Messages From the War – Nov. 6

So many of the events that punctuate our days here in Yerushalayim end the same way.

Case in point. My son went to a levaya of a soldier on Har Herzl. As he walked up the path, a woman near him collapsed. Clutching her phone, she yelled, “My son! My son!” He found it jarring, he said. He realized that as much as he is trying to do (which is a lot), his stake in the way was just not the same as the majority of people around. All of them had close relatives – often many – in the line of fire. (Happily, in this case, the woman had not lost her son. He was injured, but still alive.)

Another. My wife and I were invited to friends of ours leyl Shabbos. Two of the guests of our frum hostess were her very secular Israeli mother, and her companion. The latter was equally secular, and part of Israel’s own Greatest Generation – those who had built the country up during the decades after the War of Independence. They had grit, determination, and a firm vision of what they wanted to accomplish.

The conversation was interesting, to put it mildly. Entirely friendly, however. At one point, he asked me why I think Jews are displaying the kind of unity we all sense. Beyond the necessity of hanging together, or else hanging separately, was there any logical sense to a Jew from London feeling so strongly about a Jew from Iraq? Having downed a good number of l’chayims by this time, I responded with something that I believed in, rather than with something anodyne. (Too long for here; equal parts of Maharal and Ramchal.) He actually liked it, and I felt good about connecting with another Jew. Till he casually remarked about having two sons and one son-in-law on the front lines. Then I felt a chasm opening up between us. My care, concern, tefillos didn’t hold a candle to what he, and the average Israeli, had at stake in this war. We could sleep at night a good deal easier than them.

There are moments of refuge from these feelings of inadequacy. Or so you would think. I taped two television shows about the war for a Christian network. The host, an evangelical Christian who works around the calendar to drum up Christian support for Israel, lobbed slow softballs across the plate. It gave me an opportunity to use one-liners that I had been saving up for the right moment. So I felt pretty good about my tiny contribution to the PR war effort. Until he casually mentioned that he, too, had two sons at the front. (He had been in the country long enough that his children were educated here, and drafted into the army.) Here we go again. Everyone but us. Even non-Jews.

There is a chasm here that can’t be easily bridged. Or bridged at all. It’s not there by design, and everyone wishes it would go away. But the fact remains. With all the huge outpouring of time, effort, material support and just plain love to our chayalim and to displaced people – regardless of religious affiliation – there is something that separates us from most of Israel’s population. We don’t have first-degree relatives who are spilling their blood in battle. Try as hard as we may (and the news channels show that our efforts are genuinely appreciated), we remain outsiders to the way the rest of the nation experiences the pain of the moment.

This could be a good thing. It might just be enough for some in our charedi community to realize that its remarkable efforts to create bastions of Torah have left it outside the experience of feeling part of the nation of Klal Yisrael. (For two thousand years, we survived galus as small or large communities, but never as part of a single national entity. Rav Kook used to argue for patience with the fractious conduct of Jews in his day. It would take time, he counseled, for Jews to learn to live again as a nation.) We think granularly, in terms of specific responsibilities of chesed and ahavas Yisrael. But we don’t function as part of the renascent Jewish nation.

What saddens me greatly is the inability of too many – even at this time – to be able to daven for soldiers qua members of the Tzava Hagganah L’Yisrael. I can’t buy the reluctance even during peacetime. (My shul says the tefillah for Tzahal.) But I could let it go. There has been so much invested in the anti-Zionism of the yeshivah world, that it didn’t seem worthwhile fighting over it. But even now? When soldiers are literally dying every day R”L as they fight to protect all of us? They still can’t acknowledge their special role, and daven specifically for them – even as they cry out for our tefillos? Tehillim have to be recited only for the “safer” designation of acheinu Bnei Yisrael? Whose sensitivities do they wish not to offend? Why are some leaders so frightened by the prospect of some students leaving yeshivos if they begin to feel genuine admiration for chayalim? Don’t they realize that the many thousands of real learners are secure in their belief in the contribution they are making, and won’t be swayed by feeling gratitude towards those who place their bodies between the enemy and the people of Israel. Those real learners take their contribution seriously, and utilize their time properly. The ones that don’t – well, is it so important to keep them in “the system” that the entire charedi community has to function like a world apart?

I don’t want to see, chas v’shalom, any dismantling of the Torah edifice that we have built in Israel, and which is such a critical part of the ruchniyus that drives the success of our material endeavors. What would I like to see? I will cite from recent correspondence with my good friend, Rabbi Moshe Katz in Chicago:

I have a dream. That every Yeshiva should be addressed by an erlicher soldier (there are many!) who would tell them that he believes b’emunah shlayma, that their learning gives him protection.  And please don’t look up from your gemorah! And then: “Please let me describe to you what being a soldier in Gaza is like….”

Finally, here are the words of Rav Wolbe, zt”l. (Alei Shor, v.2 pg. 167):

The absence of feeling is timtum, tumah. Kedushah is feeling in ruchniyus. Tumah is its absence…This applies not only regarding aveiros, but regarding events, as well, when they don’t say anything to a person…Taking part in the pain of others is lip-service, when it is not accompanied by genuine feeling. In such a situation, ahavas chesed doesn’t compensate.

These words might mean different things to different people, but I know what they are telling me right now. I feel like I want to love the nation as a whole, not just its individuals. I also want to see a Torah community that serves as a reservoir of Torah strength within the nation of Israel, rather than outside of it.

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82 Responses

  1. Natan Slifkin says:

    “I have a dream. That every Yeshiva should be addressed by an erlicher soldier (there are many!) who would tell them that he believes b’emunah shlayma, that their learning gives him protection.” For many adherents of the Dati-Leumi hashkafa, there is no such protection being given. Since the obligation to serve in a milchemes mitzvah is obligatory upon everyone, those who avoid sharing the burden are exactly as described by Moshe Rabbeinu regarding the Bnei Gad and Reuven if they didn’t fight – sinning before the people and before Hashem. What merit can there be in such Torah? Fortunately, there are plenty of other people learning Torah, including soldiers before they go out to war, and the merit of the soldiers being literally moser nefesh for Klal Yisrael is tremendous in its own right.

