Are They All Really Resha’im?

Do you know about the CD that is causing much grief to yeshiva-trained Americans? There is no mp3 version. It is not a message from Lipa, or Mattisyahu, or a Modern Orthodox subversive. CD here does not stand for compact disk, but for cognitive dissonance. The difference between reality the way we have been taught to accept it, and the way we personally encounter it. Cognitive dissonance is driving more and more of us to an uncomfortable psychic place. We dwell firmly in the charedi world in which we grew up, and in which we raised our children. We fully live the charedi life style, but our hearts are sometimes not so enthusiastic about it, and our minds are increasingly alienated from it. We are victims of repeating memes with which we were bombarded, and then discovering that they are not true.

Some of these memes have come into sharper focus with the legislation of the current Israeli government. One of those, repeated again and again in the charedi press both in Israel and the US, is that the government is composed of rasha’im who are intent on fighting a war to the finish to obliterate Torah.

I have no doubt that there are people in the government, both elected and appointed, who will do all in their power to try to stamp out Torah, c”v. I also have no doubt that they are a minority element. I find it difficult – impossible, really – to square the slogans I read about in the charedi press with recent experiences. Here is a report about a few of them. It will be spread out over multiple postings.

A call from the Israeli Consulate asked that I attend a small breakfast get-together with the Consul General and some visitors from Israel. The phone connection was poor; I did not fully understand who the visitors were or the purpose of the meeting. I knew it had something to do with government plans about charedi inclusion. I make it a practice to be as helpful as humanly possible to any request from an Israeli governmental official, so I readily accepted.

Two things bring Los Angeles traffic to its knees: Precipitation is one. (We are not used to weather. Any weather.) A Presidential visit is the other. President Obama’s presence in the city caused a massive disruption of traffic right during rush hour, so I arrived 40 minutes late at Eilat Café, to find a group patiently waiting for me. David Siegel, the Consul General, has been a national trend-setter in reaching out to different groups within the Jewish community, including charedim. We had discussed and debated government policy towards charedim in Israel several times before, including at a small meeting of charedim at my home. He wanted me to hear about one aspect of the draft plan straight from the source. Moreover, he wanted them to hear from me what American charedim thought about their efforts.

Both of the visitors work for the Ministry of Science and Technology. Both were kippah-wearing dati’im. Sar-Shalom Jerbi did almost all the talking. He is the General Director of Sherut Leumi/National Service, the alternative to army service that has been the favored option for Dati Leumi girls.

Mr. Jerbi was enthusiastic as he explained his background and the evolution of his thinking. Typical DL trajectory: Bnei Akiva leadership; years in a hesder yeshiva. He was a tad more acquainted with charedim than others, however. His grandfather was Rav Getz z”l, the former Rav HaKotel. He came into his current position, therefore, with more of an appreciation than others for positive aspects of the charedi community. This led him to battle – successfully – against some original conceptions about the place of charedim within Sherut Leumi. (Readers will recall that the new policy calls for charedim to declare after their 21st birthday whether they will report for army service, for national service, or ignore both and continue learning. The first two options will be incentivized; the third will not carry the threat of jail time, but will forfeit the incentives.)

Mr. Jerbi’s task was to imagine forms and conditions for charedi male participation in Sherut Leumi, a program in which participants spend time in organizations that enhance the quality of life in the State. He has succeeded to date in drawing some 3000 Arabs into the program, all of them working in agencies serving the Arab community. (Traditionally, Arabs do not serve in the IDF. Druse have been an exception. More recently, Arab Christians have enlisted in larger numbers.) He founded programs to take kids at risk and turn them around through programs of productive service combined with individual counseling. He currently has 700 such kids serving. He set up a similar program for “special needs” youth, providing them with an opportunity to see themselves as productive members of society.

He applied himself to finding suitable areas for charedi service. He immediately identified three areas: classroom education, gemachs, and working with kids at risk within the charedi community. The last two sound like shoe-ins, and sometimes can be uncomplicated. This is not so when it comes to larger, national efforts. Jerbi had candidates interested in working with Magen David Adom – but the work environment was mixed. He asked for a separate work space for male charedim, and was successful in getting it. In these and similar applications, Jerbi asked for – and got – the ability to limit the commitment to four hours a day, over two years. This way, charedi males can fulfill their service requirement while preserving the bulk of the day to learn, if they wish, or to seek other employment.

There was intense opposition to allowing classroom teaching to meet the requirements of National Service. Jerbi could not overcome resistance to the feeling of many that allowing this would simply pay for rabbeim to continue as before educating their students to stay away from any kind of association or cooperation with the government. (Those who serve are not unpaid volunteers. They are compensated.) Jerbi succeeded in convincing highers-up that primary education is different. Thus, one option within National Service will be serving as rabbeim in the classrooms of grades 1-6, at least in areas that the government sees as needing more teachers in front of the room.

Jerbi realized that creating a cadre of charedi police could go a long way in better servicing the community. He fought for a commitment by the National Police that charedi inductees would not have to share a squad car with a female colleague, and that they would be able to return home every night during the months of their training. He argued that there were special security considerations in having such police, and got the government to increase the monthly stipend from 2500 NIS to 4000 NIS.

(My response to the two officials is not as important. For the curious, however, I conveyed that I understood and appreciated what they were doing, and offered berachos that they have the siyata de-Shmaya to make the proper decisions. But I stressed in the strongest terms how counterproductive Yair Lapid’s actions had been after unveiling his program for charedi participation in army and other service. Like others here in the US who have been in contact with the government, I underscored the damage that had been done to existing programs by a diabolic pincers movement: strengthening the position of the most extreme rejectionists in the charedi world by giving the impression of a holy war being waged against them; shooting charedim who wanted to enter the workforce in the kneecaps by drastic cuts in the stipends for children, curtailing the possibility of parents taking advantage of training programs and opportunities. The cutbacks were the equivalent of California trying to get citizens to be energy- and environment-conscious by giving up incandescent bulbs for fluorescents, and then tripling the price of fluorescent bulbs the next day.)

Is Jerbi trying to obliterate Torah? What about those in the government who had to authorize the special consideration (including the Prime Minister himself) and the little tweaks to make the positions charedi-friendly? Are they all part of a diabolical plot to gradually wean charedim away from Torah and deliver them to the flesh-pots of Tel Aviv? Or are they acting on what they see as legitimate concerns for the financial viability and social cohesiveness of the Jewish State?

You decide.

Decades ago, I had occasion to visit a brilliant young Leningrad refusenik in his apartment. He told me that the authorities in the former Soviet Union asked you to look in the mirror and tell yourself each day that you were sane. But when you looked there, you did not see sanity. I’ve tried repeating many of the lines that come from Eretz Yisrael. But when I look in the mirror, I can tell that I don’t believe them anymore.

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55 Responses

  1. Ben Waxman says:

    Excellent article. One small point:

    The first two options will be incentivized; the third will not carry the threat of jail time, but will forfeit the incentives.

    The last point, TTBOMK, hasn’t been finalized. No one has figured out a way to get around the Supreme Court demand for equality. Why should a secular guy go to jail and a chareidi guy be penalized?

  2. joel rich says:

    Now that you’ve identified the cognitive dissonance, how will you resolve it? It’s not healthy to live with!

    [YA – See ]

  3. Joe Hill says:

    If you want to see many many more Chareidim in the on-the-books Israeli workforce, the solution is obvious. End the draft. Either move to an all-volunteer army, like the United States of America, all of Europe and the entire Western world, or exempt conscientious objectors. The fact is, and will remain, that much of Chareidi Jewry is ideologically and many even religiously opposed to joining the IDF. America and Europe exempt conscientious objectors and so should Israel. The Chareidim will do whatever is necessary to not join the Israeli Army. Even if that means working off-the-books or even not working at all.

    BTW, the Chareidi joblessness is far far less than officially reported. That is because many work off-the-books.And that is because they are legally barred from officially working due to lack of army service.

  4. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Notice that nobody disputes the concept of “people should be forced to work for the government”, even if they just work four hour days for two years in areas that seem to have survived out without forced labor so far. I’m glad I left that country.

  5. Ben Waxman says:


    If America doesn’t have a draft, how can it exempt anyone? The American exemption was for true pacifists (which chareidim are NOT), not people who didn’t like the USA.

  6. shloi says:

    A few remarks:
    The charedi leadership is davka afraid of all these programs wishing to accomodate the charedim.They see them as a plot to dismantle the Yeshiva world. One of the rabbis often said that the secular want to entice the avreichim to leave the yeshiva with special programs etc.
    The more the “system” wants to go towards the charedim, the more suspicious they become.
    They see it lehavdil like non-jews wanting to convert the jews not forcibly but through love.
    Lapid wants to do it forcibly this is why he is a convenient enemy.

