Sunday, March 12, 2006

New Horizens: Hebraic Political Studies

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I think that one of the highest priorities for Israeli society is its re-judaization. This existential effort has to be carried out on any number of levels.
One such level, which is critically important, is the injection of Jewish Tradition into public discourse. One, modestly successful, effort in this direction has been the development of Mishpat Ivri and the enactment of legislation calling for its use in judicial decisions.

After the upcoming elections, Israel will be moving toward the enactment of a constitution and the setting of a more normal system off government. The debate around this existentially important issue will generate lots of commentary from all sorts of experts who will represent a plethora of points of view, about the nature of the State and the interaction between the key word/slogans, 'Jewish' and 'Democratic.'

Most of the discussion will, however, draw upon contemporary, post-modern discourse which is, by definition, hostile (at best) to the 'Jewish' part of the equation. The tragedy is that, to date, there has been no Jewish model that is cast in terms that can be invoked as a respectable alternative to post-modern nihilism.

Recently, however, I came upon an effort which promises to do exactly that. Not surprisingly, the initiative comes from the Shalem Center, which has already enriched Jewish and Israeli cultural life through Azure/Techelet and through its publication of classics of the Western Political Tradition in Hebrew.

Their latest project is a very sophisticated, yet highly accessible, journal called Hebraic Political Studies. It describes its aim as: The journal aims to evaluate the place of the Jewish textual tradition, alongside the traditions of Greece and Rome, inpolitical history and the history of political thought. IOW, it strives (and as far as I can see from the two premier issues) to be exactly the force that I described above. The participants are first rate and (as opposed to other fora) represent a plethora of points of view. I hope that they are considering a Hebrew version (a la Techelet) and that their output will impact profoundly upon the constitutional discourse about to commence.

I urge everyone to read (and subscribe).


Ben Bayit said...

It is Post-Modern critique that offers Traditional Judaism the best counter to Aron Barak's "Constitutional Revolution" (which is essentially "modern" in theory). So much was admitted to us in class by a leading Constitutional Scholar, an immedieate relative of a former Supreme Court justice and someone whom the Israeli press has already nominated as a future Chief Justice. He repeated this to me in private conversation. I believe that Makor Rishon had an article a bit back about this as well.

According to Barak, there are no lacunae in the law, so there is very little room for Mishpat Ivri unless the legislature incorporates it directly into the law. Otherwise he will always do a "hekesh" before turning to Mishpat Ivri. The sad reality is that the section of Chok Yesodot Hamishpat that refers to the usage of Mishpat Ivri is the equivalent of the way that the Mafdal are used as the gabbaim and shammasim of the medina. Here and there a judge uses it to butress an opinion, but it is very rarely applied to create a binding precedent. The fact that Eliezer Schweid's book on Judaism and Democracy in the thought of Rav Hirschenson is still out of print speaks volumes on this issue.

None of this is to take away from all the work that is done on Mishpat Ivri at Netanya Cooleg, Shharei Mishpat, Bar Ilan and Hebrew U. The work is excellent - it's just that it's mostly theory right now.

YMedad said...

The test of Shalem, as usual, will be if they ease their "closed" society they have constructed for themselves, stuck, as they are, in an elitist mode. All power to setting the direction but to set a trend, they need others involved, even if they didn't graduate from Princeton, etc.