“Your people are my people and your G-d is my G-d,” said Ruth the Moabite to Naomi her mother-in-law, and she joined the Jewish people, and “Boaz redeemed her and she begat Obed and Obed begat Jesse and Jesse begat David.” Thus ends the Megilla of Ruth which we read on the holiday of Shavuot.
Did not the elders of Bethlehem, who sat at the city gate and ruled that Boaz was permitted – even obligated – to redeem and marry Ruth, remember what is written in Deuteronomy: “An Amonite and a Moabite shall not come unto the community of G-d, even unto the tenth generation shall they not come into the community of G-d, forever”? Did not Rabbi Berachiya and Rabbi Simon, who conclude the Midrash Rabba commentary on the Megilla of Ruth by stating that all the generations up until King David were merely a divine sifting and selection until G-d found David, remember that King David is the great-grandson of a Moabite?
How would the history of Israel look if the elders of Bethlehem had been picky about the descent from Ruth? Even assuming that Ruth was converted according to halacha, we can only be thankful that a miracle occurred and there was no rabbinical court in that generation that abrogated her conversion, as recently happened with a rabbinical court in Ashdod, which abrogated the conversion of a woman that took place 15 years ago. The court retroactively abrogated her marriage after she admitted she had not been careful in observing the commandments and ruled that her children were not Jews, and this because the rabbi (Orthodox, not Reform) who converted her, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, is a “sinner” supposedly bringing pure gentiles into the nation of Israel. Another recent news item is that rabbinical courts are opposing those who wish to convert if their spouse (Jewish from birth) refuses to observe a religious lifestyle or is not willing to leave his place of work where immodestly dressed women also work.
A week ago, the news also included a story about a major offensive by important rabbis against 30 Zionist rabbis who ascended the Temple Mount. And a torrent of curses descended upon those who – with rabbinical support – proposed legislation to formalize the character of the Sabbath in the State of Israel in the light of an accord written by Rabbi Jacob Meidan and Professor Ruth Gabison.
The common denominator of these three phenomena – the fight against conversion, against ascending Temple Mount, and against a Sabbath law – as well as the refusal to address the needs of women whose husbands refuse to grant them divorce papers (a get), or permit enlistment in the Israeli army, is that they are attempts to be disconnected from history, to ignore the reality of our lives while burying one’s head in holy ground.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens who made aliya to Israel under the Law of Return cannot marry, hundreds of thousands of Arabs do as they wish on Temple Mount while only Jews are forbidden to ascend in order to avoid contaminating the holy mountain, millions of Israelis have turned the Sabbath into a day of shopping and work, thousands of women cannot marry because they are waiting for a get their husbands refuse to grant, tens of thousands of Haredi youth are not serving in the army and not doing any alternate national service because “their Torah is their livelihood,” and super-models walk semi-naked in fashion shows after they win exemptions from military service claiming to be deeply religious.
And the rabbinic establishment of Israel is convinced that they are thus saving the Eternal One of Israel.
This week the Knesset marked Herzl Day. Herzl gave us political Zionism, but only a small portion of the nation accepted it. Most of Orthodox Judaism fervently fought Herzl. Detached from the history swirling around them, deaf to the hammering that was building the gas chambers, most of the rabbis in Europe preferred the ancient oath which came after the Bar Kochba rebellion “not to go up as a wall” to the oath of the Kabbalists Joseph Caro and Solomon Elkabatz to go up to Israel in order to redeem the Divine Presence and be redeemed. Thus the State of Israel was established mostly by secular Zionists who, even though they actualized with their bodies the Jewish souls beating within – failed to bequeath this beating Jewish soul to their grandchildren.
Trying to live outside of history in the last century brought about the destruction of millions in Europe. Trying to live outside of history today may bring about and maybe already has brought about the division of our people into two peoples, the ceding of the Temple Mount to the Arabs, the separation of religion from the state, and the abandonment of the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
At the time of the first return to Zion from Babylonian Exile, the people were led by Ezra the Scribe and Nehemiah the statesman. After they built the walls of Jerusalem, they read the Torah to the whole people and renewed the covenant between Israel and its G-d. They wrote a new contract to be signed by all the leaders of the people. Today, too, the State of Israel is not enough, the Israel Defense Forces and military campaigns are not enough; we cannot hide behind ancient walls in a sort of Karaite-ism of the Oral Torah. We need a new contract.
Translation of article that appeared in Maariv, May 25th, 2007.