  7. Mycroft says:

    I suspect I,m far from being the only cross currents reader who remembers registering for the draft. When they weighed yo and measured you at the local draft board. Countries that face existential threats to their existence tend to have universal conscription. The US and Europe are not facing such threats Israel sadly is. My. Recollection is similar to Ben Waxman in that the exemption for conscientious objection had to be against ALL WARS! In the past there has been some accommodations for religious soldiers eg Hesder which exists despite much military opposition-training time a great proportion of time able to serve. At least in Hesder the soldiers take dangerous jobs and the general community does not believe that the Hesder students hate the theory of the state. The issue of the draft is a major one many do not wish to serve-but the vast majority of males serve outside the Arab and Chareidi. Communities. Serving Sherut Leumi in ones own community is not the general choice for those in general serving Sherut Leumi and males in general do not have the choice of avoiding potentially dangerous army service by working community service.

  8. Jerusalem says:

    I disagree with RYA.

    The only way charedim will get their act together — & join the workforce…is when they are forced to do so due to economic factors. Yair Lapid has slashed their funding & welfare & subsidies…and Shai Piron has slashed funding to charedi schools that refuse to teach the core curriculum… Now let’s see how it plays it…

    In a few weeks the Knesset will pass a new charedi draft law… Enlistment for the army or national service is 100% voluntary… For the next 4 years, until 2017, there will be a one-time exemption-amnesty…and every charedi male who is in yeshiva/kollel (in order to avoid the army) will be able to go to college or join the workforce, without worrying about the army… In 2017, if they refuse…economic sanctions will be applied on them… (NO ONE IS GOING TO JAIL)

    * I suspect that once people are no longer being bribed to stay in kollel…and are no longer forced to stay in yeshiva in order to avoid the army… there will be radical changes in charedi society… This is what the charedi rabbinic and poilitical leadership is terrified of…

    ** Has R’ Shteinman told anyone that they can leave kollel…and get a job & support their family? … He is also pretty extreme… He just doesn’t want a confrontation with the medina at this time…

  9. mevaseretzion says:

    I’m glad I left that country.

    Every government makes demands upon its citizens – I assume you pay taxes wherever you live. The question is if you do your fair share in whatever country you live.

    How far your comment is from the angst-ridden, Jewish misery at not being able to live in Israel: כי גרשוני היום מהסתפח בנחלת ה’ – “For I have been expelled today from being part of God’s portion”. How sad that you seem to embody none of this. As for me and millions of other Jews living here, how lucky we are to be privileged to make our homes here and share in the redemption’s burdens: ובנו ערים נשמות וישבו בם – The returnees to the land will rebuild desolate cities and dwell in them. עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלים – Once again the elderly sit in the streets of Jerusalem. ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבא! “You mountains of Israel, give your branches and carry your fruit to my nation Israel for they are coming!” And the immortal words of Rashi (Sanhedrin 98) כשתתן ארץ ישראל פריה בעין יפה, אז יקרב הקץ ואין לך קץ מגולה מזה, “When the land of Israel gives forth her fruits freely, then the end is near, and there is no clearer sign of the end than this…”

    The redemption is at hand, and it takes work and sacrifice. It is so sad that you chose to turn your back on this gift of Hashem.

  10. Benshaul says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein is correct in pointing out that we do ourselves a disservice when we lump together everyone as rishoim. Yet what the piece did not answer is why are you pulling people out of the bais medrash for what looks like a makeshift position. That means that there is no CRITICAL NEED for this work. Yes, i understand the thinking behind it and the need to make secular Israelis feel like they aren’t “friers” with the charedim getting off easy. but the fact remains that its a makeshift position , so why is the bitul torah justified. I also understand that there are those who desperately need to get out of the bais medrash, and need a framework for charedim to do so, and we are back at the complexity of the whole mess. It seems that this is part of the “machlokes” in Israel ,and Reb Arron Leib agrees with this which is why he is advocating playing a low key objection and not coming out with a frontal war.

    [YA – I think you recognize that we can’t expect secular Israelis to accept the bitul Torah argument. So help me out. To whom is your question addressed? You understand the argument of those who resent bearing a burden that they see as shirked by others. You recognize their right to withhold funding that props up a life style they don’t appreciate. By now you even understand some of the calculus. (I.e. the accepted figure, it seems, of 2000/yr who are enrolled in yeshivos but don’t attend; the purposeful deferment of a declaration of intent by charedim till age 21 – which is effectively 22 – by which time the majority are married and will be rejected by the army because of the higher pay they are entitled to; the need to give charedim who do want to work the opportunity to do so without being spurned by the rest of Israeli society. You also know that for many people, offering them a way out of the current quagmire will lead them in the course of their lifetime to far more hours of limud Torah than they will lose by serving part time for a few years in some National Service. Bitulah zu hi kiyumah, and all that. So what is your point? ]

  11. Toby Katz says:

    When America had a draft, it wasn’t only pacifists and conscientious objectors who were exempt. It was all clergy and students in religious schools, whether Christian seminaries or yeshivos.

  12. Reb Chaim HaQoton says:

    In case you missed it, Shalom Jerbi was in the news today announcing that Hareidim are now welcome to join Sherut Leumi even though they had previously been banned pending a final decision on the Hareidi draft issue.

  13. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The incidence of avoidance of service in Tel Aviv and other secular strongholds is very high. I saw the numbers once and don’t remember them, but they are high. Making high-quality human beings into grunts is a difficult job. Numbers of warm bodies are less what is needed these days. More of what is needed is the administrative guys and the geeks who run the hi-tech hardware and software that makes for fewer hands needed. Even so a lot of secular kids either fail the physical or get the shrink to disqualify them. Moshe Feiglin is a proponent of a professional army. Sociologically it is not very viable anymore to make these Jewish kids into the half-animal, half-machine monsters that kill. OTOH it would be terrible to create an army of almost mercenaries and destroy the concept of a citizen soldier. Add it to the pile of cognitive dissonances. Mashiach is going to have to work all that out. Meanwhile the state and people of Israel muddle through, not very elegantly, but it’s what there is.

  14. L. Oberstein says:

    Today, I was teaching a class and made this observation: Israeli is currently involved in two campaigns. One is to move the Beduin of he Negev into towns. It is for their own good, their rae of infant mortality is 7 times that of Tel Aviv (NYTimes)and they lack basic sanitation, etc. Yet, they don’t trust the Israelis and are resisting it. They prefer to live as they have for millenea they say.
    The undelying reason is that they thinkk the government is lying to them, they just want them out of the way for their own purposes, to build two large army bases. I said that the Chareidim also do not trust the Israeli government, they think that they are doing this for their own reasons, to make the frum Jews frei. They feel that their way of life is more important to them than the benefits of joining the work force and earning a better living. In both cases, the Israeli government may or may not be sincere,but they are going about it in the wrong way. Jailing 18 year olds who listen to their leaders only will lead to more violence. Even if I agree with their goals as they state them,not as the fund raisers from Israel misrepresent them, I feel that Yair Lapid is not going about it in the right way. There are valid reasons why the Beduin and the Chareidim distrust the Israeli government and there has to be a way to speak to people in terms that will achieve their cooperation, not try to coerce them. Unfortuantely, there is no leadership and it requires big shoulders to advocatge change when fear of change is the driving force. Rabbi Berel Wein is 100% right in his recent article about a culture that doesn’t teach job skills and looks down on anyone who works, but does not look doswn on a culture of charity. It has to change but with more common sense and more sensitivity.

  15. Mycroft says:

    The deferment under selective service was not for religious schools but for those attending a divinity school leading to ordination. I am aware that as many divinity schools opened up during the Vietnam war many denominations started to push for the abandonment of the divinity deferment. These denominations felt that they wanted people for their clergy to be genuinely interested in being clergymen without ulterior motives. Of course, the volunteer army has been the norm since 1973 which mooted the move to abolish divinity deferments. Also to be remembered the US had chaplains in its Armed Forces . Many denominations had an internal selection of clergy who they forced to enlist as chaplains. Note YU for decades had an internal draft-lottery to determine which new mismatching would be forced to enlist as chaplains.

