Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Doesn't Believe That Kollel Students Are As Good As Soldiers?

In an otherwise excellent article in Mishpachah arguing that the charedi community should accept that those who serve in the IDF should receive certain benefits not granted to kollel students, Jonathan Rosenblum writes as follows:
"We will not convince secular Israelis that kollel students protect Israeli society no less than IDF soldiers."

Never mind secular Israelis - you won't convince anyone of that. On a theoretical level, it has a very shaky foundation. On a practical level, nobody really believes it - not even charedim.

Let's start with the theoretical level. To be sure, there are a small number of statements in Chazal which, at first glance, would seem to indicate that kollel students are as effective as soldiers. However, as with all statements of Chazal, these are tersely stated, open to a number of interpretations, and must be considered in light of various interpretations that have been presented by Rishonim and Acharonim - as well as in light of the factual reality.

The Gemara (Sotah 21a and Makkos 10a) says that the study of Torah protects a person from certain types of harm. Elsewhere, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 108a and Bava Basra 7b) rules that Torah scholars are exempt from the expense of building protective walls for the city, since they are protected by virtue of the Torah they learn. The Baal HaTurim (Devarim 1:3) says that a Torah scholar can protect forty thousand people around him.

But to which kind of Torah scholars does this apply? Maybe, for example, it only applies to those who are teaching others and are thus connected to them? And to which kinds of circumstances is it referring? Who says that it applies to kollel students of today, with regard to protection from the Arabs? And how exactly does it work - is it a linear correlation? When the country goes from twenty thousand people in kollel to forty thousand, by what percentage does the number of untimely deaths in Israel allegedly decrease? How many lives would be lost if twenty thousand people left kollel for a year to serve in the IDF?

Note that Responsa Radvaz 2:752 greatly restricts the extent of the Gemara's ruling about Torah scholars being exempt from contributing towards security, including stating that it does not apply in cases where the rabbis consider themselves in need of protection. (I have seen quotes of other sources that the exemption only applies to situations where the protection is from theft, and not when lives are in danger.)

Second, and most significantly: Regardless of the sources that someone might dig up/ reinterpret to claim that yeshivah and kollel students are protecting Israel, the bottom line is that (a) the facts on the ground demonstrate otherwise, and (b) when push comes to shove, the charedim don't even believe it themselves.

The facts on the ground - as the Gemara would say, הא קא חזינן דלאו הכי הוא! From the tragedy of the Holocaust, to the 1929 massacres in Chevron, to the murders several years ago at Mercaz HaRav Kook, it is evident that Torah students are not even automatically protected from harm themselves, let alone protecting others. And this is only military harm - there are plenty of other kinds of harm that affect Torah students, from illness to fires to road accidents. And Israel does not seem to be any safer now than in 1948, despite the fact that there are 40,000 extra people learning in yeshivah/ kollel.

The charedim don't even believe it themselves. In Kiryat Sefer and Betar, bastions of the charedi community which are full of kollelim, they have the same security fences and armed guards as every other town in Israel that is over the Green Line. They have the same protections against different types of harm; in fact, charedim often seek to get the best doctor, not just a regular doctor! Any charedi person, given the choice of living in a settlement with a kollel but no guards, or a settlement with guards but no kollel, would choose the latter.

Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, in a classic article on the drafting of yeshiva students (translated in Tradition, Fall 1985), put it best:

In 1929 at Hebron... didn't young students of the yeshiva, whose holiness shone like stars in the sky, fall before the malicious enemy? Please, did these martyrs need protection or not?... If you understand that the scholars don't need protection in relatively peaceful times and are exempt from building the protective walls, what consequence has this when compared to a life-and-death struggle, a war which is a mitzvah and in which all are obligated? The defense authorities ordered everyone to cover all windows as protection against shattering glass in case of an air raid. Would anyone think that some rabbis will not do so, claiming, "Rabbis do not need protection?" ...Why did rabbis leave areas under enemy fire along with the rest of the general population? Why did they not rely on this maxim?

So, if you want to claim that we need lots of people in kollel in order to rebuild Torah after the losses of the Holocaust (although there is vastly more Torah learned today than before the Holocaust), fine. But don't claim that you believe that kollel students are remotely equivalent to the IDF in terms of protecting the country. They're not, and you know it.

85 comments:

  1. Which comes to the net and difficult question...will your children do IDF army service?

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  2. They're certainly on track for that. (Of course, I won't sleep at night as soon as they start...)

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  3. The claim that Kollel students protect Israel is empirically false. The number of draft exemptions until the mid 70s was 400. It was raised to 800 in 1975 and then lifted completely when Agudah joined the first Likud government in 1977. During that time, Israel won all its wars, some miraculously.

    Since then, Israel has suffered two Lebanon Wars, a Gaza war and two intifadas - none of which can Israel claim to have won definitely.

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  4. I think that most Israelis would be satisfied if the Baal Haturim's claim was taken literally and 1/40000th of the population was given a kollel exemption (~150 people).

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  5. Rosenblum writes:

    "In addition, secular Israelis are correct that there is one very clear difference between those serving in the IDF and kollelleit. The former serve by compulsion."

    Is that the *only* difference he can find? How about the little fact that IDF soldiers are risking their, you know, lives? No one ever died from too much kollel learning.

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  6. Nachum:
    The majority of IDF soldiers serve in distinctly non-dangerous positions - not to mention those who "serve" in Galei Tzahal....

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  7. dlz, that's irrelevant. When you're called up to the army, you are potentially putting your life on the line. Not so in kollel.

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  8. Even non-combat soldiers are called upon to perform duty guarding settlements, which is involves exposing oneself to life-threatening situations.

    I lived in Beitar Ilit before and during the second intifada. When the intifata began, and the road from Beitar to Jerusalem became extremely dangerous, a large portion of the public, and the elected leaders, called out for more army protection, not more kollels. I think this supports what Rabbi Slifkin says in his post.

    To be fair, if I remember correctly, the Rav of one of the predominantly Anglo shuls, Rav Avraham Stern, shlita, did point out the inconsistency, and I'm sure many rabbaim, including Rav Stern, also admonished the residents to increase their Torah study as the proper reaction to the danger. But the demand for more army protection shows that even haredim turn to the army when the local security situation makes the need for an army too great to ignore.

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  9. I heard this story from a Rav in my town: When the Haredi town of Emanuel was built in the Shomron in the 1980's, everyone was expected to do guard duty, as was the case in the other yishuvim in Judea/Samaria. The kollel-learners claimed they were excempt based on the sources that have been quoted. The question went to a famous super-Haredi gadlo and he ruled that if the kollel-learners believe their learning protects the entire yishuv such that the yishuv no longer needs guards, then they are exempt. If, however, they think the yishuv needs guards, then they have to participate at well. The Rav of my town asked thhis gadol that if this was true, why don't yeshiva students serve in the army. The answer was IIRC "the defense ministry has exempted them".

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  10. two questions:
    1. Are there no sources in the tanach or Chazal that state that the wars of tanach were fought by soldiers who fought physically side by side with soldiers whose contribution to the fighting force was study and prayer?
    2. I have not learned Nefesh Hachayim by R Chayim of Volozhin, but I believe it talks about torah study being capable of creating powerful world events, such as winning wars miraculously (perhaps through open miracles, perhaps through miracles in the guise of nature, namely an army).

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  11. Well, while in my case you're preaching to the converted, I don’t think you made a very “rational” argument.

    a) The fact that talmidim have been hurt in piguim proves only that we don’t currently learn enough Torah to be 100% protected. But one can certainly respond that things would be much worse if not for those learning Torah.

    b) The fact that charedim want fences is equally both because of the 100% issue and because there are plenty of sources for not depending on such protection, even if it exists.

    c) The sources aren’t too convincing either, as Judaism tends to provide sources for almost every possible angle. There are clearly g’dolim who support this based on interpreting sources differently.

    One could, IMO, make a quite strong argument the other way that the IDF is not short on manpower, especially in today’s warfare, and thus the calculation is a relative one – is my time better spent learning or doing push-ups?

    Personally, my problem with kollel is MUCH more on the financial side. They have decided to live off tzedaka, and there they have, IMO, a weaker argument. There are homeless people and people who are hungry competing for tzedaka. Does the value of learning EXCLUSIVE of earning ANY money outweigh the competing tzedaka needs? Forgetting hunger and homelessness which are extreme examples, I wonder how many more assimilated Jews in America would be served by reasonably priced Jewish education, which is also competing with Kollel and general huge charedi family support in Israel? There the equation is almost Torah vs. Torah.