    • rkz says:

      I am an adherent of the Dati Leumi hashkafa, and I believe strongly that there is great זכות והגנה in the learning of the תורה הקדושה in all ישיבות וכוללים.
      I have a son who is learning and a son in the combat unit.
      I know many people who agree with my belief – Some are fighting in עזה (and other חזיתות) now.

      • ChanaRachel says:

        As a Mom with several sons /sons-in-law called up to the army, I would like to make a practical suggestion. Some of my kids live on Yishuvim, in which due to their fairly homogeneous nature (age group and the fact that almost all the men serve in the army), the vast majority of men were called to miluim, leaving mainly women and children on the Yishuv. There are a few Chayyalim who guard each Yishuv, but the women are concerned that they are insufficiently protected in case of an emergency or attack, G-d forbid .
        Maybe each yeshiva could move to a Yishuv and continue learning in the Yishuv Beit Knesset. These men could learn 16 hours a day, as like Chayyalim they would be away from the distractions of home, providing metaphysical protection..and..simply by their presence (and if some have security training and guns, even better) they can provide physical security, as well. Most Yishuvim have extra caravans where they could sleep, and they would stay on a 12 days learning / 2 days home schedule, like many Chayyalim.
        It would seem to me that if the Yeshiva world is truly dedicated to providing protection through Torah study, this could be a win-win solution.

    • David says:

      Wow, what a surprise. Not predictable at all! I pray for the day when people on all sides will be just a bit more open and respectful to other opinions, even if they disagree with them.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Does your own Torah study accrue to their benefit?

    • Happy says:

      The actual adherents of Dati-Torah hashkafa (not the dati-lite version that some espouse) do believe there is such a protection given.
      It is strange that you talk about milchemes mitzvah. As far as I know, there is no exemption for forty-something year old museum directors. Clearly, you do not really believe it is a milchemes mitzvah.
      “What merit can there be in such Torah? ”
      -Fortunately, the רוב מנין ובנין of rabbis determined it’s a great mitzvah, so there is indeed a great merit, which is protecting our soldiers, may Hashem keep them safe.

    • Happy says:

      Most adherents of Dati-Torah hashkafa do believe there is such a protection given. , see also Rav RKZ’s comments.
      It is strange that you talk about milchemes mitzvah from a halachic perspective, since if it was level of כלה מחופתה, there would be no exemptions given to 90% of the population, including I would add, museum directors. Clearly, it is not at that level.
      As for the question of what merit there can be in Torah that you believe is learned in sin, fortunately, the רוב מנין ובנין of rabbis determined it’s a great mitzvah and not a sin, so there is indeed a great merit (even if they happen to be wrong), which is protecting our soldiers, may Hashem keep them safe.

      • Nachum says:

        That something is a mitzvah and gives one a zechut does not automatically translate to “accrues to the benefit of others.”

      • Happy says:

        Nachum, nothing automatic about it. Torah and Mitzvos are a national responsibility and the adherence to which protect the nation (and ח”ו the violation of which…ח”ו, I don’t want to finish the sentence), as Hashem tells us in His Holy Torah.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    For Israeli Jews to have complementary roles in wartime and achieve effective teamwork, there needs to be a national consensus about the positive value of all such roles. A robust home front is essential to support everyone economically, including by filling in for absent employees and engaging in war production. Sugar Daddy America may be unavailable or unwilling to make up the difference. At a minimum, chareidi strictures against full participation need revision. You can’t provide a needed skill or service in wartime without proper training and experience gained in peacetime. But the big picture has to include full-time Torah learning for those most proficient at it. For a Jewish state, this, too, is a national need.

  3. MK says:

    “For many adherents of the Dati-Leumi hashkafa, there is no such protection being given.”
    The difference between this comment and RYA’s article and the “dream” that is quoted, is that the latter aims to make a difference in the Chareidi world, which at this time, may be a possibility.
    The former, even if it were true, has zero chance of having any impact, other than making the author, who has much good to offer, even more irrelevant to the Chareidi world.

  4. DK says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, if this makes you feel any better at all, please remember the past:
    The founding of the state and the preceding years that the Secular Zionists fought with the Arabs regarding founding the State of Israel is the main reason why there has been so much friction (read, Arab wars and terrorist attacks) against us Jews. (This does not mean that what the Muslims are doing is OK. Just a fact that cannot be overlooked. Jews lived in Muslim lands for 1000+ years and never had what they want to do to us now. Only after the founding of the State were Jews persecuted and had to flee from Arab lands.)

    The Chareidi population were not willing to create a State if there was going to be so much opposition.
    Ben Gurion had no such qualms. He had no issue risking the lives of 100,000’s of Jews for the chance of founding the state. It is still this fight that is being fought and there is no end in sight.
    For the Chareidi population to be forced into battle for a fight that they were dead set against is not fair and goes against any logic.

    Yes, we must daven for Klal Yisroel to be safe, which includes the soldiers. Yes, we daven that Hashem should destroy the ones who try to wipe us out. And yes, we must do all we can to help our fellow brothers and sisters.

    But to say that there is something wrong about not entering combat is simply missing crucial facts of history that cannot be ignored.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Your argument is bogus.
      Muhammad himself committed many bloody crimes against Jews in his vicinity. Such activity has been an on-and-off fact for Jews over many years with or without a State. One band of Muslims would give Jews inferior status and another would do that and also brutalize Jews.
      The antisemitic activities of the Nazi-aligned Arabs before and during WW2 included massive pogroms against Jews in Iraq, See:
      On the general Nazi-Islamist relationship:

    • rkz says:

      Muslims killed Jews since the beginning of Islam.

