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.
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