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  12. RYR and company have to keep repeating the same mantras about Torah study being the real protective force because if they stop the whole hypocrisy of the system they are defending will collapse.
    When rockets began falling on southern Israel during Operation Cast Lead the Chareidim in that area didn't run for the local Beis Medrash. They ran for Bnei Beraq!
    But even deeper than that is the innate contradiction that has to be defended. To wit:
    The reason "learn, don't earn" has become the official policy of the Chareidi community is because of the need to rebuild the destroyed yeshivah communities of Eastern Europe. But if Torah study protects, how is it that they were destroyed?

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  13. need to rebuild the destroyed yeshivah communities of Eastern Europe. But if Torah study protects, how is it that they were destroyed

    They were destroyed because of the Zionists etc. Keep score however you like. It doesn't obtain.

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  14. One could further suggest, to give RYR some kaf zechus, that saying things like "Yeshiva bochurs are the real protection, not IDF soldiers" is no more significant than the phrase "Baruch HaShem" or "Im Yirtzeh HaShem" which have become verbal tics meant to assure one's listener that one is "frum" more than meaningful expressions of faith.

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  15. The tshuva is priceless-how do you explain that the lomdei torah were the ones demanding the guards?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  16. > They were destroyed because of the Zionists etc. Keep score however you like. It doesn't obtain.

    Over at the DaatTorah blog, Rav Eidensohn has a great piece on how the Satmar explained the Six Day War miracle - the Satan did it! And how an Agudah Rov asked: How come when something bad like the Holocaust happens we say God's punishing us but when something good like a miraculous victory in war happens we blame the Satan?

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  17. A more solid and direct source than that provided by RNS is from makes 10a:
    אמר רב יהושע בן לוי מאי שכתיב עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלים-מי גרם לרגלינו שיעמדו במלחמה ? שערי ירושלים שהיו עוסקים בתורה

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  18. (although there is vastly more Torah learned today than before the Holocaust)

    You gotta be joking. Vilna? Warsaw? 99.9% of the people there were learning Torah 24/7. There was no such tihng as a "zman" or a "bain hazmanim". You think anyone today stays up all night learning and exists on a piece of bread and half a potato? Get real. We are nothing compared to them.

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  19. How could they have been learning 24/7, if they all worked (very hard) for a living?

    Besides, the dropout rate from Judaism was huge. Looks like you've fallen for charedi revisionism.

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  20. "Torah study weakens a person's strength" (Sanhedrin 26b).

    Most of the yeshivah guys I know here in the States strike me as physically weaker than age matched gentiles, and secular Jews--largely due to diminished physical education, although the community comforts of Jewish living do not mold a character that is as adept at dealing with potential assailants.

    With the advent of the modern state of Israel, this reality is changing, as the need for an armed forces is probably resulting in the breeding a different kind of Jew.

    This is merely one example of a larger issue; chareidim are going to have to deal with the realities of living in this world, especially if they want to continue to live in a Jewish state. As they take up a larger segment of Israeli society; eventually they will have to pull their own weight, since others will become increasingly unwilling/incapable of doing this for them. You cannot run a country while simultaneously living within the confines of the shtetl.

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  21. "Looks like you've fallen for charedi revisionism."

    I tried having a conversation about this recently with a friend of mine. His reply was that yeridas hadoros is a fact that you can't deny any more than you can deny the acuity of any other statement of Chazal. So by definition previous doros learned more than us.

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  22. "Looks like you've fallen for charedi revisionism."

    Pretty sure he's just being sarcastic...

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  23. “dlz, that's irrelevant. When you're called up to the army, you are potentially putting your life on the line. Not so in kollel.”

    That is of course true, but I do think it’s relevant to point out on the other hand that kollel avreichim do make a sacrifice of their own. They willingly accept a life of extreme austerity, if not outright poverty. Of course, you and I can agree that that’s the wrong decision to make, and that it’s still not the same as risking your life. But I’m just making a narrower point that it’s worth remembering that when one finds himself characterizing kollel avreichim as nothing more than service- and work-avoiding leeches who don’t know the meaning of sacrifice.

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  24. Perhaps it is better to say that those who did learn full time (and no, no one did 24/7) in the alte heim did so under much more adverse conditions than those who live in relative luxury today compared to them.

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  25. Some other sources:


    רבי הוה משלח לר' אסי ולר' אמי [היה נוהג לשלוח את רבי אסי ורבי אמי], דיפקון ויתקנון קרייתא דארעא דישראל [שייצאו ויתקנו את ערי ארץ ישראל].
    והוון עלין לקרייתא ואמרין להון [כשנכנסו לערים היו אומרים לאנשי העיר‎]: אייתו לן נטורי קרתא [הביאו לנו את שומרי העיר], והוון מייתו להון ריש מטרתא וסנטרא [והיו מביאים להם את הממונים על שמירת החומה והעיר; מעין צבא-משטרה].
    והוון אמרין להון [אמרו החכמים לאנשי העיר]: אלין נטורי קרתא? אלין חרובי קרתא! [אלו שומרי העיר? אלו מחריבי העיר!]
    אמרו להון [אנשי העיר לחכמים]: ומאן אינון נטורי קרתא? [ומי הם שומרי העיר?]
    אמר לו: אלו סופרים ומשנים, שהם הוגים ומשנים ומשמרין את התורה ביום ובלילה, על שם שנאמר (יהושע א', ח): "והגית בו יומם ולילה".

    – איכה רבה, פתיחתא

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  26. Today Israel has one of the strongest armies in the world and it's economy is in pretty good shape too (certainly it weathered and is weathering the current economic storm well). Physically speaking, everything should be going fine for the Jewish State.

    However, physically speaking, the Jewish state seems to be in as great - if not greater - danger than ever. Hamas is building up stronger and more accurate weapons, Hizballah has 10s of thousands of Missiles aimed at us. Egypt and Turkey are becoming more and more threatening. And Iran is actively trying to obtain nuclear weapons.
    The Palestinians bid in the UN for their own state.

    What's more, it's possible to see - time and again, that some of the main causes of these problems are decisions that people disconnected from the Torah made (actions from Meretz and the left-wing of Labor and various NPGs). And please note, I'm not saying that the idea of a peace process was wrong, but certainly how it was carried out was a disaster - and part of that disaster had to do with our lack of belief in ourselves and our rights, etc. Look at J-Street today - I think it is altogether possible that they will help sell Israel out in the future - and if they do and if destruction results, no doubt people will blame in on the religious in one way or another.

    The simple fact is that it takes more than a strong army for protection - much more. Whether or not a people believe in themselves, how they conduct diplomacy and relationships with other people, basic societal principles and more are the real bedrock and protection of any society.

    The Soviet Union was one of the strongest nations ever to walk this planet - they collapsed from within. They were internally weak.

    The Torah makes us internally strong. We are today as a nation extremely disconnected from the Torah - that effects the decisions that we make, the leaders that we elect (both here in Israel and in the US), the strategies that we embark on and more.

    Strengthening our connection to the Torah is perhaps the most important step we can take to protect ourselves as a society - and one way to do that is to fund scholars who dedicate themselves to understanding and mastering the Torah.

    The US does NOT have the greatest primary and high school program in the world. But they have a superb (one of the best) higher education systems in the world. They invest heavily in higher education, grants, post-doc work, research, etc.

    As a result, the US is able to attract some of the most brilliant minds in the world and to engage in cutting edge research and ideas in a variety of fields. They understand the crucial role that higher education plays for society as a whole. Where, for instance, would we be if the Germans had developed a nuclear bomb before the US did?

    If you want a society strong in Torah then you have to invest in it. That investment will permeate society through and through. Instead of fighting the Kollel system we should invest further in it and show true respect for those who engage in it. Not only will it strengthen the Torah, it will strengthen us collectively as a society and garner a positive response from the Charedi community.

    I know that you got burnt by the Charedi community and I know that you feel that it was 100% unjustified. But let's look past that for a second, the Charedi community has produced numerous, impressive Chesed and Torah organizations and personalities. This is a positive that needs to be appreciated and nurtured. It is a resource that the Jewish world needs to take advantage off, not constantly seek to undermine.

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  27. (darn had a good long response, but problem with computer messed it up now have to start over).
    Basically, whats the alternative, the IDF?
    The IDF of today is not the same as 1967. Today the system is working agains't Jews (not just psychologically and religiously, but physically as well) Check this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7AkrOGBP9A
    - Self defense is important, but you mamlachtim must stop worshiping the state that is fighting agains't Judaism and the Jewish people. don't rely on the government, the IDF and the institutions for salvation. The Jewish people need to take matters in our own hands.

