Charedim on the Ropes: What We Know, What We Don’t
The situation in Israel resembles a playing field upon which multiple teams descend at the same time, each one playing by different rules. What spectators in the stands observe is utter chaos, frustrating in its incomprehensibility. Consider this a half-time look back.
What do we know about what is really in store for our brethren in the charedi camp in Israel? Very little, since none of the opposing forces speak the language of the other. We can safely say that, whatever one’s feelings are about the coalition agreement on the charedi draft and the imposition of the core curriculum in charedi schools, our charedi cousins are living through a time of great angst and uncertainty. They deserve our solicitude and tefilos. It is part of our mesorah to treat pain with sympathy, regardless of the source or cause.
The handful of postings on Cross-Currents have evoked much passion from our readers, and occasionally some real illumination. I will try here to summarize some of what emerges from pooling all that has been said here and published in other places, combining it with off-the-record conversations with unnamed Israeli government officials. I will make no judgments about the issues themselves, other than to reformat material about them that strikes me as plausible enough to be worthy of consideration.
From what we can tell, the charedi community in Israel has split into two camps. One camp sees the proposed legislation as a gezeras shmad. It demonizes everyone connected with the effort, and refuses to talk of any compromise. They call it a war – and you can’t negotiate effectively while the bullets are flying around your head. Within this camp of absolute resisters is R. Shmuel Auerbach shlit”a, the Briskers, and many, many more. The press associated with this camp speaks in martial terms.
A second camp tacitly recognizes that things are going to change, and has expected the change for quite some time. People in this camp understood that one day, Israeli society would no longer wish to substantially foot the bill for a large group of people who had turned long-term full-time learning into the norm. Those in this camp, however – reportedly including Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlit”a – feel that a system that was regnant for so long and set in motion by Torah giants cannot be undone by lesser individual of a later generation. It will not resist as strongly as the first camp, but neither will they preside over the dismantling of a Torah-only society. So far, they have refused to meet with architects of the coalition agreement who wished to start a dialogue. The decision of the Peri committee to add criminal sanctions to non-compliance with a charedi draft shifted many people away from this group convinced great numbers of people that the first camp was correct, that charedim were targeted for a full-scale assault on their way of life.
The non-charedi world seems to have found its uniting slogan in shivyon hanetel, or the equal assumption of responsibility by all members of the State. (Almost equal. In good Orwellian form, all Israelis are expected to be equal, but some are more equal than others. The Arabs are left out of it. No one wants them for the military because of the security risk.) The Haaretz crowd cannot disguise its disdain for charedim, but it is not at all clear that the average Israeli wants anything more out of the entire effort than a bit of justice and a bit of financial relief. The hysteria whipped up by the Haaretz yefai nefesh is matched by the hysteria whipped up by the charedi press (in the US as well) in creating a public mind-set in which every bigoted, over-the-top remark by some secular leftist is lovingly embellished and sent on to the public as representative of the majority of secular Israeli society. This is simply unwarranted, and likely not true. There is a reason why everything is coming to a head just now, and it still seems to be economics. At least it was when it got started. Any apologia for charedim which does not address the present and future projected burden of an underemployed community on the national economy is inadequate.
Here is a different take, decidedly not of my manufacture. In this take, Yair Lapid, Bibi Netanyahu, and many others have much more limited goals. Their steps (and missteps) to the contrary are part of politics, but not meant seriously. They want change, but realize that it will come slowly. They are not willing to accept the charedi plea that change has been taking place, because they don’t believe that there is enough charedi will to see it through. So they want to jump-start the process. They will be satisfied with the achievement of modest goals, and eventually see them to the public. The only people who do not understand the real goals are the media, charedim, and 99% of the Israeli population. Small matter.
According to this plan, there will be no large-scale draft of yeshiva students when it finally kicks in in four years time. First of all, the government can’t afford it. The proposed provisions have everyone who wants to learn exempt until age 21, when they have to declare their intentions for the future – and still have essentially another year before the non-exempt have to chose military or national service. But married soldiers are paid ten times what single soldiers are – and 80% of Litvishe yeshiva students and about 100% of chassidishe ones are married by age 22! The army will not want married students; the vast majority of yeshivah students are just not candidates.
Secondly, the government can’t afford it. It realizes that to recreate (and in all likelihood, improve upon) the Nachal Charedi/ Netzach Yisrael program on a much, much larger scale, much money will be necessary, and it is not in the cards at the moment.
What is the legislation targeting on a practical level? The estimate is that of the roughly 8000 who turn 18 each year, 2000 are really not learning at all. They may register, to stay out of the army, but they are doing no one any good. They are not in yeshiva, and they are not working. The government would like to do two things for them – give them some path to the future, and get some of them for the army. The rest of the country wants to see some charedi participation in the running of the country. They do not – and cannot be expected to – relate to the koach of Torah is the major component of charedi participation. (Rather than being demonized, they should be given credit for having supported Torah as long as they did, thinking in the back of their minds that maybe some of this Torah stuff really did contribute to the life of our people and even its security.) They want to see some sort of parity – and it is not as hard to achieve as people might think. Of the roughly 170,000 soldiers in Tzahal, 30,000 are combat soldiers. Charedim are about a tenth of the population. This means that 3000 soldiers in combat units would mean that charedim have taken up an equal share with others. (Sure, there is room to question this, but some people feel that such a contribution would be a sea-change in the way charedim today are seen as inhabiting their own world, abstracting themselves from the concerns of nation-building.) Netzach Yehudah already contributes 1100. If a fraction of the 2000 who are essentially draft-dodging at the moment will elect army service (which can work for those who wish to benefit from the job training and opportunity that will be associated with service), the number can be brought up in a small number of years to the 3000 mark. It will require an additional battalion like Netzach Yehudah, but that is at least financially thinkable.
Curriculum? I have not heard of anything that will allay charedi fears of giving up any amount of control to a government with a long record of breaking promises. On the other hand, the immediate plan is for a charedi overseer of the curriculum changes, who will not allow them to become a stealth effort to lure charedim away from their way of life. And the vast majority of us in the West do not stay awake nights worrying about the influence of the secular studies we have incorporated in our schools for generations. Reports have it that several charedi schools are preparing to allow the core curriculum in without a major battle.
