Purim: Blame It on the Rabbis
An anonymous submission in honor of Purim — Adapted from Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. I p.75
The casual observer of the story of Purim will often overlook and/or misunderstand some of the most crucial aspects of the narrative. Take, for example, the chronology of the story. Although the tale of the Book of Esther is often told inside of a quarter of an hour, the actual story spanned more than nine years.
The Book of Esther famously begins with the feast of Achashverosh, which occurred during the third year of his reign. Our sages reveal (Megilla 12) that Mordechai prohibited the Jewish People from attending this feast. However, this was not due to restraints of the Jewish dietary law, as many assume. Strictly kosher food was available, and one of the two chief butlers at the feast was none other than Mordechai himself (Rashi ibid). Yet, Mordechai prohibited the Jews from attending. The Jewish People did not heed this directive from the generation’s Torah Leader and they attended, facing no repercussions.
Then, nine years later, in the twelfth year of Achashverosh’s reign, Mordechai refused to bow to Haman because of the idol Haman would wear on his neck. There was no clear violation of Torah prohibitions in bowing down to Haman, as it would not have given off the appearance of actually serving idolatry. Indeed, the Jewish People lambasted Mordechai for his actions, accusing him of endangering the Jewish Nation (Midrash Agadath Esther 3:2). Furthermore, the Megillar relates that it was when Haman took notice of Mordechai’s refusal to bow that he began his plot to annihilate the Jewish Nation.
However, when the decree was issued to wipe out the Jewish people, Mordechai chastised the Jews, saying that the reason for this tragic decree was not his actions, but rather because the Jews had bowed to Nevuchadnezzar’s idol (at least thirty years prior) and because they had attended Achashverosh’s feast nine years earlier!
Imagine if today, in a generation where the Rabbis are commonly accused of being “out-of-touch” with the ways of modern society and its politics, a Torah Leader had offended a political figurehead. Then, citing the actions of this Rabbi, this politician proceeded to use his position to cause difficulties to the Jewish People (Chas V’Shalom). What would we say?
Now visualize what would happen if that Torah Leader, instead of apologizing, blamed previous actions of the Jews for this tragedy. Imagine if he said that the reason for this calamity was because people did not listen to a specific decree issued by Torah Leaders. How would we respond?
In the story of Mordechai and Esther, the Jewish People acknowledged their wrongdoings and repented. Would we do the same today?
We must realize that our Torah Leaders in every generation (see Rashi Devarim 17:9) have greater insight than us, and even when their instructions may appear illogical and counter-intuitive, it is their words that we must heed (see Rashi Devarim 17:11), not our own pompous and biased opinions.
The Jews during the time of the Purim Story realized and accepted this, and therefore merited salvation. Let us pray that this Purim we will also do the same so that we may merit salvation from our modern enemies with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.
The two statements by Rashi cited by this article do not present support for it.
The pesukim commented upon by Rashi are referring to the Sanhedrin – the Beis Din HaGadol in Yerushalayim – not merely to any Torah scholar appointed by some group as its Torah leader. In order to be on the Sanhedrin, it does not suffice to merely be a great Talmudist. There are many different requirements. Mordechai was not an ivory tower Torah scholar – he was very much in touch with the facts and intrigues on the ground! So, yes, it is certainly possible for a Torah scholar to be “out-of-touch” with the ways of modern society and its politics, and thus unfit to be in a position of political leadership.
Furthermore, Rashi speaks about the obligation to listen to Torah leaders (who do fulfill the various requirements). He says nothing about this being due to their “having greater insight than us.” This may well be the reason, but there could be other reasons (such as the importance of maintaining a system of authority), and so Rashi cannot be brought as a source for this point.
Finally, it should be pointed out that giving Rashi as a source for “even when their instructions may appear illogical and counter-intuitive” is based on the Midrash on Lo Sasur, that one must follow them even if they say that right is left. However, the Yerushalmi says the exact opposite – that one must NOT follow their instructions if they say that right is left!
“We must realize that our Torah Leaders in every generation (see Rashi Devarim 17:9) have greater insight than us, and even when their instructions may appear illogical and counter-intuitive, it is their words that we must heed (see Rashi Devarim 17:11), not our own pompous and biased opinions.”
Part of the Sanhedrin in Mordechai’s time objected to Mordechai taking time out from his Torah studies to work for the good of the Jewish people. (Rashi to Esther 10:3.) Had Mordechai not taken time out from his Torah studies, we would not be here today!
How do you reconcile this opinion with pre-WWII rabbinic opinions on Zionism, and what happened to Jews who stayed in Europe vs. what happened to Jews who made Aliya?
It’s interesting that if one actually reads the three cited statements of Rashi, they support the interpretations presented in the article and contradict the above comments. Here they are, in translation:
Rashi to Dev. 17:9: “And to the judge that will be in that day” — Even if he is not like the other judges who preceded him, you must listen to him, you have no other than the judge in your day. [He, singular. There is no reference, much less limitation, to the Sanhedrin exclusively.]
To Dev. 17:11: “Right and left” –– Even if he says to you on the right that it is left, and on the left that is right,* and all the more so when he says to you on the right, right, and on the left, left.
*Sifsei Chachamim to that Rashi — For this is the explanation, if he says to you on the right, that you consider to be left, and left that you consider to be right, that you shall listen to him, and not depend upon the error being his but rather yours. [In other words, it is precisely because they have greater insight. While I have not seen the Yerushalmi to know if it is cited accurately, we follow the Bavli in any case.] [The S.Ch. goes on to refer to H’ giving insight to the “servants of His Temple.” Mordechai, in exile, would not qualify under that limitation!]
To Esther 10:3 — “To most of his brothers” — And not to all of his brothers, which teaches that some of the Sanhedrin separated from him, because he was made close to the Rulership and was removed from his learning.