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  28. remember that according to one opinion of Chazal, Acher (Elisha Ben Avuya) became a heretic because he saw a kid die after obeying his father's command to perform shiluach hakein, and while fulfilling both commandments which G-d promises give long life, he fell and died. The opinion explains that such a promise is really for long life in the next world, so i would think it hard to assume that opinions of the Rabbi's as to protection actually protect in this world, while G-d's promise, though in its simple reading applicable to this world, is forced to be taken out of context.

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  29. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    My husband served in logistics due to a health problem and high educational stats. In general, he found the job *incredibly* boring, in addition to guard duty several nights a week. Two years of exhausting and unpleasant work, which he did not choose. Nevertheless, good logistics is one of thie areas in which the IDF dedication and skill surpasses that of the Arab armies, and yes, it was a sacrifice. He certainly got nothing out of it for himself. For the first half of our shana rishona, I saw him mostly when he was totally exhausted and I spent a lot of Shabbatot alone.

    Our oldest son served in an elite combat unit, and while it was nerve-wracking for us, he found it satisfying and challenging and it looks very good on his record. One of his friends was killed in a training accident.

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  30. According to one version of the famous meeting between Ben Gurion and the Chazon Ish, Ben Gurion asked the Chazon Ish the following question:

    "If you were charge of the army, would you send the soldiers to fight with modern military equipment or with Gemara Baba Kama?"

    The Chazon Ish responded with a story of a man who was travelling during a cold winter night. His hands started to become frostbitten and to protect them rubbed them in snow (evidently this can help against frostbite - let's assume for the story that that is true). The man's hands were saved and he thanked G-d that it was winter, because if it had been summer there would be no snow.

    "Of course," said the Chazon Ish, "if it had been summer there also wouldn't have been any frostbite. Of course, I would send them with weapons, but the question is how we got into the situation where we needed to fight anyway - you made choices that have forced us to need to fight."

    I know there are different versions - but that is one that I read.

    In terms of the Holocaust - I think it's worth noting who was 'in charge' back then. Who, in the Jewish world, had access to the seats of government, the ear of the media, access to finances and funds?

    Stephen Wise and the Labor Zionists were at the helm of the Jewish people. They were the ones charged with finding a way to protect their brethren when Europe began to close in on them. There are serious charges made against them - charges from people as different as Ben Hect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Hecht) and Rav Weissmandl (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weissmandl). I know that there are responses to those claims (which I have not yet read), but the claims are serious and indicate the serious dangers of leaving the Torah.

    Another example - who came up with Communism? Who helped put it into place. Who were the Jewish communists who persecuted their fellow Jews during the earlier years of the Soviet Union (forgot how to spell the name of the group)?

    I don't want to blame everything on the non-religious and say that the religious did everything right, but there is a whole world of history and facts that I think you are ignoring here - and many of those facts relate to how the Torah protects us.

    Does that necessarily indicate Kollel? No. But it does indicate that you are barking up the wrong tree. Kollel is not a pressing issue for the Jewish people, it's a distraction. It is not the cause of our problems - not financially, militarily, socially, etc. It's a scapegoat for avoiding the real causes of our problems.

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  31. Moshe -

    "Kollel ... is not the cause of our problems - not financially, militarily, socially, etc. It's a scapegoat for avoiding the real causes of our problems."

    In most cases, kollel is an ESCAPE for avoiding to DEAL WITH the real financial, military, and social problems.

    Almost every single assertion you make is either wishful thinking or right wing propaganda that you yourself have never checked out to see if it is true. The problems are not the secular Jews. The problems are much much closer to home. The Torah can protect us; it can also be a sam maves.

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  32. kollel avreichim do make a sacrifice of their own. They willingly accept a life of extreme austerity, if not outright poverty.

    Certainly some do and deserve honor for their altruism, but that is such a glaring simplification. Try this - call up some shadchanim and roshei yeshiva. Tell them that you have a lovely G-d fearing modest daughter that is prepared to stand by a young Torah scholar in austerity if not outright poverty and see how far you get.

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  33. Moshe -

    You are entirely incorrect to insinuate blame on the part of the "non-religious" for the Holocaust and assume that they were "in-charge". Be careful what you say!

    There was no unified organizational body representing all the Jews in Eastern Europe. Each group of Jews chose its own method for engaging the world and exercising power. The Frum world in pre-War Europe was not "in-charge" because it chose not to engage the outside world. But while they may not have had much influence in government (such influence was worthless, anyway) they had HUGE influence over their constituents who listened to them in matters related to politics. Had the Maranan V'Rabanan, Gedolie Yisrael, Roshei Yeshiva and Rebbes told their followers to leave Europe, had they listened to Jabotinsky beg the Jews of Vilna to wake up to the reality of what surrounded them instead of thinking that the storm would blow over, perhaps things would be quite different.

    I am reminded of a story R' Rakeffet tells of the Satmar Rebbe's landing in Israel. Greeted by many officials, the SR recognized the chief of police as a former chassid from europe. The SR told the bare-headed irreligious man "What would your father say if he were here right now?" The man replied, "Rebbe, if my father hadnt listened to you he WOULD be here right now!"

    Bottom line: If you want to play the blame game with respect to the Holocaust, there is plenty of "blame" to go around.

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  34. Yitz,

    It's an oversimplification, yes, but not nearly as sweeping as you suggest. Are there plenty of lazy arses in full-time learning who are just passing the time and hoping to marry rich? Sure, no question. But in my view, they are outnumbered, and I would say vastly outnumbered, by those who are sincere in their learning and come with no expectations of receiving massive amounts of ma'aser from their in-laws.

    "Tell them that you have a lovely G-d fearing modest daughter that is prepared to stand by a young Torah scholar in austerity if not outright poverty and see how far you get"? I guarantee you you'll get far. That much I've seen with my own eyes. Plenty of learning boys want a sincere wife who will be a true ezer k'negdo, never mind the bank account.

    Again, I'm not here to validate the decisions that were made and continue to be made that have shepherded an entire generation (or two) away from a working life. I'm just saying that one who argues that the kollel movement is made up exclusively or almost exclusively of people who view it as an imperative to sponge as much as they can off of society until their lives are equally comfortable, is not arguing with the benefit of facts.

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  35. Dan,

    The yeshiva/kollel world has a system and it includes financial standards and incentives. I'm not at all saying this is a bad thing. If the chareidi society wants talented young men to pursue this path, then it perforce must provide incentives and that includes financial ones. Forget about the lazy arses that we all see hanging out with coffee and cigarettes. My point is that the typical young avreich is not making a particularly brave or altruistic life choice by pursuing long term kollel studies. He is simply following the natural course set out for him by his family and educators. Also consider the "stick" used to push him as well as the financial "carrots". That is, the pain of guilt and humiliation inflicted from his society for pursuing a mundane career rather than lofty Torah studies.

    Look, the chareidi society set up the system and funnels young people into it. Because it is a system it is perforce not extraordinary taken as a whole. You can’t have it both ways.

    If you want to water your assertion down to “one who argues that the kollel movement is made up exclusively or almost exclusively of people who view it as an imperative to sponge as much as they can off of society until their lives are equally comfortable, is not arguing with the benefit of facts”, then fine and I agree with you. Within any system, one will find a range of persons and certainly the kollel world has a fair share of altruistic participants, and perhaps more than average – who knows. I nonetheless disagree with the assertion that the typical kollel avreich is making a special sacrifice. Rather, he is making a rather mundane life choice.

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  36. This, sir, to put it bluntly, is a most foolish post.
    I'm really quite surprised you've written something like this. The whole thing lacks the intellectual rigor I'm accustomed to from you.

    But let me address specifically from the point "the facts on the ground . . . in your post and onward.
    Let's substitute for a minute general keeping of the Torah and doing Mitzvos for learning in Kollel. I assume for arguments sake you do agree that if all Jews would abandon Judaism, the Torah teaches us that this could cause physical harm to befall the Jewish people, and one could rightly say that in the view of the Torah, the Jews keeping the Torah is as important,and even more important, than having a standing Jewish army. Yet the same general arguments you presented could be used to argue just as well against that too. Does the fact that religious Jews are killed prove that being religious will not save you from being killed in a particular instance? Of course not. Does the fact that there was a Jewish army during the First Jewish Commonwealth prove that those in the army did not believe that being religious could save your life? Of course not. Yes, an army's strength and capability can be measured, and it's successes measured, and whether or not being religious can save your life in a particular instance is a virtually unfalsifiable hypothesis, but that is still what the Torah teaches, and observant Jews believe. The pure theoretical idea that having some dedicated to studying Torah is as important as having a standing army, is believed by modern orthodox Jews as well. How to apply this idea, is indeed sharply disagreed over. But the theoretical idea is what you are attacking and denying.