Why don’t people know about most of this? Because the media on all sides prefer to promote sensationalism rather than calm.
Where does all of this leave American Jews, beside confused? In a beautiful display of loyalty to Torah values and leaders, many are lining up in full opposition to what they read about in Yated, Hamodia and Mishpacha as an evil decree. Some, however, are struggling with embracing a platform that seems problematic. They are turned off by what they see as hyperbolic claims of shmad, and ashamed that they see the community they love neither recognizing that the other side has valid claims, nor providing meaningful responses to those claims. For some, this has created a crisis, as they are crushed by not seeing strong, united, Torah leadership engaging the other side, rather than just calling them names.
The tzad hashaveh, it would seem to me, should be that we take a single, focused message to those outside our community, one that does not have to deal with the relative grievances of the two sides. When a group of us met in my home with an Israeli government representative, we did not debate the merits and demerits of the coalition agreement. We did emphasize that the message that Peri sent to the charedi world was devastating, and may well have erased the considerable progress made over the last years in both job training and army service. A group of leaders who met with Ambassador Oren in DC reportedly took the same approach. If Yair Lapid himself was not serious about the criminalization statute; if Peri was only reading the lines in a political script – someone forgot to inform the charedi community that they should be reading between the lines, rather than the lines themselves. Lots of people have messed up – but that includes the government, and they need to think about repairing the damage so that the progress of the past in job training will not be wiped out.
We have not seen the last of this issue by a long shot. It is fair to say that it ain’t over till the fat lady lip-synchs. (She wouldn’t dare sing!)
Whatever we believe about the merits and demerits of the plan, we must not be oblivious or insensitive to the pain of charedim in Israel. R Eliyahu Kitov, himself the almost-architect of a charedi-Zionist experiment known as Poalei Agudas Yisroel, offers this observation about Bri’as HaOlam: The six days of Creation called for acts of separation. Day and night were separated by assigning them to the sun and moon on the 4th day. The upper waters were separated from the lower waters on the 2nd day. The familiar ki tov appears in conjunction with the former – but not the latter! R. Kitov explains that separating items that don’t really go together is necessary, and cause for pleasure and joy that we continue the work of Creation. On the other hand, it is sometimes necessary to divide between things that have an affinity for each other, like the upper and lower waters. We must be ready to make that separation when it is required – but it is no cause for simchah. We should be saddened by having to accommodate practical considerations, and sacrifice some natural harmony in the process.
The last decades manifested the union of Torah and its people. It was, and continues to be, beautifully displayed in different ways, from the full-time learners in Bnei Brak and at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, to the hesder units of Tzahal (may they soon be revived!), to the daf-yomi learners in army reserve units. If conditions somehow require that some of the lovers of Torah be partially pried away from object of their affection, it is not something we should be cheering about. It may be necessary, but it does not rise to ki tov.
You mention that “Netzach Yisrael” contributes 1100 combat soldiers and that we just need another 1900 Chareidim to join combat units and this will equal 3000 combat soldiers (one tenth of the the 30,000 combat soldiers that Israel now has). In this way there will be equality in “sharing the burden” since the Chareidim are one tenth of the Israel population. Many of the soldiers In “Netzach Yisrael” are in fact “Chardalim” and not Chareidim and so we do not at present have 1100 Charedi combat soldiers in the Israeli army. Does anyone in fact know the exact ratio of Chardalim to Chareidim in “Netzach Yisrael”?
I fail to see why the criminalization clause is so devastating. Isn’t it necessary to give the new provisions some legal teeth? Is it really that big a deal?
[YA – Yes, because when the proposals were first rolled out, the lack of criminalization was a topic of conversation – and drew praise from some circles as a sign that the coalition was being careful NOT to set back the clock on charedi progress in entering the workforce.]
I heard from one Nachal Chareidi soldier and a Chareidi Rav familiar with Netzach Yehudah( Rav Moshe Yosef Lefkoyvich of the Afikim organization) – that it is virtually all Chardal with the 2 or 3% of Chareidim having lost contact with their families or at least most of the 2 or 3% being alienated from their communities. So there’s really a long, long road to get actual Chareidim open to the idea of being in Tzahal. Having said that, this article was a breath of fresh air on this very emotional issue. I really hope both camps take Rabbi Adlerstein’s message very seriously and not be as vitriolic. Furthermore, at least in the Chareidi Daati Leumi ( Chardal) community, where there are much more similarities, both Chareidi and Daati Leumi can learn from this article’s message of truly respecting their respective camp’s difference in Shitos while working together for the common benefit of Klal Yisrael. Is that too Naive? For the sake of hastening the G’eula Shlayma Ha’Ameetus or Amiteet, I sincerely hope that it’s not
You won’t implement positive change in a community if they perceive you as despising them and/or have goals that are completely antithetical to theirs. Lapid and co. have done a wonderful job in creating that attitude about themselves.
There is one thing they could do about Chareidim not joining the work force.For years Chareidim have been complaining about and proposing that Yeshivos should be recognized as institutions of higher learning that are able to issue the equivalent of college degrees and credits in non specialized areas.(Not to mention eligible for government funding.)Surely Rabbi Lipman as a Ner Yisroel graduate realizes how much Ner Yisroel and it’s alumni gains by government recognition.If Yesh Atid want’s Charedim in they work force why aren’t they clamoring for this recognition for Isreali Yeshivos?
I feel very strongly about this because I know that if the US didn’t recognize accept Yeshiva degrees, me and most of my friends would be collecting the equivalent of $65,000+ a year (yes $65,000+)in government programs and living as loafers.Why don’t Israelis have the options I had?
1: What is the text of the law that will be passed. Will it state that only 2000 yeshiva bochurim will be drafted? What about all the Sherut Leumi plans.
Have they been shelved? Will 6000 bochurim be made to do busy work? (And if so will justice have been served?). Private government assurances mean very little. What about the Supreme Court. Are they in on the plan? Do they get it? Will they play ball?
2: I remember the disengagement. I remember people connected with the Israeli Government giving speeches about how we(the people)don’t understand Sharon’s intentions. What he really intends to happen. What he is going to do to guarantee Israel’s safety. All true perhaps. But than he had a stroke.
