In this op-ed, which was originally published in Haaretz on July 8, 2011, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg reflects on the recent public debate over the Rabbi Dov Lior affair, and wonders why the religious Zionist camp was not as concerned about the contents of the book that Rabbi Lior endorsed as it was about his arrest. Sheleg argues that there should be a central moral criterion for judging "words of Torah" that would preclude endorsement of racist positions or halakhic rulings that would permit bloodshed. He also describes the history that led to the development of the fragile relationship between the religious Zionist movement and Israel's secular elite, criticizing the latter for creating a "tragedy of a self-fulfilling prophecy."
The time has come when, in the religious community itself, there should be a central moral criterion for judging words of Torah. A person can be familiar with the casuistry of halakha (Jewish law ) more than anyone else, but if his conclusion leads to a racist position, and how much more so to halakhic instructions that permit the shedding of the blood of gentiles, his theory must be rejected out of hand...."
Yair Sheleg is a Research Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute who is conducting research as part of IDI's Religion and State project.