court didn’t stop the removal from people’s homes. 

Here was the great government abuse of individual rights There’s nothing more elemental than the right to your home. And the government sent the army in, dragged people out, and the Supreme Court was silent. And so paradoxically, they’re faulting the court for not being activist in this particular case, and now they want to neutralize the court’s ability to intervene where the court feels impelled to to do that. And I think they’re not reading the map correctly. I think there’s there’s a deep misperception here.

Donniel: Now, just to add to it, by the way, six out of the 15 Supreme Court Justices are, either now identify with the religious Zionist community themselves, or were formerly members of the religious Zionist community. So here it is.

Yossi: It’s stunning. And you remember, yeah, in the past there was one, right, just Menachem Elon.

Donniel: There was one. There was always, Menachem Elon, there was the one. You know, Yitzhak Englard. Now, 6!

So because, in fact, since 2008, the Supreme Court appointments are appointed by a consensus of the justices and whoever is in the government, because each side had a veto. And as a result, you could only appoint through consensu.s So it was actually a successful process.

Yossi: But what’s going on? Donniel, what do you think is going on here?

Donniel: Okay, that’s what I want to tell you. See, cause my fundamental rule, and maybe again it’s our different personalities, you say there’s something, what did you, use the word irrational? Was that what you were?

Yossi: Yes. Yes. 

Donniel: I, again, I hate irrationality. Now, to claim that human beings are always rational might be one of the greatest irrational statements that you can make. I appreciate that.

But I don’t see this as simply an irrational move. I see this as a desire to remove a particular source of authority which functions in accordance with a set of principles that they can’t control. 

I think part of what’s happening here, in the discussion in Israeli society about democracy of Israel and the Jewishness of Israel, which for some reason in Israel are portrayed as opposites, as in tension with each other. But in the Israeli political discourse, the Supreme Court is a system which functions on the basis of human rights.

It is the rule of law. It is the rule of attempting to govern or to limit the abuse of the executive branch when it abuses inalienable human rights of people. Now, what the religious Zionist community, when they look at that, that is a source of authority which does not give power or sufficient power to religion, or even to their own will.

For them, the critical issue is not the constitution of the Supreme Court. That’s only one part of the reform. For them, the critical issues of the reform are the ability of the Knesset to override, the ability of the Supreme Court to use reasonableness as a condition. 

The fact, and here you hear this over and again, the fact that the Supreme Court created a constitution, cause Israel doesn’t have one, they created a constitution on the basis of basic laws of human freedom and dignity, and said, this is the authority. 

Now, when that is the case, the Supreme Court is putting in place a source of authority, which limits the ability of the religious Zionist community, and of religion in general, to play a role in the state.

Yossi: Okay, I got it. I think that’s a really important point, if I can just jump in here for a minute, Donniel, because I want to go back to the irrationality of this. There’s something, there’s something we

Donniel: Yossi.

Yossi: Yes.

Donniel: Thank you, cause I was just warming up, so I really, for this, so for the sake of our listeners, I appreciate you, because I’m gonna come back. But please, go on. Go on. Yes.

Yossi: There’s a deep paradox here. There’s something that is irrational in the community’s response to the legitimacy of the court, because when the community was excluded or confined to one token representative on the court, religious Zionism had little problem the legitimacy of the rule of secular law. It was part of the Zionist enterprise. Now, as you noted, they’ve succeeded in being thoroughly integrated into the court. 

Now, they’re raising an issue which, until recently, was really identified with an ultra-Orthodox critique of the court, which is that that this court represents alien values. Values that are alien to to the Jewish state. 

Where I agree with you, Donniel, is that there is a deeper ideological motive playing out here, which is that in growing segments of the religious Zionist community, the Jewish state and the Jewish people are the same. In other words there’s no space. To conceive of a modern state as being, in some ways, separate from the Jewish people. Obviously the two overlap, but they’re not entirely the same.

Donniel: What do you mean, Yossi, what do you mean?

Yossi: 20% of the state of Israel is not Jewish. One of the court’s mandates is to protect that 20%, but in the minds of religious Zionists, they are undermining the authenticity of a Jewish state, and undermining the equivalence of a Jewish state, with the Jewish people. The total equivalence.

