Jewish Law in Our Times

by Simon M. Jackson, Adv., Legal Advisor to Torah MiTzion

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Only in Israelů

The festival of Chanukah that we have just concluded commemorates the purification and rededication of the Beit HaMikdash - bayamim hahem.

Bazeman hazeh, learners of the Daf Yomi cycle have just concluded the last two tractates of Seder Kodashim: Tamid and Middot. These fascinating Masechtot describe the daily Templeprocedures and its structure.

Against this background, I would like to share with you an interesting legal document that I was privileged to see during the time that I worked for the Israeli Registrar for Non-Profit Organizations (Amutot). I am sure that Israelis the only country in the world where a document of this nature has been filed with the civil authorities…

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The document in question was the articles of association (Takanon) of “The Institute for the Study, Research and Building of the Temple”(HaMachon LeLimud Mechkar u’Binyan HaMikdash).

In order to register any corporation (company, partnership, charity etc.) with the relevant authority, three main pieces of information are required: an appropriate name, lawful objectives, and articles of association which set out the relations between the organization and its members.

Uncharacteristically, the stated objectives of HaMachon LeLimud Mechkar u’Binyan HaMikdash as detailed in its Takanon were divided into two: “supra-objectives” and “intermediate objectives.”

The “supra-objectives” of the non-profit association (“Amutah”)were defined as follows: “(a) The fulfillment of the positive commandment stated in the Torah ‘And they shall make for me a Temple, for Me to dwell therein’ (Shemot 25:8), and in the words of the Rambam in his introduction to Hilchot Beit HaBechirah (the Laws of the Temple): ‘It is a positive commandment to make a house for Hashem ready for the performance of the sacrificial offerings, where the festive pilgrimage is directed to three times a year…’ and as expressed by the Gemara in Shevuot 15: ‘for your generations’ (ledorot); (b) Acting on the assumption that this mitzvah applies on a daily basis, the Amutah will work to ensuring that this mitzvah will take place as soon as possible.”

By contrast, the “intermediate objectives” of the Amutah included: “(a) the study of the Laws of the Mikdash, the Temple Service and the mitzvot connected thereto…; (b) the research and comprehensive examination… on all matters connected with the Mikdash; (c) progressing such research until the building of the Mikdash…”

The chapter of the Takanon that dealt with Membership (Chaverut)of the Amutah was also divided into two distinct sections. The first, bearing the title “Kol Yisrael Chaverim” states how “The mitzvah of building the Mikdash applies to every Jew; the Mikdash also unifies all Israel; and the Halacha states that when Israel comes to the Mikdash on the festivals everyone is considered as chaverim[1] for “all of Israel are considered chaverim on the festivals”[2] (Rambam, Hilchot Metamei Mishkav 11:9). Therefore - every Jew is a Chaver as regards the mitzvah of the building of the Mikdash”!

“At the same time,” the Takanon continued in the next section entitled “Acceptance of Members (Chaverim) to the Amutah”: “Anyone who signs on an ‘Acceptance of Members’ certificate, and is approved by three other members, will be accepted as a chaver of the Amutah…”

May we all merit to witness the building of the Beit HaMikdash and the return of Hashem’s Shechina to Am Yisrael, speedily in our times!

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We spoke above about interesting articles and objectives. Usually, however, it is the name desired by a corporation which causes the most problems and the most battles in the courts.

One interesting case that came before Rasham Ha’Amutot in recent years was whether the Rasham should permit a religious Amutah to continue to use the name “Hillel: Amutah LeYotzim Lishe’ela” (the object of which was to persuade religious people contemplating becoming secular not to leave their religious lifestyles), when a similar sounding secular Amutah was registered 10 years earlier by the name of: “Ha’Agudah LeChozrim Lishe’ela” (whose object was to ease the transition of the formerly observant Jew into the secular world). The religious Amutah referred to itself by the same short name by which the secular Amutah had become known amongst the public - “Hillel” - after the first letter of the words in its name.

The secular Amutah claimed that formerly religious people desirous of assistance in their new way of life might find themselves talking to the religiousAmutah. It argued that the name by which the religious Amutah was registered was thus liable to confuse and mislead the public. To this the religious Amutah countered that there was no danger that a person wishing to become secular would not thoroughly examine the body to which he was turning. Moreover, it argued, the very use of the name “Hillel” by the secularAmutah was the cause of the public’s confusion, for in contrast to the path trodden by Hillel to draw others close to religion - the goal of the secular Amutah was precisely the opposite!

The Jerusalem District Court ruled that the religious Amutah had to change its name in a manner that would not mislead those members of the public who wished to make contact with the secular Amutah. It based its ruling on the confusion created in the minds of the public due to the fine distinction, not grasped by most of the public, between the words Amutah (in the name of the religious Amutah) and Agudah (in the name of the secular Amutah); due to the similarity in the sound and appearance between the words LeYotzim and LeChozrim (both of which came before the word Lishe’ela)in the names of the two Amutot; and due to the state of distress and uncertainty with which the average person contemplating departure from a religious lifestyle found himself, and which did not enable him to make a cool and calculated judgment of the organization to which he was turning.

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Our own sources speak of the importance of names; some even identify the root of the word neshama [soul] with the word shem [name]! In one Supreme Court judgment, the then President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Shamgar, expressed the following poignant words:

“A person’s name is a part of his personality. It is his societal ego. It is the key through which he strides through society. It is no mere identification code. It is an expression of personality, of emotions, of duty, of tradition and of destiny… A democratic society… recognizes and values a person’s liberty to be called by whatever name he wishes and his freedom to change his name… The name of a corporation is also part of its personality… The name, like the organization itself, expresses the objects of the organization and its goals…”



[1] i.e. trusted to eat even non-sacred produce in a state of purity and trusted in respect to tithes.

[2] because everyone immerses in a mikveh before going up to the Beit HaMikdash.

 

To ask Simon a question regarding this article, or for assistance with any Israeli legal, notary or professional translation services, click here: www.jacksonadvocates.net

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