A Brief Response to Rabbi Slifkin

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52 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Ultimately, your entire argument rests on the wholescale equation of the Israeli charedi community (which represents about one third of the jewish elementary school population in Israel) with “rabbanan” or “serious torah scholars.”

    This is your argument’s fatal flaw. Yes, daily Torah study is an important mitzvah. Yes, most poskim believe that Torah study can be a full time occupation for at least a special few. But can it really be the expected occupation for a full third of society, even if many within that community do not have the aptitude for full time limmud, or the desire to raise their children in grinding poverty?

    Most Israelis want at least some charedim to share the burden of military defense and wage earning. Charedim are adamant that no torah scholars be pulled from their gemarras into the army or the workforce. An obvious compromise could emerge, were it not for the fact that the charedim consider almost all of their men to be “Torah scholars” regardless of the man’s aptitude or interest.

    This article reinforces that false equivalency.

  2. Joseph says:

    R. Beckerman’s response to my comment misses its target both in terms of the “mashal” and the “nimshal”.

    The reasoning of authorities such as R. Moshe Sternbuch and R. Menashe Klein, who condone, or at least refuse to condemn, tax evasion has nothing whatsoever to do with “kim li” or the Gemara in Bava Basra. I advise him to consult the article I cited for more details. R. Moshe Sternbuch’s teshuva on tax evasion can be found here :

    Furthermore, his comment that “in the case of … poverty, the subject provides nothing to society” demonstrates that he missed my point entirely. The primary cause of “self-imposed poverty” is the high number of people in these communities learning in kollel/yeshiva and not working! The secondary cause is that they are unable to find well-paying jobs due to lack of education – i.e. they follow the utterly mainstream Charedi rabbinic views which severely limit (if not outright forbid) a comprehensive secular studies curriculum. Again, this has nothing whatsoever to do with “kim li” and everything to do with the negative side effects of people who are learning Torah (i.e. exactly the thing that R. Beckerman thinks should exempt from serving in the army and no doubt a great mitzvah in and of itself) at the expense of other activities, such as preparing themselves for gainful employment or working to support their families.

    The parallels to the issue of army service thus remain clear.

  3. Yehoshua Mandelcorn says:

    “The issue here is not calibre of scholarship but dedication to this spiritual idealism.”
    I do not want to be a member of a profession in which dedication and idealism are the only requirements.

  4. micha says:

    WRT #2… It wouldn’t need to be the next halakha, because it’s the halakhah you’re citing, at the end of Shemittah veYovel:
    ולא שבט לוי בלבד אלא כל איש ואיש מכל באי העולם אשר נדבה רוחו אותו והבינו מדעו להבדל לעמוד לפני ה’ לשרתו ולעובדו לדעה את ה’ והלך ישר כמו שעשהו האלהים ופרק מעל צוארו עול החשבונות הרבים אשר בקשו בני האדם הרי זה נתקדש קדש קדשים ויהיה ה’ חלקו ונחלתו לעולם ולעולמי עולמים ויזכה לו בעה”ז דבר המספיק לו כמו שזכה לכהנים ללוים הרי דוד ע”ה אומר ה’ מנת חלקי וכוסי אתה תומיך גורלי:

    And not only sheivet Levi alon, but also each and every person of all who enter the world [1] whose spirit moves him [2] and is mind made him understand that he should be separate, to stand before G-d to help Him and to serve Him, to know G-d and to proceed honestly the way G-d made him, and to throw off from his neck the yoke of the many calculations that people demand…

    Personal observations:
    [1] This “mikol ba’ei ha’olam — of all who enter the world”… Is the Rambam really making a point of including non-Jews? If not, what does it add? And if so, we can’t possibly be talking specifically about learning or even teaching Torah!

    [2] The idiom “asher nidveh rucho oso” is from Shemos 35, donating to the Mishkan. I think the implication of nedevah, giving-ness, charitability, ought to be explicit, but since its connotation rather than translation, I’m doing it here separately rather than saying its necessarily the Rambam’s intent.

    Getting back to the Rambam’s own words…. Learning, and BTW learning theology in particular, not halakhah, is only one item in a list. Notice that Levi themselves are only exempt when there is a beis hamiqdash, implying it’s the service, not the learning. And this is how the Radvaz (the rishon, not the acharon who wrote a commentary on the Yerushalmi) understood the Rambam. We should also note that kollel didn’t exist in the Rama’s day (it was invented by R’ Yisrael Salanter) and when Rav Moshe wrote his teshuvah, it was an institution one was in for some 2-7 years, as a preparation for religious work for the community or life in general. Learning as lifestyle for all but a few geniuses / gedolim was unheard of in the milieu Rav Moshe wrote for, although I presume that already wasn’t true of Israel.

    Second, the topic here is why Levi doesn’t get land — because they don’t have to work. Notice, though, that he says nothing explicitly to contradict what he says when he actually discussing getting paid for learning in Talmud Torah 3:10-11 when he calls getting paid for learning a chilul hasheim, that “anyone who benefits from the Torah removes his life from this world”, and that living off your own earnings will get you both this world and the World To Come. Similarly his discussion of the draft (Melakhim uMilkhamos 7) doesn’t mention an exemption for learning.

    So, even if I understood how the implication that the Rambam was saying something about being like Levi in terms of being supported by others or being exempt from the draft, I do not understand why one would assume the Rambam implied something in an off-topic discussion that he didn’t bother saying explicitly, and indeed in one case appears to explicitly and forcibly deny, when he does discuss the topic.

    I am only speaking theoretically, as I would hate to think that someone decides practical halakhah from an on-line discussion. I therefore know I’m taking sides in a dispute where far greater and more informed minds than mine took the other position. I am not in the business of saying there is “one true way” to be a good Jew. If any approach was more successful or if any of us found a philosophy that is free of pitfalls one can get trapped by, we should all switch. But all valid approaches have their strengths and their dangers to avoid; it’s inherent in human frailty.