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  37. I have no problem with the idea that it's important to have people studying Torah! Of course it is. But the idea that some people, learning full time, protect others, is (a) far from clear even on a theoretical level, and (b) the main point is that people take this theoretical idea and defend their practical policies based on it, even though they themselves do NOT believe that it works in practice.

    As regards the general question about how reward and punishment/ providence works vis-a-vis our mitzvah observance - that is beyond the scope of this post, but suffice it to note that the rationalist approach is very different from the non-rationalist approach in this regard.

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  38. Akiva writes:
    Which comes to the next and difficult question...will your children do IDF army service?

    Natan Slifkin responds:
    They're certainly on track for that. (Of course, I won't sleep at night as soon as they start...)

    That, Rav Slifkin, makes you like every good parent of a soldier from our neighbors to the Prince of Wales.

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  39. Moshe, your second comment is, simply, disgusting. Much of it is, in fact, word for word what anti-Semites say. If Jews "bring it on themselves," well, that's God's cheshbon. Not yours, not any human being's, not even the Satmar Ravs.

    You first post, on the other hand, is sadly hilarious. You seem to have a problem with Oslo. Very good. You do realize it passed thanks to Charedi support, right? At least *try* to be consistent in your hate. (Same for TzVi.)

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  40. Alex wrote:

    In most cases, kollel is an ESCAPE for avoiding to DEAL WITH the real financial, military, and social problems.

    I obviously don't agree. I think that Kollel is first and foremost an attempt to build up something that was lost. It is secondly seen as a value in and of itself (even if one is not building up something that was lost). It certainly is no more an escape than say post-doc theoretical mathematics in American universities.

    40,000 sounds like a lot of people (and in terms of numbers it is). In terms of percentages, it's less than 1% of all the Jews living in Israel. So each year, less than 1% of all Jews in Israel are involved in full-time Torah study. And many of those people become important leaders in various communities (either via teaching, becoming Rabbeium, starting organizations, etc.). Others just benefit from spending serious time learning Torah (I know not everyone is serious, but the majority are serious).


    Almost every single assertion you make is either wishful thinking or right wing propaganda that you yourself have never checked out to see if it is true.

    Absolutely wrong - I think carefully about and/or study almost every assertion that I make. If you have a specific point to make about something that I specifically made, please make it. If you want to make general, ambiguous charges and claim that what I said is not thought out or researched, then you are talking to the wrong person.

    I would actually say the opposite is true - it is generally 'known' that Kollel is wrong (for a variety of reasons given). That assertion is more often than not - not carefully thought out or researched.


    The problems are not the secular Jews. The problems are much much closer to home. The Torah can protect us; it can also be a sam maves.


    I'm sorry, but I think we often times have a hard time seeing just how detrimental it is for us as a nation to have some many Jews so disconnected from the Torah. We equally have a hard time seeing the value of real dedication and strong connection to the Torah.

    It wasn't the religious who sold Israel out to the UN with the Goldstone report. It wasn't the religious who elected Obama (and by the way, I - regrettably - voted for Obama, but I was the exception in the religious community, not the rule). It wasn't the religious who turned the peace process into a quasi-religious campaign going gung-ho forward no matter what (and I was a luke-warm supporter of the peace process at the beginning).

    Let me add to that list that the only Democratic country in the world where you will find old-school, European virulent anti-semetism is here in Israel (as this book discusses: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Jews-Ultra-Orthodox-Struggle-Identity/dp/0465018548/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316033393&sr=8-1). And you know what his conclusion was, that the Charedim are used scapegoats by secular Israeli society for the problems created by and inherent in secular Israeli society (and no, it was NOT written by a religious Jew).

    I can go on with real, concrete actions that led to real, concrete problems for the entire Jewish people that can be traceable to actions done by people disconnected from the Torah and often times in conjunction with philosophies and/or world-views that they took on in part because of that disconnection.

    Now note, I am not saying nor do I believe that all secular Jews are involved in the various types of activities that I mentioned above. My point is that when Jews leave the Torah you will find within that group that leaves actions which are extremely detrimental to the Jewish people as a whole - and that this is documentable.

    It doesn't mean that there are no problems within the religious community or that everything that the secular Jews do is treif and/or everything that the religious communities do is Kosher.

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  41. Regarding the Chareidi chesed organizations mentioned by someone here. Yes, there are some very good ones. The problem is when one does chesed only for his kind. The Chasidah is a treifeh bird because it does chesed im mino.

    What the Chareidim overlook is that the Medinah itself is the greatest chesed organization in the world, and dwarfs any Chareidi organization. While a Chareidi organization may arrange meals or transportation for people in hospitals, the Medinah builds entire hospitals, trains the doctors at the universities, funds the research, and provides Kupat Cholim to cover the cost to the patients. Furthermore, the Medinah does this for everybody, frum or not frum, or even not Jewish. This is true chesed.

    While this example is about health care, the same principle applies in every area of life. A little hakaras hatov by the Chareidim would not only be nice, it would demonstrate a commitment to emes.

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  42. The Gemara states that when King Saul went out to war, not one soldier lost his life.

    Due to refraining from speaking Loshon Hora.

    When understanding the ramifications of Loshon Hora this makes lots of sense.

    Therefore; Not only dose one have to be a student of Torah, but more important he/she has to practice what they learn, to be considered a true Torah scholar.

    The more sincere one is in their Torah learning, the more Divine intervention is afforded them.
    o

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  43. To James:

    You are entirely incorrect to insinuate blame on the part of the "non-religious" for the Holocaust and assume that they were "in-charge". Be careful what you say!


    I am being careful with what I say.
    Please note the following:

    The Kastner trial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_Kastner#The_libel_trial).

    One of the most damming claims: the Labor Zionist in Israel did NOT report the massacre of Hungarian Jews even though they were aware that 12,000 plus Jews were being exterminated daily.

    The story of Joel Brand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Brand.

    The claim: Labor Zionists actively worked with the British to imprison Joel Brand when he (Brand) was trying to help broker a deal to save Hungarian Jewry.

    The actions (or lack of actions) of Stephen Wise: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Samuel_Wise#Criticism_of_Wise


    There was no unified organizational body representing all the Jews in Eastern Europe.


    I'm not talking about the Jews in Eastern Europe. I'm talking about the Jews in Palestine and the US During the war the responsibility for helping the Jews in Europe fell on the shoulders of those outside of Europe.


    Had the Maranan V'Rabanan, Gedolie Yisrael, Roshei Yeshiva and Rebbes told their followers to leave Europe, had they listened to Jabotinsky beg the Jews of Vilna to wake up to the reality of what surrounded them instead of thinking that the storm would blow over, perhaps things would be quite different.


    Perhaps. But whether or not to:

    * pressure the Allies to bomb the train tracks to Aushcwitz

    * stop sending food support to Jews who would otherwise starve to death

    * press for more immigration into the US during the war

    * sound the alarm bell to the world that a Holocaust was actually taking place

    ...these were real concrete decisions with real clear results that had to be made during the war - and it seems that many of the decisions were shameless, spineless or treacherous ones.

    Also, let's ask an important question about heeding (or making) the call to leave. Where would the Jews have gone?

    To another part of Europe? A part that Germany would capture or wouldn't capture?

    To Palestine? The British weren't letting Jews into Palestine at that time (although read The Transfer Agreement - which I am in the middle of - for just such a deal in 1933, but that was for wealthy, Professional German Jews, the type that could build up Palestine, not for less-than-wealthy, non-professional Eastern European Jews).

    To the US? The US wasn't so keen on taking in Jews at that time and the Jews in America didn't seem so keen on pressing the issue. Besides, before the war took hold, it may not have politically been so easy to press the issue.

    To South America? A possibility, one that I believe was raised for German Jews in 1933. Who, though, was going to organize the transfer? The Labor Zionist? One of the accusations made against them was that they were only willing to consider transfer agreements to Palestine.

    It's nice to say that 6 million Jews should have left Europe and that only if the Rabbis had told them to leave then everything would have been okay, but it's not as simple as it sounds.


    Bottom line: If you want to play the blame game with respect to the Holocaust, there is plenty of "blame" to go around.


    I don't think not being a Navi before the war is equivalent to the actions (or lack of actions) taken by many in charge during the war.

