May 29, 2008
mehadrin buses and National Religious passivity
Rav Yuval Sherlo, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Hesder Yeshiva of Petach Tikva and a rising, though sometimes controversial, star in the National Religious Rabbinate weighed in with interesting thoughts on two topics.
- On the topic of the recent geirus controversy - Rav Sherlo wrote a column in which he lays the blame completely on the National Religious public.He wrote that because the National Religious leadership removed itself from the public leadership, by declaring in advance that it would sit in the opposition and not join the Olmert government, it removed itself from being in position to lead rabbinicly. The decision was legitimate, but it has ramifications. By staying in the opposition, it means that its Rabbis would lose out the appointments to the Chief Rabbinate and as city Rabbis. the Haredim win those positions now because their parties are in the right positions.
Also, the National Religious Rabbinate never held a serious discussion to come up with Halachic methods, that are acceptable lechatchila, for conversions, converts and how to deal with them. What is considered "acceptance of mitzvos", how much follow up there must be, how much ibvestigation must be conducted to reveal deception, and the like. Because they have not determined their positions on these matters, the National Religious public should be looking inward and should blame themselves. Until they came up with their own halachically acceptable decisions and positions, they cannot spend their time blaming others [i.e. the Haredim].
Rav Sherlo says that the National Religious should leave the Haredim alone, not lay blame at their feet for the situation, not complain about the Haredim. Rather, they should be working to fix the problem. They should be formulating positions and working on their own plans. When the time comes, he says, "We will return and will take the responsibility for those Torah issues, and that will strengthen the Israeli nation in the ways of halacha.
- Rav Sherlo was asked for a psak by a female correspondent how she hsould relate to the phenomenon of Mehadrin buses.
She writes that the bus she takes to work is a mehadrin bus. It is not clear whether Egged has a right to make such a segregation, and the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the situation in the case pending before it. She writes that she personally has a problem with it. Her problem is two-fold:
1. the idea of it is degrading to her and the extremism involved distrubs her.
2. She is prone to motion sickness and sitting in the back, nearer to the engine, increases her discomfort.
So she asks Rav Sherlo what his position on these buses is, does she have to respect the religious extremism of others and sit in the back even though it increases her discomfort, if the back of the bus is full but there are seats available in the front half - can she sit there, and is there a difference for a pregnant or older woman?
Rav Sherlo responds that he belives there is great importance in keeping the public forum a place that is tzanua, not having immodest advertising signs up for example, and that we should live with tznius. But, Rav Sherlo writes, "I am against the mehadrin buses. These buses are mehadrin in shaming other people. in dealing with tznius in an immodest fashion, and more." Rav Sherlo continues that he thinks "that a person should not do it specifically, just to oppose it, and get on the bus in the front. One does not need to start a war over this, at this point. But if you are doing it not just to oppose - "Davka" - but for a purpose, such as your motion sickness, or when there are no available seats in the back, then you can sit wherever you want. And those who change things, they have the lower hand" .