MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) aroused controversy Thursday when he said, in a conference hosted by Besheva magazine, that public leaders should not rely exclusively on G-d.
"We have to hope, we need to pray, but to be rational,” he explained. “In the places that I am aware of, when we only trusted G-d, we lost out.”
The rabbi of Migdal Haemek, Rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, did not like what he heard and remarked: “Elazar and I are soul friends. It is written: 'Wise men, be careful of what you say.' I am sure that you do not mean what you say. But...there are children sitting here and what do they hear? 'We relied on G-d and we lost out?'"
"Without G-d there is no world, there is no Nation of Israel, there is no State of Israel, there is nothing, nothing! Elazar, my beloved friend...you can say the same words on another occasion," continued the rabbi.
MK Stern sought to clarify his statement. “I have no doubt that what the rabbi says is true. Without G-d we are not here; the state of Israel is a miracle. It has no explanation, without G-d in the picture. And yet – a leader must have rational considerations...I want to say something to people who think G-d works for us...We try to put logic into G-d and assign roles to him, but G-d does not have the figure of a man, either in terms of values or rationally.”
Stern – who retired from the IDF as a general – added that he and Rabbi Grossman go back a long way.
“All that I did in the military in terms of Jewish identity, including conversion, and all of my legislative bills – there is not one of them that does not have rabbis behind it, whom this public is familiar with.” He stressed that he does not advance bills that do not enjoy the support of rabbis he is familiar with.
MK Stern is a controversial figure in the religious Zionist world, where he is remembered as an active supporter of the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza, which took place when he was head of the IDF's Personnel Directorate.
A year ago, an emotional controversy erupted between the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hevron, Rabbi Dov Lior, and MK Stern.
Speaking in the Knesset plenum, MK Stern accused the rabbi of making derogatory comments about Ethiopian Jews and questioning their Jewishness. Two days later, a youth in MK Stern's synagogue spat in his face and said he was doing it in response to Stern's accusations against Rabbi Lior.