Hareidim, soldier.
Hareidim, soldier. Israel news photo: Flash 90

Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook, venerable Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, attacked government plans to require hareidi-religious young men to enlist in the army rather than learning Torah full-time in the years after high school.

Speaking a gathering of rabbis of the pro-settlement movement, Rabbi Kook said, “There is a great movement of love of Torah and desire for Torah, and those who understand that want to fight it, they understand that the nation is changing for the good not the bad.”

He decried the phenomenon of openly irreligious Members of Knesset. “There are only a few in the Knesset and government who shout, ‘I don’t keep the Sabbath.’ There are some like that.

“There was never something like this [before], a person who desecrated the Sabbath day would bow his head and desecrate the Sabbath, but to sit in Knesset and say it…. [a man] who calls the yeshiva students ‘parasites,’” he said, in an apparent reference to Yesh Atid deputy minister Mickey Levy.

“Every Prime Minister and Defense Minister, starting with Ben Gurion, then Yitzhak Rabin… They all wanted to enlist the yeshiva students, but nobody did,” he continued.

“Why? Because they met with the yeshiva heads, with the elders of the generation, they came and heard what they had to say and their faces went pale, and they said, ‘we will not enlist them, we will not touch them,’” he declared.

“This is the only time that nobody sat with a head of a yeshiva, not with the elders and not with the youth, that nobody spoke with the yeshiva world about this,” he argued.

Rabbi Kook criticized the Chief Rabbinate for not speaking out against forcing young hareidi men to enlist rather than learn Torah full-time. “If they touch the Torah… who knows how far it will go,” he warned.

Rabbi Kook also had harsh criticism for Rabbi David Stav, one of the top candidates for the post of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi. Although he did not mention him by name, the reference was obvious.

“Rabbi [Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen] Kook, of holy and blessed memory, would not have imagined that the Chief Rabbinate could reach such a low, that there would be candidates who would announce that people do not need to commit to keeping the mitzvoth [commandments] in order to convert to Judaism,” he said.

“A person who says such a thing denies the acceptance [of the Torah by the Jews] at  Mount Sinai,” he asserted.