This is on the verse which states that Mordechai became Mishneh L’Melech, the Viceroy — at the end and as a result of the Purim story, not during it. Because he became Viceroy, he was unable to devote himself entirely to learning as he had previously.
Rashi on the cited Gemara itself is still more explicit: “because he was removed from words of Torah and entered into rulership.” And the Gemara shows that learning Torah is even greater than lifesaving activity, because afterwards Mordechai was reduced in his position among the great Sages of the exile.
In other words, prior to these events Mordechai was entirely involved in his learning. The Gemara itself tells us that he was previously an “ivory tower Torah scholar” who would have been described (and was, by those Jews who thought they knew better, and attended the feast of Achashverosh) as “out-of-touch” with the ways of modern society and its politics. The parallel is, in fact, uncanny.
In modern instances where Torah leaders may be at odds over policy, is there an objective way to pick some or one as being more authoritative?
I am not the author and cannot speak for him, but in response to Abraham’s comment, accepting that the Sages have superior judgment to our own does not imply anything similar to papal infallibility. The Torah itself provides for a procedure to be followed when the Sanhedrin makes a mistake, and yet commands us to follow that same Sanhedrin.
Furthermore, this doesn’t change the judgment of political Zionism, which was initially constituted primarily as a secular movement away from Torah. The Zionists allocated a miserably small percentage of visas for religious immigrants. So where, precisely, could the greats of the pre-war era have sent the millions that no other country, including Palestine, would accept?
The Ohr Somayach knew it was coming. The Chofetz Chaim also intimated something to this effect, and R’ Elchonon Wasserman hy”d made it explicit — and he himself did not leave. If H’ makes a gezeirah, running to a different country is not the universal answer. Did that work for Yonah?
Reliance upon natural means, and ignoring that H’ directly concerns Himself with Bnei Yisrael and whether we are doing His wishes, is the same mindset that afflicts those who think that Bnei Torah should leave the Beis Medrash for a few years to do what they imagine, in their own thinking, to be “national service.” Does Dov Lipman imagine that that’s what H’ wants? They sincerely believe that Torah study is something other than national service of the Jewish nation, and that the IDF can hold back 100,000,000 Arabs without Torah study protecting it. Never mind the open miracles of ’67, ’73 and the first Gulf War, let’s get the Bnei Yeshivah to clean bedpans. It’s an idea worthy of Purim!
Charlie Halls: Part of the Sanhedrin in Mordechai’s time objected to Mordechai taking time out from his Torah studies to work for the good of the Jewish people. (Rashi to Esther 10:3.) Had Mordechai not taken time out from his Torah studies, we would not be here today!
Ori: Without Mordechai, Bigtan and Teresh might have succeeded. We wouldn’t know we were saved, but we would have been. Achashverosh was clearly unfit to rule.
I reject the idea of following our Torah leaders blindly, however wise they may be. So much trouble has been caused in our world by people following their leaders in such a manner. Furthermore, as wise as any Torah leader may be, they are not directly involved in whatever particular situation is causing us to seek advice in the first place, so they may miss some of the nuances involved. I am not saying that we should ignore what Torah leaders tell us, only that we should take it with a grain of salt, as well as think about how much their advice appeals to both logic and common sense. Wise advice can offer some great insights for us, but ultimately, it is we who must take responsibility over our own lives.
R. Alfred Cohen in his essay “Daat Torah”(available online), quotes the above-mentioned Michtav Meliyahu, and then an explanation he heard from R. Hutner:
“Our Sages (Chazal) have already told us to follow the words of our rabbis, even “if they tell us about right that it is left and that left is right”, and not to say, G-d forbid, that they certainly erred…but rather,[one should say that] my understanding is nullified like the dust of the earth in comparison to the clarity of their intellect and the Heavenly support they have(siyata d’shemaya)…*this is Daat Torah in the rubric of Emunat Chachamim*. (emphasis added)” [Michtav Meliyau]
This is a very clear statement made by one of the seminal thinkers of our age, to whom it was evident that the outstanding rabbinic figures who lead the Jewish people are inspired by a deeper understanding than the ordinary, and, their whole hearts and minds being totally immersed in Torah, that renders their decisions more valid than those of ordinary people. Under those circumstances, he believes Jews ought to have faith in their leaders and follow them.
And yet – one finds it extremely difficult not to assume that their advice not to flee Europe while there was still time was tragically off the mark. It is a difficult decision to defend. Perhaps it is important to realize that a bad outcome doesn’t necessarily prove the advice was bad…
Mulling over this paradox, Rav Hutner offered the following metaphor: Assume there are two people poised to jump from the roof of a building; horrified onlookers beg them not to. One agrees, and proceeds to take the stairs in order to reach the street, but trips and breaks his neck. The other man decides to jump, but happens to land on a mattress on the back of a truck! Although the outcome for him was miraculously good (and even more so in the face of what happened to the other would-be jumper), yet it would be ridiculous to blame the onlookers for giving bad advice. The advice was wise, and the one who listened to them indeed chose the right path. The guidance of our Torah leaders, Rav Hutner concluded, is just that – Torah inspired wisdom, but it is not prophecy, and it is not fail safe. Our rabbis are wise men, not prophets.”
” those who think that Bnei Torah should leave the Beis Medrash for a few years to do what they imagine, in their own thinking, to be “national service.”
It’s not “in their own thinking.” The Torah itself talks about the importance of going to war. Milchemes mitzvah is a halachic concept.
“Does Dov Lipman imagine that that’s what H’ wants?”
Why is that so hard to imagine? Why should it be only secular and national-religious Jews who put theirs and their childrens’ lives on the line to participate in milchemes mitzvah and defend the country? In the Torah, Moshe says, “Should your brothers go to war, while you stay here?”
