Sunday, July 15, 2012

What is a Halachic Source?


In the previous post, I noted that the idea that people in yeshivah protect the country is an aggadic, i.e. non-halachic concept. Some people challenged this, citing the halachah that a Torah scholar need not pay taxes towards town security (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 243:2). If this is being presented as a halachic source for some degree of protection afforded by Torah for some people, then fine. But if it is is being presented a halachic justification for an unlimited number of yeshivah students protecting the country via their studies rather than serving in the IDF, then one must wonder about the halachic skills possessed by those who present it as such.

Let me count the ways in which this is not a halachic source.

First of all, this source says nothing about Torah scholars protecting others. In fact, it clearly limits their protection to themselves!

Second, this is talking about talmidei chachamim. It is specifically not talking about all young men learning in yeshivah.

Third, this is talking about paying money towards protection during peacetime. As halachic authorities have noted, this has nothing to do with serving in the army during a time of clear and present danger.

A halachic source would be like that in the Torah and the Mishneh Torah, that a newlywed, or someone with a new house or new vineyard, is exempt from serving in the army for a milchemes reshus (and not for a milchemes mitzvah). No such source exists for someone in yeshivah or kollel. There is no statement in the Gemara, in the Mishneh Torah, or in the Shulchan Aruch, that someone learning Torah is exempt from serving in the army during a time of danger.

Furthermore, from the absence of such a source, it is clear that at least from a halachic perspective, there is no exemption!

So, I reiterate: there is no automatic halachic exemption from the army for someone who is in yeshivah. The idea that learning Torah provides an equivalent protective service is a non-halachic concept (at best), just like the Mishnah's statement that "For one who accepts the yoke of Torah, the yoke of worldly affairs is removed for him." I propose that the latter is recited to charedim who don't serve in the army or the economy and demand financial support. Tell them that the yoke of worldly affairs has been removed from them, and thus they have nothing to worry about!

And, I reiterate: charedim do not really believe that their learning Torah provides protection for the country. They might believe that they believe it, but, for obvious reasons, they don't actually believe it.

On another note: If you live in NY, have a car, and would like to drive me to Cherry Hill for my lectures this Shabbos, I can arrange Shabbos hospitality for you! Please email me if you would like to do this.

64 comments:

  1. This whole search for a Halachic source or denial of the existence of one badly fails the 'common sense' test.

    If there were 2 people hiding behind a wall, with someone shooting at them, and they had one gun with which they could fire at their assailant, but the shooter would need to expose himself and risk getting shot, they would never discuss whether one of them could learn Torah instead of exposing himself to the danger.

    This is exactly what we have here in Israel.

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  2. סנהדרין צ"ט:
    אפיקורוס... כגון הני דבי בנימין אסיא דאמרי מאי אהני לן רבנן "

    thus the metaphysical benfit of Torah to others is a tenet of faith and should not be considered aggadaic.

    איגרות משה ח"ח
    "הנה שאף שעניין צבא ההגנה הוא דבר גדול אבל עניין לימוד התורה ללומדי תורה עוד יותר גדול גם מלהגן 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."

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  3. Why does it matter whether something is a halachic or aggadic source? If Charedim believe that aggada is binding on them (which it is clear they do) then it would go against their religious freedom to force them to break their tradition/understanding.

    In any case, sometimes something can be within the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. For example, eating chicken might have frum certification, but God might still not be happy with that.

    For an example, see here - http://curiousjew.blogspot.com/2012/07/meat-jewish-ethics-mercies-of-wicked.html

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  4. A pseudo-Halachic argument I saw recently (http://www.olam-jew.com/shut/hacharedim-vehazava.htm - follow this link at the risk to your blood pressure) is once again, the Rambam, Hilchot Shemitta ve'Yovel 13 - "Not only Shevet Levi, but any person in the world whose spirit moves him ... can become Kodesh Kodashim and Hashem is his lot".

    Apparently, this is how Chareidi society sees itself now. They are all Leviim-by-choice, and Levi'im don't go to war, they serve Hashem and learn Torah.

    And then the "Halachic" Rambamistic argument is that of course the Rambam doesn't list these kinds of people in Hilchot Melachim under the laws of war (ch 7 & 8) as exceptions because it has already been stated and he doesn't repeat himself.

    Now, I honestly am impressed with the level of dedication to Torah learning in Chareidi society. But if the result are people who cannot tell the difference between Halacha and Divrei Chizuk? Perhaps they are better off focusing on one of the other pillars that are "keneged kulam", like Gemilut Chasadim. At least there one cannot cause Chillul Hashem.

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  5. To the extend of my knowledge, I agree with everything you've written in this post.

    I will say, though, I think the Haredi reasoning is not so direct as everybody around here assumes.
    I would suggest the Haredi logic is:
    1) We're the last embers of authentic Judaism in the world after the ravages of the Holocaust and Haskala. The rest of the Jewish nation is secular, or almost secular, and nobody else is seriously engaged in Torah and Mitzvos.
    2) If the Jewish people don't engage in Torah and Mitzvos, the nation will whither and die (except, of course, that Hashem will make sure that we don't really get to the die stage, but we could get pretty close).
    3) Our kollelim are there to make up for the shortcomings of the rest of the nation. Our countervailing Torah study is saving the nation from grievous spiritual decay and subsequent divine wrath.
    4) QED, our learning is protecting the nation.

