Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi David Lau on Monday took part in EduAction, the largest educational conference in Israel, where he was asked about what religious Jewish education can learn from the secular Israeli educational system.
The word "secular" is lost in translation when it comes to Judaism according to Rabbi Lau, who spoke at the annual forum held just before the school year opens in September at the Mediatheque in Holon.
"It seems to me that I'm defined as secular; the Torah speaks about how the kohen (priest) can enter the Temple and those who aren't a kohen can't enter the Temple - in other words a 'secular' is not a kohen. So I don't know how to define the concept 'secular,'" posed the rabbi.
Rabbi Lau stressed the importance of openness between religious and secular Jews, citing the Mishna text in saying "I don't think there's anyone that you can't learn from. 'Who is wise? He who learns from all people'; and whoever wants to be wise needs to know how to learn from all people."
"The are people who maybe outwardly have a big kippah and a big beard, but as far as I'm concerned they are very far from the religion; these people bother me. On the other hand, there are people who outwardly I would not call them religious, but their devotion, values and acts are completely religious," commented the rabbi.
Calling for greater understanding, Rabbi Lau said "let us learn to appreciate a bit more. Let's stop getting angry and feeling hatred towards one another, only in this way will the mutual respect stay."
Many have commented on the great feeling of unity in Israel since Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16) and Gilad Sha'ar (16) were abducted and murdered by Hamas terrorists on June 12, lasting on into the current Operation Protective Edge.
Rabbi Lau has worked to actively support this unity, by among other things visiting soldiers wounded in the operation.
The rabbi, himself a major in the IDF reserves, has used his position to strengthen the connection with IDF soldiers at a time when there is tension over the new Draft Law which is harming hareidi enlistment. He also visited Sderot in March in a show of solidarity even as rockets from Gaza were falling in the area during a barrage at the time.