Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chareidim & Democarcy by Dr. Marc Shapiro

Seforim Blog   From the haredi leadership’s perspective, while at the present time the haredi world is forced to take part in the democratic process, they assume that if haredim ever became a majority they would dismantle Israel’s democracy and institute a Torah state (i.e., a theocracy led by the haredi gedolim).[2] Since that is their goal, stated explicitly, we have to wonder what such a society would look like. To begin with, if haredim were ever the majority, funding for non-Orthodox (and perhaps even Religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox) schools would be halted. There would be massive decreases of funding for universities, with the humanities taking the biggest cuts, and money for the arts, culture, and institutions connected to Zionism would dry up. Freedom of the press would be abolished, artistic freedoms would be curbed, and organ transplants would almost entirely vanish. Public Shabbat observance and separate-sex public transportation would likely be required. There would also be restrictions on what forms of public entertainment and media are permissible and on public roles for women. Of course, women’s sporting events would no longer be televised and men would not be permitted to attend them. From the haredi perspective, these steps are all halakhic requirements, and no one who reads haredi literature can have any doubt that these sorts of things are intended when haredi writers refer to the time when it will be possible להעמיד הדת על תלה. How many non-haredim will be affected by this is questionable, because as soon as the haredi numbers come close to a majority, the non-religious and non-haredi Orthodox emigration will begin (followed no doubt by the yeridah of some haredim as well). No one who has lived in a Western style democracy will want to live in a society where cherished freedoms are taken away.


  1. A dangerous can of worms.

  2. Let Marc "cherish" Torah values rather than cherishing secular values.

  3. He forgot one thing:

    And the Shechinah would dwell amongst the Jewish nation, and the nations of the world will see how wonderful it is to live by the absolute Divinely-given truth rather than whatever most people in a country think it to be at any given time, be it benevolent freedom, Islamic Jihadism, or Nazism.

  4. Dr. Shapiro: "How many non-haredim will be affected by this is questionable, because as soon as the haredi numbers come close to a majority, the non-religious and non-haredi Orthodox emigration will begin (followed no doubt by the yeridah of some haredim as well)."

    Emigration is often enough not so hard if you work, say, as an engineer for Qualcomm at the Matam in Haifa. But for the democratic millions there will be nowhere to go - they have their backs to the sea.

    The separate matter of national identification may also not be so simple. I'm often surprised by how profoundly many of the young - especially after their military service - have internalized the ethos of Yom HaShoah+Yom HaAtzmaut.

    1. Many Israeli citizens have dual citizenship. Especially U.S. and European.

    2. Joseph,

      Hardly any of the regular Plonis I meet in Kiryat Shmona or Dimona.

      For many (most?) citizenships, unless a child legally establishes residence in country #2, the child's child won't inherit citizenship #2. 20-30 years in the future that makes a big difference.

    3. BTW, anyone who cares about this should *definitely* consult a citizenship attorney sooner rather than later. I had upsetting "reverse" problems with my Israeli citizenship.

      U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services information is here:

      (USCIS's URLs might not be stable -- you can search for "Citizenship Through Parents".)

      For "reverse" issues, in my experience, one has to camp out at Misrad Hapnim and keep one's cool.

    4. If any of your parents or grandparents or great grandparents (or great great, etc.) lived in Europe before World War II, they were likely citizens of that country (Hungary, Poland, Germany, etc.), and they passed down their citizenship to their children, grandchildren, etc. And they ALL are European citizens. And can get a European passport by documenting their lineage.

    5. Just a Civilian,

      What kind of reverse issues did you experience?

    6. Joseph,

      About your comment of 12:54 AM on EU citizenship: Thanks; I didn't know that. Where can one learn more about this?

    7. Joseph,

      About your question at 12:55 AM on "reverse issues": citizenship involves obligations, as well as advantages, and can subject you to a second legal regime from which your first country can't protect you. It can be quite unpleasant if you learn of your second citizenship at exactly the moment that the second country "shoots first" and accuses you of breaking the law or evading obligations.

      As a child of Europeans born between the wars, I'd think hard about the unknowns of the future before claiming citizenship: What if, 10 years from now, Europe is not at peace, or Europe ceases to be politically sane? (It's happened before.) Etc. ...

    8. Just a Civilian,

      Generally speaking, there are two types of ways citizenship is granted at birth. 1) Jus sanguinis, by which citizenship is not determined by place of birth but by having one or both parent who are citizens of the nation and 2) Jus soli, a right by which citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the state. The U.S. and Canada are Jus soli, something that is relatively rare in other countries. Most of the rest of the world, especially Europe, are Jus sanguinis. Thus, depending on the specific citizenship laws of each state, anyone whose parents are a citizen of that state, automatically are citizens of that state as well. As are their grandchildren and great grandchildren, etc. Even if the children and grandchildren never set foot in that country and don't know the language.

      For example, any Hungarian male citizen automatically conveyed his Hungarian citizenship to his children and wife (upon marriage) through approximately 1952. After 1952, any Hungarian citizen, male or female, conveyed their citizenship to their children born after 1952 (but not to their spouse upon marriage). And those children conveyed it to their children. And further.

      It is intricate and country specific. The best place to get details about a specific country is to call their Embassy or Consulate (in Washington, New York, Tel Aviv, etc.) Ask for their citizenship expert to inquire if you are a citizen.

    9. BTW, I am curious what specific upsetting "reverse" problems with yout Israeli citizenship you experienced.

    10. Joseph,

      Many thanks for all the clarification.

      As for your question: Could we take that private? You can reach me at joseph.daattorah.h5b44 at the domain . Thanks.

