Sunday morning’s announcement that Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman was resigning from the government due to the repeated weekly desecration of Shabbos by Israel Rail should not have surprised anyone, especially in light of the fact that it was the action (or inaction) of the government officials involved that led to this decision.
A government minister is a direct partner to the decisions and actions of the government of which he is a part. In order not to bear responsibility for these, Agudas Yisrael, in accordance with its worldview and guided by its Rabbanim, has not accepted a cabinet position throughout the years.
During this term, due to coercion by the High Court, a special concession was made for Rabbi Litzman to be appointed minister. However, he was pushed into a corner and could no longer remain a partner to actions that knowingly and willingly allow Shabbos to be turned into “national repairs day” — thereby uprooting Shabbos from the public sphere.
There is no doubt that the government ministers involved could have acted differently. They could have skipped the illegal Shabbos work by Israel Rail, or at least ordered a work suspension in order to more closely examine the subject. But they didn’t want to do that.
If only we could believe that mere internal political considerations were involved here, rather than hostility towards the holy Shabbos! We don’t know what concerns took precedence with these ministers. But the dismal reality remained, and its ramifications regarding Shabbos desecration were severe. Whatever the motivations, it was impossible for Rabbi Litzman — a representative of Agudas Yisrael, who is required to follow the path instructed by its Rabbanim — to remain a partner to decisions that openly violate Shabbos.
The attitude of the chareidi government representation and its continued path will be decreed by its actions in accordance with decisions by the Rabbanim, the members of the Moetzos Gedolei v’Chachmei haTorah. The subjects of Shabbos desecration by Israel Rail, of allowing stores and groceries to remain open on Shabbos, and of correcting the legal loopholes that make it possible to breach the status quo, have been and will continue to be foremost on the agenda. The hope and expectation is that anyone who is a partner to one coalition will fulfill their share and honor their signature on the coalition agreement signed prior to its establishment. But, however you look at it, today, a milestone was set.
The political pundits in the general media are trying — as they always do, and it’s only natural that they should — to find political explanations for Rabbi Litzman’s move. They talk about everything, except the crux of the issue. It is too bad that even certain commentators who are Shabbos observers are being dragged in after them. Because there are no hidden political reasons for Rabbi Litzman’s resignation; rather, there is only the actual issue: that it is impossible to shoulder the direct responsibility that every cabinet member has for the situation and for decisions that are in defiance of the Divine Will, chalilah. Once things reached this point, there simply was no other choice for a G-d-fearing Jew.
As has been stated before, for the chareidi community, the current government is one of the best ever. Many issues have been advanced; many injustices instituted by the previous government against the chareidi public were rectified. But there is yet more to fix, to add and to preserve. For that reason, every effort was made to change things, to ask that the situation be rectified and that this scourge of desecration of Shabbos in the public sphere be resolved. One does not need to seek other reasons, and for Shabbos-observant Jews, there is nothing not to understand; it is so basic. They should not play into the hands of those seeking to undermine Yiddishkeit, who abound.
We would like to hope that the prime minister will understand, first and foremost, the true distress of those who sanctify the Shabbos, and will not allow Shabbos to be further desecrated. We want to hope that he will recognize what is happening around him and realize that he is being led blindly by those who seek his failure and downfall.
It’s important to us that it be understood that despite all the losses we might sustain, Shabbos is still more precious. It is important to us that it be clear that if, as part of our membership in the coalition, we do not have any influence to prevent new breaches in Shabbos desecration — then the door is closed for us.
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who submitted his resignation yesterday, did so with his head held high. That is how a G-d-fearing Jew who is concerned for the sanctity of Shabbos is expected to act. He is not ready to directly abet Shabbos desecration for all the money in the world. He is leaving the health ministry with many achievements to his credit. He has worked faithfully and with dedication for all the citizens of the State of Israel. He and his staff members have tried to help everyone who has turned to them, to benefit each individual, to implement reforms and changes in the health system that have already been very effective and will continue to be so for years to come. It is a shame that all this is coming to a halt; may he be praised for doing it for the honor of Shabbos.
Therefore, support should be expressed for Rabbi Litzman and all representatives of Torah-true Judaism for their firm stance on preserving the sanctity of Shabbos. He should be blessed for all he has done during his tenure in this government and he should be blessed for resigning at this time. We will continue to daven to Hashem that those who keep and preserve Shabbos, those who honor it and prevent its desecration, should be blessed with brachah, success and good fortune. Conversely, may those who desecrate and scorn the holy Shabbos see no blessing, success or good fortune.
May the merit of Shabbos protect Am Yisrael and bestow it with blessings, salvation and Divine compassion.