'A Jewish judge in Israel is not a gentile court'

Supreme Court Justice Zvi Tal told of Lubavitcher Rebbe's blessing upon appointment; Judge Kister related close association with Chazon Ish.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen,

Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Rabbi Yisrael Rozen
Jerusalem Conference

"These are the laws that you shall place before them" (Exodus 21:1)
them, and not before gentiles ... and not before laymen" (Gittin 88:2)

The kippah of justice

To the cheers of the national-religious camp, five judges were recently appointed in Israel, four to the Supreme Court and one to the District Court. Of these three are religious (two men and one woman), identifiable by their head coverings, and according to most reports are counted from among the more conservative than the liberal. The Justice Minister thus fulfilled her promise to shake off the court's (mostly the Supreme Court) leftist-liberal image. Three cheers to the energetic and goal-oriented Minister. And even if the new judges do not deliver the goods to the national Right, we can suffice with an arm-wrestling victory against the President of the Supreme Court.

This column has focused on the leftist leanings of the Supreme Court; turning its back on nationalist considerations, deification of equality rights, and a predilection to post-Zionism. This time we will consider a different angle: The challenge of 'conquering' the judicial system by Torah Jews. The religious Zionist vision represents significant integration in all areas of Israeli life. The Zomet institute is a non-profit, public research institute dedicated to seamlessly merging Halakhic Judaism with modern life. In thousands(!) of articles published in thirty-six (as of now) Techumin volumes, a broad range of subjects ranging from business administration and finance, law and government, medicine and science, domestic relations, government and security, Sabbath and holidays, conversion, Temple, and more, have been treated.

To leave the world of theoretical writing and enter that of practical application, the vision is in need of an army, people on the ground to be absorbed into all walks of life who are also guided by the light of the Torah. Thank G-d, the religious youth are in position to accept this mission, even if they are not yet aware of it. During the pre-State days religious Zionism demanded and managed to integrate into settlement, security, immigrant absorption, and public administration. Today you will find battalions of kipot and draped skirts in medicine, academia, economics, the military, administration , politics, the judicial system, and almost everywhere. I feel that within the judicial realm there is a trend toward our prevailing, similar to the goal of the military command, which has been surmounted in part. The media excitement around the latest judicial appointments strengthens the 'conquest' mentality, even if it's not an openly declared destination.

Their Courts? Invalid goal?

Here I must point out quite a dramatic paradox: Anyone even cursorily familiar with halakhic literature knows that the entire subject is categorized under the derogatory moniker "Their Courts", as quoted at the top of this section. Many articles have been published in Techumin in this connection starting with Volume I (Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, "Israeli courts and the prohibition against Their Courts") up until Volume thirty-six (Prof. Ron Kleinman: "Religious judges ('Dayanaim') attitude towards civil law and jurisprudence").

Within the haredi and nationalist haredi sectors, Their Courts incur an aura of infamy. Recourse to Their Courts is likened to "raising a hand against Moses" (Maimonides, Sanhedrin 26:7; Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 26:3). And now, lo and behold: The religious and haredi communities are flocking to practice law and ... sit on the Judge's bench to the trumpet blast of community approbation.

Supreme Court Justice Zvi Tal told of receiving the Lubavitcher Rebbe's blessing upon his appointment. So did Judge Kister tell of his close association with the Chazon Ish. Other judges who scaled the pinnacles of justice merited the blessing of their rabbis and Admorim (hasidic rabbinic leaders) from all circles.

Does hypocrisy prevail? No!

I dare express here that which has nested in my heart for many years, even if I thereby draw opprobrium: Without a doubt, litigants are advised and abjured to turn to religious monetary courts (Eretz Hemda, for example, and many others). That having been said, I do not accept the assertion that a Jewish judge dealing under the laws of Israel, with the consent of the litigants or by force of law, is sitting in "the Courts of the gentiles". Reasons will be given at a later date ... After all, it is not about "laws and customs of the gentiles", but about the laws of the People who dwells in Zion, with the consent of the religious representatives (see Rabbi Avraham Shapira, "A Torah view on the Laws of the State", Techumin 3), period!

Translated by Mordechai Sones