Principle or Pragmatism?
I was on Israel English-language TV last week debating the army draft issue with Yochanan Plessner, the head of the government committee established to make recommendations on the issue in the last Knesset. The moderator began by asking me: “More and more Israelis are asking themselves whether it’s fair that young men like Yochanan Plessner [who served in an elite combat division] should go off at the age of eighteen, risk their lives, endure great hardship, in order to defend us – all of us – while at the same time eighteen year old yeshiva students are exempted from that burden. Rabbi Rosenblum, is that fair?”
I have heard chareidi debaters counter this argument: Well, is it fair that we have to do all the Torah learning for the country?
It’s safe to say that argument has never convinced a single non-chareidi. Not just because of the emotional response – How many yeshiva bochurim are killed in the tents of Torah? – but because it misses a fundamental distinction: Yeshiva bochurim are doing what they most want to do. IDF recruits are acting under legal compulsion
The argument of “equality of burdens,” in short, cannot be easily dismissed, on either an intellectual or emotional level. Equality before the law is an important societal value.
YET, IRONICALLY, THE MORE the argument turns on matters of high principle, vociferously expressed, the more the Torah world hears a desire to “break” the chareidi world. For if equality of service – i.e., submission to the dictates of the State – is the key, then it makes no difference whether the IDF needs chareidi soldiers or is prepared to accommodate their religious needs. The crucial point is that chareidi 18-year-olds close their Gemaros and do some task upon orders of the State.
That goal is exposed every time someone says, “We understand why chareidim can’t go into the army, but why can’t you do some form of national service?” In fact, most of the national service programs are make-work of little value. Closing one’s Gemara to perform make-work to satisfy a government quota is a much bigger bizayon haTorah than service in a combat unit.
Those most insistently brandishing the banner of “equality of service” have said little about the nitty-gritty of programs to be created for chareidi soldiers or how the army will accommodate their religious needs. Nor has the IDF had much to say about its manpower needs. Because those issues are irrelevant if the primary goal is forcing the chareidi community to submit to the authority of the State.
Those same questions would be crucial if the debate were a practical one, as Prime Minister Netanyahu prefers – e.g., How can increased chareidi participation in the IDF be achieved?
Chareidim will never agree that the laws of the State take precedence over those of G-d. Indeed, I cannot see how any religious person, no matter what his religion, could ever agree to that proposition.Nor will chareidi parents willingly agree to their sons entering the army in frameworks that are incompatible with halacha or in which the danger of not remaining religious are great. A prominent national religious rosh yeshiva recently stated that the importance of the mitzvah of army service overrides the fact that many soldiers from national religious homes – minimally 20% and likely over twice that – do not remain religious. That view finds no echoes in the chareidi community.
The IDF has shown little interest in religiously accommodating large numbers of chareidi recruits. At present, the number of young men from chareidi homes seeking to enlist is greater than the IDF’s ability to integrate them. The IDF has consistently resisted efforts to expand Nahal Haredi by adding new units, and is turning away potential recruits.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, one of the founders of the Nahal Haredi, told HaModia last week that the IDF has proven unwilling or incapable of living up to commitments to chareidi recruits. For instance, a new elite frogmen unit for chareidi recruits had to be closed very shortly after opening because the IDF did not keep its promises. He also said that the level of kashrus in IDF kitchens is rapidly declining.
AS LONG AS THE SOCIETAL DEBATE remains at the level of high principle, there is no hope of resolution. Worse, trends that benefit both the IDF and the chareidi community may well be reversed. Nahal Haredi has proven to be of great benefit to many young men from chareidi homes who never found themselves within the mainstream yeshiva system. There are others who for whatever reason feel little satisfaction with the rigors of the full yeshiva schedule, and who could theoretically benefit from frameworks that would include both learning and some form of service and training, under the same requirements as Nahal Haredi.
Modern warfare is fought as much on the computer as on the battle front, and the greatest current manpower needs of the IDF are in technical areas..In these areas, those who will stay in the armed services for a long time period are much preferred to draftees, who generally leave after three years. The success of the various Shachar programs, in which chareidi (mostly) married men receive training in technical fields, have demonstrated two things: First, chareidi married men who need to support their families could prove to be the solution to some of the army’s most critical manpower needs. Second, the IDF is potentially an ideal employer for chareidim because of its willingness to provide on-the-job training and environments in many respects more suitable than the private sector. The Shachar units have had some of the highest re-enlistment rates in the IDF, and chareidi recruits with whom I have spoken have expressed a high level of satisfaction.
But if the government declares all-out ideological war on the chareidi world and insists on the draft of 18-year-old yeshiva students, then all the trends towards greater chareidi participation in the IDF, and in the private economy as well, will likely be reversed. Participation in the IDF will then be viewed as submission to a government decree against the citadels of Torah.
This article first appeared in Mishpacha.
“For if equality of service – i.e., submission to the dictates of the State…”
This is the crucial sentence on which the article rests. And it makes no sense. People seeking equality of service are not motivated by a desire for universal submission to the authority of the State, with some sort of Zionist-political-anti-charedi ideology. They are motivated by a simple sense of fairness (which is why national service is indeed proposed as a substitute, albeit a second-rate one). Going to the army, and certainly sending your kids to the army, is an enormous burden. Why should one entire community be exempt? Moshe Rabbeinu made the same argument: “Should your brothers go to fight, and you stay here?” It is a simple argument of fairness.
All this talk about “sharing the burden” — charedim serving in the IDF — is a red herring.
Non-Charedi Israel’s “issue” with the charedim is $$$, it is NOT the charedi refusal to serve in the IDF.
Charedim say “we are in yeshiva, so we don’t have to go to the army”. The truth is “they are in yeshiva in order to avoid the army”. But they can’t say that.
Short-sighted Israeli politicians created this mess by tying employment to IDF service. Since charedim can’t serve in the IDF, they can’t hold a job… If they leave yeshiva, they get drafted into the IDF. They are trapped in yeshiva…living off government handouts.