“They sincerely believe that Torah study is something other than national service of the Jewish nation”
Torah study is important. So is serving in the army. The latter is also much more difficult and requires much mesiras nefesh.
“Never mind the open miracles of ’67”
How many people were in kollel in ’67? Not many. Why do we need more today?
Maybe Israel was victorious in the merit of dat-leumi young men who learn Torah and serve in the army? How do you know otherwise?
R. Y. Menken, if you are introducing the issue of National Service & Sharing the Burden to this discussion then it is essential to touch on the reality of the situation. There are thousands of Charedi youth, post 18yrs old that are not studying in Yeshivos, surely not three full siddurim. These are the bochurim that the focus is on…….read through all the draft proposals and see. MK PORUSH quoted to the American** delegation in Yerushalayim, that after he completed his Talmudic studies, he followed the shitah of Rav Shach z”l and enlisted in the IDF. This is NOT the present situation at all.
** I do wonder if MK PORUSH ever make this speech to his own people, in Ivrit or is it just for the Americans?
“The Ohr Somayach knew it was coming. The Chofetz Chaim also intimated something to this effect, and R’ Elchonon Wasserman hy”d made it explicit —”
I didn’t know that.
Do have you sources for these?
Do have you sources for these?
I don’t have a source for these, but I have another source. When Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, each took over a part of Poland. Lithuania, including Vilna, was taken over Soviet troops, and for a while was spared Nazi invasion. (Until Hitler yimach shemo ve zicrho broke the pact in 1941). R. Chaim Ozer Grodzienski, at the time the acknowledged gadol ha dor, is said to have remarked, “We have avoided a death sentence, only to be sent to life in prison.”
“How many people were in kollel in ’67? Not many. Why do we need more today?
Because the population has tripled? And land mass has increased?
The Holocaust argument is a red herring. It was brought up to counter the idea that there is a value to rabbinic leadership over popular leadership.
In this argument, had the rabbis only listened to less scholarly leaders, millions of jews would have been saved. Therefore, since the rabbis were wrong to discourage emigration then, it is unwise to listen to them now.
this argument is very weak. First, the Holocaust did not spare secular Jews . Therefore, some secular Jews followed their leadership or their own opinion and were also wrong. So, what this proves is that both kinds of leadership can be wrong. One must ask, who is more likely to be able to lead us to do the will of G-d, one who studies G-d’s word, or one who does not?
When someone is so adamant that I should not listen to rabbinic leadership, they generally don’t encourage me to trust my own instincts but instead want me to follow them. Why would I want to put myself at the mercy of someone so egotistical that he holds his opinions in such a high regard?
A second point is that this argument ignores that we are talking about the Holocaust- an event so evil that it can only be called the anti-miracle because of how much bad was allowed to happen in a concentrated period of time. . The fact that there was such a lack of clarity amongst Torah scholars does not mean that more Jews would have been saved not listening to them. Six million jews were killed in a miraculous way. To think we could have avoided this tragedy sounds like a stage of grief (blame, denial, bargaining, anger) rather than a real argument against rabbinic leadership.
Let’s say right now is one if those anti miracle times? Why listen to rabbis? First, our goal is to do G-d’s will no matter the outcome and I have a bigger chance of fulfilling His will by listening to Torah Scolars than by listening g to a populist leader. The Second reason requires a mashal to explain. If a doctor gives chemo and there is relapse, only a fool would abandon all conventional medicine and run off to Mexico to do a homeopathic cure. The rest would try to find the best doctor realizing that he will never be 100% right, but that is better than the 5% the holistic healer is offering. So, if a rabbi iSight 80% of the time, it is smarter to listen to him then to anyone else.
@Natan Slifkin Since you feel that serving in the army = milchemes mitzvah and serving in the army is so important, I was wondering if you have you served in Israeli army? I am not asking this to put you on the spot or be disrespectful, I am asking you this sincerely as I am trying to understand your position.
I have cousins whom I respect who have served as IDF paratroopers and I also have chareidi cousins whom I respect who are in Kollel who do not serve.
@Natan Slifkin Talmud Rosh Hashana 25 from which Rashi quoted in this article derives his commentary, seems quite clear that we must follow each “shofet” or Chacham, of each generation and we mustn’t say “Is so and so (i.e. the present day chacham) like Moshe, is so and so like Nadav and Avihu, is so and so like Eldad and Meidad?” Obviously we aren’t just talking about the entire Sanhedrin, for if so the gemara wouldn’t use the singular term “Ploni” referring to the leading chacham.
The gemara then goes on to compare Gideon, Yiftach and Shimshon with Moshe, Aharon and Shmuel and states that the former were “kalei olam,” lightweights, to the latter who were the greatest, and states that you must follow each in his generation equally.
@MB Ohr Somayach – See his commentary in Meshech Chochma parshas bechukosai, which was published in 1929, as to what would happen to Jews who call Berlin their Jerusalem.
Chofetz Chaim stated that the “16 million who had died in WW1 was child’s play” compared to what was about to come. This was heard by Rav Shimon Schwabb in 1931 on the Shabbos he spent with the Chofetz Chaim which he spoke about many times. He said that the students of the Chofetz Chaim used to hear this from the CC quite often.
Rav Elchonon Wasserman – See his biography which quotes a story of him telling the Jews of London in 1939 on his way back to Lithuania that there was something terrible about to happen. I saw this quoted by R’ Ephraim Wachsman in a Jewish Observer article about ten years ago.
In general people mistakenly think that listening to Gedolim means that whatever they say will work out for the best. However, see Gittin 56 which is pretty clear that we listen to Gedolim because they have siyata dishmaya, help from Heaven. But sometimes Hashem doesn’t want what we would perceive to be the best result. So Hashem put in Rav Yochanan Ben Zakkai’s mind to ask for Yavneh and it’s sages (from Vespasian) but not the beis hamikdash, even though it would have been better for Rav Yochanan to ask for the Bais Hamikdash. Perhaps the same principle can be applied to some Rabbanim telling Jews not to leave Europe before the holocaust.
