Presence of non-Jews no reason for an army base not to affix mezuzahs, says book endorsed by army’s chief rabbi.
A book endorsed last year by the Israel Defense Forces Rabbinate says the presence of non-Jews is no reason for an army base not to affix mezuzahs to its buildings.
One ruling on Jewish law in the book, “Laws of the Mezuzah,” states: “The idea that views non-Jews as having equal rights in the state goes against the opinion of the Torah, and no representative of the state is authorized to act against the will of the Torah.”
The book deals with questions about mezuzahs, which are fixed to doorposts by Jews as a sign of faith, on army bases, and was endorsed by the IDF’s chief rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rabbi Rafi Peretz.
One issue it discusses is whether or not mezuzahs need be installed in army bases, because rulings have been issued over the generations that in buildings where both Jews and Gentiles live, there is no obligation to put up a mezuzah, and in light of the fact that both Jews and non-Jews live on IDF bases.
The issue, according to the authors, is whether state property can be said to be a kind of a cooperative. In the latter case, “Even if we say state property is like a cooperative, since the public in general is Jewish, and in any case, as long as non-Jews have not purchased a part of the assets, they have no right to the state property.”
The authors cite biblical verses whose message is that, if a mezuzah is in a Gentile’s possession, there is the fear that “it will be desecrated.”
The question thus arises: What should be done on military bases? The authors state, “As the owner, the military establishment must see to it that mezuzahs are installed in all dormitory rooms, including those where Gentile soldiers live. Nevertheless, in places where there is the danger that the mezuzahs might be desecrated, the unit’s rabbi must see to it that the unit’s commanders sign the required form signifying that they are personally responsible for the mezuzahs so that they can be placed on trial should there be a need for doing so and so that the danger of the mezuzahs’ desecration can be prevented.”
The authors also address another issue: What is to be done with the mezuzahs on the buildings in a military base when a battalion of Gentile soldiers arrives to assume operational responsibility for the area?
Their response: “If mezuzahs have been installed on a structure that has been transferred to the jurisdiction of Gentile officers, the rabbi’s unit must brief the soldiers on their arrival in the area regarding the importance of keeping the mezuzahs intact and must see to it that the unit’s commanders sign the required form signifying that they are personally responsible for the mezuzahs so that they can be placed on trial should there be a need for doing so.”
The chief editor of the book, which was published 14 months ago, is Col. Rabbi Eyal Karim, formerly of the Sayeret Matkal (the general staff’s elite special-operations force). The book was written by three other rabbis, Capt. Alexander Rones, Capt. Dov Berkovich and Capt. Hananiah Shafran.
The book also deals with the question of affixing a mezuzah to the door post of a dormitory used for female soldiers.
“Must a mezuzah be installed in a dormitory where female soldiers live and can a senior female officer affix a mezuzah when a new building is officially opened on a military base?” it asks.
The book’s authors rule that is that the commandment regarding mezuzahs applies to females as well as males and that most rabbinical authorities have ruled that a woman is permitted to install a mezuzah. However, the authors point out, since IDF bases constitute a public area, “it would be preferable to be strict on this point” and to prohibit a senior female officer from installing a mezuzah.
The reason, they note, is that, as is it is written in the Book of Psalms, “All glorious is the king’s daughter within the palace” (45:14); thus, they write, “in a public area, it is much more suitable for a male to install the mezuzah.”
In response to a query on the book, the IDF spokesman’s office said: “The book ‘Laws of the Mezuzah’ is a clearly a book on Jewish law dealing with questions that are part of the daily reality in the army. Although the quotes presented are in response to specific questions, the answers cannot be viewed as relating to a specific group; the answer given is true for any unit in which there is concern the mezuzah will be disrespected.