October 28, 2010 | Issue 31

Rabbis Debate Updating The Halachic Rules of Engagement 

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — [TheKnish.com] The recent Halachic ruling by Israel’s Tzomet Institute allowing female agents of Israel’s secret service to engage in gilui arayos for the sake of national security has opened a series of vigorous debates across the global Rabbinic community on tshuvos and halachic waivers for various issues of national and communal concern.

Accordingly, Rabbi Hershel Fishkivitz of Project Moledet has ruled that male Mossad agents may engage in arayos in the line of duty. He cites as precedent the marriages of Jewish monarchs in the Bible to secure stable political relations, including Shlomo Hamelech’s marriage to princesses from the Egyptian, Ethiopian, Phoenician, Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms. Rabbi Reuvain Lipshitz of the Samarian Rabbinic Council goes further, suggesting that male agents may even engage in mishkav zachor for the well being of the State of Israel, citing the relationship between King David and Crown Prince Yonasan.

The religious rulings go beyond issues of interpersonal relations. Rabbi Baruch Fistula of the Judean Peoples’ Front notes that for the sake of national security, any Israeli agent, male or female, may eat traifis mamish such as pork or shellfish if its immediate impact will be to save a Jewish life. Rabbi Pesachya Gerstein of the Tanach Center holds that such foods may be eaten even if there is no impending threat to Jewish life, as long as the food is prepared leShaim shamayim and is eaten with a shinui.

Rabbi Menashe Efrayim of the Tfas Initiative goes so far as to suggest that an Israeli agent may engage in ever min hachai, the consuming of meat from an animal that has not been killed, and the Schlishker Ruv has ruled that for the sake of national security, an Israeli agent may eat a chick from a bird’s nest without chasing away the mother, in violation of the biblical rule regarding shiluach hakan.

Further, the Center for Halachic Guidance issued a statement allowing Israeli agents to use electricity on Shabbos and to ride in taxicabs as long as they do not drive the vehicle. This position is disputed by the BaBa Silly, who permits both the passive and active use of any form of transportation on Shabbos, allowing agents to drive cars, motorcycles, jeeps, motorized wheel chairs, jet skis, airplanes and magic carpets.

More controversial are some of the rabbinic rulings related to delicate political positions. Rabbi Puppa Bar Nathan, a strong advocate of greater Israel, has issued a ruling that allows Jewish settlers to vandalize Palestinian shops on Shabbos. The Gebruchtah Ruv, a strong opponent of secular activities on the Sabbath, permits Chassidim to throw stones at moving cars on Shabbos. And the Israel PETA Society allows observant adherents to spray red paint on people wearing fur to shul on Shabbos.

Similarly controversial is the psak by the Chacham of Deal allowing for gross embezzlement and tax evasion as long as religious institutions benefit from the fraud, as well as the ruling of the Flieshiger Ruv supporting the employment and abuse of illegal aliens in a meat factory as long as the owner continues to pay the bill of the mashgiach.

All of these modern day discussions illustrate how Judaism remains a vibrant religion that is flexible and innovative as it confronts the challenges of modern society.


Pencil Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein is a part time free-lance journalist and the full time Rosheshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Chipass Emmess. His blog is located at http://rabbi-pinky.blogspot.com. He is the author of The Collected Writing of Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein and Igrois Pinky: http://stores.lulu.com/rapas. Rabbi Schmeckelstein is currently developing a sitcom that he will co-star in along with Bristol Palin. He may be reached at NPOJ8@Yahoo.Com


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