Friday, August 27, 2004

Who is a Jew?- Again

So once again, in the middle of a war, a coalition crisis, and what the Israelis call 'Cucumber Season' (aka August), Israeli government officials have decided to bring up 'Who is a Jew' again.
The Interior Minister wants to hand out Jewish status to the children of foreign workers. The Attorney General wants to recognize any conversions done in Israel as valid, or none at all. Basically, he wants to find the fabled status quo, by which issues of personal status are determined in accordance with the traditional interpretation of Halakha, unconstitutional. (Of course, Israel doesn't have a ratified constitution, but why trifle with details?) If they succeed, they'll undermine the Joint Conversion institutes that have finally gotten going and might solve a difficult problem. But then, hey, most of the Dayyanim involved in conversion would not allow most Orthodox Jews to convert because they're not religious enough. The implications of all of this is literally a schism
within the Jews of Israel, where the repurcussions are more severe than the hurban visiting the Jews back home in the USA.

The situation, like so many others, reminds me of something Rabbi Soloveitchik zt"l once said. If you notice, periodically in the Humash, an anonymous figure appears, known simply as the 'ish,' the man. It was an ish that wrestled with Jacob. It was an ish that sent Joseph to meet his brothers. Both encounters were momentous, unexpected and changed the course of Jewish history from its expected pattern. The Rov said that we learn from this that when events become absurd, when they go against the normal patterns of causality, it's a sign that Divine Providence, Hashgacha, is working in history.



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