Hundreds Attend Halakhic Conference in Jerusalem

Hundreds attend annual Halakhic conference in Jerusalem; 'Jewish law requires special conduct in all aspects of public life.'

Shlomo Pyotrkovsky, Cynthia Blank ,

Conference of Jewish Court
Conference of Jewish Court
Public Relations Photo

A few hours after one of the largest political corruption scandals in recent years exploded the 24th World Conference of Jewish Courts was held Wednesday evening in Jerusalem. 

The annual conference, whose goal is to discuss ways to implement Torah law in Israel, focused this year on issues of public corruption through the lens of Halakha (Jewish Law). 

Conference participants included hundreds of rabbis and rabbinical judges from around the world. 

President Reuven Rivlin addressed the crowd at the opening session of the conference held in Jerusalem's Ramada Hotel. 

Quoting Devarim (Deuteronomy), the President stated "Bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous."

Linking the Biblical quotation with Israel's current scandal, Rivlin called on elected officials to remember the sanctity of their jobs and their mission to the public. 

"Every time another corruption scandal is exposed it undermines public confidence. Citizens' distrust in public service is a death blow for the whole country," Rivlin stressed.  

Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, also addressed the corruption scandal when speaking at the conference, stating that public corruption does not just include seeing a public figure being investigated or suspected of some kind of fraud. 

"According to Halakha, we view corruption as a public life being led dishonestly. In the eyes of Jewish law a public life conducted improperly, includes an employer violating his employees, as well as living dishonesty in all areas of life."

The Chief Rabbi continued by addressing the recently published statistic of workers who earn the highest salaries in Israel. 

"Unfortunately, I did not see any educators on that list, indicating that the Israeli public does not put enough emphasis on education - a decline in Israeli values," Lau stated. 

"Jewish law requires special conduct in all aspects of public life. We need to give a deeper look to the laws and commandments the Torah issues between man and his fellow man, invest more in education, and spend more time thinking about others - and less time thinking of ourselves," Lau concluded. 

Jerusalem's Chief Rabbis, Shlomo Moshe Amar and Aryeh Stern also spoke at the conference. 

Rabbi Amar said "we must find a balance between the importance of the public's interest in preventing corruption in public officials and the rights and dignity of the individual, which are often trampled when allegations are published against him, even before he is found guilty of the charges." 

"We must be extremely careful about rushing to judgment." 

Rabbi Stern added that "dealing with public corruption should be done in a modest manner, without greed or pride. A person who is humble is impossible to bribe. Modesty is what we should all strive for: we need to live more modest lifestyles and avoid wide [economic] gaps in society."