Even if we trusted the government today and their promises and intentions of today it is silly to trust for tomorrow.
3: “If Yair Lapid himself was not serious about the criminalization statute; if Peri was only reading the lines in a political script..”
What do you think? Was Lapid serious? He threatened to break the coalition over this. Sound serious. If this is part of a script what is the background for this script. Who wrote the script and what was intended?
This line needs more explanation.
Please note. This is not a post about the situation itself. This is meant only to question Rabbi Adlerstein’s analysis and inside information.
to put a sad , ‘three weeks’ spin on this ,
one inevitable outcome would seem to be the widening irreversable gulf between the various haredi communities and the MO/RZ/DL/OU/YU type communities. by the nature of their hashkafot , the latter are much less [if at all ] bothered by a shivyon hanettel /whose-blood-is-redder take on the issues . this , combined with the modern communities’ feeling of their near-universal scorn by the haredi world , will probably lead to a separation between those two worlds…
in truth , the haredi world doesn’t need the liberal jews [except maybe financial support]; maybe the modern communities will come to a realization that the gap of the agendas and lifestyles of the two worlds is almost unbreachable, and they would rather be self-sufficient than turn to those who despise their weltanschaung, their leadership, their way of life…
not an optimistic thought going into churban season , but maybe one so realistic , that it easily explains why mashiach times aren’t on the horizon…
you write: “Of the roughly 170,000 soldiers in Tzahal, 30,000 are combat soldiers.”
you go on to imply that the problem may not be that overwhelming.
imho, your conception of a military may be a few generations out of date with things trending further away.
given chareidi education and the requirements of some of the other military jobs, combat may be easier for a chareidi recruit than say a technology job.
Just to restate a point made by Mr. Baruch Gitlin in response to Jonathan Rosenblum’s recent post:
“In discussing Yesh Atid’s effort to impose criminalization for evasion of army service by haredim, I think it is important to emphasize that for non-haredi Jewish Israelis, evasion of service without a valid exemption is, and I believe always has been, a criminal act punishable by jail. (…) But people should be clear on this point – criminalization for evasion of army service is not a special punishment against haredim, it is subjecting haredim to the same law as others. Non-criminalization, which is where I am betting the law will end up, would be a special privilege for haredim only.”
From what I understood there were those in government who believed that without the criminalization clause, the proposed legislation would not pass scrutiny by the High Court of Justice.
[YA That is possible. I brought this up with some parties, and they did not think it was true. If it is true, a good deal of trouble could have been spared if they had gotten the message out to the right people.]
I don’t understand what RYA meant saying about hesder “may it soon be revived”. Hesder is alive. It may be in trouble because of the threat to increase hesder army service from 16 months to two years while regular army service is being cut from three years to 2 1/2. There are going to be a lot of RZ boys who will simply opt for a year or more of yeshiva or mechina and then do the regular army service. Alternatively some RZ yeshiva guys will just follow the till 21 hareidi track and then say here, I’m 21 and married and I want to go into the army. The army won’t take them because they don’t want to foot the bill. In such the time in yeshiva will no longer be funded by the army. The Zionist yeshivot are already suffering cuts and many will close. This is partially because of budgetary constraints and partially because roshei yeshiva refuse to toe the line in “obeying orders”. The army and the government want to make it clear that obedience to the law of the state takes precedence over halacha. In this the hareidim and the RZ yeshivot should be united, but they seem unable to make a common front. This is regrettable. Time will tell how this plays out.
[YA – What I wrote is that Hesder UNITS should be revived. My understanding was that the army ended the separate units hesder used to have, and now integrates hesdernikim into regular units. This is one of the reasons that many of them have opted for Netzach Yisrael – where, by the way, they have been one of the strongest sources of chizuk to the charedi soldiers who came from the margins, and are inspired by their example.]
Chazal teach that the meraglim [spies] did not
want to enter Eretz Yisrael because that would have
necessitated years of fighting, followed by working at jobs,
[for example, farming] which would take them away from
In other words, the meraglim wanted a lifestyle of
100% Torah study with no military service and no working
at regular jobs. Does that sound familiar?
PS: I do not remember the source, but I invite other
Cross Currents participants to supply the exact source.
Although I agree with some of the comments, particularly the factual comments about the proportion of haredi and non-haredi soldiers serving in Nachal Haredi (which corresponds to what I have also heard from some Nachal Haredi soldiers), and with Yehoshua Friedman’s comment about hesder – I am almost positive that the units still exist as separate units, and that some hesder soldiers simply choose to integrate into regular units as individuals at some point in their service in order to access roles that are not available in the hesder framework – I think it is extremely refreshing to see an article that assumes honorable motives on all sides rather than the opposite. Yeyasher kochacha!
Rabbi Adelstein, please note that it’s called Netzach Yehuda, not Netzach Yisrael. (See, it irks when someone gets your name wrong)
[YA – Thanks for pointing it out. Obvious subliminal slip. A familiar pasuk must have been going through my mind. Netzach Yisrael lo yeshaker – but the government that sponsors Netzach Yehudah sometimes, unfortunately, does tell untruths!]
Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for, as usual, writing about this topic with mentshlichkeit and sensitivity.
The problem is that it has become obvious to everyone outside the Chareidi community that both the Chareidi public and its leaders never even try to feel our pain, and if anything view us with contempt as their שןעבי מים & חוטבי עצים. Now they want us to feel their pain?
As numerous Chareidi writers and commenters are fond of mentioning, they view the fact that Ben Gurion wanted to integrate them into klal yisrael as his biggest “rishus.” (At this point I’m sure the rest of klal yisrael agrees.) The Chareidi community as a whole has shown that they do not feel like a part of klal yisrael and are not interested in being משטתף בצער with the rest of us. כיוון שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל כפר בעיקר. ואף אתה הכהה את שניו
Nice article. I believe that what you said is true that the politicians involved understand that change will be gradual. That said, they may not be willing to have it be indefinite.
There are a few things you missed, however.
The first is that the economic cuts are across the board right now. When the government is cutting things like kitzvat yeladim, they’re also raising income tax on all citizens, raising gasoline tax on all drivers, raising VAT on all shoppers, and cutting many things that are hurting other constituencies. There is simply a lack of money to continue as is in almost any sector. When everything’s being cut, the cuts aren’t anti-anyone-in-particular.
