Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 10:04 PM
ALL CONTENTS UNDER RESERVE
EXPLICITLY WITHOUT PREJUDICE
”…what your organization is trying to accomplish…scope and emphasis of your work…”
R. Binyomin, Shalom:
Thank you for your thoughtful reply; please accept my apologies for the delay in my response.
Let me begin with a clarification regarding “my organization”.
I do not personally lead, represent or “have” an Organization as the term is generally understood. The term “organization”, as I believe that it is generally understood, is used to describe a group of individuals that operate within a formal, top-down hierarchical framework – and most often, one that is formally “registered” (in some manner) to “the authorities”.
In that sense, the Tzibur is not an “organization” at all.
There are no “officers” in the usual sense of the term; there is no Board of Directors.
There are no fund-raising activities or programs.
By design, there exists no mechanism at all for tax-deductible donations.
Thus, the most precise reply to a question regarding “what your organization is trying to accomplish” would be:
“the Restoration of Traditional Jewish Civil Society”.
The terminology used in this “mission statement” requires extensive, precise and detailed definition.
But first, it is important to establish some fundamental principles.
It has been said many times that Torah differs from “religions” in that the Torah addresses all aspects of life, whereas “religions” are concerned exclusively with spiritual matters. Unfortunately, the concept of “all aspects of life” is usually misunderstood to refer to a rather loose collection of attitudes that is limited to the broad principles of “ethical” behavior as might be delivered by a university course called “Ethics”, and little else.
The actual fact is that the Torah gives precise instructions for all forms of human interaction, whereas “religion” (in the common parlance) is restricted to more “spiritual” concerns such as prayer and ritual.
To give two rather simplistic illustrations:
1) The Rambam, in the preface to Hilchot Mechira lists “the method of buying and selling” as one of the 613 Mitzvot. The halachot that detail the proper performance of this Commandment are quite precise in their application, and were practiced (and enforced) by most of the peoples of the world throughout history under Common Law and the Law of the Land as derived almost verbatim from the Talmudic principles of contracts, agreements and exchanges. Note that this nearly universal practice came to an end approximately 100 years ago with the onset of the First World War and the adoption of the now prevalent network of private central banks that issue most of the currency and foreign exchange that is used in commerce at the present time.
2) The method by which Torah society selects and organizes its “leaders” is quite detailed, and provides the very foundation of Traditional Jewish Civil Society. One specific detail stands in stark contrast to the current practice: there are no “elections” in Torah – only “selections”. Representatives must be selected from among those individuals physically present, and the representation itself is substantially identical to the relationship we commonly describe as a Power of Attorney.
We will return to these examples later, but the fundamental principle at work in the Torah approach to Civil Society is one of individual responsibility.
Thus, there is no precedent anywhere in Torah the concept of “limited liability”. While the Torah requires individuals to form legitimate and lawful partnerships, there is no place in Traditional Jewish Civil Society for non-human persons (such as corporations) that are exempt from all of the legal and moral obligations mandated by Torah.
Regarding the “scope and emphasis” of our work, it must be said at the outset that all guidelines are recommended on the basis of specific sources and clear precedent in accepted literature.
This task is simplified by the fact the most of the “disagreements” for which our people have become famous (infamous?) are matters of local Community custom and, in nearly all cases of significant divergence, are concerned exclusively with prayer and ritual – areas that are clearly beyond the scope of our “mission”.
