Israel Forever

For the week ending 5 February 2005 / 26 Shevat 5765

Courting Trouble

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Judging matters in a court of Torah law is a fundamental principle of Judaism. Submitting a dispute to a court whose judges rule according to secular law is considered a violation of the command which opens this weeks Torah portion: "These are the laws which you shall place before them" and not before the courts of others.

One of the problems the religious community in Israel faces is the activist policy of the High Court of Justice headed by Prof. Aharon Barak. This court has come under fire from the Knesset for being too quick on the trigger in shooting down legislation on the grounds that it is counter to Basic Law the constitution-less Israeli version of unconstitutionality. For the religious community the issue is much sharper because of the courts repeated intervention in matters relating to religious life in Israel.

The most recent example was the ruling that government support of religious yeshivot ketanot the counterpart of high schools in the secular system will cease within three years unless they introduce the teaching of general studies in addition to their Torah studies. Now that the new government, as part of the coalition agreement with United Torah Judaism, has granted autonomy to the religious elementary schools, which exempts them from the reform being instituted in the secular schools, there is once again the danger that the High Court may be brought into the picture by elements in the secular and National Religious circles who see this as a violation of the principle of equality.

For the sake of Israels future, it is hoped that the High Court will realize that there are limitations to where it should get involved. In the American system there is a strict balance of powers which keeps the judicial system within safe and efficient boundaries. In a country that strives so hard to imitate the U.S. in so many ways, it would be better for all concerned if the High Court would follow this example and allow the religious community to continue living by a higher law which will sustain Israel forever.

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