  5. As a person well-versed in halacha, if you were declared prime minister of Israel with a solid block of votes that you controlled in the knesset, how would you change the country ? If you could stop violations of halacha wouldn't you be required to do so? How far do you think halacha allows for flexibility in Jewish leaders? This mental experiment is something that forces you to really think through what your hashgapha is The reply would be a good starting point for a larger discussion.

  6. I believe Dr. Shapiro is incorrect.
    1. It will be a few decades before charedim are a majority. By that time, they will have had plenty of time to develop numerous conflicting schools of thought about what should be done when charedim are in the majority.
    2. Chabadniks will oppose imposing halachah on the population, since that would be against everything the Lubavitcher Rebbe stood for.
    3. The staunchest anti-Zionists will oppose creating a halachic state (until Moshiach comes, and sets up such a state himself.) 3. Even those wanting a theocratic state will disagree among themselves, and set up different parties and factions.
    4. The moderate Dati Leumi will still exist (they won't all become chardali). They would rather die than be ruled by a charedi theocracy, and they have guns and know how to use them (unlike the charedim). This alone could be enough to prevent a theocracy.
    5. The moderate, "new" or "post-" charedim will look like other charedim but accept democratic political philosophy and modern economics and governance. The thought of Rav Hirsch and Soloveitchik will be rediscovered by many young charedim who will keep their attire but change their thinking.
    6. The moderates will urge the others not to drive the secular away, because that would destroy the economy and cause a rift between the Jewish people.
    7. They might argue for separation of shul and state, allowing each halachic community to rule its own people, rather than using the machinery of the state (some charedim even argue for that now, I believe).

  7. As an American chareidi, I can't speak with any authority on Shapiro's claims about the attitudes that are commonplace in the Israeli chareidi world. However, my impression is that he is creating a grossly distorted picture. (I know that his citation of R' Elchonon regarding democracy totally misses R' Elchonon's point, which has nothing to do with the pragmatic issue of choosing a political theory to support.)

    While Shapiro raises some valid concerns, I don't think he addresses them in an accurate or useful manner.

  8. And what do you make of the further comments on Marc Shapiro's blog. Most particularaly, R. Sternbuch's psak that it is forbidden to save a chiloni's life on shabbat, and that you do not have to return mistaken change if they err in a business transaction (meaning that you treat them like a non-Jew in that regard).

    If R. Sternbach is your posek, I assume you agree with and would follow this psak. And look forward to the day when these laws can finally be implemented.????

    1. 1)Rav Sternbuch DOESN'T SAY THAT IT IS FORBIDDEN TO SAVE A CHILONI'S LIFEON SHABBOS. nor does Dr. Shapiro make that claim.
      Dr. Marc Shapiro says, "He even quotes a 19th-20th century authority (and one who has a fairly moderate reputation) that there is no obligation to save his life!"

      Dr. Shapiro is only saying that Rav Sternbuch cites the view of Rav Dovid Karliner that there is no requirement to save one or to return their lost objects. He doesn't say he poskens that way! The citation Dr. Shapiro gives about not saving a chiloni's life is from R. Israel David Harfenes, Nishmat Shabbat, vol. 5 no. 500:4. - not from Rav Sternbuch!

      2) the end of the teshuva - which was curiously not published by Shapiro - it says "The Brisker Rov typically said 'a nebech apikorus (unwitting apikorus) is also an apikorus'. The intent of these cited sources is that at least it is best for us to keep away from them therefore we can not be required to return their property to them. It is only if a person wants to return it to them it is permitted since there are views that the irreligious are not considered non-Jews. HOWEVER IN ALL SITUATIONS THAT RETURNING THEIR PROPERTY CAUSES A KIDUSH HASHEM THE HALACHA REQUIRES THAT YOU RETURN THEIR PROPERTY IN ORDER THAT IT BRINGS ABOUT A KIDUSH HASHEM AND THIS IS NO DIFFERENT THAN THE PROPERTY OF NON-JEWS WHICH IS ALSO REQUIRED WHEN IT CAUSES A KIDDUSH HASHEM."

      And obviously the above is true if not returning causes a chilul haShem.


      Rav Sternbuch's views presented in this teshuva are not an extremist view in this matter.

      Could you please read the material carefully to avoid making false assertions about what he said!

  9. So in other words Saudi Arabia with kosher food. Wonderful.

  10. for Ultra haredi to become a majority is very difficult, since there is a silent majority of haredim who prefer democratic values

    next, demographics is not such a linear equation - many haredim and BTs have problems, and children who become less haredi and less observant, some are modernish, some a secular, or just OTD...

    The prospect of Bet Shemesh becoming the leadership is unlikely - since they do not accept political sovereignty, whether secualr or Haredi.

    Finally, perhaps Israel will become apartheid vis a vis the haredim too? Perhaps the secular and military elites will not give the vote to those who do not serve in the IDF.

    Or even better, perhaps Moshiah will come sooner, and he will be Modern :)

  11. Keep in mind that the the Arab citizens of Israel will coalesce with the chilonim and others opposed to haredi control of government. While Israeli government have avoided coalitions with Arab parties (as distinct from Arab MPs on the various lists) that would likely change if the haredi power is perceived as too threatening.

    In addition, we have no reliable estimates of the proportion of haredim who either go OTD publicly, or in private. Both of those can be counted on to vote against stronger haredi control of government.

    1. It is likely that the Arabs and the Hareidim, both being anti-Zionists, will join political forces in opposition to the Hilonim -- whose goal is to hurt religious people.

      Considering that the Hareidim and Arabs will soon constitute a majority of the Israeli population, the Hilonim have much to fear for their future, which may constitute living in a religious state.


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