Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blue Laws אכיפת חוקי שבת

The headline reads:
Tel Aviv continues to fine store owners open on Shabbat in mostly non-Jewish areas

First of all, it should have read:

Tel Aviv continues to fine stores open on Jewish Sabbath in mostly non-Jewish areas

This is a classic example of the absurdity of blue laws. First of all, they assume — once again — that we can define who is a Jew. Do the city inspectors ask all the males in the ‘hood to show them their circumcisions? What about females? Just for the record, when I made aliya, I was never asked to provide “proof” of my Jewishness. Mom’s ketuba? Suppose Mom was never married. And by the way, I'm still dying to know if, when an ultra-Orthodox couple goes to the rabbinate to register, are they asked for their mothers' ketubas? Hard to believe, but if anyone knows the answer, do tell.

Let's just admit it: There is no way of proving an individual’s Judaism. Hard as it is after centuries of it going unchallenged, it is incumbent upon us to make a paradigmal shift: Anyone who feels herself to be and identifies as Jewish — is Jewish. And axiomatically: Anyone who wants to relocate to Israel should be subject to immigration regulations that do not relate to religion. It’s not that our current arrangement is racist, as some claim it is; it’s that it's simply illogical and untenable.

But for argument’s sake, let’s suppose that there were some way to definitively define — and identify — who is a Jew. It assumes some sort of universal database (managed by whom?), which in turn assumes some sort of ID carried on one’s person (biometric?), but just humor me here. How do we determine that a given neighborhood is “mostly Jewish”? By resident? By household? Because members of the same household might not all be Jewish. So, as soon as the 51st Jewish resident / household moves in (monitored by whom?), an alarm goes off at City Hall and the inspectors come to fine the store owner?

This is one area where market forces should be allowed free play. If someone is foolish enough to try to open a store on Saturday in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, they will be open about five minutes, or the time it takes for the neighbors to organize to 1) slash the store owner’s tires 2) shatter the display window and 3) trash the place. Ergo, no one will agree to even insure the automobile or place of business of such an individual. Problem solved.

Any other (read: sane) locale should be open game, as long as ordinances are adhered to with regard to noise and parking, which they should be on all other days as well, no? And by the way: Whose taxes go to pay these city inspectors? Bingo: Yours and mine. Certainly not ultra-Orthodox citizens, who pay negative taxes. Nope. It’s the rest of us funding this circus. So let’s congratulate ourselves once again for allowing ourselves to be exploited by the Haredim.

A neighbor recently remarked to me about the Tal Law: “…but there should be room [in our society] for [full-time Torah study].” No problem. Plenty of room: tucked away in a yeshiva somewhere, financed by your father or father-in-law, or Sheldon Adelson. Not by me! Not by us.


  1. While the Zionist dream of normalizing the Jews would seem to have been fulfilled, the government of Israel is now run by anti-religion racists allied with anti-Zionist Haredi racists. Is that normal? Where are the founding Zionists? The ones who believed in normal?

  2. You're right: Market forces should be allowed free play. If it's Shabbos and you believe that money should not be changing hands during those 24 hours, so, nu, don't shop. Just because a store is open doesn't mean you have to go in.

    1. Mollie Saferstein NewmanFebruary 9, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      Just thought of this: If the store should open on Shabbos, will the Haredim still 1) slash the store owner’s tires, 2) shatter the display window, and 3) trash the place? Or will they wait till after Havdalah? So frum . . . and so demeaning to us Jews.

    2. No, they wouldn't wait 'til after Havdalah. They'd find a loophole -- the same loophole that allows them to stone cars on Shabbat.