    By way of analogy, a human body may be well defended from external enemies, but if he has heart disease he's still in mortal danger. The Jewish nation needs an army to defend itself physically, but without the pumping heart of kollelim keeping the life's blood of the Jewish nation flowing (Torah), the nation will whither.

    This, I think is the heart (no pun intended) of the Haredi argument.

    Of course, there are serious flaws with the presumptions in step 1.

    But again, as is becoming a habit of mine, I am trying to show that there is some genuine logic at work here.
    It's not some flimsy excuse.
    The Haredi world can be wrong for the right reasons, to stretch a phrase.

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  6. נהדרין צ"ט:
    אפיקורוס... כגון הני דבי בנימין אסיא דאמרי מאי אהני לן רבנן "

    thus the metaphysical benfit of Torah to others is a tenet of faith and should not be considered aggadaic.


    Uri HaNegbi, it is deeply disturbing that you consider that Gemara to be a source that learning Torah protects others. It says absolutely nothing of the sort. It has nothing to do with metaphysical benefits of Torah, and it has nothing to do with protection.

    As for the citation from Igros Moshe - he is answering based on a non-halachic argument. Non-halachic does not mean wrong. But it does mean non-halachic. (If you want to claim that he is making a halachic argument - a direct inference from the Gemara - then it is a sorely deficient one, for the reasons explained in this post. I'd rather be dan l'kaf zechus.)

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  7. R' Slifkin, let me suggest another possibility: The Shulchan Aruch is talking about exemptions from taxes, not defense issues. In other words, the scholar would also be exempt from, say, school taxes. That seems to me to be the most likely possibility.

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  8. That doesn't work; it says explicitly that the reason is that their Torah protects them.

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  9. "I will say, though, I think the Haredi reasoning is not so direct as everybody around here assumes.
    I would suggest the Haredi logic is:
    1) We're the last embers of authentic Judaism in the world after the ravages of the Holocaust and Haskala. The rest of the Jewish nation is secular, or almost secular, and nobody else is seriously engaged in Torah and Mitzvos.
    2) If the Jewish people don't engage in Torah and Mitzvos, the nation will whither and die (except, of course, that Hashem will make sure that we don't really get to the die stage, but we could get pretty close).
    3) Our kollelim are there to make up for the shortcomings of the rest of the nation. Our countervailing Torah study is saving the nation from grievous spiritual decay and subsequent divine wrath.
    4) QED, our learning is protecting the nation."

    If that is their logic, then there is no use talking to them. They are doing more harm then good and should be removed from civil conversation regarding Jews and Judaism.

    There is no logic here. Every single one of those premises are obviously proven false.

    In other words, you claim that they claim that the Army of Israel is not a Jewish Army. Since the army of Israel is a Jewish army, the only conclusion I can come to is that Charedim are not Jews.

    I really don't think they want to be making this argument.

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  10. "Ameteur", you are welcome to disagree with the Haredi logic. I know I do. But your reaction is unjustifiably harsh. Your only way of looking at this is to cut off the Haredim from Judaism (or claim without basis that that's what they want)!? That's absurd.

    Step 2 is a foundational notion in our faith, that if we don't adhere to Hashem's commands it won't go well for us. You recite this idea at least twice a day (presuming you are a religious Jew - I don't know anything about you personally).

    There are common values here, shared by all the (religious) parties to the discussion. We CAN all have a civil debate. As for the non-religious parties, well, there is little common ground ideologically. We would simply need to hammer out a compromise arrangement which both sides would honor (and not try to change unilaterally).

    As for the notion of a Jewish Army, there's no doubt that the IDF is an army of Jews, which defends Jews, and that's a mitzvah. But that's not the same as a "Jewish Army" in the religious sense. V'haya machanecha kadosh. I'm sure there's plenty to discuss about what that should mean in practice, but until the IDF is committed to that idea, it's not fully a "Jewish Army" in the strict religious sense.
    And as such, your argument that "IDF=JewishArmy=Jewish.QED.Haredim are out of the Jewish camp" falls apart.

    Or do you reject these theological notions and we're arguing at cross purposes?

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  11. The biggest red herring in this whole discussion is if some chareidim are drafted it means the destruction of the Torah world.

    This is simply ridiculous. Imagine every 20 year old Charedi was drafted for 2 years. Are there no other people in the chareidi batei midrashim?? Only boys who are 20 – 22?? The Yeshiva will still be full of boys from 18-20 and from 22-on. This is a critical point. They want to draft yeshiva boys for a very limited amount of time and are flexible on when. After their 2-3 years service they can go back to the yeshiva. I will say it again, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, Hesder has been doing this for over 50 years. In Hesder they learn for almost 2 years, then go to the army for a year and a half and then back to yeshiva for a year and a half.

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  12. 4) QED, our learning is protecting the nation

    All Haredi arguments that I have heard in speeches or seen in writing hinge upon the assertion that Haredim are indeed participating in the welfare of the WIDER Jewish / Israeli community, albeit in there own way. (1) The kollel learning benefits everybody DIRECTLY and (2) Haredi do lots of Hesed via yad sara and similar organizations. For instance, the recent Hamodia editorial page asserted that kollel learners are like fighter pilots and every knows that you don't make fighter pilots into foot soldiers.