” Ohr Somayach – See his commentary in Meshech Chochma parshas bechukosai, which was published in 1929, as to what would happen to Jews who call Berlin their Jerusalem.
German Jews who called Berlin their Jerusalem survived in far greater numbers than Polish and Lithuanian Jews, religious or not.
The other 2 stories are too nebulous to be relevant.
I am NOT discounting their greatness, but I am discounting the silly things people assumed they said.
I have a question both on the original events described in the Megilla and on the attempt to apply them to modern times.
The original: How did the Jews know that Mordechai was correct? There are halachas for determining whether a navi is or is not legitimate. I have never heard it claimed that Mordecai was a navi.
Today: How do we know which rabbis are correct in their instructions and analyses, and are therefore to be trusted and followed? We hear many statements in the name of “the rabbis” or in the names of specific rabbis. Some of the statements contradict each other. One can hear that the Lubovitcher Rebbe was (or is) the messiach, and one can hear that believing the Rebbi to be the messiach is, or borders on, avodah zorah. One can hear that serving in the Israeli army is forbidden, one can hear that it is an obligation but that full time learners are entitled to be exempt, and one can hear that it is an obligation on every able-bodied man, a mitzvah. One can hear that you are obligated to vote in the Israeli elections, or that one is obligated to vote for party X in the Israeli elections, or that it is completely assur to vote in the Israeli elections. Putting aside any other issues, how can the Jewish people act today as they did in Purim with respect to Mordechai in light of these questions?
“Today: How do we know which rabbis are correct in their instructions and analyses, and are therefore to be trusted and followed? We hear many statements in the name of “the rabbis” or in the names of specific rabbis. Some of the statements contradict each other. One can hear that the Lubovitcher Rebbe was (or is) the messiach, and one can hear that believing the Rebbi to be the messiach is, or borders on, avodah zorah. One can hear that serving in the Israeli army is forbidden, one can hear that it is an obligation but that full time learners are entitled to be exempt, and one can hear that it is an obligation on every able-bodied man, a mitzvah. One can hear that you are obligated to vote in the Israeli elections, or that one is obligated to vote for party X in the Israeli elections, or that it is completely assur to vote in the Israeli elections. Putting aside any other issues, how can the Jewish people act today as they did in Purim with respect to Mordechai in light of these questions?”
Without a unified Sanhedrin to guide us, one must ask themselves what the Ribbono Shel Olam wants from them and move in that direction. Certainly “Daas Torah” is not a bad thing, but for every answer one way you can get a “Daas Torah” opinion that is the exact opposite. Furthermore, “Daas Torah”, if it does not know you personally, can not give you an answer that is correct for YOU. I am reminded of the story with R’ Chaim Brisker (IIRC) and the shochet, whom he told the kehilla to get rid of him, but when asked by the shochet, told the shochet to stay, as that was the best advice FOR HIM.
Finally, with so many “Gabboim” and “askanim” around, I do not trust anything from “Daas Torah” (even a straight up halachic shailah) unless I personally ask the question and am answered personally as well. It is unfortunate, but that is the state of Yiddishkeit.
I’m glad to see my colleague Rabbi Meir Goldberg was sober enough to comment yesterday evening!
Eli, there’s a big difference between Aseh L’cha Rav (from Pirkei Avos, meaning go find yourself a Rabbi whom you trust) as compared to Kol HaYashar B’eynav Yaaseh “everyone doing what is right in his eyes,” a recipe for anarchy. Each person has to find a derech, a way, in Torah, but that doesn’t mean shopping for heterim, for a different Rabbi who will give us the answer we want to hear to each question.
Natan, the Jewish army specification is one third combat troops, one third support, and one third learning. We’re still short-handed on the learning end. Furthermore, the assertion that serving in the Army is more difficult than learning is imaginary. It depends if a person is serious about learning and whether a person is a foot soldier or in an engineering, communications or other unit. Office workers in the IDF are like office workers anywhere else — some of them are serious, while others are bureaucrats trying to do the minimum necessary. Meanwhile, the Mir Yeshiva has a group committed to learning twelve hours every day.
Why is it “fair” that many recruits are sent to computer and communications units where the most dangerous threats are too much typing and misplaced file cabinets? Answer: the Army cannot function without both. But the Jewish nation cannot function without all three.
cvmay, while they claim to be focused upon those who are slacking off, pragmatic solutions to help those individuals stay observant, go through the Army, and go into the workforce are being ignored. Not only is Nahal Charedi not being expanded, but the IDF isn’t following through on its promises. Instead, every yeshiva, regardless of the caliber of its students, is being told it will have a ‘quota.’
Way back when, R’ Chaim Kanievsky wasn’t considered one of the top bochurim. Today, of course, he’s one of the Gedolei HaDor. Similarly, there are bochurim who were non-performers in high school who turned a corner at 18 or 20 and are now truly serious. This program would pull those boys out and send them to the Army instead, and no Rosh Yeshiva is going to send the next generation’s R’ Chaim into the IDF.
no Rosh Yeshiva is going to send the next generation’s R’ Chaim into the IDF.
I assume you mean no chareidi rosh yeshiva, but then again maybe that individual is now sitting in Tel Aviv as a not yet bal tshuva. BTW who sent Yehoshua bin nun into battle?
I’d also appreciate a cite for the 1/3,1/3,1/3 split as well as how the decision is made as to who goes where. Perhaps a citation in Tanach of an actual example would be helpful as well.
HaRav Aharon Lopiansky has a shiur on the issue of the advice of Gedolim not to leave Europe available for free at torahlectures.com – shiur 38 “Zionism and the Holocaust.”
