In a lecture this week to rabbis at Shalom Hartman Institute for the annual summertime Rabbinical Torah Study Seminar, Donniel Hartman mentioned that he had just finished a session with senior IDF commanders attending an ongoing program at Shalom Hartman Institute, the Lev Aharon program.
This program teaches Judaism, Jewish moral philosophy, and other related matters to senior officers of the IDF (majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels), in an effort to help them better understand their roles as defenders of the Jewish nation, and to explain the same to their soldiers, some of whom have rudimentary Jewish knowledge. The program is not about teaching kashrut, Shabbat observance, or ritual, but the historical, cultural, and moral underpinnings of the Jewish nation.
So, Donniel was saying how the officers were complaining that some religious soldiers are taking extreme stands on matters and, for example, are not willing to listen to a female singer during Army celebrations or ceremonies. Or, the commanders asked, what do we do when we go away for a unit retreat and some soldiers want single-sex swimming hours in the pool. Donniel said the commanders are struggling with such real, “tachlis” (detailed) conundrums.
It seemed to me that some of the rabbis in the room were skeptical that the situation was so complicated, or at least found it difficult to believe that such internal problems could occur in a Jewish army. I’ll admit, I thought so, too, to a degree.
So, imagine my surprise when I saw this article today on Ynetnews: Rabbi Eliyahu warns of rabbis who ‘kowtow to women’:
Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu warned this week of the rising prominence of the liberal stream in religious Zionism and slammed rabbis who “kowtow to women.”
During a Torah lesson he delivered on Monday, the prominent national religious leader spoke in length about the importance of observing chastity codes. He advised soldiers to cover their ears during military ceremonies that include women singing. “It’s better to go to jail than to obey the commander and hear a woman sing or play.”
….Eliyahu’s son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, also referred to the issue of women performing in military events. He commented on a recent statement by the chief education officer, who said religious soldiers must stay put during such ceremonies, despite the halachic problem.
“This order is clearly illegal,” said Eliyahu. “A person cannot be forced to go against the Torah. Today it’s singing, tomorrow it’s singing plus half naked women… a breach in such a question is like fire – you don’t know where it’s going to end.”
Just when you thought you had heard it all: “Today it’s singing…you don’t know where it’s going to end.” I don’t mean to make light: this is an important matter. Donniel did not say what he counseled the officers to do. But it is clearly a matter in which the Shalom Hartman Institute can play an important role in helping the jewish army of the State of israel remain both Jewish and democratic.
Hattip to the excellent blog, Religion and State in Israel.