Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (10 January 2018, 23 Tevet, 5778)
If Israel is a Jewish nation, why are the laws of the Torah not intact politically?
The painting is from 1867 and it is by Eduard Moyse. It depicts a sitting of the Sanhedrin in 1807 that was convened by Napoleon. The Emperor wished to address issues concerning the Jewish People through a body that would represent all Jewry. Even though some notable savants did participate it was never really acknowledged by the Jewish People as whole.
A person named Ahmed Yousuf (about whom no further details were available) asked:
"Why isn't Israel run on pure Jewish religious law? Why isn't there any significant movement for it?"
Historically the Zionist Movement was preceded in the 1800s by a re-envigorated return of Religious Jews to the Land and talk of founding a nation. Later one way and another the movement was taken over both in the Land of Israel and overseas by Secular Jews. These were either anti-Religious or much reserved about it. The State of Israel was founded in 1948. The forces of Secularism took control but came to a modus vivendi with the religious parties. Even so there was a kind of Cultural War which in some ways is still continuing. The secular forces are mostly in control. That is why the State is not governed by religious law. Jewish authorities however do have the main say concerning Jewish marriage, burial, food regulations (kashrut), and so on. Secular elements are strongly entrenched in the Judiciary, the Bureaucracy, the Media, Academia, and other centers of power.
Superficially one could say that the religious are fighting a losing battle.
Nevertheless under the surface there are forces at work that could lead to changes in the future.
First of all what is Jewish Religious Law?
The Jews once had their own kingdom which way back in the Old Times was at times ruled by kings and prophets, by a Sanhedrin and by councils of religious elders. A Tribe of Priests (Levi i.e. the Levites and Cohens) were prominent participants in these councils. This was as the Bible had indicated it would be,
Deuteronomy (NASB) 17: 9 So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case.
Levites to a disproportional degree continued to be major contributors to Rabbinical Literature up until our own time. At all events after the Biblical epoch the Jews lost control to foreign masters, regained some freedom under the Hasmonean-Maccabees and then again were subjugated by the Romans until being exiled by them. This happened about 2000 years ago. Even in Exile however they often lived in autonomous communities. They were literate and intellectually vibrant. Laws were promulgated, regulations made, legal systems worked out. etc, concerning all the fine details of everyday life. Even matters over which they no longer had a say (such as how to run a country etc) and which were largely theoretical were talked about, argued over, and resolved. Whole collection of discussions and decisions exists and are regularly studied with great intensity by thousands of students every day.
Those aspects of this jurisprudence concerning Civil Matters that may be applicable today are referred to as Hebrew Law or "Mishpat Ha-Ivri."
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mishpat Ivri (Hebrew "Jewish/Hebrew law/jurisprudence") are the aspects of Halakha ("traditional Jewish law") that are relevant to "non-religious" or "secular" law. In addition, the term refers to an academic approach to the Jewish legal tradition and a concomitant effort to apply that tradition to modern Israeli law.
The academic study of Mishpat Ivri spans the full geographic, literary, and historical range of Halakha. It tends to exclude certain areas of Halakha that are not comparable to modern civil law, such as criminal law and "religious" law.
Within classical rabbinic Judaism, all Mishpat Ivri subjects are also subsumed under halakha (Jewish law in general).
In the modern State of Israel, Mishpat Ivri has become one of the lesser ongoing sources for contemporary Israeli civil law, which developed along the model of British common law. (Israeli civil law was built primarily upon British and Ottoman law.) As an effort to promote Jewish law, the Mishpat Ivri movement has had relatively few gains, which include: (1) the Foundations of Law Act of 1980, allowing judicial reasoning to draw upon Halakha, (2) the limited accretion of case law that refers to Halakha, (3) occasional references to Halakha in legislative deliberations, and (4) the placement of a single Mishpat Ivri expert (Nahum Rakover) in the Attorney General's office.
It should be noted that Hebrew Law (Mishpat Ha-Ivri) is in addition to Rabbinical Law which today functions through Rabbinical Law Courts. These are parallel to and separate from the secular tribunals. Many secular Israelis prefer appealing to Rabbinical arbitration since this is considered more equitable, it takes less time, and its costs less.
Pressure groups who advocate the establishing of Hebrew Law and/or Jewish Religious Law as the Law of the Country may be divided into three:
1. Hebrew Law Advocates. These wish to make the Mishpat Ha-Ivri (Hebrew Law) the de fault Law of the Land whether by a process of osmosis or direct fiat. The ruling Likud political party in the past has made declarations that could be interpreted to incline in this direction. Legal precedents in the form of Knesset decisions exist. This course of action is favored as much by Jewish secular nationalist intellectuals as by religious ones.
2. Religious Rule. This is what the Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) parties and some of the National Religious may want in theory. It means that everything would be decided according to the Jewish Religion. Rabbis would be consulted in case of difficulties or where the Law was not clear.
3. Complete Restoration Enthusiasts. These believe in returning everything to its former state as prescribed by the Torah. They are an offshoot of the National Religious community. A few years ago they tried to reconstitute the Sanhedrin i.e. the ancient Supreme Religious Council of 70 elders (Numbers 11:16). This did not succeed due to lack of public interest and no participation by Hareidi authorities. The Complete Restoration elements are somewhat eccentric but they should not be dismissed. They include learned and dedicated experts in their field.