  16. lacosta says:

    it’s a sad reality [ to those outside of haredi life] that the vast majority of the hareidi israelis will never be able to come to terms with truly being a citizen of a secular state in the land of Canaan.yes, they will always be wide open to accepting whatever benefits they feel should accrue their communities.
    they will mostly be open to haredi suffrage ,to prevent harm to them by Others.
    but features of life in the State that would indicate buying into the venture will always be problematic— secular holidays, army service, israeli culture etc

    . [looking today at the vast numbers demonstrating with vigor and vehemence on behalf of the Prisoner of Zion { who refused to be inducted}, shows there are potential soldiers out there —just not for this cause]

    best case is to pull off from around the edges a small sliver that would be akin to US style haredim, and realize the rest are a Lost Cause… if the State doesnt want to support them, then so it will be; but to serve– no way, no how…

    [YA – What is behind these words – prognostication or frustration? How can you know what a vast majority of haredim will or will not ultimately be able to accept? Beyond the disturbing rhetoric and images, there are already literally thousands of people who have asserted more control over their lives by enrolling in sundry programs. Behind them are thousands more (and I may be off by an order of magnitude) who have quietly said, “I am not going to live with the poverty of my parents.” A hesder yeshiva for haredim has already opened. Much more will happen in that direction, although Lapid has set back the cause somewhat by empowering the staunch rejectionists. I would not be so quick to dismiss the ability of people to change, especially as stereotypes of the past are blown away through people’s encountering other people and fresh ideas.]

  17. Ben Waxman says:

    The deferment for clergy was only given for people learning to be clergy, not someone “learning”. The assumption in those situations is that a few select will go to divinity school, people who genuinely want to become a priest, pastor, or rabbi.

    Anyway, this discussion has nothing to do with the author’s point – that he can no longer trust the voices coming out of the Chareidi world.

  18. Moshe says:

    This post is absolutely stunning in its uncharacteristic strawman setup and headline bias. I can’t recall anyone, ever, who said that Jerbi was anti-Charedi. What I do recall is people saying that about Yair Lapid.

    If Rabbi Adlerstein can get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and say, “Some of the elected officials in this government want to uproot Torah. Yair Lapid’s plans are diabolical, counter-productive, and damaging,” he will have very accurately captured the feelings of mainstream Charedi society in Eretz Yisrael, with no scintilla of CD. That should be the headline of this post.

    [YA – Moshe, you have an excellent point – but you are also wearing blinders. I have no doubt that many, many people in our community direct their animus to where it belongs. To them, this piece was indeed a straw man. However, all of us have also had our fill of statements that make no distinctions, and that characterize all of the programs in Israel as part of a Holy War against Torah. This extends to articles, opinion pieces and fund-raisers here in the US as well. For some people, listening to a stream of rhetoric like that is water off a duck’s back. To many others, it is a source of CD! The purpose of the piece (and so many more in Cross-Currents) is to remind the CD sufferers that they are good people who have not lost their sanity, but should keep on doing Torah and mitzvos and ignore what reasonable human beings should not have to deal with.]

  19. Joseph says:

    Many credit certain Roshei Yeshivos with the exponential quantitative growth of the yeshiva world after the Holocaust. I have always credited Hashem with orchestrating drafts that resulted in the same, but with every increase in quantitative output comes a decrease in quality control. In the case of the growth of the yeshiva world, subconscious motivations to avoid the draft, the secular world, and in some cases, an honest day’s work, has created a society whose culture is dominated by a dishonest and desperate mediocre majority, who will fight tooth and nail to hold onto what was not theirs to begin with.

    Rabbi Oberstein is correct that a frontal assault will not work, but, as he is well aware, the comparison to the bedouin is not exactly parallel. The bedouin are concerned about a culture and life that is thousands of years old. The aspect of chareidi culture that they perceive as being directly under attack, that of every man sitting and learning, is 65 years old at the most. The idea that an end to the “every man must sit and learn” will mean an end to observant Torah-true Judaism is a contention that has been disproved by the prior thousands of years of survival and thriving without an every man must sit and learn policy.

    The elephant in the room is that the Chareidi position is so fraught with holes in its “reasoning,” yet no one is willing to be honest, as was the proverbial little boy, sitting on his father’s shoulders in the crowd, and proclaim “BUT THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!”

  20. SoMeHoW Frum says:

    Rabbi Aharon Feldman delivered an informative talk to Israeli generals on the subject of why Chareidim are so opposed to the draft. See the new issue of Dialogue.

  21. Bob Miller says:

    Above, Yehoshua Friedman (December 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm) characterized soldiers as “grunts” and “half-animal, half-machine monsters that kill”. Unless this was meant facetiously, and maybe even then, he owes Israeli combat soldiers a whole lot more appreciation and gratitude.

    As for US deferments during the Vietnam War: For enlisting in US Army ROTC and taking the required training at my university (MIT), I was promised a deferment through 4 years as an undergrad plus up to 2 years of grad school, to be followed by a term of active duty. This made sense at the time from the standpoint of education, because the future of student deferments looked shaky (the draft lottery came later). Does any such option now exist in Israel?

  22. Ben Av says:

    There also seemed to be be quite a bit of dissonance between the main part of this article and the concluding 4 paragraphs. It is almost like they are written for different audiences. I found the first part much easier to understand, and very well reasoned.

  23. Dr. E says:

    The fundamental issue here is from whom an idea originates. Is it from within the Chareidi world or from outside of it? It is little about the merits of the idea itself and how intellectually correct it is. If someone clearly identified with a camp on the outside says that “2 + 2 = 4”, then those within the circled wagons will be compelled to say something other than ‘4’.

    Desperation leads individuals and groups to do and say over-the-top things. Rhetoric and ad hominem attacks make great headlines, despite their departure from truth.

    We have seen such internally contradictory behavior recently with the protests against the jailed Yeshiva bochurim. Learning Torah by every Chareidi because of their (by definition) devotion and acumen, together with the supremacy of Torah, is what is at stake. Yet, when the doors of the Beis Medrish are flung open and pictures are posted online of the latest demonstrations, it sort of clarifies the hollowness of the Chareidi argument. What they are basically saying that is that better for those with limited ability, zitzfleisch, and hasmodah to attend these protests to promote the brand, than help out in hospitals, soup kitchens, or special needs centers. It takes broad shoulders to be comfortable with such a conclusion.

  24. Ari Heitner says:

    I think there is misconception (well-fueled by the media) about the party line, and the reality on the ground. Dr. E. writes, “We have seen such internally contradictory behavior recently with the protests against the jailed Yeshiva bochurim. Learning Torah by every Chareidi because of their (by definition) devotion and acumen, together with the supremacy of Torah, is what is at stake. Yet, when the doors of the Beis Medrish are flung open and pictures are posted online of the latest demonstrations, it sort of clarifies the hollowness of the Chareidi argument. What they are basically saying that is that better for those with limited ability, zitzfleisch, and hasmodah to attend these protests to promote the brand, than help out in hospitals, soup kitchens, or special needs centers.


    I don’t know which newspapers, yeshivos, gedolim, sifrei mussar, sifrei machshavah, or Torah the above quote is reading, consulting with, or referring to. So I’d like to establish an alternative that I will argue is the mainstream, until shown otherwise:

    a) Torah study is the highest value (see Tanya ch. 4, Derech Hashem entire first section, Nefesh haChaim, Rebbe Nachman, etc etc etc – with all the relevant caveats about precedence for mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled by others, study must to lead to action, etc)

    b) R’Ahron Leib has made it very clear: given a), those boys who can should study Torah. Those who can’t should join Nahal Hareidi or one of the other Hareidi-friendly tracks, then go work. I heard R’Yoel Schwartz say exactly this in person. This also seems to be the opinion of Degel/Agudah, who have remained in negotiations in the Shaked Committee, which presumably they wouldn’t if they thought Nahal Hareidi was treif.

    c) I don’t know whether R’Shmuel would tell a boy who really isn’t succeeding in learning to join Nahal Hareidi. We all know the Eda thinks N”H is treif. No chiddush here. But these opinions do not represent the mainstream of Hareidi opinion. *

    d) Just because some yeshiva let out to protest the arrest of yeshiva boys for trying to study Torah, does not mean all or even most yeshivos let out. I have been in the Beis Medresh at least part of every day since zman started (except 3 days vacation over Hannukah). As far as I could tell, everyone else was there too.

    e) All the yeshiva boys who Yair Lapid ** and Dov Lipman will send to the army (presumably the ones not smart enough to past Lipman’s test) are not needed to tote guns for the defense of the country. I have several students currently in combat units. You have to try darn hard to get in.

    f) Army service consists of a lot of make-work for all the recruits that are not Sayeret Matkal or even regular Golani or Mishmar haGvul material.

    g) Kids growing up in Israel are encouraged to do all sorts of volunteer work, from mentoring younger kids to helping special needs kids to packing Shabbos food for needy families. Hareidi culture strongly idealizes chessed/volunteerism and doesn’t need the government to push them to do it.

    h) There are a heck of a lot of Hareidim who work, or combine working and learning. That number is growing, and their qualifications are increasing dramatically.

