Former haredi MK Shlomo Lorincz dies at 91

Former haredi MK Shlomo

Shlomo Lorincz 248 88 (photo credit: )
Shlomo Lorincz 248 88
(photo credit: )
Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, a veteran haredi politician, died Monday at the age of 91 due to heart failure. Lorincz served as an Agudat Yisrael MK for 33 years, from 1951-1984. He also served as the chairman of the Bank of Israel's Advisory Committee and his signature appears on Israel's currency. Lorincz was a staunch fighter for child allowances that benefitted large haredi families, which helped enable fathers to devote themselves to Torah study instead of working. He also supported complete exemption from military service for haredi men who studied in yeshiva full-time. Lorincz wrote a book entitled Bimehitzatam Shel Gedolei Torah, in which he drew on his numerous close encounters over the years with leading Torah sages. Parts of the book have been translated and released in English under the title In Their Shadow. In his book, he recounted a conversation he had with David Ben-Gurion. Israel's first prime minister asked Lorincz why haredi yeshiva students did not work or serve in the army. Lorincz replied by quoting from Maimonides's explanation for the Tribe of Levi's special status. Levites, he said, had not been granted a portion of the land like the other tribes, and were exempt from military service so they could devote themselves to the spiritual aspects of Jewish life. Maimonides extended it to elite groups of scholars in every generation. According to Lorincz, Ben-Gurion accepted the explanation. Lorincz was a member of the Zealots Alliance (Brit Hakana'im), a haredi group that fiercely opposed the creation of a secular state, yet he later served in the Knesset. And although Lorincz fought in the Knesset to secure government benefits for full-time yeshiva students, he was also involved in a unique project to combine strictly Orthodox lifestyle with the Zionist ethic of working the land, helping found a haredi moshav, Komemiyut. Komemiyut as a community was one of the pioneers in the strict observance of the shmita (sabbatical) year, during which the land is meant to lie fallow. Certain halachic innovations by Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, the Hazon Ish, to enable the farmers to subsist. However, this model of haredim working the land never mustered widespread support in the larger haredi community. Lorincz was also one of the founders of the haredi Hinuch Atzma'i education system, which to this day fights to rebuff government influence on its curriculum, which is set under the guidance of its own sages. Lorincz also belonged to a movement within Aguda called "Tziut Ve'hagshama," that espoused working coupled with strict observance. He later was one of the founders of Degel Hatorah, a party representing primarily the non-hassidic yeshiva world that in the late 1980s, under the leadership of Rabbi Elazar Menahem Schach, broke with Agudat Yisrael, though the two factions reunited several years ago under the banner of United Torah Judaism. About a week ago Lorincz was transported to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital after suffering heart failure. He underwent minor heart surgery and his situation had reportedly improved. However, during a conversation with his son he experienced another attack and later died. He was buried Monday in Jerusalem.