Hebrew U to Discuss Torat Hamelech

The Hebrew University in Jerusalem will hold a discussion about the Torat Hamelech book. Participants will represent all opinions.

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Elad Benari,

Hebrew U.
Hebrew U.
Israel news photo: Hebrew Univ.

Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, will hold an evening of discussion about the Torat Hamelech book next Monday.

The book was authored by Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, who heads the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar, and it contains his interpretations of Jewish law regarding the use of force when dealing with enemies.

The book has been a cause for controversy because, although it makes no direct mention of Arabs, some have said that the book incites to kill Arabs. In fact, Rabbi Shapira has previously been arrested by police for questioning over the book. Other rabbis who gave their stamp of approval to the book, a routine measure when a book is logically coherent halakhically, have also been arrested and later released.

Among those who have been invited to the discussion on Monday evening are leftists, Arabs and rabbis, all of whom will share their opinions about the book. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Avinoam Rosenak, head of the Department of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva on Thursday, Dr. Rosenak explained the reason for the discussion and said he believes that it is the responsibility of academics is to bring deeper layers of thought into the public discourse, a responsibility which led to the planning of the evening.

“It is the responsibility of academia, apart from producing research, to also produce public discourse on matters that concern society,” Rosenak said. “It’s not journalistic discourse but an academic one and its purpose is to contribute to the discourse that exists. It is important to take a book that keeps making headlines, a book that has aroused anger in some people and caused others to identify with it, and discuss it openly and critically.”

He noted that lecturers with a broad spectrum of opinions have been invited to the discussion.

“We have been able to bring to the discussion people from all sides,” he said. “We brought Professor Rachel Elior, who is a leftist and who once headed the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University, as well as Dr. Eli Hadad who is an expert on halakha and democracy. We’ve also invited Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway from the Department of Philosophy and Islam at Al Quds University to represent the Muslim world, and Rabbi Yisrael Ariel from the Yitzhar yeshiva. We wanted the author of the book, Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, to come as well but he will be marrying off his daughter that evening so he will be unable to attend.”

Dr. Rosenak acknowledged that while he personally is against the book because he believes the book ignores certain criteria that should be considered when writing a halakhic work, he rejected the claims of some critics that holding such an evening means giving legitimacy to the book.

“I heard the criticism but if we look at the people who will be speaking, we understand that this discussion will produce some very hard criticism from different directions,” he said. “I believe that all opinions should be given a chance to be heard.”