    With that said, let's here what Peter Bergson has to say:

    * http://vimeo.com/28681147
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgFEsMHzers

    And here is a JPost piece about discussing some of Bergson's claims:
    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNpGWVVkBYk

    [Here is also a clip of the Rabbis March of 1943 - for historical interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKQNHNdOmow]

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  44. Let me clearly state my main thesis for everyone.

    I do NOT think that everyone who is secular sells out the Jewish people or fails to rise to the occasion when needed.

    I do think that within secular Jews you find people who do sell out the Jewish people and/or who do fail to rise to the occasion. Furthermore, I think you can oftentimes trace those actions (or lack of actions) to their form of secularism (or non-Torah 'religious' Judaism).

    This is one of the ways that the Torah protects the Jewish people - by protecting us from ourselves.

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  45. Who is Rosenblum kidding? There are also many who "serve" in kollel and are doing so out of compulsion. Or did he only mean those few askanim and rabbis who decide how haredi society should be, but not the ones actually living it or being forced to live it due to circumstance.

    Well israeli politicians and generals also decided that plebeians will serve, so they are not compelled either.

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  46. The most obvious example was the war in Lebanon 5 years ago. One would expect that in war time the REAL soldiers cancel their vacations, and focus exclusively on the task at hand.

    Unfortunately, instead of intensifying their learning schedules, the Charedi Yeshivas decided to send their “real soldiers “on vacation right the bullets started flying.

    There are 2 possibilities to explain that behavior (neither is positive) 1) Charedeim don’t REALLY believe that the have any part in winning the wars or 2) they believe they hold the power to save Jewish lives, but would rather take a vacation than do so.
    This was one of 3 major issues that drove me away from Charedi Judaism

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  47. Moshe,

    >I do think that within secular Jews you find people who do sell out the Jewish people and/or who do fail to rise to the occasion. Furthermore, I think you can oftentimes trace those actions (or lack of actions) to their form of secularism (or non-Torah 'religious' Judaism).

    If you relax the assumption that Haredi Judaism represents the true Torah philosophy of life, then you can make the same argument about the Haredim than you can about the "non-religious".

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  48. Chaim, I know that this is not representative of Ashkenazi charedim, but Rav Ovadia Yosef sent the talmidim in his yeshivot "tzavei shmoneh" (emergency call-ups) for both the Lebanon war and Chomat Magen (Pesach 2002).

    His reasoning was, quite simply, that if the soldiers are fighting, the learners must be learning.

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  49. To Nachum:

    Moshe, your second comment is, simply, disgusting. Much of it is, in fact, word for word what anti-Semites say. If Jews "bring it on themselves," well, that's God's cheshbon. Not yours, not any human being's, not even the Satmar Ravs.

    Well, I don't think the idea of Cheshbon HaNefesh squares with what you are saying. People made decisions, took stands, and implemented policies - it's important to look back and see how those effected us as a nation and not shy away from pointing out where we helped bring on our destruction.

    For example, please tell me what is anti-semetic by saying that we had a major role in bringing on our own destruction in the Soviet Union? Jews penned the philosophy which set the foundation for the communist revolution. Jews helped win the communist revolution and Jews helped forcibly assimilate Jews to the new communist regime.

    If all of those Jews had stayed loyal to the Torah then none of this would ever have happened.

    And what is anti-semetic about pointing out the inaction of Stephen Wise - a claim echoed by many - at a time when decisive action was needed? Those who were closer to the Torah advocated for a much different path, one that he actively fought against. His path could not have been LESS successful if the goal was to help save European Jewry. He had the ear of the President and other important political and social relationships. He also had the ear of the press. He failed miserably - and it is not at all hard to see the connection between his (in)action and his disconnection from the Torah.

    In short, it sounds as if you are saying that if someone claims that being disconnected to the Torah leads them to take or not take actions BECAUSE OF THAT DISCONNECTION which are detrimental to the Jewish people then that is anti-semetic. I don't think that makes any sense and I would like you to back that statement up in general and let me know how it jives with the tochachot found in the Chumash in particular.

    You first post, on the other hand, is sadly hilarious. You seem to have a problem with Oslo. Very good. You do realize it passed thanks to Charedi support, right? At least *try* to be consistent in your hate. (Same for TzVi.)


    It is not the idea of a peaceful settlement that I have a problem with, it's the blind, quasi-religious manner in which those on the secular-left pursued peace. It was the manner of implementation that was destructive. It was the blind following of the peace process long after it became clear that it was going nowhere - a blindness that I ONLY see in the secular-left (not the secular right, not the secular middle, not the Charedi population, just the secular-left).

    My claim is that leaving the Torah leaves one open to such blindness - and such blindness leads to destructive results for the Jewish people. So again, please let me know why that is either a) anti-semetic and disgusting or b) hilarious. I would like a specific response to those specific points.

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  50. To Pashuteh Yid,

    Agreed, there is a tremendous amount of Chesed that the Medina does (who the powers our in the government behind that Chesed, I don't know - but it is clearly there). That is one aspect of the Medina.

    The Medina also leaves many gaps and the Charedi community has done a good job filling some of those gaps (for all in the society, not just the Charedim - Yad Sarah and many of the organizations for the poor do not just service the Charedim).

    With that said, I do not think that a Chesed organization for one's local community is treif. There is an idea of the poor of one's city. If one had a local chesed organization in a city and excluded all who weren't part of one's group that would be different. I don't know of any such organizations - I'm not saying that don't exist, I just have no reason yet to believe that they do.

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  51. To James,

    If you relax the assumption that Haredi Judaism represents the true Torah philosophy of life, then you can make the same argument about the Haredim than you can about the "non-religious".


    Please give examples. The one example I can think of is the Jews who went to the Holocaust Denying conference in Iran. They were, I believe, extreme elements within the Neturei Karta and were strongly shunned by the entire Jewish world (including the Charedim) afterwards.

    Please give examples of what you mean. I would like examples on the level of the NGPs who testified in the Goldstone report. That's a pretty good example of undermining your people - helping to brand them war criminals when they are trying to defend themselves from murderous thugs the likes of which the world hasn't seen since the Nazis or the Soviets. Please show me those types of examples.


    With all this said, let me ask everyone a basic question. Do you think abandoning the Torah makes a real-world difference? A similar question, do you think living in a world where over 80+ of the Jews do not keep the Torah makes a real-world difference?

    Finally, a third question - if you think that the answer to either of the above two question is yes - do you think it is legitimate and helpful to note where it has made a difference? If yes, why. If no, why not?

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  52. Moshe - if I understand you correctly, your argument is that strengthening Torah/Jewish identity is a very important part of defending Israel. Fine - but to my mind, frum Jews who interact with, and integrate into, wider society are much more effective at that than are people in kollel!

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  53. To Rabbi Slifkin,

    Moshe - if I understand you correctly, your argument is that strengthening Torah/Jewish identity is a very important part of defending Israel. Fine - but to my mind, frum Jews who interact with, and integrate into, wider society are much more effective at that than are people in kollel!


    If I were to try and come up with a main point fueling my posts here it is that real protections for any society and in particular for the Jewish people goes far deeper and far beyond an army (even in a society physically threatened as ours is).

    An army is a very visible source of protection and one (as you pointed out) which requires at times tremendous personal sacrifice and/or risk to life and limb.

    But there are other threats to a people - ones which are harder to see, but are just as real as an opposing army and just as (if not more) dangerous. It is here that the Torah comes into play and offers its protection (to the Jewish people as a whole, not just to those who live in Israel).

    In terms of more effective - obviously whenever a segment of society closes itself off from another segment of society it has negative repercussions. On the other hand, integrating into a society whose values are at times the antithesis of the Torah also has negative repercussions. This is a big conversation with a lot of different factors and no easy answers - IMHO.

    I imagine that if more Charedim clearly projected the love that Rav Aryeh Levine or Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman project then life in Israel would be radically different. Whether or not such love can be brought to a society level I don't know - it's certainly a lofty goal, though.

    With that said, I think it's better to rephrase the question - rather than ask what is more effective, ask whether or not Kollel is valuable. If so, then we should support the Charedi community in their endeavors (and perhaps emulate them, at least to an extent). Rather than attempt to mold the Charedi community in the image that we think is reasonable, take their inherent strengths and run with them.

    If someone has a good business idea you may invest in it, even if it won't be as successful as Google or Microsoft. It doesn't have to be the best or most successful, just beneficial and valuable in and of itself.

