A Letter to a Troubled Charedi Father

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21 Responses

  1. Eli B. says:

    Rabi Menken: I applaud your willingness to compromise. Now all you need is to convince Rav Shteinman, Rav Aurbach and the various Chassidishe Rebbes to agree to these guidelines as their minimum standards (as Daas Torah), and some sort of agreement could probably be reached.

    As I told Rabbi Beckerman via e-mail, this is the sort of proposal that would pull Bennett & Netanyahu away from Lapid (as it shows progress towards making Charaidi society self-sufficent, which is the pink elephant in the room) and get rid of the current draft law. If only the Rabbonim could agree (which we both know the chances).

    [You are, sadly, mistaken. This is precisely what was going on prior to Yesh Atid. How do you think Nachal Charedi got started? –YM]

  2. Mark says:

    “What is an appropriate solution? The IDF must revise Nachal Charedi to make it a truly acceptable framework for an observant Jew.” But has this been the response of the Gedolim and the Chareidim? It doesn’t seem like they are willing to approve of the army in any way shape or form. Why haven’t they engaged in meaningful discourse with the government explaining what would work for them? Instead, we find comparisons of government officials to Amalek (see your previous post) and disrespect and hurtful words aimed at the Religious non-Chareidi soldiers who do serve.

    [Mark, all of those things were happening prior to the current government, as I said, so yes, it was the response. Rav Wolbe and others said that those not learning must be in the Army. But now, Nachal Charedi has seen a dramatic decline in enlistment since the Gedolim said that yeshivos are now under attack. –YM]

  3. jbs says:

    Rabbi Menken,
    I understand your concern for the sensibilities and religious risk of being in the army, but I believe you are exaggerating the few incidents that occur that put religious Jews in uncomfortable situations in the army. This is based on a couple of relatives I have who are in Nachal Chareidi and have told me of so many things the IDF implement to help torah observant Jews feel comfortable. I believe that it is fair to ask the IDF to provide a kosher environment for the Chareidi population to serve in the army but you have to realize that the army is not a Yeshiva, and not every chumra can be kept in an army environment. By it’s very nature, an army can often be a crass environment where soldiers are put in tough conditions to prepare themselves for actual combat which may or may not come. In addition, a commanding officer has to be followed within reason. While there is no excuse for forcing torah observant soldiers to hear woman sing or be around permiscuous environments, these isolated incidents are not a reason to reject the army outright. It should be a starting point of discussion with the IDF to improve the situation. But the public pronouncement of most Chareidi leaders reject the army outright and do not state the changes to the army needed to make this deal. I believe that if it is just about improving conditions in the army to make it more suitable to Chareidim, a deal can be done and the changes can be made. The problem is that I am skeptical that this would be enough.

  4. c-l,c says:

    Some additions

    1.They talked with forked tongues,flaunting to everyone (but charedim )they they are proud to be the most “female friendly army in the world”

    2.The IDF today “is private and semi-private industry that is fighting our battles. Rafael Industries developed and operates the iron dome defense system, has and will control the new laser defense, the unmanned aircraft designed by private industry who continue to assist the military in its operations and modifications. Israel’s top secret installations are not run by the Army, but by professionals. The Air Force and Navy do not accept the average recruit, but the best of the best who will continue to vie to get in, with or without the draft. The foot soldier has thus become irrelevant, as is the draft.”
    Prof. S Neumann

    3.The IDF is a determiner of status for the hierarchy of society.(It was/is conditioned to be just that).

    Netzach Yehuda and other “okay” units are intentionally very low on the pyramid.
    The soldiers serving presently may be clueless,but they find out soon enough.

    The better units aside from the technical experience, is a source for chevre that many israelis do business with.
    They network in the army and build up companies together etc…

    It boils down to
    will charedim and what they represent be reduced to societal service providers to higher purposes of
    dati and anti religious ?

  5. c-l,c says:


    Two years ago the hesder units forced to watch female performers

    When some asked if Netzach Yehudah(nachal)would have to attend too,they were told for now ,” no “,since otherwise the charedim would stop coming

    I just heard a few weeks ago from acquaintance whose friend is charge of the kashrut in Netzach Yehudah,..oh,the issues that he has

    IDC manpower ,who is a woman, this year marched through Netzach Yehudah’s base..because how dare somewhere in the army be prohibited to her

  6. L. Oberstein says:

    My son served in Netzah Yehuah for 18 months. He never complained about lack of glatt kosher food and said that they were given the opportunity to pray three times a day and were given off every other weekend. When they were on duty guarding against terrorists, they were of course required to use their radios, and do other things to save lives that are permitted under those circumstances. He never once complained to me about any of the issues you raise. I know that Dovid Landesman’s son was one of his commanders during training and I wonder if his son suffered as you seem to assume is the norm.