If not for the threat of the army, the Beis Midrashes would empty out & charedim would join the workforce – just like in the shtetels of Eastern Europe, Lita, the U.S., the U.K., Canada…
The solution is to 1)ABOLISH THE DRAFT — and let them join the workforce. 2) Cut off all funding for religious institutions. Cut off all their welfare and subsidies — the monthly welfare checks, the child allowances, the 90% arnona reductions, all the freebies and handouts…
Forget about “sharing the burden”. Just cut off their welfare and subsidies & let them do whatever they want to do. All charedim are free to learn in yeshiva/kollel for as long as they like … but on their own cheshbon. If they wish to join the workforce, that is also fine. Charedim, the choice is yours…
Rabbi Rosenblum, you make some valid points. However, my feeling is that the charedim just do not want the status quo to change -regardless of whether the IDF moves to accommodate their needs. They are large enough numbers-wise to force the IDF to accommodate their needs if they really wanted, but this is not what they want. If they did, they would protest in the same way that they vigorously protest threats to cut yeshiva funding. In reality I think what they want is to continue a way of life that completely shields them from any outside influences, but, as a consequence, places a huge unbearable burden (both from a national service and economic point of view) on the rest of society.
I would also have to argue with the “distinction” that Rabbi Rosenblum makes right at the start: “Yeshiva bochurim are doing what they most want to do. IDF recruits are acting under legal compulsion.”
We all know that not all bochurim in yeshiva are doing what they most want to do. At least some are there due to social and family compulsions that are at least as strong as the legal compulsion referred to. So long as the “gedolim” cannot or will not provide the emotional/social safety net their approval (even tacit) of service would afford, then dozens, if not hundreds, of willing boys will remain trapped.
Moreover, frameworks aside from Nahal Haredi already exist — any haredi teen who wants to learn and serve can enroll in a hesder yeshiva, where groups of guys, when they go into the army, serve together. OK, it would probably be better for a small group of such haredi “rebels” to do this together so they have a supportive hevra, but I highly doubt that any hesder yeshiva would turn them away.
Or better yet, let some visionary haredi rosh yeshiva start a haredi hesder program. I can’t imagine any of the official elements who would have to approve this would put up any obstacles — in fact, it could force the army to address haredi needs on a limited but practical basis.
Part of the problem with the Nahal Haredi units is that as it turned out, a large number of those recruits are not Haredi at all, but dati-leumi boys who prefer a no-women framework. I know that for a fact, because two of my sons served there, and both came from yeshiva high schools, not yeshivot ketanot. That may be one of the reasons the IDF is reluctant to expand it.
I believe a point being missed is the lack of Hakarat Hatov for those that do serve in the IDF by the charaidi world. It was not always this way. There are stories of how Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz told talmidim to give up their seats on the bus for soldiers out of Hakoras Hatov and that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach said that going to IDF military cemeteries is visiting kivrei Tzadikim.
This gratitude should extend beyond any political identifications or labels. If a Charaidi yeshiva or Shtiebal does not want to say the tefilah for the medinah that is understandable, but not to say a tefilah for Jewish Soldiers who serve in a Jewish army who protect the Jewish people demonstrates a lack of appreciation. And if not a tefillah, some symbol of gratitude. Let us remember that while some volunteer to serve the vast majority are drafted.
To those who say that chilonim do not appreciate the commitment of those who dedicate their lives to learning- we have to remember that many secular Jews do not yet have an appreciation of how powerful a tool learning is. It is the equivalent of shoving bitter medicine down a child’s throat and yelling at him that is is good for him. All the child understands is that the parent is making him swallow something he doesn’t like and it is only through genuine love and concern demonstrated by the parent that child will appreciate that it was for his own good.
It sometimes seems to me that there are more “founders” of Nahal Haredi than there are members. That’s a joke, of course, but R’ Yoel Schwartz can say one thing; R’ Dovid Bloch can say another. I know you don’t post links, but anyone can find his devastating rejoinder.
“Well, is it fair that we have to do all the Torah learning for the country?”
And there is the problem in a nutshell. What, the million or so religious Jews who *do* learn and *do* serve in the IDF don’t count? Their learning doesn’t count? They can’t serve as an example to both charedim and secular Jews? And why davka should someone be exempt (if anyone should) because of the way he dresses and his specific religious ideology?
“Chareidim will never agree that the laws of the State take precedence over those of G-d.”
Well, of course not. But no one argues that they do; nor does anyone really have to choose. And, it should be stressed, the laws of a state- any state- *are* part of the laws of God. Following the laws of the country in which one lives is a basic halakhah. This is true of the United States; it was true of Czarist Russia; kal v’chomer ben beno shel kal v’chomer when it’s a Jewish state that takes halakha into account. And even more so when it’s for an actual mitzvah like fighting a milchemet mitzvah, as opposed to violating that mitzvah by *not* serving.
1) it’s about more than army service; there are other avenues through which to serve.
2) were it even accurate, the argument about deteriorating religious observance in the military is related to who serves. those who serve via hesder are better equipped to opine.
3) all this pales in relation to the battle over the core curriculum; the current state of affairs is more detrimental to both the state of Israel and chareidim than the lack of IDF service.
Could there be some type of National Guard arrangement whereby Chareidi soldiers would assume defense and security responsibilities primarily within their own areas, and train locally?
I find it very interesting to learn that the army hasn’t come up with enough Nachal Chareidi units to meet the demand. If that is indeed true, what exactly would the army plan to do if thousands of new Chareidim were drafted tomorrow.
On the other hand, if this proves that the army isn’t interested in absorbing chareidim, why all the resistance? Let them draft all the chareidim and they won’t serve anyhow, just like the others who tried to join Nachal Chareidi but were declined for lack of space.
Rabbi Rosenbloom – Great article! However it is unfortunate that the Chareidi politicians allowed this issue to be hijacked by the likes of Yesh Atid. The Chareidi world itself must provide creative solutions for the many Chareidim who are not able to learn full time and provide the ability for those Chareidim who should be serving and earning a livable wage.
Natan Slifkind – Moshe Rabeinu’s army fought against the promiscuity of Midian and the sinfullness of idolatry. It did not enable or promote such behavior in its ranks. Your analogy to the secular IDF is therefore highly irrelevant.