    So now we’re going to take boys who want to study Torah and send them to do busywork for two years so that society will not see them as parasites? ***

    Does someone want to argue with any of the above a) – h)?

    * Forgive my editorializing: Given that the Eda doesn’t vote, it could be argued their opinion is in a certain way not relevant (or at least less relevant). Does anyone think if they did vote they would add up to a Knesset seat? Does anyone think R’Shmuel would?

    ** More editorializing (you have been warned): Yair Lapid’s army service consisted of writing for the Army newspaper. Real critical for the state there.

    *** Full disclosure: We moved back to Israel this past summer after seven years in North America working in Kiruv technology. I have a degree in computer science. I work very full time, and learn one seder. We live in RBS. We love it here. We have never thrown a rock at anyone, and don’t know anyone who has.

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    Rhetorical excess by Charedim and RZ/MO will exacerbate this issue. Like it or not, not everyone should be leadning 24/7 and not every 18 year old is needed by the IDF. What is needed is a strong reduction in triumphalistic rhetoric by all sides and a serious increase in Hakaras HaTov as to the contribution of Charedim and RZ/MO to the Torah observant world.

  26. L. Oberstein says:


    Life Event

    What’s on your mind?


    I saw this on Kikar hashabat and translated it . Laywer Weinroth says some chilling things about the people he represents and why it is so hard to represent Chareidim.
    בראיון שהעניק לעיתונאי משה גלסנר ברדיו ‘קול חי’, תקף עו”ד וינרוט את התנהלות הציבור החרדי אך העריך כי ימצא עוד ראיות בתיק לטובת הציבור החרדי.

    “הציבור החרדי שכח שהוא תולעת יעקב, מתנהג כמו הרקולס אדיר מימדים, שכח איפה הוא חי, בטוח שכולם יהיו כמוהו עוד מעט”, אומר עו”ד וינרוט, “החרדי ברחוב מתנהג באופן מוחצן, לא כמו שאני הייתי כילד. אנחנו באופוזיציה ועוד מעט נחטוף כאלו מכות שיחזירו אותנו לפרופורציות. הכתובת כבר על הקיר ורק אנחנו לא יודעים לקרוא”.

    ברגע של גילוי לב, אומר עורך הדין החרדי כי “יש קושי גדול לייצג חרדים בבית המשפט. אנחנו במצב של היהודים בגולה”.
    If you can read Hebrew, it is worth reading the words of Lawyer Yaakov Weinroth who is representing the Chareidi side in the Bait Shemesh election fraud case. He says that it is very hard to represent Chareidim becasue of the the mind-set of the Chareidm and how they act towards everyone else in the country . To summarize , he says that Chareidim think that they are the Jews in this country. Inother words, they think they are the only real Jews and they are living in the mind set of exle where they were a minority in a gentile country.They do not realize where they live. He says that the attitude that he observers even among chldren is one of chutzpah and superiority. They have not absorbed that they are “tolaat Yaakov” a worm and not Hercules the mighty. They haven’t yet absorbed their real status in this country and they have no idea of the punishments they will be receiving that are already written on the wall, so to speak. He says that he doesn’t talk about it because nobody listens and this attitude of self importance and denigration of everyone else is ingrained in them for over a generation. Oi Ve avoi, what is going to happen to them and they ae not prepared. This is from a man who is representing Chareidim and believes that the election conflict there would not have occured in another city. He does not think the results will be overthrown but he says it is very hard to represent Chareidm in Israeli courts

  27. Tzvi Grossman says:

    Ari Heitner,

    “Does someone want to argue with any of the above a) – h)?”

    Which part of “mai chozis d’dameich samek tfei” do you not understand? And why do Yair Lapid and Dov Lipman understand the concept better than many of the figures you mentioned above?

  28. Moshe says:

    Wow, L. Oberstein, talk about totally missing the message!

    He said that the Charedim are “the Jews” of the State in the sense that the Jews are the punching bag of the world.

    He says that Charedim imagine themselves and have asserted themselves as some sort of dominant force in Israeli society, but they have to realize that they are NOT part of the social fabric of the country but are, rather, in galus – led by Jews. They need to crawl back into their shells, act like the worms they are meant to be, as he did as a child in Netanya. That’s why he does not believe anything like this would have made it to the courts had the situation been reversed; certainly the AG would not have issued such a wildly irresponsible recommendation to have new elections.

    He did not say that the Charedim will be punished, he said that *this government* is going to sock it to the Charedim so hard that it will send them scurrying back to their “proper proportions.” He said that the writing is all over the wall, but the Charedim have yet to internalize that they are not part of the government.

    He said that he did not raise the eminently sensible idea of having a revote only in the booths where there was fraud – i.e., only Charedim get to vote twice – because he thought that would raise the ire of the judges who are anyhow always biased against the Charedim!

  29. Joseph says:

    Ari Heitner,

    I commend you on your move to Artzeinu HaKidosha, when Klal Yisrael finds itself in such trying times and turmoil! Ashrecha!

    However, you are not going to like what I am about to write:
    The idea that if there is nothing for most Chareidi boys to do in the army, then they should all be learning and not participating in everyday life, is foreign to a genuine Torah weltenschaung. Your “everything is Hunky Dory” portrayal of the Chareidi Yeshiva World sounds sincere; I do not know you, so I will not accuse you of being disingenuous. When one speaks to Roshei Yeshiva, one hears your version of the story; however when one speaks to Dayanim and Rabbanim who deal with the Shalom Bayis problems and the youth-at-risk problems that are plaguing that world, one hears quite a different story. I will venture to say that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, with each version pulling from its experiences and its own agenda. But the middle is quite a mediocre place to be and something needs to give.

    Jews have been learning the first Mishna in Pe’ah, every morning, for years; with all due respect, we do not need the Ba’al HaTanyah or the Ramchal to tell us that Talmud Torah is Kineged Kulam. But never was that taken to mean that one should not take responsible steps to acquire a profession to support one’s self and his family. Au contraire, we find many ma’amarei Chazal warning against such an attitude.

    In fact, one might argue that the kind of learning that is going on in the mainstream Yeshivos is not quite Talmud Torah. After all, when the average yeshiva bachur has less responsibilities of showing his progress (via tests, papers, deadlines, quotas, et cetera) for what he is taught has “the highest value” than the average college student has for kol minei mishugasin that he might be learning, what kind of message does that send to our youth and to the world regarding how seriously we take Talmud Torah? When the average Yeshiva bachur can talk semi-intelligently about the first few blatt in a perek at the end of a zman, but not much more, how exactly is that called talmud Torah? Yes, the act of learning is of the highest value, but there is learning and there is learning. In fact, I am going to venture to say that what I am pointing out is the difference between “Talmud Torah” and “Limud Torah.” “Talmud,” as with any po’el, preceded by a Tav, implies nochach, second person; that it is not just about one’s self. “Limud,” on the other hand, implies just the act of learning. Rambam, in Hilchos Talmud Torah, learns out the mitzvah of Talmud Torah from “ViLimadtem Osam Es Bineichem LiDabeir Bam.” This phrase is commonly mistranslated as “You shall teach them (the words of Torah) to your sons to speak in them.” The correct translation is “You shal learn them with your sons to speak in them.” The implication of the choice of this phrase as the source for the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is unavoidable: In order to truly speak in learning, one must learn with his sons. True Talmud Torah cannot be an act of isolation. It cannot be self-serving in the long run. If it does not lead to connection with others, it will not remain Talmud Torah. There are only so many positions to be one who is a Milameid Torah. What of the rest of those who are sitting and learning and have no training to do anything other than that? A Torah of isolation is fraught with the danger of becoming the arrogant self-referential delusions of disappointed and isolated scholars.

    How do we mock the words of Dovid HaMelech “Yegi’a Kapecha Ki Socheil, Ashrecha Vitov Lach.”? Don’t we believe those timeless words were written with ruach haKodesh? How do we mock Chazal’s interpretation of those words “Ashrecha BaOlam HaZeh, Vitov Lach, LaOlam Habah.”? Don’t we believe those timeless words were written with ruach haKodesh? Never did the Ba’al HaTanya, the Ramchal, or Rav Chaim Volozhiner in Sha’ar Dalet of Nefesh haChaim, ever envision an interpretation of their words so removed from common sense reality! They lived in times in which if one tried to pull off a “learn only” approach, he would die of starvation and disease. There were exceptions, but they were just that: exceptions.

