Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The Hypocrisy of Selective Bitachon
The biggest topic in Israel these days is the debate over drafting the charedim into the IDF. The non-charedi population of Israel has always resented the exemption from army service granted to charedim, and its lack of contribution to the economy. However, with the huge growth of the charedi community, the issue has become much more serious. The Plesner Committee recommended that most charedim be drafted, and economic sanctions leveled against those who refuse to serve - loss of housing grants, child benefit payments, etc. The charedi community has reacted by declaring this to be an act of war, against which they will fight to the very end.
The charedim defend their approach on the grounds that learning Torah protects the nation. This is something which, obviously, non-religious people entirely dispute. Most American charedim seem to understand the perspective of non-religious people, and are sympathetic to their grievance that only their children put their lives on the line, and shoulder the economic burden. Israeli charedim, on the other hand, charge those demanding the draft with baseless hatred and even Christian ancestry and antisemitism!
But the charedim take the idea of Torah-as-protection a huge leap further, and claim that this protection is best, primarily and even only provided by those who learn Torah exclusively and who never serve in the army or do national service at any point in their lives. Furthermore, they are oblivious to the leap that they are taking with this, and equate serving in the army with the abandonment of Torah. They charge the non-charedim with trying to destroy Torah - as though there are no fine frum Jews who serve in the army! They charge the non-charedim with trying to destroy yeshivos - as though there are no dati-leumi yeshivos! They charge the non-charedim with trying to destroy traditional Judaism - despite the fact that there is nothing traditional about having tens of thousands of people in kollel!
However, I would like to focus on what seem to be a very basic and important perspective on all this that, strangely, has apparently been entirely overlooked.
Let's consider the basic concept of "learning Torah and trusting that this will provide Divine protection." That is an aggadic concept found in sources such as the Gemara. But here's the rub - there are much more sources, and of more weighty (i.e. Scriptural) authority, that one should trust in God to provide economic sustenance! Yet one never sees that religious principle playing a role in politics! Instead, the charedim are going berserk about the government cutting the financial benefits to charedim who don't serve in the army!
The charedim want to have it both ways. When it comes to military service, they demand an unlimited number of exemptions, claiming that the more people who learn Torah, the more Divine protection there will be. But when it comes to receiving money, bitachon goes out of the window, and they demand to receive it from the State of Israel. If they trust in their Torah and mitzvos and bitachon to provide physical security, why don't they trust in it to provide financial security?
(Cue all the hair-splitting distinctions, produced by minds honed at intellectual gymnastics. I'm not expecting to convince those who are determined to oppose any criticism of the charedi system.)
And there's more. What is the charedi world's reaction to the planned draft? Conspicuously absent is genuine fear for national security and for our very lives - the kind of fear that we would have if we found out that a computer virus had rendered all the IDF's weapons systems and aircraft useless. Instead we have hysteria over the disruption to their way of life, declarations of war, some calling for cancelling the yeshivah summer vacation (unlike during the Lebanon war!) while others take time off learning for demonstrations. But where is their bitachon? Learning Torah protects you from Syria and Hezbollah and Iran, but not from the Israeli government?!
All this further proves a point that I made a while ago. The real reasons why charedim don't serve in the army have nothing to do with the highly questionable notion that having sixty thousand people in kollel provides essential security for the country. It is because they want to maintain a certain way of life. Not that one cannot be sympathetic to that, and to their reasons for it. But when it comes at the expense of others disproportionately shouldering the burden of national security and the economy - why, that's just selfish.
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