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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5778

Parashat Hashavua: Torah-Based Law and Rav Yisraeli

Harav Yosef Carmel

The special relationship between Eretz Yisrael (eretz hemdah ­= the desired Land) and Am Yisrael, is at the heart of our parasha. The sin of the meraglim (the spies), who checked out the Land of Cana’an and “came to despise eretz hemdah” (Tehillim 106:24), has accompanied the nation throughout its history.

Chazal teach us that when the Torah says, after the spies’ report, “The nation cried on that night,” this refers to the night of Tisha B’Av, on which we mourn the destruction of our Temples (Ta’anit 29a). Hashem said: “You cried for no reason; I will set for you a crying that will last for generations” (ibid.).

Rav Yaakov Lorberbaum, known as “the Netivot,” explains in a similar light the beginning of Megillat Eicha: “How did the city with a large population sit alone? It was like a widow. The important nation among nations was plundered. She will cry in the nights with her tear on her cheek.” Most commentaries explain that the second pasuk is a consequence of the first. In other words, because there was destruction, there was crying. However, the Masoretic texts have a break between the p‘sukim, implying that there is not a regular progression between the ideas. Rav Yaakov understood that this indicates the opposite order. Because there was crying in the night, at the time of the meraglim, the Beit Hamikdash was later destroyed.

One of the special laws of Eretz Yisrael is that one is required to establish rabbinical courts with dayanim semuchim (full ordination and authority). There were a Supreme Beit Din in the Lishkat Hagazit section of the Temple, special courts of 23 dayanim, and regular courts of three in every city (see Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, Aseh 176).

A Jewish government in Eretz Yisrael is necessary for the existence of a Torah-based judicial system. More than 2,000 years ago, along with the collapse of the Jewish kingdom, the beit din system crumbled. The Romans also decided that by forbidding ordination, they could ensure that the Jews would not return to independence in Eretz Yisrael.

This week we commemorate the 23rd yahrtzeit of our leader, Rav Shaul Yisraeli z.t.l. One of the challenges with which he charged us was to strengthen adjudication in Israel according to Torah law. He viewed the establishment of a network of batei din to rule according to Halacha and be integrated with public life in Israel, whose rulings would be upheld by the Law of Arbitration, as an important step in the reestablishment of national life. We will succeed even further if a work of the scope of the Shulchan Aruch, which will aid in the application of Halacha to modern applications in the State of Israel, will emerge.

When Israel was established 70 years ago, the Knesset adopted Ottoman and English law as the basis for the Israeli court system. Jewish law has not yet turned into its cornerstone. 500 years earlier, there were three efforts of legal codification occurring simultaneously. The Shulchan Aruch, written by Rav Yosef Karo in Safed (along with the Rama in Cracow) was accepted as the basic code of Jewish life, at a time when the rebuilding of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael was beginning. L’havdil, the British Empire, under Elizabeth I, completed the codification of English law and Suleiman the Great did the same for Ottoman law.

Let us pray that we will soon see the fulfillment of Rav Yisraeli’s vision. Mishpat Ivri will be an ever-growing force in the laws of the State and will replace the Ottoman and English systems. The more our Eretz Hemdah-Gazit network sanctifies Hashem’s name, the sooner this will occur.  

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Tishrei 9 5776

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