Am I missing something?
The rabbonim at that time must have been giants, compared to us.
And yet, Mordechai stood alone — against everyone else.
Where was the rest of daas Torah? Why aren’t we learning from the Purim story that it is possible that the vast majority of our leaders can be absolutely wrong on some key issues?
“it is possible that the vast majority of our leaders can be absolutely wrong on some key issues?”
One example is from Parshat Shelach: The 12 meraglim were the greatest of their generation. But they voted wrong by ten to two. (I thank Rabbi Dr. Aaron Adler for this insight.)
Another example comes from the United States, 1861. I think there were four Orthodox rabbis in the US at that time. Two were enthusiastic supporters of chattel slavery: Rabbi Morris Raphall and Rabbi Bernard Illowy. A third, Rabbi Abraham Rice, didn’t seem to have a problem with it. Only Rabbi Sabato Morais took an anti-slavery position.
The rabbonim at that time must have been giants, compared to us.
And yet, Mordechai stood alone — against everyone else.
What’s your basis for that? Chazal say that most of the Sanhedrin agreed with him.
“claim to be focused upon those who are slacking off”
Rabbi Menken, bochurim who are learning less than 3 siddurim a day, or just a morning seder or not at all……ARE NOT SLACKING OFF, they are not ‘learning boys’ and another equally chasuv daily schedule is needed for them. Whether it includes job training, morning learning, national service, chesed options, work/study….they are a catagory of bochurim that can NOT be ignored or defamed (as slackers)
Great discussion. Nobody can convinve the opposing view of anything. To me, the tremendous growth of observant Jewry after years of decline shows that Rav Ahaon Kotler or the Hazon Ish or the Lubavitcher Rebbe accomplished what most everyone thought was impossible. I just spent my first Shabbos in an area of Lakewood (Westgate). If one had predicted such an expanding and vibrant community in Rav Aharon’s lifetime, few would have believed it. Does that mean they were right for all of us? One of my sons pointed out that no one is forcing me to support full time learners in Lakewood, it is a matter of choice. However, in Israel, my son’s taxes do subsidize an entire culture of chareidi life that is isolated but dependent. In the USA, we can live and let live. In Israel, we face enemies who seek to destroy us and if 50% of the children born last year are either chareidi or l’havdil,Arabs, how can we continue on this path?
The Gedolim do not trust the State,they believe that the real purpose of drafting yeshiva students is to change them, to make them into zionists, to wean them away from Torah. If so many dati leumi children cease their observance in the Army, how will chareidim react when confronted with the challenges of army life? Won’t many say that the way of life they were taught is not for them? Will chareidi society disintigrate if army service and army life is imposed on the youth?
The pugnacious chareidim are very nervous with good reason that their whole society can collapse and does anyone think the Gedolim are wrong to have this fear?
All Dov Lipman is saying is that the type of chareidi life many have in the USA needs to be available in Israel, that it can’t be all or nothting. Why demonize a sincere and good person for saying that what we do in Los Angeles, Baltimore or elsewhere is not off the derech. The problem is that no one really listens to the other side and seeks reasonable compromise.
“Natan, the Jewish army specification is one third combat troops, one third support, and one third learning.”
Really? As far as I am aware, that’s not in the Torah. Nor is it in the Mishnah, Gemara, or Mishnah Torah. Surely if such an astonishing thing is true, we would expect them to mention it! What is your source for this “Jewish army specification”?
cvmay, I agree with you completely, but that’s not the focus of the current “share the burden” effort. On the contrary, the claim is that they are nothing but slackers, and the response is dogmatic rather than pragmatic. The things you describe are precisely the sort of reasonable and practical efforts that are being ignored, as I described in my previous response to you. There is a larger article on the topic from Rabbi Rosenblum that I hope will be posted here shortly.
This is why Rabbi Oberstein is mistaken, in that Dov Lipman is not promoting practical solutions for workforce integration. Neither is it true that “the whole [Charedi] society can collapse,” but the rate of attrition of religious soldiers is unacceptably high, and the IDF, as I said above, is neither expanding nor keeping its commitments to the charedi units.
“Why demonize a sincere and good person for saying that what we do in Los Angeles, Baltimore or elsewhere is not off the derech. The problem is that no one really listens to the other side and seeks reasonable compromise”.
SO SO TRUE… Also the Charedi of the Sfradim are not focused on full-time learning, it was not the culture of the Middle Eastern countries (have Iraqi relatives) and therefore the American Torah lifestyle would work for a larger then imagined kehilla.
“the rate of attrition of religious soldiers is unacceptably high, and the IDF, as I said above, is neither expanding nor keeping its commitments to the charedi units”.
SO SO TRUE, now this is an area that Charedi parties SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON rather then just the boycott of any discussions. IF Shas/UTJ banded together with practical ideas that can be implemented into the IDF for Charedim and make this part of their Coalition demands then a change could/would/WILL be made.
Natan knows that none of us can claim to know every Medrash. The need for all three was first expressed by our forefather Yaakov in his dealings with Esav — he prayed, he sent gifts, and he prepared for war. Ma’aseh Avos Siman L’Banim, the actions of the fathers are signposts for the children, and in (almost) every war it was required to have an offer of peace to those willing to observe the Seven Commandments of Noah, along with learning/prayer and combat.
There is an excellent article on this subject in the archives of Ohr Somayach’s “Ask the Rabbi” service:
I have also seen it written that during Yehoshua’s conquest of E.Y., the ultimate milchemes mitzvah, the entirety of Yissachar and Levi were exempted along with those dedicated to Torah study, but I didn’t see a reference to a primary source for that.
cvmay, why ignore past history and present politics to place the blame upon the charedi parties? The IDF has a framework called Nachal Charedi, which it is not expanding and to which it is not keeping its promises. None of the current “share the burden” talk is focused upon making that framework both larger and more acceptable, but rather a simple draft out of the yeshivos. None of the charedi parties have said that they are unwilling to dialog about realistic options for expanding Nachal Charedi and/or other programs; all they have said is that the draft proposals of Bennett and Yesh Atid will not fly.
