Friday, July 20, 2007

Washing Israel's Dirty Linen in Public during the Nine Days


Dear Magnes Zionist,

Is it permissable to wash Israel's dirty linen in public during the nine days?

On the one hand, there is a mitzvah to rebuke one's neighbor, and exposing Israel's wrongdoing is done as a rebuke. On the other hand, it is forbidden to launder clothes during the nine days, and washing one's dirty linen publicly borders on mesirah and halshanah, i.e., informing to the gentile authorities.


To wash Israel's dirty linen in public during the Nine Days is not only permissible, but actually a mitzvah.

But here I would make a distinction. With respect to petty sins and acts of injustice, those that are part and parcel of the Israel experience, it is not permitted to launder these during the Nine Days. That is because the Nine Days are days in which we are to feel the full force of the spiritual galut (exile) in which we live. Protesting such minor injustices relieves us, psychologically, of the galut guilt.

However, with respect to the major acts of Israeli injustice against the Palestinians -- not exposing these would be akin to not laundering soiled underwear during the Nine Days -- a most unhealthy and dangerous practice that brings disease and even death. And these are the sorts of acts that need repeated public laundering, and that exposing them makes one feel worse rather than better -- because they remind us of the moral rot at the heart of the State that needs to be removed.

So, continue to wash Israel's dirty linen in public during the Nine Days, but focus on the truly filthy laundry.

Shabbat Shalom

The Magnes Zionist Note to my non-orthodox readers: it is forbidden according to Jewish law to wash clothes and to wear new clothes during the nine days before the Ninth of Av (which begins this Monday night), as a sign of mourning over the destruction of the Temple.

No comments: