Bo - Weekly Torah Portion

A couple of weeks ago chief-justice Haiut issued a decision declining the request of the chief rabbinate of Israel for another hearing of the case disallowing the search of people’s belongings by security personnel of hospitals in search of Chametz on Passover. Haredi politicians elected to use harsh and inflammatory language attacking the decision, ignoring the fact that the decision had to do with finding that these security personnel lacked any kind of permission by the law to act on anything else than security measures. The court had given the Knesset ample opportunity to address the law but these politicians find it easier to use foul language rather than working hard to try and find workable solutions.

This week we read from the Torah the following words, “On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go out from here. And it shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall perform this rite in this month. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing with yeast shall be seen among you, nor shall any dough with yeast be seen among you in all your borders. And you shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.”

For the dispute seekers the words are simple, everyone must be made not to have Chametz. The best way to do so, according to their preference, is taking the harshest possibility – enacting law and levying fines. As if they have learned nothing from the Law of Chametz. Until that law came into the world it was quite rare to find Chametz during Passover, but with political power came the diseases of power intoxication that also includes the need to force the issue upon people. That is how that law came about and with it a simple and basic economical consideration. Disobeying the law entails a particular fine and now the decision if to comply or disobey the law is a mere issue of economics – the benefit versus the cost. Certainly, an achievement to speak about and the results speak for themselves – Chametz can be found everywhere. That is the reason that the rabbinate decided to abuse its authority and harass the weakest of society – hospitalized people. It is not a return to a status quo that they presumably argue for because that was never the case – rather it is a cruel and heartless attempt to try and force their authority while they are not able to exert it elsewhere.

It saddens me to see their futile attempts to force people to comply by ways of asserting fines, and double the fines and the quadruple fines. Not that this was very successful as much of these fines were tabled by the very ones who are trying to force laws that they prefer. What is surprising to see is that this fine system simply does not work. It is not even understood why it is that the government and its various branches try over and over again the same failing methodologies. It is incomprehensible that they have not yet learned that it is possible that the better way to go about things is to educate rather than intimidate. Working to create a set of values where compliance with the law, even when not in agreement with, is the norm. And when there is disagreement with the law, attempts are made to change the law. Having many laws and bylaws does not bring more compliance, the opposite is the case. It usually brings about an enforcement inability, sometimes even a dislike to deal with all of those prohibitions, or selectively applying the law to a point where the authorities cannot use it anymore.

Going back for a moment to the issue of the Chametz we must pay attention that there are also other requirements in that passage. How about forcing by law the “you shall tell your son on that day”?! Or may be another piece of law that would require, “a sign to you on your hand”?! It is of course an absurd that only arises because of thinking that political power may be used to achieve anything that one wants. The damage that this creates is unimaginable, unnecessary and pitiful. The Halacha of course allows to sell the Chametz to a gentile and continue to hold the Chametz in storage at home. The Chametz is there just owned by someone else. I keep Passover Kosher and still I do not believe in making someone else forced to obey by it on my account. This does not make Passover what it should be and there is more damage than benefit in it.

The State of Israel does not compel upon its citizens to get the COVID-19 vaccine even though the illness can be fatal and certainly life disrupting. It gives each and everyone of us the opportunity to get the vaccine but does not make us take it. The numbers show that even without legislation people have come to be vaccinated in amazing numbers, over 2.4 million to date. When reviewing the risks it seems that they are quite minimal even after so many people have been given the shot. It is therefore that I recommend each and everyone of you, when it is your turn, go and get the vaccine. It is good for you, for your family and it benefits your community. I received my second shot last Sunday with no side-effects other than a slight pain in my arm. Go and get it!

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for Good Health.

Reuven Marko, 22 January 2021, 10 Shevat, 5781

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