    It's also important to note that there are old hatreds that exist in Israel that were never really exported to the US (or, I believe, England). In Europe there was a real attempt by many to secularize the religious - and aspects of that old disgust and hatred for religion and the Torah has made it's way to this country. It's not just the Charedim who get vilified, it's also at times segments of the Daati Leumi community.

    For instance, it's true that there are disagreements about settling Yehudah and Shomron and that there exist extreme (on rare occasions violent) elements within the Daati Leumi community, but nothing in proportion to some of the vitriol that is thrown against them by various elements in the secular-left. Shalom Achshav actually SPIES on the settlements and reports their 'findings' to the world at large [as far as I know, they don't spy on what the Arabas do, just the Jews]

    I do not think that at its foundation the hatred is about integration or serving in the army - if so, why the disrespect by some for Hesder students who volunteer to serve in the most elite (and dangerous) units of the army?

    For some, the hatred is about being modern and enlightened in the way that they understand modern and enlightened. Settlements, right-wing ideology, not-being integrated, Kollel and not serving in the army can serve as useful tools to bash the Charedim or the Daati Leumi over the head. But the real reason for the bashing is something different, it's something that won't resonate as much with the general public and therefore it's better to use a more emotional issue like those mentioned above.

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  54. Moshe: "Let me ask everyone a basic question. Do you think abandoning the Torah makes a real-world difference? A similar question, do you think living in a world where over 80+ of the Jews do not keep the Torah makes a real-world difference?"

    Let me answer questions with questions. Do you think abandoning Torah to do Mitzvos is what Hashem wants? Do you think that it is a Mitzva to earn a parnossa and support one's family rather than take tzedaka? to form a strong community and act with derech eretz bein adam l'chavero? to engage in pikuach nefesh on a real, physical level (rather than the speculative nature of "kiruv")?

    All your concern for the 80% of Jews who are secular, that they are messing up your world. I don't think so. Many rishonim say that there is even no hashgacha pratis for them. Certainly, then, they have little impact on the world.

    But I would say that 80% of the KOLLEL STUDENTS have "abandoned Torah" - al menas l'asos - and that DOES make a "real-world difference".

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  55. Nachum-"You seem to have a problem with Oslo. Very good. You do realize it passed thanks to Charedi support, right?"
    Absolutely. I hope you don't get the wrong impression that I support "Haredim" or anyone or any party/group that is for surrender.
    I want to make that clear. All I said was/is that the people here especially shouldn't keep the impression that the army and state (the other side of "Haredim") is our salvation and hope. We must work to change the system, work to make Israel a Jewish and safe place (which will happen once we get out act together and act upon Halacha- which includes destroying and/or driving out our enemies).

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  56. You do realize it passed thanks to Charedi support, right?"

    To be more precise, it passed with the support of Shas but not UTJ.

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  57. Moshe,
    You want an example of Haredi rabanim doing things that are anti-Torah? How about opposition to vocational training? That goes against numerous Gemaras, particularly Kiddushin 29 (or 30) which requires the learning of a trade.

    Why do you assume that the "non-religious" were acting with malice during the war?

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  58. To Alex (part 1):

    Let me answer questions with questions.

    I'm happy to answer your question. Please take the time, though, to answer mine :).

    Now, for your questions:

    Do you think abandoning Torah to do Mitzvos is what Hashem wants?

    I imagine you are referring to i'efshar l'asos al yedei acharim. That is not called abandoning the Torah, that is called keeping and (according to what I heard in the name of Rav Hutner) actually learning Torah. I imagine the implication is that Kollel students are not doing Mitzvos, they are just learning. That is not true of the Kollel students I know, many of whom are actively involved in communal issues and Mitzvos (from Chinuch and Chesed/Tzedeka to helping others do Mitzvos, etc.).


    Do you think that it is a Mitzva to earn a parnossa and support one's family rather than take tzedaka?

    One needs to be mefarnais their family. Each family has to decide how that works. I know people in Kollel who work bein hazmanim and/or bein hasedarim (tutoring, giving hair cuts, doing carpentry or electronics, etc.). I also know people in Kollel whose wives wives work part or full time to help supplement their income. In addition, these families generally keep their living expenses down to help enable the husbands to learn (although if they have wealtheir parents/in-laws who support them then this may not be the case, but for the people I know it is the case).

    I also do not consider a stipend Tzedeka (not in the way that I think you mean it), just like I do not consider a grant for a grad student tzedeka. There are clear conditions for receving a stipend, one has to be in Kollel during seder and learn what the Kollel is learning. One may have other requirements too like learning with particularly people. It is an arrangement - one which creates certain obligations on the guy in Kollel. Furthermore, besides the few hundred shekels a month that Kollel guys receive from the govt., the money is donated by people who wish to help support Kollel students. That is also an arrangement.

    The Torah didn't give any land to the Leviim - they forced the Kohanim and the Leviim to receive Tzedeka to survive (not having land in an agrarian society puts a bit of a damper on one's livelihood). Their job were to be the leaders in Torah and go around teaching Torah. I don't see the modern Kollel system as any less of a providing for one's family than this system that the Torah set up for the Leviim.

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  59. To Alex (part 2):

    to form a strong community and act with derech eretz bein adam l'chavero?


    Obviously one needs to act with derech eretz. Many of the biggest menchim I know learn in Kollel and are quite considerate of others and makpid on bein adam l'chavero. If you want to imply that Kollel students fall short of this then I will have to strongly disagree. I'm sure you can find individual examples of a guy in Kollel who lacks derech eretz. On the whole, I do not think this is the case - not from the numerous people I know who learn in Kollel.



    to engage in pikuach nefesh on a real, physical level (rather than the speculative nature of "kiruv")?


    I assume you mean here the army, but I'll extend this about to include other activities that are involved in pikuach nefesh. Not everyone needs to be a doctor, go into the tank unit or become a fire-fighter. There is a Mitzvah to help others, there are problems which we have to communually solve, but there is no need for every single person in a society to engage in one particular Mitzvah. Similarly, there is no Mitzvah to having a 'peoples army' as Ehud Barak put it. That is a socialist idea, not a Jewish one.

    Also, the question isn't just an isolated one of should one go to the army - the question is a situational one - what else would they be doing. If one would go to university or get a job then perhaps it's better that they first go to the army. If one is going to study Torah then I would say that learning Torah is more important.




    All your concern for the 80% of Jews who are secular, that they are messing up your world. I don't think so. Many rishonim say that there is even no hashgacha pratis for them. Certainly, then, they have little impact on the world.


    I didn't say that they are messing up my world, I said that if we take a closer look at some of the greatest tragedies that have happened to the Jewish people over the last 200+ years we can see a connection between abandonment of the Torah and those tragedies.


    But I would say that 80% of the KOLLEL STUDENTS have "abandoned Torah" - al menas l'asos - and that DOES make a "real-world difference".

    You can say it, the question is does that statement have any bearing on reality. The Kollel Students I know do a tremendous number of Mitzvos, lead humble lives and take Torah and Mitzvos very seriously. I didn't just come out and say that secular Jews are responsible for all evil, I made a very specific claim backed up by very specific evidence. If you would like to provide real evidence that 80% of Kollel Students have abandoned the Torah then please do so. If you do not have such evidence then I think it's best to refrain from making such accusations.

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  60. To James:


    You want an example of Haredi rabanim doing things that are anti-Torah? How about opposition to vocational training? That goes against numerous Gemaras, particularly Kiddushin 29 (or 30) which requires the learning of a trade.


    I talked about actions which sell out the Jewish people - akin to the Goldstone report, going to the Holocaust denial conference in Iran, arresting Joel Brand when he was trying to broker a deal to save Hungarian Jewry, stopping food support when the Jews of Europe were literally starving to death (in fact, that didn't just stop it, they picketed those who continued it). Those are the types of actions I am referring to.

    The reason why I asked for such examples is because we are discussing what protects the Jewish people and the above are examples of actions that directly threaten the Jewish people.




    Why do you assume that the "non-religious" were acting with malice during the war?

    I didn't say they were acting with malice - I said they dropped the ball. Their motives or reasons for acting as they did need not be malice (although there are those for whom it may have been). It could be ideology, lack of backbone, false sense of priorities, etc.

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  61. To James (clarification),

    If you are referring to my statement about old hatreds - that is not necessarily directed towards what happened during WW2 (although there may be cases where it is applicable).

    That is referring more to facets of modern day Israeli society in light of old hatreds that go back to Europe. A good book on this subject is Real Jews by Noam Efron: http://www.amazon.com/Real-Jews-Ultra-Orthodox-Struggle-Identity/dp/0465018548/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316111435&sr=1-1).

