A Response to Rabbi Slifkin

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13 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Why are you responding to a zoologist on issues of the army and learning?

  2. Natan Slifkin says:

    It’s almost Shabbos and then Purim, so I don’t have time to respond in detail right now. But, one brief point: Rabbi Hoffman consistently conflates any mention of the value of a Torah SCHOLAR under CERTAIN circumstances as also applying to ANY Torah STUDY done by ANYONE under ANY circumstances. Rav Hershel Schechter, for example, observes that the sources Rabbi Hoffman quotes about Torah scholars do not apply to yeshivah bochrim. Rabbi Hoffman thereby relegates Rav Schachter to the category of “Torah=chess believer.” The absurdity of this should be self-evident. I will elaborate on this in more detail.

  3. Rafael A. says:

    Thank you Rabbi Hoffman! I am glad that you responded point by point to Rabbi Slifkin. I hope you also respond to some of the objections raised in your earlier post on CC.

    Having read your columns and discussions over the years, you are moderate and even handed in your approaches to these difficult issues. You do promote achdus and you do chastise others in our Chareidi communities who are extreme in their takes on the DL/MO and non-Orthodox worlds. I guess that R’ Slifkin has shown that he is not familiar with your established positions and took you to be just another Chareidi apologist.

    The problem is, and I think that this address to R’ Slifkin as well, is that there he does not think there is nuance in the Chareidi world and everything is black and white. However, there is nuance, more so in Chutz L’Aretz, but there still. However, when reading his commentary on his blog, I get the sense that he is the one lacking the nuance. Its all or nothing. Also, from the comments, I see that for a few, this is the DL’s chance to get back at the Chareidim. While there is no question that poisonous and odious invective flows from the Chareidi world against the DL world and against the Chilonim, and I concede there is no cheshbon hanefesh engaged in by many in the Chareidi media, and I really cannot stomach it, with Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi in power, it seems that many in the DL community look at this as a chance to get rid of the Chareidi world and turn the tables after they have been favoured for so long under successive Israeli governments. Further, even those in the DL community who are concerned about the heavy handed approach, rather than a gradual inclusion of a society that has been on the fringes for so long, are ignored in favour quick and painful. If Israeli society is going to be more stratified than before, and you want a circle the wagons response by the Chareidi world, this is the way to go. However, I hope R’ Slifkin cares enough to recognize this.

    Once thing that I am glad you keep raising is that IDF has changed in terms of its manpower needs, technology, and other developments that do not require such a large standing army. Further, accommodation of the Chareidi mehadrin requirements, coupled with a push for including more women in bigger roles in the IDF, and this is not such a simple matter. See here a link to Bar Ilan U’s Menachem Friedman, an expert on the Chareidi world, who is more conservative about Yesh Atid/BY’s agenda: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Experts-tell-Netanyahu-to-remove-criminal-sanctions-clause-from-haredi-draft-bill-344716

  4. Eli says:

    Besides from anything else, how R’Hoffman can support his argument by comparing the losses in each war with the the number of yeshiva students is beyond me. Each war is fought under different circumstances and under different conditions. In cast lead, for example, Israel was fighting against primitive rockets and in 1973 they were fighting planes and tanks. The difference between 1967 and 1973 has nothing to do with the Temple Mount (which they almost decided against capturing). Besides from the obvious miracles, it had much to do with the fact that in 1967 Israel was prepared for war and made a pre-emptive strike, whereas in 1973 they were totally unprepared. It is easy to use unfounded assumptions/theories to explain away facts that do not support your thesis, but they do not stand up to scrutiny.

  5. c-l,c says:

    How about during ’73 ,when some bochurim offered to join in the army in Q2,they were told “go daven for us”

  6. dr. bill says:

    I wonder if a student in netiv meir is average. RMF was talking to metzuyanim, which the law exempts, not your average student. Rabbi slifkin makes this point even more sharply, a point you conveniently avoid, conflating the average chareidi student with a talmid chacham.

    in any case I wonder where the majority of netiv meir students go? given my small sample, I would guess hesder.

    btw, your use of statistics is vying for being used in a course teaching innumeracy. it does add to serious discussion of issues.

  7. Sholom says:

    If learning Torah provides protection to the Jewish people, then why would it be ok to draft talmidim during a time of emergency? Shouldn’t the opposite be true? Shouldn’t more people be needed to study Torah to provide more protection? Maybe there should be a Kollel draft : )

    The fact that our sages made this exception shows that they didn’t view the protection of Torah study as some sort of supernatural force field. They used that language metaphorically.

  8. David Ohsie says:

    Rabbi Hoffman, the statistical analysis doesn’t support your thesis.

    1) If you throw your data point into a scatter plot (easy to do in excel), you will not see the “clear inverse relationship” you claim.