The following passage provides a convenient starting point:
ëåôéï áðé äòéø æä àú æä ìáðåú ìäï áéú äëðñú ì÷ðåú ìäï ñôø úåøä åðáéàéí åøùàéï áðé äòéø ìäúðåú òì äùòøéí åòì äîãåú åòì ùëø äôåòìéí øùàéï ìòùåú ÷éöúï øùàéï áðé äòéø ìåîø ëì îé ùéøàä àöì ôìåðé éäà ðåúï ëê åëê ëì îé ùéøàä àöì îìëåú éäà ðåúï ëê åëê ëì îé ùøöä àå ùúøòä ôøúå áéï äæøòéí éäà ðåúï ëê åëê åëì îé ùúøòä áäîä ôìåðéú éäà ðåúï ëê åëê øùàéï ìòùåú ÷éöúï åøùàéï äöîøéï åäöáòéï ìåîø ëì î÷ç ùéáà ìòéø ðäà ëåìðå ùåúôéï áå øùàéï äðçúåîéï ìòùåú øâåòä áéðéäï øùàéï äçîøéï ìåîø ëì îé ùéîåú ìå çîåø ìòîåã ìå çîåø àçø îúä áëåñéà àéï öøéëéï ìäòîéã ìå çîåø ãìà áëåñéà öøéëéï ìäòîéã ìå çîåø åàí àîø úðå ìé åàðé ìå÷ç ìòöîé àéï ùåîòéï ìå àìà ìå÷çéï åðåúðéï ìå øùàéï äñôðéï ìåîø ëì îé ùúàáã ñôéðúå ðòîéã ìå ñôéðä àçøú àáãä áëåñéà àéï öøéëéï ìäòîéã ìå ãìà áëåñéà öøéëéï ìäòîéã ìå åàí ôéøù ìî÷åí ùàéï áðé àãí ôåøùéï àéï öøéëéï ìäòîéã ìå.
úåñôúà á"î éà,éá
Here we see that there is practical purpose as well as a Torah imperative to organize.
The format and structure, as well as the specific and detailed methodology employed in order to implement this Torah-mandated form of Community organization, is derived by applying the formula described in Parshat Yitro to the topology described by the Mishna in Sanhedrin and in Parshat Shoftim:
... åëîä éäà áòéø åúäà øàåéä ìñðäãøéï îàä åòùøéí.
øáé ðçîéä àåîø îàúéí åùìùéí ëãé ùøé òùøåú:
ñðäããøéï ôø÷ à' äìëä ã'
> ùéäà ìëì ãééï ùø ùì òùøä ãáöéø îùøé òùø ìà àùëçï ùøøä. [ôðé îùä òì àúø]
> åîàúéí åùìåùéí. ëãé ùøé òùøåú ãäééðå ë"â òùøåú ùéäà ëì ãééï ùø ùì òùøä ãáöéø îùøé òùøä ìà îðéðï ùøøä.[÷øáï äòãä òì àúø]
The Abarbanel emphasizes the clear distinction between task of the “Shofet” (...ìöøëé öéáåø...) and that of the Dayan (...ìòðéï äîùôè...).
The Mishna in Sanhedrin illustrates this structure by providing the “textbook example” of a Torah Community – a city of exactly one thousand individuals:
The Mishna states that a Community “that has 120” is obligated to maintain a Community Court (Sanhedrin Ketana).
We have already learned that this Court consists of 23 Dayanim plus three rows of 23 students, yielding a total of 92 (öá). (It should be immediately apparent that the 120 in the Mishna does not refer to the total population of the city.)
The Community Council of “Shoftim”, topologically similar in structure to the Sanhedrin Ketana, consists of Seven “Elders” (æ÷ðéí) plus three rows of seven “experts”, yielding a total of 28 ( ëç äöéáåø).
Thus the Court and Council together consist of 120 individuals (in this “textbook” example of a Community of 1000 individuals).
Many sources identify the “Elders” with the “Captains of 50” mandated in Parshat Yitro.
A simple calculation reveals that an organized Community of 1000 will include 30 Elders: 20 Captains of Fifty plus 10 Captains of 100. These selected individuals are eligible to fill the seats of 23 Dayanim plus 7 Council members.
The end of the Mishna quotes R. Nechemia with reference to a minimum Community of two-hundred thirty individuals, wherein 23 will be qualified to fill the seats of the Court, and seven of those 23 will also serve on the Council of Seven. Although this is not the “ideal” situation, the basic requirements of Representation are met by the appointment of Captains of Ten (i.e. a “Power of Attorney” granted by a formally constituted “Community” of ten specific individuals (see Gur Aryeh Parshat Yitro, Korban HaAida and Pnei Moshe on the Mishna).