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  62. The thesis that kolel people protect Israel is said by kolel people to convince themselves that they are not shirkers, not particularly to convince others. They aren't idiots, they know the secular do not believe a word. And it's important that they say this. Torah should not sink to such a level that people feel like cowards and moochers when they learn.

    It is an entirely different question whether they should be drafted. If Israel as a country had any sense of fairness as a basic principle, they would have been drafted long ago.

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  63. I agree with R Slifkin's article, but I don't think the Chareidim will agree that by looking at history we can determine how much Kollel student's learning will protect the soldiers and Israel. I don't think this is unreasonable of them either.

    One of the major factors in getting the chareidim to change their minds is getting the gedolim to change their minds, but this will only happen the chareidi people start to become more open to the idea of army. (Same as any issue in the charedi world).

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  64. is my time better spent learning or doing push-ups?

    According to Rambam you're required to do approximately half an hour of exercise every day to maintain your health, and additionally you are required to learn the arts of war in order to defend yourself, your family and your community. He even goes so far as to say that one of the reasons for the destruction of the second temple was the simple fact that the Jews didn't take the time to properly learn the arts of war.

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  65. I don't know Hebrew (well), but I just came across this titled "Fighting in the army" by Rav Ovadia Yosef. Might be useful for some people here who know hebrew. (Possibly can translate as well).

    http://www.torahanytime.com/scripts/media.php?file=media/Rabbi/Ovadia_Yosef/2005-10-05/Fighting_in_the_Army_HEBREW/Rabbi__Ovadia_Yosef__Fighting_in_the_Army_HEBREW__2005-10-05.wmv

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  66. Learning Torah is what protects us from all the stuff tht doesnt happen.like failed terrorist plans.(or prevention from disease). Torah is a vaccine. However, an army is what protects us from the things tht lack of sufficient Torah study causes. like finding a bomb in car tht is ready to detonate. An army is the medicine. So although the army soldiers are the ones risking their lives, without the people learning in kollel, they would have a lot more problems. Now the only question is is tht current events seem to be showing a lack of sufficient Torah study, so how do we portion out the refuah kodem l'macah vs. refuah achar hamacah.

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  67. Learning Torah is what protects us from all the stuff tht doesnt happen.like failed terrorist plans.(or prevention from disease)

    How do you know?

    So although the army soldiers are the ones risking their lives, without the people learning in kollel, they would have a lot more problems.

    Did you even read the post? Before the kollelim, the army had much LESS problems!

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  68. Israel was not an "Official" Modern State until 1948 and we had not been a state for thousands of years.

    We became a State mainly because of the Zionists post WWII and the fact that many other countries would not absorb Jews post WWII so the worlds solution was to give the Jews land where they wouldn't bother anyone in a place that was largely available, no one wanted or made claim to and not industrialized.

    Similarly the so called Palistians are people that countries like Jordan don't want because they were trouble makers for them.

    It's true they don't need a State and can live elsewhere with other Arab states but similarly to the Jews post WWII no one wants to take them in so they need to fight for their own space.

    I think some comments here are missing the historical context and their similarity to the Jews in regards to a people with no homeland.

    With that said I wouldn't want them in my back yard because I beleive they are mainly a terroristic government and will not recognize Israel's right to exist and will not seek real peace.

    My answer is to expell them from the land if they can't behave and Israel should expand into the West Bank. Of course my answer has consequences too.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

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  69. Yosef, you said
    "Does the fact that religious Jews are killed prove that being religious will not save you from being killed in a particular instance? Of course not."

    Yes, actually it does prove just that.

    Hypothesis: Religious jews are protected from harm.

    Reality: Religious jews are harmed.

    Hypothesis rejected.

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  70. This post makes no sense. If you ask whether tanks help defend the country, you'd say no - and the Armoured Corps don't believe it themselves -they don't think you can do away with the infantry and air force.

    And, והא קחזינן דלאו הכי הוא - Tank soldiers get killed all the time. They must be doing a pretty rotten job defending the country if they can't even protect themselves.

    To clarify - the Charedi claim is that having people learn Torah is at least as effective as any other component of the army in protecting lives, and absolutely nothing you wrote here disproves that.

    And if you were to read through the Netziv's commentary on the Torah you would see that this idea is a MAJOR theme of the entire Torah, and he wrote his commentary well before the political ramifications of the issue.

    Allow me to cite a segment of the Netziv to Terumah, which is not directly related to the point but is very much relevant to the overall perspective:

    והנה רצונו של מלך שכל הראוי למלחמה יהא איש חיל, והמשתמט מזה אע"ג שגם הוא ע"פ חוקי המלחמה שאינו מחוייב להיות איש חיל, מכל מקום אין זה עיקר רצונו של מלך

    Aha! He's describing Charedim to a tee! Uh, no....

    כך רצון ד' שיהא כל ישראל הראוים לעמל תורה יהיו בי תורה, והמשתמט מזה אע"פ שיש לו טעמים מביאים אותו לכך, בכל זאת אינו עושה רצונו של מקום מיקרי... שאע"ג שהיו עוסקים בעבודה, מ"מ אחר שלא היו עמלים בתורה כמו שהיו במדבר, לא מיקרי עושין רצונו של מקום.

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  71. Your logic is very poor. We have never won a war without tanks, or without an airforce. But we did win several wars without 40,000 people in kollel!

    What you quoted from the Netziv is irrelevant. His description of amailim b'Torah is not referring to people in kollel (of whom none existed in his time).

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  72. The question is not Kollel - the question is Torah study. Does Torah study protect the Jewish People, and, by extenstion, does more intensive Torah study protect more effectively than lack thereof. The answer is yes.

    When less people are learning intensely, it is more "difficult" for Hashem to save us, but that does not mean that we won't be saved. See e.g. Harchev Davar to Bereishis 12:19

    באשר המעשה (של אור כשדים) היה בעוד אברהם קטן ולא למד תורה כי לא היה לו רב, על כן היה קשה להצילו, ומ"מ ניצל, אבל לא כחנניה מישאל ועזריה ... שהיה להם זכות תורה

    The concept is pervasive in the Netziv's works. See Haamek Davar there, as well as to the Kadesh Li section, and his commentary to Shir Hashirim, et al.

    The line in his Kidmas Haemek needs to be reviewed:

    כמה חובתנו וכמה יפה לנו מכל צד להגדיל עמל התורה ועיונה...והוא הבריח המחבר את ישראל לאביהם שבשמים ומקיים את האומה בכל אפסים.

    Saying that we won wars without Kollel is like saying we won wars without a Merkavah mark IV. So what? Today intensive Torah study takes place in Yeshivos and Kollelim.

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  73. Let's break this down to 3 components - theoretical, empirical, and what charedim actually believe.

    1. Theoretical

    Kollel is not a "natural extension" of the idea that Torah study protects. It's saying that Torah study AT THE EXPENSE OF serving in the army helps more than serving in the army and learning less.

    2. Empirical

    You still have not refuted the idea that Israel won its wars before there were kollels, and has had a lot more problems since the increase in kollels.

    3. What Charedim believe.

    Between a moshav with security but no kollel, and a moshav with a kollel but no security, what would people prefer? What would YOU prefer?
    And if charedim really believe that Torah protects, how could they possibly have bein hazmanim when the Lebanon war broke out?

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  74. 1. Theoretical

    a) That's like saying that having armored corps AT THE EXPENSE of infantry helps more than more infantry and less tanks. (Does the army NEED the Charedim to NOT learn and serve in order to win wars? Even they don't say that)

    This whole line of argument is silly.


    2. Empirical

    a) Kollels have been in existence since well before the establishment of Israel.

    b) Could be too many people started grumbling about "all those people learning" and we lost (some of) its merit...

    3. What Charedim believe.

    Between davening on Rosh Hashanah for פרנסה וכלכלה and going about in effort to earn money, which do you prefer? The answer for any Maamin is -- both! See also Yerushalmi someone quoted above about who are the true נטורי קרתא

    Again, the line of argument is silly.

    And if charedim really believe that Torah protects, how could they possibly have bein hazmanim when the Lebanon war broke out?

    It's a good question, but who says Torah study only protects בעידנא ממש. The עמלי תורה's merit doesn't just dissipate when they aren't actively learning so long as their existence revolves only around that.

    If proper army discipline demands that a particular corps or regiment stays out of active battle so it can fight with fresh vigor when called upon by regular army schedule, that might be the best course of action.

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  75. There were only a handful of people in kollel in the first decades of the State. And yet it managed to win wars against the odds! Meanwhile, now there are tens of thousands of people in kollel, and there have been many lost to terrorist attacks, as well as an existential threat from Iran.

