These Are A Few of My Unfavorite Things

[with apologies to Julie Andrews]

Reasonable people ought to be able to debate the central issues around the charedi draft. Agree with them or not, there are indeed arguments that can be made for both sides. It should be the mark of civility to be able to competently present the position with which one disagrees, without becoming apoplectic.

I am more than troubled, on the other hand, by the infantilization of the charedi community by its own would-be spokesmen. Some of the ideas that have been placed before the public are horribly insensitive and counter-factual. One wonders whether those who voice them actually believe them, or think it appropriate to feed the uncritical masses ideas that they don’t believe themselves. Either way is pretty sad. The reactions that they elicit from people outside the charedi community (and from some within as well) don’t help the charedi cause. To the contrary, these ideas are often so ludicrous, that they poison the well of the arguments that are worthwhile considering.

What follows is a selection of such positions that have been publicized in recent weeks. They are presented in no special order. What they have in common is that they make people who are sympathetic to the goals of the charedi world turn around and head for cover.

As Shevet Levi, we are the sole source of the army’s success on the battlefield. Most Charedim (myself included) accept at face value what we see in Chazal: those who learn Torah provide necessary spiritual support for our defense forces. Without an army to defend us, we could not be learning Torah; without people occupying themselves with Hashem’s beloved Torah, He would be less free with His assistance to our soldiers. So far so good. What is particularly galling, however, is the repeated statement that we are the people who do the learning. Seemingly exclusively. Where does that leave the learning of thousands upon thousands of Dati Leumi bochrim and adults? Is it all spiritual chopped liver? How do those making the claim somehow know whose learning is more beloved to Hashem? Perhaps HKBH is particularly keen on the Torah that is learned by chayalim doing the Daf Yomi on the front, or the tens of thousands of the more Torani parts of the DL world who have turned on the spigot of limud Torah since Oct. 7, beyond the output that has been flowing steadily for decades? Do our spokesmen have an a priori reason to invalidate their Torah? And if they have some such convoluted reason, wouldn’t it be the height of insensitivity to declare it in front of mothers and wives of those who went from the beis medrash to the front, and never returned? I cringe before the heartlessness of this statement.

A similar claim is that if c”v the yeshivos closed (an option decidedly not on the table, even if some would like to see it happen), Torah would disappear from the Land. Would it really? Taking such a position simply invalidates the ruchniyus of all Jews outside of charedi circles, driving an even larger wedge between charedim and the rest of the country at a time that so many others have been able to put their differences aside for the sake of unity. Unity being a value that Chazal attached much importance to.

Tzahal does not need charedim. Not today, and certainly not in the future. The day of conventional warfare is over. All wars will now be fought by drones and the like, eliminating the need for conventional forces. Can you believe that someone actually said this for publication? After Oct. 7, and after months of operations in Yehudah and Shomron? Can the speaker claim any contact with reality? When people – including charedim – listen to such rubbish, can they help but begin to doubt other statements they hear from charedi sources?

Charedim cannot serve in Tzahal, because it does not fight according to halachah. No one consults gedolim before putting Jewish lives at risk. In fact, Israel does not have the right to have an army, because it is a violation of the Three Oaths. The degree to which Satmar ideology has infiltrated the yeshivah world and established itself as the new normal, is frightening. Only in a community horribly unsure of itself can the extreme become the center.

The current war cannot possibly be a milchemes mitzvah. Once the infiltrators of Oct. 7 were dealt with, the invasion stopped, and the immediate threat stopped. Everything we did past that point was no longer defensive warfare. Would you want the author of such reasoning teaching your kids? It does lead to an interesting (but wrong) reading of Orach Chaim 329:6

Those who are pushing for charedi service are all evil. Their motivation is nothing but the eradication of Torah. This is foolishness, and an attempt to manipulate the masses by slogans rather than by the truth. It works because there is some truth to it. There are people on the left, and some in the general population, that would love to see this happen. But they are a shrinking, ageing cohort of the population. How can charedi apologists not note the mood in the country among all those good, fine people who came together to defend other Jews (as well as showing an openness to begin exploring their Yiddishkeit) – but are enraged by Charedim refusing to share the burden, as they see it? What happens to kids who absorb this message for years, and then later find out that it just isn’t true? Don’t they begin to question whether other messages that they have absorbed are also lies, and come to doubt the very essentials of Yiddishkeit?

The Radbaz in a teshuvah critiques a derashah given by a certain rov. He claimed that prior to the eigel hazahav, the people had come to worship Moshe as a god. What a horrible thing to say, writes the Radbaz. If Moshe knew that he had become an object of veneration and did nothing about it, he would be fully complicit in their sin of idolatry. And if this rov imagined Moshe as being unaware of what the people were thinking, it is even more offensive! A leader has to know what is on the minds of the people!

