Soldier denied shaving exception for not knowing Torah portion

IDF Chaplain decided soldier could not be classified as religious after he didn't know weekly Torah portion.

Tzvi Lev ,

Religious Soldiers
Religious Soldiers
Flash 90

A soldier in the Golani Brigade was denied a shaving exemption for religious reasons because he could not tell the military rabbi what the weekly Torah portion was.

Army regulations prohibit the growing of beards or the keeping of beards a soldier may have had before enlisting. Exemptions can be given to religious soldiers who consider having a beard part of their religious identity.

The soldier prays every day, keeps Shabbat, and only eats Kosher food. However, he was refused an exemption after an IDF Rabbi decided that he could not be classified as leading a religious lifestyle if he did not know the weekly Torah portion. After refusing to shave, the soldier was court-martialed.

According to the IDF Spokesperson, "Every soldier who submits an application for an old religious exemption is required to receive a recommendation from the Chief Rabbi that he indeed maintains a religious lifestyle."

"As for the case in question, the soldier met several times with the rabbi of the unit, and according to the procedures, the soldier was not granted an exemption."

Last February the IDF announced that it had revised its grooming standards, relaxing some restrictions and making it easier for religious soldiers to keep their beards.

While the IDF has in the past prohibited enlisted men from growing a beard, religious soldiers had previously been able to receive a deferment from the army's grooming standards for religious reasons. However, after reportedly feeling that these privileges were abused by soldiers with lax standards of religiosity, the IDF tightened the protocols in 2016, making it substantially harder for observant conscripts to receive exemptions.

While under the old rules a unit's rabbinate could issue beard exceptions, the new guidelines required signed approval of certain high-ranking officers, which led to charges that the IDF was making it harder for religious soldiers to practice their religion.