    The idea of programming an entire generation of Yeshivalite to believe that everything they need to know to be successful people, they can learn in Yeshiva, never crossed the minds of these great Gedolim. When the typical yeshiva boy tells me “I don’t need to learn science–the Chazon Ish figured out brain surgery from his limud haTorah!” that is pure ga’avah, masquerading as Gadlus HaAdam. (Yes. I have heard that “argument” against learning limudei chol from countless yeshiva boys.)

    Since Eisav haRasha could not be part of Klal Yisrael, Yaakov Avinu had to learn to be a sulam mutzav artzah as well. He had to go to Uncle Lavan and learn to beat him at his game. Klal Yisrael needs Yoshvei Ohalim, but in the end, it was engaging with the realities of Olam Hazeh that made Yaakov into Yisrael.

    Your contention that Chareidi culture is one that values chesed and volunteerism is not one that is being debated. I challenge you to produce real proof that the Chareidi culture is one that values hard work and responsibility. Volunteering is no big “Kuntz.” Gadol mitzuva vi’oseh mimi she’eino mitzuvah vi’oseh. What about doing what one is supposed to do? What about taking one’s kesubah seriously as a Torah-legal obligation and not just some archaic document, read under the chupah, that one can “shuckle” to? The Alter of Slobodka (Ohr HaTzafun, Chayei Sarah) viewed the Chesed one does for those closer to him as the greater Chesed, even though it may be obligatory, because it involves less shame to those who receive it. In fact, he says that is the meaning of Shlomo HaMelech’s statement: Gomeil Nafsho Ish Chased. The implication is that a society that values volunteerism as chesed, but does not believe in one taking care of his own family, has a short-circuit when it comes to being Domeh LiKonam.

    You speak about all those Chareidim who do work for a living. How many of them are Israeli Chareidi from birth? What percentage? Do you have any statistics to back up a contention that most of them are working? Shouldn’t most of them be working? Elef nichnasim liMikra . . . viEchad Yotzei LiHora’ah.

    You make it sound like it is “some” Chareidi boys who want to sit and learn. Who are you kidding? They all want to (or at least their parents and Rebbeim want them to) avoid army service.

    And as far as the desk jobs that you claim are made up jobs of busy work, really? Please back that up with some evidence from someone who knows how the whole picture of running an army works.

    “Those boys who can, should study Torah.” It is very easy for a bochur to study Torah when he is younger and does not need to worry about the realities of supporting a mishpacha. The truth is that he does need to worry about those realities. We have him push off those concerns, yet we have him marry at a young age, and we do not encourage, nay we do not allow him pushing off starting a family. He gets married, continues in Kollel, and then at the tender age of almost thirty, when monetary sources dry up and family expenses exponentially increase, what do we tell him next? Start training for a parnassa that you will be involved with for the rest of your life when you are at the most disadvantageous point in your life to take on such a project?! Talk about setting young men up for failure! I strongly question what the definition of “Those who can . . .” really is. “Can” right now? Anyone “can learn” if they ignore future inevitable responsibilities.

    You don’t know what Rav Shmuel would say to a bochur regarding joining Nachal Chareidi? That’s interesting. The media seems to know what he would say. Why dont you ask one of his Gabbaim? Why don’t you ask him?

    “Does someone want to argue with any of the above a) – h)?”

    What is there to argue with? You did not quote anything other than anecdotal rhetoric.

  30. lacosta says:

    in defense of RYA ‘s position against my contentions, i offer up a recent story on ynet which describes haredim who left israel for NYC not due to hiloni pogroms, but due to haredi economic prospects in Israel… they can’t defeat or protest the unified israeli daas tora that perpetuates current hareili life , and consecrates it as derech yisroel sabba , but they can flee to more open pastures…..

  31. lacosta says:

    >>>>Jews have been learning the first Mishna in Pe’ah, every morning, for years; with all due respect, we do not need the Ba’al HaTanyah or the Ramchal to tell us that Talmud Torah is Kineged Kulam. But never was that taken to mean that one should not take responsible steps to acquire a profession to support one’s self and his family. Au contraire, we find many ma’amarei Chazal warning against such an attitude.

    —– unless one sees the juxtaposition of ‘talmud tora kneged kulam’ to the laws of poverty, as a mandate for an oilam rich in tora and poor in all elements gashmi….

  32. Ari Heitner says:

    Tzvi, “mai chozis d’dameich samek tfei” would be a good question if the issue was Chareidim choosing to avoid risking their lives when everyone else does, and the proposed solution to put them at the front lines equally. But the compulsory national service option RYA is discussing is, “…classroom education, gemachs, and working with kids at risk within the charedi community.” All those Sherut Leumi girls working in gans is very nice. Limud Torah is a little more important than Sherut Leumi. Are you not shocked at the chutzpah of Yair Lapid and Dov Lipman, neither of whom ever risked a well-groomed hair on their heads, to dictate to yeshiva boys what the priorities are?

    As I mentioned, I have students currently in combat units. I have students who served in combat in the past. I am proud of them. I teach my kids to go and thank soldiers whenever we see them. It would be justified for those in combat to look down on others who didn’t risk their lives. I can only anecdotally report that of the many soldiers I’ve spent time with – my family, my students, and the ones I just meet randomly – not one has ever felt that way.

    Joseph, I appreciate your carefully-reasoned and detailed response. I agree with you on many – maybe even all – of your points. I do work. I believe in work. I believe שונא מתנות יחיה is a critical value, and my rebbeim (and the gedolim who are their rebbeim) have been saying it for years. I believe Israeli Hareidi society needs to change its balance, and I believe that is happening: the number of career-training options for both men and women has exploded in the last 15 years.

    At the same time, I completely respect the decision of my friends who have chosen to live extremely simple lives and get by with only the wife’s income, so they can learn full-time. But I don’t tell my students to do it.

    There is one much more important principle that leads me to some different conclusions: you write, “You make it sound like it is “some” Chareidi boys who want to sit and learn. Who are you kidding? They all want to (or at least their parents and Rebbeim want them to) avoid army service.”

    Generalizing the opinions, values or nature of an entire group from anecdotal evidence is a dangerous hobby. I have met and spent lots of time with Israeli yeshiva kids. I am prepared to accept at face value when they tell me they want to continue learning. I wasn’t there in ’67 or ’73, but I heard the stories from my rebbeim in Torah Ore when the soldiers came to the beis medresh before they left for the front and said, “We’re going to do our job – you better do yours!” I know yeshiva boys who formed groups during the Gaza wars in 2009 and 2012 and took responsibility for specific IDF units, learning around the clock until “their boys” came home safely.

    I’m sorry, but I find dismissing the entire cohort of yeshiva students as draft-dodgers disrespectful.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t kids in yeshiva drifting, and I’m not justifying that. In the footsteps of my rebbeim – particularly R’Nosson Tzvi – I’m a big advocate of tests. And it’s true, I can’t say what percentage of the IDF is busywork – though I have seen a number of newspaper articles in the past year stating that universal conscription is unnecessary, I cannot cite them now. But if the Sherut Leumi system is looking for things to do in order to keep all the Hareidi draftees who don’t want to enter combat busy, isn’t that by definition busywork?

    I advocate (reasonably) early marriage for my students because Chazal seem to think that’s a good idea, and I see it works well for them (not perfectly; I have divorced students too). Believe me I give the boys a stern talking-to about what it says in the kesuba and whose responsibility it is to put food on the table. And I try to make sure both the boys and the girls pursue education leading to a solid career path (a BA in Psychology doesn’t cut it either). The last thing I want for them is to be burnt out on learning at 30 and incapable of supporting a large family.

    And on that note, again I can only report anecdotal evidence, but people I know who have asked gedolim for advice on parnasa have consistently gotten an answer much closer to, “Well, go get some training and figure out a way to support your family,” than, “Don’t worry, Hashem (or the Medinah!) will provide.” Similarly, I honestly do not know what R’Shmuel would say to a boy asking about joining Nahal Hareidi – but I know the newspaper – or word-of-mouth – is the last place to look to figure out what he thinks. As R’Elyashiv used to say, “Anything you didn’t hear from me personally, don’t believe.”

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    Ari Heitner-Please correct me if I am mistaken-I detect a lack of Hakaras HaTov for the IDF in your post, which is almost as dissapointing as the same lack of Hakaras HaTov for those who learn full time in the RZ world. I would suggest that your POV would have more merit if you were aware of the halachic issues confronting the average Chayal-which R Yosef Rimon, a Posek from Gush sets forth in detail in Hilcos Tzavah, an excellent two volume work in LaShon HaKodesh that is available in any seforim store in EY. Until then, the lack of Hakaras Hatov for either the IDF or hesder is an unfortunate and deplorable aspect of the rhetorical rhetoric that predominates in discussions of this nature and raises issues whether such comments can be squared with the Midah Tovah of being Noseh B’Ol Chavero.

