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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

07/28/2023 05:00:00 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut and Rabbi Chelsea Feuchs

This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, contains two poignant texts from our tradition: the Sh'ma & V'ahavta and a repetition of the Decalogue (i.e. the 10 Commandments). Even before getting to these most famous words, Moses speaks at length about the importance of following God's instructions, articulating the rewards and consequences depending on the Israelites' adherence to the rules. For instance, Deuteronomy 4:40 states: “Observe God’s laws and commandments, which I enjoin upon you this day, that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may long remain in the land that your God Adonai is assigning to you for all time.”

We cannot help but think of the modern state of Israel as we read this verse. For many decades, Israel's laws and its system of checks and balances helped things go well for many people in the country, and often provided a voice to the coalitional minority and protection for marginalized groups. However, on Monday the Knesset passed a law that is being called the 'Reasonableness Law' which strips the Supreme Court of the power to intervene if government decisions or appointments prove unreasonable. This is just one of a series of laws the Knesset plans to pass that will methodically strip away the independence and power and the judiciary branch in Israel. This is particularly worrisome since the executive branch and the legislature are always led by the same coalition. The only balance in this system comes from the judiciary, which is now being robbed of its independence. 

The effects of these changes could be devastating, eliminating important rights in Israeli society and undermining the strength of Israel's democracy. It is also likely that these laws would indeed go against much of what our Torah teaches: to be kind and welcoming of the stranger, to care for the poor and the needy, not to take undue advantage of our fellow Israelites, and so on.

May we all open our eyes to a greater understanding of the rights we hold dear and continue to speak up when we believe politicians are leading our country or our world away from the right path. Let us internalize the central message of God's laws and commandments, to treat all people with respect and understanding, and to apply one set of laws that are reasonable and appropriate to citizens and resident strangers alike. And let us hear, sh'ma, that still small voice within that guides our words and our actions to fight for the rights of those who need our support most! 

Sat, June 15 2024 9 Sivan 5784