Israel Forever

For the week ending 21 February 2004 / 29 Shevat 5764

Who Shall Judge

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

There is no shortage of battles in Israel.

The ongoing battle against Palestinian terrorists has been joined by the battle of the police against organized crime in the country. In addition to these battles for physical survival there is the battle for economic stability which pits the poor against the rich in the annual battle of the national budget.

It was this years budget which sparked an open battle between the Israeli Knesset and the High Court of Justice, Israels Supreme Court. This is a battle which has been brewing for a long time as a result of the activist policy of Chief Justice Aaron Barak which has led the Court he heads to negate legislation passed by the Knesset on the grounds that it is contrary to the states Basic Laws, Israels version of a constitution. There has been talk of denying this power to the High Court by establishing a special court to deal with constitutional matters. It was only when Baraks court recently began to interfere with budgetary measures taken by the Knesset that the legislators got together to issue a public condemnation of this infringement of the judiciary on areas traditionally reserved for the legislature. Barak returned the fire and the war was on.

The religious public in Israel, which held a mass demonstration in Jerusalem a couple of years ago against the Barak courts infringement on the jurisdiction of the countrys rabbinical courts, was pleased to see the Knesset finally wake up to the danger of a superactivist secular court.

This sort of mess was already foreseen in the first words of this weeks Torah portion. "These are the laws which you shall set before them," Moshe is commanded by G-d, with the stress on "them" to warn us against being judged by a system of law and courts which are not guided by an obedience to the higher law of Heaven. Where there is a reliance only on human legislation and justice there inevitably arise personal ideologies and interests which interfere with the objectivity required of any system whose purpose is to regulate society.

Small wonder, then, that Jews pray three times a day to Heaven to "restore our judges as in earliest times" and thus "remove us from sorrow and groan."

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