Haredi anti-Tal Law protest no-no-no 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Council of Torah Sages of the haredi Degel Hatorah movement was expected to
convene Monday evening in Bnei Brak to discuss the issue of haredi men and
national service, which they may no longer legally defer through full-time
The council – headed by the acknowledged leader of the
non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi community Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman – will
also admit several new members – given the recent deaths of council members
Rabbi Haim Pinchas Scheinberg and Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel.
appointments to the council, which determines the stance of the ultra-Orthodox
community on almost every issue of public life, have not been made for many
years, and there are several potential new additions.
Members of the
current council are Shteinman himself; Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, dean of the Maalot
HaTorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem; Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, head of the rabbinical
court in Bnei Brak; Rabbi Meir Tzvi Bergman, dean of the Rashbi Yeshiva in Bnei
Brak; Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, dean of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak; and
Rabbi Yitzhak Shteiner, head of the Kamenitz Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
the council members were expected to be in attendance, along with Rabbi Haim
Kanievsky, another leading rabbi and a supporter of Shteinman, who will also
attend the meeting, although he is not an official member.
taken to hospital yesterday for a minor complaint and has since been
The meeting, scheduled to take place in Shteinman’s residence
in Bnei Brak, is also intended to serve as a unifying rally for the haredi
community in light of what it perceives as threats to its lifestyle – due to the
possible drafting of yeshiva students because of the expiration of the “Tal
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The law, which provided a legal framework for haredi men to
indefinitely defer military service through full-time yeshiva study, expired on
August 1, after the High Court of Justice ruled in February that it could not be
Currently, deferrals can no longer be granted, but the army is
not prepared to immediately draft the approximately 50,00 yeshiva students who
have been deferring their service through the Tal Law. The haredi leadership is
extremely concerned about this state of legal limbo.
Divisions within the
haredi community opened up following the illness and death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom
Elyashiv, the former leader of the “Lithuanian” haredim, last
Rabbi Auerbach, 86, was considered by his supporters to be the
natural successor to Elyashiv, but Rabbi Shteinman, 98, succeeded in gaining
acknowledgement as the new leader of the community.
The rare meeting of
the council Monday evening with both Auerbach and Shteinman sitting together is
being slated as a call for shalom bayit (familial peace) within the haredi
A low-level power struggle between the two became particularly
rancorous in the battle the supporters of the respective rabbis fought over
Yated Ne’eman, the daily newspaper of Degel Hatorah.
supporters succeeded in gaining control of the newspaper, which had
traditionally favored Auerbach.
Auerbach’s followers, led by the deposed
editor and director of Yated Ne’eman, subsequently established a newspaper,
HaPeles, claiming to represent the true path of Degel HaTorah as established by
the movement’s founder Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach.
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