The difference between Judaism and haredi parties

My argument with them over the equality of our national burden isn’t about religious law either. It’s about mutual responsibility. It’s about the social contract.

September 12, 2019 21:59
3 minute read.
The difference between Judaism and haredi parties

"You are not above the law." MK Yair Lapid speaks at a rally protesting Supreme Court override bill. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

I want to talk to you about Judaism, and about Ya’acov Litzman and Moshe Gafni. Judaism is a significant part of my life. It’s my identity. My Judaism is part of the way my family life is run. It’s my Shabbat table. My choice to live in Israel is a Jewish choice.

What does that say about my argument with Litzman and Gafni? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because I don’t need to ask Litzman or Gafni how to be a Jew. No one gave them the authority to speak on behalf of Judaism. I’m not an inch less Jewish than them. I won’t tell them how to be Jewish and they won’t tell me how to be Jewish.

My argument with the ultra-Orthodox parties isn’t about Judaism. They’re trying to claim it’s about Judaism, but it’s not. My argument with them – about mathematics and English in the ultra-Orthodox education system – isn’t about Judaism. The Gaon from Vilna was a mathematics genius. The Rambam was a doctor. King Solomon spoke 70 languages.

There is no problem studying English. It’s a debate about economics, about earning a living, about the fact that if their children don’t study mathematics and English they won’t have the set of tools needed for the modern workforce. They won’t be able to finance themselves. And if they can’t finance themselves, who will finance them? Our children? Why? They don’t have an answer to that. That’s why they try to drag it into an argument between religious and secular. Because they don’t have an answer it’s much easier to shout “antisemitism” and to call me “Hitler.”

My argument with them over the equality of our national burden isn’t about religious law either. It’s about mutual responsibility. It’s about the social contract. It’s about the simple and crucial question: Is the blood of my children worth less than the blood of theirs?

In the army you risk your life. My son went to be a fighter. The ultra-Orthodox parties free their boys from service. What does that say about our social contract? Moses asked, “Your brothers go to war and you remain here?” He didn’t ask it as a religious question but a moral one. Do Jews send others to war for them? The Rambam said, “In a war of necessity everyone goes, even the groom and the bridge from her huppa [wedding canopy]”. Can religious people ignore Moses and Maimonides? It’s a hard question, so Litzman and Gafni don’t want to answer it. It’s easier to shout “antisemitism” and say I’m a descendant of Amalek.

My argument with them about budgets is also legitimate. When the government cuts budgets across the board, like it did last week; when there are cuts to emergency rooms and special education; then it’s legitimate to ask: Why we can’t touch the budget for yeshivas? Ask yourself what Rabbi Akiva or Hillel the Elder would recommend: money to healthy Yeshiva students or money to children with special needs? You know the answer. So do Litzman and Gafni. But they prefer instead to shout “antisemitism” and to call me an infectious disease.

If they want to run away from the debate, then don’t have it. But don’t enlist Judaism to their side. It doesn’t belong to them. They don’t own it. Judaism doesn’t reside in the rabbinate or the offices of United Torah Judaism. It’s in the Bible, in the Talmud, on the Jewish book shelf, in the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul. It lives in the Jewish values of mutual responsibility and caring for the weak. They are sacred values. I treat Judaism seriously. It doesn’t belong to any political party. It belongs to the people of Israel.

The writer is chairman of Yesh Atid and co-chair of Blue and White.

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