I think R’ Slifkin and I are getting at the same point. I am well aware of the medrashim but am asking if we see this practically implemented in the Tanach itself or in sifrei halacha. In particular the mechanism for choosing who is allocated to each group, accepting for the moment that the allocation actually occurred in halachic practice.
“Eli, there’s a big difference between Aseh L’cha Rav (from Pirkei Avos, meaning go find yourself a Rabbi whom you trust) as compared to Kol HaYashar B’eynav Yaaseh “everyone doing what is right in his eyes,” a recipe for anarchy. Each person has to find a derech, a way, in Torah, but that doesn’t mean shopping for heterim, for a different Rabbi who will give us the answer we want to hear to each question.”
100% agreed that one should not shop for hetairm! However, knwoing what is “Da’as Torah is impossible with so many opinions aboud. The “Gedolim” are not our “Rav” of Aseh L’cha Rav, as they have no idea who you (or I) are and what you are made of (my second point). That is why you need your OWN Rav.
Perhaps that is one of the Chesronos in our generation (and possibly part of the OTD/divorce issue). People feel the need to run to Eretz Yisroel to ask questions and learn in the MegaYeshivos of Mir & Lakewood, but do not have a Kesher with a Rov who understands them.
[I’m not sure about Mir/Lakewood, but I completely agree on the need for true kesher with a Rav to get Da’as Torah appropriate for the individual. I think your original comment was prone to being misunderstood, and I misunderstood it! — YM]
Of course you must engage in prayer. However, you cannot remotely prove your case from Yaakov’s dealings with Eisav – he did it himself, along with preparing for war!
As for the Midrash cited by Ohr Somayach’s “Ask the Rabbi” – first of all, it says nothing about a third of all men; rather, it was one thousand from each tribe, totaling twelve thousand altogether – a number vastly exceeded by the number of people in yeshivah/kollel today. Second of all, the Midrash is misquoted. The Midrash says nothing about learning Torah; it only mentions prayer. Third, we don’t pasken from Midrashim. Which is presumably why the charedi Gedolim have not decreed that everyone must spend their time in prayer rather than learning Torah. As for your reference to Yissacher and Levi being exempt, I’m pretty sure that it’s a Zohar. Which is also not a sefer halachah (at least, as far as traditional mainstream Litvishe practice is concerned). Furthermore, the idea that Yissacher and Levi didn’t go to fight is directly contradicted by the aforementioned Midrash, which states that they did!
So, I maintain that you cannot call such a thing “the Jewish army specification,” and use it as justification for charedim not serving in the army, when there is no basis for it in either Chumash, Chazal or sifrei halacha that deal with warfare (such as the Mishneh Torah).
Rav Slifkin, I respectfully repeat my earlier question to you. Did you serve in the IDF? If not, why not? I am not trying to be a wiseguy here, I am being sincere. I think it is understandable that people who may not agree with Rabbi Lipman’s and your position on the matter of army service may have a hard time accepting your arguments if you and he did not indeed serve in the IDF, especially in light of your assertion that serving in the IDF is a milchemes mitzvah.
If it makes any difference to you, I have some students at Rutgers who went on to learn in Yeshiva in Israel and some who have served in the IDF.
R’ Meir Goldberg,
IIRC the Ramabam tells us in the introduction to the Shemonah Peraqim, “Accept the truth from whatever source it comes.”
Meir – when I was young enough to be in the IDF, I was in the charedi yeshivah system. Now that I would willingly go if asked, I’m probably too old to be called up. However, my kids are on track to serve, even though it terrifies me. But I’m not sure how any of this is relevant. Either my arguments have merit, or they do not; whether I have served makes no difference. Are the charedi MKs disqualified from defending kollel, seeing as they are in the Knesset?
assuming r menken’s theses are correct , there was overwhelming daas tora of mordechai and his peers ; there was no other sanhedrin or gdolim etc.
of course, today this is not the case . one first has to buy into the idea that the haredi gdolim and theiropinions are binding on klal yisrael.
this of course might be true in theory, but in actuality , it is only daas tora for about 10% of judaism. after all there are whole segments of haredism that aren’t bound by it [satmar, chabad, etc] . none of Dati Leumi or Modern Orthodoxy is bound by it [they either don’t believe in the current type of daas tora , or have their OWN gdolim] .certainly non-O and secular jews don’t acknowledge either the concept or the leadership. so in fact 90% of israeli society is being asked to foot the burden for opinions they dont buy into…
it would be as if the jews of Persia , only 10% listened to the Mordechaic Moetzes ; that there was a second parrallel Jewish leadership, that afforded the same [non] recognition to mordechai that he gave them ; and then the vast majority of jews were’t religious at all and looked to no rabbi for guidance…..
The sources from the gemara for an exemption from army service even in milchemes mitzva because of toroso u’mnoso are found in R’ Waldenbergs Hilchos Medina (i think in the second chelek). It’s freeley available from hebrewbooks.org.
I would appreciate if Rabbi Menken would elaborate on his comments about the failure of the IDF to live up to its commitments to Nachal Chareidi [now known as Netzach Yehudah]. My son recently finished three years of service in Netzach and his experience was very positive. Yes, there are glitches in the system which are inevitable in any governmental organization, but the overwhelming majority of officers and commanders did all that they could and should to make it work. To be dan l’kaf zechut, I would assume that R. Menken is referring to the recent resignation of Rav Babad, the chief IDF rabbi of the air force and the officer in direct command of the Shachar Kachol program.
