Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What a recent controversy about Israel’s chief military rabbi nomination can tell us about the relationship of Jewish law and ethics

As the Supreme Court delays the appointment of R. Eyal Qarim until he clarifies his opinion on the yefat toar (English article - behind paywall), the time seems right to post a conversation I had on the whole affair with Dr. Dana Hollander, a professor at McMaster University who specializes in modern Jewish philosophy.

The conversation below is a conscious, intellectual exploration. But at the height of the yefat toar controversy, I also received a number of emotionally urgent requests to clarify the position of halakhah on the subject of sexual assault, or failing that, to explain how I could continue to be devoted to halakhah. One sees an echo of this even in the response of Justice Salim Joubran when he asks, "עד כמה שאני מכיר את התורה נאמרים רק דברים טובים, איפה זה נאמר בתורה?" ("As far as I know the Torah, only good things are said [in it] -- where is this said in the Torah?"). In other words, I felt the weight of a moral and religious obligation to excavate and clarify halakhah.

I am deeply grateful to Dr. Hollander for her expertise, lucidity of thought on the issues at stake, and for the time she took to collaborate with me.