Religious-Zionist rabbis have an advantage when it comes to making rulings in Jewish law (halakhah), former chief rabbi of the IDF Rabbi Avichai Ronsky said Wednesday. His comments were made as the body tasked with selecting Israel’s next Chief Rabbis prepared to vote.
There are two aspects to properly understanding what Jewish law requires in a particular situation, Rabbi Ronsky explained. The first is expertise in the law itself. The second, he said, is understanding of the situation in which the law is to be applied.
“The advantage that rabbis have who were educated in religious-Zionist institutions, served in the IDF, and are fully involved in Israeli life, is in the second aspect, personal knowledge,” he argued.
“More than that – they themselves experienced the way of life here in the state of Israel, both routine life and life in times of war,” he added.
There is a concept in Jewish law regarding Sabbath observance that a person knows his own suffering – that is, a person’s belief that he or she is seriously ill is enough to justify doing labor that would normally be a violation of the Sabbath for the sake of their health. The reason for this, he explained, is that the individual is best able to understand his own situation.
Similarly, he said, a rabbi who has experienced complex situations in his personal life has unique understanding that he can use when forming rulings in Jewish law.
Rabbi Ronsky tied his argument in to the Chief Rabbinate elections. “The rabbis who are candidates for this important post in the Israeli Rabbinate are all Torah scholars and experts in the Talmud and in Jewish legal responsa,” he wrote.
“But only a few of them are familiar with the complex reality of Israeli life from up close,” he concluded.