Friday, April 18, 2008

On chametz

As you probably know, there's been a big brouhaha in Israel over the past several days over the public sale of chametz (leven) inside stores. Although the "public sale" of chametz is forbidden by law, some stores were quietly continuing to sell bread and pasta to those who wanted it during the holiday without rubbing it in the face of those who didn't. Not content with this compromise, the Shas party tried (and failed) to introduce legislation banning the sale of chametz in Israel during Pesach, period.


An enlightening and inspirational analysis of this controversy is provided by Rabbi David Hartman (who provides enlightening and inspirational analyses of most everything he sets his mind to).

One is caught in this dilemma. I can appreciate the aversion people have for legislating religious principles. I appreciate the feeling of some that the government should not enter into your own private spiritual domain and dictate to you what you can and cannot eat on Pesach. Freedom of religion or non-religion is an option that should be decided by the individual and not by the legislative power of the Knesset.

On the other hand, if we are interested in some shared, collective space that mediates some flavor of Jewishness and gives a Jewish quality to our public life, then it is the role of the Knesset to establish the minimum conditions that would give expression to our Jewish historical heritage.

Should Jewishness be legislated or should it be the result of a personal freedom of choice?

There's more, of course. So while you're munching your matzah (or whatever) next week, take a read.

Wishing all Israel a joyous, peaceful Shabbat and a happy and kosher Pesach.

Shabbat Shalom.