    But I do not understand the assertion that the Rambam in particular would be pro-kollel, in favor of taxing the community to support kollel (as opposed to a Zevulun volunteering to support his own rebbe or other religious figures — mohel, shochet, sofer…), or that anyone who is neither a sinner nor starting a new life (grooms, new homeowners, new field owners, etc…) is exempt from the draft. My attempt to post these ideas in more concise form on Rabbi Beckerman’s previous post didn’t generate responses. Nor did I see the questions raised address in this one; I guess because I lack RNS’s reach. I’m therefore desperately elaborating here in hopes someone steps up.

  5. Doron Beckerman says:


    I disagree with your premise which states that since the position of the person who is not paying taxes effects you, all discussion is over. The existence of mounds of discussion in the Poskim which is premised on the ability to say “kim li” with regard to a *tax issue* effectively renders this notion a halachic non-starter. Kal Vachomer when it comes to the issue of army service, where the *preponderance* of Poskim say that the person studying Torah is exempt.

    I disagreed with your analogy because you issued a blanket statement with regard to self-imposed poverty. If you are speaking of self-imposed poverty on the part of the same people who are exempt from the army Torah study – i.e., the people who are truly committed to full-time Torah study, then, In Hachi Nami, they have that right and you have the right not to support them.

    A debate regarding the necessity for a comprehensive secular studies curriculum is well beyond the confines of this discussion. But there is growing recognition in the Charedi Leumi world that the Yeshivot Tichoniyot are, for aspiring Torah scholars, a massive waste of time. The Yeshivot Gevohot Leumiyyot under Rav Neriah Shlit”a have been expanding enormously.

  6. Yosef says:

    The use of the Rambam on Shmitah and Yovel to justify kollel is so off base its hard to know where to start. Some of the problems have been raised by other commentators. I’l summary the central ones.

    1. In speaking of those who devote themselves to “knowing God” the Rambam is not talking about people studying Talmud or any of the typical topics taught in Charedi Yeshivas. He is talking about people contemplating God by the study of philosophy. IF there is any doubt about this see the parable of the palace in Moreh III:51 which makes clear that the talmudic scholars are outside the palace walking around the gate. They are not near the king. To be near the king requires studying philosophy.

    2. This point is confirmed by the language “kol ba’eh loam” its not just Jews. Anyone who contemplates God through the study of philosophy is part of this class of people.

    3. The Rambam is not saying that a person who devotes themselves to God has any right to ask to be supported. He is saying God will take care of him. How is a complicated subject which requires a close study of Part III of the Moreh. But there is absolute no justification for asking to be supported by others let alone demanding it. As so many have pointed out this would totally oppose the Rambam’s excoriating those who take money for teachinng Torah let alone learning.

  7. Doron Beckerman says:

    This post has nothing to do with Kollel. For all intents and purposes, it has to do with exempting some thousands of fabulously wealthy young people who have decided to dedicate themselves to full-time Torah study.

  8. Yosef says:

    I don’t really understand your response. But there is one point you are making that does not follow from the Rambam in shmita and yodel. The Rambam never says that a person who devotes themselves to “knowledge of God” can ask anything from anyone. God will take care of him, somehow, but the Rambam doesn’t accord him any right to demand special privileges.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Without wading into the discussion between R Beckerman and R Slifkin, the CI in Emunah UBitachon explains who is and is not a Talmid Chacham as set forth by Rema in SA YD 243:2, and limits the same far more drastically than as set forth in R Beckerman’s response, and under any unbiased reading, would not allow for the inclusion of “spiritual idealism” as part of that definition

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    OTOH, look at SA:OC, right before Hilcos Brachos, where the SA describes the Seder HaYom of every Jew, and the MB discusses full time Torah study at length. The MB therein may very well be the source of the thesis that bachurim and avrechim who are learning full time, as opposed to Rambam’s division of time as a “learner-earner” is the only way to develope into a Talmid Chacham. That may the source for an argument that those learning full time should be considered Talmidei Chachamim even if they don’t meet the strict definition of the term as set forth in SA YD 243:2 and as elucidated by the CI.

  11. Joseph says:

    R. Beckerman – It appears I wasn’t sufficiently clear. I was simply noting that in a case in which I find the logic governing someone else’s practices unconvincing, I will be far less predisposed to tolerate them if they either have a direct impact on me or contravene my core values. The *preponderance* of contemporary top tier poskim are also fiercely opposed to a decent secular studies curriculum for schoolboys, yet that doesn’t mean that if the Charedi community, based on current growth rates, continues to hold this view, Israel’s economy will not hit a brick wall in a few decades’ time.

    The Charedi community can do what it wants in terms of self-imposed poverty, but others are also fully entitled to value their tax contributions and the future of their country sufficiently to both refuse to support them and actively challenge the current arrangements which make that lifestyle feasible.

    If sections of the Chardal community are beginning to view high-school secular studies as a ‘massive waste if time’ then they have the poverty and welfare reliance characteristic of every community that does so to look forward to. One doesn’t even need to cite academic studies to prove this point – Charedi fundraising materials do the job perfectly well. And, as the 2011 (NY) UJA Community Study and (UK) JPR Child Poverty Report make clear, this phenomenon is no way limited to Israel and is common to all communities that adopt boys’ school curricula similar to those found in Israeli Charedi institutions.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph-please reread the linked Teshuvah from R Sternbuch-I see no support of tax evasion, rather a strong condemnation of Chillul HaShem.

  13. Doron Beckerman says:


    Thank you for pointing out that Chazon Ish – it certainly renders Rabbi Slifkin’s reading valid, if in serious dispute in light of R’ Chaim Palaji, and so R’ Moshe is certainly not *against* the Rema. Regardless, the overwhelming sea of Poskim R’ Chaim Palaji cites as “Rubba Derabvassa” are of the same mind as R’ Moshe Feinstein.