    • Nachum says:

      And Jews lived mostly peacefully in Germany and Eastern Europe for many years, certainly not suffering anything near the Holocaust. What’s your point?

      Actually, I see your point, and it’s quite ugly. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • David says:

      That’s absolutely horrible. You sound like the Hamas spokesman. Blaming the victim is just unbelievable. This is a “great” example of what the Rambam meant when he defined הפורש מן הציבור. It’s one thing to say that learning Torah is crucial, it’s totally another to say what you did. I learned in the most right-wing yeshivos and never did I hear someone say what you did. I will have you in mind when I daven for all of Klal Yisrael to do teshuva.

    • lacosta says:

      the logical conclusion of this argument is that the haredi community never had a stake in the zionist entity , in addition to finding it theologically odious , at best . the inherent animosity between the two communities , could be solved by granting the haredi community a secondary status in the country –a non-voting permanent resident status , permanently exempt from military or other public service . maybe also with more limited welfare benefits. this would relieve their community of any possible guilt feelings ; and deprive the other denizens of claims of unequal bearing of the burden. for a community that really only wanted to be left alone , as their yishuv was overrun by gentilized hebrews , it could restore things to the way they were . [ it would not of course remove the theological dilemma/ non-sequitor of a secular jewish state….

      • Ben Waxman says:

        The main, if not only, reason that the state does things like setting up chareidi towns or neighborhoods, funds their schools, provides them support and resources for who knows how many endeavors is because the government needs their Knesset votes. Take away their vote and they won’t get an agora of support.

        They need to end the war with the Zionists, period.

  5. mycroft says:

    Jews lived in Muslim lands for 1000+ years and never had what they want to do to us now. Only after the founding of the State were Jews persecuted …

    Jews might not have suffered many times as much in Moslem lands before Zionism as they did in Christian lands but there were plenty of Moslem attacks on Jews. Most obvious just before modern political Zionism was Damascus Pogrom of 1840

    • DK says:

      Perhaps I was not clear or my post was not read correctly, but I will clarify.

      I never claimed that Muslims never killed Jews. I simply said that the hatred that there exists today where a Jew anywhere in the world is fair game for senseless murder from Muslim adherents is a new phenomena. That Jews had to flee from places they lived in relative peace for a thousand years because of the fear they had for their lives only started after ’48.
      A friend of mine who is a contractor just told me that he once drove home some Arab workers and he told them that he would drive them to their doorsteps. They shook their heads, no, not worth it. For your safety. And that was a “friendly” village… When did it start that any Jew who takes one step into an Arab village gets lynched?!?

      But lets not get sidetracked. The main issue is that the Chareidi world did not wish a state as it was created and went along with in only after it was going to be created anyways. Why must they now send their sons to the battlefield to protect against a situation that they were against.

      • This is a hoary ancient line of bogus reasoning. Whatever alternatives to a State existed, if they did, only up to the Holocaust. After the Holocaust the State was inevitable. There were no other viable alternatives. To claim otherwise is pervert history, and, frankly, to deny the obvious Yad Hashem in history.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      That is because a sovereign Jewish state is inimical to the basic ideology of Islam

  6. Nachum says:

    R’ Adlerstein, perhaps a good first step would be not to write blog posts in the plural first person. Plenty of people reading this are not included in your “we,” and I imagine seeing that word is painful to many of them. You can say “I”, you can say “the charedi world”, you can say plenty of things.

    Also, bear in mind that when you say “we”, many of those in Israel you include are, sadly, not even thinking about these things.

    • So maybe it is worth repeating the unwritten constitution of Cross-Currents from day one. It is a site that is pledged to be Charedi-friendly. It is aimed in particular at those who identify with elements of charedi life (e.g. rigor in halacha; acceptance of mainstream hashkafa; placing limud Torah on a pedestal) without necessarily buying into “The System.” I.e., especially Anglos with yeshiva background from either charedi or MO backgrounds.) The mixture of I/we represents the struggle people in that group have living according to those elements, while maintaining their individuality. It is, indeed, a very large and growing group. No one else need to feel offended. A click of a mouse can take them to safer ground

      • Natan Slifkin says:

        “acceptance of mainstream hashkafa” – surely every community views its hashkafa as mainstream.

      • I don’t think that this is true.

        There are groups that don’t claim to have a general hashkafa. Hashkafa is just not on the map.

        There are others that come closer to having one, but can’t relate it to a sense of real continuity with the hashkafos that our ancestors lived with for the centuries before us

  7. Moshe Peretz Mann says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein – while I myself may agree with your position and that of Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin שליט”א, your quote from Rav Wolbe זצ”ל in support of praying for the IDF soldiers is somewhat disingenuous, as Rav Wolbe himself “agrees with the anti-Zionism of the Satmar Rav” and believed that “the state is entirely heretical and even Israel Independence Day should not be recognized” according to his Wikipedia entry. How do you respond?

    • 1) I am not sure that there is a common position between my good friend (he continues to be that!) Rabbi Slifkin and myself. That leaves me a bit puzzled.
      2) Apples and oranges. Because I reject certain positions of a gadol, I can no longer use any of his Torah? Rov minyan and rov binyan of the yeshivah world rejected the shitos of the Satmar Rov, zt”l. Do we then have to reject all his Torah? The Chacham Tzvi wrote some pretty unusual teshuvos, e.g. permitting pilegesh as a solution to widespread dalliances with non-Jewish domestics. Does that mean that we don’t use his other teshuvos? Do we tear the Ralbag out of our copies of Nach because he espoused a view on yehiah and bechirah that was seen as downright heretical by virtually everyone else? Do we stop learning Rambam because the Gra thought that he had been unduly influenced by neo-Aristotelian philosophy?
      3) Wikipedia is insufficient a source to prove that Rav Wolbe endorsed the positions of the Satmar Rov. But assuming this is correct, it has nothing to do with the quotation I used. Rav Wolbe was obviously not speaking of davening for soldiers in Gaza. (I can only assume that from his perch in Shomayim he is doing precisely that.) He was speaking of what constitutes nesias ole. You are free to decide that you do not want any part in that ole. But for those who do, Rav Wolbe’s trenchant words have great meaning. It can’t be done by viewing it just as a mitzvah of chesed. It has to be accompanied by genuine feeling. I see lots of genuine feeling in huge parts of the charedi world today. But then there are the others…

