The Obsession about the Rabbis
Parsha and its fulfillment - Parashat Bo - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald – 5769
Parashat Bo concludes the period of the Ten Plagues. An intensive year in which Moshe Rabbeinu conducts a political process with Pharaoh: "The plagues of Egypt twelve months, etc." (סדר עולם רבה פרק ג). A special and challenging period for the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. Each Plague involved the ability to conduct preliminary negotiations, and meetings of a high standard with Pharaoh: "Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Nehemiah: One of them says: For twenty-four days he would warn them until the plague came, and seven days the plague was on them, and one of them says: 'Seven days they were warned, and twenty-four days the plague was on them "(Shmot Rabbah 9:12).
At the end of the period of the ten plagues, Pharaoh surrenders to the pressure and agrees, willingly, to let the people of Israel go from Egypt. From the moment the Jews leave Egypt, a new and different chapter begins with the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu. A national leadership of the Jewish people in the process of its formation as a nation of free people.
In the course of the Parasha, another aspect of Moshe’s leadership came up: his Torani leadership. For the first time, Moshe commanded the Jewish people to observe mitzvot: Kiddush HaChodesh, Korban Pesach, Matzot and Marorim, the prohibition of Chametz, Bechorim and Pidion HaBen, and Tfilin.
All the sides to Moshe’s leadership are different faces of the same thing. None of them comes at the expense of the other or lowers its value. Even though these are different fields and different skills. However, Moshe Rabbeinu’s ability to lead in the Torani area does not diminish his ability to engage in national leadership. And viceversa, his ability in national leadership does not diminish his ability to engage in Torah leadership. These two abilities will accompany us in the Parashiot of the Torah until the end of Sefer Devarim.
We consider it important to emphasize this issue at the present time. In the confusion of statements in the political arena, we hear from various directions the problematic nature of Rabbis' involvement in politics. About the Rabbis of the religious Zionism, who, because of their involvement and their 'domineering' position, caused the political blow.
As someone who is close to the subject, I can testify that in fact this is not true at all. On the contrary, the advice of the Rabbis, with considerable experience, which were convened by the politicians on several issues during the term, prevented decisions that would cost a heavy political price.
Sometimes there is the impression that there is an obsession against the involvement of Rabbis in politics, which undermines their discretion and their ability to express opinions on political issues. This is also fueled by the generously funded incitement by the “New Fund”, who wish to soften the religiosity of the religious Zionism. A so-called dark group that wants to dictate.
In a radio interview last week, after the Rabbis' conference, which asked for advice on the political explosion, I was asked about a proposal to place a famous, prominent Rabbinic figure, the Israel Prize laureate, as the leader of the party. I was asked: 'Is it a good idea for a Rabbi to head the party?' Under the assumption that it is not appropriate.
Well, we have a Rabbi like Moshe Rabbeinu who was also a leader of the people of Israel. Did his Rabbinate impair his ability to lead and deal with the needs of the Jewish people in the desert?! The National Religious Party “Mizrachi” itself was founded in 1902 by Rabbi Reines. And in the establishment of the State it was represented in the Knesset and in the government by Rabbi Maimon.
In response to the interviewers' question, I replied that the view that Rabbis are people removed from today’s world and dealing with a small halachic world of "spoon and casserole" is an outdated concept that belongs to Eastern Europe from before the Holocaust. The Rabbis of the religious Zionist movement in general are intelligent people with a broad general education, all served in the IDF as commanders and officers, and even at senior levels.
Why is the fact that because they are Rabbis, are supposed to detract from their ability to serve in a political position? Their Rabbinate position is not an advantage and should not be an obstacle either. They are public servants, public figures, also for non-religious publics, who represent the public in various areas, most of them non-political, and are close to the public's feelings.
The proof is that in every election campaign, candidates turn to them to influence the public to vote for them. Why is it clear that academics - doctors and professors can be in politics and Rabbis can not?!
The time has come to break free of the obsession.