  14. Doron Beckerman says:


    This works both ways. Those who look at the world differently than you will view those who oppose them as undermining crucial defence systems and its own core values. Combative stances will be a given – and might will make right.

    I will leave the secular curriculum issue for another time.

  15. Joseph says:

    I don’t believe anyone needs to take a position contrary to the Charedim for the economic frailties at the heart of the current paradigm to reassert themselves.

    Steve – ‘hamachmir tavo alav bracha’ denotes a non-obligatory practice.

  16. Doron Beckerman says:


    I agree that current political alignments will either accelerate or retard *economic* processes within the Charedi world that were already beginning to take shape beforehand, by sheer inability of the system to sustain itself. Trade schools and Kiryat Ono and other Charedi campuses predated this government (and, by the way, it is here that the analogy to chu”l fails to a certain degree, because here there are programs geared specifically to play to certain strengths that the Charedim do acquire. If 50% of applicants with no High School background made it through Machon Lev’s pre-academic track, and the top 15-20% of the Yeshiva world anyhow stays within the Yeshiva world, and some of the lower percentiles could not have made it through career training even if they had gone through a HS curriculum, that is quite good).

    But please explain how this affects exemption from the army for a percentage of the population that the army can certainly do without.

  17. Moshe Dick says:

    Rabbi Beckerman: I am going to ask you a simple question- one you may not even want to include in the comments.
    You keep on repeating the mantra that “rabbonon” do not protection- the Torah protects them. Can you tell me how that reconciles with reality?How can you repeat thsi- I know you quote the gemoro- but reality is totally different, from the ‘asoroh harugey malchus’ troughout the centuries. And, as pointed out ad nauseum by Rabbi Slifkin and others, even today you cannot imagine Bnai Braq without police or jerushalaim without army protection I know that this is basis of some of the teshuvos you indicated but the question remains. How does relaity square with that gemoro?

  18. Y. Ben-David says:

    As important as these halachic discussions are in clarifying whether someone studying Torah, full-time or not, is exempt from military service, I think it is missing the main point. As one of the people at the New York demonstration said, the Haredi community simply wants simply to be “left alone”. This is basically stating that the Haredi community does not object to military service because the IDF is not “frum enough”, but it objects to service even if the IDF were to be “kasher l’mehadrin” based on R. Shimshon Rafphael Hirsch’s “austritt-separation” philosophy. This means that the goal of the Haredi community is to minimize contact between Haredim and non-Haredim in general to an absolute minimum.

    If the goal is really to be “left alone”, I think this is something that the general Israeli community could understand and might be willing to accomodat ON CONDITION that it be mutual…that they too want to be “left alone”. It is not fair for one community to demands rights for itself that it is not willing to grant everyone else. Thus, proposals have been made saying that the Haredi community would be recognized as a community similar to the Arab community in that they do not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli state and can not serve in state organs such as the IDF out of reasons of concience. Thus, they would be permanently exempted from military service and would be allowed to gain employment. IN RETURN, the Haredi community give up control of the state Chief Rabbinate and local municiopal Rabbinate, would no longer request special budget allocations beyond what other sectors of society receive. For example the state would finance only one Haredi school in an area and there would no
    more special funding of separate Haredi schools for Sefardim, schools for students whose father’s work and another school for students study full time and do not work, etc. Also, should a majority of non-Haredi Jews in Israel finally opt for complete separation of relgion and state in Israel, the Haredi community and its political and Rabbinical leaders would not object nor intervene in the discussion.
    In addition, Haredi representatives in the Knesset would not become the deciding vote in issues of national importance, such as the possible concessions to the Arabs and the such.

    If I understand R. Hirsch’s austritt philosophy, it states that it is forbidden for a Torah Jew to have any association with a non-Haredi body or organization or to grant any form of religious or spiritual legitimacy to such a body, including the State of Israel. The suggestion I made above in is line with this. However, on the other hand I can see reasons for the Haredi community not accepting such a program because, as we see here at Cross-Currents, matters involving Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews outside the Haredi communty are of concern to them, such as “Partnership minyanim” or homosexual rights. None of these things involve Haredim yet they do draw the attention of Haredi thinkers and spokesmen. Thus, it is ultimately unclear to me whether a complete Haredi separation from Israeli society is really appropriate or acceptable for them.

  19. Joseph says:

    R. Beckerman – I hope your optimism proves well-founded.

    I don’t think it affects the exemption for Charedi yeshiva bochurim at all – I merely used this example to illustrate an analogous point, as discussed above.

    I’m not sure what you mean by the army being able to “do without them”. It may well be the case that the army has little interest in integrating a sector that has been educated to disdain military service, but the Charedi attitude to the army is itself the crux of this issue. And what are the implications of Charedi unsuitability for army service in the long term – when the Charedim are 50% of the population will the army also “have little use for them”? At which point on the demographic scale do you maintain that the rest of the country is entitled to expect them to stop claiming that the majority of their youth are entitled to an exemption from service based on their status as talmidei chachamim?

  20. Doron Beckerman says:


    I still don’t see the analogy other than a core value being compromised – which is true on both sides.

    It seems that a key point of my original essay is missed by yourself and other commenters. I don’t believe I could have been more clear in distinguishing between the Charedim {no comma here} who are truly learning full-time from age 18-26 and those who are not – who should indeed serve (presuming the army’s willingness to go the extra mile in accommodation despite compromising some of its own values [sans defending the country]). My essay *must* be used, in some form or another, by anyone who does not serve for a full three years based on being in a Torah-study framework, which includes Hesder and most certainly Yeshivot Gevohot Leumiyyot. If some overwhelming percentage of the nation will indeed be that committed in X decades down the road, we’ll deal with it when we get there. אין מעצור לה’ להושיע ברב או במעט.