    • MKra says:

      Not true. The head of a respected Yeshiva for B’aalei Teshuva asked Rav Wolbe if they can say Hallel on Israeli Independence Day, as to many of their talmidim Israel is an important of their Jewish identity?
      He answered yes and went on to say that in his brother in law’s shule in Belgium , Hallel is recited! His brother in law was R Chaim Kreiswurth, not exactly a second rate Talmid Chochom!
      Not exactly in sinc with Satmar!

  8. Happy says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I am very bothered by this line
    “My care, concern, tefillos didn’t hold a candle to what he, and the average Israeli, had at stake in this war. We could sleep at night a good deal easier than them.”
    This is not true at all. Since you are a Torah Jew who has emunah, who believes in the power of Tefillah, your care, concern, and tefillos go a very long way! אלה ברכב ואלה בסוסים ואנחנו בשם אלקינו נזכיר. You really think your Tefillos are worth less than the efforts of the Christian soldiers you mentioned? Of course not! Of course, religious Jewish soldiers have both the מעלות of tefilla, emunah, as well as human effort. But no need to lose sight of the עיקר, which is something that religious soldiers also agree is the עיקר!
    If you can sleep easily at night, that is something you need to work on! How can anybody sleep easily at night at a time like this? (I am not saying I am any better than you, I don’t know, we probably all need to work on this).

    • “Since you are a Torah Jew who has emunah, who believes in the power of Tefillah, your care, concern, and tefillos go a very long way!” I believe in this fully, without reservation! That does not change the fact that at the end of a day, when exhaustion hits, I am able to get some hours of uninterrupted sleep. Much of the country cannot do that, because they cannot get their minds off loved ones who are either on the front lines or suffering in captivity. It is just not helpful to try to obscure the difference

    • Happy says:

      Rabbi Adlerstein, I agree 100% it is not helpful to obscure the difference. This is why I have in mind in my tefillos not just the soldiers, but their families as well, who must be in perpetual fear and some of which are ר”ל in mourning, may the sacrifices of Hashem’s children reach the Heavens and be a merit for all of Klal Yisrael. But at the same time, we also shouldn’t focus too much on these differences, we shouldn’t obscure the incredible achdus and wellsprings of emunah that the nation has discovered, which you have also written about!

  9. Mark says:

    “With all the huge outpouring of time, effort, material support and just plain love to our chayalim and to displaced people – regardless of religious affiliation – there is something that separates us from most of Israel’s population. ”

    This is absolutely true, but hardly the first thing that separates us from most of Israel’s population.

    True Charedi bnei Torah are separated from Israeli society in many ways and that’s probably why they don’t experience the angst that you, as a wonderful and respected Talmid Chochom who isn’t in that camp, feels.

    A typical Charedi devotes his life to a very different set of ideals. He lives a much more spartan lifestyle than the rest of the Israeli populace does. He restricts his access to most forms of entertainment, food, and other forms of enjoyment. He produces a large family and struggles to support them. IOW – while he sleeps in his bed at night, it’s not a very comfortable one ever.

    He’s fighting a war every day of his life – but against a different kind of enemy.

    I appreciate that this is something that a typical Anglo, even a Talmid Chochom of Rabbi Adlerstein’s vintage, can understand or respect, but it’s something that any Charedi living in EY understands very well.

    • Natan Slifkin says:

      “He’s fighting a war every day of his life ”
      Are you claiming that the level of mesirus nefesh is comparable? Because that’s sure what it sounds like.z

      • Mark says:

        Yes, I am.

        We were discussing the families of the soldiers who during times of war live with an angst that is not felt by those who don’t have sons and husbands on the front lines and Rabbi Adlerstein’s point is that this is ultimately a dividing line between Charedim and the rest of society.

        My point is that we’re divided on many levels – well beyond this one point. Furthermore, while we’re on the subject, Charedim don’t sleep that well in their beds either – but not only during wartime. At all times, they struggle with (self-inflicted) financial challenges that are unknown to most of Israeli society. They struggle with living in tiny apartments while raising and caring for very large families.

        I’ll leave it to you to decide exactly which struggles cause more damage to one’s heart. You’re welcome to argue that the short-term intense worry that comes with having a son on the front lines is worse, while others can argue that the prolonged stress that comes with raising large families with limited means is worse. Ultimately, it’s irrelevant. Each is significant in its own way. My point was the Charedim are very distinct from Israeli society in numerous ways and that’s why this particular point isn’t as meaningful as it may be to someone like Rabbi Adlerstein.

      • Happy says:

        Living one’s life for God is a very high level of mesiras nefesh. It may be that dying for the sake of God is an even higher level, but that is supposed to be the culmination of a lifetime of living for God (indeed the case for many religious soldiers), not a replacement for it. Anyways, regarding the underlying comment, the Chovos Halevavos says:
        ואמרו על חסיד שפגע אנשים שבים ממלחמת אויבים ושללו שלל אחר מלחמה חזקה אמר להם שבתם מן המלחמה הקטנה שוללים שלל התעתדו למלחמה הגדולה אמרו לו ומה היא המלחמה הגדולה אמר להם מלחמת היצר וחייליו.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Smug condescension here, not too well disguised. This proves that asceticism and gaavah can inhabit the same mind. True chareidim and, really, true anybody refrain from this mind game.