äîëðä äîùåúó : äîçðä äîùåúó
We have come to believe that there are individuals in Israel that are here primarily as a result of their desire to “live a Jewish life in the Land of Israel”. While recognizing the fact that every individual may have a unique definition for each word in the phrase, this common ideal nevertheless creates the potential for the creation of a Torah Community defined by a common goal.
There appear to be a small number of individuals that perceive some dissonance between the “ideal” society described by the Torah and the current state of affairs.
Unfortunately, many “activists” consistently fail to abandon failed strategic approaches and remain unmoved by the lessons of history, both positive and negative.
Even more unfortunate are the negative consequences of employing blatantly confrontational tactics such as protests, pressure and political “partying”, all of which have been proven ineffective (and often quite counter-productive).
Furthermore, there is no precedent in Torah for any of these failed confrontational approaches to Remedy. As a result, we are extremely meticulous in our all of our activities as part of an effort to avoid all forms of confrontation in all relevant and applicable jurisdictions.
Rather, we rely entirely upon Remedy in the form of positive action as mandated by Torah, the Law of the Land and properly ratified Treaties as well as by personal and Community obligations undertaken in the form of legitimate contracts and agreements.
As I read your article, I was particularly gratified to read of the legal decision describing of “Orthodox Judaism” as a “club”.
Many of the behavioral requirements mandated by Torah have become rather difficult to fulfill properly due to the statutory framework that has been superimposed over the Law of the Land. This includes a wide variety of restrictions and regulations in jurisdictions ranging from the UCC and various Treaties to the statutes imposed by the State of Israel.
As an illustration of this conflict, we can examine (briefly) the Commandment of “Buying and Selling” mentioned above.
The Torah requires that purchases be made in one of three specific ways: money, written contract or physical acquisition. In each case, there must be an exchange of real value. In point of law, physical acquisition automatically creates a Torah obligation to pay “money”, which is defined in Torah specifically as metallic silver.
It should be further noted that the Torah explicitly negates the possibility of purchasing goods via the transfer of debt. (See, for example, the lengthy discussion and various examples brought by the Yerushalmi in Bava Metzia Perek 4 Halacha 1).
In addition to the metallic silver, only copper and gold may be used as lawful alternatives for the storage of monetary value (when dealing in amounts that are too small or too great for silver coinage to be convenient Yerushalmi Maaser Sheni, Perek 2, Halacha 3).
We have been unable to identify the lawful mechanism that gives effect to the various procedures commonly used to purchase goods and services in the Global Economy.
Specifically, one might ask: “What is the lawful nature of the currency issued by privately owned central banks such as the Bank of Israel and the Federal Reserve?”
One might be tempted to identify these documents as “promissory notes”, which are lawful and valid documents recognized by the Torah (despite the fact that one cannot actually perform the Mitzvah with such a note).
Nevertheless, the “notes” issued by the Bank of Israel and the Federal Reserve (as well as all of the other privately-owned “national banks” that participate in the Global Banking System) lack the fundamental characteristics that are required by the definition of a “promissory note”; there is no “promise” nor any “obligation” on the part of any individual or any group of individuals to pay anything to anyone at any time, and there is no reference anywhere on the “document” to redemption in the form of metallic silver (or any other material embodiment of intrinsic value) in any specified amount.
While there have been several attempts to create “alternative currencies”; none have been particularly successful, and all have been confrontational in practice.
Nevertheless, we have developed a means by which individuals and Communities may fulfill the requirements of the Mitzvah without contravening the statutes of the State of Israel through the formation of a private club. Members use “coupons” in trade exclusively among members of the club. In commerce, these “coupons” are treated the same as common “gift certificates”. The “coupons”, called “Maneh” (i.e. portions used for counting), are made of pure metallic silver. This is (also) an effective method employed in order to reduce the risk of nefarious individuals counterfeiting the “coupons”. Of course, there are many other very significant details that are not particularly relevant to current discussion, and those details may be explored in another forum.