Second, worldwide economic groups have come to the country and written explicitly about the damage to the economy of the high percentage of people that they call “not working by choice.” Now, it’s clear that we don’t believe that economics here is derech ha’teva, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to care about economics derech ha’teva. It also makes it understandable that the government is taking steps to reduce that percentage when the World Bank and the World Economic Forum is telling them that it’s damaging the overall Israeli economy.
Third, the entire chareidi world is in economic trouble. The numbers of people knocking on doors and walking around shuls for tzedaka is through the roof. Many of them would work, but there are virtually no jobs out there for people that don’t have basic math or basic reading/writing. Working people paying more VAT and more income tax, and often earning less, are donating less. The changes being proposed are important all around.
I think what the American Chareidim can do is try to export some of their reasonableness and use their heads to look past the over the top rhetoric that’s being blasted at them in the Chareidi media.
The Chareidi media is not just responding to “hysteria whipped up” by the “Haaretz crowd”. They are whipping up plenty of their own based on a disingenuously selective presentation of the situation. The basic “threat” that they describe is made to sound like something out of Tzarist Russia – The minute the law is passed riot clad MPs will come storming into Yeshivas en masse, dragging innocent, holy b’nei Torah off either to jail or to the army where they’ll be Zionicized and lose every fiber of their holy Nehsamot.
Contrast this to the actual proposal:
– The first 3 years are a sort of amnesty period. There is no service requirement. All Chareidim who had up until that time been unable to work legally will be allowed to do so, free and clear. (Learning was considered a deferral, not an exemption, such that when someone stopped learning, they were obligated to serve before legally going to work.) The plan is to spend 100 million shekel per year during those 3 years on programs to help Chareidim receive training for work and to find work.
– After 3 years, those turning 18 will be obligated to serve, but will be allowed to defer until they are 21. This is specifically out of a recognition of the value of learning of all Charedi boys in the critical years of 18-20.
– Let’s assume everyone defers. At that point of the 7000-8000 21 year olds…
1) 1800 will be allowed to continue learning as a fulfillment of their service obligation! This will be the first time since the founding of the state that learning Torah (not combined with military service as in Hesdar) will be viewed by the government as a form of service on par with being a soldier. Imagine, once this ramps up, at any given time, at least, assuming a minimum 3 year service period, 5400 young men will be learning as part of the country’s “Torah Corps”.
2) Of the reminder, the army will decide how many it needs for “service”. However those selected will be able to choose from special units such as Nachal Chareidi, Shachar and Atuda.
Shachar, as described previously on this blog, is a “frum” environment whose members learn a trade and sleep at home.
Atuda, is a program similar to ROTC where the army pays for college in many fields such as software, medicine, and accounting and then the recruit “pays back” by working for the army for 6 years in that field. (The first 3 years on an army salary, and the second on more respectable salary.) My son, a Maarava graduate, is just completing his studies at Macho Lev with a degree in Software Engineering.(Machon Lev, is a frum, men’s only college like YU with learning in the morning and secular studies in the afternoon.) He got married during college and will be working at a “regular job” in the Tel Aviv area. I’m sure Atuda could be expanded to include some of the new Chareidi colleges as well.
Of course some very strong bochrim, maybe with special training, could go into regular units and have a positive influence there, or at least just show that Chareidim are real people too. (I know some young RZ men who’ve chosen to do this with amazing results.)
Also, part of the plan includes expanding these programs and creating new ones. One new program that is being considered is working to build Chareidi Yeshivot that will combine learning and army. It would combine two years of learning morning and afternoon with technology classes at night and then two years of army service from 9 to 5 every day and returning to yeshiva for night seder so, they are in yeshiva the entire time.
3) The remainder will then be able to choose community service. Imagine, a guy could work locally for Mada or Hatzolah and still have 8-10 hours a day to learn.
While the criminal sanctions may have not been the best move PR-wise, as it gave another big bone to the Chareidi media, the reason given for implementing them is not unreasonable, ie to make sure the new law can withstand legal challenges as it already greatly favors this one community.
Also, understanding this part of the law would allow you in the US to help lower the rhetoric. Obviously it doesn’t even potentially kick in the first three years. After that they can’t even be implemented unless the service level is below 70% (and I think it’s even a few years to get to that level) and THEN implementing criminal sanctions is not automatic but at the discretion of the minister of defense. (This idea of a minimum threshold may be where Rabbi Adlerstein’s “take” is coming from.)
Not exactly the Soviet 25 year conscription with 6 years of prior brainwashing is it?
One more thing. There’s another “camp” that Rabbi Adlerstein left out. There is a very self-preservedly quiet minority who are fully supportive of these changes. They no longer want to live in poverty and ignorance. But are “stuck” in a system that, if they want to remain part of, won’t let them out in any public way.
Sure, we should have sympathy when our fellow has to undergo change he doesn’t want, even if it’s for his own good. But the best thing you all can do is show some tough love and don’t coddle them.
As far as I’m aware the hesder units were disbanded at the request of hesder roshei yeshiva after it became apparent that they were consistently being given more dangerous roles and as a result were suffering casualties disproportionately. Hesder boys now function in standard army units. However I do not have a source for this.
[YA – This is not what the media reported, nor what I heard from friends. Google: “haaretz idf disband hesder”]
It seems that basic lack of trust among (and within) sectors of Israeli society, or really Jewish society globally, needs to be overcome before any discussions can lead to positive results. Instead of grand solutions, we may need incremental, experimental initiatives on a smaller scale to demonstrate the worth and feasibility of cooperative efforts. Bombastic claims and publicity work against such an approach.
Will the shabby treatment accorded to the Hesder units do anything but harden the Charedi resolve and not be helpful with increased enlistment?
Hesder units disbanded in 2005: Google: “haaretz idf disband hesder”
ONE out of FOUR charedi army age boys is not even learning?!?
…I hope that disgusting statistic is not true. I have been fighting to defend the charedi perspective on this issue to outsiders but if a full quarter of the draft-age boys aren’t pulling their weight at all– 1 out of 4, that would in practice mean absolutely everyone in the charedi world knows someone who is shamelessly shirking– that makes things quite harder to defend….
