Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau has declared the Shabbat (Sabbath) on which the Torah portion of "Vayishlach" is read as a day dedicated to honoring soldiers who were wounded during their IDF service. This year the Sabbath falls on November 16.
Kipa reports that the decision came in a meeting with Danny Hirschberg, secretary-general of the religious-Zionist Bnei Akiva youth movement, in response to the movement's initiative to dedicate the Shabbat.
The Torah portion on Shabbat "Vayishlach" tells of the Jewish Patriarch Jacob's struggle with the angel of Esau, as a result of which his hip was injured causing him to limp. At the close of the struggle, he was given the name "Yisrael" (Israel), meaning "you have struggled with G-d and with humans and have overcome", by which his descendants are called to this day.
The Chief Rabbi called on local synagogue rabbis to call injured soldiers up to say the blessings for the Torah reading this Shabbat, and to say a special prayer for their health and success.
Rabbi Lau himself served in the IDF. At the meeting he related that as Chief Rabbi of Modi'in, every year on Israel Memorial Day, he would make sure to mention the IDF wounded at the end of every ceremony.
In response to his wife's question as to why he mentioned them, he tells that he answered "as long as there isn't a specific day honoring the wounded, I will continue mentioning them every year."
The decision comes alongside rising tensions which have been labeled a "culture war" between hareidi and secular MKs over the call to draft hareidi men to the IDF and punish those who do not comply.
Meanwhile Rabbi Lau, at the swearing in ceremony for 14 new Chief Rabbinate council members last Thursday, emphasized that the Chief Rabbinate must unify the nation in promoting love and respect among Jews.
Rabbi Lau has been engaged in varied activities since taking his post as Chief Rabbi.
On October 23 he visited communities in southern Israel established by Jews expelled from Gush Katif in 2005, praising their efforts to build and establish the Holy Land.
Last Thursday he summoned the owners of Soglowek Foods, Ltd. to his office following reports of animal abuse at the company's slaughterhouse in the western-Galilee community of Shlomi. The rabbis responsible for kashrut at the site were also summoned.
The Chief Rabbi called on meat plants around the country to strictly observe Jewish laws regarding kindness to animals.