  21. Joseph says:

    A ‘value’ that one’s responsibilities should be fulfilled by others (whether on the battlefield or in the marketplace) will only be a ‘core’ one to the extent that it is tolerated by a long-suffering majority.

    To respond to your second point – no it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, R. Aharon Lichtenstein, in his classic essay on hesder, rejects almost all of your arguments.

    “Truly learning full time” applies to the majority of males raised in a Charedi framework if they are not dropouts. I have never heard a Charedi spokesman or posek claim that only a minority of their community is entitled to an exemption from army service.

    If merely being a normative member of a Charedi community entitles one to such an exemption, then the barrier is not exactly being set very high. And we have little reason to believe that future generations of Charedi yeshiva bochurim will be any less capable of adhering to their educational framework than the current cohort.

    You are prepared to rely on Hashem to solve what you believe will be the future’s problems – yet you neglect to explain how your argument that every ostensibly serious student is entitled to a full exemption from military service fits into that future beyond a vague reference to Hashem’s ability to protect us.

    I prefer to pay attention to the warnings of the IMF and numerous distinguished economists *now* who have repeatedly warned that the mindset you promote (I am aware that the issues of workforce participation and army service are separate – but they are tightly linked) poses a grave threat to Israel’s future.

  22. Doron Beckerman says:

    Again – you are essentially advocating doubled-up fists.

    Any defence of Hesder besides very serious commitment to Torah study has already failed in practice. By the skin of its teeth, the institution managed to survive the current round of legislation due to some political machinations. Any Hesders opening in the future will be required to serve 24 months, and any future political alignment that does not include Bayit Yehudi is very likely to see its demise. And I say that with no great joy. As I said, Yeshivot Gevohot Leumiyyot most certainly must rely on it. I would ask you to read Rav Arieli’s essay – I am sure you realize he was a RY in Mercaz Harav.

    Workforce participation and army service are not tightly linked. It is quite difficult to project an army’s manpower needs X decades down the road when a trend of downsizing militaries is in full swing and beneficial to performance.

  23. Joseph says:

    I fear our discussion has reached the point of diminishing marginal returns. Ve’habocher yivchar.

  24. Doron Beckerman says:


    To point [1] for now. On the contrary, the most likely source for this Rambam is Sanhedrin 59a:

    נכרי ועוסק בתורה הרי הוא ככהן גדול

    See Torah Temimah, Vayikra 18, comment 9:

    ובאחד מכתבי הרמב”ם [להדיין ר’ חסדאי הלוי] מצאתי באור אגדה זו בזה”ל, אין בדבר ספק שכל מי שהתקין עצמו ונפשו בכשרון המדות והדעות באמונת הבורא יתברך הוא מבני עוה”ב, ולכן אמרו חכמי האמת אפי’ נכרי ועוסק בתורה הרי הוא ככהן גדול, וכל עצמו של דבר ומגמת תורת משה הוא תקון הגוף והנפש לבורא יתברך ולא נשתבח משה רבינו אלא בזה כמ”ש והאיש משה עניו מאד, עכ”ל. אמנם הנה חז”ל בסנהדרין נ”ט א’ אוקמי אגדה זו בעובדי כוכבים שעוסקין בתורה רק בשבע מצות דידהו, אבל בכל התורה אסור להם לעסוק, דכתיב (פ’ ברכה) תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה, לנו מורשה ולא להם. ועיין מש”כ בענין זה בארוכה בפ’ ברכה שם, ובחבור הרמב”ם סוף הלכות שמיטה.

  25. micha says:

    But R’ Beckerman, that’s not sitting down and learning shas. It would mean someone who sits and learns — and applies — mussar sefarim. Which would not oly fit the comparison to a kohein gadol, it fits the end of the Rambam’s description “לדעה את ה’ והלך ישר — to know Hashem and to proceed honestly”. Obviously you would put a comma there, as “knowing Hashem” is the nearest to a mention of learning in his list, but still, it’s not the end-all of the list. (From a perusal of the Moreh, though, knowing Hashem is theology, not shas and posqim, and it is indeed described as leading to emulating him and proper middos.)

    In any case, my #1 and #2 were personal observations while trying to translate the text. The text itself referring to sheivet leivi in terms that aren’t limited to learning without teaching that is my problem pinning this opinion on the Rambam. Especially since the Rambam’s explicit discussion of earning an income for learning is vehemently against. Also, it’s then a second step to take this out of its context of farming for a living (and Leivi not getting land to do so) and apply it to being like Leivi WRT the draft, when the Rambam doesn’t mention it in his explicit discussion of the draft. Sinners are exempt; that’s kind of the opposite.

    My argument is first, that it’s Chazal’s description of Yissachar that is the more precise historical parallel to today’s kollel than Leivi would be. But they were drafted, and were supported by Zevulun. This is despite the Rambam in Hilkhos Talmud Torah, but then this wouldn’t be the only case where he ignores medrash as a halachic source; there is no reason to assume the Rambam need be reinterpreted to fit. But Zevulun gave tzedaqah voluntarily, not through taxation.

    Second, even if we were to take this Rambam as including kollel, it’s hard to see how one can take implications from an aggadic closing of one topic as a more authentic expression of his opinion than a vehement rejection in his explicit legal discussion of the question itself. Kollel simply isn’t part of the Rambam’s worldview (beyond calling it a chillul Hashem that can cost someone their olam haba); but the there are other rishonim, one whose philosophies are more accepted today anyway.

