Feb 8, 2011

Silencing The Right

I see this whole issue with Rav Lior being called in by the police for questioning regarding the approbation he wrote for the book that discussed the halacha of killing non-Jews during wartime to really be two distinct issues:

  1. can rabbis say things that are deemed as racist, regardless of whether or not they are simply discussing halacha/torah/theology/etc.?
  2. Can rabbis be called in for questioning or is that considered disrespectful to the rabbis?
Personally, I see nothing wrong with a rabbi being called in for questioning. I dont think it is disrespectful, if they are either suspected of wrongdoing or if they can possibly assist the police with information, witness, character assessment, etc. Being called in to the police itself I don't see as an issue that involves kavod. If he is needed to help the police he should go, and if he is suspected of wrongdoing he should not be deserving of that kavod he is demanding (doesn't Pirkei Avos say to make sure one's actions are not suspect?)

Regarding the first issue, they should definitely be given leeway. When every professor can shoot off his mouth and say horrible things about right-wingers, settlers, religious people, haredim, etc and not be taken in for questioning or for incitement, or racist expression, rabbis should not be treated any worse. There is clearly an inequal application of the law being used as to who gets called in when. 

As well, the content under discussion was not written to incite to murder anyone, as it was a purely "theoretical" halachic debate. And, Rav Lior did not write it - he only gave the book an approbation.

I don't know the intention of the author when he picked the topic he chose to write about. Was he intending to provoke? To incite? To discuss? I don't know. Perhaps authors should be more discerning and sensitive to the realities of today's world when choosing their topics. Despite that, choosing to debate a torah concept and halachic point in a book should not be grounds for incitement. What's next - anybody who dares to write a book about intermarriage will be brought in for promoting racism? What about a book on the topic of killing out Amalek? There is no shortage of topics in the Torah that can be attacked under this guise.

While taking in a rabbi for questioning does not necessarily have to be an issue of kavod, the issue here is that they are trying to silence people who have said nothing wrong. Rav Lior should probably even go to the police proudly and say he has nothing to hide, he will not hide behind the cloth of the clergy and explain what he did, though I understand not cooperating as well. The police and authorities are simply trying to silence the right wing rabbis.

1 comment:

  1. This issue is certainly not so clearly one of "silencing the right" as many people wish to believe, and, in fact, as Rav Yoel Bin-Nun has pointed out, it is truly not at all an issue of "silencing the right".

    Everyone who wants to truly understand this issue should read Rav Yoel Bin-Nun's article at:

    The article is in Hebrew, and I don't know if there is any available English translation of Rav Bin-Nun's article; but, then again, anyone who wants to discuss this issue intelligently has to be able to read Hebrew at a very high level of understanding in any case.

    Rav Bin-Nun, a person who has actually read the book "Torat HaMelech" written by Rav Yitschak Shapira, makes the point that anyone who reads the book can see the opening it gives to wanton violence against other Jews (yes, that was in the book too, but as Rav Bin-Nun mentions, it was not discussed publicly at all), as well as against non-Jews (not only within recognized frameworks of war between the Jewish state and enemy states).

    Additionally, Rav Aviner has also pointed out that we have never made a secret that in war situations killing occurs which would not be normally permissible, but that this does not mean that we permit such killing wantonly, without recourse to the state institutions which are entrusted with dealing with such situations. In short, taking someone's life in an impetuous manner is murder, even if you think that you can somehow justify his death as being for the "greater good".

    Unfortunately, the way the book "Torat HaMelech" deals with these issues of taking someone's life can easily lead "hotheaded students" to feel that they have every right (and even responsibility) to kill people whom they feel are "injurious to the Jewish people". The assembling of so many "Halachic discussions" relating to killing people who fall "outside of the proper way of behaving according to our authoritative interpretation of what that means"; can easily lead one to believe that the author's intention was indeed that the "hotheaded students" feel that they have free rein to perform all sorts of abominable actions.

    Even if the author did not intend that, he certainly violated the warning given in Pirkei Avot (1:11) by Avtalyon, "Sages be careful in what you say.."; and it is not surprising that the legal authorities in our country suspect him of incitement to violence.

    Anyone who gave a Haskama to such a Sefer without reading it is reckless and irresponsible to say the least, and anyone who read the Sefer and still gave a Haskama shares the burden of violation of Avtalyon's warning, which is not "just a Mishnah with some advice", but a warning that this type of action can easily cause Chillul HaShem.

    As someone who knows personally many of the people involved in this issue, I feel saddened that, once again, Rav Dov Lior, a man of deep Torah knowledge, has been drawn into something he should have been wise enough to steer clear of (but no one has ever guaranteed that much Torah knowledge ensures that one will be worldly-wise as well). Unfortunately, as many people who know Rav Lior well can attest, he tends to be drawn into situations which lead to suspicions of incitement; and if he hasn't learned how to steer clear of them until now, I truly hope that he will learn from the present situation to weigh these types of things very carefully (and to get proper advice from some excellent people who have been trying to keep him clear of these situations for many years), so that he never becomes entangled in such a situation again.

    He should certainly make an appointment to meet with the Police and tell them that he has nothing to hide and explain the situation forthrightly to them in order to clear the atmosphere. I doubt that he actually intended incitement, but he must clear himself now, and avoid such situations in the future.


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