Hurrah for Litzman’s Resignation

How could Ya’akov Litzman possibly resign as Minister of Health? As he is well aware, the preservation of life is so important that it even overrides the obligation to observe the Sabbath (Yoma 84b). One cannot but draw the conclusion that Litzman’s resignation will place no one’s life at risk.

The public purse will no longer have to pay his ministerial salary of over $12,000 per month plus all of the other overheads that go with the job such as an office, secretaries, his brand new Skoda Superb (whose market value is close to $50,000), his driver and personal bodyguards.

Litzman’s resignation takes place on the same day as charedim clashed with police in Jerusalem over the issue of their exemption from military conscription. Many Israelis will be saying enough is enough.

The Zionist Movement was not founded or supported by them; they did not fight in the War of Independence and have never put their lives at risk in defence of the nation. Their children do not learn the core curriculum obligatory in all other Israeli schools and most of them are unwilling to undertake any form of national service.

Although they would argue that their learning and prayers ensure the survival of the Jewish State, their behavior is contrary to how Jews have behaved throughout the ages.

Moses insisted that the Reubenites and Gadites cross the Jordan and help conquer the land of Canaan even though they chose to live on the east side of the river (Numbers 32).

Jewish tradition, including Maimonides in his Mishney Torah, includes defending Israel against its enemies in the category of wars in which one is obliged to participate (milchemet mitzvah).

Of course, it is true that the Levites did not serve in the army. However, most of the charedim are not Levites and it should be recalled that, as a consequence, the Levites were not granted a portion in the land.

The modern equivalent would be: If one is not prepared to defend the country, or even undertake some other form of national service, then one has no business sitting in the Knesset or being part of Israel’s government.

In that sense, Litzman’s resignation is a blessing and one can only hope that the day will come soon when so-called “religious parties” will no longer be part of the political scene and cease blackmailing the country into agreeing to legislation that has no place in a modern democracy.

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.