    2) By throwing out 1956, you are cherry picking data to fit your thesis. You mention that 1956 was “a limited military operation”, but was it more or less limited than “Cast Lead”? This is besides the fact that you could have picked many measures other than the number of military deaths. Why not pick the number of deaths per year due to terrorist attacks? That seems much more independent of military effort and thus much more dependent on “spiritual protection”.

    3) You are do not consider other equally plausible correlations, such as that fact that deaths are going down with time. If I throw your data into a simple linear correlation, I get a R^2 value of 0.3534. If instead, I plot you values for deaths against the number of years since 1948 (going from 0 up to 64) I get an R^2 value of 0.6669.

    4) As Eli points out correctly, there are many, many other variables to consider, such as the length of time of the conflict, the number of soldiers involved.

    4) Correlation doesn’t imply causation: as this chart famously demonstrates

    6) You are using the number of Yeshiva students by some count as a proxy for the amount of learning going on. Is it really true that there was 15x as much Torah learning going in in Israel in 1982 vs. 1973?

    c-l,c
    March 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm
    How about during ’73 ,when some bochurim offered to join in the army in Q2,they were told “go daven for us”

    C-l, c: As others have pointed out, this is an argument for Yeshiva Bochurim to join the military as reserves at a minimum, so that in an emergency they could actually be called up to fight as well as to pray.

  9. Marty Bluke says:

    The chart that R’ Hoffman created is simply wrong. Here are the same wars proving just the opposite:
    Name of War Outcome of War # of Yeshiva Students in Israel
    1948 Great/Miraculous 400
    1967 Great/Miraculous 600
    1973 Very Painful 800
    1982 Lebanon War Mixed led to 20 year
    occupation 12,150
    2006 Lebanon War Draw 51,084
    2012 Operation Cast
    Lead Marginal at best 66,000

    What we see clearly from the above chart is that when there were 400-600 full time Torah learners the victories were great and miraculous. However, as the numbers of full time learners shot up the results of the wars became much more muddied and there were no clear cut victories any more.

  10. Bob Miller says:

    Sholom wrote above, “The fact that our sages made this exception shows that they didn’t view the protection of Torah study as some sort of supernatural force field.

    Maybe they held that, in extreme circumstances, intensive Torah study should not cease but some yeshiva students could be needed for military duty. That is, “needed” in its plain sense, not in the sense of “needed to achieve some popular social objective”.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, I recently read that RHS, and R L J Sacks, R Z N Goldberg Yivadleinu Lchaim and R Y Neuwirth ZL, were all being honored together in Israel sometime after Pesach. Such a spectrum is a great sign of Achdus rooted in Torah.

  12. Tal Benschar says:

    Besides from anything else, how R’Hoffman can support his argument by comparing the losses in each war with the the number of yeshiva students is beyond me. Each war is fought under different circumstances and under different conditions. In cast lead, for example, Israel was fighting against primitive rockets and in 1973 they were fighting planes and tanks. The difference between 1967 and 1973 has nothing to do with the Temple Mount (which they almost decided against capturing). Besides from the obvious miracles, it had much to do with the fact that in 1967 Israel was prepared for war and made a pre-emptive strike, whereas in 1973 they were totally unprepared. It is easy to use unfounded assumptions/theories to explain away facts that do not support your thesis, but they do not stand up to scrutiny.

    I am not a fan of these type of arguments, and I suspect that R. Hoffman is not either, given that he only made it in reaction to R. Slifkin’s argument that the State did just fine in prior wars with fewer bochurim.

    But that being said, I find your argument tendentiously simplistic. Do you think hashgochah, particularly in the time of hester panim that we live in, operates in such a simplistic fashion? Perhaps the fact that on prior occasions Israel faced enemies who were sovereign states with vast armies, backed up by the then world power Soviet Union, who since then have been neutralized for one political reason or another, and instead now faces a “primitive” (your word not mine) gang of terrorist thugs in Gaza, might not be the result of hasgocha? Which in turn might not be based on the zechus of the vast growth of limmud ha Torah?

    Or the fact that in 1967 Israel heeded the warning signs, whereas they were ignored in 1973 might be the result of the same thing? (It is not true that Israel was more “prepared” in 1967 than in 1973, it is that those in power reacted differently to warnings about what was going on. As a certain Rav I know told me, after 1967, all the bumper stickers in Israel said “Kol ha Kavod Le Tzahal”) while in 1973 they all said “Yisrael Betach B’Hashem”)

    In short, it is true that “Each war is fought under different circumstances and under different conditions.” What those are is determined in shomayim.

  1. March 16, 2014

    […] Teshuvah of Reb Moshe zt”l referenced by R’ Yair Hoffman is clear and unambiguous. To claim that R’ Moshe was referring only to “scholars” […]

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