One example of such a “detail” is the Club Rule prohibiting the sale of the “coupons” themselves, as that would constitute a taxable transaction and, in addition, such a sale would promote the (false) impression that the “coupons” themselves are a commodity.
Another example of this non-confrontational approach may be seen in the nature of the proposed draft Law of the Public.
One of the most loudly and frequently touted “values” in Torah is the concept of Unity (“Achdus”, in colloquial Yeshivish parlance). This might be measured by counting the number of Melava Malkas held under the general rubric of “achdus” or, alternatively, by gauging the relative the popularity of the song, “Yachad Shivtei Yisrael”.
One might be tempted to ask, “If Unity is such a supreme value, why does the verse include the concept of “tribes”? Would it not be more appropriate to sing “Yachad Yisrael”?
Do we really need “shvatim”?
Of course, the answer is a resounding “YES” – there is a clear imperative to preserve diversity in Unity.
This becomes self-evident when one recalls that the Torah, the Land and the People are all designed organically according to the same topology, patterned after the human anatomy. (Thus, Jerusalem is the “heart” of the Land and the King is the “heart” of the people. Interestingly enough, the King is held responsible for the economic well-being of the people in the same way as the heart is responsible for the distribution of value to the human body via the blood. The word used for “value” traded in economic activity is “ãîéí”, a plural form of the word “ãí” “blood”). Each individual and every Community is likened to a limb of the body of Israel, and no single limb – no matter how numerous (two hands), useful (sense organs) or necessary (heart, brain) – may lay claim to any significant existence independent of the body as a whole.
It is the goal of Communal Unity - more properly expressed as the formation of a Community by a group of individuals formally contracted in a Partnership for the express purpose of engaging in unified action that is purposefully directed towards the achievement of a Common Goal - that provides the foundation for Traditional Jewish Civil Society.
It is for this reason that political parties cannot, by definition, play any legitimate role in the organization of any Torah society. The etymology of the term “party” is identical in Hebrew translation, and essentially describes a method of dividing the population – breaking up the Community into “parts” that identify themselves as opponents in a variety of contexts. The proliferation of political parties is historically associated with a technique known as “divide and conquer”.
The Torah mandates a process that effectively precludes the very existence of political parties by requiring all Representatives to obtain a personal “minui” (power of attorney), by requiring that all decisions be ultimately authorized by the entire Community, and by requiring that this formal authorization be ratified in a public session with all Partners in physical attendance (îòîã àðùé äòéø).
As mentioned above, the detailed procedures have been in practice universally until relatively recent times.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to emphasize that the Torah Community, as the basic building block of Traditional Jewish Civil Society, is a true legal and lawful entity that takes the specific form of a Partnership, and is formally created by appointment of functionaries and the creation of a Community Treasury. These features are mandatory prerequisites as well as prominent features of any concerted and informed effort to achieve true Unity.
The “Club Rules” require all forms of “organization” to be grassroots in practice.
It should be noted in this context that the phrase “Power to the People” is not the invention of student protesters.
The original phrase, used throughout the past 2000 years of our history has been:
ëç äöéáåø ðåáò îëì éçéã áòí äéäåãé ììà äáãì îåöà, äù÷ôä, àå äùúééëåú ôåìéèéú
This brief reply introduces only a small selection of the major points relevant to this discussion.
The original sources stand on their own merits.
All errors and misunderstandings are my own.
Nevertheless, I hope that these few remarks, despite being poorly organized and despite failing to provide a comprehensive picture in understandable terms, are nevertheless informative enough in order to provide adequate background for further discussion and, more importantly, are sufficient as presented in order to initiate a process that leads the reader to independent action.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Yonatan ben Eliezer
Old City, Jerusalem
äöìçä áëì äòðéðéí,
The Power of the Jewish Community in Israel
emanates from each individual in the Community;
regardless of country of origin, philosophical approach or political allegiance.
ñéîï ä÷' éåðúï:àîøëì