    If indeed, theological students are exempt from the draft, then where,pray tell, are the 30,000 synagogues that these students are preparing to serve as rabbis

    The Tal Law was in effect for a long time and didn’t do what it was intended to do. The present law would have been much better had the religious leaders of the chareidi community worked openly and respectfully with the State of Israel. It is like blaming President Obama for the faults of the Affordable Care Act when not one Republican was allowed by party discipline to work out reasonable accomadations. The administration spent a year trying to come up with a bi-partisan bill but in the end, no one would cooperate . The chareidim have to answer in this world and the next for the way they have shown disdain for the very state that feeds and protects them.

    Never in Jewish History has the present disfunctional situation prevailed whereby a huge segment of Je4ws feels that the state they live in is illigitimate, that its flag and its anthem are meaningless and that there is no shame in self inflicted poverty . It is contrary to our entire history that says that a man should support his wife, that a father should teach his son a skill to earn a living and that one who decides to live off the public charity is not a hero.

  7. Toby Katz says:

    “It is like blaming President Obama for the faults of the Affordable Care Act when not one Republican was allowed by party discipline to work out reasonable accomadations. The administration spent a year trying to come up with a bi-partisan bill but in the end, no one would cooperate.”

    This is an Obama talking point that is blatantly false. His offer to the Republicans was “Vote with me or your name is mud.” There was no negotiating and no compromise. Obamacare is an absolute disaster, there was nothing that could have been done to “make it work.”

    As for the army, some frum guys have a good experience and some have a horrible experience. It is way too chancy and random right now — where they happen to send you, who your commander is, etc.

  8. ari d says:

    Great article. I agree with everything except the fact that there will always be a very significant portion of “charedim” that view army service as a traif thing, no matter how kosher you make it. perhaps the main point of the article would be that the charedi community could easily meet the quota set by the law they would make the army a place for a ben torah to thrive…..

  9. Joe Socher says:

    The problem with this position – we won’t join the army until our demands/needs are met – is that until there are sufficient numbers of chareidi soldiers there will be little incentive to change the status quo and it also will not even be clear exacly what needs to be set up and changed until the soldiers are there and there can be a give and take between requests and military needs. Policies and practices are worked out on an ad hoc basis based on need and experience.

    Moreover, it seems a little disingenuous to say that all we need is a little accomodation when the the community is out in mass demonstration declaring any cooperation as yehareg ve al yaavor, etc.

    [First of all, it shouldn’t be about “until our demands are met.” Respect for the rights of others should come without saying. Do you feed a vegetarian meat until he requests to be fed only vegetarian foods? And second, Nachal Charedi was formed because they already knew what needed to be set up and changed. It is obvious that there can be a give-and-take, when there is good will. With the setup of Nachal Charedi, there was good will. Now, there isn’t. As far as no cooperation… you have placed the cart before the horse. There is no cooperation when the government is prepared to call a student who remains in yeshiva, a criminal. –YM]

  10. Jonathan says:

    If there’s a problem with the company commanders, maybe charedim should get more involved with the IDF and become the next generation of company commanders. The IDF in the era of Ben Gurion was openly anti-religious, but the students of Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook z”tzl joined anyway. Now almost half of combat officers wear kippot, and the IDF influences at least as many secular soldiers to become closer to tradition as it causes frum soldiers to become less religious.

    The charedi community is a large and growing segment of the Israeli public. It is way too large to sit on the sidelines and complain that that the others aren’t accommodating its needs.

    [That’s not entirely accurate, and is, on the other hand, entirely unfair. The fact that some chose to join in any case is not an excuse to compel others to serve under commanders who are openly anti-religious (and you cannot argue for a moment that the IDF has no such commanders). That the IDF is a positive influence on some, while of course laudable, does not justify an enforced loss. –YM]

  11. Wolfman says:

    The ObamaCare analogy was precious but not in the way intended. In both the ObamaCare legislation as well as in the Lapid-Bennet legislation, the opposition was told to follow or have no say. Both laws are now troublesome divisive laws causing strife in their respective countries.

  12. Rafael A. says:

    Why does everybody raise hesder and DL soldiers of exemplers of how Chareidim can integrate and thrive as machmirim in the IDF? Maybe, just maybe, what heterim that some hesder soldiers rely upon chareidi soldiers will not accept? Look at the “response” of some DL rabbanim after the women singing incident, saying that the soldiers were permitted to listen and should not have gotten up. Hesder soldiers are indoctrinated that serving in the IDF is serving the Jewish people and is fraught with religious significance. Chareidim, who are either non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, are not. Therefore, hesder soldiers are more likely to be accept the way the IDF functions, even if it means some compromising halochoh or such things as interacting with women, are being actively encouraged to seek high positions in the IDF.

    Therefore, I think it is rather silly to raise hesder as an example of this. Rather, find examples where chareidim have been integrated and yet don’t have to compromise their values on the basis that if good for hesder talmidim its good for them. That’s not going to work, no matter how much people here want it to.

  13. Etana Hecht says:

    Wolfman said

    “The ObamaCare analogy was precious but not in the way intended. In both the ObamaCare legislation as well as in the Lapid-Bennet legislation, the opposition was told to follow or have no say. Both laws are now troublesome divisive laws causing strife in their respective countries.”