    Nonetheless, I think that your points 1, 2, 3, 4 are the real reasons for opposition to the army and in general any form of integration. The problem is that no one with any power can actually say it. To do so is to openly admit that the Haredim don't give a dung about non-Haredim and that is bad PR.

    Onlinecommenting guy is being very honest, but sorry, non-Haredim are not going to respect the real Haredi philosophy. Why should they?

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  13. Yitz - Can you please provide the link for the fighter pilot - kollel guy equation in Hamodia?

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  14. Yitz,

    They did say it in the Charedi press. In last week's Hebrew Mishpacha Yerucham Landesman wrote an editorial espousingthis point of view. He wrote among other things "even people (haredim) who are unable to learn Torah for the majority of the day should be exempt from being drafted. The reason being, because he has already been drafted into a lifestyle that is meant to guarantee the future of Judaism."

    See Why Haredim Will Always Oppose The Draft

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  15. JJ,

    Since Hamodia is not online (only print) it is impossible to provide a link. However, I read Hamodia every week (in English) and I can confirm that they made this analogy last week in the main editorial.

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  16. "Yitz Waxman", yes, non-Haredim are not likely to respect real Haredi philosophy; certainly secular people won't. I would like to think that all the religious people could try to get along via the ideals they DO share. We can disagree on the finer points while still acknowledging the goodness in each other.
    -sigh-
    As for Haredim not caring about non-Haredim, there's more truth to that statement than there should be. But, it's far from entirely true. Haredim love their fellow Jews and want to help them, as evidenced by all the chesed organizations (which are NOT all only focused at Haredim or are kiruv organizations, though many of them are).
    Haredim just mostly want to help their fellow Jews...from a safe distance.
    The Haredi worldview thinks that EVERYBODY outside of their parameters is out to get them by hook or by crook (along with the moral frailty inherent it all humans of which one must be wary). In the early days of the State, this perceived threat was largely true. Now, it's not nearly as true as it was, but Haredi society hasn't fully caught on to this shift. (They have somewhat, considering how Haredi society has slowly started getting vocational training and more are enlisting in the IDF than used to do so.) Plus, there still ARE enough vocal anti-religious secular politicians and rabble-rousers out there whose hatred of the fervently religious keeps the distrust alive and the rifts wide as a chasm.

    We've all got to use a little dan-lkhaf zchus and learn to see things from each other's perspectives and then we can get somewhere. Call it a 3-weeks vort.
    Not everybody will play along - every faction will have a few extremest no matter what we do - but the vast majority of us can make things work.

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  17. 1) Based on Uri HaNegbi's quote from Igrot Moshe, Rav Moshe is clearly not offering a blanket dispensation from army service, but rather stating that one who "has the longing to learn Torah, and to become great in Torah, in teaching, and in yirat Shamayim (ulehei'asot gadol baTorah uv'hora'ah uv'yirat shamayim)" should learn in yeshiva and thereby protect Klal Yisrael. He does not say that everyone who learns protects Klal Yisrael - at least not to the degree that they should be exempt from army service. As most people accept the fact that there should be occasional army exemptions for exceptionally promising students, many of the proposals currently circulating are, in fact, following the psak of Rav Moshe. Can anyone really believe that 60,000 students qualify as those who have "the longing to learn Torah, and to become great in Torah, in teaching, and in yirat Shamayim"? Do we believe that 6000 genuinely anticipate becoming gedolim behora'ah? 600?
    The rest, it seems, are obligated to serve Klal Yisrael in a more mundane, non-mystical fashion - that is, in the army (which Rav Moshe pointedly calls a "davar gadol".)

    2) One of the most salient features of life in galut is that G-d's face is hidden - a state of hester panim. This means, presumably, that the normal spiritual cause-and-effect is preempted by "olam k'minhago noheig." While our spiritual actions certainly affect our lives, the direct correlation between mitzvot and national success is cloudy and hidden.

    How ironic it is that the chareidi public - which, more than other groups of religious Jews, insists that the State of Israel is NOT the first flowering of the redemption - claims that, in the area of limud haTorah, we act as if we are in a perfect state of geulah shleima!

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  18. I saw the fighter-pilot / Torah learner analogy here

    http://www.olam-jew.com/shut/hacharedim-vehazava.htm about half way down, search for the word "טייס"

    It's a good analogy. In fact, it's so good that Lieberman et al have said that they would be happy to have several thousand elite Torah learners.

    (Which, btw, negates the argument that there is no common ground with the secular.)

    The problem is assuming that all boys from Chareidi families are fighter-pilots. Do you know how hard it is to get into the pilot program? Very. How hard is it to get into a Yeshiva? Not very.

    R' Moshe in Igrot Moshe was also talking about fighter-pilot-level learners, "who have the desire to become great in Torah and teaching and fear of Heaven".

    Most of Israel agrees that there should be a number - even a relatively large number - of young man at the fighter-pilot level who would not need to do any other kind of service.

    So who are we arguing about? The guys who aren't at that level.

    Their merit protects us more than the Chillul Hashem that they cause? They can't be asked to do community service, Chessed, in their own communities? And then go on and do whatever they please with their lives, including learn Torah, freely, legally, be'kavod? Not because they signed "Torato Umanuto", but because they are free to do so?