1. I really cried when I read the comments on homogeneous Hesder units. Those of us old enough to remember may recall that until the 1982 Lebanon War hesder units were fairly homogenuous. In that war in the tank corps took a larger number of casualties. The tank units were heavily hesder units. IIRC it was after that time that the IDF at least started to mix significant numbers of nonhesder with hesder boys in the units.
2.ISTM that many are ready to give the chareidi leadership (which is also defacto political) the benefit of the doubt but don’t extend the same courtesy to the political leadership of non chareidim. Just an observation.
Yes cooler heads should prevail. That said, I turned a corner when I read an article in a major Charedi publication quoting an Adam Gadol ( I will not mention either as I cannot be sure his intent was properly expressed. I hope it was not.) He supposedly said that Hesder Yeshiva boys will not succeed in their Torah learning. (not some, not most, but all).
It is ironic because the spiritual ancestors of this Adam Gadol put my Chassidic ancestors in Cherem.
If what he said it true, I guess I will have to stay in Cherem with my ancestors. One thing my heart tells me and there are many makoros for it. “HaShem chooses not to abide in a Makom Gaivah.”
Every time the spiritual ancestors of this Adam Gadol put my spiritual ancestors in Cherem, Chassidim doubled is size. Most people do not realize that by 1880 more than 80% of the practicing Jews of Europe were Chassidim.
It is possible to respect the learning and life of am Adam Gadol while, at the same time, seeking advice and counsel elsewhere.
For example, we justifiably venerate the Chafetz Chaim. This is as is should be. That said, many of us doing the veneration of the descendants of those who defied his edict and came to America.
Thank you, R. Yitzchak. I have been waiting a long time for an analysis of the draft issue in which Amalek, Bilam, or (likely, in this week’s Yated) Zimri, are not invoked in the same sentence as Lapid or Lipman. There is however one fact in your article I am trying to understand. You write that “of the roughly 8000 who turn 18 each year, 2000 are really not learning at all. They may register, to stay out of the army, but they are doing no one any good.” If these 2000 would be drafted, there would likely be little claim on the remaining 6000 (after all, a sizeable percentage of secular Israelis avoid the draft as well). If these 2000 are indeed wasting their time, wouldn’t Netzach Yehuda be a better alternative, afilu leshitasam? Or is the opposition to the draft really due to an anti-Medina agenda? When R. Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l openly expressed appreciation to the army, he was terribly vilified. Had the chareidi community simply said “thank you” to the army, this crisis may never have happened.
[YA – Uh…no comment. Other than one other dimension of confusion. Politicians are not the only ones who whose intentions cannot be discerned from their words. There is a long, long tradition of rabbinic use of hyberbolic speech. Goes back to the lashon guzma of the gemara. When people say “gezeras shmad!,” do they really mean it? Chances are that some do, and some don’t. When even those who patently are not learning are not encouraged to enlist, is it because their mentors a) hold that anything to do with the Medinah is treif, or b) they have been disappointed by Nachal Haredi itself, and fear for further erosion of commitment of the young person? Could we tell just by listening to their words? One of the reasons we Americans are having a rougher time is that we are less used to doublespeak, which is not so offensive to many in Israel.]
I find the inability to overturn a psak given previously under different circumstance a troubling idea. While some attribute too much significance to changed circumstance, to attribute none, replaces torat haim by a backwards focused, perhaps nostalgic, but increasingly irrelevant way of life, condemning our future to extinction.
On a purely halakhic basis, while formal gezairot require gadol mi’menu be’hokhmah uve’minyan, horaah is governed by yiftach be’doro ki’shmuel be’doro.
Thanks for shedding some light on a complex situation. I agree that normal people would compromise and work out some way to achieve the goal without the social upheaval. I remmeber when the Tal Law was first passed, I said to Rabbi Naftoli Neuberger that it would make a change in chareidi society. He disagreed and told me that they won’t work, not that it won’t work, but they won’t work. I did not fully grasp it at the time,but you see how little Tal accomplished. I have the greatest respect for those who are at the helm of our Olom Hatorah but who among them is able to vocally lead us to a new frontier? If all Rav Shteinman feels he is capable of doing, as I understand your article, is to passively not resist too much, but not to actively assist changing attitudes, then this will not work.
It wil take too long, have too much violent oppositoin with only passive support for moderation. The ones who closed down the Kollel High Tech in Bnai Brak because the men were actually learning Torah in the morning before taking courses in the afternoon have now gotten the open and vocal support of Rav Shrtteinman according to what I read this morning on Kikar Shabbat. He is opposed to any Kollel that is not full time and that gives legitimacy to those who combine kodesh and chol. I am surprised because I am told that there are many avreichim who both learn and take courses. I don’t get it really, where does Rav Shteinman really stand on these issues and would people follow him if he led?
Rabbi Ruderman allowed Ner Israel boys to go to college and he wasn’t kicked off he Moetzes. Would that happen in 2013? This is an important point. Once Rav Gershon Weiss stated at a Ner Israel alumni gathering that the Rosh hayeshiva saw that boys were going to college so he decided to allow it b’di eved. Rabbi Weinberg got up and said that this was totally incorrect and false. The Rosh hayeshiva send him to consult with Gedolim in America and Israel and then he permitted college, not secretly, not “don’t ask don’t tell, but permitted. Rabbi Ruderman himself told me that the incident that caused him to allow secular studies for yeshiva students was as follows. An alumnus came to him and complained bitterly that it was the Rosh hayeshiva’s fault that he could not support his family. He told him that he had listend and learned full time and now had no way to earn a living. The Rosh Hayeshiva was profoundly affected by this charge and he decided that college is a trade school and one needs a trade. Who alive today has the strength of Rabbi Ruderman? Why not?