    The chareidi parties had 20 YEARS in the Knesset to implement change on their own terms. They failed miserably, and now it’s their own communities who are paying the price. So don’t say that they had no say in these laws! Anyone with half a brain could see that with the demographic trending the way it has been for the past few decades, that it would get to the point where it would be impossible for the entire chareidi community to sit out of military service as a rule. The chareidi politicians should have been easing their community’s way into the IDF for the past 20 years.

  14. Rafael A. says:

    Etana – because the chareidi politicians didn’t do so, the changes have to suddenly be implemented with the span of a few short years? That is just asking for social upheaval – and I don’t think those pushing change (which I agree some of which is necessary) care how these changes really affect chareidi society or not. Especially given the manpower needs of the IDF, based on recent military technology, these changes could have been implemented based on a more gradual timeline; maybe not as slow as what has been done over the past 20 years, but not as fast as the current government is doing.

  15. Robert Lebovits says:

    Etana Hecht: That in fact was the assessment that led a number of Chareidi Gedolim to support Nachal Chareidi. The momentum of change had been building, as evidenced by the creation of a second brigade. The Lapid-Bennett law has now had precisely the opposite result of its stated intent (which is normative for liberal ideology) in that even Nachal Chareidi is now being viewed as unacceptable (in this environment) by a number of its past advocates.

  16. Bob Miller says:

    The Knesset appears to be democratic on the surface, but the voters represented by any given party have no really good way to replace their Knesset members who underperform.

  17. c-l,c says:

    The IDF yesterday recommended prohibiting all beards

    (Those black and white photos of Chayalim with facial hair…scrub them)

    [Reports indicate that beards for religious reasons are specifically excluded. –YM]

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    C-L,c-believe it or not there are well established heterim for shaving and the use of electric shavers-the issue boils down to Giluach Shein Bo Haschasah.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    R Menken wrote in part:

    “In an ideal world, it is obvious that any charedi boy who is not successful in his studies, and is prepared to go out to work, ought to be doing military service in any situation where everyone else is subject to conscription. That is indeed simple fairness; the IDF is preserving the security of Israel, and those who do not protect Israel by learning should certainly participate.

    But, and this is a particularly large but, in order to respect the religious liberty of all people, a civilized nation has to provide the opportunity for a soldier to preserve his own religious values to the maximum extent possible — in our case, Torah and Mitzvos. If we expect Brazil and Denmark to respect the rights of religious soldiers or exempt them from mandatory service, we can and should expect the same of Israel”

    Yasher Koach for stating the issues that must be bridged and the rhetoric lowered from all sectors if this issue is and will be susceptible to a resolution by calmer heads as opposed to ideologues whose statements remind me of someone who has climbed a tree and proceeded to almost fall because he has sawed himself off the branch. We need dialogue between all sectors without retribution and with hakaras hatov of the contributions of all sectors in order to take the first baby steps at dealing with the issues without invoking urban myths and stereotypical thinking that all sectors have indulged in for decades.

  20. lacosta says:

    while steve brizel’s point is well taken , there are large segments of israeli hareidi society that don’t ‘accept’ the whole construct of the Medina , although they would like if not demand a full share [or more] of the benefits it can provide. maybe there could be some type of option for a more limited ‘ezrachut’ status —like a green carded foreigner , who is exempt from responsibility , and eligible for a much smaller benefit package . no one complains when a foreigner doesn’t have to do jury duty , because we know he doesn’t vote for example.

    this could be a solution for thousands of families who see themselves as living in the Land , but not of it ; it would instantly resolve the army issue ; additionally, by not funding non-citizens it would solve a lot of budget issues….

    alas, i know this is fantasy , because who would ever give up their rights even when shirking all their responsibilities….

  21. R. Akiva Path says:

    While I appreciate the mention in the article, it did not come back for a follow up on my son 2 1/2 years later – which is here, “What’s Up with My Nachal Charedi Son”. We certainly were disappointed by the initial intake. But several years later not only has my son overcome those challenges (and learned the system of how and when to push back), his initial posting was shutdown by the Nachal Charedi rabbonim as inappropriate (yes it took them 2 years to figure that out and do it) – and he just accepted an extension of his service to serve as an Army Mashgiach (a paid position with a promotion in rank).

    So you have to be fair. The army is not organized to optimize the religious experience, it’s organized to fight and defend. Yes there’s a lot of social manipulation going on (and an army does need to fuse it’s people into operational units), but there are also rights – which you have to express and demand.

    Naturally the charedi community is not familiar with these. Sadly, because of lack of appreciation for the army, those experienced Nachal Charedi soldiers are not being offered to share such experience within the community.

    Don’t be fooled, they ARE trying to kill us and we must defend against it. The community could prepare those not being successful in yeshiva to head such a direction, and advocate and strongly inform them of their rights. They don’t – and then complain that the situation is not perfect?

    No, the IDF doesn’t need everyone who is drafted. BUT it does need many, and as the charedi community continues to grow – where are those many going to come from?

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