Israel Forever

For the week ending 5 July 2003 / 5 Tammuz 5763

Peace and Polarization

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

The term chok, which is the root of the word used as the title of this week’s Torah portion, designates a statute which is incomprehensible to human logic. Its particular reference here is to the ritual of the red heifer for purifying a Jew from the spiritual contamination caused by contact with the dead. This ritual is especially difficult to understand because those contaminated ones upon whom the ashes of the red heifer are sprayed become purified while those involved in the spraying become contaminated.

Even King Solomon, the wisest of men, could not fathom how the same thing could have such opposite effects.

Observers of Israeli society see this same sort of polarization in regard to religion. The Holy Land undoubtedly nurtures holiness, as is evident in the quality of religious life in this country. But it also houses a sector which is vigorously opposed to religion and the religious community.

This polarization was evident in the formation of the current government coalition following the emergence of an outspokenly anti-religious party as the third largest Knesset faction. It became even more pronounced in the legislation passed by the Knesset, and in the administrative decisions made by some ministers of this government.

But it reached its peak during the recent mayoral election in Jerusalem. There was only one issue in this election campaign: Can secular Israel tolerate a Torah-observant Jew as mayor of its capital?

As Israel desperately tries to achieve some form of peace with its Arab neighbors it would do well to first make peace within its own populace. Only then can we achieve true peace for Israel forever.

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