    We should recall that until Nefesh haChaim sec. IV championed the idea that learning is supposed to be an end in itself, that was FAR from consensus. A simple reading of either Talmud (TY Shabbos 1:2, vilna 7b, TB Sanhedrin 99b) would concludes that Torah lishmah is learning in order to know how to observe, how to decide future questions, or to teach. And assuming the amoraim aren’t really arguing, any of the three motives is “lishmah”. The Yerushalmi goes as far as to say “One who learns but not in order to do, would have been pleasanter that his umbilical cord would have prolapsed in front of his face [and he never came into the world].” The Meshekh Chokhmah (Devarim 28:61) explains that this is because it the goal were to get Torah into the soul, full stop, then that is more easily accomplished before birth, as an intellect unencumbered by a body.

    It is also unclear if this take on Torah lishmah is actually R’ Chaim Volozhiner’s full thesis. Nefesh haChaim was compiled by his son — who himself is not an ignorable opinion — but it leaves on open to wonder how sec IV relates to the first three sections and the “chapters” after section III (or are they the prelude to IV)? One can trace the split between the Yeshiva Movement and R’ Zundel Salanter telling a young Yisrael Lipkin that the key was Mussar, leading to the Mussar Movement, is how each understood the relationship between the ideas in these sections.

    But even so, Rav Chaim and those who read NhC IV in the “Yeshiva Movement” way have prior sources. I just don’t think it’s fair to the Rambam to make him one of them. NhC doesn’t. The Rambam is quoted twice in that section. Once (ch. 6) to show that a Torah with one improper letter is not kosher, and once (ch. 24) about had bad bitul Torah is. RCV builds his thesis on the Zohar, so (again) dovetailing it with the Rambam is not a given.

  26. lawrence kaplan says:

    R. Beckerman: Note that the Radbaz in his commentary ad. loc. states that the Rambam has NO source for his conclusion, but it derives from “yosher da’ato u-sevarato.” This is often the case with the Rambam’s exhortations found in the concluding paragraphs of sections of the MT. As for the source indicated by the Torah Temimah, the authenticity of the Rambam’s letter to R. Hasdai Halevi has been severely and, in my view, justifiably criticized by Rav Shailat in his edition of Iggerot ha-Rambam.

  27. Doron Beckerman says:

    Dr. Kaplan,

    Radvaz relates to the final two halachos, and yet Ohr Sameach (Teshuvos II:67) states that Rambam’s source regarding Levi’s exemption is from Sifrei and R’ Chaim Kanievsky (Kiryas Melech) provides no fewer than 5 sources in Chazal for the final two passages. They did not consider Radvaz’ view dispositive.

  28. Akiva Cohen says:

    B’kovod Harav:

    Thank you again for the edifying article.

    My sincere appreciation aside, your reliance on R’ Palaji’s explanation for the Terumas HaDeshen as the definitive basis for interpreting the Ramoh’s view is surprising. The Terumas HaDeshen writes :

    “Every *Talmid Chacham* in his own generation, who knows how to be Nosay v’Notain correctly in Torah and understands from his own knowledge most of the Talmud, its MeForshim, and the rulings of the Geonim, if he is Toraso U’manaso as explained above, is Patur from all forms of tax, even if he does not have Smicha to be a Rosh Yeshiva, Dayan, or Moreh Halacha. And a minor proof of this is that the pasuk from which they learn out the halacha that a Talmid Chacham is patur is Af Chovev Amim, and Rabbi Nosson taught “these are Talmidei Chachamim who walk from city to city and country to country to be Nosay v’Notain for Kovod Hashem,” and these are the Talmidim who go from Yeshiva to Yeshiva because those who have Smicha to be a rosh yeshiva don’t move from town to town. *But, of course, they always must be those who have understanding as I described above [to be Nosay v’Notain correctly in Torah and understands from his own knowledge most of the Talmud, its MeForshim, and the rulings of the Geonim], ***because without that, they would not be called a Talmid Chacham***”

    Now, without reading R’ Palaji’s sefer, it appears as though there are not merely two classes of learners, but 3: (1) The Gedolei HaDor, who are Yoshev Rosh, NiDon, and Moreh Halacha (and typically stay in one place); (2) outstanding scholars who are also Toraso U’mnaso who know how to be Nosay v’Notain correctly in Torah and understand from their own knowledge most of the Talmud, its MeForshim, and the rulings of the Geonim, but not roshei yeshiva/dayanim/morei halacha, and who therefore go from town to town; and (3) Talmidim, even those who are Toraso U’mnaso, who have not yet reached the level of “Talmid Chacham” and are therefore not exempt.

    (Indeed, this makes sense, because if reaching the level of knowing how to to be Nosay v’Notain correctly in Torah and understanding most of the Talmud, its MeForshim, and the rulings of the Geonim was irrelevant, the Terumas HaDeshen need not have mentioned it at all and could have just said “anyone who is Toraso U’mnaso is exempt”).

    Reading R’ Palaji, he points out that the Rashbatz holds this halacha applies only to Morei Hora’ah, while the Rashbam and the Rosh hold that “Kol Talmid Chacham she’lomed ba’torah” is patur. R’ Palaji then addresses the Terumas HaDeshen, and continues to draw only a distinction between Baalei Hora’ah and non-Baalei Hora’ah.

    Now I am certainly not going to say that R’ Palaji is reading the sources wrong. But I think it is stretching a bit to say that the Rama must have read the Terumas HaDeshen the same way R’ Palaji did – particularly given that the Rama specifically incorporated the “Nosay v’Notain” qualification from the Terumas HaDeshen, which R’ Palaji does not directly address (at least not that I saw with my eyes burning at the poor quality screenshot)

    Honestly, though, I have a difficult time understanding how a non-iluy Yeshiva boy on his very first day of yeshiva could qualify as a יודע לישא וליתן כשורה בד”ת ומבין מדעתו ברוב מקומות בתלמוד ובפרושיו ובפסקי הגאונים without stripping those words of all meaning

  29. Yisrael Asper says:

    “7) Rabbi Slifkin assures that I know that it is false that Charedi learning centers say Tehillim and daven in times of crisis specifically for IDF soldiers. I speak from personal experience – when Gilad Shalit was held captive, there were Tehillim said specifically for him in the very Charedi Kollel in which I spend some of my time. It is true that when rockets are falling over civilians or there are suicide bombings all over the country, Tehillim will be said for “the matzav” as appropriate.”

