Rabbi David Lau: Forced IDF draft wrong
Chief Rabbinate candidates address issue of yeshiva students' enlistment following heated Knesset debate on equal share of burden bill. 'It's important that the haredi world sees the idea of serving in the army as a sacred value and halachic mitzvah,' says Rabbi Stav
Speaking on the eve of the Chief Rabbinate elections and a day after Yesh Atid's draft bill passed its first reading l following a heated Knesset debate, some of the candidates avoided discussing the issue, explaining that "the chief rabbi's job is to unite the people rather than take a side in a public dispute of this kind," and some suggested their own outline – "equality in our hearts."
Modiin's Chief Rabbi David Lau, one of the prominent figures in the Rabbinate race who has received the support of ultra-Orthodox leaders, says an ongoing rift among the Jewish people must be prevented and a dialogue must be created.
"I believe there is a need, more than ever, to unite the ranks at this time," Rabbi Lau states. "As a major (Res.) in the Intelligence Corps, I take the liberty to say that any move done through coercion is not the way to go. There is room for creating a dialogue and mutual understanding between all parts of the nation."
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization and Lau's main adversary for the title of Ashkenazi chief rabbi, believes that an equal share of the burden is first and foremost an "issue of values."
"Before discussing the practical question, we must educate and instill equality as a value," he says. "It's important to me that the haredi world sees the idea of serving in the army as a sacred value and halachic mitzvah, at least for those who are not yeshiva students in practice, including a show of respect and an embrace on the part of the rabbinical leadership towards IDF soldiers from haredi families who have chosen to serve."
On the other hand, Rabbi Stav adds, "it's important to me that the secular world sees Torah studies – and a haredi lifestyle of modesty, asceticism and frugality in order to dedicate life to Torah studies – as a supreme human and spiritual value. If we can reach equality in our hearts, we will certainly reach solutions as well."
'Steering committee for equal share model'
Kiryat Ono's Chief Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, who is running for the position of Sephardic chief rabbi, believes an equal share of the burden is necessary but that "equality is not mathematical but functional – just like there should be an equal share of the burden between a couple, and it can never be mathematical but functional because man cannot become pregnant and give birth."
According to Rabbi Arusi," There is a need for a steering committee to establish a model for functional equality for the entire Israeli society, including the minorities."
Rabbi Zion Boaron, seen as outgoing Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar's candidate to replace him, says that his job is to "serve as a bridge between all parts of the nation – women and men, haredim and seculars.
"The equal share of the burden issue is very sensitive, and as someone who sees himself committed to uniting the people and bringing the sides together, it wouldn't be wise on my part to discuss it at this stage before I delve deeply into the matter."
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu's spokesman avoided addressing the issue, explaining that "the rabbi has already voiced his opinion on an equal share of the burden several times. A specific reference to the details of the law requires a thorough examination of the approved format, rather than improvising a response just before the Chief Rabbinate elections."
Other candidates chose to dsiplay a vague policy on state and religious issues and stay away from political matters "which are subject to public controversy and do not directly relate to the position," as one of them said.