Israel Forever

For the week ending 8 November 2003 / 13 Heshvan 5764

So What's New?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

In the municipal elections held in almost all Israeli cities the other week the campaign issue of some parties was the clash between Jewish tradition and secularism. One anti-religious party even openly promised its potential voters that it would legalize the sale of pork in the religiously observant bastion of Bnei Brak.

There is hardly anything new about this conflict between those who live in Eretz Yisrael as to whether to view it as a place where one can best develop his spiritual potential or as a bountiful land which can be exploited for material gratification. In the Torah chapter we will be reading this Shabbat we take note of Avrahams discernment of the materialistic inclination of his nephew Lot which leads him to suggest a separation. True to character, Lot opted for the fleshpots of sinful Sodom, and it was only after this negative influence was removed that G-d appeared to Avraham and invited him to take legal possession of the entire land west and east, north and south.

Are we to see another separation between the descendants of Avraham who follow in his ways and those who wish to fill the land with the Sodomite fleshpots of forbidden foods and unrestricted marriage? The current government effort to transfer authority over the rabbinical courts in Israel to the Justice Ministry headed by the most outspoken champion of secularism has elicited a warning from religious leaders in this country that such a move will lead to a sharp split in the nation with the religious community maintaining its own records on who has been married or divorced according to Halacha.

What is new about this situation is that this time around it is not Avraham suggesting that Lot leave for greener pastures but rather it is Lot who is exploiting political power to force Avraham to seek isolation. It is our hope that the Prime Minister will wake up to the seriousness of the situation and will take the action necessary for maintaining a united Israel forever.

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