      • mark says:

        You must have misunderstood my point and you’re more than welcome to see what I wrote above to Natan Slifkin for clarification.
        I must not be a true Charedi because although I identify as such, have raised all my children as such, and believe strongly in that approach, I still take time every single day to daven for the חיילים and many of them by name. I also daven for their wives and children, and for the hostages separately and together.
        But you’re more than welcome to assume whatever you’d like about me if that somehow makes you feel better about yourself. In the future, however, if you have an issue with what someone wrote, you might wish to address the issue and not the (imagined) person.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Thanks, Mark, for your clarification. Previously, your thoughts had multiple explanations, and I went for the wrong one.

      • YL says:

        Mark: Your idea about chareidim with large families struggling to make ends meet and “not sleeping so well either at night” is a noble idea but at end of the day it is self-imposed to live that kind of life instead of earning a degree after learning in yeshiva and getting a higher paying job while still maintaining a fully religious life, like many D”L people, etc.

  10. Mark says:

    I’m so confused by this statement: “Tehillim have to be recited only for the “safer” designation of acheinu Bnei Yisrael?”

    There are more than 240 hostages in Gaza. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of displaced residents in Israel. There are many orphans, widows, and regular people suffering as a result of this war. Are they not worthy of our teffilos? Must we single out the IDF?

    When I say, “Acheinu” I have every single one in mind. I don’t know how anyone can have an issue with that?

    Why simply assume that they’re saying Acheinu because they detest the IDF?

  11. Ben Waxman says:

    I was speaking to a friend who recently moved from a chareidi neighborhood to a DL yishuv. He was struck by the huge number of men (and women) called up on 07/10, at how suddenly, overnight, the synagogue was 1/2 – 2/3 empty. That wouldn’t have happened at all in his former beit knesset, he told me.

    Same thing in my synagogue. We had to cancel one minyan because so many normal participants are now in the IDF.

    This is a simple uvdah, a simple fact. This reality isn’t going to change anytime soon.

  12. Ben Waxman says:

    I will add that I find it sad that the people responding chose to avoid the issue of the chasm, of the yeshiva world’s reluctance to openly come out in support for the IDF and our soldiers (and yes, the nuances are critically important, especially in the Chareidi world where every word, every symbol is important). Instead, people argue about Talmud Torah, Israel’s creation, all sorts of things except the chasm.

    • RAM says:

      Aside from the military chasm, there’s also a belief chasm, which the reaction to the currently unfolding situation potentially closes. It would be beyond refreshing to have Israel’s Prime Minister and President acknowledge openly and sincerely that our success in all venues depends on HaShem. Not just because we’re great people, not just because we’re skilled in the technological and military arts, but because HaShem is the true source of success. This goes beyond one’s identification with, or attitude toward, this or that Israeli subculture; it’s the fundamental bedrock, the sine qua non. In Parashat Haazinu, HaShem steps in after all our false gods have openly failed and all our alleged allies have changed sides.

      • Ben Waxman says:

        it is this type of attempted equivalence which is simply so deaf to the feelings of those of us who serve or served in the IDF.


      • Bob Miller says:

        Love you, too.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        And here we are, ten days later, and the PM and Benny Gantz keep repeating that we will win “בעזרת ה'”. So things seem to be changing…

  13. Michael Halberstam says:

    It is possible to enjoy and appreciate the achdus which exists in our community today, and to still have trouble with an attitude that does not appear to show why one should feel that being in Yeshiva and learning relieves one of an obligation to be Noseh Be’ol.

    The change of venue which occurred to our people after the destruction of all our old communities, and the real changes in Jewish life have not really been addressed by most of us. Institutions like Daas Torah are very easy to write down in an article. They are incredibly different to address in the superficial way we have been doing it. It is healthy and correct that we at least understand that it is an issue, and that we, or at least I have not found a really satisfactory answer. If you feel satisfied, think again

    • mk says:

      Here is a challenge for anyone who’s Chareidi shule does not say a Mi Sheberach for our soldiers. In my Shule, the Rav recites one which is stripped of any hashkafic statements. It’s inserted into the standard Mi Sheberach.
      Just asks HKBH to protect our brothers and sisters living in EY and to protect the soldiers. It had the approval of the Rav’s Rosh Yeshiva , Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock ZTL, RY of Long Beach and a member of the MOETZES.
      Show the simple translated text below to your Rav and ask him to say it. If he refuses, ask him to explain why. And please share his response.

      “Mi Sheberach… bless our brothers who dwell in our Holy Land and the soldiers of Tzahal, as we are praying for them…”

      • Mark says:

        I’m more than willing to take you up on that challenge.

        We don’t recite that Mi Sheberach in my very Charedi shul for a multiple reasons, but we do recite at least 2-3 kapitlach Tehillim after every single teffilah. We’ve had multiple learning sedarim specially dedicated to Acheinu B’nei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel, our Rav has spoken about the importance of davening and doing teshuvah as a protection for everyone in the army and in EY, and many similar initiatives.
        I can’t know whose shul members are more נושא בעול or if it even matters, but it’s possible to care deeply about the soldiers in the IDF even without reciting a questionable Mi Sheberach. There’s many more than one way to skin this cat and it would be nice if all the tolerant folks would recognize that.

  14. Dr. E says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein:

    Your point has been bothering me as well. It’s great that there have been many Tehillim Asifos called in all communities. And they have had some impressive turnouts. But, the messaging has been in terms of “eis tzara l’Yaakov”, or “achienu kal Beis Yisrael”. Yes, we are all one connected nation. But, I have seen a sorely missing any articulation of the connectivity to the individuals–be they the Chayalim, the families brutally murdered, or of course the hostages. None of this minimizes the importance of davening, Tehillim, and Torah study, with the merit of the Tzibbur. But, individualizing the plight does in fact go a long way in educating a traditionally insulated community in terms of empathy, understanding, and appreciation.

