Rabbis in America and in Israel are used to speaking about political issues. They do it all the time. Do I want rabbis in America — not that it matters whether I do — not to speak about Israel from the pulpit? Not to encourage their congregants to support Israel in certain times? Not to speak for human rights? Not to speak against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement or anti-Semitism?
Rabbis in America and in Israel talk about political issues all the time, and maybe it is appropriate to ask whether that is a good policy for them and for the community.
Of course, it can be seen as suspicious that I first addressed this issue in the wake of a letter that supports a view with which I do not agree. I plead guilty: The content of the letter was annoying, and that is why I began thinking about the role of rabbis in debates over political issues. I also admit that it is not easy to argue that rabbis should never speak about political matters. It is not easy for a practical reason: Because rabbis have the habit of doing so and would be hard pressed to give it up. And it is not easy for another, deep-rooted reason: Because all matters are political matters. Even a D’var Torah is — in some way — political.
Then again, why should we pay attention to just rabbis? Why not the members of other professions? Why not Jewish plumbers against the deal, and Jewish lawyers for the deal, and Jewish doctors against the deal, and Jewish teachers for the deal, and Jewish hairdressers against the deal, and Jewish gardeners for the deal?
You might say: Because rabbis are special. And I agree, they are special. But one might argue that hearing them speak about issues on which their knowledge is limited to what most other people also know makes them less special, not more so.
Shmuel Rosner, “Imagine the following headline: 340 plumbers urge Congress to disapprove Iran nuclear deal”, Jewish Journal (19 August 2015) [http://www.jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain/item/imagine_the_following_headline_340_plumbers_urge_congress_to_disapprove_ira]