On the 17th of December, the grand chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled1 in favor of the regional governments of the Flemish and Walloon regions of Belgium, finding their prohibition of shechitah without stunning is legal. This is a tragedy for Jewish communities throughout Europe. It was Belgium’s Jewish community last hope for a quick resolution of the Shechitah crisis, which had come into force on January 1st 2019.
This essay explores the moral importance of the conflict between Halakhah and temporal civil law. It was presented as a sermon to the Book Shemot, on the 28th of Tevet 5766 (28th of January ’06).
True Freedom of Conscience -by Rabbi Arie Folger
Halakhah is frequently at odds – in monetary matters – with applied Western law, such as, for example regarding the permissibility of charging interest on loans, the permissibility of charging certain fines, the validity of speculative contracts, the definition of unfair competition and more. However, the respective national constitutions are clear, the judicial power belongs to the civil courts and they need to take the instructions of the legislative branch into account. Many of us feel uneasy about the disagreement Halakhah has with the national secular legislative reality, and as a result, the Halakhah is either forgotten, or willfully ignored.
The tension between Halakhah and Western law evokes in us memories of accusations of double standards and disloyalty to our respective countries of citizenship or residence. Hence, many choose ignorance over knowledge, breech over observance. The major question is then: have we served the greater good of general society by adopting the single yardstick of law and ethics which our host society provides us with? Read the rest of this entry »