    Over the past 75 years, there has been quite a bit of emotional financial, political, theological, and Hashkafic capital poured into what has become the Chareidi narrative as it related to Medinat Yisrael and Tzahal. So, what we are seeing, is that it has been difficult to dial all of that back even when it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Furthermore, contrary to previous terrorist attacks, this is a war with uncertain timeline. So, while some in the Chareidi community might have initially thought to just sit this one out, wait for the war to be over, and then resume the anti-IDF narrative, that game plan has not been playing out that way. The point remains, that there is still a reluctance to individualize, visualize, and speak in terms of Chayalim, the IDF and those victims, who are visibly different in appearance and worldview. That’s chaval.

    The Draft has obviously been a lightning rod and robust discussion comes up regularly. Eerily, this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on October 6! Gevald. Would those same people dare to come out with those same signs and protest in the streets today?

    In addition, the Chareidi community and any leaders who are following the facts-on-the-ground have had to be surprised with how spiritual the IDF, and the country for that matter, really is. There is quite a bit of cognitive dissonance going on when seeing videos of Shemah Yisrael, Ol Malchus Shamayim, and photos of Dati soldiers learning and davening and others asking for Tzitzit and Tefillin. So, many in the rank-and-file Chareidi community who are now aware of this have decided to volunteer might in part be reacting to bubbameises to the contrary which they have heard all their lives in the Beis Medrish or Shabbos table. Plus some may have actually learned the Pesukim with Moshe chastising Bnei Gad and Reuven and applying it to 2023.

    This is not to say that Torah study at this time is not critical. It is for those who are the real-deal and/or Toraso Umnaso. But using identity politics to draw the distinction between who goes into Gaza and fights and who stays back in the Beis Medrish or home is wrong. One could argue that the Hesder student protecting Kiryat Shmonah is more needed in the Beit Midrash than someone who is on a Yeshiva roster for other reasons and has to be bribed or coerced to show up. But, that prioritization would never play out that way for obvious reasons. Plus the Hesder guy has the merit of both the Sefer and the Sayyaf in-hand.

    It is unfortunate that the Judicial Reform issue happened so recently and split the country, accentuating the religious-secular divide. That makes even more difficult for many in the Chareidi community to see beyond the unzerer-outgroup thing.

    So, based on some of the things we are seeing, means that leadership is happening from the bottom up.

  15. Steven Brizel says:

    I believe that we are seeing a tremendous rethinking of old philosophical perspectives in the wake of 10/7 . The issues that were so divisive pre 10/7 have been put on the back burner because there are no atheists in a foxhole or a tank or while a unit is on patrol in a booby trapped street or house in Gaza .We see and read of decided secular Yidden wanting the protection of Tefilin and Tzitis and Kashering restaurants and of celebrating Shabbos in a tank or APAC and of Charedim enlisting and singing Hatikvah after completing basic training as well as Charedim doing tons of Chesed .in our neck of the woods many American Jews are rethinking their woke perspectives in the wake of their former friends refusing to condemn Hamas and are exploring what it means to live a committed Jewish life in no small part to the yeoman work of Chabad. I think we are seeing what Chazal call Hirhurei Teshuvah on a national level and discussing what is happening in such negative terms as here clearly borders does not contribute to the amazing sense of Achdus that we have seen since 10/7

    • Chaim Goldberg says:

      Agreed, except I think it is even more significant than “no atheists in a foxhole”. That kind of motivation would start drying up the day after the war ends. I am hopeful this is a harbinger of something greater than that–see my article in Jewish Press–
      Or a combined version in Intermountain Jewish News–
      followed by

  16. Steven Brizel says:

    For those who want to hear about proof of Achdus listen to R S Rosner here andR Dovid Gottlieb ( formerly rav of Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore here) and for proof of the massive rethinkng and reevaluation of long held positions read many of the articles here as well . and here and here

  17. Steven Brizel says:

    I believer that the events of 10/7 were a seismic size blow to the conventional wisdom of all of us and our often stated positions on a wide variety of issues that drove Klal Yisrael to a vulnerable position in many ways . This is no time to assess responsibility -any student of American history can tell you that the US was very split about entering WW2 with isolationists like Joseph Kennedy SR and Charles Lindberg Yimach Shmam v Zicram advocating isolationism and praising Hitler Yimach Shmo v Zicro and a group of interventionists advocating entry into the war-that divide ended with the attack on Pearl Harbor. So too, we are seeing that the issues that racked Israel for the last year are on the back burner and that discussions of this nature are happening throughout the\Jewiish wold

  18. Reuven Ungar says:

    As usual, the words of Steven Brizel are spot-on, totally agree. United we stand.

  19. Shades of Gray says:

    There is an expression:

    מה שלא יעשה השכל יעשה הזמן

    Applied here, perhaps there will be an evolutionary process towards greater national participation. The “dream” mentioned in this post would be for there to be a change from the bottom up, as the needs of the community are, after all, what is driving the leadership(“leaders so frightened by the prospect of some students leaving yeshivos”). There are, in fact, different strands within the Charedi community who are more open to these types of issues such as the Eretz Hakodesh movement and the Tzarich Iyun writers. See R. Yehoshua Pfeffer’s Mosaic article, where he writes about Charedim and the Gaza War that “winds of change are blowing.”

    During another Israeli war earlier in this century, I attended a tefillah gathering at Chaim Berlin where I recall the Novominsker Rebbe prefaced the Tehillim recital with mention of “Yiddisher kinder” who were serving in the army. I similarly remember at the 2005 Siyum HaShas, when R. Shmuel Bloom prefaced the Tehilim with mention of Israeli soldiers, while also adding the role yeshiva students play in spiritual protection. As far as I see it, the exact text of the prayer is less important than the feelings expressed by the specific mention of soldiers.

