The “Building” of Children Destroys

Reading the news of the “Million Man Atzeres,” that was the statement of our Sages that came to mind. “The ‘destruction’ of elders builds, [while] the ‘building’ of children destroys” [Megillah 31b].

The Yesh Atid [There is a Future] party has no future, because it does not understand our past. This is why the other quote that came to mind is from a more proletarian source — reading that Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy (of Yesh Atid) said that “thousands of chareidim will be inducted into the IDF and begin doing their part,” the line that came unbidden to my mind was “Oh Mickey, what a pity, you don’t understand!”

It really is a pity. Levy does not understand how the Jewish people managed to survive for 2000 years without a land to call our own, something no other nation in history has done. This was only due to our following the Torah, and the voice of Torah sages in each generation. If they think there is a substitute, they should read the Pew Report and ponder the imminent collapse of heterodox Judaism in America and worldwide. Do they really think that simply by assembling Jews in Israel, so that their children’s friends are Jewish, that’s a sufficient long-term model? Why is Brooklyn the fourth largest Israeli city?

They don’t understand what it means to cling to core values. This is the same foolishness that leads people to believe that if you give Palestinian Muslims a few dollars and a university or two, they will discard their belief that any land conquered by Islam must remain in the hands of Islam, and thus the Jews must be pushed out of Israel. With that same lack of insight, they believe that they will be able to draft charedim with threats of jail sentences. Really?

The budding Torah scholars will very happily choose jail, and be fêted as heroes for doing so. Have the great minds of Yesh Atid so soon forgotten what happened when the courts falsely accused schools in Emmanuel of racist discrimination against Sephardim, which culminated in the jailing of several rabbis, one of whom was Yemenite? People danced in the streets as they escorted those rabbis to jail, because the rabbis refused to compromise our values. Everyone recognized that the result would not be an end to discrimination, but interference by the courts in Torah education, and that was not up for discussion. These boys will be honored for the rest of their lives by their home communities.

Nor does the government understand how we won our wars. They have forgotten that in 1967 there was a shortage of Tfillin after the war — because of the soldiers who wanted them after what they had seen with their own eyes. They have forgotten that in 1973, we should have lost, r”l. They have forgotten that in 1991, thirty-nine missiles fell, primarily on Shabbos, corresponding to the thirty-nine categories of forbidden labor. They have forgotten the number of open miracles we saw at that time as well, and the lack of anticipated casualties. An academic study of the impact of Scud attacks (39 in high-density Israel, 2 deaths; 42 against low-density Saudi Arabia, 28 deaths) stated that “there is considerable anecdotal evidence that good fortune may have played a role,” and concluded, with considerable understatement, that “Israel’s fortunes appear to have been relatively good.” And they have forgotten, if they ever recognized, why things happened that way.

We can empathize with their lack of understanding, but we cannot endanger their lives and our own in order to cater to their foolishness. The Jewish people cannot abandon the Beis Medrash, the primary source of our protection, because they stupidly believe that learning Torah isn’t “doing their part,” rather than the most crucial.

Their “building” has destroyed. If their goal was to get those boys who are truly not cut out for continued learning out of the Beis Medrash and into Nachal Charedi, the specially-designed charedi IDF battalion, they have accomplished the opposite. The united Yeshivish, Chassidish, and Sephardi Gedolei Torah have now declared that no one should enter the IDF, because of the war now being waged against Torah scholarship. What sort of “charedi” person doesn’t listen to the unified position of all Gedolei Torah?

And the “destruction” of the elders, builds. Everyone knows that the IDF does not need all of the inductees it currently drafts, which is why the standards for exemption have become ever more lax in every other situation. It certainly does not need battalions worth of charedim who will unquestionably fail to follow military discipline, because the Army doesn’t follow the same standards as their rabbis. Many within and beyond the government have quite openly said it is an attempt to change our lifestyle, and the rabbis have responded to their declaration of war. They have unified the Torah community; even the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav and leading Dati Leumi rabbonim came to stand for Torah learning.

