Shulamit Aloni and the Maror
In the Talmud (Pesaḥim 120a) there is a disagreement over the status today of both matzah and maror:
Rava said: [The eating of] matza nowadays is a biblical obligation, whereas [that of] maror is rabbinic. Why is maror different? Because it is written, “They shall eat it [the Pesach-offering] with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (Bamidbar 9:11) – at a time when there is a Pesach offering, there is maror, but at a time when there is no Pesach offering, there is no maror! Then in the case of matza, too, surely it is written, “They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs”? Scripture indeed repeated [the precept] in the case of matza: “At evening you shall eat unleavened bread” (Shemot 12:18). But R. Acha bar Ya’akov said: Both the one and the other are [only] rabbinic. (trans. from here)
For a discussion of this question see this transcription of lesson given by Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein.
So what does this Talmudic disagreement have to do with the late Israeli MK and civil rights activist Shulamit Aloni? Soon after her recent death, the Israel State Archives published a number of documents related to Aloni’s public activism. One of them was a newspaper article from Davar that was published on April 14, 1966, 48 years ago today, whose headline was “מרור בזמן הזה מדרבנן” ["At this time maror (the bitter herb) is rabbinically obligated"]. The article began with the following statement:
The author of Tiferet Shlomo said: “This Maror that we eat”: At this time maror is rabbinic, a big part of the maror, of our bitter lives, at this time its source is the rabbis. From different rabbis who aren’t appropriate for their positions and don’t bring us any honor in their conduct.” If in the time of the author of the Tiferet Shlomo the bitterness was from rabbis, in our days, [it is from] rabbis and the leaders, the ministers and the laws that support them and through which they are given a strong hand and an outstretched arm to feed us their bitterness. The more that they embitter us, the more they will increase and their power will increase.
So who is this Tiferet Shlomo that Shulamit Aloni is quoting? My guess is that this Tiferet Shlomo is Rabbi Shlomo Hacohen Rabinowitz (died 1866). He was the author of numerous books such as Tiferet Shlomo on the Torah and Tiferet Shlomo on the Haggadah. After doing some searching with the help of numerous online resources, I was unable to locate the original source of this quote. Did Shulamit Aloni make this up? Not at all. What I did find was the exact same quote in B. Yaushzon’s popular work on the Torah and holidays Mei Otzrainu Hayashan.
After her death many people were surprised that as per her wish, Aloni was buried in a very traditional Jewish ceremony that included modern readings and songs. I think that this is the message that Shulamit Aloni wanted to convey, not that Jewish tradition is something to be rejected, rather, it is something that we should be free to accept upon ourselves in whichever manner that we would like, free from the coercive acts by the state and its rabbinic messengers.