    In Chaim Berlin Yeshiva they said everyday Tehilim during the Lebanon War.

  30. Moshe Dick says:

    Dear Rabbi Beckerman, I thank you for your message. I did(finally) find the quote from Rabbi Chaim Palagi on which you posit an important part of your opinions. However, looking through a large part of that teshuvo, I see that it deals with txes that are imposed on members of the tsibbur. On this Rabbi Palagi does maintain that, according to many rishonim and acharonim, it includes talmidei chachomim who are not necessarily the great leaders of the nation. However, nowhere do I see this reflected in army duty. And, as you well know, you cannot just answer that this is a milchemes horeshus- it is not. Living in Israel today, you live under constant danger and hence, it is a milchemet mitzvah (as per Rambam). The major point of contention with the chareidi leadership is that they flatly refuse any army duty-somethng that is not acceptable to the rest of the Israeli public.

  31. Yisrael Asper says:

    Moshe Dick said “…as you well know, you cannot just answer that this is a milchemes horeshus- it is not. Living in Israel today, you live under constant danger and hence, it is a milchemet mitzvah (as per Rambam). The major point of contention with the chareidi leadership is that they flatly refuse any army duty-somethng that is not acceptable to the rest of the Israeli public.”

    A Milchemas Rishus does not have to be one in which there is no danger prompting the war. The Arameans were mortal enemies to Israel. That does not mean King David having conquered Aram Tzova was doing it as a part of a Milchames Mitzvah.

  32. MiMedinat HaYam says:

    Regarding Chaim Berlin saying Tehillim, I recall a discussion RMKahana hy”d had with his RY (mir ocean pkwy) that the only time they ever said tehillim was when (chaim berlin) RY was on the plane.
    Never for soviet jewry, never for israel.

  33. Doron Beckerman says:

    Akiva Cohen:

    The Chazon Ish clearly read the Rema (and Terumas Hadeshen) as you did – and I therefore conceded in the comments here that Rabbi Slifkin’s reading is valid. I later found that Rabbi Wosner reads it the same way, while Rav Sternbuch clearly reads it as does R’ Palaji.

    In all, R’ Moshe is certainly not against the Rema, and regardless, as I said above, R’ Palaji cites a sea of early authorities who maintain that even a Torah student is exempt as “Rubba Derabvasa,” which renders R’ Moshe’s psak more than valid.

    After three years of training in a solid Yeshiva ketanah, the youth qualifies under R’ Palaji’s definition.

  34. Yisrael Asper says:

    MiMedinat HaYam said:”Regarding Chaim Berlin saying Tehillim, I recall a discussion RMKahana hy”d had with his RY (mir ocean pkwy) that the only time they ever said tehillim was when (chaim berlin) RY was on the plane.
    Never for soviet jewry, never for israel.”

    My cousin was the spokesman on the plane. In any event during the Lebanon war when the Rosh Yeshiva was long passed away Chaim Berlin said Tehillim.

  35. Doron Beckerman says:

    See also Teshuvos Maharitatz, regarding a melamed tinokos (notice the contrast here between his application of the Terumas Hadeshen and the level of scholarship regarding which he has a doubt):

    שו”ת מהריט”ץ (ישנות) סימן עה

    הא קמן דלכל הפחות צריך שיהיה חכם מבין מדעתו בתלמוד ובפירושיו ובפסקי הגאונים וא”כ לדעתו בנ”ד אם מלמד זה יודע ומבין מדעתו כמו שביארנו ודאי פטור ואם אינו אלא אדם שיודע מקרא ומלמד תנוקות מקרא וצורת האותיות והנקודות א”כ באנו לספק מה דינו שכפי הנראה לדעת ת”ה חייב.

    I would just add that the term מבין מדעתו finds its source in the Mishnah (Chagigah 2:1).


    שלא יצטרך לשאול לרב כשיסתפק לו,

    Rambam (commentary):

    והוא שמתעורר ומבין הענינים מעצמו ואינו צריך לבאר לו,

    This seems to me to be a very powerful proof for the reading I present in the essay.

  36. Mike says:

    If Rabbi Slifkin’s reading of the Rama is reasonable, then it was reasonable before a quote was adduced from the Chazon Ish confirming as such.

  37. Akiva Cohen says:

    R’ Beckerman,

    Maybe I’m missing something, but aren’t those sources proofs of the opposite reading?

    1) The Mahari Tatz says that according to the Terumas HaDeshen, “it appears that the melamed Tinokos who is not Maiven MiDaito is chayyav”

    2) Rashi defines “Maiven MiDaito” as one who does not need to ask a rav to pasken for him (clearly much higher level than a standard yeshiva student, though perhaps not yet ra’uy l’hora’ah himself)

    3) Rambam defines “Maiven MiDaito” as one who does not need a rebbe to explain sugyot to him – again, this seems to expressly reject a typical yeshiva student except for very, very high level learners (it seems clear the Rambam is not referring to merely an ability to read and understand the language of the gemara, but to birur – the ability to analyze and clarify its svarot)

    L’fi Aniyut Da’ati, that would seem to support reading the Rama as R’ Slifkin does.

    Regarding whether R’ Moshe is “against” the Rama, I think the most sensible way to reconcile the two is as articulated by David Ohsie on rationalistjudaism.com and particular in noting that R’ Moshe was not addressing a shayla about whether kollel students should be exempt from the army as a rule, but about the morality of accepting an exemption already offered by the state. In other words, the question facing R’ Moshe wasn’t “should/must the state exempt all kollel students from army service as a matter of halacha”, but “even though I am legally exempt from army service if I go to kollel, does halacha nevertheless require me to go to the army rather than kollel”.