As I have written countless times on this blog and elsewhere, Nachal Charedi is not really charedi. There are very very few mainstream boys from the yeshiva world who elect to serve in its ranks. It serves primarily as a last resort for boys who are on the fringes of chareidi society, for a not inconsiderable number of children of mitnachalim or graduates of the Mizrachi high schools [referred to as beinishim] who do not want to enlist in hesder because they are looking for a less problematic environment. There are also quite a few American boys. None of the mainstream black yeshivot openly co-operates with the Netzach recruiters even though they know that they have talmidim who should be in the army.
There is talk among the politicians of expanding Netzach to another three brigades, but ask anyone familiar with the IDF structures and they will tell you that it is a logistical nightmare. In addition, Netzach – as a combat unit – cannot fulfill the needs of young chareidi men who are not suitable for combat. In other units personnel whose physical profiles are not high enough to enter a combat unit are first vetted to tank and artillery units where the physical demands are lower. If their profiles are not high enough for that they are sent to support units – jobnikim in the IDF parlance. All of these non-combat units would be problematic for chareidim unwilling to make the compromises that hesder bochurim are instructed by their rabbanim to make and, for example, to create pure chareidi tank units, while possible, would take great effort and great expense. As an aside, I can just imagine the first group of Breslover tankists dancing on the turrets with music blasting.
Eliyahu, thanks for that reference. R. Waldenberg’s sources from the Gemara and Rambam can certainly be debated; in fact he himself acknowledges that he is disputing other interpretations of these sugyas (and certainly no scholar of Rambam would agree that he was of such a view). Interestingly, in the introduction from R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, he admits that others have shown from Chazal that those learning Torah still have to serve in the army, but claims that Chazal’s description is no longer applicable, due to the decline in spiritual stature.
(Also, I didn’t see either of them claim that a third of the people are supposed to be in yeshivah rather than go to the army.)
“Are the charedi MKs disqualified from defending kollel, seeing as they are in the Knesset?”
This is an interesting issue to pursue, as Rav Dahan of Bayit HaYehudi stated “I studied in yeshiva for more years than [Shas leaders] Arye Deri, Eli Yishai and Ariel Attias combined, so to say that the Torah world isn’t important to us is not appropriate.”
R’ Dovid Landesman would have to ask Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, whom R’ Yonason Rosenblum describes as one of the founders of Nachal Charedi, to elaborate. While it is true that Rav Moshe Ravad, Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Air Force, left the Shahar project because he, too, felt the IDF was failing to fulfill its commitments, he is apparently not alone in his sentiments. When (at least) two of the leading rabbis involved with efforts to integrate Charedim into the army both step away, and both say the IDF cannot be trusted to fill its commitments to religious soldiers, that sounds like a wee bit more than a “glitch.”
But as for the larger point, I think Rabbi Landesman has it completely right. A vastly increased charedi presence, especially from sincere young men not on the fringe and not tempted to compromise their religious upbringing, would indeed create a “logistical nightmare.” The whole thing is a combination of simple politics and a desire to reduce the number of full-time Torah scholars — what would truly be best for the IDF and the Jewish nation being thrown by the wayside in the process.
“The whole thing is a combination of simple politics and a desire to reduce the number of full-time Torah scholars”
I would rephrase that to “reduce the number of government supported full-time Torah scholars”. If UTJ really wants to cause the call against them to fall apart, they can (and should) propose that anyone who remains learning is allowed to do so (or who needs to work without going to the army), provided that they get no (or very minimal if they are working & paying taxes) government benefits other than minimal social security. That would be “sharing the burden”, as they are not causing any burden to Israeli society by simply existing, and Aderaba, bring in much money from tourism and american bochrim.
I wonder why this has not yet already been proposed by the parties of Rav Shteinman and Rav Yosef. It would certainly close the mouths of all the “social justice” protesters.
“The whole thing is a combination of simple politics and a desire to reduce the number of full-time Torah scholars.”
Come on, that’s not very charitable. Is there really no other reason behind it? How about the fact that many people feel it is unfair that they and their children have to bear this difficult burden, while charedim avoid it? Is it so inconceivable that people would resent such a thing, and that it creates intense social strain and resentment? Is that any different from Moshe Rabbeinu’s statement, “Should your brothers go to fight while you sit here?”
with all the logistical and spiritual nightmares , one can’t take away the feeeling of hareilim that their spiritual lives are in jeopardy ; yet non-haredi israeli’s are feeling that there is an unequal bearing of the burdens.
what the hareili communities could theoretically offer could be a withdrawal from both the chovot and zchuyot sides of the equation— ie no army , no govt interference in their life, in return for markedly [or maybe total ] financial support from the State [ the way things were pre-Begin]. after all , one can’t be called a ‘parasite’ if one is not taking anything …. unfortunately , the financial dependence that 30 yr at the public trough has created would make such an offer unimaginable…
Rav Slifkin, you argued that Yaakov preparation for war supports your argument. However the Ramban (intro to Vayishlach) states clearly that Yaakov’s intention was “to run away and be saved.” This isn’t homiletics, it is the simple meaning of Gen 32:9 “”If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape.” It is also the understanding of Talmud Sanhedrin 39 which uses this as a source for Ovadiah hiding prophets in two camps from Achav. If Yaakov wanted war why would he split his camp? They should all be used in war.
You argued that the Midrash that R’ Menken quoted regarding 12000 warriors and 12000 engaged in spiritual pursuits is vastly exceeded by those in Kollel today. However, the midrash is less interested in showing how many were set aside for war/spiritual pursuits and more interested in showing the ratio of 1 warrior to 1 engaged in spiritual pursuit.