    On a related note, the Agudah has endorsed participation in next week’s Washington rally in contrast to the one in 2002 when I believe the Moetzes was split and therefore didn’t take a position(I was told, though, that one of the Agudah board members participated in the 2002 rally, as did I, and I travelled there on a chartered bus that left from Boro Park ).

  20. Shades of Gray says:

    When Israel evacuated Gush Katif in 2005(which I had visited the previous year in connection with the OU Convention held in Jerusalem), Chabad had a moving photo essay, “Torn Together,” which showed soldiers embracing the settlers and crying with them. I still remember part of the dedication at the conclusion, which is relevant now, two decades later:

    “This presentation is dedicated to the soldiers of the world’s most humane army, the IDF…
    ‘Your teeth are like the fleece of sheep’ (Song of Songs 6:6)
    This refers to our soldiers. Even they are pure, good people.(Rashi, based on Midrash Rabba)”

    See audio and PDF version(pp.33-35), linked below(there is also a similar pasuk and Rashi in Shir Hashirim 4:2):

    The $64,000 Question is how to show to the world at large the above humanity of the IDF and of Israel in the PR war which Israel is fast losing. See Jonathan Sarna’s article, “Why Israel is fast losing the public relations war”(Times of Israel,11/1). Former president Trump also said in an interview published today, “I think Israel has to do a better job of public relations, frankly, because the other side is beating them at the public relations front.”

    In “Never Again Is Now”(Tablet 10/31), Natan Sharansky wrote that ” no one was truly prepared for the reaction of leading American universities to the horrific events of Oct. 7.” He called for a mass rally in Washington like the ones from1987 in support of Soviet Jewry and in 2002 in support of Israel during the Second Intifada. Such a rally has indeed been organized for next week.

    • rkz says:

      The reason that Israel is losing the PR war is very simple- antisemitism

      • Reb Yid says:

        Absolutely incorrect. Statements, often inflammatory, by Israel’s own leaders are not helping one bit. And nothing can excuse what settlers are doing right now with increasing frequency in the West Bank under the cover of this war.

      • rkz says:

        Reb Yid,
        What you wrote is to quote big and evil lies, nothing less nothing more.
        I’m sure that you don’t know that you are simply repeating lies, but that’s exactly what you are doing.

  21. Steven Brizel says:

    I would add one more point-YU has record enrollment, many demands for transfers from the Ivies and a welcome problem of where to house all of its students. This is all part of the rethinking process that i described previously.

  22. Mark says:


    I don’t disagree with you that the noble idea is partially self-imposed, but that doesn’t change the facts that they’re waging a war of their own. Furthermore, I’m not even sure that it’s truly the case.
    By your logic, they will argue that the DL community’s trouble sleeping at night is also self-imposed. They could live in Chutz La’aretz and sleep well every single night.
    Well, then who would live in Eretz HaKodesh, you ask? The Charedim will say the same, “Well then who will live a life of תורתם אומנתם? Where will we find the עשרה בטלנים?
    The DL community believes that living in EY is not optional – and they have a point. The Charedi community will argue that living a life of being a חרד לדבר השם is also not optional. They too, have a point.
    None of this is easy. The best thing we can do is tolerate, and even support one another.
    All our differences amount to tiny fraction when compared to the things we all agree upon and we’re all בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב.

  23. Chaim Goldberg says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, I very much agree with your take and I commend you for having the courage to say it out loud.
    That said, as someone who primarily inhabits the dati-leumi community, I think it is fair, valid, and necessary to appreciate the deep concern the chareidi world has been expressing for the soldiers, in a way that seems unprecedented.
    Please see my article in Jewish Press–
    Or a combined version in Intermountain Jewish News–
    followed by

    • Reb Yid says:

      I was at the 1987 rally for Soviet Jews on the Mall. 250,000 strong. Every segment of US Jewry was represented, including Haredim.

      Will Haredim be turning out for tomorrow’s rally in DC?

      • Chaim Goldberg says:

        I sure hope so. I know my father will be going from Colorado, as well as 4 busses from Passaic, and many busses from Atlanta including Rabbi Feldman’s community.
        That said, I definitely agree the Haredi community could’ve done much better–high schools/yeshivas should be canceling and going such as YU/MTA is doing. (For those concerned about the lack of limmud haTorah if yeshivas went, over half the limmud haTorah worldwide takes place in Israel and will be going strong on Tuesday beH).

      • Shades of Gray says:

        “Will Haredim be turning out for tomorrow’s rally in DC?”

        The email I received from the Boro Park organizers of free buses to Washington mentioned the “overwhelming response of the hundreds who registered.” For more, see this link:

        There will be buses as well from neighborhoods such as Lakewood, Monsey, and Crown Heights. The link below shows other frum communities around the country who registered for the rally and has a brief video towards the end of R. Hershel Schachter speaking about the importance of Tuesday’s rally(he also speaks of rallies for Israel during his own student days) :

        Agudah’s endorsement:

      • Dovid says:

        I was also there in ’87. The world was a very different planet back then. Regarding the 250K attendance figure – a case can be made that among the non-Orthodox there was a stronger sense of Jewish identity than there is today (but maybe 10/7 will turn that around, BE”H). Also, an unlikely event was at the ’87 rally. There was a very visible contingency of Afghanis (Muslims) in their robes and turbans who were actually marching WITH the Jews since the USSR was occupying Afghanistan at the time. Wonder how they feel about us now. Not much point comparing the Soviet Jewry rally of ’87 to the Pro-Israel rally of ’23. Way to much history and bitter waters under the bridge since then. BTW, several busloads from my “Charedi” community went to WDC for the rally today.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Many turned out regardless of the fact thatAgudah initially supported attendance and some RY from BMG and the Mir advised “Bnei Torah” not to attend. One hopes that the American Agudah will send a mission to Israel to see the facts on the ground after 10.7 , to do Chesed shebGufo such as Nichum Aveilim and bikur Cholim and large scale provision of food etc and enlisting in the IDF that the Charedi world is providing in Israel

