After a leading rabbi wrote this week that most IDF Torah scrolls are invalid for use because of a watermark, the IDF says his facts were wrong.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of former Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, caused a stir in the rabbinic and army worlds, ruling that a watermark on Torah scrolls in the IDF renders them unfit for use. The watermark is an imprint of the words “IDF property," designed to prevent theft.

The ruling was rendered just in time for Shabbat Zakhor, the Sabbath before Purim, when it is a Biblical commandment to hear, from a Torah scroll, the edict to wipe out the name of the evil Amalek.  Rabbi Yosef advised religious soldiers to ask to be excused this Sabbath so that they can hear the passage at their home synagogues. He added that they should make up their missed army duties during the week.

No Ink, Just Pressure

A day after the ruling was publicized, the IDF Spokesman responded that the facts in the ruling are not correct. “The imprint is fashioned not out of ink or color, but rather by pressure [making a raised mark],” the response stated.

The Spokesman, in conjunction with the Chief Rabbinate of the IDF, added that the new ruling “maligns the late Chief IDF Rabbis Shlomo Goren and Gad Navon, who were quite familiar with Jewish Law and formulated the solution.”

Rabbi Yosef based his ruling on precedents set by his father Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his work Yechaveh Daat, and by the late Rabbi Ovadiah Hadaya in his work Yaskil Avdi. However, sources in the IDF Rabbinate say that the former citation deals with an ink imprint in between sentences, whereas the imprints in the current case do not involve ink and are placed on the margins of the parchment.

The current IDF ruling was formulated based on the instructions of the late Chief Rabbi Iser Yehuda Unterman, the late co-Dean of Merkaz HaRav Rabbi Sha’ul Yisraeli, and other leading rabbis.