Sunday, April 06, 2008

Arguing about The Hametz Law. Secular Revolution, or Judicial Meddling?

Haaretz's headline in Friday's newspaper read (link):

Secular Revolution! Hametz May Be Sold on Pesach!

Here is part of the article about the ruling:

Judge okays sale of leavened products during Passover
By Ofra Edelman

"Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban ruled Wednesday that groceries, pizzerias and restaurants are permitted to sell chametz (leavened products, not eaten during Pesach) because they are not "public" places in which chametz is prohibited for sale by law. She struck down four indictments issued by the Jerusalem municipality against business owners for selling chametz last Passover..."the [matzot] bill, much like the law that was ultimately approved, does not prohibit the sale of chametz, but was meant only to 'prevent the display of bread, rolls and pitas in public.' That, therefore, is the purpose of the law. The law wasn't meant to interfere in the religious decree to eat matza, and wasn't meant to deal with chametz prohibitions as they are outlined in the halakha."

Now this is some pilpul! groceries and pizzerias do not DISPLAY Hametz and the law is to prevent its DISPLAY, but not consumption nor sale! Well I beg to differ.

The religious parties are already up in arms and Shas is threatening to leave the coalition. But I recommend that you read this response (link) by Rav Yuval Shero, who is, as usual, intelligent and sophisticated in locating the key problematic areas of this ruling.

To sum up, here are his points:

1. Rav Yuval disagrees in principle with the Hametz Law, stating that it is not the role of the Knesset to enforce Halakha but that Jewish practice has to emerge from within, as a matter of principle and commitment to a Jewish way of life.

2. Nonetheless, Rav Yuval is furious about the court ruling. But from an interesting angle. He says that if one wishes to revoke the Hametz Law, then the Knesset should do so. But this court ruling interepreted the Hametz Law in a revolutionary (and some would say, deliberately misleading) way to effectively subvert it and annul the law. This, says Rav Yuval is a big problem. Effectively the court has demonstrated that it imposes its political and civilian agenda upon the Knesset Laws, and once again this will reinforce the feeling of many Israelis that the Legal system in Israel is politicised and represents a secular world view. There could be nothing worse for the force of law in Israeli society!

Certainly an interesting response. However, there is no doubt that this is yet another manifestation of the growing polarity and sectarianisation of Israeli society. This will titally legitmise Hametz sale in many secular neighbourhoods, and will do nothing to draw Israelis together as a single culture with a unifying lifestyle and heritage.

Chag Kasher Vesameach!


George said...

I heard Shaul Yahalom on the radio on Friday, and he explained that the Judge was correct - that the intention of the law as formulated by Avner Shaki was exactly what she said.

Alex Israel said...