I am neither a prophet nor a visionary. But I do know that Yesh Atid will be removed from the government without meeting its goals. The Torah of the Jewish people trumps politics, every time.

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12 Responses

  1. YM Goldstein says:

    From the time that the current Israeli government formed without any Haredi parties being included, the pressure from John Kerry, President Obama and the EU has been more intense than at any time I can remember. When Torah scholars are messed with, good things happen to the Medina, right?

  2. Harry Maryles says:

    In the Lithuanian Yeshiva world of Israel, there is only Machlokes. And that causes the masses to disrespect them. Which will lead to 1000s of Charedi leaving the Charedi world.

    Furthermore the Shaked committee led by Bayit HaYeshudi MK Ayelet Shaked has come up with a proposal that Charedim can live with… And yet the rabbinic leaders are calling it Shas HaShmad – or the worst thing to happen to Klal Yisroel since the destruction of the second temple. This is patently false… as is the notion that all this is about destroying the Torah. Especially when there already exists battalions of Charedim serving in the IDF to great praise form their military leaders. And these battalions will be the model for future Charedi conscripts… the quota’s of which Charedi leaders have already said will be relatively easy to fulfil based on exemptions and other factors.

    The Chazon Ish’s dream of rebuilding the Yeshiva world lost in the Holocaust has been more than fulfilled. By orders of magnitude!

    And you ignore the real problem for the Charedi world… which is its financially unstable and unsustainable condition. A condition that has caused real Shalom Bayis problems as well as contributing mightily the the OTD phenomenon.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    What merely political response can PM Netanyahu conjure up to counter Obama’s aggressive, intrusive threats? Given the emptiness of anything Obama says, its not so much the threats themselves as the bitter anger behind them that should make Netanyahu ponder: How can I bolster our State’s relationship to its true Protector now that the false protector has turned enemy?

  4. Loberstein says:

    Mt dear Rabbi Menken,with all due respect, rarely have you written an article which aroused so much ire when I read it. You are mixing apples and oranges and completly off base. We aren’t in Czarist Russia and the Jews have been given by Almighty G-d a State where for the first time in 2,000 years we do not cower in the seller when the Cossacks riot. Orthodox Jews are not inherently free from defending Israel and their sense of entitlement angers everyone else and causes needless but not baseless hatred.There has rarely been propaganda so misleading as the claim that the State of the Jewish People will jail boys for learning Torah as if our democratic and Jewish state is anti Semitic. The only meaning of this ruling is that anyone who is legally drafted and refuses to show up can be punished and the ultimate punishment is jail. This applied to everyone, including leftists in North Tel Aviv. How many of them go to jail,not too many if any. The law as presently proposed will not lead to mass jailing but it will lead to the opportunity for bored out their minds boys who are forced to pretend to be full time students to finally get a chance for a future.They can go to school and get a job, why would this bother so many ?Because the real issue is that the yeshiva world is held together by the ability to avoid the army. If you take that away for the next 3 1/2 years how many will voluntarily leave the yeshivos? That is the real issue and it is a problem only if they don’t want to be there in the first place. How with a clean conscience can anyone defend the racist discrimination in Emanuel and widely spread in Ashkensic Charedi Isrqael which treats Sephardim as a lower class and openly refuses to integrate.It is blatant racism .We in Baltimore never discriminated against Iranians and would never dream of doing so but that is exactly what happened in Emanuel.
    It is morally wrong in my opinion to maintain an aberation never before existing in Judaism whereby one can choose to learn or pretend to learn and be free from communal responsibility. You know that the status quo is not ideal and that many are lost to observance by the rigid system which circles the wagons . Torah will be better if the students actually want to learn and those who want to go to school can do sol Netzach Yehudah shows that one can be chareidi and a very good soldier. That is a Kiddush Hashem. Yesh Atid may indeed vanish in the next election as happens to parties every time, but the basic issue won’t go away.
    People who refuse to pray for our soldiers and who consider our State illegitimate cannot demand lifetime support.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Rabbi Oberstein, you are as mistaken on this issue as you are mistaken about Emanuel, which turned into a bad joke when they carted a Sepharadi (Yemenite) Rav off to jail (actually, the boys danced him there, carrying him on a chair) for purported racism against Sepharadim. It made the court look as stupid and transparently anti-religious as it, in fact, was, and one of the leading charedi naysayers admitted to me later that he changed his tune and attended the demonstration against the government once he understood the issue better. That you would now say that Emanuel was discrimination is simple slander of that community, in face of the known reality, and vastly beneath you. Would you tolerate people slandering Baltimore like that?