Iran’s attack, in which all the nations gathered against us, came as a consequence of the gezerah to draft charedim. I’m so happy to have my facts corrected. I thought that the nations pretty much supported Israel during the attack, even actively assisting in destroying incoming drones and missiles. And I will try hard to erase the memory I have of Oct. 7th having occurred a short while after the same government increased funding to yeshivos!

Arguments like this sad collection do nothing to strengthen the charedi position. All they do is make it difficult for those with a critical eye (which once was seen as something desirable in the yeshivah world) to fully identify with the charedi world. Perhaps that is not so terrible.

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57 Responses

  1. Robert says:

    Rabbi, I usually agree with you and agree on much of this post. I respectfully discount your credibility on the rest of this post.

    Your experience, learning, and wisdom do not extend to warfare or military strategy, doctrine, or tactics. Your reference to all future warfare being “drones and the like” is plainly disproven by the urban warfare that has been going on in Gaza.

  2. Happy says:

    I’m surprised by this. instead of taking the chareidim’s position at face value, you give it the worst possible spin, and then complain about the infantilization of the chareidi community by their spokespeople. I’m not going to point out all the clear strawmen in this article that you have set up to demolish, they would be obvious to anybody who takes the chareidi position. Instead, I will focus on one theme that keeps on coming up, which is the complaint that by refusing to send their boys to the army vs. chareidi yeshiva due to what they believe is spiritual risk, chareidim are negating the Torah and Judaism of the non-chareidi world. Thus:

    “And if they have some such convoluted reason, wouldn’t it be the height of insensitivity to declare it in front of mothers and wives of those who went from the beis medrash to the front, and never returned?”

    “Taking such a position simply invalidates the ruchniyus of all Jews outside of charedi circles, driving an even larger wedge between charedim and the rest of the country at a time that so many others have been able to put their differences aside for the sake of unity. ”

    But this does not at all follow. Everybody already knows that chareidim and Datiim have extremely different hashkafos towards the State, towards chilonim, towards Zionism, and towards secularism than Datiim. This isn’t something that needs to be relitigated every time the draft issue comes up. And it doesn’t mean that chareidim negate the Torah learned by Datiim, any more than Ponovezh negates the Torah learned by Ger. If the non-chareidim choose to perseverate over these difference, if they choose to act as inquisitors and interrogate chareidim with a fine-toothed-comb about every aspect of these hashkafic differences, and then take monstrous offense at chareidim’s refusal to accept the Dati hashkafos, that is entirely, 100% on them- the integrators . Not on the chareidim who just want to keep to their own religious positions.

    • Since none of what you wrote seems to have anything to do with my piece, I’m left confused. 1) Do you deny that the statements appearing in bold type were made, publicly? 2) Do you deny that they were made by prominent people within the charedi world? 3) To your point, do you deny that numerous statements were made – both here and in the US – that the Jewish nation is in peril, because it is only the zechus haTorah that keeps it viable, and if charedi bochrim are drafted, this zechus disappears – which apparently assumes that it cannot come from the DL camp?

      Defense rests.

      Regarding the essential charedi position that full-time learners need to be exempted, I’m certainly among the believers. Its dumb arguments that I’m writing against

      • Happy says:

        I am not sure who, if anybody, made the statements in bold type publicly, in those exact words. Certainly, chareidim believe that the yeshiva students are Shevet Levi. Certainly they believe that full-time Torah scholars are essential for the defense of the Jewish nation. Certainly they believe that sending their sons to the army instead of yeshiva would be a spiritual disaster for the future of Judaism.
        But none of this negates the Torah of the DL camp. The idea, which is very simple to understand, is that one cannot compare the Torah of those dedicated to it full-time to those not dedicated to it time. This is an elementary fact, and does not at all negate the Torah of those who study part-time. It should not be offensive to those people unless they choose to be offended. For example, there are tens of thousands of working chareidi baalebatim who only learn for an hour or two at night/early morning, who not only do not find this idea offensive, but to the contrary, strive to send their sons to the most dedicated yeshivos possible, and are great supporters of the yeshiva world. The fact that we believe it is essential to have a thriving yeshiva world of people dedicated to Torah full-time does not in any way, shape, or form negate the hour-a-day Torah of the daf Yomi learners. And nor does it negate the Torah of the DL camp.

      • Umm.
        Sometimes, the best strategy in being an apologist is to not try so hard. Take the punches and move on. (At least that was my experience after going the apologist route for decades, before having to defend the indefensible one time too many.)

      • Happy says:

        You make a good point, which is the same as many Gedolim. That we don’t need to defend our position and we shouldn’t even attempt to do so, as the very act of defending ourself makes us look weak, and to the contrary , it’s our opponents who need to defend themselves. While I am sympathetic to that argument, I’m also confused, because you posed a question to me and I attempted to answer it as directly and sincerely as possible. And your only response is “Ummm”?! So you weren’t interested in an answer in the first place?

