Sunday, January 25, 2009

Disrobing in the Supermarket להתפשט בסופר

I couldn’t find the original news item, but I did find this reference to the debate over the Matzot Law: Briefly, after the High Court ruled that supermarkets are not defined as public spaces for the purpose of selling leavened products during Passover, as a protest, an Orthodox male disrobed in a supermarket, claiming that it was not classified as a public space. Score one for Astute Orthodox Stripper, for he clearly has a better grasp of democracy than the rest of us fools.

Why? Because his act was the logical outcome of our contortions-to-pacify-the Orthodox that we twist ourselves into, which in the end get us (non-Orthodox) nowhere. That’s what happens when we use religious observance as currency to bargain with special interest groups.

And that’s why any party I vote for in the next election must vow: No More Bargaining. I accept nothing less than full separation of church and state. Bargaining results in situations like the following: Some buses run on the Sabbath, yet no trains do. Where’s the logic? It’s sort-of-kind-of OK for trains to run between Eilat and Tel Aviv, yet not between Eilat and Jerusalem? What’s next? Bar-Ilan Road being closed on alternate Sabbaths? Leavened products may be sold on Passover on alternate streets according to the alphabet?

Bargaining proves only one thing: That there is something to be bargained for. Where I grew up, democracy and due process are not commodities that can be quantified and bargained for, i.e., I’ll trade you a bushel of religious coercion in exchange for that basket of nice fresh religious freedom. Uh-uh. No more.

We’ve got to break our addiction to placating the Orthodox. We’ve got to kick the bargaining habit and restore dignity to Judaism. We once thought that institutionalizing Jewish practice would give it dignity, but the opposite is true. Witness the Western Wall: The atmosphere is that of a theme park; there’s nothing dignified about “worshipping” there, or what passes for worship, no spirituality to be found there.

Where’s the dignity in the racket we call the Rabbinate, wherein we pay off kashrut supervisors and circumcisers on top of the salary they get from the state? How about the dignity in cemeteries that have become production lines, where your loved one’s name gets honked over a loudspeaker like a carnival barker? The answer is to de-institutionalize religion, i.e., give religion back to the people to use or not as we see fit. It’s our only hope as a democracy.

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