In the current deliberations and disputations about the “Tal Law,”
ultra-Orthodox MKs are doing their best to channel the spirit of our patriarch
Isaac, who blessed his son Jacob thusly: May God bestow on you the Tal (dew) of
the heavens and the fatness of the land.
RELATED:Mofaz labels ‘Tal Law’ a failure
But during a debate in the
Knesset plenum on Tuesday to discuss the issue of haredi enlistment in the army,
MKs more Zionistically inclined lined up one by one to call on the state to
withhold its divine munificence, or at the very least subject it to a large dose
Avishai Braverman of Labor took to the podium first and in his
professorial style, inveighed against the economic reality in which, as he
related, it pays more for a married yeshiva student to stay in full-time Torah
study than it does for him to go to the army.
Citing Talmudic aphorisms
and Jewish law, which became something of a fad during the debate, the honorable
professor appealed to the broader Knesset to gird its loins in order to save
Israeli society from irreparable fragmentation, by creating a more equitable
system in which the citizens of the state will share the burden of national
“The day is short, the task is great, the workers are lazy, and
the Master of the house is insistent,” Braverman intoned, quoting Rabbi Tarfon’s
The day, it would seem, is the current Knesset session – he
called for a new law before its end. The task: getting haredim into the IDF. The
workers, clearly the 120 distinguished members of the Knesset. But the Master of
the house? Given the prime minister’s support for the Tal Law, it seems unlikely
that the Labor MK was comparing Binyamin Netanyahu to God.
meant Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, but the Speaker had already left the
plenum, so wasn’t present to hear the compliment.
Turning to the
assembled ultra-Orthodox MKs, Braverman reminded them of the halachic rulings of
the revered sage of the Middle Ages, Moses Maimonides.
work will lead to idleness,” quoted Braverman, following up with another
Maimonidean reference on the subject, “Anyone who makes himself dependent on
charity causes a desecration of God’s name.
If haredi MKs Moshe Gafni
(UTJ) and Nissim Ze’ev (Shas) and fellow haredi friends were impressed by this
scriptural and halachic knowledge, they didn’t show it.
particular, who became the general target of those denouncing the Tal Law,
seemed rather disinterested in the whole affair.
Uri Orbach of Habayit
Hayehudi, adorned with rain jacket and mustache, took to the stage after
Braverman’s lecture, and in rather technocratic terms spelled out how the
situation must be changed. Nevertheless, he said, coercing the haredi community
would not bring about social harmony either.
Braverman nodded in
Next up was Yohanan Plesner of Kadima,
manicured, prim and riding gallantly to the aid of the State of Israel in a
“Mr. Prime Minister, it is not good enough,” he
thundered, or perhaps thought he did.
“We demand that a new vision be
established, for an obligation of service through which we can stand shoulder to
shoulder and deal with our economic and security threats,” he
Noting Gafni’s continued indifference, and affronted at how his
Churchillian tones were totally lost on the powerful chairman of the Knesset
Finance Committee, Plesner chided the UTJ man for his vacillations on the issue
at hand. “Sometimes you’re for it, sometimes against, will you make your mind
up?” he asked petulantly. Gafni, who didn’t look up, appeared to be texting
under his desk.
Einat Wilf of Independence brought perhaps the only
seriously revolutionary idea to the table. With no small measure of grace,
dignity and melancholy, she suggested that if there are communities not
contributing to the Zionist foundations of the country and its well-being, then
maybe they should be set free to manage their affairs by themselves without the
interference, or financial support, of the state.
For reasons known only
to himself, Ya’acov Katz (National Union) decided to inform the sparsely
occupied Knesset plenum during his address that he would love to give birth but
noted that “I’m just not built that way.”
Perhaps he thought he was in
the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women and that the burden
that everyone keeps saying needs to be shared is something different entirely?
Einat Wilf certainly looked rather bemused. Katz’s only real achievement in his
bizarre harangue was to get Gafni’s attention. “Rabbi Gafni, I’m talking to you,
listen!” he demanded, his Father Christmas beard nevertheless lending his
request an air of geniality.
Ze’ev, for a second day running, berated the
populism of the many Knesset members, who he said are simply afraid, frightened
by the “insufferable situation” of the hundreds of thousands of haredim in the country who continue to grow in number.
“Haredim are saving the Jewish character of state,” he averred. “There
would be no population growth without haredim but the state wont
disintegrate because the Torah unites us.”
Preserve the Tal Law, he implored. The haredi community is already
undergoing a social change, he continued and pointed to the professional
testimony of experts in Monday’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
hearing, who argued that the widely denigrated law has made real, if
insufficient achievements in drafting ultra-Orthodox men into different
forms of national service.
And what of Gafni? He mildly demurred to proffer his own thoughts,
rising above the cut and thrust of his peers. Maybe he’ll deign to tell
Plessner what he thinks in the coming months. The debate continues.