Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, the leader of the extremist Jerusalem Faction of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox sect, left a void in his passing Saturday which many either hope, or fear, may impair the group's struggle against army conscription.
The Faction has been waging their uncompromising war against the draft since the High Court of Justice (HCJ) canceled in September an amendment ratified by the Knesset in 2015 to the Conscription Law, which lowered the annual quota on the number of Haredim required to draft into the IDF.
It is still unclear who will succeed Auerbach, or whether the Faction's would be able to fully recover from the blow of his passing, but his followers made a point to stress that their struggle against the draft will continue unhindered.
Rabbi Avraham Menkes, a spokesman for the Committee to Save the Torah World and a close associate of Rabbi Auerbach, told Ynet this morning that the Rabbi's followers will continue on his path.
"It is not a struggle against enlistment, it is the great will of not only of our Rabbi, but of the revelation at Mount Sinai, to be adhering to Torah, to be laboring in Torah study.
"It has nothing to do with Rabbi Auerbach, it has to do with all the great sages of Israel from time immemorial. We will always be adhering to the Torah of God and learning the Torah, and we will defend it at all times."
In recent weeks, after several months of relentless demonstrations and roadblocks, there has been relative calm, with the Faction's protests being put on hold.
It is estimated that this was a conscious decision of Rabbi Auerbach's "Committee to Save the Torah World," which stemmed both from tactical considerations and due to their rabbi's precarious medical condition.
His sudden death and the slow progress in formulating a new amendment to the Conscription Law in the Knesset, though, are prompting the group to threaten to renew the protests.
The HCJ's annulment is set to come into effect in the coming summer, and with no alternative yet to be formulated, the tight schedule is putting pressure on the Haredi representation in the Knesset.
The Council of Torah Sages (represented in the Knesset by the Hassidic faction headed by Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman) hinted last week to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it expects him to approve a replacement legislative amendment on the issue even before its approval in the expected state budget in the coming weeks.
The faction's goal is now twofold: to promote the issue to be more prominent on the public's agenda and embarrass the mainstream ultra-Orthodox politicians, portraying them as compromisers and weak.
Kikar Hashabbat Commentator Israel Cohen estimates that the renewal of the protests depends on the ability of Rabbi Auerbach's heir to strive like him for an uncompromising confrontation with the state and his followers' willingness to pay a personal price for it.
"Rabbi Shmuel was both an extremist and a very charismatic person," Cohen said. "He was the glue that connected all the rabbis in the Faction. It will be very difficult to find someone who will step into his shoes, but if there is unity, agreement on the successor or heirs and adherence to the goal, it will be possible to at least maintain existing (protocols—ed).
"However, as long as there is no heir to Auerbach, it is difficult to know where the struggle is headed."