      • No. Forgive me for being so terse, and seemingly dismissive, especially since I didn’t realize who you are. The “hmmm” was in response to your contention that the difference in quality of depth learning between DL and haredi institutions somehow, even if true, is a proper response to the points that I raised. Namely, who says that HKBH values haredi learning more than DL learning; even it this could be demonstrated, it is the height of insensitivily to trumpet this message when scores of mothers of fallen DL soldiers are greiving over their loss. Arguing that everyone know that our haredi learning is superior falls so short of an adequate response to either of the points I raised that it could be regarded as contemptible. The “hmmm” meant that it is often far more prudent to cut one’s losses as an apologist, rather than offer the indefensible

      • Happy says:

        Thanks for explaining your dismissal. You paraphrased my response as “everyone know that our haredi learning is superior…” which I can see, stated that way, is an inadequate response. But that wasn’t what I said. (Anybody can always restate their opponent’s position in a way that sounds absolutely nasty and then dismiss them with a clear conscience. But that is not useful for honest discussion. Although if you are ready to call something “indefensible”, then I suppose you have already decided no honest discussion is needed.)
        But what I said that everybody knows uninterrupted learning is superior. This is the ABCs of yeshiva education according to chareidim, and I believe according to many Datiim as well (and I can bring sources if you want). If that’s something that people can’t accept, that means they can’t accept the entire idea of conventional yeshivos in the first place, even without taking the army issue into account. Then the question becomes, “Why do you consider intense, uninterrupted yeshiva education without interruptions for years at a time important?” before we can even discuss the army issue.
        You also say “it is the height of insensitivily to trumpet this message when scores of mothers of fallen DL soldiers are greiving over their loss.” Nobody is “trumpeting” anything. We are getting ceaselessly interrogated about our position and responding to the interrogation. If you don’t like the responses and consider our position a priori “indefensible”, then stop demanding the responses. And please stop making up straw man responses and restating our responses in nasty ways that we never dreamed.

      • We are talking past each other. This will be the last round.

        You: You paraphrased my response as “everyone know that our haredi learning is superior…” which I can see, stated that way, is an inadequate response. But that wasn’t what I said…But what I said that everybody knows uninterrupted learning is superior. This is the ABCs of yeshiva education according to chareidim.

        Me: But that assessment (with which I fully agree, based both on Chazal and experience) is irrelevant. What charedim are saying is that this difference in quality of its learning gives them the right to declare that it is they who are upholding Am Yisrael and its chayalim.But on what basis can they arrive at such a conclusion? Perhaps HKBH prefers a learning of lesser intensity, accompanied by extreme mesiras nefesh? Do we know whether the malach which came to Yehoshua chided them for failing to learn Ketzos, or would Mishnayos have sufficed? I certainly don’t know. But I would be skeptical of anyone who claimed to know Hashem’s mind so well. So, yes, charedim are arguing that their learning is SO superior, that the difference between their quaility learning and the ostensibly weaker learning of DLiyim is so obviously superior in some regard that we can discount the latter. It doesn’t really matter what regard – whether it is depth or continuity.

        You: You also say “it is the height of insensitivily to trumpet this message when scores of mothers of fallen DL soldiers are greiving over their loss.” Nobody is “trumpeting” anything. We are getting ceaselessly interrogated about our position and responding to the interrogation. If you don’t like the responses and consider our position a priori “indefensible”, then stop demanding the responses.

        Me: Wrong again. No one is demanding responses, especially ones that show insensitivity. But עוף השמים יוליך את הקול is not a line I made up. Today, that bird has digital wings. Anyone who thinks that what he says in public will not wind up splashed to the world is delusional. The argument that Am Yisrael needs davka charedi learning has been repeated again and again. Trumpeted, I would say.

      • ChanaRachel says:

        I appreciate you trying to narrow down the discussion, by removing the “dumb” arguments. But what are the “non-dumb” arguments?
        I listened to the podcast by Rabbi Breitowitz referenced below, and as much as he was articulate and polite, and showed appreciation of Chayyalim and understanding of the situation, I did not hear any compelling arguments. When the interviewer asked why his son who was studying for Smicha had to stop learning to serve in Miluim, while the typical Chareidi Yeshiva student did not, Rabbi Breitowitz’s agreement was simply that if one community is willing to serve and another community is unwilling, it is the willing community who should serve. I don’t find this compelling, and I’m sure many others also do not.
        I also don’t understand Happy’s quoting of “many gedolim” who state that the Chareidim don’t need to justify their position. Many in Israeli society (including many from DL communities) are becoming fed up with Chareidi arrogance on this topic. The Chareidim very much need to justify their position, and set limits and parameters, including numbers of deferments, what about Chareidim who aren’t learning, and what sort of alternate service they may be willing to perform.