    We really aren't so far from each other at all. It's statements like "we're the only ones who care about the Torah and the Jewish People" that make people see red.

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  19. Step 2: ie. "2) If the Jewish people don't engage in Torah and Mitzvos, the nation will whither and die (except, of course, that Hashem will make sure that we don't really get to the die stage, but we could get pretty close)" Is a complete red herring and is pointless.
    Every Reform Jew engages in Torah and Mitzvot. They may not engage in all the mitzvot, or in all the Torah, but by accident, they happen to do a lot of it. Mentioning step 2 as being a piece of the logical puzzle on it's own is deception and dishonest.

    The real step 2 is:
    2) If Charedim don't engage in every Chumrah and Minhag that today is in vogue, the nation will whither and die (except, of course, that Hashem will make sure that we don't really get to the die stage, but we could get pretty close)

    And this is complete falseness and can not be supported by the sources.


    "As for the notion of a Jewish Army, there's no doubt that the IDF is an army of Jews, which defends Jews, and that's a mitzvah. But that's not the same as a "Jewish Army" in the religious sense. V'haya machanecha kadosh. I'm sure there's plenty to discuss about what that should mean in practice, but until the IDF is committed to that idea, it's not fully a "Jewish Army" in the strict religious sense."

    The IDF is 100% a Jewish Army, and a Machenecha Kadosh. The extra steps they take to make sure they follow many halachic principles goes beyond the mesirat hanefesh that any Charedi has ever undergone. Just this past pesach, the IDF threw out dinner for soldiers returning from a mission becuase somebody accidently kept cooking the food past when chag started. Instead they ate Matzah cold cuts.

    http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3889

    Anyone who calls the IDF an unholy place is not even speaking lashon harah, they are speaking complete falsehoods.

    I use harsh words because they are needed. The charedim are 100% pushing themselves away from the Jewish people if they believe even an iota of your "logic"

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  20. "But that's not the same as a "Jewish Army" in the religious sense. V'haya machanecha kadosh. I'm sure there's plenty to discuss about what that should mean in practice, but until the IDF is committed to that idea, it's not fully a "Jewish Army" in the strict religious sense."

    If anyone believes this hogwash, then I ask you to explain what label you give the Charedim who live in places which engage in child molestation.

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  21. You won't find any images like this in any army besides the IDF

    http://www.shabboshouse.com/Temp/Israel/5766/IDFprayer/IDFPrayer.htm

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  22. Yitz - Can you please provide the link for the fighter pilot - kollel guy equation in Hamodia?

    Sorry - it is not online.

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  23. "Ameteur" I, myself, do not deny the positive aspects of the IDF. Every person/group/organization has its good points and bad points.
    I am trying to get you to recognize the good points of the Haredim - to see there is a good heart in the Haredim, but they are reacting out of fear of various threats - threats which have some basis in reality. Therefore, I am emphasizing the negative which the Haredim see and fear so that you can try to understand them. Only by understand each other can we hope to get along - even if we disagree, and disagree passionately, for good reasons.

    You, and many other folks around here it seems, are clearly not interested in seeing and appreciating the good in the Haredim, or seeing things from the Haredi point of view. You seem to prefer spitefully cutting off your fellow Jews. Surely that is not meritorious in your eyes?

    If you cannot see any value or merit in Haredi society and values, then you've got to try harder to see it.

    Would you tolerate this same standard of stereotyping toward any other group in the world?

    Otherwise, regarding your last comment, comparing the lowest members of Haredi society to the best of the IDF is intellectually dishonest.

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  24. Allow me to state yet again - I am in favor of seeing Haredim better integrated within the wider Israeli society - particularly with regard to the IDF and the workforce - for their own good. But the only good way to make that happen is to build mutual understanding and mutual trust, and thereby show the Haredim they have nothing to fear.
    Grand-standing politicians and Haredi bashers only make things worse and push off the successful resolution of their stated goals.

    Is the goal to peacefully and successfully integrate all the Jews of the Jewish State, or is it to FORCE the Haredim to conform to the standards set by the secular public?

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  25. "But the only good way to make that happen is to build mutual understanding and mutual trust, and thereby show the Haredim they have nothing to fear.
    Grand-standing politicians and Haredi bashers only make things worse and push off the successful resolution of their stated goals."

    Suggesting that Charedim believe themselves to be the only true Jewish people, doesn't help either.


    "You, and many other folks around here it seems, are clearly not interested in seeing and appreciating the good in the Haredim, or seeing things from the Haredi point of view. You seem to prefer spitefully cutting off your fellow Jews. Surely that is not meritorious in your eyes?"

    On the contrary, I believe in judging the best of the IDF and the best of Charedim. However.. if you are going to suggest that the IDF is not a true Jewish army, then I am forced to look at the worst of Charedim in kind.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't say that "well really, the Army isn't so holy..." And then say "but this community which has a real problem with child molestation is holy"

    It does not work that way. I'm all for looking at all sides of an argument. But if one of those sides says "I'm the best, and everything I do is good, and you are the worst and everything you do is dangerous"... Then my only response to is kick out the people who believe themselves the best, and treat them like the terrorists they are.

    There is no negotiating with such fanaticism, there is nothing to learn from them, there is no place for compromising.

    If on the other hand they say "we have concerns X Y and Z which can be placated by doing A B and C" then there is room to talk, and then maybe they are human beings worth talking to after all. However your attempts to look at it from their angle gave no such option.