    Oh, but I forgot, that's because the additional merit of kollel was offset by the ill-will that it caused, right?

    The עמלי תורה's merit doesn't just dissipate when they aren't actively learning so long as their existence revolves only around that.
    Very creative! (though you're obviously making this up as you go along.) What about if they take some time to serve in the army or do chessed (sherut leumi) - how do you know that their merit suddenly disappear then?

    I notice that you did not answer the following:
    Between a moshav with security but no kollel, and a moshav with a kollel but no security, what would people prefer? What would YOU prefer?
    But no doubt you'll contrive a solution. I don't think that anything at all would convince you that you are wrong, correct?

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  76. There were only a handful of people in kollel in the first decades of the State. And yet it managed to win wars against the odds! Meanwhile, now there are tens of thousands of people in kollel, and there have been many lost to terrorist attacks, as well as an existential threat from Iran.

    a) A far higher percentage of the population in Israel was killed in the war of independence than any subsequent.

    b) Israel was threatened with utter annihilation during those initial wars that it won. Yes, G-d spared millions getting slaughtered and the end of the country, a massacre like the holocaust and the Churban. Israel has not been THREATENED existentially from '73 until the current Iran crisis. And what are you planning about doing about that?

    Oh, but I forgot, that's because the additional merit of kollel was offset by the ill-will that it caused, right?

    Could be. Maybe you shouldn't harbor such ill-will toward it.

    though you're obviously making this up as you go along.

    Erm, no. People have been making up arguments against Kollel like this for a while, and I've thought about responses for a while.

    What about if they take some time to serve in the army or do chessed (sherut leumi) - how do you know that their merit suddenly disappear then?

    There is less merit in doing that than in learning. Many of those people who took off during that Bein Hazemanim did do acts of Chessed. Again, this is pervasive in the Netziv regarding the particular merit of Torah study.

    Between a moshav with security but no kollel, and a moshav with a kollel but no security, what would people prefer? What would YOU prefer?

    Answer my question - what would you prefer, an army with no tanks or no airforce? Working without asking Hashem for פרנסה or vice-versa?

    I answered - you need both. הא בלא הא לא סגיא.

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  77. Will anything I say convince you that you might be wrong?

    Even if not - perhaps some readers will rethink their positions.

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  78. >though you're obviously making this up as you go along.

    Erm, no. People have been making up arguments against Kollel like this for a while, and I've thought about responses for a while


    Sorry, I was wrong, you've been making this stuff up for a while.

    There is less merit in doing that than in learning.

    OK, so let's keep track. If you're in kollel, but take off three weeks vacation, it doesn't affect your protective power. But if you take off three weeks to do chessed or army, it does weaken your protective power. Is that right?

    Answer my question - what would you prefer, an army with no tanks or no airforce?

    No tanks (assuming I understand modern warfare correctly).

    Working without asking Hashem for פרנסה or vice-versa?

    The former.

    Now you answer my question: Between a moshav with security but no kollel, and a moshav with a kollel but no security, what would you prefer?

    Will anything I say convince you that you might be wrong?

    Sure. On the theoretical level, you can show me practical mainstream traditional halachic sources that support the idea that having 40,000 people learning AND NOT serving in the army or doing anything else to help the nation gives protection. And on the empirical level, you could show me convincing evidence that there is a correlation between the number of people in kollel and the safety of the country. With an explanation of whether they help people in different places from them and at different times.

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  79. Sorry, I was wrong, you've been making this stuff up for a while.

    You and others been making up the questions for longer. The answers are plausible.

    OK, so let's keep track. If you're in kollel, but take off three weeks vacation, it doesn't affect your protective power. But if you take off three weeks to do chessed or army, it does weaken your protective power. Is that right?

    Who is talking about three weeks of army during Bein Hazemanim, and what good would it do? Maybe the tank people should take off three weeks and do some infantry?

    No tanks (assuming I understand modern warfare correctly).

    Perhaps you don't? Do you know how Hashem runs the ledger?

    The former.

    Then you might succeed despite Hashem not intervening on your behalf, not because of Him. Good luck.

    Now you answer my question: Between a moshav with security but no kollel, and a moshav with a kollel but no security, what would you prefer?

    My mind would know no rest living in either place. I'd probably live in the Moshav with security and raise funds for a Kollel as quickly as possible and hope that my desire for one would be enough for the time being, in line with Gemara's saying that the will to do it and following through on it accrues merit as well. That's the best I could do.

    On the theoretical level, you can show me practical mainstream traditional halachic sources that support the idea that having 40,000 people learning AND NOT serving in the army or doing anything else to help the nation gives protection.

    For the fourth time, that isn't the premise. Along the lines you suggest though (assuming RMF is "mainstream"):

    שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ד סימן לג

    הנה אף שעניין צבא ההגנה הוא ענין גדול, אבל עניין לימוד התורה ללומדי תורה עוד יותר גדול גם מלהגין על המדינה... ולכן ודאי מי שיש לו תשוקה ללימוד התורה ולהעשות גדול בתורה ובהוראה וביראת שמים, יש לו לילך לישיבות הגדולות, ויהיה ברכה לכלל ישראל והגנה גדולה לכל ישראל.

    But he didn't really believe that...

    And on the empirical level, you could show me convincing evidence that there is a correlation between the number of people in kollel and the safety of the country.

    I did above. No existential threat since '73. Until now. And the IDF apparently has nothing they can do about it. Grumbling about Kollel learners may not help defeat Ahmadinejad either.

    With an explanation of whether they help people in different places from them and at different times.

    See Igros Moshe above.

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  80. My mind would know no rest living in either place.

    Now you're not being honest with yourself. There are plenty of settlements in the West Bank without kollels, that have done just fine. So you'd really be so nervous in a settlement without a kollel?

    And why in the first place would you choose that over a moshav with a kollel and no security?

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  81. And what's your answer to your own question - do you think that you are better off parnasah-wise if you worked but didn't davven, or if you davenned but didn't work?

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  82. There are plenty of settlements in the West Bank without kollels, that have done just fine. So you'd really be so nervous in a settlement without a kollel?

    I would not be calm living in the West Bank. Period. And I would not want to live in a place that is not a מקום תורה anyway.

    If I were caught living in a West Bank town with 40 Arabs attacking me, would I rather have a gun or a Sefer? A gun. Would I be very nervous? Yes. Would I think my chances of survival are better with a Kollel learning for my merit? Certainly. Infinitely better.

    And why in the first place would you choose that over a moshav with a kollel and no security?

    Because I do not think Kollel with no security at all is a valid approach to security, and security with doing my best to set up Kollel would hopefully be one. I can't do more than that.

    And what's your answer to your own question - do you think that you are better off parnasah-wise if you worked but didn't davven, or if you davenned but didn't work?

    You are correct that my analogy is off, I can't say that davening without working would be as effective, since that's not how Hashem made the world. Working is like winning the war, not like having an army.

    But actively seeking employment might be a better analogy. Considering the open, near miraculous, Siyyata Dishmaya I have experienced in obtaining Parnassah, I (personally) honestly do not know which would be more effective. I have sought employment to no avail, and have had job offers fall from the sky. I would need both. Period. הא בלא הא לא סגיא.

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  83. Sure. On the theoretical level, you can show me practical mainstream traditional halachic sources that support the idea that having 40,000 people learning AND NOT serving in the army or doing anything else to help the nation gives protection.

    I believe the commentor Moshe provided the answer to this question above:
    The Torah didn't give any land to the Leviim - they forced the Kohanim and the Leviim to receive Tzedeka to survive (not having land in an agrarian society puts a bit of a damper on one's livelihood). Their job were to be the leaders in Torah and go around teaching Torah. I don't see the modern Kollel system as any less of a providing for one's family than this system that the Torah set up for the Leviim.

    September 15, 2011 9:13 PM


    And I suggest 4LL read the comments of the Netziv to the narrative of the war against Midian and why the Torah takes great pains to describe the division of booty in excruciating detail.

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  84. Talking about learning protecting the nation, what about individuals???
    does anybody think that Chareidim as a whole, who eschew or ignore healthy diets and exercise have a longer life expectancy that the average Joe, because the former learn torah.

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  85. I think some comments by Moshe and by some others here (and those responding to them) have created a false dichotomy, as if there is Torah adherence on one hand, and then an army on the other hand.

    Read the Tanakh. And read Rambam's Mishne Torah. Serving in an army to destroy the enemies of the Jewish people is part and parcel of Torah observance.

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