  34. Miriam says:

    We have lived in RBS for almost 10 years, and our children are enrolled in local Charedi schools, KA”H toddler through teen. My husband works during the day and learns night seder, B”H (on both!).

    A recent tidbit from the court review regarding the recent Bet Shemesh municipal elections: “The police discovered in their investigation into the election fraud that Teduot Zehut [identity cards] were collected for the purpose of election fraud IN BOXES SET UP FOR THE PURPOSE IN SHULS. This, said the police officer, means that every person who davened in those shuls was aware and did not stop this criminal activity.” There is so much private whispering about the nasty tone set by the Charedi politicians, and the embarrassing stories coming out about the fraud, yet as a community we alternate between denial that anything was wrong and justification that it was our only choice because “they” don’t play by the rules anyway.

    As someone inside the Israeli-Charedi community, my struggle is less about the name-calling of everyone not Charedi, and more the group-think we are expected to uphold. Another Bet Shemesh example: in response to the Orot school publicity, (a) a local Rabbi wrote that when the girl was spat on, her parents should have just wiped her cheek and moved on; (b) a Charedi PR specialist explained to Mishpacha magazine why all Charedim should never say anything against the spitter: otherwise we indicate to outsiders that we as Charedim believe that the issue that prompted the spittle (tzniut/modesty) is unimportant.

    For all our impressive Torah learning, we cannot distinguish right from wrong, and frankly we are drowning in it.

  35. Moshe says:


    You seem like a very sincere person, who has Klal Yisrael’s welfare in mind. I presume that you respect R’ Moshe Feinstein as a Posek. Please respond to these responsa in Igros Moshe:

    Yoreh Deah III, 81 – The prohibition against establishing Yeshiva High Schools except when necessary for lack of alternative.

    Yoreh Deah III, 82 – The prohibition for Yeshivaleit and Avreichim to study limudei chol.

    Yoreh Deah IV, 36:1 – Encouragement of students to remain in Yeshiva and not worry about parnasah; encouragement of umnus nekiyyah vekallah that does not require alot of training; realization that any craft or profession can yield either wealth or poverty, depending only on zechus and tefillah.

    Yoreh Deah IV, 36:11 – Nowadays, teaching one’s son Torah qualifies as teaching him a trade, provided one has studied enough to become a teacher, since nowadays teachers of Torah are paid, unlike during the time of Chazal.

    Yoreh Deah IV, 36:14 – Anyone who studies Torah can become a Gadol.

    Yoreh Deah IV, 36:15 – Yereim Ushleimim who have important jobs and whose primary concern in life is Torah and Mitzvos can nonetheless not be classified as Bnei Torah.

    Yoreh Deah IV, 36:13,16 – One is permitted, as a kulla, to study a time-consuming profession that one thinks will make one wealthy, but one who does so should not delude himself into thinking that he is fulfilling the mitzvah of Torah study properly.

  36. Shades of Gray says:

    “Yereim Ushleimim who have important jobs and whose primary concern in life is Torah and Mitzvos can nonetheless not be classified as Bnei Torah.”

    IIRC, this teshuva was a response to a relative of R. Moshe who had questioned why R. Moshe said the above.

    I remember a conversation I had, while still in yeshiva, with the wife of a well-known charedi rosh yeshiva with whom my family was friendly with. I had apparently expressed pleasant surprise when she said that one could work and be a Ben Torah, and she said in response, “our entire conversation was worth it just for this point”.

    I have thought of the above contradiction for some time, which for me, was an apparent machlokes between Rav Moshe and this rebbetzin! Without seeing the teshuva I wonder if A) R. Moshe was discussing a different level of a Ben Torah B) R. Moshe was talking about a different American generation where the learning was on a lesser level.

  37. Dr. E says:

    I think that Joseph did a good job is taking you to task. But, here are my comments on-point:

    (a) I agree with you. One should always think that way about the supremacy of Torah and its learning in our lives. But, intellectual acumen, motivation, zitzfleich or the practical need to make a parnassa also must enter into the equation. How about creating a system in which a 20 or 25 year old can learn 2 or 3 hours a day with 98% hasmada and feel good about himself as a God-fearing Torah Jew. Perpetuating a(n on-paper) 16 hour-a-day regimen where the level of hasmada is only 30-40% of that time, just because the guys and parents feel validated and the numbers can be inflated is not productive for the individual of the Klal.

    (b) Really?! Number one, his “haskama” was many years ago, and at best it was luke warm. Number two, it was not shared by anyone else in the Chareidi leadership. He and/or his handlers have since back-pedaled from that position. If you have ever seen his name on-record for NH or ever attended a NH fundraiser, please share it with the readership. If you think that R. Yoel Schwartz is mainstream Chareidi, then you have a very generous definition of that label.

    It is well known that NH is made up of mostly DL who want segregated environments and Chareidim who are there as merely b’dieved because the alternative would be either homeless or faithless. Which Chareidi Yeshivos today have a “NH track” on-record for even 10% of their Talmidim?

    (c) See my point on “a” above. I’m not sure what your source for “success in learning” as a metric is. I don’t think it comes from Chazal and certainly is not recorded in any of the Mefarshim on the Gemara in Kiddushin 30 as a petur for personal responsibility. It sounds like the term might have come from some session at a Torah Umesorah convention in the 1980’s. The goal is about success in life, inclusive of Torah study, its values and Halachic practice–and people taking individual responsibility for achieving all of that. And absent any way of assessing “success in learning”, then you are just allowing the heads of the Yeshivas, who are nogeah b’davar, to make a judgment which might be tinged with the self-interest of roster inflation.

    (d) Kol hakavod for the Yeshivos that stayed open. But if the reports are true, not only have one or two Yeshivos emptied the Beis Medrish but some notable Roshei Yeshiva have made well-publicized “chizuk visits”.

    (e) OK. I think that there are still enough National Service needs and opportunities to go around. Have them offer to do that.

    (f) Not sure about the validity of your claim. But, I suspect that for those bochurim with the 16 hour schedule and 3 hour attention span, the Sedarim they keep might be equally cosmetic.

    (g)Great. But, is this officially encouraged and facilitated by the Chareidi Yeshivos?

    (h) That’s great. Please share the names of 3 Chareidi Yeshivos in 5774 which encourage this combining working and learning for its bochurim which you see as evidence of the system’s success. In other words, what percentage of the success stories (a) actually came through the system; and (b) have always felt good about themselves?

  38. Tzvi Grossman says:

    Ari Heitner,

    I’m always amused that everyone in the charedi world knows exactly how the army should be run and what the correct proportion of combat to support soldiers should be despite the fact that they’ve never served in the army. Armies the world over somehow have non-combat soldiers despite the fact that charedi experts have told us time and again that they are not needed. Doubly amusing is the disdain charedim show for non-combat soldiers given the fact they’ve never served even in that capacity. The chutzpah is not that Yair Lapid is asking you to contribute to klal yisrael. The chutzpah is that charedim are indifferent to “mai chozis” on a communal level.
    I learned in Mir (in Yerushalayim) for two years and then in a hesder yeshiva. I have a son who learned in Mir and a son in a hesder yeshiva. In both my time and my sons’ a not-insignificant cohort of the guys in Mir learned less during the zman than some of the hesder guys learned while they were in the army. Why are those non-learners not in the army? Why are they very actively discouraged to contribute to klal yisrael’s defense by your community and its’ leaders? That’s the chutzpah!

  39. Ari Heitner says:

    Tzvi (and others),

    I’m not sure how you missed the part where I said, “boys who aren’t learning should join the army and go to work.”

    If we all agree that boys who aren’t learning should join up, then what are we arguing about?

    הוי אומר the only thing left is what should be with the boys who are learning (and forgive me if I’m prepared to assume that more than 1800 out of the 7000 in the yearly cohort are really shteiging!). And on that we do have a problem: the non-Torah population of the country doesn’t value Torah, so by their definition those boys are doing nothing (note that the Torah/non-Torah divide does not equal the Hareidi/DL split – many DL rabbanim have come out against forced enlistment and are quickly learning Lapid’s disdain for the DL Torah world).

    I don’t have a solution to that problem. But I stand by what I believe to be the only course of action: the Torah world must fight any attempt at outside control over who learns and who doesn’t. If Lapid and Lipman are the apotropsim of the future of Torah, we are in big trouble.

