Nov 16, 2009

Rav Kanievsky on hiring Arabs

The newspapers are all making a big deal out of Rav Chaim Kanievsky's recent statement regarding Arabs.

An avreich approached Rav Kanievsky the other day and asked for a bracha that he should be successful in his upcoming court case. rav Kanievsky asked why he is going to court, and he answered for hiring Arab workers (illegally I presume).

Rav Kanievsky refused to give him a bracha saying "you deserve whatever you get. Don't you know it is prohibited to hire Arabs because they are murderers?... whoever hires them deserves the punishment"

The papers are comparing it to a past statement of Rav Kanievsky in which he also then said that Jews should not hire Arabs because they are murderers, and claiming racism.

Personally, I prefer to compare it to a different statement of Rav Kanievsky, and rather than claim racism, I would say Rav Kanievsky is in favor of personal responsibility, reward and punishment, etc.

In July, a yeshiva bochur came to Rav Kanievsky for a bracha for his court case regarding a car accident he had been involved in, and he had been driving with no license. Then too Rav Kanievsky said he deserves the punishment for driving with no license, and he could not make any such claim that he knows how to drive if he was not trained in it.

Personally, I think this new statement fits with that old one. Rav Kanievsky believes that people should be held accountable for their actions. You drive with no license and get into an accident - you are a murderer and should be punished accordingly. You hire Arab workers illegally, they are dangerous and you should be punished accordingly.

Just because you are frum does not give you a free pass to break the law. The law is in place to protect us (most of the time at least). You get a drivers license because it means you were trained in operating automobiles. You cannot hire any illegal worker you want because the State needs to verify which Arab workers are safe and can be trusted and therefore hired, and which might be dangerous.

Rav Kanievsky is not a racist. he just believes in personal responsibility.


  1. Well put. As someone in the community in Israel, do you know any other rabbis who follow a similar model? What role does the concept of 'personal responsibility' (and especially with regards to the law) play in Jewish thinking?

  2. I have not noticed any specific direction like this, though I probably was not looking. I am going to try to pay attention. I like this - it just struck me and I think it is true

  3. It is refreshing to hear a famous Talmid Chochom air views that actually have meaning. I wonder how his handlers let that happen.

  4. agav, while your comments are objectively correct they do not sqelch the 'racist' charge. the PC jerks will claim that being responsible is fine and good, but who says that you have a right to assume that arabs are murderers and therefor conclude that personal responsibilty mandates 'discrimination'.

    of course this is ridiculus and arguing with these blockheads is has less benefit than banging one's head against a thick brick wall. but your argument according to their apriori $#!^umptions does not hold water.

  5. Further to garfield's comments, had Rav Kanievsky said that he won't give the guy a bracha because he broke the law and therefore deserves what's coming to him, then your thesis of personal responsibility would hold water.

    However, the basis of his refusal was that a certain ethnic group displays a certain set of characteristics. Pretty much the definition of racism (not that being racist is always a bad thing; some may argue that Rav Kanievsky's charge is pretty well grounded in fact).

    Once you've concluded that hiring Arabs is not a good thing to do, then personal responsibility comes into play. But Rav Kanievsky took the "racism" route to get there, not the legal one.

  6. I hear your point, Yoni. I have to think about it.
    I dont know if we can be medayek in his exact words, anyway, considering it was a quote in a newspaper and who knows how accurate the quote was...
    but I hear your point.

  7. Years ago, I heard a similar story, I think about his father, "the Steipler".
    Someone who received a ticket came to ask for a bracha to get out of it, and he said that he should go to jail. He told him that it was only a parking ticket, so he said ok, you shouldn't go to jail, but no bracha.

  8. I can't remember the sefer but we had been learning the halachot of how society should treat a non-Jew that wants to live in Eretz Israel.

    They would not be allowed to take any government positions and would be the builders. There was more but only the construction industry reflects how it perceived the world.

  9. I was thinking similarly to Yoni's point. Rafi, you wrote as a given that the distinction was between legal Arab workers and illegal ones. I don't hear that in R'K's words. He says they are murderers. Does he mean only the illegal ones? That suggests that R'K is being somech on the govt's security checks and that the legal ones don't fall into this category. Aside from being a little Medinas'dik, I don't think R'K would be so simplistic in determining whether this guy gets a bracha or not.

    I think we ought to be somech on your last comment Considering it was a quote in a newspaper and who knows how accurate the quote was...

  10. wanna- the guy is only going to trial for doing something illegal. arabs are hired all the time, in bnei braq as well. In the past Rav Kanievsky has spoken about giving a preference to hiring Jews over Arabs, unless the difference in price is beyond a certain percentage (I think 30%, but that is form memory which might be wrong). Meaning, in theory he accepts, or has in the past, that Arabs can be hired.

    In this case he was specifically referring to a question about something illegal that was done.

    He might be a racist, but it is not muchach from this statement.

  11. Well, Israel has a different approval process for Arab workers than for Asian ones - a process that does do some background checking and requires them to be past the more volatile years as well.

    And since Rav Kanievsky's answer is "you deserve what you get" - meaning legal repercussions - I think he is referring to the law being something to protect us.

  12. But doesn't Rav Kanievsky support the using of Arab produce during shmitta?

  13. Rafi, I think you are so right to bring this point to everyone's attention. Personal responsibility needs to be instilled in the public's conscience. I don't think Rav Kanievsky has "handlers"; I believe he is pretty independent (except for his 'wife' and son). I also believe that his decision is based on and rooted in TORAH, about Yishmael (and the pales lineage).
    I think that some Yeshivos don't teach 'derech eretz' or 'discipline' or 'proper middos' as a subject, but expect that it will be absorbed by osmosis from learning Gemora. And I believe there exists a dichotomy between 'Yeshiva life' and the 'Israeli way' of 'getting things done' in the everyday lifestyle. It is known that if you do things "by the rules" it won't happen. And this creates a tension, and the need to do it 'differently'. I hope you get my point. And so the GREAT NEED to always consult with a mashpia or your personal Rabbi for eitzas.

  14. I think Rav Kanievsky probably did say that the guy should take responsibilities for doing something illegal, and the hiring Arab murderers part. I have heard from a close relative to the Rav that a lot of things said in his name are twisted around to fit someone's agenda. I doubt he said Arabs are murderers and that's why he wouldn't give him a bracha. Seems silly, like - oh well you deserve this for hiring Arabs. Not something Rav Kanievsky would do.


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