You cannot complain about unequal sharing of the burden when talking about the fact that charedim have historically not served in the army – by historically, I mean until the recent Bagatz decision overturning the Tal law. When the elected legislature of a country decides that certain people will be exempted from army service, and those people then do not serve, they are not usually to be blamed. For example, if a country has a dire shortage of doctors and passes a law exempting all medical students from conscription, would anyone consider a medical student immoral or unethical for failing to serve?
Of course, if the law remained in place long after the need for doctors had declined, and the exemption was taken advantage of as a loophole, then some moral deficiency might attach to those entering medical school in order to avoid the draft. However, the charedim believe that there is never enough Torah – the more people learning for the longer, the better. Until recently, the law apparently valued Torah learning sufficiently to exempt those engaged in it from conscription. If so, why are the charedim to be blamed for taking advantage of a law which recognised the value of learning Torah by learning Torah?
If there is any criticism, let it be of the law, not of the charedim. Of course, it might well be the rotten Israeli electoral system which enabled successive charedi political parties to influence the legislation for the exemption and have it enshrined in law, but then lay the blame with the rest of Israeli society for not either getting together and preventing the enactment of a law which they disagreed with, or campaign for electoral reform to end the disproportionate power it gives to minority groups. And ask yourself again – if there was a law which granted an exemption from service for medical students and your son wanted to become a doctor, would you think him morally degenerate for going to medical school instead of the army?
R. Rosenblum is the model of reasoned discourse. Someone for all writers, on this site and others, to learn from. As he shows, conceding a losing argument with grace does not mean one cannot still vigorously defend or propose others.
In this case, R. Rosenblum writes that the army has shown little interest in accommodating the needs of Charedim. But that just begs the issue. At some point one has to decide what is a real “need”, and what is just a hidur that works in the luxury of home, but not for a soldier in the field. Many Charedim, particaurly the chassidishe ones, would like to go the mikvah every day. Should the army accomodate that need by building mikvaos wherever they’re deployed?
This is a hard issue to tackle, because it gets to the nub of the “mishnabrurah-ization” of contemporary charedi life. What are the real requirements of (e.g.) kashrus, and what is just minhag or chumrah? Stated otherwise, what is ikkar tefillah, and what is “just” pesukei dezimrah? For fear of the slippery slope we have elevated entire swathes of minhagim and derabbanans as though they were dinei deorissa upon which the entire religion teetered. This was well-intentioned, but who knows if the massess of orthodox-raised children are not leaving the fold precisely because of the absence of any distinction between fundamental and frill? There are many who dont want or cannot abide by the full rigours of what is asked of contemporary orthodox men: daven three times a day with a minyan, check every piece of clothing for shatnez, dont even have salads or coffee at business lunches, AND learn at night, with your kids too, and by the way, dont ever go to a movie or play . . . . (To say nothing of what we ask of the women, a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) I’m not here to say what is or what isn’t fundamental, and what is really only icing on the cake. That’s a tough question which I thankfully do not have to answer, and everyone will have different answers anyway. But a lot of those who have left the path might have stayed on it if we as a society showed we understood better the distinctions mentioned above.
At any rate, to return to the point, in a real life army, some things have to be sacrificed. It’s the Charedim, not the army, that has shown little interest in accomodating the needs of the other.
I’d like to see a complete Chareidi vision/model complete with fine detail, as to how this State should operate for all its citizens prior to the Mashiach’s arrival.
One of the falacies of your argument is that the current chareidi life style inm which the overwhelming majority of men are expected to learn full time is in fact in line with the Torah. This has no precedent in Jewish history and as far as I know was never advocated by any gadol before WWII. The non-Chareidi world simply does not find the Charadei claims that their life style is demanded by the Torah is credible.
Rabbi Rosenblum, when you say that a prominent NR rabbi claimed that the importance of serving in the army overrides the fact that 20% of soldiers from NR homes become irreligious, I am not 100% sure which rabbi you are referring to. If however you are referring to Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, that is not exactly what he said. He said that ‘in principle, the National-Religious community rightly chose to continue serving in the army, because it is a great mitzvah to defend the nation and the land’ however ‘this decision was accompanied by catastrophic errors and that the fact that approximately twenty percent abandon the religion is a ‘terrible price to pay’. Nowhere does he say that the mitzvah to serve overrides the fact that 20% become irreligious. Rather, he says that it’s a great mitzvah to serve in the army but that the NR community made bad mistakes when it agreed to compromise on certain issues.
“… the fact that many soldiers from national religious homes – minimally 20% and likely over twice that – do not remain religious.”
What is the source of this data and how was the study that arrived at this astounding conclusion designed?
With regard to immediate compulsory conscription whether to the army or even
to sherut le’umi, I agree with Rabbi Rosenblum. To the extent that the dictates
of the state are opposed to Torah, of course there should be a declaration of
מי לה’ אלי. But I really do not see the evidence that these are the battle lines-
the Medina vs. the Torah. Yes, some portion of the secular population wants
to just stick it to the charedim. But is it so hard to understand that for
many or even for most secular (who do not really appreciate what Torah study is)
the issue comes down to one of fairness? How come there is so much talk of
averting evil gezeiros like this is conscription in Tsarist Russia? Do people
really believe that the harbatzas Torah that we have been zoche to in the last
decades came despite the Medina, rather than being promoted by it?
C. Kanoiy – I wasn’t comparing Moshe’s army to the IDF. I was pointing out that Moshe’s argument against those who refuse to serve is based on the concept of fairness, which is equally applicable today. The alleged differences from the IDF are irrelevant.
Having learned in a Yeshivat Hesder, please allow me to state that Chareidim do not do all of the Torah learning for the Country.
I think that if Jonathan Rosenblum and others who think like him were part of the committee, a reasonable solution could be arrived at.Unfortunaley, the Israeli mentality is confrontational . I once asked a prominent doctor why there are strikes by the doctors and he answered that nobody pays attention to them unless they go on strike. Why do they close the airports with strikes Erev Yom Tov, to get attention .This attitude is abundant in the issue of Chareidim joining the work force and the army. As long as the attitude is the Rebbes will sit in jail if one batlan who is not even attending the sedarim is drafted, then no solution is possible. If the Rebbes and the Roshei Yeshiva would work with the rest of the country, I have no doubt a fair solution could be found. I do not think that what Yesh Atid is asking for is a minority opinion, it is the desire of the overwhelming majority of the country. Half of the children born are either Arab or Charedi, how can the state function if half of the population in the next generation is not participating fully in all aspects of the economy? It is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh to solve this issue, not to dig in one’s heals and fight to the end.