Donniel: Okay, so maybe it’s a matter of semantics, Yossi. When you’re juxtaposing state and people, and you’re saying the Supreme Court is a state, it thinks in terms of a state, while they’re interested in thinking 

Yossi: Yes, yes, thank you. 

Donniel: Thank you, if that’s what, if that’s what you mean. 

Another way of saying it, is that the religious Zionist community saw what happens  when there are policies over which they do not have control. I believe there is a core fear of institutions which they and their political power and their role in coalitions do not have an ability to control. 

Now earlier on, we didn’t have an activist Supreme Court. So the activism of the Supreme Court really begins, set from 1992. And it is really only after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 that they see the consequences of non-governmental power bodies. Like, they now there really are, there is a balance of power which wasn’t felt beforehand. Even if there’s more religious Zionist people on the court, by definition, this court needs to be limited, because its core check and balance brings to discussion categories that they do not feel that they necessarily could control.

Yossi: I like that. I like that better than what I said earlier, about how feelings of revenge are playing out. I think that they’re there, and you hear it with Smotrich and others, but I think you are right, that the deeper motive here is fear. They fear the state institutions, they fear the capacity of the state institutions to undermine their national project, which is the settlement movement. And I think they’re really trying to ensure, as you say, that what happened in Gaza doesn’t happen in Judea and Samaria.

Donniel: Because they know how to play that game. They just have to make sure they’re in the coalition, and they write a coalition agreement and make sure that, even if they don’t get everything they want, they are the check and balance in a coalition from the government undermining a settlement agenda. 

So in many ways, then, this shift is really not a shift. This new stage, which I presented in the introduction, is not a new stage. It’s just that the front line of settlement building has moved from settlements itself, because there’s enough. Cause right now, you’re not able to create a two-state solution, because if we couldn’t withdraw, if we couldn’t move 8,000, we’re certainly not gonna be able to move a hundred 150,000 of those settlers outside of the settlement blocs. 

Now they have to make sure that it stays the same. So it could be that it really is a continuation just, the community realized that the frontline is different.

I think there’s one other thing that I wanted to put on the table, Yossi, and get your comments on it, and then we’ll turn to Elana. 

In this particular government, the religious Zionist community, or rather the religious Zionist party, is not representative of religious Zionism. Religious Zionism is divided into three in Israel, pretty equal possibly. 

One is a Haredi Leumi, an ultra-Orthodox Zionist, very similar to the Haredi community but they’re nationalists. The other are mainstream centrist Orthodox with right-wing inclinations, and the third are modern Orthodox. Under Betzalel Smotrich and Ben Gvir, both of them come from the Haredi Zionist wing of the religious Zionist community. 

Not only is the Supreme Court a challenge, it’s a chaotic or anarchic group. Like we can’t control it. And when they speak about it, they speak about, it creates a game, makes its own rules, and sets what we should do. And they say, we can’t have that. 

I think the religious Zionist community is now, the party is controlled by a group of people who actually have a different definition of the relationship between state and religion. And the Supreme Court is not an institution in which Torah has any sway. Quite to the contrary, very often, when you bring Torah politics into Israeli life, you’re violating individuals’ personal liberties. 

So the Supreme Court is this counter authority. Supreme Court is democracy. And we are the party of Judaism. And part of what’s happened is that precisely because they’re presenting it as such, a very large segment of Israeli society woke up and said, one second, I care about democracy. They’ve moved away from, in the past, major coalition partners of theirs. A third of the Likud party, at least according to the current polls, will not vote for the Likud party. 

That means the Likud party, which said, I’m comfortable with religious Zionism and Haredim, all of a sudden, because this move against the Supreme Court is actually motivated, not by who sits on the Supreme Court, and it’s not this clause or that clause. It has to do with the place of Judaism in Israeli society. Is this a Jewish state or is this a democratic state? 

And since they’re pushing, saying, I stand for the Jewish, now, we have, what is it, 60, 65% of the Jewish population standing up and saying, I don’t want to choose, I don’t want Judaism to destroy democracy. And here, instead of being the bridge on this issue, they’re at the vanguard, not of an attack against the Supreme Court, but of an attempt to shift the core values in the country.

It’s both more ominous, but it’s also interesting that it’s backfiring on them. And now, they really aren’t the bridge builders, this, this religion. There might be other religious Zionists. These religious Zionists are really much more at the fringe, it seems, to where Israeli society is.

