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Rabbis to Assert Torah's Independence Before Police

“Torah independence” rally-gathering will be held Wednesday, after police summoned two rabbis for questioning for having endorsed a Halakhic work.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/15/2010, 12:39 PM / Last Update: 8/15/2010, 1:02 PM

An “Independence for Torah” rally-gathering will be held Wednesday in Jerusalem, after police summoned two leading rabbis for questioning for having signed approbations for a Jewish-legal work.

Hundreds of rabbis and Torah leaders from the entire spectrum of the religious-Zionist and hareidi-religious sectors are expected to take part in the protest, which will take place in the Ramada Renaissance Hotel. "Without connection to the content of the book at hand, Torah scholars must have the independence to express their opinions in matters of Torah. Restrictions in this matter cannot be agreed to under any circumstances," the organizers state.

The rally is being held a week after Rabbi Dov Lior, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef were summoned by police for questioning regarding their approbations for a Torah work entitled “Torah HaMelekh” (the Torah of the King). The work’s author, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, was arrested in his home in the middle of the night two weeks ago, and was released several hours later. The police confiscated 33 copies of the book from his home, and another copy during a raid of the publisher’s home in Amona.

In addition, a contributor to the work was also summoned for questioning. Attorney Shai Nitzan of the State Prosecution announced that the investigations will continue.

Rabbis Lior and Yosef refused to show up for the questioning, but their very summons has elicited a storm of protest in the religious world. Dozens of rabbis have signed a proclamation saying, “Our holy Torah is not to be questioned! The attempt to prevent rabbis of Israel from expressing their Torah opinions is very grave, and will not succeed. A regime that acts in this manner joins evil regimes that forbade Torah study and lifted their hand against the Torah of Israel… 

"The work Torat HaMelekh explains simple issues such as ‘If one comes to kill you, arise to kill him first,’ and that one many strike out a ‘human shields’ in order to protect our own citizens and soldiers… We call on Jews everywhere to protest this degradation of Torah and to come out against the governmental violence and shutting of mouths. We pray that we will speedily merit the fulfillment of our prayer to restore our judges as of old and raise the horn of the righteous in Jerusalem.”

Among the more than 50 signatories are Rabbi Meir Mazouz, Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, Rabbi Yechezkel Yaakobson, Rabbi Shmuel Tal, Rabbi Uri Cohen, Rabbi Yoel Katan, Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel, Rabbi Tzefania Drori, Rabbi Sholom Gold, and many other well-known rabbis.

Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva movement, has asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to revoke the summons to Rabbis Lior and Yosef.

Rabbi Yehuda Mualem, head of the Sephardi-hareidi Yeshivat Porat Yosef is among the rabbis who have expressed support for the Wednesday gathering.

The Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva explains on its website that the work Torah HaMelekh is a “serious Halakhic elucidation according to the time-honored tradition of Torah study, by rabbis who dealt with the matter in great depth, as great rabbis wrote in their approbations… The main subject of the book is the waging of war according to our holy Torah. For instance, the book states that in the event that the enemy uses innocent people as ‘human shields,’ it is permitted and even obligatory to harm them in order to save our citizens or soldiers. Claims that this is a type of incitement are laughable; this is how the eternal Torah guides us in accordance with its rules of ethics."

The yeshiva’s statement adds that Israel’s current legal establishment’s standards of behavior in this field are “distorted to the point that in many cases, soldiers and officers find themselves accused in court after having acted appropriately to defend Israeli lives. This approach has led to the spilling of Jewish blood, of both soldiers and citizens, and therefore it is important to publicize and explain these matters specifically now.”