Since my son is in Netzach Yehuda, I get daily emails about the situation. They do need more soldiers.There is an incipient Intifada and it isn’t fair that my son risks his life and someone else can choose to sit it out just because he is registered in a yeshiva with no tests, no goals , nothing but a life of learning whether he wants to or not. My son learned in yeshivos, he is frum, the army hasn’t harmed his emunah, he hasn’t been exposed to immoral behavior, none of this instructors or officers is female (that is a whole other issue). If he can do it,your son can and should also.
Moshe’s comments were directed toward Reuven and Gad, NOT Levi. The next passuk is כה עשו אבותיכם בשלחי אותם מקדש ברנע. Discouraging people from aliyah was the problem.
Yissachar refused to send of its tribe to the army during the entire period of the Shoftim, claiming exemption as learners. See Haamek Davar to Bereishis 49:14-15. Instead, they paid higher taxes and did stints of Sherut Leumi. During active warfare, Yissachar’s job was to study Torah near the battlefield; see Haamek Davar Devarim 33:18. Eventually, one branch of the tribe, Tola ben Yissachar’s branch was inducted by David HaMelech and served with distinction. Levi was never drafted at all. There is never any hint of criticism of Yissachar or Levi. It was understood that growth in Torah precluded army service; if they were to be inducted they would have to leave the country; see Haamek Davar Bereishis ibid. to וירא מנוחה כי טוב ואת הארץ כי נעמה
Torah study is THE protector of the Jewish people in war; see Netziv, She’ar Yisrael, 11 –
דכמו שיש הרבה מיני כלי זין
והראש והמובחר שבהם הוא החרב, כך יש הרבה זכויות שגורמות להצליח את ישראל, אבל כלי זיין המיחחד לישראל הוא עסק התורה שנמשל לחרב
And toward the end:
וככה יש בכל דור שני אופני עמלי תורה, יש אשר האב ישתדל ללמד את בנו תורה וכל מחסוריו עליו בשמחה, ויש נזונים בנדבת אחרים הרוצים לזכות גם הם בתלמוד תורה, ואמר המשורר כי הקב”ה ייסד עוז התורה ע”י שני אופני עמלי תורה אלו, למען צורריך, שהם צוררי ישראל, להשבית אויב ומתנקם… ועל כל אלה יסד הקב”ה עז התורה ומלחמתה בעיון ובעמל, כדי שבזכות זה נהיה נצולים מצוררין ואויבים ומתנקמים. ואין לך כבוד והאדרת שם בארץ כמו מזה אשר על ידי הגיון התורה והעמל בה בזה האופן ניצולים מכל אדם רע
עתיד הקב”ה לעשות ז’ חופות לכל צדיק וצדיק… עשן בחופה למה, שכל מי שעיניו צרות בתלמיד חכם בעולם הזה מתמלאות עיניו עשן בעולם הבא (בבא בתרא עה) ועל כרחך אין הפירוש עיניו צרות שאינו מספיק לתלמיד חכם, דאם כן אינו בחופה של תלמיד חכם כלל, אלא מיירי שהוא מחזיק תלמיד חכם ורק זאת אם יהיו עיניו צרות בזה שהוא מפזר את כספו על אנשים בטלים מדרך ארץ, על כן יהיו עיניו מתמלאות עשן בשעה שיהיה יושב בחופה
Finally, my favorite gotcha quote from the Netziv (Harchev Davar, Shmos 25:20)
והנה רצונו של מלך שכל הראוי למלחמה יהא איש חיל, והמשתמט מזה אע”פ שגם הוא על פי חוקי המלוכה שאינו מחויב להיות איש חיל, מכל מקום אין זה עיקר רצונו של מלך
כך רצון ה’ שיהיו כל ישראל הראויים לעמל תורה יהיו בני תורה, והמשתמט מזה אע”ג שיש לו טעמים המביאים אותו לכך, בכך זאת אינו עושה רצונו של מקום מיקרי
So, yes, from the standpoint of the Medinah, the “mishtamtim” are those who don’t go to the army, and from the stanspoint of the Ribbono Shel Olam, the “mishtamtim” are those who don’t go to learn.
1. first haredim need to pray for ANY government to form soon. polls show Yesh Atid would have >30 seats if the vote is today, so new elections would be like Paroh’s double dream– the Famine will come that much faster
2. as the left [and all pro-palestinians in the world] rue the victory of Begin 30+ yrs ago, for the territorial implication, haredim should actually make that date a fast day—- the money and power grab that ensued since then so transformed hareili life into this society , that is rife with problems within and without– it has turned into a financial-dependency , and expects hiloni society to remain the enabler .
3.while comment no2 [jerusalem] may speak the truth , we can’t expect eg , hareili society to opt for non-citizenship with neither responsibilities nor rights. it might be the most fair, but like most other interest groups, they too want their [others’] cake and eat it too…
L Oberstein notes–
My son learned in yeshivos, he is frum, the army hasn’t harmed his emunah, he hasn’t been exposed to immoral behavior, none of this instructors or officers is female (that is a whole other issue). If he can do it,your son can and should also.
—–why would anyone think that a haredi boy could resist the temptations that army life would present? much smaller issues [ colored shirts, phones, internet etc ] are seen as the challenge they are for haredi youth. there is no reason to think that young hareilim have the moral strength/convictions of character to survive in a hostile environment- daas tora essentially admits this….
Natan Slifkin – Moshe Rabeinu’s argument for fairness of service must be taken in context of the purpose and meaning of that service. The service he promoted was service of G-d through battle, that is part of the essence of his argument and is not merely incidental to it. To isolate the fairness and equality part of the argument and then apply it to all types of military causes and interventions would be misleading and wrong.