Appropriate time of year to think about humility in a posek (at least most understandings of the Anvetanut (humility) of Zecharia Ben Avkulus in the Kamtza story)
She-nir’eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,
It’s a mistake to dismiss exagerated speech as mere hypebole. By comparison, [and, of course, lehavdil] a lot of westerners tried to convince themselves that Isalmic fundamentalist statements about Americans are mere hyperbole, or that the Arabs themselves are used to it and understand the rhetoric. The lesson we learned from 9/11 and more recently the Boston Marathan, is NO, THEY DONT. YOU, Rabbi Adlerstein, an American from a very different background than Charedim, would like to think that everybody “gets it”, and knows to wink at the alarmist statements about “shmad”, etc. Some of them do. But the majority do not. I say this having spent years in a charedi yeshivah, and having many first-cousins, all Israeli born, in the most righteous neighborhoods of Bnei Brak.
Agav, on the curriculum issue – that’ a red herring, used for propoganda purposes. The Shivyon Banatel movement is about fundamental fairness, which most of us americans in our heart of hearts identify with. While many would LIKE to see some basic core curriculum in charedi schools, there’s no groundswell of public support to try to force it on them. All the same, it doesnt help that mythology like “Volozhin closed rather than teach Russian” is still being taught as though it was Halacha Limohse Misinai.
On the most basic level, since Adam Harishon, man has an obligation to work to support his family. There is also an obligation for that same person to learn Torah and keep the mitzvos. There is nothing the in Gemara and Poskim that contradicts this duality. Save for a 40 year reprieve in the Desert when the sustenance (the Mahn, clothing, and health insurance), there were never any distinctions based on geography, generational priorities, or mandatory “corrections” offered as an off-the-cuff comment in a Mussar sefer. Nor were there quotas or tolerance ratios of 1-Gadol-per X-number of sacrifices allowed to fall through the cracks. The “Gezeiras Hashmad” rhetoric is really wearing thin, especially on those who feel a sense of personal ownership within their lives. People need to grow up, admit that the past 40-50 years has been a disasterous social experiment, and stop playing victim by claiming that this unprecedented System cannot be modified based on a legal technicality. The boy has cried wolf too loud and for too long.
As for the Army, the Chareidi community through its posturing and rhetoric, has proceeded to “dis” not only the secular community but the DL/Chardal community for who the lives of children is put on the line every day to protect the entire country. Of course, Torah (and not just Chareidi Torah) protects. But some people are letting that get to their heads. Once again, grow up and take ownership for the security and maintenance of Eretz Yisrael through the special units and National Service opportunities which have been offered.
I’d like to revise my earlier comment, particularly about the hesder yeshivot. I asked my 20 year old son about both the hesders and the nachal haredi. He has quite a few friends in both, and visited several hesder yeshiva before deciding to attend mechina instead before his army service, scheduled to begin in a few weeks. So while his opinions should not carry the weight of journalistic precision, if I can use such a phrase, I think they may be worth repeating here.
About the hesder yeshivot, to the best of his knowledge, most hesder classes do go into the army as a unit. Some do not – by their own decision, for the following reasons: (i) so that the students will have more options in the army, and (ii) so that the students will mix with non-religious soldiers and have a greater opportunity for kiruv. Perhaps the reason Ben stated exists as well, although my son didn’t mention it. By the way, I did Google IDF disbands hesders (or something like that). Most of the articles that came up were dated 2005. My guess is that this has to do with the atmosphere in the country after the hitnatkut (the withdrawal from Gaza), when there was much controversy over the issue of refusing orders, and a fear by many that the hesder yeshivot could be a dangerous bloc within the army that might challenge the chain of military (and ultimately political) command. Without opening that can of worms in this forum, I will just speculate that while there was talk about disbanding the hesder program at that time, this talk was never implemented.
I also asked my son about the number of haredi and non-haredi soldiers in Nachal Haredi. He had difficulty with that question, and as we discussed it, it became clear that the difficulty arose from defining who is haredi and who is not. In his opinion, the Nachal Haredi is populated mostly by young men from haredi families many of whom are somewhat alienated from the haredi hashkafa, and young men from dati leumi families who have turned towards a hashkafa that is closer to a haredi hashkafa. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge can provide better information. The only real point I’d like to make, and have made before, is that I don’t think it’s accurate to count the entire enlistement of Nachal Haredi as haredim serving in the army.
“If these 2000 are indeed wasting their time, wouldn’t Netzach Yehuda be a better alternative, afilu leshitasam? Or is the opposition to the draft really due to an anti-Medina agenda? If these 2000 are indeed wasting their time, wouldn’t Netzach Yehuda be a better alternative, afilu leshitasam? Or is the opposition to the draft really due to an anti-Medina agenda?”
Those who have been reading the ‘Torah’ Media/Journalists, the interviews of Charedi Rosh Yeshivas and Rabbonim, and attending “Understanding the Israeli Crisis” (not the Iran/security one)….have heard all the ‘facts on the ground’ expressed with clarity and (in)accuracy about the government decrees. Yes, Dina, 1 out of 5/4 boys after Yeshiva Ketana (Israel high school) do not pursue or adopt the life of full-time learners. They may attend a morning seder, work in afternoon, attend job training, leave the country or hang around. This is normative and BH praiseworthy. The PROBLEM is this group has grown, increased in size and never offered OR encouraged to enlist in any type of IDF option. WHY NOT? The belief is (with much truth)that their spirituality will falter, reduce and they will eventually leave the Torah Kehilla. Plus any cooperation with the Medina is treif, unworthy, aprikorus, and an aveirah.
“When R. Chaim Shmuelevitz zt’l openly expressed appreciation to the army, he was terribly vilified” — Reb Chaim was a COURAGEOUS YACHID.
“Had the chareidi community simply said “thank you” to the army, this crisis may never have happened” — During the LEBANON War when Rav Simchah HaCohen Kook & Rav Grossman set up a partnership system where Bnei Yeshiva would be mispallel for particular soldiers it was blasted by Charedi Rosh Yeshivos and stopped immediately. There has never been any ‘Thank Yous’, ‘Tefillohs’ or changing Yeshiva locations when southern or northern communities were under siege by Arab enemies. Instead the typical, you can’t add/change tefilloh or we are saying Tehillim for ‘Toshevai Haeretz’ isn’t that enough?????
Just an update on what Yehoshua Friedman wrote:
Hesder service is going to increase from 16 to 17 months, not to two years as previously proposed.
if 2000 bochrim are essentially barely on-the-derech while back benching in yeshiva, it would literally be shmad to put them in the army… if 20 % of DL’s , who live in society, go OTD in the army , is there any hope for haredi taharas hakodesh boys to not fall out completely ?