      • Happy says:

        ChanaRachel, when I say chareidim don’t need to justify their position to non-chareidim, I mean in a way that non-chareidim will agree with or find acceptable. That’s just elementary, nothing arrogant about it. Just like non-chareidim don’t need to to justify their position to chareidim in a way that chareidim will agree with. And Israelis don’t need to justify their position to Palestinians in a way that Palestinians will agree with. Is the fact that Israelis have not managed to justify their position to Palestinians and gotten them to accept the Israeli position an indication of Israeli arrogance?

        If it is chareidi justification you are looking for, there is plenty (and I have written plenty on the topic on my blog,, and we also have several posts from an actual soldier who is sympathetic to the chareidi position), but of course you will vehemently disagree with all of it.

        FWIW, I found Rabbi Breitowitz’s answer very basic and compelling (and you didn’t, no surprise there). If one person feels army service is more important than X number of years of uninterrupted learning, he shouldn’t pretend that a different person with the opposite view is “forcing him” to do the thing that he literally signed up for and holds of very strongly. Or as Chazal say, קרינא דאגרתא איהו ליהוי פרונקא

    • David Fachler says:

      I have a son who is in Hesder and he served in Gaza for 7 weeks. He is back learning and I can assure you that his Hasmoda and depth of learning are on the same level as your draft dodging children. Probably higher. If they are anything like their father then his lomdus is far superior for you demonstrate a total inability to argue logically coupled with a lack of Ahavas Yisroel and Hakoras Hatov. You also have a complete lack of self awareness which is stunning. You are indeed a terrible representative of Hareidi Judaism. Thank Gd for people like Rabbi Adlerstein

      • Happy says:

        David, it appears you simply don’t agree with the great value of uninterrupted learning. I explained our position, and you didn’t address it at all. Your self-aggrandizement and insults don’t add anything to the conversation. Chareidim have long put up with worse from chilonim, and have learned to laugh at such displays. זדים הליצוני מתורתך לא נטיתי.

  3. Pete Bloss says:

    Forgive this Christian imterloper. I am a friend of Israel for many reasons. None of them have to do with evangelical “end times”. I believe strongly in two things perhaps relevant.

    1. Israel, as a sovereign nation has the right to exist within safe and secure borders. That includes the right to engage in what I consider to be a “just war” against Hamas in response to October 7, against Hezbollah in response to attacks into Israeli territory, and to protect itself against the attack by Iran, a clear act of war.

    2. Israel is uniquely and inexplicably tied to the religious, ethnic and cultural identity of the Jewish people. It is a Jewish state that is also a democracy that extends robust civil rights to its citizens be they Jewish or otherwise. Yet, it is in a state of war and must supply the resources to win that war. That includes drafting human resources necessary to win that war. It is also a nation that needs to provide spiritual nurture to its people, including soldiers in combat. They need Torah.

    Perhaps the issue is one not unlike the “conscientious objector” situation in the US during the periods when we have had an active military draft. Analogies are imperfect. I apologize if my observation is inapt.

    In the US those who have sincere religious convictions that they cannot to kill another human, even in defense of nation and family, are not exempted from military service. Rather they are assigned to duties that do not require them to take up arms. Some are willing (but are not required) to perform dangerous tasks on the field of battle such as serving as a field medic to rescue injured soldiers while under fire. Others serve in other roles, such as chaplaincy or other tasks consistent with the restraints imposed by their religious beliefs.

    I am lacking understanding of the nuances of the various alternative views identified by my dear friend, Rabbi Adlerstein. It would be presumptuous of me to opine among the alternatives. I modestly observe that the “conscientious objector” process used in the US might bear closer scrutiny, enabling those that are very strictly observant, those who have chosen a path of religious service, may be able to also serve their country during a period of war that may well be of existential consequence.

    I pray for Jerusalem. I pray for Israel and its people.

    • Nachum says:

      Conscientious objectors in the US still are required to perform some form of national service. Some even go into combat (as medics and so on). The charedi world in Israel vehemently rejects *any* form of service.

      In addition, a country with hundreds of millions of people who isn’t in a major life-and-death conflict can handle a few thousand or even a few hundred thousand conscientious objectors. Charedim are about 10% of an already small Jewish population of Israel, a country under constant threat. They can’t all be accommodated in their refusal.

      Finally, it might be honest for charedim to claim such status, but they never will, because it’s really bad PR.

  4. benshaul says:

    I really don’t understand the point of this article. If you are trying to make the charedim look worse, you are succeeding.
    If you are pointing out that there are people in the charedi community who speak out- and do so foolishly; trust me – we know.