Yossi: You know, it’s such an important point you’re raising, because religious Zionism, in all of its phases, moderate to hard-line, always saw itself as sitting comfortably within the majority.

And I think they did. And they were certainly, the religious Zionist community was always seen as something different from the Haredim, were always embraced, even by their political opponents. 

I’m not sure that religious Zionists understand the full implications of what’s happening. I’m not sure that they understand, because I think in many ways, they still see themselves as thoroughly mainstream, as bridge builders, and they’re not owning up to having allowed themselves to be co-opted or led by the minority Ultra-Orthodox wing of religious Zionism. And they haven’t fully thought through the consequences of what that will mean for their place in Israeli society.

Donniel: You know, one way of saying this, tell me if this sounds right to you, and then I’m really gonna turn to Elana. Religious Zionism assumes that religion and Zionism could coexist. But the fact is they never really worked out. An ideology about where, statehood, is gonna come first, what role of religion.

It was an assumption, that since this is the returning of the Jewish people to their land, God, Torah is, it’s all, they embraced it religiously, but they never worked out a clear ideology. And as a result, when a segment of the religious Zionist community steps forward and says, Torah is in opposition to democracy the other, even though a large segment says, that’s not what I believe, there isn’t a Torah, there’s a Torah of religious Zionism about the sacredness of the land. There isn’t a Torah of the relationship between democracy and Judaism. 

And then extreme forces could push a whole community and they say, yeah, I’ve always voted, my grandfather voted religious Zionist. I’ll vote religious Zionist. But is this what you want to be or do, is a much more complicated issue. 

And this community, given its power and role in society and in the government, is actually taking us down a path that could be very, very dangerous. It might ultimately end up marginalizing them very significantly in the future.

Let’s take a short break, and then Elana, our strongest member, Yossi, of the religious Zionist community, will join us. 

Elana, I’m sure you’re watching this, and your whole career, as an Orthodox Jew, I see you dancing and it’s a beautiful dance to watch, and it is a really critical dance, is you don’t let other people define your categories. 

Elana: You got it.

Donniel: You don’t take it from anybody. You are about redefining. You’re about interpreting. You’re about standing and saying, yes, I am Orthodox. Yes, and I’m in my community. You don’t step out. I stay in, but I wanna stretch the limits. Seeing this religious Zionist move in Israel, before we learn, like on a personal level, where does it find you?

Elana: Okay, so, I have a lot of thoughts about this, I’m gonna go with, two places that I’m gonna go.

First of all, I wanna say, I really like that we’re not painting all of religious Zionism with one brush. I think it’s very, I think it’s critical. So I would say my first trigger is, alright, so this is about it’s partially about theocracy. It’s partially about settlements, which is part of theocracy also, and the place of democracy in religious thought, right? It’s really partially about that. 

Now, of course, there is a need for some sort of change within the structure of the court in some way, because there has been overreach, and a lot of people who aren’t pro this version of the overhaul are pro some change, some reform, right? But the overhaul is really pushing against democratic norms. It’s really pushing against democratic norms. 

So I guess the first thing I wanna say is that it really does push me in the direction of, we need some updated religious thought on the role of democracy, now. It needs to be developed now. It needs to be worked on now. 

Because I feel a great affinity for the people who are not pro this version of the overhaul. And I feel a great affinity for people who are trying to do the dance that I’m trying to do. And I wanna see what kind of constructive religious thought can come out for what is the role of democracy. That’s the first thing.

Second thing I wanna say is that, as a woman, in the last few years, I actually have seen the Supreme Court give possibilities to religious women, that we couldn’t get otherwise. In 2020, the Supreme Court said religious women can take rabbinic exams. And forced that issue. That was the Supreme Court upholding what I wanna see in religion, not going against it. And so I also wanna see,

Donniel: More than that, Elana. Do you remember the Supreme Court forced rabbinic councils all over the country to allow women to be on the councils?

Elana: Yes, meaning, there’s something here that, yes, we can talk about this big conversation about democracy and theocracy, but I think that there are pockets within the religious Zionist world that recognize that there are pieces, there are pieces that the Supreme Court does for them within a religious experience, right? 

