As Israeli government reforms to undermine halachah are in full swing, delegates from around the world have come together with the Orthodox Eretz Hakodesh slate in the World Zionist
Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett. Is he anti-religious? (JC)
This is Gedalia Guttentag’s opening statement in his Mishpacha Magazine article about the newfound power of Orthodoxy in Israel. He continues:
Since winning power in June, Naftali Bennett’s government has moved quickly on a series of religious reforms that undermine the role of halachah in public life. Finance minister Avigdor Lieberman has targeted working chareidi mothers with childcare subsidy cuts to strong-arm kollel students into the workforce. Co-prime minister Yair Lapid has vowed to give the Reform movement full access to the Kosel by January
Once again I find myself conflicted. On the one hand I was glad to vote for the Eretz HaKodesh slate in the last WZO (World Zionist Organization) election. WZO is not Orthodox. It is a body that represents all Jews of the Diaspora – giving them a say in how WZO’s substantial funds are spent in Israel. They distribute their funds proportionally. The greater the proportion of Orthodox Jews sitting at the WZO table - the greater the proportion of WZO funds go to them. I think this is only fair.
Until the last election the only Orthodox Jews were religious Zionists. Now their representation is much greater. According to Gedalia a lot has been accomplished for observant Jewry via this newfound Orthodox power.
What about the Charedi rejection of anything to do with heterodox movements? Their rabbinic leaders have always shunned joining any organization with heterodox representation for fear that their participation legitimizes them. Have things changed because of the substantial bottom line?
To be fair not every rabbinic leader agreed that Orthodox representatives should be sitting at the WZO table with heterodox representatives. But R’ Chaim Kanievsky and R’ Gershon Edlestein - 2 of their greatest rabbinic leaders gave their blessing.
This is all well and good – and in my view long overdue. But I don’t like how they seek to use their power. And strongly object to how they characterize the current government. Calling it anti religious is both unfair and wrong.
I get that they resent cutting government subsidies for child care to families where the father is learning fulltime. Government subsidies will go only to families where both parents are working full time.
But this is not an anti ‘Frum’ measure. It is a pro work measure. No one will be prevented from learning full time. They will just have to find other ways to finance child care.
I have long ago maintained that the vast majority of Bnei Torah should prepare for the workforce while they are still in the Yeshiva – well before they are married. And that once they have studied in a Kollel for a year or 2 after marriage, they should get a job. And continue their Torah study by being Kovieah Itim – setting aside time daily for Torah study.
I do not believe that most of us should be encouraged to study Torah full time for as long as possible. For most of us indefinite Torah study is not the best way to serve God. We should instead use our own God given talents and abilities to serve God – each in our own unique way. Only the Yechidei Segula – the elite among us that are uniquely qualified for high level Torah study should be doing that.
The daily requirement to study Torah can be fulfilled quite easily by simply reciting the Shema. It does not require many years of spent in a Beis Hamedrash studying Gemara. That should be reserved for the Yechidei Segula. The rest – off to work!
There is nothing anti Torah about a government program that incentivizes that. My only quibble is that the Yechidei Segula should be supported by the community. Which includes the government. I would be willing to bet that if the majority of Charedim would agree to work soon after marriage that the government could be persuaded to support the Yechidei Segula - the most elite among us.
As I have said many times, one can quibble about the wisdom of expanding Kashrus supervision beyond the Chiff Rabbinate; or sharing the Kotel with heterodox movements. Nor do I agree with everything the government wants to do. But I continue to resent calling them anti religious. They are not. Being anti religious would mean they consider the current prime minister to be anti religious! He is clearly a religious Jew. He is just not Charedi. And frankly it makes me sick that they keep saying that.
This is why I have mixed feelings about the new power and influence Orthodox Jews have in the WZO. On the one hand it’s about time. On the other hand calling a government led by an Orthodox Jew - anti-religious disgusts me.