    So many of us cringe when these types of statements are made. And while I won’t defend them, why should they be any better at hasbara than the Israeli government which has always done a terrible job at it.
    That being said, the only takeaway one gets from this is to further infantilise the charedi community. I know it wasn’t your intent, but that’s how it comes across.

    As to the arguments made. I actually don’t agree with you on some of them. Let’s take the point about the dati-leumi Torah learning. Yes they learn Torah, but it comes with interruptions of Hesder service. And chazal already tell us that there is a special value to uninterrupted constant learning. Or we could discuss the compromises made by that community to learn and serve. That has consequences.
    There are other points to consider, but overall, for once; I simply don’t see the point of this article.
    If you wanted to point out the fallacies of certain inane statements, you could have done a better job by highlighting the valuable and useful arguments vs. the foolish ones.

    • Nachum says:

      “And chazal already tell us that there is a special value to uninterrupted constant learning.”

      And who gets to benefit from that special value? How are they determined? Most of us have to work for a living. Are these benefits reserved only to those born into it? Because that’s the implication of what you are saying.

    • Dr. E says:

      “And Chazal already tell us that there is a special value to uninterrupted constant learning.”

      I think that readers would appreciate if you could provide specific in-context citations for some of the aforementioned Chazal. If you can find mareh makom that is Halachic or non-Agaddic, that would be great. And if you can locate such a statement made by a Tanna or Amora who never interrupted his learning for his vocation, that would be even more ideal.

      And if we are going to play fair, to use Yeshivish parlance, wouldn’t the annual periods of Bein Hazemanim for Chareidim (one of which they now find themselves) be a “hefsek” that would shterr the ritzifus?

  5. joel rich says:

    Perhaps one possible explanation is that they are viewing the audience for their remarks as their own community which needs to double down on their narrative. If so, it’s totally understandable why they would not beas concerned about the impact on those outside their community.
    bsorot tovot

    • Even when they venture out of their community to speak on Headlines, or Times of Israel??????

      • joel rich says:

        perhaps they understand that what is said there will quickly be known behind the walls of their home community.
        bsorot tovot

      • mycroft says:

        The days of attempting to state different truths for different audiences are over. Modern media/communications ensures that it is foolish to attempt. Nothing causes a worse loss of credibility than trying that.

  6. Schmerel says:

    Many of these arguments are straw man distortions of the Chariedi view. To take two random ones

    Charedim cannot serve in Tzahal, because it does not fight according to halachah. No one consults gedolim before putting Jewish lives at risk. In fact, Israel does not have the right to have an army, because it is a violation of the Three Oaths.

    I’ve heard many people say the former. The last sentence is not something that usually goes with it . As an side the three oaths is not unique to Satmar. While most of the Chariedi world does not agree wit their practical application to the contemporary situation, it can not just be brushed aside as a “Satmar View”

    The current war cannot possibly be a milchemes mitzvah. Once the infiltrators of Oct. 7 were dealt with, the invasion stopped, and the immediate threat stopped. Everything we did past that point was no longer defensive warfare.

    There are objections to this being a milchomes mitzah. They are based on what has the halachic status of a milchemos mitzva today. Most of those making those objections do not distinguish between the various stages of war.

  7. Caren May says:

    For an interesting, factual and honest discussion regarding Military induction for the Charedi Community, there is no one like Rabbi Breitowitz

    • Chana Siegel says:

      Absolutely. Rabbi Breitowitz knows how to field questions. He is skilled in dealing with the outside world and secure enough in his world view to be able to address problems in the haredi community. He’s not going to throw out the baby with the bathwater, even though he’ll say frankly that there’s an awful lot of bathwater.

  8. Nachum says:

    Never underestimate the ability of people to believe untruths. Housman: “The faintest of all human passions is the love of truth.” Orwell: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

  9. Chana Siegel says:

    “Arguments like this sad collection do nothing to strengthen the charedi position. All they do is make it difficult for those with a critical eye (which once was seen as something desirable in the yeshivah world) to fully identify with the charedi world. Perhaps that is not so terrible.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. The persistence of rabbanim like you allow/force many of us to keep the faith.

  10. Dr. E says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein:

    If one listens to some of the Chareidi pundits including those on the aforementioned podcast, they are a combination of lightweights and not-so-lightweights.

    This is what is therefore so sad and upsetting. They twist themselves into pretzels on the now ubiquitous “Shevet Levi” narrative. After all, everyone knows that it’s a made-up construct to serve their own needs. (Yes, I would stipulate that there once was a Shevet Levi from whom Kohanim and Leviim were born and served in the Beis Hamikdash.) They use a combination of misapplied and distorted sources in the text, hearsay and out-of-context statements of luminaries of previous generations that are somehow unimpeachable, and even an article in a secular reporter in a secular Israeli newspaper to show how the IDF has no manpower shortage and that wars are fought differently today.