Or Haredi women who petitioned the court and said, why is there an Agudah party where we’re not allowed to run, or we’re not allowed to be part of it? So there’s more to it. And I loved how Tehilah Friedman, you know, has put it, she’s like, people wanna say it’s Jewish versus Democratic, but sometimes it’s Jewish versus Jewish, right. And there’s something to that. So those are my first two. 

And I wanna say I put my money where my mouth is, as you know, we are doing a three-part series on religious Zionists who have different visions. Literally, I am interviewing today, in an hour, I am interviewing former member of Knesset Tehilah Friedman, about the question of what is the political future of religious Zionists want democracy as part of their religious platform? Meaning, I’m putting my money where my mouth is, but this is a major, major, major trigger for me. 

But now let’s learn some Torah. Can we do that? That’ll make me feel, it always makes me feel a little bit better.

Donniel: Elana, it doesn’t only make you feel better, it’s at least according to our surveys, it makes all of our audience feel better.

Elana: Oh, good. Let’s all, listen, the Talmud says that Torah can be a sam of chayim, like an herb of life. So let’s let it be an herb of life. 

So, when I look at this, here’s where my mind goes. My mind goes right to different court metaphors that the rabbis have, because what we’re really talking about here is distrust of institution. I know you called it fear. I wanna call it mistrust, and I wanna call it distrust. Because I think that fear sometimes makes people seem irrational, whereas mistrust or distrust may be like, maybe they’re noticing that there is something that’s not really going in their direction over and over and over again.

And I think it’s something that we gotta reckon with. And I love how many times on this podcast we’re like, oh, we have to rethink what we thought a few years ago, cause we’re reckoning. So I’m gonna take us to the Jerusalem Talmud, even though this is also in the Babylonian Talmud, because the way the Jerusalem Talmud puts this, it just says it right out there. 

It’s the Talmud in Yoma, and the Jerusalem Talmud has strange paginations, so we’re just gonna call it 7B. Okay? And the conversation is that on Yom Kippur, holiest day of the year, why is it that when the high priest, the Kohen Gadol, goes into the Holy of Holies, holiest day of the Year, holiest place, he’s not wearing his finest garments. He’s not wearing his gorgeous golden vestments. He has this golden, you know, head thing that he wears and there’s gold woven into some of the clothing that he usually wears. But when he goes into the Holy of Holies, nope, only the white clothing. 

Here’s how it goes. Why does the high priest serve with the clothing that is not gold? And the conversation goes, maybe it’s because of arrogance. We don’t want him to go into the Holy of Holies seeming like, look at me, I’m wearing gold. Look how fancy I am. And Rabbi Simon says, actually, yeah, that makes sense. Meaning, God’s the sovereign. You’re not the sovereign. Don’t come in wearing gold. 

But Rabbi Levy says, you can’t have the prosecutor become the defense attorney. What do we mean by that? Yesterday, meaning in scripture, regarding gold, it says, and the people used the gold to make a golden calf. And now, today, you think you’re gonna come into the Holy of Holies, on the holiest day of the year, wearing gold and nobody’s gonna think twice about it? What is the prosecuting attorney, meaning, what essentially crushes you, cannot be the thing that you use as something that can give you merit. Ein katei gor ne’esaeh sanei gor.

And I’m thinking so much about this. This is what mistrust of institutions is about. Supreme Court. You think we’re gonna look at you something that helps us? But look at all the places where you’ve prosecuted us. And by the way, it’s not just that what we’re talking about is like something categorical.

You know, you used it for something bad, so you can’t use it for something good. It’s shameful. It’s shameful. How dare you? How dare you suggest that you are the engine of democracy in this country, if all I see you doing, if you are here on behalf of the people, you’re here to protect our rights, if all I see you doing are trampling my rights, is trampling my rights, trampling my security, endangering me and my family, endangering my religion.

That is what I see here. That is not something that can be taken lightly. Now, is there any other way about it? I looked at there’s this poster going around of the 50 Supreme Court decisions that people are angry with, and one of them is that the Supreme Court said you can’t keep people from bringing chametz into hospitals, 2020 or something. 

Now I’m thinking, I’m like, okay, everybody should have freedom of conscience on Pesach. If they wanna bring chametz in, they can bring chametz in. That’s what they do. But some people look at this and they say, wait, no, you’re taking away religion and you’re going against religion. You’re violating my religion.