        I saw the following story which is worth thinking about by all of us:

        “Rabbi Kalman Krohn of blessed memory said he was once in a taxi in Jerusalem, and the driver was Jewish but anti-religious. Although Rabbi Krohn tried to be friendly, the driver responded curtly. A few minutes into this, Rabbi Krohn commented, “You know my teacher told me we are brothers.” Skeptical, the driver said, “Oh yeah? Who’s your teacher?” Rabbi Krohn responded bluntly, “Adolf Hitler. He didn’t differentiate between religious Jews and those who weren’t. He taught me we are all brothers”

  24. lacosta says:

    while they may be outliers , pictures of haredim removing hostage posters in LA and NY have been circulating , so say nothing of the ‘Torah Jews ‘ [ for example ], who appear on all the pro-Jewicide social media , in their solemn reminder that a State is not Judaism , and in fact the root cause of anti Jew hate around the world. It is not so clear that large swaths of haredidom disagree with this , or have any problem with this. the frontier between neturei karta and satmar vs tens of thousands slightly to their left is very blurry . and as a godol once pointed out in the defunct Jewish Observer , while he would vehemently attack those to his left , he never thwarted to the right , because maybe in fact they were more True than he….

    • Mark says:

      This is patently false and slanderous. The lines between Neturei Karta and the tens of thousands slightly to their left are quite clear to anyone who lives in that world, as I do. Perhaps to outsiders, “we all look the same,” but to those who know us personally, we couldn’t be more different.
      Furthermore, even within Satmar, the NK’ers are largely despised and reviled.
      I struggle to understand why some in the DL and MO camp (and I stress that it is only some because I don’t want to make the same mistake as Lacosta and others here), insist that all Charedim are of one mind and continue to hold up the outliers as representatives of the masses. It’s truly mind-boggling and perplexing.

      Yes – a large part of the Charedi world has serious issues with the “State” of Israel, but has zero issues with the Jews of Israel and stand behind them 100%. If it’s difficult to distinguish, ask yourself whether you detest Charedi theology or Charedim themselves. However you resolve that, apply it to the State and the Jewish residents of the State.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Those who are so depicted may have the outward levush of Charedim but I think they are Hamas plants Satmar has condemned NetureiKarta’s participation in pro Hamas rallies See here re who is instigating violencein Yehudah and Shomron’t be shopped if Hamas is found to have American weapons in Yehudah and Shomron-they probably arrrived via Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan thanks to the unilateral American walkout and desertion of its allies and military installations in Afghanistan

      • mycroft says:

        may have the outward levush of Charedim but I think they are Hamas plants .

        Turned on TV Friday with less than an hour before Shabbos and station was showing a pro-Hamas rally. Supposedly-people dressed as Nturei Karta-at the time I felt strange I understand they can hate Israel but if they were at a rally then they’d very likely be mechallel Shabbos.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Don’t guess what the Chareidim in the street think. Ask them. You could learn something new.

  25. Mother says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    Your article saddened me terribly , accusing us of not being one nation part of Hashem in indescribable unity. Each part of the unity has a different role but that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. If a Chareidi Jew is filled with heartfelt concern and fulfills his role of Limud Torah etc faithfully and sincerely and with full devotion he joins together with no chasm or gap with his fellow Jew the chayal. Why are you making a divide where Hashem says there is no gap in the unity of our people , especially when there is good will. I have two sons , one fights , one learns …do i love or respect one more than the other? Why are you bringing words of division when Am Yisrael is One and appreciates each others role? Please retract this harmful poison …chas veshashalom to make any young Jewish boy feel inadequate as he clings to his faith and love. Dont bring us to ugly days of divide and fragmentation , lets judge favorably and truly respect a young Yids choice as to how he wants to defend protect and ensure the survival of Am Yisrael .

  26. Dina says:

    My husband is in a non-combat role. It’s an important one and he is very needed, but certainly I sleep better at night knowing where he is and that he’s relatively safe, versus my sister in law who rarely is allowed to know where her husband is, or my cousins who know where their husbands are. My daughter receives the same “support basket” from her school as the seventy or so other children there with parents serving.

    I guess this should be going towards “and they’re also non combat”. But I don’t agree with or believe that. I think Torah learned via chillul hashem and the opposite of achdus is worth less than no Torah at all. How can we receive protection and zechus from Torah learning of this calibre? Callous, selfish Torah learning, spare me and am yisrael from it. Of eretz yisrael is being maintained by the zechus of Torah learners it is by those who don’t separate themselves from the tzibbur, be it the hesder yeshivos and mechinos, the soldiers themselves who carve out time to learn, or those who have served in the past but are too old now and so can sit in kollel. Or people like my nephew, who is charedi and volunteering for the country right now. But not those who have cut themselves off.

    • Mark says:


      I deeply appreciate the sacrifices that you and your husband are making – שכרכם הרבה מאוד.

      I take issue, however, with your assertion that the matter of whether Eretz Yisroel is protected in the merit of Torah study is in doubt. Chazal left not room for doubt on that subject. None!

      I also take issue with your assertion that the Torah study of those for whom תורתם אומנתם is a chillul Hashem and the opposite of achdus and therefore worthless. Chazal say that תלמידי חכמים מרבים שלום בעולם and their Torah creates achdus, not divide.

      All Torah study is precious regardless of who is studying, when, and why. You’re free to have your own preferences, but HKBH is not bound by your preferences, nor is anyone else. We all have our Rebbeim who are our guiding lights. There are multiple approaches to this question and there’s no need to reject the approach that doesn’t fit your preferences. That, by definition, is what causes a lack of achdus.

      May your dear husband, brother-in-law, cousins, and all Israeli soldiers return home safely to their famillies and may we be united under the banner of Torah, however it’s studied!

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