    That said, Tzvi, I think what your point (validly!) boils down to is how a large part of the non-Hareidi public sees the Hareidim: close to 15 years ago one of my friends was spit on and called a parasite while walking to shul in a mixed neighbourhood in Jerusalem. My friend works full time for Intel.

    It’s bigotry, pure and simple. There are reasons for it, and I think I join everyone here in deploring the idiots giving Torah a bad name, and we all know who they are – from picking fights with WoW at the Kosel to the housing development/gravesite stupidity here in RBS. Broader Hareidi society needs to do a (much) better job of condemning that behaviour.

    But that same Hareidi society has a legitimate place to protest bigotry. And more than that: Lapid and friends need to learn that the government here has a history of anti-religious policy that has left them skating on very thin trust on the part of the Hareidi community. They would do better to emphasize cooperation and empowerment than impose their agenda, which will only lead to widespread alienation and civil disobedience.

    PS: Steve, if you think I don’t have hakaras haTov for our soldiers, please go back and read my second post. And yes, Hilchos Tzavah is an awesome sefer. The question here is definitely not whether one can be both a ben Torah and a soldier.

  40. Kalman Neuman says:

    “boys who aren’t learning should join the army”– but who does that include? The men who I see at the 10 am minyan in zichron moshe? Those who I see at the roadside in the middle of the day trying to hitch rides to who-knows-where? Those who are visible on the streets at night? Does any one know of one bachur who was told that his lack of learning does not justify his army deferment? Is there one rosh yeshiva who thinks that someone who learns mishyah yomis should not be excempted? Unfortunately, there is too little transparency in this conversation. Let the truth be said, as far as the haredi leadership is concerned, the is no a priori reason to go to the army and serve the medina.

  41. Tzvi Grossman says:

    Ari Heitner,

    From your most recent response we have more common ground than I thought but certainly not enough to bridge the gap. Your assumption of bad will on the part of Yair Lapid and definitely of Dov Lipman is (obviously in my humble opinion) erroneous. I think you would probably say the same of my assumption of bad will by many of the rabbis you mentioned above (whom I assume the editors of this blog will not allow me to name.) The difference is that Lapid and even Dov Lipman aren’t presumptuous enough to think that they speak in the name of and somehow represent G-d on the one hand and not to care about how their actions and words make our religion look on the other.

  42. Ari Heitner says:


    Actually I find Lapid a much more sympathetic figure than Lipman. Lapid is completely consistent with his own value system: he doesn’t care for Torah, never claimed he did, and therefore wants to see Hareidi society doing something productive on his terms. Why does he care? As he has said clearly, he doesn’t per se; he just doesn’t want to pay a price (even if it’s only a perceived price) to support something in which he has no interest.

    Lipman is a more problematic case – he claims to share the same Torah value system, yet he thinks he knows better than everyone else. On him I say, “Who made you the רשכבה”ג?!”

    As for who gets to speak in the name of G-d, there are lots of people in the world who claim that privilege. Unfortunately the newspapers pay attention to the loudest and most obnoxious ones. It’s not nice, but I try not to let it cost me more than a few hours’ sleep per night.

    Kalman, I don’t like it either. But make sure you also count the men davening netz (and the boys where they should be in the yeshiva minyan at 7:15). And while we’re adding up points to judge different communities – don’t forget the ones without kippas on their heads straggling on to the beach at noon in TA after a night of partying. Every chevreh has its bums.

  43. Joseph says:

    Ari Heitner,
    I realize now that my comment about “every bochur wanting to avoid the army” was unclear. I did not mean that literally and looking back, I am glad you pointed it out. What I meant was that any one would want to avoid the dangerous and scary job of being a chayal if there were a viable easy way out. If there were a testing system and benchmarks to merit such a p’tur, imagine the improvement in the quality of learning that would result–or not? Let’s call everyone’s bluff: A system whereby any bochur who is rated by his Rebbeim and Mashgiach to have hit and maintained certain benchmarks of true excellence in limud haTorah and Tikun HaMiddos, will receive a p’tur.

    I will respond to your collection of objections with one comment:
    Quoting Igros Moshe, responsa written to specific people, in specific times and specific situations, as a response to my quotes from Kisuvim, Chazal, and straight out Halacha P’suka, does not put the onus upon me to defend Dovid HaMelech, Shlomo HaMelech, Chazal, or the Shulchan Aruch. Ain hachi namei, Reb Moshe explains his p’sakim in great detail and one can glean halacha lima’aseh from his monumental work, but ignoring the history and reality that were part and parcel of the she’aila-teshuvah dynamic would be doing Reb Moshe’s work a great disservice. A great exercise in understanding Halachic jurisprudence would be to investigate the background of the actual she’ailos that were asked to Reb Moshe ZT”L. Any true Moreh Hora’a knows that the context of the She’aila has great bearing on what is the proper p’sak for that situation. One can only theorize regarding the weight Reb Moshe gave to each factor that went in to reaching the conclusions he reached. There are certain realities that have changed so much since the time that Reb Moshe was asked these she’ailos that every single one that you mentioned should be reevaluated in the context of the reality we find ourselves within today. The Torah does not change, but the application of Halacha does vary based on the situation one is attempting to apply it to.

  44. Dr. E says:

    Lipman is a more problematic case – he claims to share the same Torah value system, yet he thinks he knows better than everyone else. On him I say, “Who made you the רשכבה”ג?!”

    Reb Ari:
    Of course Dov Lipman is problematic. Because, while he represents a departure from the current moving target of increasing Chareidi insulation, he reminds Chareidim of a historical reality in which people who maintained pretty solid Torah value systems still maintained personal responsibility for themselves and their families. This was certainly the state of affairs before Lipman was the the רשכבה”ג during the times of the Gemara, Rishonim, and in Litta. (One does not have to be a Gadol Hador to validate Jewish History and not engage in revisionism.) As such, that presents a very uncomfortable ideological dilemma to reconcile with what has been developing over the past 30 years. Deep down, the Chareidi community realizes that these last three decades have been characterized more by entitlement and shying away from tough decisions than the principle-laden ideology of post-Shoah rebuilding and Torah supremacy that is the rhetorical rage today. The solution to this dissonance is merely turning up the volume on the rhetoric through demagoguery and emotional videos which are short in the fact-checking department.

    As we are hearing, the Admorim and Litvish Roshei Yeshiva are planning a full-court press to America–coming very soon to communities like Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, the Five Towns, and elsewhere in an attempt to find sympathetic ears, and more importantly, generous wallets. Hyperbole is sure to be abound with life-or-death and other crying wolf to provide the soundbites for online outlets. They will be preaching your message that Lipman is a Rasha—when in fact what he is proposing by way of “educational reform” is probably less than 50% of what most of these audiences would ever tolerate for their own children.

  45. Moshe says:


    Neturei Karta and Conservative Judaism also cite pessukim and Chazal; all you did was pepper your own ideology with some quotes, just as they can.

    RMF distilled all his vast and profound Torah knowledge into a clear, unambiguous, and obviously contemporary (ask his sons!) ideological outlook set forth in those teshuvos, with which one can disagree, but that one cannot, with any modicum of Eilu V’eilu, delegitimize. That is precisely what many of the opponents of Charedi society in Israel are doing by force of their current majority position, and it is entirely unacceptable.

    Yes, there are many who honestly seek to better the plight of Israeli Charedi society, but there are others – many, many others – who seek to have its ideology defeated, with its adherents not merely sharing the defense and economic burden, but assimiliating into its dominant societal strains and abandoning their deeply-held values. Few are honest enought to admit it.

  46. Steve Brizel says:

    Ari Heitner-If you wish to show Hakaras Hatov and demonstrate how you are Noseh B’ol Chavero, then offer a shiur or chabura in Hilcos Tzavaah. One cannot begin to realistically understand the halachic issues faced by a Chayal until one understands the halachic issues that a Chayal confronts quite often. The best analogy would be the comments of the Meshech Chachmah in Parshas Yisro on the reward that a non Kohen receives for learning Kodshim and Taharos.

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    Ari Heitner-Lapid, Bennett and R Lipman all suffer from the same malady-rhetorical excess and a lack of Hakaras Hativ for anyone’s POV except their own.

  48. Tzvi Grossman says:

    Ari Heitner,

    Who made you (Lipman) the רשכבה”ג?!”