    Gevald, there is such intellectual sloppiness and weak lomdus that would have never flied in the reputable Battei Medrish before October 7. They trip over themselves in showing their point of view and how all of that should drive Psak Halacha and public policy.

    For me, the real doozy was when one of the Rabbonim was backed into a corner on the Milchemes Mitzvah question. His last resort was to claim that since the declaration of such can only be done by the Urim V’tumim, and ipso facto, no Chareidim need to or should do their share for the IDF or elsewhere in the country.

    For this, someone should write a Kinnah on Tisha B’Av about how the integrity of Torah and our Mesorah of Psak has always existed, has been downgraded. And there should be an Al Cheit on Yom Kippur that they have distorted the Torah for their own purposes.

    • Nachum says:

      “there once was a Shevet Levi”

      There still is. A lot of us belong to it. And we resent the appropriation of our God-given status by those not entitled to it.

      “the declaration of such can only be done by the Urim V’tumim”

      That’s the exact opposite of the truth.

      • Dr. E says:

        Nachum: Of course, my comment was rhetorical, referring to the novel fashion that some Chareidi leaders have exploited the Shevel Levi construct in a self-serving way. Over Yom Tov, Kohanim performed Birkat Kohanim and the Leviim washed their hands. Hopefully, we will see a time soon when the legitimate Shevet Levi will return to all of the Divinely granted responsibilities and privileges thereunto pertaining.

  11. Kol Hakavod…. Great and important article, well said!

    I made many similar points in an article I wrote two months ago , available at

    Chag kasher veSameach

  12. mark says:

    When I read your article, the first thought that came to mind is that I don’t know a single Charedi spokesman who said these things. These are inarticulate positions that don’t reflect the true sentiments of the Charedi world. Who is he quoting? Then I read this line of yours in a comment, “Even when they venture out of their community to speak on Headlines” and understood that you were referring to specific interview conducted by D. Lichtenstein on his show Headlines with a Charedi rav in Yerushalayim.

    Suffice it to say that this rav, a fine person whom I know well, is the furthest thing from a “Charedi Spokesperson” and he didn’t “venture out of his community to speak”. He was invited to do so and likely pressured to do so. I am friendly with him and have had many conversations with him, but he has never for one tiny moment been represented a Charedi spokesman.
    You do your point no service to quote minor bit players and act as if they’re the spokepeople. Headlines is not a Charedi outfit by any stretch so this wasn’t in the Hamodia, nor is the quoted individual a spokesperson, so not quite sure what your point is other than that you disagree with the private opinion of a rav who happens to be charedi and happens to have once learned as a chavrusa with Dovid Lichtenstein. There are likely many former chavrusas of DL that you don’t agree with. Nu nu.

  13. mark says:

    I’m a card carrying member of the Charedi community and have heard little that comports with this. This leads me to suspect that none of the quoted are spokepeople. What did Rav Hirsch say? Rav Weiss? Rav Shternbuch?

    They’re the primary spokespeople today for the Charedi community.

    • MK says:

      Rav Hirsch did say that not all those insisting on Charedi sharing of the burden are haters of Torah. But the senior Slabodka Rosh Yeshiva called them all haters if Torah.
      One difference is likel5 that the former is American.
      Rav Shternbuch would not say daven fthe soldiers. R Weiss was vehement in his condemnation if that refusal.
      Finally, a very respected member of a revered Chareidi family linked the cutting of Yeshiva funding to the billions needed to shoot down Iranian missiles.
      Rabbi Adlerstein his absolutely correct .

  14. Steven Brizel says: I think that what is depicted in this superb article as well as the evidence in Charedi media of Charedim in the IDF as well ad Halachic queries being posed in the pages of the Yated is evidence of social change within the community that is already ahead of the statements that you posed which show a lack of Hakaras Hatov at the least and a lack of being Noseh Boll Chavero as well

  15. ChanaRachel says:

    As a member of the DL community, with 2 sons returning to Miluim immediately after Pesach, I appreciate you “debunking” some of the Chareidi claims regarding their failure to serve in the IDF.
    But if the above-quoted claims are not the reasons, then what are the explanations for the refusal of Chareidim to serve? Why are those who aren’t learning not encouraged to enlist? and what is the plan when Chareidim reach 20 and 30 and 40 percent of the population? Will only a percentage of them be encouraged to engage in full-time learning, or everyone?

    I think that the non-Chareidi population would be much more understanding (if not accepting) of Chareidi draft evasion if we were provided 1- Cogent explanations, 2- Parameters- How many Chareidim should engage in full-time learning? Will the number be capped? How should this be funded? What sort of achievement tests should be implemented to ensure that those learning are truly the best and the brightest.
    Finally, we don’t appreciate being told that no Chesed should be performed in support pf Chayyalim, as this might lead to an appreciation for what they do, and that Chayyalim should be treated as “invisible”, sort of like garbage collectors.