    Yes, the state now will threaten a yeshiva boy who remains in yeshiva and does not agree to be drafted with jail time. Everyone agrees that’s what the law says. Your comment is as misguided as Harry Maryles’ claim that “there is no leadership.” As we see, the claims of “machlokes” were vastly overblown; there was a debate over tactics which, in the end, was a difference over minutia.

  6. YM Goldstein says:

    Maryles and Loberstein, I love it how you just feel you know whats better for the Charedim than their rabbinical leaders and their elected political leaders.

  7. Harry Maryles says:

    Really, Yaakov? Overblown? Do you remember what R’ Chaim Kaniecvsky said about R’ Shmuel’s new party? Do you remember the consequences of what would happen to those Avreichim that supported it? The fact is that it is not overblown as probably any Avreich in Israel will tell you. Despite the utterly disgusting threats of retribution against Hesder Yeshivos and the scare tactics coming out of the Charedi rabbinic leadership about the draft – which will not even begin to take place for 3 and a half years (and probably under a new government)… and at which time the Roshei Yeshiva will easily be able top fulfill the draft quotas (which is fairly common knowledge). The biggest issue is the machlokes between Lithuanian rabbinic leaders. If you don’t believe me, beolieve one of your frequent contributors, Jonathan Rosenblum. Because what I said in the above comment and in this one is based on what I heard him say in the following video:

  8. dr. bill says:

    Rabbi, despite what you wrote “They have unified the Torah community; even the Rosh Yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav and leading Dati Leumi rabbonim came to stand for Torah learning.” I assume that you acknowledge that the many DL RY and Rabbonim and students who stayed away, also “stand for Torah learning.”

  9. Raymond says:

    This is first time in a very long time that I find myself siding with the secular Jews over the religious Jews. It is my understanding that we are taught to not rely on miracles, that we are to live according to natural law, and if G-d decides to do something violating those natural laws, such as in the story of Chanukah or the miraculous Six Day War, that that is up to G-d and not up to us.

    The idea that studying the Torah is our best defense against our many sworn enemies, certainly seems to be the reality over the long run of our history. However, in the immediate here and now, taking such a position is absurd, as it goes completely against the laws of nature, as well as just plain common sense. If somebody is having a heart attack in the middle of the street, and there is a Torah scholar passing by who happens to also be a doctor, what should that person do, sit down and study his Gemarah, or medically treat that person? In fact, if studying the Torah is some kind of cure-all, then why learn any skills at all, or perform any actions at all, other than the explicitly laid down mitzvot? Clearly, that is living in a pure fantasy world.

    I have been around the Orthodox Jewish world long enough to be quite familiar with the concept of the Yissachar-Zevulun relationship. However, that is not really such a valid thing favoring the Chareidi position on this. For one thing, such a relationship is purely voluntary. That is, Jews in their own privacy, without government intervention, decide to each play an important role, with the wealthy Jews giving up Torah learning, in order to make enough money to support those who want to devote their lives to Torah study. I have less to say against this, as long as it is a purely voluntary arrangement. But once the government gets involved, then it is forcing hard working people to pay for the expenses of those who are not working. This is just not right, not fair, and should actually be a source of embarrassment to the Torah world. It should be shameful for somebody to live off of the efforts of another person. Also, even if it were argued that in a Jewish State, such an arrangement should be the law, it is still not relevant, because even if every young person would be serving in the army rather than studying the Torah full-time, there are still many millions of older adults learning Torah on a daily basis.

