We’ve written numerous times on how the Bible continues to play a major role not only in the lives of average Israelis, but right up to the halls of power in the Knesset. The Word of God remains a daily topic of discussion and debate even among the nation’s leaders.
This was demonstrated yet again last week when two Members of Knesset (MK), both ordained rabbis, engaged in a heated back-and-forth over sanctification and desecration of the Name of God. This exchange occurred during a meeting of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
On Thursday morning, MK Gilad Kariv (Labor), who is a Reform Judaism rabbi, visited the Western Wall and delivered a Torah scroll to a group known as the “Women of the Wall,” a liberal movement that advocates women’s rights to perform religious rites that Orthodox Judaism reserves for men.
The Women of the Wall regularly wear traditional Jewish prayer shawls (tallit), head coverings (kippa) and carry a Torah scroll during their prayer ceremonies at the women’s section of the Western Wall.
Orthodox Judaism views the actions of these women as blasphemous. A court ruled in 2013 that, religious sensitivities aside, the Women of the Wall have a legal right to do what they are doing.
Even so, the Orthodox rabbis who oversee the Western Wall aren’t about to make it easy for the Women of the Wall, and refuse to make available any of their Torah scrolls. Hence, MK Kariv showed up and provided a scroll for Thursday’s prayers.
ראש חודש מרחשוון – נמשיך להגן על זכותן של נשות הכותל להתפלל כמנהגן ולקרוא בתורה ברחבת הכותל עד יישום מלא של מתווה הפשרה שסיכלה הממשלה הקודמת. חודש טוב ומבורך. נשות הכותל – חזקו ואמצו. תודה לכן. pic.twitter.com/wVrzv2aMDT
— גלעד קריב (@KarivGilad) October 7, 2021
MK Kariv chairs the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. So Orthodox Rabbi and fellow MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) decided to interrupt his proceedings later on Thursday in protest over Kariv’s actions at the Western Wall.
MK Porush burst into the committee room and began loudly reciting from the Psalms. When Knesset guards tried to eject him, Porush sat on the ground and would not be moved.
“אנחנו מקבלים פה שיעור טוב בדיון מה הוא חילול שם שמיים ומה הוא קידוש שם שמיים”. ח”כ פורוש התיישב במחאה על ריצפת אולם חדר ועדת #חוקה לאחר שניתנה הוראה להוציא אותו מהדיון.@KarivGilad @amirettin @YahdutAtora pic.twitter.com/8cA65wiy5Q
— ערוץ כנסת (@KnessetT) October 7, 2021
Sanctifying or desecrating the Name of God?
Kariv quickly halted the Knesset guards from forcibly removing his Orthodox colleague from the room, insisting that Porush’s right to protest be respected.
He did, however, take the opportunity to jab at Porush on a more scriptural level.
“Since the matter is about sanctifying or desecrating the Name of Heaven (Shem ha’Shamayyim – שם השמיים), consider that in response to a debate over this very matter, the Talmud determines that anything that does not sanctify the Name of Heaven consequently desecrates the Name of Heaven,” Kariv preached.
“By your behavior,” he charged Porush, “you will drive the public even further from the traditions and faith to which you hold.”
“At the very least we received a few chapters of Psalms out of this,” quipped Kariv.