Lacosta, Therefore a Torah oriented NATIONAL SERVICE option would work for these boys. When you are citizens of a country that demands Army Enlistment, a negotiated program should have been designed years ago or at least when the Tal law expired.
Chazak U’Baruch! Thank you for framing the issue so clearly and fairly.
There is clearly room for compromise here. Israel cutting yeshivot is like Italy cutting opera. (The previous Italian government actually tried to do that and it contributed to its downfall; one protest involved an opera audience joining with the singers on stage in singing the famous “Va, Pensiero” chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco — I point this out because it shows that our own peoples’ history ought to inspire ourselves at least as much as it does non-Jews!) Jewish learning is our national treasure as a people and even most non-observant Jews have at least some respect for that. And if my own research is correct, yeshivot are actually underfunded compared to the secular universities and a fairness argument can be made for increasing, not decreasing, their funding. But there is indeed no reason people who aren’t learning should be treated as learners. The Datim, on seeing many of their young people go OTD in the army, created the hesder programs and the pre-army prep schools. There is no reason why there can’t be charedi versions. Similarly there are charedi-run organizations that do the kind of things that the sherut leumi programs do; why can’t they be expanded. (One interesting suggestion I heard is to create charedi volunteer fire departments for those young charedi men who can meet the tough fitness requirements to be a firefighter; because actual fire calls are infrequent even in NYC there would be plenty of time for learning while waiting for the call, and every call would be a case of at least safek pikuach nefesh and therefore justifying an interruption in learning.) Almost every charedi yeshiva in the world outside of Israel teaches secular studies and many follow government dictates to the letter; I found one in Canada that actually boasts of its outstanding secular studies. Not everyone is cut out for full time learning, and many of the greatest rabbis in history have had advanced secular education. And why is there no Israeli charedi university program similar to the curricula of YU or Touro in the US?
Refusing to negotiate is a tactic that has failed again and again in democracies. By refusing to discuss any possible change, you completely lose any say over the final outcome. And it will further alienate non-charedi Jews. In a democracy, sometimes you have to compromise and you never get everything you want. And you don’t win friends or influence people with scandalous attacks on people with whom you disagree; how is the lashan hara and motzi shem ra against Rabbi Dov Lipman and against Naftali Bennett permissible?
But what massively upset me was the recent Chareidi-run anti-Israel rally in New York. Even the BDS rashaim never pulled off something like that! (I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years countering arguments from that camp on the internet.) The only saving grace was that HaShem saw to it that the non-Jewish media ignored it in favor of the Puerto Rico Day parade earlier that day, and the Celebrate Israel parade a week earlier that attracted many times as many participants and spectators. We here in galut have no business staging public protests against Israeli government policies; if we care that much we need to make aliyah and get involved there.
“many are lining up in full opposition to what they read about in Yated, Hamodia and Mishpacha as an evil decree”
I believe that Rabbi Frankurter would be very insulted that you left his Ami magazine out of that list. After all he sees himself as the personal “shaliach” of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik shlit”a and others in his job of warning the yiden in America about the “Shmad” in Eretz Yisrael.
“One of the reasons we Americans are having a rougher time is that we are less used to doublespeak, which is not so offensive to many in Israel.”
Oh. That is rich.
Maybe charedim are less offended by the harsh language used by charedim against non-charedim.
But the non-charedim are not less offended.
You do not get to be the bully insisting that “I didn’t punch /that/ hard”, it’s the person getting punched who assesses how painful the fist slamming into their face was.
When the Charedi issue comes up with DL friends, I have to insist that phrases like “bayit shel goyim” and “zachor asher asah lecha at habayit hayehudi” are from some loony fringe, because I know plenty of reasonable charedim who don’t believe that or think that way.
But… you know, I’ve /never/ seen that kind of demagoguery go on in DL circles. Don’t get me wrong, there’s piles of sinas chinam on both sides, but overall, those DL who suffer from sinas chinam tend to make blanket criticisms of specific behaviour– “those charedi tax-thieves and child-molester-protectors”, not “those reshaim whose only concern is destroying judaism”.
AND that kind of talk is for lower elements– not for leading rabbanim to announce publicly. At least in DL, being full of hate and disrespect is considered a negative character trait…
In my neighborhood there were posters hung up advertising a contest for kids to draw caricatures of any “chardakim” they know, and send them in to a contest for a prize. The caricatures depicted as sample entries were disturbing, inasmuch as they were reminiscent of nazi propaganda.
I’m not stupid enough to think that pashkevilim can be used as a judge of the community’s opinion, considering that if you have the (not huge) money required to pay a person who does it, they’ll stick up whatever you want. But when I started ripping down the posters I got screamed at…
Kol Hakavod for such a level headed, non-apologetic analysis of the issue. I think if there was more dialogue between the two sides, perhaps a solution would be more feasible. While some politicians may be too forceful to implement changes, when spokesmen for the Charedi community try to vilify them, they are not helping their cause. Also, contrary to popular belief the army does not make soldiers go off the derech. Nahal Haredi is on an all-male base with mehadrin food. The guys in hesder units are very dedicated to learning. As we are in the 3 weeks, may it be Hashem’s will that we will have more achdut.
This is one of the best things you have done, in my opinion. (I do not mean to insult you, I really think so. If you like other stuff better, you are free to disagree) Rarely has any commentator on our society taken the time to explain just how much we need to understand the other side. As it relates to Chareidim, that means “gedolim” is not an excuse. Everyone needs to think about how what he is saying is perceived by the community. Echad Hashogeg ve’echad Hameizid b’Chilul Hashem
OK – rewrite: is this more palatable? 🙂
Those in this camp, however – reportedly including Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman shlit”a – feel that a system that was regnant for so long and set in motion by Torah giants cannot be undone by lesser individual of a later generation.
I disagree with this view. The Chazon Ish is not the one responsible for this generation; the suffering of the Jews today is not on his account, and it disturbs me to see how quickly we throw up our hands and abdicate responsibility to the departed of prior years. The troubles and concerns, indeed the crisis, that has developed, may have started with him and his peers, but each generation’s leaders are responsible for their generation! If the system is broken (and it is clear to all but the most extreme that it is), how can we say, ‘well, who are we to change things?’