    Those are two different questions, and the one R’ Moshe was actually asked doesn’t really implicate the Rama at all – or really any of the above sources, which likely explains what would otherwise be the highly unusual absence of any reference to the sources relevant to the question of how a draft or tax (assuming they are equivalent) should be designed in the first instance

  38. Akiva Cohen says:

    Note, as the above implies, I disagree with R’ Slifkin’s assertion that R’ Moshe was arguing with the Rama (though I think he more likely meant to say “the reading of R’ Moshe as requiring exemption for all students would place R’ Moshe in disagreement with the Rama,” and I do agree with that)

  39. MOshe Dick says:

    To Yisrael Asper: you make an internal contradiction with your assertion. In Dovid Hamelech’s time, the Arameans actually were not a mortal danger to klal Yisroel. Indeed, this is why it was considered “kibbush jochid”,as it was Dovid Hamelech’s optional war. The Rambam clearly writes that ‘to help jews from their enemies’ is a milchemes mitzvah. Today, wehn Israel has suffered four main wars (1848,1956,167,1973) and other military incursions (Lebanon, Gaza) to protect its Jewish citizens, it is preposterous not to consider it a “milchemet mitzvah”. And what happened of the mitzvah of “LO saamod al dam reiecho”?

  40. Yisrael Asper says:

    King David fought the Arameans because they were planning on going to war against Israel on behalf of the Ammonites.
    What the Rambam writes is not that it is a milchemas mitzvah to help Jews from their enemies which would include a milchemas rishus against enemies of the Jews, but he admittedly did write that a war fought against an enemy which attacks the Jews is a milchemas mitzva. Right now Israel is not officially at war although it is legally at war with enemies that have not made peace with it and admittedly it has war at a moments notice. With no other consideration it would mean that the Rambam would be saying Israel has been fighting periodically milchemas mitzvos (may it never be fighting at all anymore). There is a problem though in using the Rambam to support the idea that we have any such thing in the present situation as a milchemas mitzvah or milchemas rishus for that matter. A milchemas rishus he writes needs the permission of the Sanhedrin and a milchemas mitzvah needs a king to carry it out without him needing the permission of the Sanhedrin. It would have to be shown that a lesser leadership would according to the Rambam have the authority to carry out a milchemes mitzvah or a milchemas rishus in the absence of the ideal authorizations. As for the mitzvah of “Lo saamod al dam reiecha” not everyone is in the army and yet the mitzvah is not considered violated. Further someone can be even in the military and not be in a constant state of fulfilling that mitzvah.

  41. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, see R Slifkin’s link to a marvelous letter written by R Shalom Gold of Har Nof to Hamodia. It is a must read on the inability of many Charedim to accord Halachic and Hashkafic significance to the events on the ground in Israel since 1948.

    R Beckerman-simple question-are you maintaining that R Chaim Palagi’s definition of a Talmid Chacham is governing as opposed to that of the CI, as stated explicitly in Emunah UBiatchon?

    Joseph-I always understood that “Hamachmir Tavo Alav [vlo Acherim] Bracha” was a madregah that all would be Talmidei Chachamim strived for-whether in mattters Bein Adam LaMakom or Bein Adam LChavero.

  42. Doron Beckerman says:

    Akiva: You are missing something – but that may be my fault.

    If you look at the Maharitatz, he is saying that the melamed is “Kefi hanireh” – “apparently” chayav according to the ThD. This is nonsensical according to the maximalist approach.

    He ends:

    שו”ת מהריט”ץ (ישנות) סימן עה

    הכלל העולה מדברינו שאם זה המלמד תינוקות יודע בתלמו’ ובספרי הפוסקים *להבינם* אעפ”י שאינו יודע על פה פשיטא ופשיטא דפטור

    Rashi and Rambam have nothing to do with psak on your own – nor does the Mishnah in Chagigah. The *phrase* “meivin midaato” means “He understands on his own.” Now read that back into the Rema. This is exactly the reading of the Maharitatz. ולענ”ד הוא ברור כשמש בצהרים

    In sum, R’ Moshe is not against the Rema at all. And anyhow the vast majority of Poskim, as listed by R’ Chaim Palaji, maintain that any full-time Torah student is pattur, so even if R’ Moshe’s psak were against the Rema, it would be justified to rule in practice against his view.

    Steve: In light of the above, yes.

  43. Mike says:

    Isn’t Rav Palaggi only discussing the ptur from taxes?

  44. Steve Brizel says:

    R Beckerman-How ironic that the views of the CI, who merely cites what is a black on white definition of a Talmid Chacham in SA:YD 242 is viewed as not stating the normative definition of a Talmid Chacham!

  45. Doron Beckerman says:

    Steve: I’m afraid you’ve missed the whole point of the recent give and take. The CI renders his own *interpretation* of what it says in SA, which is contradicted by the Maharitatz and R’ Chaim Palaji, is not peshutam shel devarim, and with which Rav Sternbuch Shlit”a clearly did not agree. Far be it from me to say the CI’s reading is not valid, but is it governing? No.

  46. Moshe Dick says:

    TO Ysroel Asper:
    I reviewed your quote about the war against Ammon. Why do you say it was not a milchemet mitzvah” That war, clearly, was to defend the jews.
    As far as the Rambam goes, there is no need for bais din or urim vetumim in a milchemet mitzvah- true, the Rambam does talk about this in the context of a “melech”- king of israel,bu would that be a disqualifiyng fact? in other words, defending oneself against the enemies of Israel only qualifies as a mitzvah when a king rules? What about the Chashmonoim? Or Bar Kochba(where, famously, Rabbi Akiva thought he was Moshiach)? That stand is absurd. If defending oneself is a milchemet mitzvah, it is highly unlikely to lose its validity when no king is available.