    The Talmudic sages were far greater than any of us could ever hope to be, yet they did not think it was beneath them to earn a living, however humble that living might be. Somewhere in our Talmud, it is taught that a father who does not each his son a trade, teaches him to be a thief. King David certainly fought in great military battles, as did Samson.
    Perhaps what I have said here sounds like heresy to some people, but to me, it is just plain old common sense.

  10. Natan Slifkin says:

    If it would be “endangering everyone’s lives” to send charedi yeshivah students to their army, because it is specifically their Torah study which provides essential protection, and this is their contribution rather than serving in the IDF – then why did these students desert the towns in the South of Israel that needed such protection the most, during the Gaza war? Why didn’t they stay in their Beis HaMidrash, as the hesder yeshivah students did?

    [Why did the Army move logistical and support activities away from areas likely to be hit? If you aren’t looking to score points, there’s an immediate and logical answer: the need for continuous and undisturbed study is certainly no different than the need for undisturbed logistics and support, and the need for proximity to the front line is even less. No one says that Torah learning has to be geographically proximate to the people it protects.

    This brings to mind an instructive story about Reb Moshe Feinstein. Someone ran into where Reb Moshe was learning and said that a Jewish boy had been injured right outside. He told the person, correctly, that he had made a mistake. He later explained that he knew his learning couldn’t protect the entire world, but had prayed that it at least should protect the block. Since these boys regard their yeshiva as a second home, they were certainly praying for their home communities regardless of where they’d moved temporarily. — YM]

  11. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The Torah world, having accomplished the goals set by the Chazon Ish zt”l 60+ years ago, now has a great wealth of talmidei chachamim learning and teaching Torah to make up at least quantitatively for the losses of the Holocaust. The CI made a “horaat shaah”, a temporary ruling of “all hands on deck” for the emergency to grow back the Torah forces lost. That done, the Torah world has forgotten that Jews also have to make a living. And besides that, and I have a great sympathy here, the secular world is getting progressively more corrupt to the extent that the rabbis rightfully fear for the emuna and middot of the Torah-observant population. But digging a hole and pulling the hole in after you is not a serious option. Willy-nilly, the modern world gets inside the hole eventually. The kid who asked too many questions in class and was thrown out of yeshiva is now blogging on or something and arousing fear, dread, curiosity and excitement. Polarization has gone wild. In Israel there is no longer any balance between work and Torah. The official clip of Sunday’s demonstration takes the halachically mandated prayer for leaving the Beit Midrash and used it as a club with which to hit the rest of society. Those who pay the rabbinic salaries and the kollel stipends, bake the bread and defend the country are called “yoshvei kranot”, loiterers on streetcorners. Maybe they are compared to true Torah scholars, but is that the way to make the Torah beloved of the masses of people outside the halls of the yeshiva? I don’t think so. For the past 65 years the secular politicians have been doing a wonderful job of playing different branches of the religious population against each other in a divide and conquer strategy. The hareidi and religious zionist leaders blithely allow their buttons to be pressed by these people. When one is right the other has to be left — why? We have the Torah in common, but when a calamity befalls the family of a Torah scholar, G-d forbid, only one group of rabbis or the other is signed onto the appeal. Even for non-political tzedaka they can’t get together. I sit in my beit midrash among excellent young “Kooknik” Torah scholars and put my head down and cry at the disunity of Klal Yisrael. My son who is hareidi, loves all true Torah scholars. Why can’t this be a more general phenomenon? Who is going to pay the bills? Who is going to reach out to the secular youth who hate us even more than before? How can it be done?

    [Yehoshua — The divide between left and right is not as harsh as you describe, and has been breached very frequently. The “Rosh HaKooknikim” himself, HaRav Avraham Shapiro, Rosh Yeshiva of Mossad HaRav Kook, attended, along with several DL Talmidei Chachamim who came, or would have come had not the Yated apparently felt it necessary to denigrate a Talmid Chacham who took an opposing view. Speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decently stocked Beis Medrash in which volumes published by Mossad HaRav are not found. Many of those volumes, of course, were edited by Haredi scholars. The Women For the Wall are another example of a mixed DL-charedi group in both support and leadership. — YM]

  1. April 6, 2014

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