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Havat Daat 5766 Adar 5

Informal translation from Hebrew of the 5 Adar, 5766 (5 March, 2006) statement:

Special Court for Matters Concerning the Nation and the State
Tel: 02-5661962, cell 050-6733831, fax: 057-7976007
Email: 47 Rachel Imeinu St. Jerusalem 93228

The Authority of the Government depends on Jewish Law

An Article with this Title was Published in “HaTzofeh”

An Article with this title was published in “HaTzofeh” (3rd of Adar 5766). In this article, the authoring rabbi, Rabbi Herzl Henkin, sees a danger in the Sanhedrin, who make a “fraud of halacha”, in his words.

Danger: Sanhedrin!

I am not the only one, in all likelihood, that related to the publications of the Sanhedrin with amused open-mindedness. The distance between the Sanhedrin of Jewish law and the Sanhedrin according to the public relations person are so great, that it seems that even the founders of this new body will not take themselves too seriously. On the other hand, as a representative of the longing for what is missing on the Jewish landscape for two thousand years, the Sanhedrin is not far in educational value from the Temple Institute, and if it won’t help, it can’t hurt.

I was wrong. The Torah Court for Matters of Nation and State, under the auspices of the Sanhedrin, a very pretentious name, published an amateurish halachic ruling in the form of a letter of encouragement to the people uprooted from Amona, signed by a small group of rabbis who are unknown in the field of halacha, who “caught a ride” on the name Sanhedrin. The letter denies all authority from all the governments of Israel since its founding and until today, and was published, among other places, in the weekly letter for youth (!) of “Small World”, which has a wide distribution.

I will make do with criticism on the opening section of the letter, in which there is a clear halachic decision, or so it seems:

To the question of the public: Does the current government and its orders today have binding authority?

Answer: In order for an order or law to have binding authority according to halacha, there are three basic conditions that must be met: Firstly, that the law will be set by people that know Torah and are G-d fearing. The second: That the people were appointed by G-d fearing Jews. Third: That the law will be set by the Torah of Israel. Without these three conditions, the authorities act against the nation and the Torah, and they are therefore defined as a “conspiracy of the wicked”, and they are not to be considered.

Clearly these words apply to all governments since 5708 (1948), for in all of them the conditions were not met: That the law be set by people that know Torah and are G-d fearing, that… they be appointed by G-d fearing Jews. But this is not what Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak haCohen Kook wrote in Shu”t Mishpat Cohen (144:1-15), that at a time when there is no king, due to the fact that the laws of the kingdom are also what touches to the general situation of the nation, return with it the rights of judgments to the hands of the nation in general, and he did not set a condition that the electors and the elected be Torah observant. And in Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (Part 1, 1:14), he wrote that even in our days, the president, the government, and the Kneset (even with their lacking in the religious subject, and it is obvious that in regards to religion, their decisions against it have no authority), that were elective by the will of the majority of Israel residing on its land, etc, and they stand in the place of a king in all things that touch on the general situation of the nation needed at their time and for the standing of the world.

Is it really possible that a public of wicked people cannot put upon themselves a king, and must live without government per Torah law? The ten tribes committed idolatry, and in any event in the Jerusalem Talmud (Horayot 3:2) they said “a king of Israel and a king of the House of David are equal … Rabbi Yosi son of Rabbi Bon said that this is only up to Yehu son of Nimshi … From here forwards they would steal the kingship”, therefore before Shalom son of Yavesh, who cut off the house of Yehu also had a status of king, and all the wicked kings of Samaria. And thus is the opinion of the Babylonian Talmud (Horayot 11b), wherein they didn’t make a distinction between before Yehu and the kings after him, and per this it is explained in Mar’eh Panim that per the opinion of the Babylonian Talmud, even the later kings of Samaria brought the goat. And the kings of Samaria didn’t have the status of kings?

And one can’t assert that the prophets crowned them all, for not one of the kings of the house of Omri was crowned by a prophet. And thus Tosafot wrote (Sanhedrin 20b) that Ahab did not rule by G-d’s will. And to their approach, he didn’t have the rights of the king which are written in the Torah (Deuteronomy 17:14-20), though he was definitely a king, for Elijah ran in front of him. But in Chidushei haRa”n (ibid) he ended his words saying that any king who was crowned by the ten tribes had the status of king in every way, that is to say per what is written in the section of the Torah on kings. And thus the Ridbaz wrote in his commentary on the Mishneh Torah Laws of Kings 3:4, that a king is someone who is crowned by a prophet or that all of Israel have agreed upon him, and no one made a condition that the nation needs to be righteous in order to appoint a king.

Maimonides, in the Laws of Kings 1:8 wrote that a prophet who appoints a king from all the tribes of Israel, and that king goes in the way of Torah, this is a king and all the commandments of the kingdom are in effect regarding him, even though the main intent of the laws are for David and his sons to be kings. Therefore he required appointment of a prophet and also that he goes in the way of Torah. But it is impossible to say that without these conditions he is not a king at all against all of what is written, but rather he needs these conditions in order for the commandments of the king to be in effect for him, like writing to Torah scrolls, etc, and for the matter of wives and horses, etc, and also to bequeath the kingdom to his sons as is written there, and in any event even without a prophet and observance of the Torah, he has the status of a king for everything else. And proof for this is in the Laws of Theft and Loss 5:18, and says it is regardless if it is a king of Israel or a gentile king, as he wrote there in 5:11.

And also in the times of the Second Temple by the wicked Sadducee kings, we do not find that their kingdoms were not considered to be kingdoms even after the fact. And even then, prophecy had already ceased before the Hashmonean kings reigned, and even thus, Maimonides writes in the Laws of Hanukah 3:1 that the Hashmoneans appointed a king from the Cohanim, and kingdom returned to Israel for more than two hundred years, until the destruction of the Second Temple, and he thereby included those unfit to be king and the wicked who reigned before the destruction. And it should be pointed out that King Agripas was not qualified to be king by the laws of Torah, and even so, he read from the Torah during Hakhel like a proper king, and the sages praised him. But rather they were after the fact kings in every respect, and if you would say otherwise, you have “taken away life from all of creation”, and we would need to appoint upon us a gentile government until the nation repents, and even this is forbidden to us by the Torah which says “you will not be able to put upon yourselves a foreign man”.

It is not because I sympathize with the current government of Israel, the opposite is true. But it is impossible to make a fraud of halacha.


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