Furthermore you write that the differences between the IDF and the Army of Moshe are only alleged(bolded). Do you really believe that the differences between the religious army of Moshe and the secular IDF are only alleged? Just one example. In this very article Jonathan Rosenbloom writes “A prominent national religious rosh yeshiva recently stated that the importance of the mitzvah of army service overrides the fact that many soldiers from national religious homes – minimally 20% and likely over twice that – do not remain religious” I don’t believe that anyone claims that the Army of Moshe suffered from the same attrition rate.
Edwin Zaghi said it very well.
“I believe a point being missed is the lack of Hakarat Hatov for those that do serve in the IDF by the charaidi world. It was not always this way. There are stories of how Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz told talmidim to give up their seats on the bus for soldiers out of Hakoras Hatov and that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach said that going to IDF military cemeteries is visiting kivrei Tzadikim.”
I would like to add to his comment. The Yeshiva World claims that they are a division in the Jewish (Israeli) army (the learning division). That would ring more true if they davened for the success of the whole army and made a “Mi Shebeirach” for Tzahal. I think the lack of Hakarat Hatov is a major issue. I would also venture to say that the secular man in the street has less resentment to Chabadnickim (even if they don’t serve in the army)because they see that Chabad shows that it cares for Am Yisrael and comes down to the bases to give Chizuk and Hakarat Hatov.
“If there is any criticism, let it be of the law, not of the charedim. Of course, it might well be the rotten Israeli electoral system which enabled successive charedi political parties to influence the legislation for the exemption and have it enshrined in law, but then lay the blame with the rest of Israeli society for not either getting together and preventing the enactment of a law which they disagreed with, or campaign for electoral reform to end the disproportionate power it gives to minority groups.”
This is a valid point. I think it should be noted, however, that changing the law is exactly what Yesh Atid and Beyt Yehudi are trying to do. Yair Lapid made this distinction very clearly the other day, and I think both Lapid and Bennett have been trying to make this distinction all along. The response of the charedi parties, Shas and Yahadut HaTorah, has been to attack Yesh Atid and Beyt Yehudi and to characterize them as hating the charedim and trying to destroy the charedi way of life. It is the charedi parties, and many charedi spokesmen as well, who insist upon characterizing this as a war on the charedim. This is similar to the attitude the charedi parties took several years ago, when the government cut child subsidies, and it is similar to the reaction they had to a recent Israeli Supreme Court decision requiring enforcement of the law requiring schools that receive government subsidies to teach the core curriculum. In short, it is the attitude of the charedi establishment itself that turns every political battle that threatens charedi interests into an us against them “the seculars are out to get the charedim” mini-armagedden.
Binyomin Eckstein, under whose authority has it been decided that charedim- basically self-defined by ideology and dress- are “Levi” in this case and all the “freiers” are the other twelve tribes? Maybe, just maybe, it’s the charedim who are Reuven and Gad and Levi would, under an ideal, consist of learners from across the spectrum? Or maybe “Levi” is, halakhically, actually members of Levi?
Of course, it goes without saying, or should, that many of the most serious learners in Israel, and many Leviim and Kohanim, do, indeed, fight.
Binyomin Eckstein, thank you for sharing those fascinating sources from Netziv! Maybe someone can propose to the government “the Netziv Plan”: that charedim don’t serve in the army, but instead pay higher taxes, do stints of sherut leumi (by the way, I’m not sure where you saw that in the Netziv), and go to learn Torah on the front lines. I think that most non-charedim would accept that as a compromise; but would it be acceptable to charedim?
(In the final quote, I’m not sure that you can equate the Netziv’s reference to an “amal b’Torah” to someone in long-term full-time learning; given how few such people existed in his era, he was probably referring to a regular ba’al habayis who makes sure to devote himself to Torah in his spare time.)
>> Binyomin Eckstein, under whose authority has it been decided that charedim- basically self-defined by ideology and dress- are “Levi” in this case <> Or maybe “Levi” is, halakhically, actually members of Levi? <<
Probably not. When the tribes were in Eretz Yisrael and Levi had no share thereof, he had his set job of serving in the Mikdash and teaching Torah. Nowadays, those who study Torah are the "Leviyim."
See: Yerushalmi, Maaser Sheni 5:3; Rabbeinu Bachye to Shmos 16:4; Netziv cited above, that those who study Torah are the "Ochlei Terumah" of today; Chinuch Mitzvah 450; Chofetz Chaim's Torah Ohr, chapter 11, that nowadays Maaser Kesafim is to be given primarily to those who study Torah, in lieu of Maaser to the Leviyim; and see Teshuvos Binyan Shlomo, 27, regarding gladdening the Levi for Yom Tov (Devarim 16:11), that, in practice nowadays, this means to distribute funds to רבנן ותלמידיהון דעסקין באורייתא.
Natan Slifkin, regarding Sherut Leumi, see Netziv's comment to ויט שכמו לסבול. Regarding who Netziv means, see his opening comments to והיה אם שמוע, and see also, at length, his Harchev Davar commentary to Shmos 40:20.
Important to note is his view that in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash, the sustenance of the Jewish people is granted in the merit of the study of Torah and those who support them. Should one fear for the security and economic stability of the State of Israel in the face of budgetary cuts threatening to cause Yeshivos to fold? According to the Netziv, I'm afraid the answer is a most resounding "yes."
The first part of my comment got cut off. The Charedim don’t say that the Charedim are Levi, they say full time learners are, including non-Charedim in Mercaz or Har Hamor. You can be one as well.
Thanks for the further references, I will check them out. According to the Netziv’s view that “the sustenance of the Jewish people is granted in the merit of the study of Torah and those who support them”, isn’t it odd that it is precisely those who study Torah that experience the greatest hardships vis-a-vis sustenance?
” The Charedim don’t say that the Charedim are Levi, they say full time learners are, including non-Charedim in Mercaz or Har Hamor.”
Maybe you can cite someone who actually says this.
It is the height of hypocracy to invoke the Rambam regarding shevet levi while continuing to take money for learning Torah (something that the Rambam considered a HUGE hillul Hashem). If indeed the chareidim who avoid the Army would lead a life that upholds the Rambam’s standards of “ופרק מעל צוארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר בקשו בני האדם”, then most non-chareidim could probably live with that – especially since the amount who did so would probably be much smaller than the quotas that are being suggested.