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  26. @OnlineCommentingGuy:

    I agree with you that forcing cultural change rarely ends well. I don't think this situation is any different.

    I think it would be more productive for Israel to become Hashkafa-blind. The deeper problem here seems to be that Charedim are treated differently. I am sure there are other groups that also receive special attention (or inattention, if you talk to Israel Arabs). This has to stop. There should be one law that applies to all, regardless of Hashkafa. If a law is particularly onerous, the group should lobby for a change that benefits everyone, not for a loophole or exemption for their own subgroup.

    Subsidies should apply to all students, or none. Not just Charedim in Kollel, nor just to University students. All or none. Same with deferments, and with service itself.

    Allow groups to form their own Sheirut Leumi programs, under the auspices of the appropriate Ministry (I am not familiar enough with Israel government to name it). This would allow Charedim to serve in programs of their own design and oversight, without denying the same to anyone else.

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  27. "I am trying to get you to recognize the good points of the Haredim - to see there is a good heart in the Haredim, but they are reacting out of fear of various threats "

    You are doing a terrible job of it. You haven't shown a good worthy attribute in them at all.

    You start by telling us that only charedim and none of the other 5.3 million Jews in Israel are keeping Torah and Mitzvot.

    You then go on to say that without these 700,000 Jews we would all be destroyed.

    You then go on to say that the Jewish Army which goes out it's way to allow students to learn in Yeshiva, to daven, to keep kashrut, shabbat, and have segregated units so men and women don't mix isn't a "real Jewish army", that it's not "Mechanemet Kadosh" is insulting to the extreme.

    You do nothing but degenerate the 5.3 million Jews in Israel for the sake of 700,000.

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  28. "Avi" - I'm totally with your suggestions. Such programs are fair, and actually have a chance of succeeding from every side. Package that up with words of sincere respect for the Other, and implement is gradually, and we could have a really solution.

    "Ameteur" - You're doing a terrible job of seeing things from the perspective of others. I'm not even trying to defend the Haredi point of view itself. I am trying to show that IF you accept the premises which the Haredi world accepts (for the sake of argument) then you discover that the Haredim are trying their best to do something very positive for the Jewish people as a whole (the way they see it).
    We can even agree they are, in practice, wrong! We can also agree that Haredi society has a myriad of serious flaws and problems. Etc. Etc. But you don't have to HATE them (even if you think they hate you!)
    I'll give another example of seeing things from the perspective of others. Tommy Lapid was very anti-religious. He was a self-declared enemy of the Haredim. But, if you understand that he lived through the Holocaust and he concluded from that experience that expunging Jewish religion and peculiarity was necessary to save the Jewish nation, then you see that he had some good intentions at heart. So, I deeply disagree with his conclusions, and I'll oppose him, but I can also appreciate him from his point of view. In so doing, I can oppose him without hating him (even if I think he hates me).
    Capiche?

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  29. And, "ameteur", let me point out that there's a lot more to Haredi society than issues like this. There's a lot more to like about Haredim if you look for it. Don't let your views be skewed by the media darlings that the extremist minority seems to be.
    I don't perceive, however, you are even interested in looking.

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  30. I think that you can interpret the fact that the Torah protercts Talmidi Chachamim as the rationale why they are exempt from the tax - they are exempt because they don't need the benefit of the tax.

    One question Rabbi Slifkin - I'm not sure that the expression "Talmidei Chachamim" should be interpreted as narrowly as you took it. Though it is commonly used to mean someone who is a great scholar, it literally means the students of great scholars. I think in the talmud the expression is wider - and would include people who study torah full time. This also makes sense as it doesn't rely on the result (a chacham) but rather on people who dedicate themselves to torah.

    I agree with all the rest of the post, and would even argue that even if we accepted the Aggadic sources as binding, they were not referring to a reality where an entire public decides to live at the expense of another without their agreement.

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  31. "Benjamin of Tudela", regarding how to understand that source, I would offer the following story I was once told about it:
    A Torah scholar once approached his Rebbe and asked him, based on this Gemara, if he, as a Torah scholar, had a right to not pay taxes. The Rebbe said back to him - the Gemara exempts the Talmid Chacham because his merit protects him, and therefore he has no need for phyiscal defenses, so he is exempt from paying his share of the operation of those defenses. If you feel your learning is strong enough to give you supernatural protection from terrorists to the degree that you need no soldiers to defend you, then you can rightly be exempt from taxes.
    The student kept paying his taxes.

    So, however you want to define "Talmid Chacham" in general, for this context it must mean a particular caliber of scholar.

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  32. "And, "ameteur", let me point out that there's a lot more to Haredi society than issues like this. There's a lot more to like about Haredim if you look for it. Don't let your views be skewed by the media darlings that the extremist minority seems to be.
    I don't perceive, however, you are even interested in looking."

    You should have stuck with your earlier conviction that you don't know anything about me. I have often been accused on this site and others of being a charedi apologist.

    The truth is, I don't read newspapers or listen to the news on tv. I learned long ago that anything the media had to say on a topic I knew about was false. This led me to the conclusion that what they say on topics I don't know about are also false. Instead I get my news from what other people talk about or tell me directly, it's much more efficient that way.