  47. Yisrael Asper says:

    Moshe Dick:”TO Ysroel Asper:
    I reviewed your quote about the war against Ammon. Why do you say it was not a milchemet mitzvah” That war, clearly, was to defend the jews.”

    It was not defending the Jews against those who have attacked the Jews. Everyone involved had been at peace with King David until the war actually started. A Milchemes Mitzvah that is not commanded in advance by the Torah is one in which war is being made with those who are attackers of Jews. Once a war starts naturally Jews will be attacked but the status of a Milchemes Rishus or Milchemes Mitzvah is made at the start of a war. It’s status does not change or else every Milchemes Rishus would become as soon as the enemy attacks the Jews in the war a Milchemes Mitzvah.

    You previously had written concerning King David’s conquest here “Indeed, this is why it was considered “kibbush jochid”,as it was Dovid Hamelech’s optional war.” If it was a Milchemes Mitzvah you would be wrong on this count.

    Moshe Dick said: “As far as the Rambam goes, there is no need for bais din or urim vetumim in a milchemet mitzvah- true, the Rambam does talk about this in the context of a “melech”- king of israel,bu would that be a disqualifiyng fact? in other words, defending oneself against the enemies of Israel only qualifies as a mitzvah when a king rules? What about the Chashmonoim?. Or Bar Kochba(where, famously, Rabbi Akiva thought he was Moshiach)? That stand is absurd. If defending oneself is a milchemet mitzvah, it is highly unlikely to lose its validity when no king is available.”

    They were defending the Torah but was that considered Halachically a Milchemes Mitzvah or a Milchemes Rishus? With the Chashmanaim it wasn’t declared beforehand either a Milchemes Mitzvah or a Milchemes Rishus. With the Chashmanaim their war became known as a war because the uprising was serious enough to threaten the objectives of the Syrian Greeks. Can the status of a conflict that becomes later known as a war change to a Milchemes Mitzva? If yes please show me where.

    As for Bar Kochvah he was called by the Jews King.

  48. Moshe Dick says:

    To Yisroel Asper: I am not sure to which part of Dovid Hamelech’s wars you are referring to. In Shmuel 2, perek 8, we Tenach talks about the wars that Dovid had with a number of nations, including Aram Zovah (pesukin 3-6). This seems to have happened without direct provocation from these nations. I imagine that when the gemoro talks about Aram Zovah being “kibbush yochid”, the gemoro means that war and those nations. There is another war in perek 10 where Israel was attacked by Ammon and Aram. That was another war and that war was clearly after being attacked,which would certainly qualify it for a ‘milchemet mitzvah”.
    I cannot answer how the Chasmonoim considered their wars. All i said was that ,according to the Rambam, defending the jews from an enemy comes under the heading of ‘milchemet mitzvah”. Hence, the chasmonoim and Bar Kocba.

  49. Yisrael Asper says:

    Moshe Dick:”To Yisroel Asper: I am not sure to which part of Dovid Hamelech’s wars you are referring to. In Shmuel 2, perek 8, we Tenach talks about the wars that Dovid had with a number of nations, including Aram Zovah (pesukin 3-6). This seems to have happened without direct provocation from these nations. I imagine that when the gemoro talks about Aram Zovah being “kibbush yochid”, the gemoro means that war and those nations. There is another war in perek 10 where Israel was attacked by Ammon and Aram. That was another war and that war was clearly after being attacked,which would certainly qualify it for a ‘milchemet mitzvah”.”

    II Shmuel Chapter 8 summarizes King David’s wars including with Ammon and Aram. In Chapter we clearly see that Ammon was provoking King David but not militarily attacking. Aram was called in to attack Israel on the side of Ammon.

    Moshe Dick said:”I cannot answer how the Chasmonoim considered their wars. All i said was that ,according to the Rambam, defending the jews from an enemy comes under the heading of ‘milchemet mitzvah”. Hence, the chasmonoim and Bar Kocba.”

    Again by that definition the moment the enemy attacks us in any war it becomes a milchemet mitzvah but the Rambam clearly stated there are milchemet rishus as well as you yourself said.

  50. Moshe Dick says:

    To Yisrael Alper: thanks ,first, for engaging in a constructive dialogue. I re-checked the Pesukkim and it is not clear to me that the wars of Shmuel 2, perek 8 are the same wars that happen in perek 10. In Divrei Hajomim, BOTH of these chapters are repeated. It would be strange to me that, in both Seforim, the events of chapter 10 had already been covered in chapter 8, yet repeated later.
    I will do some more research on the Chasmonoim- after all ,they were Kohanim-who, in the normal course of events, never participated as soldiers in any war!

  51. Yisrael Asper says:

    To Moshe Dick:”I enjoyed the constructive diologe. Part of it was me seeing where you are coming from and trying to be as supportive as possible of your position.

    The Chashmonoim as soldiers is peculiar. Perhaps there was really no choice as Judaism was outlawed and endangered.

  52. Steve Brizel says:

    Moshe Dick-in Maseces Eruvin, there is a long sugya that discusses warfare on Shabbos and the permissibility of carrying weapons which would otherwise be Muktzeh as permissible because of Pikuach Nefesh. That Sugya, IIRC, revolves around the Chashmonaim, and their battles against the Greeks, as opposed to the futile war against the Romans.

    R Beckerman-One cannot disagree with the fact that the views of the CI are hardly that of a Daas Yachid in any sefer of Halacha that has been published since the 1950s in Israel, and must be reckoned with by anyone proposing differing views. WADR, great Poskim such as R Sternbuch my differ with the definition of a CI as posited by the CI, but, if one reads Emunah UBitachon quite carefully the CI’s definition of a Talmid Chacham in Emunah UBitachon is “black on white.”

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