Meanwhile, what we have is a situation where people who behave in a fashion that the Rambam considered a hillul Hashem invoking the same Rambam in a questionable manner in order to avoid doing the things that would make the share of the burden more fair. The Rambam links the near monastic lifestyle that he demanded of Torah scholars to all of the special treatement they receive. To apply these special treatement to people who attend morning seder and smoke on R’ Akiva st. the rest of the day is rediculous. The few monastic tzaddikim that live in every generation can come from any community, and most people would not mind if exceptional people get exceptional excemptions. This has nothing to do with a chareidi sociological structure that takes much more than it gives and does not qualify for any of the Rambam’s standards.
> According to the Netziv’s view that “the sustenance of the Jewish people is granted in the merit of the study of Torah and those who support them”, isn’t it odd that it is precisely those who study Torah that experience the greatest hardships vis-a-vis sustenance
תלמוד בבלי מסכת תענית דף כד עמוד ב
אמר רב יהודה אמר רב: בכל יום ויום בת קול יוצאת ואומרת: כל העולם כולו ניזון בשביל חנינא בני וחנינא בני דיו בקב חרובים מערב שבת לערב שבת
> Maybe you can cite someone who actually says this
I have never heard the claim that ALL Charedim are Shevet Levi. Please cite someone one who says that.
Regarding Chardal’s comments:
1) All Religious Zionist Kollelim, in Rambam’s eyes, are one big, massive Chillul Hashem. Close them down first. The fact that some, or even most or all, end up serving in some diminished function in the IDF has nothing to do with it. The fact is:
a) that Rambam himself acknowledged that his own opinion was a minority view,
b) it is one of the few places where the Kesef Mishneh disagrees with him. You would be hard pressed to find any Acharon at all who invokes Rambam in practice,
c) it has nothing to do Torah study per se, but taking money for any Torah function, such as teachers and dayyanim, fails his standards. Shut down the entire Torah education system.
2) Nobody claims that people learning one Seder a day should be exempt based on Shevet Levi status.
3) Have you done or seen a study of how much Charedim give via VAT, plus income tax of working wives, plus that of all the myriad small businesses, teaching, and blue-collar jobs held by men, (remember, there are 60,000 learners, or only about 11%, out of 500,000 plus Charedi voters)contribute to the national coffers, compared to the smaller amount they receive vis-a-vis education, culture, etc.? I would really like to know if they, on balance and in aggregate, receive so much more than they give. Besides, they aren’t driving Ferraris and living high-style lives on the national dime. They are studying Torah, which, according to the aforementioned Netzivs, is the source of blessing for the entire country’s security and sustenance. You might not value that. Most frum people, and quite a few non-frum people, do.
4) The entire Shevet Yissachar claimed exemption and Shevet Levi got an automatic exemption on the grounds of Torah study. That is about 10-15% of the population, not 0.00001%. The burden of proof is on you to show that 10-15% of the country then met whatever superhuman standards you might like to set, and then you must apply them to all Religious Zionist Yeshivot Gevohot.
>All Religious Zionist Kollelim, in Rambam’s eyes, are one big, massive Chillul Hashem. Close them down first. The fact that some, or even most or all, end up serving in some diminished function in the IDF has nothing to do with it.
How about all of them all at once? Yes, being paid for learning is a Chillul Hashem, whether you are RZ or chareidi.
>that Rambam himself acknowledged that his own opinion was a minority view
Indeed, but he is also the only real authority with the “shevet levi” heter. So if I understand you, it is ok to rely on his minority view in order to avoid the Army, but not to make a kiddush Hashem.
>it is one of the few places where the Kesef Mishneh disagrees with him. You would be hard pressed to find any Acharon at all who invokes Rambam in practice,
And even harder pressed to find a maamar chazal, gaon, or fellow rishon who disagreed with him in writing except for in a limited “the Rav is a public servant” capacity. Yes, you have the Rashbatz, but his disagreement with the Rambam is hardly relevant for finding a heter for a kollel lifestyle. In any case, we see with our own eyes that it causes a daily chillul Hashem, whatever the matirim say, reality paskens that this lifestyle causes hatred for the Torah. I know, that most chareidim don’t consider the public opinion of the secular/traditional public to be of any consequence, but when an entire segment of society engages in behavior which the gemara/geonim/rambam say is a terrible chillul Hashem and in fact, we see that people judge it, (based on the basic laws of fairness) to be a negative and parasitic lifestyle, then you have to ask youself if what you are doing is in any way increasing the ratzon Hashem in the world.
>it has nothing to do Torah study per se, but taking money for any Torah function, such as teachers and dayyanim, fails his standards. Shut down the entire Torah education system.
But this is simply not true. The Rambam does not use nearly as strong langauge for someone who gets money for TEACHING:
מקום שנהגו ללמד תורה שבכתב בשכר, מותר ללמד בשכר. אבל תורה שבעל פה, אסור ללמדה בשכר: שנאמר “ראה לימדתי אתכם” (דברים ד,ה)–מה אני בחינם למדתי, אף אתם בחינם למדתם ממני; וכן כשתלמדו לדורות, בחינם כמו שלמדתם ממני. לא מצא מי שילמדו בחינם–ילמוד בשכר, שנאמר “אמת קנה” (משלי כג,כג). יכול, ללמד לאחרים בשכר: תלמוד לומר, “ואל תמכור” (שם)–הא למדת שאסור לו ללמד בשכר, אף על פי שלימדו רבו בשכר.
It is true that it is more ideal not to take money for teaching Torah sheBeAl Peh, but when there is no other way, it does not in any way constitute Chillul Hashem nor does it cheapen the Torah.
>Nobody claims that people learning one Seder a day should be exempt based on Shevet Levi status.
It is constantly brought up as a source for an entire tzibbur being excempt from public service. Are you saying that one seder people are not part of that tzibbur?
>Have you done or seen a study of how much Charedim give via VAT, plus income tax of working wives, plus that of all the myriad small businesses, teaching, and blue-collar jobs held by men, (remember, there are 60,000 learners, or only about 11%, out of 500,000 plus Charedi voters)contribute to the national coffers, compared to the smaller amount they receive vis-a-vis education, culture, etc.? I would really like to know if they, on balance and in aggregate, receive so much more than they give.
