Who are we?
Machon Shilo, under the leadership of haRav David Bar Hayim, is dedicated to the promotion, discovery, and dissemination of Torat Eretz Yisrael, the halachic approach and method that the Jewish people need to serve Hashem and keep his Torah as an independent nation in their homeland. The Rav defines this mission as “laying the groundwork for a restatement and reconstitution of Jewish thought and practice, based on the Written Law and the Oral Tradition (Torah ShebiKhtav and Torah SheBa’al Peh), in order to facilitate the realization of the Jewish nation’s divinely mandated purpose and duty to establish “a nation of priests, a holy people (שמות יט:ו)”.
At present, though millions of Jews have fulfilled the dream of their forefathers to return home, they have brought with them their identity as members of a specific galut community. The local customs and traditions of Hungarian, Yemenite, Polish, Iraqi, Lithuanian, Moroccan, and other communities served an essential role in helping the Jewish people survive nearly two thousand years of exile. Today, however, we have more to do than merely survive: we have been given the opportunity, and therefore the obligation, to fulfill the command of the Torah to create a mamlechet kohanim v’goy kadosh, replete with a Jewish king, a Jewish Sanhedrin, and, of course, the Temple in Yerushalayim. The emphasis on preserving ethnic identities and traditions makes it impossible for religious Jews to work meaningfully towards these goals or to provide a credible model of national Jewish leadership. Only by embracing Torat Eretz Yisrael can we fulfil our national mission.
Torat Eretz Yisrael
The concept of Torat Eretz Yisrael combines many elements:
- Using the full range of halachic texts bequeathed to us by Hazal, including the Yerushalmi and Tosefta, rather than arbitrarily giving the Talmud Bavli exclusive dominance.
- Re-examining established practices and rulings that contradict the primary halachic sources from Hazal.
Drawing on the liturgical tradition from Eretz Yisrael, which ended with the near-extinction of the community during the crusades.
- An approach to p’sak halacha that is based on assumption that by adhering to halacha, as defined and transmitted to us by Hazal, we are fulfilling the will of the Creator and that His will is not dependent on which exile community our grandfathers lived in.
Back to the future
The underlying principle of mainstream orthodoxy is not to change. This ideology was developed in response to the haskalah and resulting reformist movements, and the Jewish people owe an eternal debt to the titanic figures of the past 200 years who ensured the survival of halacha in the face of mass apostasy and assimilation. The truth remains, however, that in many cases the Torah and halacha themselves demand change and today we are clearly mandated to repair many broken elements of the halachic system, and to rebuild others that have not existed for generations.
Machon Shilo draws on a tradition going back to the greatest of the rishonim – including the Rambam and Ramban – who were not afraid to correct errant practices according to their considered understanding of primary halachic texts. It also finds inspiration in the writings of haRav Avraham Kook, who articulated the need for an updated halachic system to meet the needs – and duties – of the Jewish people in the era of kibbutz galuyot. These teachings of Rav Kook have been forgotten by most of the National Religious world, but the urgent necessity of heeding them becomes more evident with each passing year.