Despite a ruling by a leading Zionist Orthodox rabbi saying an Israeli Zionist Orthodox couple's appearance on a reality show is not kosher, another leading Zionist Orthodox rabbi says don't worry, the appearance is kosher – and could sanctify God's name.
'God's name can be sanctified through reality TV'
Rabbi Aviner claims religious couple's participation in Amazing Race 2 may have violated Jewish law, but Rabbi Sherlo seems to disagree, notes there is merit in their actions
Religious Zionism leader Rabbi Shlomo Aviner argued that Akiva and Anael Shmuli's participation in popular reality TV show The Amazing Race 2 goes against Jewish values and may be considered a violation of Jewish law since the couple had to travel abroad. Furthermore, the rabbi refused to see the fact that the couple's relationship was inspiring to others. Yet there are those who disagree.
A couple of religious educators turned to Rabbi Yuval Sherlo to hear his opinion on the show. "There is no doubt that in light of the show, secular society in Israel now has a great deal of respect for 'The Jewish Home' and believes that a relationship within that home is healthy, full of love and trust – all due to the much discussed couple who even in moments of hardship live in amazing cooperation and admirable coherence.
"Yet the question that must be raised is – is this the sanctification of Hashem? Or is it just something nice? Or, is it even possible that this is a profanity of his name? And one final question: Is this a way to influence the Israeli nation?"
In response to their question Rabbi Sherlo noted that he wasn't familiar with the show but he did hear about it and had even heard of Akiva and Anael. And so, the rabbi stressed that his answer was given to the principle of the matter and not in response to the particular case of the Amazing Race.
"If following the show, society has learned something positive about relationships, loyalty, health coherence and the like – that is important," he writes. "And it is important whether it’s called the sanctification of Hashem or not."
The rabbi added that if society finds a connection between the couple's relationship and the religious world and belief system that they follow – that adds to the importance of the matter. According to Sherlo, Halacha commands us to endear God's name on all his creations – that is a vocation, its success can also be defined as "sanctifying Hashem's name."
As for the question of whether this is the way to influence others, the rabbi answered that if through the outcome we realize that the approach worked, then it is possible to determine that it is a significant path to take. "There are many methods to try and influence Israeli society today," he explained.
"The methods include Torah lessons and scholarly discussions, but not just. They also include moral behavior of those faithful to the word of God and those who keep his Mitzvot, the methods also include cultural life and even include things like TV games where values and proper behavior find expression."
In closing Rabbi Sherlo writes: "No one can take away the good things they accomplished from this wonderful couple, on the other hand – we need to be careful not to ascribe too much importance to what they have succeeded in doing.
"It's good that there are different ways to exhibit the beautiful sides of religious life – and everyone needs to act within the fields that they excel at and be happy that their friends are succeeding in other fields."