Not in my name, said the Rambam

In a lengthy, informative, and refreshingly honest interview at the Times of Israel (read it all here), Dov Lipman provides, among other things, a stunning expose of the hypocrisy and bare faced cheek of some of the political haredi establishment.

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INTERVIEWER: How did we get into this situation of mass full-time Torah study, and vast numbers of Haredi males not working? This is anti-rabbinical, this is not authentic Orthodox Judaism.

LIPMAN: Right. I’ll give you one line that happened during the campaign and then I’ll answer your question. I was on Haredi radio and I quoted the Rambam [medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides]. This is the same Maimonides that we’re sitting there [in yeshiva] and analyzing every little nuance of what he says about marriage. The Rambam says: “A person who decides to study Torah and not work and force other people to support him, that person disgraces Torah, disgraces God’s name and has no portion in the world to come.” This is coming full circle to Rav Ovadia and the elections. That’s what Maimonides says. If somebody is rich and wants to sit and learn Torah, fine. So what does the guy [interviewing me] say to me? He says to me: “You want to tell me that you’re relying on the Rambam?” That’s a quote. He says, “That was hundreds of years ago.”

INTERVIEWER: Unbelievable.

LIPMAN: I said: “That says it all.” If you have an answer for me, okay. But you have no answer, and your answer is, how can you rely on the Rambam from hundreds of years ago? I told my wife later: we are not a hundred percent right. We are a thousand percent right. That was the moment where it just all came together for me.

How did we get here? The rest of Israel is to blame. Because both right-wing and left-wing governments throughout have given the ultra-Orthodox parties whatever they wanted because they needed to form a coalition to advance their own [interests] — that’s how we got here.

In other words, some of the same people who want to reserve the right to study Torah texts and commentaries, don’t accept criticism of their selfish approach based on the sayings of the Rambam (a giant among the commentators). Now why might that be?

The bottom line is that the burden of state service should be shared, and those who use the Torah to escape their obligations are cheating the rest of us.