    B’makom sheain ish…

  49. L. Oberstein says:

    If we are indeed one people and have one Torah, we have to work harder to be melamed zechus on one another. The facts are that the Olom Hatorah in Israel blossomed due to the Socialist welfare state and to deal making. Without the money ,the community might not have grown so fast and so large. It is also true that they have a very legitimate and sincere belief that the secular state does not really respect their values and seeks to undermine their lifestyle through both coercion and enducements.
    Learning the Parsha I was struck by the similarity of Phaoah’s fears and those of secular Israelis, “Lest they grow numerous and go up from the land, as Rashi explains, cause us to go up. They see their country being overrun by those whom they fear will displace them. On the other hand, the gravy train is over. The current system is a ponzi scheme (Rabbi Berel Wein wrore it ,not me.)We can be on the cusp of a new Golden Age, where very observant Jews will be in all aspects of society and their behavior will be a Kiddush Hashem and also an inspiraion for many Israelis who are looking for spirituality. Instead of hating the religious, many Israelis will gain a new understanding and respect for Judaism. I think this vision can become reality if both sides work together to find a reasonable time table for chareidi integration . Poverty and isolation are not the norm and are not a good way to reproduce Judaism, they are the reasons so many left relgion in the past (Rabbi Wein again).
    One more note, stop demonizing Dov Lipman. He is sincere and has been put into a position which was unimaginable before the election. He is working hard as a full time memer of the Knesset on a wide variety of issues and chareidim are not the be all and end all of the State of Israel. The hatred of him is no more than scapegoating. He is an Ameican chareidi and his life style and what he represents demonstrates that one can go to college, care about the entire country and not live in self imposed isolationa and fear of change. By focussing on him, one realizes how his mere being in the Knesset put to the lie the belief that one cannot be a full Israeli and really frum, it isn’t one or the other and that isn’t how we do it in America and Israel is heading in that direction.

  50. Bob Miller says:

    Remember that both Chareidi and Mizrachi yeshivot have been hurt by current government policy and have expressed grave concern. What do these groups have in common? Not their stance toward the State of Israel or toward engagement with general Israeli society, but rather their commitment to serious Torah study and practice. It’s that commitment that the political enemies of yeshivot find most objectionable.

  51. Joseph says:


    I did not “pepper MY ideology with some quotes.” The simple meanings of those quotes are not debated. They speak the ideology of the Torah. I never said Reb Moshe’s p’sakim are no longer legitimate; all I did say and mean is that the responsible thing to do is to evaluate whether the current situation warrants that those p’sakim, that YOU hold are so clearly relevant and applicable to the current situation, actually do apply. Throwing Reb Moshe’s sons into the mix does not address this issue; it merely masks YOUR ideology with a superficially superior air of legitimacy. There are many Talmidim of Rav Moshe who are willing to look at the reality of a situation and address whether a p’sak of Reb Moshe applies to it or not.

  52. Moshe says:


    The “simple” meaning of many quotes in Chazal is debated. (Do you think “Talmud Torah keneged kulam” is unanimously understood kipshuto? Or do you think “Gadol Haneheneh Miyigieo yoser miyerei Shamayim” is unanimously understood kipshuto? Or do you think “Gadol Talmud Torah yoser mehatzalas nefashos” is unanimously taken kipshuto? etc. etc.). The Chazon Ish writes in a letter to R’ Elchonon Wasserman that isolating a quote or two or three from Chazal and forging an outlook based on it is a very unreliable way to develop a Torah outlook. The question is when and whether they apply, how they correspond and interplay with other quotes, how the calculus applies to a given situation, and what does it mean lema’aseh.

    Ask Reb Moshe’s sons if HE meant his ideology as presented in those Teshuvos to be applied to the current Charedi world in EY and you’ll have your answer. If you feel there are other, more reliable interpreters of Reb Moshe’s outlook, by all means. (If you mean whether R’ Ploni feels that RMF’s outlook ought to be applied to the current situation, perhaps he ought first be asked if he thought it ever to be true, especially considering that one of the primary teshuvos was addressed to the principal of Ner Israel High School in 1982!)

    Alternatively, feel free to point out – with quotes – where you think Reb Moshe’s analysis of the sources might be taken merely as his approach to a specific situation as opposed to an overarching distillation of timeless Hashkafas HaTorah, and why you think that specific situation is not comparable to that which exists in EY today.

  53. Joseph says:


    This will be my last response because this discussion would be better conducted in a private forum for multiple reasons.

    You are presenting an approach that rejects the plain and simple understanding of multiple ma’amarei Chazal, as understood by countless halachic authorities, throughout the ages, in exchange for mystical understandings, that albeit they are emes, nonetheless, they do not take the place of the understanding of the Rishonim.

    The Rishonim had a broad and complete grasp of all the divrei Chazal necessary to reach their conclusions regarding the practical applications of these ma’amarim. It is upon them that I, and other like-minded bnei Torah, rely.

    The Chazon Ish’s letter is but one more example of needing to know the background of the responsa and who and what he was referring to.

    The fact that one of the letters of Reb Moshe ZT”L was addressed to the principal of Ner Yisrael, in 1982, when Ner Yisrael is a very different place in a very different world more than thirty years later truly makes my point.

    There are Talmidim of Reb Moshe ZT”L who are just as much an authority of what Reb Moshe would have held today, who are not his sons. A Gadol’s sons do not have a monopoly on his Torah. Among those Talmidim, there are those who would be the first to protest directly using their Rav’s teshuvos to decide such time-sensitive she’eilos as the ones under discussion. I have had the first-hand zechus (too many times) of being given mussar by talmidim of Reb Moshe ZT”L, for quoting Igros Moshe directly in response to or in my presentation of she’eilos.

    I don’t deem it appropriate to point out where I think Reb Moshe’s analysis may be taken as his approach to a specific situation as opposed to an overarching distillation of timeless Torah Hashkafa, nor why I think that specific situation is not comparable to that which exists in Eretz Yisrael today. The comment forum is not one conducive to true respectful communication, especially between people who, we both can admit, have very differing philosophies regarding the very meaning of certain words and phrases.

    Finally, to paraphrase your quote from the Chazon Ish ZT”L: Isolating a quote or two or three from an Acharon and forging an outlook based on it is a very unreliable way to develop a Torah outlook. The question is when and whether they apply, etc.

  54. Moshe says:

    Fair enough. I would just add two points:

    1) There is nothing at all mystical about RMF’s Teshuvos. I, too, have had significant exposure to some of his Talmidim. I actually chuckled when I saw the word “mystical” attached to Reb Moshe.

    2) I respectfully venture (with a strong degree of confidence) that you find it difficult to square Reb Moshe’s outlook with your own, period. Your raising of the time and place aspect, which, in all honesty, is simply non-existent in any of these teshuvos (actually that’s not quite correct; he makes it clear when he is deviating from his ultimate model when making reluctant *concessions* to American zeitgeist), just make the inevitable dissonance easier.

    All the best.

  55. Joseph says:

    For those who saw the above response to my last one, let me clarify that I was in no way characterizing Reb Moshe ZT”L’s outlook as mystical. I was referring to those who would deem to freeze his p’sakim and not recognize the very different overall reality that we live in today. Many halachic decisions in the first fifty years after the holocaust were made with regard to rebuilding the Torah world that had been almost completely decimated. Even when that has not been an explicitly stated factor in the policy behind the p’sakim, there is enough evidence from the conversations amongst the members of the Moetzes, of which reb moshe was the head,as well as interviews with them, that suggests that rebuilding the Yeshiva world was very much a central and fundamental factor in many of their policy decisions with regard to the development of the yeshiva world.

    What has changed is very clear:
    When my father went away to yeshiva in 1949, there were less than 1000 yeshiva bochurim and kollel yungerleit in the entire world! Even in the 80’s it would be hard to say that the numbers had yet surpassed what they were in pre-war Europe. However, today there are more yeshivalite and kollel yungerleit learning full time, at one time, than there ever were in the history of the world since ma’amad har Sinai! Today, every male with yir’as shomayim tries to learn in yeshiva.

    To suggest that Rav Moshe held of a system that produces many people proficient with limud Torah, but most of them unable to support their families and honor their Halachic matrimonial obligations (unless living off the dole of the government)is a great big question mark. To say that Rav Moshe was dealing with the issues within the reality and urgencies of the time when he answered those questions is plausible and rational. Yeshivos are no longer only for the elite who will most likely be our Rabbanim, Roshei Yeshivos, Dayanim, Morei Hora’a, etc. The word “yeshiva” today has taken on a different meaning. It would be ludicrous to draw a direct and broad-stroked conclusion for the yeshiva world today from a p’sak given in a time when yeshivos were serving a different purpose and therefore meant something different. A p’sak for yeshivos back then was a p’sak for a certain class of the population of the chareidi world. Today, all the chareidi world goes to yeshiva, so it would mean stretching that p’sak to be about all the chareidi world.

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