A top leader of the hareidi community in Israel on Saturday night took an “emergency trip” to Ukraine to visit the tomb of Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Klein – the grandfather of Finance Minister Yair Lapid.
Rabbi Mordechai Gross, a leader of the Eidah Hachareidit in Jerusalem, which represents many hareidi yeshivas in Israel, went to the tomb to conduct prayers for the defeat of the Enlistment Law requiring yeshiva students to be drafted into the IDF, and for the victory of Shas candidate Moshe Abutbul in the elections in Beit Shemesh.
The "mission", it turned out, was only partially successful: The Knesset passed the Enlistment Law on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, Abutbul squeaked out a victory in the election ordered by the Attorney General's office, after accusations of fraud in the original election last October.
Wednesday, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Adar II, was the yahrzeit (annual memorial day) of Rabbi Klein – and it also happened to be the day the Knesset was scheduled to vote on the bill for “equitable service,” which would require nearly all hareidi yeshiva students to enlist in the IDF at age 18.
The bill had been vehemently opposed by hareidi leaders, and the coincidence of the vote with the yahrzeit - and the fact that Yair Lapid has been the main promoter of the draft bill – was seen as an auspicious occasion to appeal for “heavenly help” to defeat the bill.
Rabbi Klein was a noted rabbinical leader in eastern Ukraine in the mid 19th century. He passed away in 1885, and was the author of numerous books.
Some Jews view prayer at the tombs of the deceased - particularly the righteous - as a way of invoking heavenly mercy at times of peril.