    That being said, someone pointed me to this opinion piece by R. Dov Lipman. It's really more of a journalism piece than an opinion piece to be honest.

    But it's worth the time to read it.
    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/messages-for-the-prime-minister-from-average-haredim/

    The truth is, what gets passed around these days as the views of Charedim are really only the views of thugs trying to maintain control of their fiefdoms.

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  33. "Ameteur"
    If you are more open minded than your comments in reaction to me in this thread have suggested, then I apologize for misjudging you.
    But your choice of words has been harsh indeed, and did not lead me to think you had any love for our Haredi brothers and sisters. If that is otherwise, I am glad to hear it.

    I've read the article. I don't much care for Dov Lipman's approach here frankly and I won't start another thread of argument between us to elaborate.
    Suffice to say, and I believe I have said it already, in my opinion Haredi society needs to change. The walls of the virtual ghetto do not stay up, and the attempt to keep them up is only hurting Haredi society. But, the only way to see positive change is to work together and create a process of gradual change from within Haredi society. Force, revolutions, and "crushing" the Haredim will only create more strife.
    Haredi society is slowly reforming itself, by necessity. If it doesn't, it will break itself. Either way, let the change occur organically. At most, create incentives for change and the reformation will happen that much faster. A harsh confrontation will not bring a positive result. Terrorists need to be hit hard. Haredi Jews do not. You've used the term for the former to characterize the latter; I hope you can in fact appreciate the difference.

    Otherwise, I don't know what else to say. If you love your brother, you try to see the good in him, and if he has flaws you try to help him fix them BECAUSE you care about him.
    And when it comes to a whole society, there are good people and bad people. Praise the good while opposing the bad.
    This can be done peacefully and with respect for the society as a whole.
    Do you disagree with even this?

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  34. Can someone help me here as i am totally confused....Do you guys not go to your local rabbi when your chicken bone looks questionable or when you are unclear on a halacha regarding shabbat etc?
    This is a halachic question (even RNS admits to that) so whats bothering you so much that the haredim are listening to their poskim?
    They are not saying the Hilonim should not serve they are just doing what their rabbis have said is the halacha for them. Each man must follow his Rav and thats what the orthodox are doing. For once it seems the orthodox are actually being rational and you lot completely irrational.

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  35. Aryeh, we are disputing the rabbis. And incidentally, my point was that from a halachic standpoint, there is no exemption. (Of course, there could, in theory, be an exemption from a hashkafic standpoint.)

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  36. Do you also dispute the rabbis on the kasharut of a chicken? if not why not?
    I thought a Rabbis job was to lead his congregation on matters that involve halacha as they know Torah better than us laymen, so it beats me how you say we are disputing the rabbis.
    You have just made me more confused

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  37. You can (respectfully) dispute any rabbi on anything. However, if he is your posek, you are obligated to follow his psak (though you can still disagree with it).

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  38. R YM Tikuczinsky defines a TC as being someone who learns full time, not necessarily a gadol http://j.mp/OoSZG4

    There are a lot of poskim and rabbanim even from the DL camp who oppose drafting yeshiva students. Mercaz just reprinted an kuntris from Rav Neriah, Rav Kook opposed it, the Tzeitz Eliezer opposed the draft.

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  39. R YM Tikuczinsky: http://j.mp/OoSZG4

    Rav Yitzcak Arieli on Bava Basra 7b http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14862&st=&pgnum=29

    Rav Moshe IM Yoreh Deah IV:33.
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14679&st=&pgnum=263

    Rav Kook Igrot Haraayah 85
    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43827&st=&pgnum=261

    Mercaz just republished Rav Neriah's kuntris on the subject (he strongly opposed drafting yeshiva students; his arguments paralled the ones used by many chareidi politicians)

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  40. Unfortunately, as seen by the attitude of many Chardal Rabbanim to issues like Yehuda V'Shomron and to Yitzchak Rabin, the complete inability to think a little beyond standard Beit Midrash logic and to take into account broader issues when paskening halacha is not the sole province of Charedi Rabbanim. (Not that I'm saying that this is true of all the sources cited by Ben).

    An exception is someone like Rav Lichtenstein.

    In any event, the comparison to the Dati Leumi world is largely irrelevant because the Dati Leumi world doesn't apply these piskei halacha to all of its members. Even people like Rav Neriya never intended for the entire Dati Leumi world to claim that Toratam Emunatam for their entire lives.

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  41. "There are a lot of poskim and rabbanim even from the DL camp who oppose drafting yeshiva students. Mercaz just reprinted an kuntris from Rav Neriah, Rav Kook opposed it, the Tzeitz Eliezer opposed the draft."

    I also heard that the Lubavitcher rebbe opposed the draft to the Czar's army. It's not really relevant though.

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  42. My point was to show that there are indeed piskei halacha, written by gedolei yisrael, and not necessarily chareidi rabbis that address this issue. of course they are not talking about people who have a yeshiva patur and work on the side or hang out or whatever.

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  43. An open question to those quoting Rav Kook and Rav Moshe regarding the draft:

    In Rav Moshes teshuva he points out that the government recognizes the value of the learning and therefore it seems that he assumes that the person asking the question has an option as to serve or not.

    It is not clear that he would issue the same psak if there was a mandatory draft by the government.