    • AL says:

      There is no basis in Chazal, the Rambam, etc that I’m aware of, for limiting Torah learners to the best and brightest. See Rambam end of Shmittah v’Yovel. The sole criteria is dedication to Torah learning. Very much in contrast to the wider world of academia…

  16. David Twersky says:

    As perhaps a “Yehudah v’od l’Kra” [Kiddushin 6a]] addition to Rabbi Adlerstein’s post which resonates very much with my own feeling, I want to add one comment regarding the “Shevet Levi” deferment argument that has long bothered me (aside from the definitive and devastating comments RAL makes about that argument in his article “The Ideology of Hesder” in Tradition Fall 1981 which is excerpted in the Pessach 5784 HaMizrachi):

    Last I checked, the Kohanim are part of Shevet Levi and last I checked Yehudah Maccabee and the other Chashmonaim did engage in Milchamot which were sanctioned by the leading Torah authorities of their time (although their later involvement in monarchy far less so).

    To again quote Rav Aharon’s seminal article (final sentence): “Standing in tears atop Har HaZeitim, the bleak site of Kol hamekudash mechavero charev yoter mechavero stretching before him, what would the Ramban have given to head a Yeshiva hesder?

  17. william gewirtz says:

    I have to wonder if those who claim the non-halakhic nature of how the IDF conducts military operations have ever read the guidelines that IDF operates under, written by several scholars including Prof. Moshe Halbertal, comportes with both halakha and international law.

    AFAIK, the IDF is the most ethically bound army in recent history.

    Beyond the absurd arguments, Rav Adlerstein compiled, are the so-called “debatable” arguments. They are enough of a source of debate concerning their halakhic or logical correctness or legitimacy.

  18. Bob Miller says:

    If Torah study is the key to victory, aren’t the Yeshivot obliged to maintain three study shifts a day even during traditional vacations? This would be their active duty.

  19. Steven Brizel says:

    We have all been saying Tehilim for the hostages the success of the IDF and the safety of all of the citizens of Israel I think we should be having the safety of Jewish college students on their campuses which are clearly social cultural and educational cesspools and training camps for anti Semitism Despite the growth of the MO snd Charedi worlds there is ample proof on the ground that we are living in a Potemkin village with the fires burning around our feet

  20. Shades of Gray says:

    I would add to the arguments in this post two of my own questions on elements of Charedi anti-draft arguments, one classic and theoretical and the second, relating to a recent issue.  I remember hearing a number of years ago in response to the classic question  “if everyone would learn, who would serve in the army?”,  that if everyone would learn Moshiach would come!  Yet I have wondered what the hashkafic basis for the assumption in that response was(the recent Halacha Headlines programs  #459 and #463 discuss the similar question of “when a majority of Eretz Yisroel is Frum what will become of the army?”).

    This month’s  American  Moetzes statement, which  stated  “that not even one more soul should fall,”  seems to imply that even those  not engaged in full-time Torah study should not be drafted, even though in March, UTJ leader Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf had expressed a willingness to discuss the enlistment of Haredi young men who were not learning, such as “many that are registered in the yeshiva even when they are no longer students,” per the Times of Israel. 

    There are also prior  letters from Rav Shach, the Steipler, Rav Yechezkel Abramsky and R. Aharon Leib Steinman stating that non-learners should serve in the army, even referring to such people evading service  as “rodfim”  of those yeshiva students who study Torah diligently! See letters of those gedolim uploaded by R. Yehoshua Pfeffer in the comment section of his Tzarich Iyun article last month, linked below:

    Likewise, Jonathan Rosenblum reported a direct quote from Rav Shach on this subject in “Confessions of a Haredi Dad,” a 1998 Jerusalem Post article:

    “For haredi boys who cannot or do not wish to learn full-time in yeshiva, a suitable framework must be found within the army or national service. And those who have completed their years of full-time learning should do basic training and reserve duty like everyone else. (So Rabbi Eliezer Schach explicitly told me.)”

    Perhaps the current  American Moetzes statement which did not make the army allowances for non-learners  was responding to the fact that the current Supreme Court was aggressively ending funding to yeshivas and also hoped that “a decree is likely to be abrogated”[see Kesuvos 3b] as mentioned in the Moetzes statement. Alternatively, maybe the Moetzes is of the belief that Nachal Chareidi isn’t adequate to protect the spirituality of the weaker students as R. Yitzchak Berkovits said in a Mishpacha interview earlier this month.

