Is the Law an Ass?
I was once asked by a respected rabbi to perform a task which I pointed out to him is criminal under Israeli law. His response has troubled me ever since. The rabbi did not respond by quoting from a classic Jewish halachik authority to justify his illegal instruction, such as from the Shulchan Aruch, from the Tor or from Rav Elyashiv…. The rabbi wrote to me that “if the law supposes that, then the law is an ass”. He was quoting from Charles Dickens. Actually from Dickens’ fictitious buffoon, Mr Bumble, in Oliver Twist. I could have written this off as one-time buffoonery by the Rabbi – we all make slips and errors of judgment. However, the same Rabbi then went on to give the same advice, to similarly break the Law, to his whole community. (Without even bringing Mr Bumble as a source – just “take-it-from-me”). In too many of my dealings with members of ultra-orthodox communities, they have taken such a frivolous, dismissive, nay, derisive approach to