    Also R Moshe gives a description of the person who is exempt as osek batorah and one who is going in the trajectory of a gadol batorah, horaah and yirat shamayim. It is a stretch to say that everyone in kollel/yeshiva gedola is actually doing that. Whether they are or not can be measured by actual time learning. If one is only learning 6-8 hours a day that is not considered serious.

    In general can one quote these teshuvot and expect them to accurately reflect the writers thoughts on this particular situation?

    The metzyiyut is different now (mass kollel system, mandatory draft).

    Thoughts?

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  44. Rav Slifkin,

    First off I love your fresh approach to Judaism.

    The speak that calls for a new husband or homeowner exemptions from war is due to the fact that they might be scared in war to lose what they newly acquired (wife, vineyard, etc ) they will not perform well in war and cause danger to other soldiers and those they are protecting. In other words, they're wimping out. I see it that the Charedei community that oppose serving in the army should receive the same exemption. I don't see their supposed Torah learning (although a small percentage might be helping) protecting nor do I see their possible soldiering as helping.

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  45. "I also heard that the Lubavitcher rebbe opposed the draft to the Czar's army. It's not really relevant though."

    That is a key point.

    We should not be fighting the battles of 200 years ago, or 50 years ago, and not even 20 years ago!

    Having calmed down a little (and my son is doing just fine in basic training, b"h, davening 3 times a day and calling home every night) ... looking at the rhetoric, there are some comforting notes - yes, there are people who see it as just exactly like the Czar's army. But there are also people who say, "what we are doing protects Israel", which, misguided though it might be, is at least a shared goal.

    And on the other side, yes, there are people who say, "No exceptions! Throw them in jail!", but there are also people who say, "yes, top-level Torah learners are at least as important to our society as top-level football players". So we do have shared values.

    In the heat of the summer, at a time of por'anut - perhaps there is hope that we really are, somehow, stumbling toward our goal, in fits and starts and meshugas.

    Given the battles of 200 years ago, and our battles, I'd pick ours.

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  46. R Natan, you are saying there is no halachic source for not drafting yeshiva students...well as far as i am aware all the charedi poskim of this generation, AND of the previous one said it is assur. Period.
    So i if that is not halacha please enlighten us what is. Perhaps in future you want to think things through before posting them....

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  47. I often wonder whether the 1000's of Rabbi Akiva's students who died by plague, in fact perished fighting for our homeland. Inasmuch as Rabbi Akiva was a proponent of the rebellion, it would not be farfetched for his students to support the revolt, and perhaps "plague" is a euphemism for something else. It is nice to think that they did their duty.

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  48. Mick they certainly did. Check this
    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/35-hagim/304-sephirath-haomer-how-did-the-talmidhim-of-rabbi-aqiva-die

    On the other hand we need to ask ourselves if the current Israeli regime is engaging in serious Milhemit Mitzwah or not? And what would Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues do in today's situation? Join the army or make seperate fighting units.
    Sam D.

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  49. "R Natan, you are saying there is no halachic source for not drafting yeshiva students...well as far as i am aware all the charedi poskim of this generation, AND of the previous one said it is assur. Period.
    So i if that is not halacha please enlighten us what is. Perhaps in future you want to think things through before posting them...."

    That is not halacha. They did not give halachic sources. That is Politics, and if you want to give it the status of halacha, then it is Avodah Zarah.

    I'm sure if anyone actually did give such a halachic ruling they gave sources of course. And I'd like to see what those are.

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  50. @Peter Pan:

    Well, I say that posting under the pseudonym Peter Pan is assur, and I'll get my father to issue the same Psak. Now we'll have 2 generations assur'ing it. What are you going to do?!

    In case you didn't get the point of my sarcasm, let me explain. Halachah doesn't come out of nowhere. It doesn't matter who you are or how much Torah you've learned. A Psak based on nothing more than one's opinion isn't Halachah. It's just an opinion.

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  51. Ameteur

    So read the sources that I posted.

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  52. Avi, you're missing the whole point of modern Charaidi "Daas Torah". An opinion with no source is far more authoritative than an opinion with sources. If you give sources, then there's room for debate, no sources means the halacha is so obvious as to be indisputable. Especially since the "gedolim" have divinely inspired "Daas Torah" on their side.

    What's interesting is that if I understand it correctly there is something similar in the Talmud - that an anonymous opinion is more authoritative than an opinion attributed to a specific Rav.

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  53. Another psak on the subject by the Tzeitz Eliezer

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20825&st=&pgnum=81&hilite

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  54. "Ameteur

    So read the sources that I posted."

    I can't take those sources seriously.

    The Torah says that the Jewish people are an Am Cohanim. Yet I can't declare myself a cohen and gain cohanic privledges.

    The Rambam never mentions this law in regards to military service.

    Some of your other sources I didn't read becuase it wasn't obvious to me which paragraphs to look at.

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  55. Looking at the calender, "עתים לבינה" for this year, it brings the Ba'al HaTurim on Devarim 1:3. The Ba'al HaTurim says that there are only two appearances in Tanach of the word בארבעים: Devarim 1:3, and Shofetim 5:8: "was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?". The Ba'al HaTurim says,"If there would be one Talmid Chacham among 40,000, they wouldn't require neither a spear or a shield, because the Talmid Chacham protects them from their enemies."

    Amazing how the editors of the calender chose such a relevant quote, at just the time of the year when the subject would be under discussion!

