In a powerful intersection of religion and politics, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most prominent rabbis of this generation, issued a stern warning to Avigdor Liberman, the newly appointed Finance Minister, telling him that his policies would have afterlife implications.
“Whoever harms the children of Israel – there is no forgiveness for him,” Rabbi Kanievsky reportedly said concerning Liberman.
The rabbi’s comments come in response to an announcement by Liberman that he intends to change the laws pertaining to daycare subsidies for children under the age of three. The new laws will grant subsidies only if both the child’s parents work at least 24 hours a week. Currently, the subsidies are available if only the mother works 24 hours a week. The new laws would effectively end funding for 21,000 children whose fathers learn full-time in Torah institutions.
“Anyone who has a part in these decrees will sit in purgatory,” Rabbi Kanievsky said. “The Torah is eternal, and all the decrees will not cause us to cease studying. There were decrees throughout the years, and the People of Israel remained steadfast and continued to learn Torah.”
The situation is a turnaround from 2018 when then-Minister of Defense Lieberman went to Rabbi Kanievsky’s home on a personal visit.
Liberman responded to the criticism by tweeting, “[Children] need education and the ability to become integrated in the workforce, to make a living with respect and not to be dependent on subsidies and donations.”
Apparently, this only applies to religious children as the new laws specifically target Torah studies. Liberman’s new law does not withhold subsidies from families in which the father is in vocational training or academic studies but does not work.
MK Moshe Gafni, head of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party did not comment on Liberman’s portion in the World to Come but he did assess the Finance Minister’s moral condition.
“[He is] slimy with corruption,” Gafni said. “His party is the most corrupt party in Israel. He is a bad man, who does bad deeds. He does everything he can in order to hurt the Haredi public.”
Yaakov Litzman, an MK for UTJ told YNet news that Liberman “is simply insane. He’s mad with hatred [for the Orthodox].”
The new measures also affect the religious world at large. The Union of Zionist Yeshivot and the Hesder Yeshivot Association sent a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett criticizing the change in subsdies. The letter claimed the law was discriminatory as learning in yeshival, both in the Chareidi and Dati Leumi sectors, frequently leads to paid employment as Rabbanim, teachers, tutors scholars, writers, and translators.
This draconian decision of Minister Liberman causes immense damage to the status quo, and is a display of defiance that expresses actual contempt toward the value of Torah study,” the letter states.
“It also causes great harm to entire communities who view Torah study as a central value to their lives. This step will deal an existential economic blow to the families of Torah students from the weakest strata of society.”