There have been several studies (the one three years ago by the Israel Democracy Institute comes to mind), they all show that the chareidi lifestyle is a tremendous burden on the Israel economy.
Besides, they aren’t driving Ferraris and living high-style lives on the national dime. They are studying Torah, which, according to the aforementioned Netzivs, is the source of blessing for the entire country’s security and sustenance. You might not value that. Most frum people, and quite a few non-frum people, do. Its simple realy. what you need to look at is the poverty line. anyone below it is basically taking more than he is giving. Now, every society has poor people and we, of course have a responsibility to take care of them. However, the chareidi world idealizes poverty and has created a structure to guarantee perpetual poverty among its people. This is not fair to the rest of the country who has to flip the bill – with subsidies, tax exemptions, etc. You don’t even need a study, just ride the bus and you will see what percentage of the chareidi population uses subsidized bus passes. Who pays for that? not the VAT the chareidim spend at the makolet. It comes from the 55% tax rate I and people like me pay monthly (BEFORE I start paying VAT).
>The entire Shevet Yissachar claimed exemption and Shevet Levi got an automatic exemption on the grounds of Torah study. That is about 10-15% of the population, not 0.00001%.
Even if that was historically true, which it is not, it has no relevance to our current situation. Don’t expect others to be swayed by drushim and ahistorical claims from cherry-picked sources. Assuming your source for an exemption for Shevet Yissachar is Shoftim 5:14-16, then all we need to do is open up a mikraot gedolot to see that it is not at all so simple:
מצודת דוד (ד”ה “ושרי”):”… ר”ל עם השרים ביששכר ישבו בכל עת עם דבורה ללמד בישראל חק ומשפט.. וירד למלחמה כמוהו”
אלשיך :”.. כי הלא מני מכיר ירדו מחוקקים למלחמה עם היותם תלמידי חכמים, וכן מזבולון משכים בשבט הסופר וכן שרי ביששכר שהם גדולי החכמים היו קדשה עם דבורה, ולא בלבד הלכו למלחמה כי אם שהיו ראשונים לפני ברק” וכו’.
All in all, it goes against basic human ethics that an entire group would embrace poverty and exclude itself from serving with the rest of the nation. The fact that you think that there is magical benefit from the kollel system that it somehow helps the national economy can only work if you accept a whole long list of dogmas that most non-chareidim simply do not accept. Nor can you make any argument based on shared universal reason reason. There is no sevara here, only an insistence that people who do not think like you continue to support a lifestyle with which they (and the classical Jewish sources) disagree. This is not acceptable and can not be allowed to continue. If you want to continue funding a kollel lifestyle, then collect donations among those who agree with such things, don’t use your voting power to force others to give money for such things.
The Gemara in Taanis is making a point about R. Chanina being satisfied with very little. That does not relate to the many thousands of people suffering very real poverty.
Regarding your response to Chardal’s comments – you are correct regarding the aberrant nature of Rambam’s views on this topic. But I doubt that religious Zionist kollelim justify themselves based on Rambam. He was addressing those who claim to justify avoiding military service based on the alleged meaning of Rambam (although any scholar of Rambam will tell you that he meant nothing of the sort), while simultaneously ignoring Rambam’s position on the linked issue of monetary support.
I’m a little unsure of why you invoke Netziv, when according to Netziv the charedim are supposed to be paying more taxes than everyone else and doing sherut leumi!
I expect you to affect your own neighbors first. Petitions, door-knocking, protests in front of Mercaz Harav. You name it. Then move on to Gruss and Kollel Elyon in YU. I happen to follow Mishnah Berurah and R’ Moshe Feinstein who both do not accept Rambam in practice. You are calling Rav Neriyah, Rav Arieli and Rav Waldenberg hypocritical.
>> In any case, we see with our own eyes that it causes a daily chillul Hashem, whatever the matirim say, reality paskens that this lifestyle causes hatred for the Torah. < But this is simply not true.
Yes it is. Your quote is the bland halachic source for the actual prohibition of teaching for pay. I suggest you reread Rambam’s commentary to Avos and get back to me. All – students, teachers, dayyanim, leaders – are lumped in the same category. Only people think, which is NOT what Rambam said, that teachers “give back” to the community and learners don’t. In other words, let’s cut to the chase,
תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף צט עמוד ב
אפיקורוס כגון מאן? – אמר רב יוסף: כגון הני דאמרי מאי אהנו לן רבנן? לדידהו קרו, לדידהו תנו.
רש”י מסכת סנהדרין דף צט עמוד ב
מאי אהני לן – והם אינן יודעין שעולם מתקיים עליהם.
> It is constantly brought up as a source for an entire tzibbur being excempt from public service.
Absolutely false. I challenge you to find anyone who said that all Charedim have automatic Shevet Levi status.
Regarding the economy, I want a full-blown study of cost and benefit, including Israel funnelling many millions of dollars from Chutz LaAretz into its economy, whether via donations, students from abroad, and their families, only because of the Torah citadel it is. I have not seen a truly comprehensive study.
Regarding Yissachar, I quoted the Netziv above. You are right that in active warfare there is some debate if they participated or were near the battle studying Torah. But they were not drafted into the army for any length of time. And Levi is not mentioned at all.
> If you want to continue funding a kollel lifestyle, then collect donations among those who agree with such things, don’t use your voting power to force others to give money for such things.
I assume you feel the same applies to the settlements, kibbutzim, sports, movies, Arabs, Yeshivot Hesder, Mechinot, mikvehs, shuls, religious schools, irreligious schools, and any other area that other segments of society don’t think should get any funding.
I got some part cut off:
Regarding the parasite claim:
People claim that Charedim are parasites; others claim that settlers are; others claim that Orthodox Jews are; others claim that all Jews are.
Chardal – Are you so sure the Charedim are such a big burden on Israel? Consider that hundreds of millions of dollars and Euro pour into Israeli tzedakos, yeshivos, poor people, etc every year because of charedim (whether it is ok for Israeli charedim to ask so much from their American/European brethren is a fair question but the fact remains). Many more hundreds of millions pour into the Israeli economy from American/European Yeshiva bochurim, seminary girls, charedi tourists, kiruv organizations, etc who are only going to Israel because of its charedi population.