  21. Lacosta says:

    i yet again contend that the haredi community will never relent on the draft issue—to the extent of turning the prison system into the world’s largest yeshiva. they should tack differently: reject government money to themselves and their mosdos, so they can contend they are just permanent resident aliens . [offering to also forgo voting would bolster this argument ]. this would satisfy virtually all their critics. and put the onus on USA haredim to raise the needed tens of billions …..

  22. william l gewirtz says:

    Rav Adlerstein, Welcome to the distinguished group of Rabbanim and Gedolai Olam considered apikorsim by the Sephardi CR.

  23. Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for your continued courageous voice on this issue.
    For those interested, here is an article I recently published on the topic. It is not meant to be comprehensive–I don’t even bring up the sugya of pikuach nefesh/לא תעמד על דם רעיך, which is more compelling than milchemes mitzvah.

  24. YL says:

    People totally misunderstand the issue of numbers and render the question thusly: do we need more soldiers (and therefore do we really need to bring in chareidim, who have not yet served?)… the issue of equality really begs the question: should chareidim perhaps *replace* all the hesder guys or perhaps a rotation…. IOW, even if we did not need any more soldiers, the chareidim should still serve….

  25. Shades of Gray says:

    There is a fascinating anecdote with Rav Yechezkel Abramsky which can serve as a follow-up to the letter from him, linked in my previous comment,  on behalf of Vaad Hayeshivos where he had referred to non-learners in yeshivos evading  army service  as “rodfim”  of those yeshiva students who study Torah diligently. 

    R. Menachem Hacohen, a former Chief Rabbi of Romania and Israeli MK, visited R. Abramsky in his home in Bayit Vegan soon after he settled permanently in Israel. In 2010, he  published an article in  YCT’s journal, available online(see “On the World of the Yeshivot,” Milin Havilin IV, pgs. 124-125), where he  discussed how a number of  Torah scholars of the previous generation were aware of the social and cultural trends developing in the outside world, giving as one of his examples how “Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, who headed the Va’ad Hayeshivot and Yeshivat Slobodka in Bnei Brak… [was] able to quote by heart from the works of modern Hebrew literature, classical Russian literature, and the great works of world literature.” He then relates in this connection a  conversation he had with R. Abramsky:

    I once heard an interesting interpretation of this very point, from Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, when I visited him in his home in Bayit Vegan soon after he settled permanently in Israel. Rabbi Abramsky told me the following: In this generation, perhaps more so than in previous generations, we have to work hard to ensure that yeshivah students, particularly those with ability, do not abandon the world of Torah. In previous generations, although a young Torah scholar might abandon the religious lifestyle, even after having studied in yeshivot, he would turn into a Bialik, or Achad Ha’Am, or Klatchkin and others like them.

    These days, when a yeshivah student leaves the Torah world for secular culture, nothing comes of him. Why? Because, in earlier generations, when yeshivah students were caught reading secular literature, what were they hiding on their shtenders, their reading stands, under the gemara? Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky! But, these days, what do they hide under the gemara? Ma’ariv, Yediot Acharonot, Haolam Hazeh, and Hamodia [Israeli newspapers]. If, heaven forbid, they leave the world of Torah, what will become of them?

    On this topic, the Forward had an article in March titled “Haredi ‘lost boys’ may find themselves drafted into Israel’s army.” The article opened with a description of scenes in Jerusalem’s public libraries with access to free Wi-Fi where some young Charedi men enrolled in yeshivos spent days on end in activities such as playing online chess, listening to  gangsta rap and reading about Darwinism. One boy called the  library “my real beit midrash”(the article also mentioned the complaints Haredi leaders have had with the religious accommodations of the army programs, quoting Mishpacha’s Eli Paley). A comment in the article by R. Mordechai Kornfeld, who works with Nahal Haredi, resonated with me:

    “If the choice for these kids is hanging out on the streets and being extremely, extremely frustrated,” Kornfeld said, “or serving their country as soldiers or in other public service while building themselves to be successful citizens, there’s no question what path they should take. You can’t have a connection to God if you feel like a failure.”

    R. Yehoshua Pffefer’s discussion of R. Abramsky’s letter I referred to previously can be seen in the article below(the letters of R. Abramsky and other Gedolim are linked in the comment section of his post):

    • Nachum says:

      “Ma’ariv, Yediot Acharonot, Haolam Hazeh, and Hamodia”

      Just for the record, the first two are mainstream newspapers. The third was a far-left, even pornographic publication. The fourth is the official newspaper of the Agudah.

  26. Oicher yisrael says:

    This is a little old, but an inside glimpse

  27. Shanda says:

    The idf will pay for your abortion. Why are there so many abortions being performed in the army? Znus is rampant and encouraged.

    • William Lawrence Gewirtz says:

      Of what relevance is IDF abortions? This issue may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back! The split in the Agudah of old, 30+ years ago, came about when some (so called) gedolim backed abortion that is performed almost entirely among the secular for increased yeshivah funding.

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