יפתח בדורו כשמואל בדורו teaches us the immense responsibility and authority of each generation’s leaders, however humble. We must correct the problems of our generation, or bear the guilt of the suffering and tribulations caused by our unwillingness to act decisively.
h tzvi friedman ..what do u mean shabby treatment?
Thank you for your balanced and respectful take on the issues.
Thank you for setting the record straight on Rav Ruderman’s shitta re: yeshiva and college and the history behind it.
Thank you for respectfully voicing an issue that has plagued me and many others for years, especially since the pre-WWII Gedolim were niftar. It reminds me of the lesson in Maseches Gittin, by the Gemara that deals with the Churban: “Ashrei Mi Shemifacheid Tamid” and as one of the counter-examples it brings Rabi Zechariya Ben Avkulos’s refusal to give a hora’a that could have saved the Beis Hamikdash. His locked-in approach did not allow him to weigh the priorities of the situation correctly. Not getting involved out of respect for the ruling of the Chazon Ish could end up being even more destructive to what the Chazon Ish was trying to preserve.
Today Bennett announces that he is proud to be the first minister of Religious Affairs to meet with American Conservative Rabbis. Face reality, this is NOT about Chareidim assuming civic responsibility! It is about turning Israel into a secular western democracy. The current government advocates for Gay Marriage, Civil Marriage, Feminist Extremism, Women on the Dayanim Committee, inclusion of Conservative Rabbis, and an extreme weakening of the social safety net. There is no point in sugar coating this problem. This is a government of radical secular change, and the sooner we recognize it the better.
A few short points:
1. My son was a commanding officer in Netzach Yehudah. He reported that the vast majority of soldiers are Chardal, with a small minority from chareidi families. Of that minority, some had parents who sat shiva and were refused permission to return home. Ever.
2. The estimate of non-learning chareidim is closer to thirty percent. Many work off the books (shachor) ,raise families, and have no regrets. They beat the system. Draw your own conclusions.
3. One who wants to understand the chareidi philosophy would be wont to examine it first hand, as promulgated by its hashkafic leaders. I recommend the shmuess by the late Rabbi Yisrael Elya Weintraub , given at the Ponovizhe Yeshiva letzi’irim during Operation Cast Lead. Among many positions he espouses, he castigates the chareidi women who were given names of individual soldiers for the recitation of Tehillim. According to Rabbi Weintraub, no soldier was worthy of these prayers. I kid you not. Who was Rabbi Weintraub? Rav Schach himself proclaimed Rabbi Weintraub as the final authority in Torah Hashkafah questions. Google it.
Again, draw your own conclusions. I certainly did.
Rabbi Adlerstein, the current edition of Mishpacha has the response of rabbi Grylack to your critique of his article “Am I Paranoid”. Without getting into a point by point refutation, it is clear to me why so many of us in the USA have trouble identifying 100% with the Israeli Charedi position. All of us whose parents are immigrants to this country know the hakaras hatov they felt towards this Malchus Shel Chesed. All school children in a former generation daily pledged alliegience to the flag of the United States and to the republic for which it stands,etc. Our dollar bills have the national motto,E Pluribus Unum” and also “In G-d we trust”. All of this is foreign to Israeli chareidim. They ignore Independence Day, won’t fly the flag of the country they live in and certainly won’t sing the national anthem. Whereas I honestly do feel deeply that I am an American and this does not conflict with being an observant Jew, they do. There is no Jew in the Diaspora who would show disrespect and disdain for the government of his or her country in the manner that Israeli chareidim so when they won’t even stop for Memorial Day moment of silence, when they refuse to pray for the lives of my son who is in Netzach yehudah. How can I sympathize with their refusal to serve when my son volunteered and I am so proud of him? Most orthodox Jews in this country agree with me except for enclaves that are ,for some reason, on purpose alienated by choice from Americanism. These same enclaves are astute at using their numbers for political gain in a purely transactional relationship with politicians.
Israel is a different world and their history is also much different. Rabbi Grylack takes unbridge for the desire of Shai Piron to make the country one people, he says that this would never happen in the USA. he is simply wrong when he assumes that we in this country share his alienation from his birthplace and our common homeland.
“Among many positions he espouses, he castigates the chareidi women who were given names of individual soldiers for the recitation of Tehillim. According to Rabbi Weintraub, no soldier was worthy of these prayers”
Ditto, I remember when this was said by Rabbi Weintraub and the program initiated by Rav S. Kook/Rav Grossman to daven for chayalim was negated. The big question is WHY? My belief is any ‘hakarah’ – acknowledgement to the State of Israel opens a Pandora’s box in the Charedi world and may foster questions, investigation and desire to join the big world of Israel. Looking for opinions on this issue, please…
In case you’re interested in reading the Sicha of Harav Weintraub, it is available on the lifeinisrael blog in 2009. You will have to click on each page to be able to read it comfortably.
A careful reading will show that his primary concern was the possibility of this leading to a sense of privity and parity, which would be deadly. Policy is not always pretty.
“In this take, Yair Lapid, Bibi Netanyahu, and many others have much more limited goals. Their steps (and missteps) to the contrary are part of politics, but not meant seriously. They want change, but realize that it will come slowly.”
Lapid doesn’t need to call haredim parasites in order to pursue limited goals. Calling haredim parasites is certainly meant very seriously. He wants change, and he’s in a big hurry, because he knows he may be booted out of the next government.
Cross Currents seems to be going out of its way to present itself as “moderate haredi” (forgive me if this term is unpalatable to many – it’s my personal take on things). Meaning that it wants to portray all the haredi protests at victimization as hyperbole, and pretend that really, nobody is out to get us.
Meanwhile, the ‘haredim on the ground’ are having the ground cut out from under our feet, and then being told that despite our struggles to survive in an increasingly hostile (to us) world, we are really just sitting back and enjoying life at others’ expense.
Haredi “hyperbole” relates, b’derech klal, specificaly to those slandering and maligning us, whereas those who do so choose, deliberately, to malign an entire community of hundreds of thousands. To suggest that the “hyperbole” is similar on both sides is offensive in the extreme.