You stated that we don’t pasken from a midrash and furthermore that this midrash states that Levi did indeed fight, but the Sifri quoted by Rashi Numbers 32:4 states “from all the tribes: including the tribe of Levi. — [Sifrei Mattos 35]” We see that normally Levi doesn’t fight in war, only in the war with Midian, there was a special command in the Posuk for them to fight (maybe because Midian spiritually accosted Levi as well). We wouldn’t need a special posuk to include Levi in the Midian war if Levi always fought.
In fact this is a halacha, not based on a midrash or Zohar as you stated, but it is an explicit Rambam at the end of Laws of Shmittah/Yovelos where he states that Levi does not go to war and in the next halacha includes people dedicated to Torah study. Now you may claim that this Rambam only applies to non milchemes mitzvah, but for a milchemes mitzvah everyone fights (Rambam Melachim 7:4) but then why don’t you volunteer for the IDF even if you are above the standard draft age? It is a milchemes Mitzvah. Why wait to be asked by the IDF?
My point here is not to attack you or put you on the defensive and I apologize if I sound rude or offensive – this is not my intention. I understand both sides of this issue. But it very much matters to me that you have not served and this is most definitely not a case of “accepting truth from any source,” because you and R’ Lipman have chosen to loudly and very publicly lambaste the charedim (in international newspapers and media) on this issue. If you are taking such a public and vociferous stance, it would behoove you to at least do yourself what you are demanding of others.
I could accept the Chareidi argument that they are part of the Israeli army(the learning part)if they said a “Mi Sheberach for Tzhal”.
Great debate in the comment section. The present situation is the product of an ad hoc decision made by David Ben Gurion in 1948-9 when he was told that there were no other full time learners left in the entire world. I downloaded his letter of 1958 to Rav Herzog where he specifically says this. At the time, all he asked was that all bnai yeshiva get 3 months basic training and even that wasn’t accepted. Menachem Begin greatly increased support for the chareidi world.Yehuda Avner told me in a phone interview the other week that in the early days of the State, what we call Chareidim were not reckoned, they hardly existed and were of no significance. The term wasn’t even used. This whole Balagan is based on the Law of Enforseen Consequences and it is harder to change than for the Congress to reform Social Security and Medicare.
The only question now is whether Netanyahu will form a short lived coalition excluding Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi which will lead to new elections and a new Prime Minister named Yair Lapid. That is what all the polls show. If I were on the Chareidi negotiating team, I would rush to make a deal with the present Prime Minister before it is too late. As Yair said in his address to the Knesset, “Tden percentg of the country cannot fight a civil war against ninty percent of the country”.
Meir Goldberg – Do you really think that this Midrash about what happened with Midian is a source for a practical, real-life halachic ruling that for every soldier, there needs to be one person in full-time learning?
Rambam most certainly did not include “anyone who wants to learn Torah” as being exempt from war. He says nothing at all about any exemption from battle. And the example he brings of someone emulating Levi is David HaMelech, who did engage in battle!
And again, I still don’t see the relevance of my not being in the IDF. Let’s say that I’m a coward. Or a hypocrite. How does that affect the arguments that I present? Does the fact that I am sending my sons to the IDF suddenly give validity to my arguments that other people should do the same? If you are not in full-time learning, does that automatically invalidate your own arguments?
A litmus test for the intellectual honesty of the Chareidi argument and its adherence to the supremacy of Torah study might be as follows:
Let’s say that someone proposed a Yissachar-Zevulun relationship to a Chareidi. One of the many Chareidim who are objectively not cut out for learning would be asked to engage in (Glatt Kosher) national service for 1 year–in exchange for a high potential Hesder bochur to be able to learn in his Yeshiva for a year longer, thus reducing his IDF service by the amount of time.
R’ Slifkin, I never once stated a position regarding the current situation of the IDF and Charedim serving. As I stated, I can understand each side, thus I have refrained from expressing my opinion. I am merely pointing out that the sources from Chazal that you bring to support your position, in fact contradict your position. I merely brought the Midrash to bring out a point, not to decide practical Halacha. Allow me further to quote the Rambam which does not support your position
Laws of Shmittah and Yovel Halacha 12
Why did the Levites not receive a portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael and in the spoils of war like their brethren? Because they were set aside to serve God and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments, as [Deuteronomy 33:10] states:25 “They will teach Your judgments to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel.” Therefore they were set apart from the ways of the world. They do not wage war like the remainder of the Jewish people, nor do they receive an inheritance, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power. Instead, they are God’s legion, as [ibid.:11]: states: “God has blessed His legion” and He provides for them, as [Numbers 18:20] states: “I am your portion and your inheritance.”
Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him and minister to Him and to know God, proceeding justly as God made him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies.28 God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.29 And thus David declared [Psalms 16:5]: “God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot.”
Meir, I’m glad that you recognize that one cannot pasken from this Midrash. Also, regarding the Midrash, please note that (a) it is talking about prayer, not learning, and (b) as Netziv points out, these people were sent to the front lines to pray!
Regarding the Rambam – what does that have to do with anything? In Halacha 13, he is talking about people (not just Jews) choosing to dedicate themselves to philosophy. It doesn’t mean that they are exempt from military obligations – nor that they are entitled to being financially supported by others. And, as I pointed out, he refers to David Hamelech, who did engage in battle. (All this is clear from Rambam’s overall position as expressed in many other places).
R’ Slifkin, I’m not sure your point about praying on the front lines in relevant since there are no current front lines.
The Rambam says in Halacha 12 that, among other things, Levi did not go to war, and then continues in Halacha 13 that these rules which apply to Levi apply to anyone who is in a similar position. I.e. Sets his life aside for knowledge of G-d (He seems to be referring to Torah study here) So it is pretty clear that Rambam is extending the war exemption given to Levi, to anyone who takes on that role, i.e. people devoted to Torah.