So is there any way to make the Supreme Court not the prosecuting attorney in this situation? Maybe not. But there’s something here of, for shame, how dare you, like who do you think you are, right? So I like put that on one side of my screen. Now again, remember, I don’t support the judicial overhaul as it is. I do think that there need to be changes. I’m not an Israeli legal scholar. I’ve just been reading as much as I can, and I would suggest Netta Barak-Corren in English. We will put the link next to this podcast, but I wanna put that next to the following. 

Okay. We, I might have even taught this Torah on the podcast before, it doesn’t matter. It’s relevant.

Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot, 105B. Rava says the following. Rava was a judge. He served as a judge. He says, when I was a scholar in the city of Mechosa, I thought everybody loved me, right, meaning this was before he was a judge. He was just a scholar, you know? But when I was appointed a judge, I thought that some people would hate me and other people would love me. And then I observed that the person who loses in court today wins tomorrow. And then I realized if I’m loved, everybody loves me a little, and if I’m hated, everybody hates me a little.

And I like what Rava is saying because he’s essentially saying, look, as a judge, one of the things I need to do is I need to be able to have Donniel and Yossi in my court today and say guilty and have Donniel and Yossi in my court in three weeks from now and say innocent about something else. Right? 

It can’t be about you and who you are and what you are. It has to be each piece. And what I wonder is, is there a possibility? I understand, Yossi, you’re saying who’s on the court, we’re talking about court decisions. We’re talking about if there’s actually a particular kind of political angle to the court.

Is there a possibility of having this kind of situation where everybody hates them a little and everybody loves them a little? Or are we basically saying, look, this is about theocracy, and anybody who’s gonna defend the masses against theocracy is gonna be hated. Like that’s the big question mark in my mind.

Donniel: It’s beautiful. You know, just very recently, one of the last Supreme Court decisions, from just a couple of months ago was a group of petitioners who wanted to open up a mikvah in a predominantly secular community. And the community said, we’re not giving approval, we know that if a mikvah opens up, they’re gonna come, they’re gonna move in, right?

Elana: Right, right, by the way, we’ve had that with eruv here. The Jews are coming. The observant Jews are coming. 

Donniel: So, and they said, since we have the right to define the nature of the community, we’re not gonna allow the building of a mikva. They petitioned the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said the basic law of human freedom and dignity, people have a right to have a mikvah near their home and they ruled in favor of the mikvah. 

Elana: I love it.

Donniel: So, and I think the challenge is, as you said, that judges are gonna be sometimes loved and sometimes hated. That’s just gonna be the way it is. But your job is to see that bigger picture. It’s the gold model that you used. It’s the same gold. Cause it’s not.

It’s like you have this, you’re stuck in a singular model, which, also, what’s so cute, is that here we’re talking about it’s, it could go back 3000 years and we’re still remembering, we’re like, we’re remembering gold, gold of the golden calf. Like, really? When are you gonna get over it? And it goes back to like, I know it was 2005, and I know trauma cannot be ignored, but at some point, you expect of leadership, as our country moves forward. So those two analogies are really very powerful and important. And it’s a challenge of the religious Zionist community and not just them, of the country.

Are we gonna be stuck? Or are we gonna recognize that the role of the Supreme Court is to aggravate all of us? Because especially us who have, the more power you have, it’s job is to aggravate you. And that’s the nature of the story. 

For Heaven’s Sake is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It’s produced by David Zvi Kalman, with support from Michal Taylor. It was edited by Gareth Hobbs at Silver Sound NYC. Our production manager is M. Louis Gordon and Maital Friedman is our vice president of communications and creative. And our music was provided by Socalled.

Major funding for For Heaven’s Sake is provided by the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation of Los Angeles because of our shared commitment to strengthen the connection between Jews in North America and Israel. Transcripts of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after an episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at 

We wanna know what you think about the show. You can write and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected]. Subscribe to our show everywhere else podcasts are available. See you in two weeks. Thank you so much for listening.

Elana and Yossi, a pleasure as always. Talking with you, and trying to figure out, we have a great country, but we actually have to understand it, so it was a pleasure being with you. 

Elana: Great to be back. 

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