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  56. Natan,
    In this week's Parsha of Matos, their is a fascinating Or Hachaim that indirectly relates to the issue at hand of mandatory army service.

    The Or Hachaim explains the justification behind the 2 1/2 Shvatim's request not to cross the Jordan river into Eretz Yisrael and not fight for the land alongside their brethren.

    He finds their justification in the words "הארץ אשר הכה ה". Since God has promised the Jewish people victory in their conquest of Eretz Yisrael, the Shvatim's participation in the battle is unnecessary, for victory has been guaranteed.

    Moshe however counters that argument by saying האחיכם יבואו למלחמה ואתם תשבו פה. Although the 2 1/2 Shvatim are correct that victory is guaranteed, there is still a need for battle, which entails effort on the part of the fighters, and therefore the Shvatim's request for exemption is unjustified, why should your brothers experience the hardships of war while you are exempt.

    This Or Hachaim clearly makes the argument of national equality in carrying the burden of military service even if their participation is not essential to success, for why should part of the nation be exempt while their brethren endures the suffering and pain of war.

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  57. Ameteur

    if you can't take piskei halacha written by people, or rather gedolei olam, like Rav Moshe, Rav Kook, Rav Weinberg seriously, that is a statement on you, not on them or their psak. they also knew the rambam.

    I would like to hear from Rav Slifkin on how he would address their objections.

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  58. Some of the responsa that you cited are simply not halachic responsa. This does not mean that they are wrong. It just means that they do not present halachic arguments.

    Others are indeed halachic responsa. However, they are deeply problematic, especially in their interpretation of Rambam. Besides, in my previous post, I pointed out that charedim are being inconsistent about this - if you want to claim that Rambam meant that anyone can choose to opt out of all hishtadlus and trust in Hashem, then don't demand cash!

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  59. "Uri HaNegbi, it is deeply disturbing that you consider that Gemara to be a source that learning Torah protects others. It says absolutely nothing of the sort. It has nothing to do with metaphysical benefits of Torah, and it has nothing to do with protection."

    If it would be some practicle benefit, there's no reason not believing in it should carry negative weight.

    "Rebel" in the previous post, proved this understanding writing, "to those who say מאי אהני לן רבנן the gemara later [which uri did not seem to point to] responds with ונשאתי לכל המקום בעבורם. the context is that Hashem was about to destroy sodom but was willing to cancel his plan if the evil city/ies had 50/40 etc. tzadikim - and רבנן can also help/protect others this way. IIUC by sodom this would have been metaphysical."

    "As for the citation from Igros Moshe - he is answering based on a non-halachic argument. Non-halachic does not mean wrong. But it does mean non-halachic. (If you want to claim that he is making a halachic argument - a direct inference from the Gemara - then it is a sorely deficient one, for the reasons explained in this post. I'd rather be dan l'kaf zechus.)"

    Rav Moshe's argument is extrapolated from a Halchik source and frees someone from the Halachik obligation to serve in the army. How then is it not Halachik?

    Just because Torah study doesn't remove the need for other forms of protection in certain scenarios, doesn't mean Torah study doesn't protect in those scenarios. Thus,as long as the discussion is about equality and sharing the burden and not a shortage of soldiers, I don't see the other side of the coin.

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  60. "if you can't take piskei halacha written by people, or rather gedolei olam, like Rav Moshe, Rav Kook, Rav Weinberg seriously, that is a statement on you, not on them or their psak. they also knew the rambam."

    I'm not questioning them or the psak. I'm questioning the real world relevance to these statements. They aren't psaks about this issue.

    The one that was, if it was written by a conservative Rabbi would be declared everything that is wrong with the conservative movement.

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  61. Does anyone here really think that haredim consider anyone other than haredim to be part of a "nation" with them? I don't accept the claim that they even believe in the concept of a Jewish nation. They believe in communities, and they are their own community, or "kehilla." I think this is obvious. Am I wrong?

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  62. "They believe in communities, and they are their own community, or "kehilla." I think this is obvious. Am I wrong?"

    You've been reading Rav David Bar Hayim's blog again haven't you?


    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/34-featured/608-the-ravs-blog-harav-elyashiv-zl-and-the-haredi-mind-part-01

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  63. Well Rav Bar Hayim makes some good points there and indeed I have read and heard some of his other Torah too, but I think the point I brought up is a basic and obvious observation about reality. Except for convincing them to become haredi or to fund haredi pursuits, I really don't think haredim feel part of the same group or having a shared destiny with Jews who eat bacon. Or any chiloni Jews, or even modern orthodox jews. They are "the other" even if not quite the same degree is goyim.

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  64. Is the ongoing day to day defense of the Jewish people in the land of Israel considered a milchemet miztvah? I have a cousin studying in Mir here in Jerusalem, and he both questioned that and brought up the issue of the army having plenty of manpower and not really needing the charaidim. This last point seems to be corroborated by non-chareidi sources and anecdotal evidence. I.e. the fact that some 30%-40% of young men in the Tel-Aviv municipality get exemptions from serving for a variety of reasons.

    If the ongoing defense of the country isn't considered a milchemet mitzvah as they claim, and it's true that the army already has plenty of manpower, then is fairness a sufficient reason to try and force the charaidim to serve?

    Just playing devil's advocate here.

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