Furthermore, the Israeli government pays minimally for law enforcement, family planning and other “urban” issues in chareidi areas, that most populations have, etc. The biggest chesed organizations in Israel are all charedi.
When all is said and done, how bad is Israel doing because of the Chareidi “leech”?
>I expect you to affect your own neighbors first. Petitions, door-knocking, protests in front of Mercaz Harav.
Yes, because the real problem is the 0.3% of the RZ community that tries hard to copy the chareidim. Please. The culture of taking comes from one source, and the address is not merkaz, most of whose students are not in kollel – but rather pay to attend.
>Your quote is the bland halachic source for the actual prohibition of teaching for pay.
Yes, and unlike getting payed to learn, the Rambam is matir it when there is no other way.
>All – students, teachers, dayyanim, leaders – are lumped in the same category.
Yes, in the peirush haMishnayot. But not in his later work, the Yad where he makes a strong distinction between getting payed to learn and getting payed to teach/judge/etc. It seems that the Rambam’s normative opinion is that learning for cash is always a chillul Hashem, whereas getting money for the other religious services is a potential chillul Hashem and that when there is no other way, it is allowed.
>Regarding the economy, I want a full-blown study of cost and benefit
Then go ahead and fund one. I don’t think that anyone who understands that common sense dictates that any subgroup which ensures that the majority of its members live bellow the poverty while having extremely large families costs a rediculous amount in tax breaks, health costs, welfare payments, subsidies, etc. I don’t need a complete breakdown on how I am being taken advantage of – the big picture is clear enough for me.
>אפיקורוס כגון מאן? – אמר רב יוסף: כגון הני דאמרי מאי אהנו לן רבנן? לדידהו קרו, לדידהו תנו.
No the crux of the issue is:
וכך היה הלל אומר ודאישתמש בתגא חלף הא למדת כל הנהנה מדברי תורה נוטל חייו מן העולם
יפה תלמוד תורה עם דרך ארץ, שיגיעת שניהם משכחת עוון; וכל תורה שאין עימה מלאכה, סופה בטילה וגוררת עוון
>I assume you feel the same applies to the settlements, kibbutzim, sports, movies, Arabs, Yeshivot Hesder, Mechinot, mikvehs, shuls, religious schools, irreligious schools, and any other area that other segments of society don’t think should get any funding.
No, because most of those things are part of a very large consensus – even those which are borderline, generally have the support of a majority. The chareidim are different in that virtually everyone who is not chareidi thinks that their lifestyle is a tremendous burden on the rest of the country. And the fact that they have historically been the only way to build governement has allowed them to presure everyone into funding this lifestyle. So, yes, I think that when 10% of a country uses its unique political position to funnel funds for a lifestyle that is a burden on the rest of us, it is different than the example above. In other words, everything else is an investment – whether smart or not smart is a matter of debate. The money to the chareidim is not an investment, but a burden that never benefits anyone in return.
>People claim that Charedim are parasites; others claim that settlers are; others claim that Orthodox Jews are; others claim that all Jews are.
Yes, but only one of those claims is actually true. scratch that. not all chareidim are parasites, the chareidi party and that segment of the Israeli chareidi culture that takes and does not give are parasites. The rest of the chareidi world, whether the American chareidim or the working Israeli chareidim are the hope – both for the larger chareidi society and for the rest of us.
Anyhow, the entire conversation with Chardal and Natan Slifkin is fruitless until we determine one fundamental point – do you believe that Torah study contributes to the security and the economic wellbeing of the Jewish people? If your answer is no, I would like to know how you explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin which seems to declare you Apikorsim. We can then move forward.
If Rambam’s view is the crux of the issue, you lose the debate. Either we don’t pasken the Rambam, as per the Mishnah Berurah and R’ Moshe Feinstein, et al, or if we do, you have elements in your own society you need to take care of, and your distinction between learning and teaching is baseless. Read the Rambam you quoted again (Rambam is speaking about someone who can’t find a teacher to teach him for free, not a teacher who can’t teach for free), the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah quotes שנא את הרבנות in the very same halachah, and the Kesef Mishneh explicitly links Rambam’s view to his dissertation in Avos. Quoting the Rambam to bash the Charedim is just a fad that Rabbi Amsalem brought into vogue once again, but it is old hat and irrelevant. It has absolutely nothing to do with ‘parasitism’ and everything to do with people looking at Torah as just another way to make money, including the Chief Rabbinate, all city rabbis, the Battei Din Rabbaniyim, Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbeim, teachers, etc. etc.
Binyomin – it works both ways. Do you mean to say it is impossible to believe that Torah contributes to the economic well being and security of the Jewish People and still be against the chareidi lifestyle? Does that include all Rabbis who are religious zionists (RAL Shlita, etc.)? They also cannot explain the Gemara in Sanhedrin? If your answer is no then I would like to know why you need the affirmation from Rabbi Slifkin and Chardal.
There can be many ways to explain the Gemara and still be against the current practical situation on the ground. Dont you think?
“in a real life army, some things have to be sacrificed. It’s the Charedim, not the army, that has shown little interest in accomodating the needs of the other.”
Great point DF, the over emphasis of chumras has become a real problem, especially since some people are hardwired to be unable to make a cost-benefit analysis, and will follow whatever is written in the latest “halacha” compendium. this is why the torah sheb’al peh should have never been put onto paper. when it comes to real important things, like protection of the people, one has to draw the line of necessity with more seichal.
R’ Binyomin, your gemara in sanhedrin is contradicted by both simple facts and logic (which is on the level of de’oraisa) and several other sources and biblical injunctions to actually make an army and do things. one can possibly say (chisurei mechsara) that with normal hishtadlus together with torah study , the security and economic wellbeing will be better than with just hishtadlus.
Aharon and Meir are both making completely unwarranted assumptions and extrapolations. Why the apparent difficulty in giving a straight answer? I’ll respond to your points, as there is no contradiction whatsoever between logic, facts, and the Gemara in Sanhedrin, but I need to know if there is common ground.
I’ll ask again: Do you believe that Torah study contributes to the security and economic well-being of the Jewish people? Yes or no will do.